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Written by Angelo Lazo
The middle-aged southpaw protagonist of the novel. Prior to the disastrous fire that had turned his life upside down he was a university professor at the University of Ithaca giving lectures on architecture. Despite having won numerous awards for his designs, none of his designs had actually ever been erected earning him the derisive title of “paper architect.” Asterios is subtly pompous, hardly passing up any opportunities to show off his considerable learning and vast recall of stock knowledge. His name is a play of both Greek words and Greek mythology. The word Asterios means “starry” and his family name in its’ abbreviated form, Polyp, is synonymous for fleshy growths usually associated with cancer. Its original, unabbreviated form however is Polyphemus, a clear reference to the mythical cyclops from Homer’s Odyssey.
Ignazio is Polyp is Asterios Polyp’s stillborn twin brother. Although he died at birth Asterios still regards his presence and he is depicted in the graphic novel initially as a silhouette of a man drawn with white broken lines indicating that he is invisible. Later on he is drawn as a shadowy but more defined silhouette. Later on he becomes more present in his brother’s life as there are a couple of sequences in the novel where he is imagined by Asterios to be narrating events from his point of view, as if had he survived, and he is imagined to be a busy and well respected architect whose works are actually made into solid edifices, unlike his brother Asterios. Ignazio is right handed and is a complete opposite of his brother. His name means fiery.
Asterios’ ex-wife, her name literally means “Flower Sunshine” being a combination of the Japanese word hana meaning “flower” and the German word Sonnenschein meaning “sunshine.” Her name is also indicative of her hybrid Eurasian ethnicity. She is the youngest of six siblings, born prematurely; a matter that her mother constantly brings up in their conversations. Being the only female and the youngest Hana’s achievements are often overshadowed by her male siblings and as such she develops a considerable inferiority complex despite being a gifted student and artist.
Asterios’ father, a doctor by profession, has a name that means “good birth.” Their family’s last name was actually originally much longer than it was but it was reduced to the first five letters when the Ellis Island immigration officer couldn’t pronounce or remember their original full family name properly. He married a young Italian woman and they remain married for the remainder of their biological lives. He suffers a stroke in his later years; one which he never recovers from.
Asterios’ mother and Eugenios’ wife, she is Italian by ethnicity and her name is a pun on the Italian pasta dish Aglio E Olio. She was originally carrying twins but after a long and difficult delivery via a c-section she was finally able to give birth but only one child survived to adulthood. She is a devoted Catholic and credits her faith for keeping her sane during the most trying times of her life.
When a lost and emotionally distraught Asterios finds himself wandering after his apartment burns down he boards a buss and randomly stops at an auto repair shop. This is where he meets Stiff Major, the owner and chief mechanic. He would become his boss. His name, similar to most every other character’s name in this graphic novel is a pun. It is a euphemism for an erection, a reference also to his being a difficult person to deal with. Despite being a large, burly, hirsute man he is actually terribly henpecked.
Ursula is Stiff’s wife. She wears the proverbial pants in their relationship and calls the shots in their household. Unlike her unrefined brute of a spouse Ursula is very genteel in both bearing and couture—if a bit too self-assured. She is a huge believer of zodiac signs and all manner of new age/occult practices. Her name is a reference to the constellation, the Great Bear/Polestar. It is also a reference to her dominance in the Major household, being a ferocious woman—like her namesake—a real she-bear.
Running Dog/Jackson Major
Stiff Major’s young son. His nickname is derived from Zôu Gôu, a Chinese pejorative for a lackey or yes man, translated into English as running dog. His nickname was given by Geronimo Pinque, a self proclaimed communist and revolutionary. Unfortunately neither Stiff nor Ursula are aware of what their son’s nickname connotes, both thinking that it is a Native American name.
One of Hornbeek Diner’s cooks. She is a woman of Latin American descent and, at least according to Stiff, the best cook in the diner’s employ. Her name means “tomorrow” in Spanish. She interacts with the regulars at the diner with a curt, strictly business manner and is particularly mistrustful of Spotty Drizzle. She plays bass in a punk-beatnik band.
Steven “Spotty” Drizzle
A regular customer of Hornbeek’s Diner, he is called “Spotty” for the deep pockmark scars on his face. He greatly resents being called by this nickname, insisting he be called by his real name of “Steven.” He is more than slightly paranoid, he is constantly making predictions of doom and gloom—like Chicken Little—and like Chicken Little he is constantly watching the skies to see if an asteroid is making its’ way to Earth to end life as we know it like it did the dinosaurs. His name is a pun referring to weak rainfall and this is a reference to his constant doomsaying, a matter that Mañana has learned to brush off.
Hana and Asterios’ pet cat. Their pet is named after a prominent Japanese American artist and landscape architect. Both the cat’s name and their choice of furniture and they interior design layout of their apartment are an homage to him.
A self proclaimed communist and revolutionary who frequents Stiff’s auto repair shop. He used to work for Stiff as a mechanic but claims that he quit because he couldn’t stand participating in the Capitalist system. He is Mañana’s boyfriend.
Another character with a name that is a less than subtle pun and reference to male genitalia. Willy being a childish American slang term for a penis and Illium being the pelvis, the largest bone in the human frame. His name is a reference to his larger than life, exceedingly pompous bearing. Ironic that his name, put together would mean “big penis” despite his diminutive stature. Willy is a choreographer, but again, ironically, does not dance. He showers Hana with great attention a gives great respect for her work. This drives Asterios into a jealous fit on more than one occasion.
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