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Comics & Graphic Novels Literary

Leonard Cohen

On a Wire

by (author) Philippe Girard

translated by Helge Dascher

Drawn & Quarterly
Initial publish date
Nov 2021
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Nov 2021
    List Price

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Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 16 to 18
  • Grade: 11 to 12


A captivating, revealing biography of the legendary musician and poet
Leonard Cohen opens in Los Angeles on the last night of the man’s life in 2016. Alone in his final hours, the beloved writer and musician ponders his existence in a series of flashbacks that reveal the ups and downs of a storied career.
A young Cohen traded in the promise of steady employment in his family’s Montreal garment business for the unlikely path of a literary poet. His life took another sharp turn when, already in his thirties, he recorded his first album to widespread international acclaim. Along the way he encountered a who’s who of musical luminaries, including Lou Reed, Nico, Janis Joplin, and Joni Mitchell. And then there’s Phil Spector, the notorious music impresario who held a gun to Cohen’s head during a coke-fueled, all-night recording session.
Later in Cohen’s life, there’s the story of "Hallelujah," one of his most famous songs, and its slow rise from relative obscurity when first recorded in the 1980s to its iconic status a decade later with covers by John Cale and Jeff Buckley. And the period when Cohen went broke after his manager embezzled his lifetime savings, which ironically sparked an unlikely career resurgence and several worldwide tours in the 2000s.
Written with careful attention to detail and drawn with a palette of warm, lush colors by the Quebec-based cartoonist Philippe Girard, Leonard Cohen is an engaging portrait of a cultural icon.

About the authors

Born in Quebec City in 1971, Philippe Girard published his first comic in a kid's magazine at the age of eight. In addition to various collaborations with magazines and daily newspapers, he has published nine books of comics as well as a series of novels for children. His strip Béatrice was serialized for one year in the newspaper La Presse (Montreal), and later in the weekly magazine Spirou. In addition to many nominations in Quebec and Canada, he received a Bédéis Causa award in 2001 for Jim le Malingre: avatars ataviques, as well as the Bédélys Quebec award and the Joe Shuster Award in 2008 as writer for the book Danger public. In 2008, he took part in two projects of comics underlining the 400th birthday of his hometown, Quebec City.

Philippe Girard's profile page

Helge Dascher has for 25 years translated texts with a dynamic relationship to images. A background in art history and literature has grounded her translation of over sixty graphic novels, many by artists who have broadened the medium's storytelling range. Her translations included acclaimed titles such as Julie Delporte's This Woman's Work (co-translated with Aleshia Jensen, Drawn and Quarterly, 2019), Sophie Bédard's Lonely Boys (co-translated with Robin Lang, Pow Pow Press, 2020) and Michel Rabagliati's "Paul" books (Drawn and Quarterly, Conundrum). She also translates exhibitions, digital stories, and films, most recently Theodor Ushev's The Physics of Sorrow (with Karen Houle, NFB, 2019). A Montrealer, she works from French and German to English.

Helge Dascher's profile page

Editorial Reviews

Philippe Girard's Leonard Cohen: On a Wire is a finely illustrated graphic novel that captures the essence of the Montreal singer-songwriter and man of the people's life.

CTV News Montreal

Leonard Cohen: On a Wire illuminates the tumultuous life and career of the musician and poet, from his upbringing in Montreal, literary and musical rise to fame, downfalls, and comeback career.

Publishers Weekly

Leonard Cohen was a great man, and Canada is rightly proud of him. 'On A Wire' might make us even more proud. His was a great life and this great book reflects it.

The Toronto Star

Canadian cartoonist Philippe Girard presents an insightful, concise graphic biography of fellow Canadian, world-renowned musical icon Leonard Cohen.

Shelf Awareness

Quebec cartoonist Philippe Girard’s graphic novel is a satisfying and cogent biography.

Winnipeg Free Press

[On a Wire] captures Cohen’s essence with insight, sensitivity, narrative innovation and visual flair. [It] can take its place among the front rank of Cohen studies.

The Montreal Gazette

Presented as a series of flashbacks from Cohen’s deathbed, this biography recounts highlights from the life of the legendary songwriter.

New York Times

Written with details and drawn with rich colours by cartoonist Philippe Girard, Leonard Cohen is an engaging portrait of a cultural icon.

CBC Books

Girard offers a portrait of the artist as a young and not-so-young man, drawing on Cohen’s creative inspirations, frustrations and personal tragedies.

The Forward

Other titles by Philippe Girard

Other titles by Helge Dascher