Zebadiah Keneally’s new graphic novel is an allegory for the pitfalls of desire
Published by Apartamento, All The Things I Know is a topsy-turvy look at the shadow-self and the desires that lie deep within.
- Daniel Milroy Maher
- 24 May 2023
In 2009, Zebadiah Keneally moved to New York and got a job delivering mail in Goldman Sachs’ high-rise headquarters. It was a post-recession period and work was hard to come by, so he took what opportunities he could find. However, an artist by trade, Zebadiah needed a way to break up the monotony of mail delivery, and chose to pursue his creative musings in a janitor’s closet on the 26th floor. Here, he leaned on his degree in printmaking and his natural aptitude for illustration to try and create a graphic novel of grand proportions. “I wanted to spin a thread as epic as The Odyssey, but make it weird,” he recalls.
There was only one problem — he didn’t know how to make a graphic novel. 10 years, two solid attempts, and more than 600 pages of abandoned drawings later, Zebadiah realised he now had enough experience to create the vast story he had always dreamed of. He put pen to paper once again and devised a new script, building the overarching narrative of a novel that would come to be called All The Things I Know. “It's a funny title,” comments Zebadiah. “It gives the impression of being a memoir, which this book isn't in any practical sense.” It is, however, what the artist terms a “psychic memoir”, because the characters that fill its pages are manifestations of Zebadiah’s inner desires — “for the material, for the intellectual, for the spiritual.”
Along with some much-needed experience, his third attempt at creating All The Things I Know brought with it a key breakthrough: it was picked up by Apartamento’s editorial director Robbie Whitehead, who was so taken with the story that he decided to offer Zebadiah a chance to release it through the company’s acclaimed publishing arm. “The book wasn’t even close to being done at that point,” he says. “So, I threw myself into completing the story and drawing the world into being, and by July of 2022 we were heading to press. I was in awe. Desire is the mother of invention.”
In the story itself, desire is also the mother of a chaotic world in which the needs and wants of the three protagonists bring them into conflicting contact. At the centre of this narrative is the nefarious character that first kickstarted the project all of those years ago: Hamburger Vampire. Driven by a desire for world domination, he kidnaps God, the one obstacle standing in his way, and nearly brings about an apocalypse. However, in doing so, he attracts the attention of Pittsburg Cat, a failed artist and drug addict looking for spiritual transcendence, and Detective Lovebeard, a cunning and feared sleuth looking for logic and reason in the chaos, who try their best to foil his sinister plot.
Lovingly illustrated in Zebadiah’s trademark maximalist style, each of the characters brings to the story personalities that are by turns admirable and worthy of admonishment. Whether driven by a lust for good or bad, all of the protagonists are united in their enslavement to desire. This notion lies at the thematic heart of the book, and Zebadiah says attempting to understand how to reconcile the uglier sides of ourselves with the better sides is one of, if not the, most important message that All The Things I Know has to give. “My personal experiences with lessons along these lines are relayed metaphorically through the plot,” he explains. “It’s about radical acceptance… I want to nudge the audience towards accepting that the shit is as important as the light.”
The book’s vast narrative and zany characters are reflected in its eye-catching design, which Zebadiah says is the result of a close collaboration with the Apartamento team. In particular, the bold front cover hints at the coordinated chaos to be found inside through lively lettering and a vibrant colour palette of pink and orange. This, and the overall design of the book, was overseen by Robbie himself, who “carried a dummy around for a week or two, making sure everything felt right.” The finer details were then worked on with the help of Apartamento’s Nicolás Barreto and Maddie Willis, who contributed to both the cover and the pages within.
Looking forward, Zebadiah says that this release won’t be the last we’ll see of this motley crew of characters. He’s currently writing a sequel to All The Things I Know that promises to be as sprawling and enticing as the last. “Hamburger Vampire, God and the Ancient Gods are back, fighting for Control of the World, but this time they have competition,” he tells us. “The new book includes several other forces at play, including Interdimensional Cats, The Government and Artificial Intelligence. Stay tuned — it promises to be a power struggle par excellence, complete with all the horror and hilarity I can imagine.”
All The Things I Know is published by Apartamento and available to purchase through its website.
Zebadiah Keneally: All The Things I Know (Copyright © Zebadiah Keneally, 2023)
About the Author
Daniel joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in February 2019 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. He graduated from Kingston University with a degree in Journalism in 2015. He is also co-founder and editor of SWIM, an annual art and photography publication.