Study Guide for Asterios Polyp

Created by: David Mazzucchelli

Published by:

ISBN: 0307377326

Pages: 344


Click to read the Review

A few months back, we ran David Mazzucchelli's Asterios Polyp for our Graphic Novel Bookclub. Like all of our meetings so far, it was an awesome time. None of our members are comics readers and Asterios Polyp was, for several members, only the second graphic novel ever experienced. The questions I created were designed both to spark conversation about the work and to underscore its depth. In addition to including the questions I asked, I've attached some interesting notes on the books subject matter.

Discussion Questions

  1. Asterios Polyp is a thoroughly designed book, in that everything seems to have been done to an end or purpose. What are some conscious design decisions (visual or otherwise) you noticed and how do you think they inform Mazzucchelli's storytelling?
  2. There are several recurrent themes that govern the story. Which did you notice and did you think them well-placed?
  3. By story's end, Asterios has completed his character arc and found redemption. What do you think of his passage? How and why was he able to make the journey?
  4. Did you notice anything noteworthy about the story's structure?
  5. There is, within the story, a lot of name-dropping. Did you think this was important and do you think this pays off?
  6. There are a lot of ideas discussed by Asterios, Ursula, Hana, Ignazio, etc. Did you run across any that resonated with you?
  7. The ending. Evaluate and discuss.
  8. Asterios Polyp is a fairly complex work. Were there any parts you didn't quite get?

Items of Interest


  • Asterios Polyp
       Asterios - asterism, asteroid, a-stereo
       Polyp - cancer, 1/2 Polyphemus (the cyclops)
  • Hana Sonnenschein
       Flower Sunshine
       —Earnest Sunshine (father)
       —Asterios' car runs on Sonnenschein
  • Eugenios - good birth
  • Aglia Olio - Aglia E Olio
  • Stiff Major - backwards euphemism
  • Ursula Major - the Great Bear, points to Polestar, constellation (in opposition to asterism)
  • Running Dog - Zôu Gôu (communist slur)
  • Geronimo Pinque - Communist and Revolutionary
  • Mañana - Tomorrow
  • Willy Illium - Willy = childish ref. to penis. Illium = largest bone in pelvis. Big dick.
  • Ignazio - means fiery/ignition.
  • Noguchi - name of prominent Japanese American artist and landscape architect, his furniture designs reflect Asterios apartment tastes
  • Spotty Drizzle (Steven) - predicts doom


  • Mythology
           Ithica, Polyphemus, Sirens, 20 years and 7 years
  • Astronomical
       —Asterios, asteroids, Ursula, crater, Polestar, orbits, Zodiac, fate
  • Pairs
  • Yin and Yang
  • Dreams
  • What is memory?
  • Fictional v. Factual
  • Truthfulness
  • System v. Reality


(B is blue and Y is yellow)

Blue/Magenta is past and reminiscence, Yellow/Purple is present and dream

  • Drops (B 'til lightning)
  • Asterios (B)
  • Rain (Twin Ziggurats) (Y)
  • 16 Apples (B)
  • Parthenon (Y - Dream)
  • Spotlight Hana (B)
  • Mosquito (Y)
  • Two in One (B)
  • Sleep (Y - Dream)
  • Terracota (B)
  • Monument (Y - Dream)
  • St. Francis (B)
  • Radniks (Y)
  • Noguchi (B)
  • Architects (Y - Dream)
  • Finite Space (B)
  • Blister (Y flips to B)
  • Orpheus Underground (Purple)
  • One-Eye Jack (Y)
  • Clock (B)
  • Road Goes Ever Ever On (Y - Dream - to CMYK)
  • Treehouse (Y)

click for larger


The Annotated Asterios Polyp - wonderful detailed page-by-page look at the book.


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