05.May.2011 TCAF Interview Series: Rebecca Kraatz
Nova Scotian cartoonist Rebecca Kraatz debuts her new graphic novel Snaps (Conundrum Press) at TCAF this weekend, marking the first major work from the cartoonist since her Doug Wright win for Best Emerging Cartoonist in 2007.
As we discuss in this interview, Snaps has taken almost the entire length of time since then to complete and it found a publisher in Conundrum relatively recently.
Kraatz’s book dovetails with her interests neatly. Her passion for the 1940s, the era in which Snaps is set, is evident and in the interview she tells of how the genesis for the work starts at a flea market in British Columbia.
Kraatz spoke by phone for the interview and you can visit her at the Conundrum Press table at TCAF, table 140.
So you’ve been working on Snaps for a while now. You must feel pretty excited that it’s coming out.
I’m very excited, yeah. It was a long time.
Yeah, how long have you been working on it?
About 3 or 4 years.
So how did it develop that you’re publishing with Conundrum Press?
Well, in the fall he (Conundrum publisher Andy Brown) contacted me. I guess he heard somehow that I was working on a book and he wanted to see it. So I photocopied it and sent it to him.
Nice. Did you find that it helped to have a publisher that lives closeby to you and could be in frequent touch?
It’s been pretty good because then I could meet him in person a couple of times as well, so that was advantageous, yeah.
For Snaps, it gets back to a lot of themes you’ve touched in throughout your comics. In particular your passion for history and the 1940s.
Yeah, I always wanted to do something about the 1940s. I always feel as though I am doing something about the 1940s but I really wanted to concentrate on something. I had this old photo album that I got at a flea market in Victoria and I looked through it a lot and it was black and white pictures pasted in very carefully and I didn’t know anyone in there and I used to study the pictures with a magnifying glass and everything. I had it for a really long time and I really felt close to it. So I was thinking about doing something about the 1940s and I was sitting at my typewriter and I said, “oh, I think I’ll start writing about what I think is going on in the photographs” and it kind of developed from there.
So that way the photo album almost acts as a storyboard for you to spring off of?
So what is it particularly about the 1940s that you find so compelling? What is it about the aesthetic, the people or the sensibilities that evokes a strong reaction in you?
It’s really hard for me to say because I’ve liked it for so long. I can’t really remember. I guess it started when I was a teenager. I was home a lot because I was sick, so I watched a lot of movies… because my Dad bought a satellite dish. And, I didn’t know there was this time before the one I had lived. When you’re young, you think the world has just started now, so it made me really think about that. It made me think about my relatives, I looked at their old photographs and got really involved with vintage clothing, sewing clothes and fabrics, history. I read lots of war books. I found it really fascinating, I don’t know why. But it really started when I was a teenager and spent a lot of time alone. And it was like , “oh, there’s my friend Lana Turner on the TV again”.
You have a very particular look to your art as well. What kind of influences, contemporary or from the 1940s and that era have you brought to your art?
Sometimes I can’t see it, it’s hard to identify what I’m using. I think it’s old movies, old black and white images, that kind of thing, and Lynda Barry but I wasn’t aware of too many cartoonists. Pulp book covers too, old movie posters. Those were probably my first influences. When I was working a job doing layouts for a newspaper, I had a friend who made a comic- this was in 1997- and he was telling me about it and I was, “oh, I didn’t realize people could do that” and that’s when I started, because my friend did it. So that’s when I first started making them.
You are also very interested in woodcuts too, is that right?
Would Lynd Ward be someone you look at too?
I got the sense that you tell a similar kind of story as Ward, focusing on the everyday person, the working class and how they go about their daily business.
Yeah, yeah, I really like his work.
How about more contemporary cartoonists then, do you keep in touch with people, bounce ideas off each other?
There’s no one that I bounce ideas off of except for my husband (musician Joel Plaskett). I’m aware that there’s people out there, but sometimes I don’t want to let other ideas into my brain because I just want to have my own idea because I think I could easily feel influenced or bad about what I was doing. When I’m working on something I feel like I can’t look too much at other people’s stuff or I have to look at something else. If I’m doing comics, I hardly look at comics at all. I look at other things.
So you want to keep it close to your original vision.
Stepping back a bit, in 2007 you won the Doug Wright Award for Best Emerging Talent. What did that mean to you?
Well, I was really shocked. I don’t think I said anything when I went up to get that award. I was really shocked, haha. I met a lot of really great people. I knew Hope (Larson) and Bryan (Lee O’Malley) and from them met some other people, which really opened my eyes to what was out there.
At TCAF that’s coming up, you’ll be going through that process again.
I know! I heard it’s even bigger.
Yeah, much bigger. Anything in particular that you’re looking forward to?
Well it’s going to be bigger, so that will be amazing. I like seeing those books that are hand-made, where there’s only one of each one. I like seeing all the stuff that people do. If I was working on something that would be hard because my brain would get all overwhelmed, but I feel kind of relaxed right now- it’ll be really good.
Your House of Sugar book had that look and feel to it too, that it was a special object. What is it about that feeling in comics, the DIY handmade nature that interests you?
I was thinking about that the other day. I think what interests me is that I always liked to create worlds. I used to like to draw maps with all of the fake towns and everything. I think making a book is like making a map, like a fake town or a fake world. That’s something that I really like.
Thanks for taking the time to speak with us Rebecca.
04.May.2011 The Koyama Press TCAF Preview
As TCAF has grown since its humble beginnings in 2003, so too has its importance as a tentpole for book launches.
In the past couple of years, there are a handful of books from big-name cartoonists that act as a calling card for the festival- Seth’s George Sprott in 2009, Daniel Clowes’ Wilson in 2010 and Chester Brown’s Paying for It this year. But the usefulness of this promotion is limited; Seth, Clowes and Brown are known entities who don’t need the publicity as much as their younger counterparts. It is for this reason that the greatest benefit of festivals like TCAF is to emerging cartoonists who have a new work that is worth discovering, marks a step forward in their development and can show new ways of looking at and thinking about comics.
Last year, in spite of fine new books from Clowes, James Sturm and Jim Woodring, the takeaway of the festival was Koyama Press. The small Toronto-based publisher with as many logo designs as Google earned notoriety for whimsical Trio Magnus offerings and the alt-horror comics of Michael DeForge. The latter went on to win the Doug Wright for Best Emerging Talent.
A year later, and DeForge is again nominated in the Doug Wrights (Best Book and Pigskin Peters) as well as Koyama Press publications Baba Yaga and the Wolf by Tin Can Forest for Best Emergin Talent and the anthology Wowee Zonk #3 edited by Patrick Kyle, Chris Kuzma and Ginette Lapalme for the Pigskin Peters. Koyama Press has been gradually increasing its output alongside its success, and it has a deluge of new offerings for TCAF 2011.
Root Rot, Eds. Michael DeForge and Annie Koyama, Cover by DeForge, Contributors: Ines Estrada, Jesse Jacobs, Hellen Jo, Angie Wang, Robin Nishio, Jason Fischer, Chris Eliopoulos, Greg Pizzoli, Derek M. Ballard, Jon Vermilyea, Joseph Lambert, Dan Zettwoch, Lizz Hickey, Bob Flynn, Mickey Zacchilli, Jason Fischer, T. Edward Bak. $12
In a recent e-mail interview with Jesse Jacobs as part of our TCAF series, he wrote about Root Rot, “I really liked the idea of having a visual theme to pull all the different styles together. Most of my stories begin with drawings, so it was a natural process for me to begin with a visual theme.” The anthology Root Rot pulls together 16 cartoonists and artists to each do a forest-themed piece. It’s an apt setting as it provides fertile grounds for imagination, lush colouring and mystery.
Each cartoonist gets two pages to tackle the subject and many of the approaches are similar. In the hands of lesser cartoonists this would fall flat. But the young cartoonists in Root Rot are talented, particularly so in their art which the production values of Root Rot allow to come through nicely. One of the highlights is the last contribution in the anthology by Mexico City’s Ines Estrada. In her double-page spread, the 21-year-old neatly captures the spirit of the anthology.
Estrada uses a desaturated background reminiscent of floral wallpaper. At first glance, you don’t notice the colourful characters that populate this wonderland. But as eyes adjust to the colours, the contrast begins to stand out and the reader negotiates the shape and actions of the characters. In the top and right left are polygonal entities, almost waiting for imagination to shape them into something. The fully formed characters, like the reader, play with and try to understand their surroundings. Some grab onto the background, others walk through it, some float and appear to be on a different plane. It’s a vibrant and ecstatic artistic playground, and a nice metaphor for what the Root Rot collection is collectively.
Another one of the few non-Canadians in the collection, California’s Hellen Jo, follows suit. Jo uses one of her favourite types of characters, a kickass Asian teen, to create an environment that rivals the wildness of imagination in Estrada’s. Set against slate gray pavement, the comic features a sobbing teen with a skateboard, motionless in the centre of the panel. But things come alive when her tears connect with a weed growing through the cracks of the pavement. The bare, uniform atmosphere grows to be detailed and colourful and the character rides the newly created flowers in startled wonder.
And it’s this sense that Root Rot evokes well, that the possibilities of imagination and the spirit of exuberance are infinite in spite of the constraining limitations of a particular setting.
Lose #3, Michael DeForge, $5
Note: Full disclosure, I’ll be moderating a panel that includes DeForge on Friday at 2:30, 170 St. George St.
Lose #3 is the first issue by DeForge that has a huge amount of people looking forward to it in much the same way that people look forward to a new Optic Nerve. Immediately upon opening the inside cover, Lose is filled with the self-consciousness of expectations. A short comic about a New York internship and the false optimism it promises (“I get to see how the pros do it Mom!”) shows how the development can be fraught with disappointment and frustration.
To that end, DeForge punctures potentially inflated expectations of Lose #3 by critiquing his highly acclaimed first two issues. Issue 1? Directionless. Issue 2? 25% filler. These critiques are the product of a self-aware cartoonist anxious to continue developing. It’s a scary thought, as DeForge has already quickly ascended with a strong focus and prodigious output. His characters are filled with the same exaggerated anxiety with which he makes fun of himself. The main story features a divorced, hapless father. In DeForge’s Charles Burns infused style, the main character is a divorced father out of Dan Clowes, a hapless, hopeless and socially inept loser. His son recognizes this too, and manipulates his need for respect to get him to do what he wants. It’s a character study, which isn’t to say that things don’t happen (his son creates a website to exact revenge on an ex-girlfriend) but that it’s the strength of DeForge’s style.
Like Burns and Clowes, whose art and characters respectively crawl under your skin and stay there, DeForge’s Lose #3 impacts the reader with its sensibility. The aesthetic—mind-melting figures and landscapes—combines with the caustic personalities, where any character who has adequate space to develop tears apart the world of another. While the nervous energy within the comic breaks out in destructive ways, it never feels as though DeForge is not in control. In spite of his ‘apology’ on the inside cover, the art is confident and assured and the storylines more tightly paced than previous work. Not only that, but the details are strong too, as his lettering is exacting with a consistent style and clarity that is easy to take for granted.
All of this speaks to the focus and awareness of his cartooning which, unlike his main character, obscures any anxiousness that might inhibit progress.
Cat Rackham Loses It!, Steve Wolfhard, $5
It seems like a safe generalization to say that cartoonists are cat people. Cats are, after all, independent and require low maintenance. And there’s a rich tradition of cats in comics too. For every Snoopy there seems to be a Krazy and Fritz. Adding to this tradition is Steve Wolfhard with Cat Rackham, his own bi-pedal feline.
Whereas Krazy was largely used for physical comedy and Fritz for hedonistic wish-fulfillment, Cat Rackham is of a different stripe. The tone of the character comes through in “Cat Rackham Gets Depression”, which appears on Wolfhard’s website. In it, the title character rests on a pleasant looking hillside, enjoying the scenic surroundings. He delights in a butterfly that floats by and the sentiment gets across with subtle line changes in Cat Rackham’s posture eyes and small mouth. But when the butterfly is gone for good, that subtlety in expression slowly drifts towards something sad and unsettling. The background doesn’t change, so the contrast is under the surface, an internal element of Cat Rackham’s character that the reader doesn’t fully understand yet.
But then a reversal happens and Cat Rackham proves to be more than just about the gag. Whereas the introduction focuses on Cat Rackham’s range of emotions against a static background, when he becomes depressed, the background changes dramatically while he stays the same. Rainbows, fireflies and friendly deer appear. Heavy rain, snow and birds nesting in his fur are not enough to snap Cat Rackham out of his funk, perhaps because like his depression they’re just too overwhelming. That internal wonder seen with the butterfly is mired in the emotional 180 of depression and seemingly no change in surroundings can alter this. That is, until something small jars him out of it with two insects making their sweet insect love on his fur. His smile and sense of wonder return, triggered by the recognition that the small things can be amazing and he’s part of that too.
Cat Rackham Loses It! amplifies this story arc. While retaining the bittersweet humour of Cat Rackham Gets Depression it provides a more exaggerated, plot focused situation which suits the longer length of the comic. In the beginning we’re given information about Cat Rackham: the physical layers of who he is (muscles, skeleton and soul displayed separately), that he is particularly fond of his green sweater and that his wise-cracking friend Jeremy the Squirrel teases him for too introspective and weighed down in his own information. Jeremy’s playfully teasing relationship doesn’t always go over well with the sensitive and fluffy cat. When Jeremy tosses a raspberry at Cat Rackham that stains his sweater, the lovable cat is put off by this and distances himself from his friend. But in this time, a new cat has walked in named Ratta Tat Cat, complete with a threatening gun strapped to his body with a belt. This cat, who like all dour cats resembles an anthropomorphic Wilford Brimley, is not here to play nice. With no tolerance from Ratta Tat Cat for another one in town, Cat Rackham is relegated to lying on a log floating on water, sweaterless and with a tuft of fur shot from his head.
Being alone and surrounded by water is the ultimate form of isolation for a fearful and anxious cat. It also sets up another situation where, as in “Cat Rackham Gets Depression”, Cat Rackham must overcome his depression and anxiety to escape his situation. In this case the struggle is made greater as Cat Rackham must battle external as well as internal demons. By extending and amplifying the qualities that make the shorter “Cat Rackham Gets Depression” effective, Wolfhard’s work resonates. It skillfully straddles the difficult border between outlandish humour and introspection to deliver a bittersweet, poignant comic.
Keith Jones, Colour Me Busy, $5, Chris Eliopoulos, Monster Party, $5
Like the other Koyama Press offerings, Colour Me Busy and Monster Party try to capture and encourage the verve of unbridled imagination.
Jones’ book is an all-ages colouring book, and frankly it’s hard to review. The figures are nice enough—playful but more edgy than the colouring books you can pick up at your local big box bookstore. But colouring books are more about the reader than the content, and that is what is going to make or break the enjoyment of it. Pro tip: the lines are just suggestions, kids. Show Jones that you don’t need to play by his rules.
Eliopoulos’ Monster Party also explicitly addresses uncontrolled imagination. The storyline follows a Dr. Seuss path, with monsters pleading to be let out while the main character cleans the basement. Of course, the monsters tire the boy of his better instincts and he unleashes them Pandora’s box style to romp around the house. It’s a classic if typical storyline. Eliopoulos’ art carries the story nicely, as the monsters’ upheaval careens the domestic order allowing the cartoonist to create at will, rules be damned.
This is the common thread of Koyama Press, that imagination, spirit and energy is to be unlocked and encouraged whether it be with monsters in a basement, a colouring book or the mysteries that could inhabit the forest. It’s fitting too. As a publisher that provides a platform for mostly young cartoonists to develop, follow projects they’re passionate about and promotes self-discovery, Koyama unleashes these individuals to unlock and share themselves. Even Cat Rackham could find something to like about that.
Koyama Press will be tabling at TCAF tables 142-144 and most of the people mentioned in this review will be there. There will be a launch for Root Rot on Saturday morning at 10:15 that will include a signing with contributors.
03.May.2011 TCAF Interview Series: Jesse Jacobs
In the third of our TCAF interview series (see Ben Rivers and John Martz), Jesse Jacobs was kind enough to take time out of his schedule to answer some questions by e-mail.
The London, Ontario based cartoonist will have his first work from a publisher debut at the festival. Even the Giants (Adhouse, 80 pp., $10) is typical of Jacobs recognizable aesthetic. With bright blue colours, Jacobs creates an atmospheric Arctic full of fantasy, mystery and misunderstanding.
The art is the highlight. Unbounded by logic and expectations, it’s something to be absorbed rather than digested. As Jacobs mentions in this interview, his art is an extension of feelings and sensibilities and the more that is given into letting go and appreciating the ride, the more one gets from the book.
Jacobs’ comics (Blue Winter Shapes in the Snow, Small Victories, One Million Mouths) have earned him praise, from two Doug Wright nominations in 2008 (Best Emerging Talent, Pigskin Peters Award) to the Gene Day Award for Self-Publishing at the Joe Shusters. He’ll be seated next to the Adhouse table at TCAF and he would like you to say hello.
Even the Giants is your first comics from a publisher and longest work to date. It must be pretty exciting for you to unleash this comic into the wild.
Receiving an advanced copy of the book was a pretty big deal for me. With self-publishing everything is so immediate. The comics would get drawn, photocopied, and stapled and I’d be done. With a publisher the process is so much longer; there are many more steps and production factors that don’t directly involve me, so the book wasn’t really on my mind. But when I finally got to look at the finished product and revisit the comics I was quite happy. It’s an interesting experience to see my comics in this format and I’m excited for people to read them.
Were you initially planning on self-publishing this? I understand that Adhouse publisher Chris Pitzer got a heads-up to check out your work.
Ethan Rilly was kind enough to show Chris my work. I contacted Ethan for some information regarding the Xeric grant he received to produce his book Pope Hats. I figured I’d try to get some funding to put the comic out myself. At that point I was planning to self-publish it but I wanted to do a real nice job so I required more money than I could sensibly invest. Ethan sent the book to Chris Pitzer who offered to publish it. I love making little hand made books but having a real publisher with distribution is a huge asset in so many different ways.
Your works have had some nice design, such as the silkscreened different-coloured covers for Small Victories. What role do you think nice production design has in how people read and perceive comics?
I believe it’s important. I think that interesting production design could save the printed comic book from obsolescence. It’s very possible that with the increasing popularity of web comics the future role of the analogue comic book will be somewhat that of an art object. Personally, I’d just as soon read a comic online if the printed version is simply folded pages with staples. If a book is put together in a creative way it typically encourages an in-depth exploration. You can’t mimic really nice book production design in a digital form. Tangible things like printing techniques, paper choices, cover materials; those things disappear in the digital realm. That’s probably why there is such an interest in books from Drawn and Quarterly and Nobrow; because they’re beautiful. Though I should say that great production design obviously does not compensate for a poor comic.
You seem to focus on atmosphere, not just in the production of your comics, but in your content. To me, Even the Giants is as much about evoking feelings and sensibilities through aesthetic expression as it is about stories and characters. Can you talk about that?
That was definitely the intention of Even the Giants. The book is primarily an exploration of solitude through drawing, writing, and colour. I didn’t approach this book in the way I normally make comics. I knew how I wanted it to feel and to look, and out of that emerged a loose narrative. Numerous voices and viewpoints appear throughout the pages, but they are typically isolated from one another. The stark and desolate arctic landscape is a visual extension of this theme of isolation. I was really attempting to create a book that, like you said, evoked a particular feeling; one in which the ambiance is an integral component of the story.
Two themes that stand out in Even the Giants are nature and the surreal. The impact of nature in the Arctic is straightforward, but does its largely unknown and unexplored setting promote surreal or mythical stories?
I chose to set the story in the arctic for a few reasons. Primarily it was an aesthetic choice; drawing these vast and expansive, empty landscapes was another way I explored these themes of loneliness and isolation. The arctic landscape appears so alien and otherworldly, but also clean and sterile. Some of the scenes I drew look almost like moonscapes. I think that the surreal aspects of the book do work better in such an unexplored environment as the Arctic. The setting itself, like the characters, is mysterious and unknowable. It seems like an accommodating background to feature a story with giants.
Giants have had lots of different kinds of representations, from Goliath to Andre. Was there any version of giants that had a particular influence on you? What got you interested in giants?
I don’t think it was an interest in any particular giant as much as it was an exercise in playing with proportions and spatial context that created these characters. You wouldn’t know that the creatures are giants until you’re given some sort of frame of reference, like a polar bear or a cargo ship. There are a few scenes where they might as well be average size; if you read them as an excerpt you wouldn’t realize the characters are so big. Well, the title of the book would probably tip you off. The arctic backdrop worked really well for this; without buildings, or trees, or something to give the viewer some sort of context, the giants could really be any size. I always liked the book Gulliver’s Travels for exploring that idea. Being a giant is relative to your environment.
Just as you play with ideas of spatiality it also seems to be an exercise for the reader to re-imagine what that context could be. Do you hope to engage readers to actively think about how they read comics in this way?
Maybe a little. When I was drawing the comics my main priority was to keep myself interested and to have fun. Otherwise the thing just wouldn’t get finished. Of course, I want people to like the book, but I don’t remember thinking too much about an audience when I was drawing this. After completion, especially after AdHouse picked it up, I definitely thought more about how the book would be received. It’s a weird comic, and it’s not for everyone, but I had a lot of fun drawing it and I hope that at least a few people (other than me) get some enjoyment out of it.
I got the same sense from your Root Rot contribution, that in a particular setting you wanted to explore your imagination as an extension of your art. Can you tell us about that?
The Root Rot pages were a lot of fun to draw. I find a lot of anthologies can seem kind of scattered and sometimes the work doesn’t flow together as a whole so I really liked the idea of having a visual theme to pull all the different styles together. Most of my stories begin with drawings, so it was a natural process for me to begin with a visual theme. Even the Giants was like that as well, it started with the drawings of the mountains and the giants and the loose story grew around those initial drawings. I get a lot of ideas for stories but simultaneously realize that my drawing ability/style wouldn’t gel with them. The drawings very much inform the story in my comics.
Do you have a particular process to think about and make those drawings?
My process is pretty loose. I try to bring my sketchbook everywhere I go and a lot of my comic drawings begin in there. I find that interesting imagery comes to me when I’m not really thinking about it but rather just doodling and exploring different shapes and patterns while drinking a beer and listening to music. Later when I’m working out a comic scene I tend to look through my sketchbook for potential objects and characters I could use. I don’t work as well if I approach a drawing with particular restrictions, which is sometimes difficult to balance with creating comics.
Yeah, I can see how that would be difficult to balance an almost stream of consciousness style with a sequential medium. Do you ever do things like comics jams, to just improv with other people and see where that goes?
I used to draw with other people, but now it’s pretty much a solo activity. I lived in Halifax and Moncton and both of those places had comic jams that I would regularly attend. I don’t think London has that kind of event, though I think there’s some talk to start one up. There are a lot of good artists around here. I like the social aspect of comic jams but I prefer to draw by myself. I can’t remember drawing anything very good at a comic jam but I always had fun.
And you do a fair amount of illustration for other things like album covers, t-shirts and skateboard graphics. Do you approach those differently? Or is it just a matter of seeing what fits and riffing on it until it works?
That depends on the project. I’m slowly moving away from illustration, though that’s not to say I wouldn’t welcome the work if it was an interesting project. The ideal situation is a client who likes my style and really enjoys what I’ve done in the past and gives me enough freedom to make some crucial aesthetic decisions. There have been a few instances in the past where a client has pushed me in a direction that I normally wouldn’t have gone and something good did come from that, but I typically don’t do my best work when an illustration job comes with a lot of restrictions. Working with Homegrown Skateboards has been enjoyable because the only real guidelines I had to follow were the board dimensions. Those kind of loose projects are approached in a similar way as I do with drawing comics and I have as much fun doing them. As much as I like getting paid for art, I’m presently focusing my energy on making comics and large drawings.
You’ve mentioned comics being a pretty solitary process for yourself, but do you or have you had sources for advice or mentorship?
I have a few people that I run work by, before I do anything with it. My illustrator friend Peter Diamond, who currently works out of Vienna, is always a big help when I’m trying to work out images. He’s got a great eye for composition and colour, and although our work isn’t really similar I trust his opinion. My brother Danny is another person who I get to preview my comics. He’s a writer/poet himself, and a generally critical guy, so he’s great at sussing out bad writing. My girlfriend Jinette, pretty much witnesses my entire process and often adds helpful suggestions. Diana Tamblyn, another comic artist (who lives down the road from me), has previewed some of my comics and given helpful feedback. I’ve also been going for beers with Marc Bell, whose crazy artwork I’ve enjoyed for many years. It’s been helpful to talk with him about production and process.
Last question. In a previous interview in this series John Martz said the Star Trek character he is most like is McCoy. Since we’re talking about mentors and I understand you’re a big Trek fan, which character would you want to be your mentor?
I’m going with the Klingon. I’d get all dizzy on bloodwine and convince Worf to finally knock Riker on his ass.
Thanks for your time and for showing Riker who is boss.
02.May.2011 TCAF Interview Series: John Martz
In the second of our TCAF interview series (see Ben Rivers here) we had the chance to speak to Toronto-based cartoonist and illustrator John Martz.
Martz was nominated for a Doug Wright Award last year and was one of the many Canadian recipients (5!) in the last round of Xeric awards. With the money from the Xeric foundation, Martz has self-published his latest comic, Heaven All Day. He is also a part of the comics jam group Team Society League comics alongside Aaron Costain, Steve Wolfhard and Zach Worton and contributes to the super popular Drawn.ca blog.
In spite of all this busy-ness, John took some time to answer questions about what winning the Xeric award was like, why experimentation is important for growth as a cartoonist and what Star Trek character he is most like.
In addition to having Heaven All Day at TCAF, he will also be co-selling the first Team Society League Omnibus in hardcover and a small amount of Star Trek Trexels prints. These prints sold out very quickly online (under two hours?) so you might have to swarm his table in a huff of anxiousness on the Saturday morning of TCAF to get yours.
So you recently received a Xeric Grant for your latest comic, Heaven All Day. How did you react to the news?
Well, I thought I had a pretty good shot at getting the grant. I had never applied for a grant before, and I didn’t know how many applicants there were, or who my competition was, but I was proud of the work I submitted.
The date when applicants were supposed to hear about their applications came and went. I was disappointed, but just accepted the fact that I didn’t make the cut. A month later, an acceptance letter arrived in the mail, and it was postmarked on the day it was supposed to have been, a month prior. So I was particularly surprised, and quite pleased.
That’s a lot of anticipation. Did you do something to celebrate?
No, not really. The MoCCA comics festival in New York was fast approaching, and I wanted to have something new at the show, so I had to quickly put the funds to use to get the book printed in time.
How was MoCCA? What was the reception to Heaven All Day?
MoCCA was fun. Part of the fun of these shows is socializing and hanging out with people and friends I only see once or twice a year. It’s difficult to gauge the reception of the book apart from sales numbers, but I think it was successful; I just about sold out of everything I took with me.
And it seems like your Star Trek Trexels print was a big hit too. Can you tell us a bit about that?
Well that began with me goofing around in Photoshop, and trying to treat pixel art as an exercise in cartooning, abstraction, and character design. I started drawing the cast of Start Trek: The Next Generation because it was a perfect cast of characters, each with a distinct look — the bald one, the bearded one, the blind one, the redhead, etc. I could easily distill their likenesses down to the low, low resolution of these tiny video game sprites, and still retain the key visual information necessary for recognition.
I posted a few of them online, and the lovely Anne Koyama got in touch saying she wanted to do something with them, whether it be a t-shirt or a print, under the Koyama Press name. So I got to work and just drew more and more characters until I had a few hundred done.
Your friend Aaron Costain tells me the Star Trek character you’re most like is Geordi La Forge. Why do you think he went with Geordi and which one do you think you’re most like?
Ha ha, Geordi? That guy has no personality, just a hairclip on his face.
I think I’d have to go with Dr. McCoy. He’s got more heart than Spock’s stone cold logic, but he’s not as balls-out as Kirk. Somewhere grounded in the middle, and kind of grumpy.
Getting back to your Star Trek pixel art being an exercise in cartooning, abstraction and character design, it’s something you seem to enjoy exploring. I find it interesting how you delve into it through both technology like pixel art and also old-school illustrators that you frequently post on Drawn. Is it a way of being familiar with all the tools and techniques of design and cartooning at your disposal?
I think so, yeah. I love process and the “how” of cartooning and design. And I am especially drawn to artists and techniques that favour simplicity, abstraction, sparseness, and brevity . It’s a difficult thing to master, for sure, so studying it and trying new techniques is all part of figuring out how to do it right, and how to incorporate it into my own work.
Pixel art in particular has been a rewarding exercise because, especially at extremely low resolution like the Trexels, I’m working purely with the visual information in a tiny grid, and I’m stripped of things that are easy to get hung up on like drawing ability, line quality, and whether I drew someone’s nose just right. It’s really about design and iconography, and has taught me to better distinguish the difference between cartooning as a language, and cartooning as an art form.
How do you distinguish the difference between cartooning as a language and art form? By language are you referring to the universal aspects/common structure with agreed upon meaning and the art is where individuality emerges?
I guess I should clarify. By “art form” I mean the surface qualities and the drawing itself, and by “language” I mean using those drawings to communicate.
I have been reading comics and drawing my whole life, but I didn’t really start drawing comics seriously until about 4 or 5 years ago. I would hear cartoonists say, “the only way to learn to draw comics is to draw comics,” and it’s advice I probably dismissed, being a little cocksure, and thinking I had it all figured out already. Like a lot of young cartoonists I thought I could skip to the head of the class without doing the work just because a) I could kind of draw, and b) I really, really liked comics. But then I started drawing comics and they were terrible.
So I’ve learned there’s a big difference between being a comics fan who can draw, and being able to draw and write comics with clarity and intent and thoughtfulness. It’s not enough to just be able to draw okay, and throw those drawings into panels with some speech bubbles — just as knowing how to write the alphabet and make words out of the letters doesn’t make you a good writer. So my comics output so far has been small, and mostly formal exercises in understanding and learning how to effectively utilize comics as a written language.
Drawing wordless comics has been a valuable pursuit because I have to actively think about what I’m trying to convey to the reader, and how I can do it as efficiently and effectively as possible.
I’m only starting to understand how the drawings—the marks on the paper—are simply the language’s typography: symbols designed to be read and to convey information. I suppose in this analogy, cartoonists are writers who not only have to write beautiful poetry, but they also have to typeset the page by hand. And design their own typeface. And on top of it all, they are using an open source language—learning, borrowing from, adding to, and changing the lexicon as they go. It’s tough work, and a far cry from being able to draw Garfield from memory.
You touch on the idea that comics is laborious and involved - (cartoonist as typesetter, designer, artist, writer and so on) and it is also an open source language, a changing lexicon. Is that a double edged sword; that the amount of work you put into comics in controlling each step is what enables you to experiment formally in ways that are limited by just using type?
Well, I love to experiment with form and play around with the possibilities that comics allows. And certainly I’m still learning, and have only scratched the surface. But yes, one downside is that because there are so many aspects to comics-making that have the ability to be looked at in a real considered way, that it’s a labourious and seemingly infinite process.
So I like giving myself restrictions which cuts down on the amount of crippling decision-making, and actually fuels creative problem-solving—things like restricting myself to certain colour palettes, panel grids, wordlessness, etc.
So if these exercises help you develop your style do you think experimentation will be less important to you down the road? Or do you feel that forcing yourself to challenge creative assumptions like you do through restrictions and exercises is an ongoing process regardless of your stage as a cartoonist?
I think it just becomes a natural part of the creation process. You try new things, and when it works, it sticks, and when it doesn’t work, you try something else. It’s kind of Darwinian I suppose. I am working on my next story, and each part of the process is something I consider in relation to the work I’ve done in the past — I think an artist’s body of work, as a whole, is always a work-in-progress. Each new piece is a successive iteration building upon the previous works’ successes and failures.
Can you tell us about your next story?
It’s another science fiction story like Heaven All Day, or rather, like Heaven All Day it’s a story that uses science fiction as its backdrop, but is ultimately about more personal themes.
Now earlier Aaron mentioned that the Star Trek character you’re most like is Geordi. But since it’s your interview, you get the last word. What character is he most like?
On that note, thank you for this interview with Spock’s logic and Kirk’s ballsiness, McCoy John.
Thanks, David! It was a pleasure.
29.Apr.2011 TCAF Interview Series: Benjamin Rivers
In our first of a series of interviews leading up to TCAF, Sequential had the chance to catch up with Benjamin Rivers. His Xeric-winning publication is Snow, and it just arrived from the printer a few days ago to be ready in time for TCAF.
Snow is very much of its time and place as the main character, Dana, navigates a changing Queen Street West in Toronto and tries to come to terms with her surroundings.
In this interview, Rivers shares his thoughts about about Queen West changing and, as a video game developer and designer, shares his thoughts on the changing role that technology has in making, distributing and thinking about comics.
Your book Snow captures a specific time and place in a changing Queen Street West. What did you find interesting about this setting?
I’ve lived with my wife on Queen Street West for many years, and I consider this my neighbourhood now. It didn’t so much choose Queen Street West as I noticed it—stores closing, buildings being torn down or erected (or burned by fire). The street has changed so much, even since I started Snow, it’s like an organism. It just seemed natural to document this, in my own way.
The main character in Snow, Dana, is anxious about the gentrification of Queen West and other Toronto neighbourhoods and in particular what it means to her bookstore. In light of the Silver Snail’s announcement that it will move, how did you become psychic and how do you feel about the move?
The funny thing about this is that Snow actually predicted the closure of Pages—which is the real-world version of Dana’s workplace, Abberline Books. A few days after Snow #2 came out, in which this plot point is revealed, Pages shut its doors. I actually felt really bad about that—how egotistical, I suppose, to think that, but the timing was truly bizarre.
As for the Snail, George (the manager) mentioned as much and while I am happy that he will own the shop, and that it will potentially be moving to a friendlier neighbourhood, I am going to miss it being on my street, sure. When I take morning or evening walks, it’s a beacon of nerdy hope in a sea of clothing chain stores.
In spite of the anxiety of change in Snow, you embrace it when it comes to distributing your content by making it available through various formats (PDF, iPad, Kindle, dead tree and video game). What have you learned from this experimentation and what directions do you want to explore some more?
If Dana has learned one thing from her time on Queen West, it’s that change is inevitable, and I feel the same about comics. The only paper books I continue to buy are comics and graphic novels—I’ve mostly moved on to eBooks on my Kobo and borrowing physical books from the library—so it makes sense for me to put out my work the way I’d like to see it. There is a huge potential for comics in digital format, I think—specifically for indie and self-published authors. Unfortunately I think a lot of folks in the industry are a bit technophobic, but as an option, I feel it’s essential. Content has long escaped the confines of single mediums; we are a culture that wants to embrace content wherever we are—in print, on our phones, iPads, etc. The trick that I’ve learned is that you have to keep paying attention; there will always be new ways to get your work in people’s hands.
In addition to self-publishing your comics, you also design video games and websites. I was wondering how thinking about these various mediums– how and why people process them– complements one another. Do you borrow ideas from one field and see how it applies to the other?
Absolutely. I’m mostly self-taught in everything I do, and part of the fun of not following any one particular dogma is that you get to mix and match. (I’m like the Bruce Lee of comics, except not actually cool.) My first long-form comic, Empty Words, was initially published online—it was a hybrid of comics, design, online publishing and the learning and experience I got from all of that. I think there’s a lot that, say, the web and games can teach us—like non-linearity and user agency—that cracks the door wide open for comics and storytelling. Most people who have played the Snow game enjoy the book more because of it, and that’s just a really simple example. Now because of the games that I create, I think of stories differently, which reflects in my comic work now as well.
You seem really attentive to the experience of the reader in comics or user in your other work. What kind of feedback do you get from your readers and how do you incorporate it? Does it vary from what medium they first see your work in?
My design background means I’m used to a two-way relationship, so it’s difficult habit to break, even with comics. I actually get my single issues test-read by a few people before I commit to them, because there’s always something I miss or something that’s not clear. Some authors may sneer at that, but my work has taught me that what’s in my head might not make as much sense to somebody else. When readers give me feedback (after a comic’s already published), I note everything and remember it for the next issue or next story. In some cases I’ve reprinted some issues to correct mistakes people have told me about or make things clearer—Snow #1 was done like this, in fact. In general, though, I use feedback to confirm where I’m straying off course and as a point of reference to try to improve. I love hearing back from people—with Empty Words, I got great responses for years from readers, and it was their stories and reactions that kept me going.
Independent comics and video games are both small fractions of their more commercial counterparts. What similar challenges do these two fields have for indies? What challenges are unique to comics?
I think there is a major difference between being and indie game designer and being an indie comics author: with the former, you can still make an iPhone game in your living room and potentially do really well. With the latter, distribution is much more difficult. There is a larger and more visible market for indie games, but with comics, you have to fight with a 30-year-old way of doing business. Webcomics allow indie creators to get seen and, in some cases, make a living, but in most cases the only comics that people pay attention to and discuss are the ones on the shelves of their local shop. Being an independent comics author makes it very difficult to get on those shelves, especially in situations where you may not know the store or its staff. Video games can obviously be distributed dozens of ways, but with comics, most people still want to walk into a shop and pick up a book. (Although obviously I’m hoping that with iPads, eReaders and the like, this won’t always be the case.)
You received a Xeric Grant and were nominated for the Gene Day award at the Joe Shusters. What does the availability of these awards mean to you as a self-publisher? Does their significance change with the ease of distribution through the Internet and otherplatforms?
The Gene Day Award is one of the only visible ways indie comics creators get to cut through the noise and get a bit of stage time, so to speak, and for that I’m very grateful. The Xeric Foundation grant is similar; the downside of free and open publishing is that it can be difficult to find the good stuff, and these two awards at least give readers a starting point. I’ve been self-publishing comics for over ten years, so things like the Xeric grant are a huge boon, and I think they let creators put out even better work, because they’re temporarily unfettered by financial constraints. Even with digital distribution, the visibility these awards provides can be critical, since the majority of readers will not necessarily find your book any other way.
Lastly, what comics are you hoping to pick up at TCAF?
I just saw Eric Skillman’s Liar’s Kiss on the TCAF website and that description alone has me sold. I’m also hoping to find a copy of David Collier’s Chimo; I got into his work through a mutual friend years and years ago and he’s been an inspiration ever since.
01.Apr.2011 Seth to Make iPad Debut with New Book
Montreal publisher Drawn + Quarterly, highly regarded for their well-designed and critically acclaimed comics, is due to make an entry into the world of digital downloads. The company will take a phased approach, testing the waters with Seth’s Wimbledon Green prequel The Great Northern Brotherhood of Canadian Cartoonists this fall.
“It just makes the most sense” said co-publisher Chris Oliveros. “We want to make sure we put something really great out there to try it out, and Seth does that, and it’s a great way to expand our market share and bring in a new revenue stream”.
If it’s successful, D+Q expects to quickly offer more selection from older works to “diversify their offerings, appeal to a wider demographic and create synergies through cross-promotion” as Oliveros described the strategy in an e-mail.
Seth’s book GNBCC is expected to come out in the fall, and co-publisher Peggy Burns said the e-book will likely come out on the same day, “We’re still working out details to get it out simultaneously because this is new to all of us– I mean have you ever tried to actually read one of those user license agreements? But we’re working to have it out on time”.
D+Q has excelled in the past decade despite an industry decline by offering high quality, well-designed books. This makes the move to e-books all the more surprising. “We can’t stay stagnant”, explained Oliveros, “if you look at how the kids consume their media, it’s all about iPads and iPhones, and we want to make sure D+Q is proactive by leveraging existing content in what is a good strategic fit”.
The details of D+Q’s e-book deal are unclear, but Oliveros added that it’s an Apple exclusive. “Apple looks to be a great partner, they clearly care about presenting the art well and maintaining its integrity. That’s part of what made Seth so excited about it too”.
Reached on his new iPhone, the Guelph-based cartoonist was positive about the move. “Well i didn’t want to rush into it, but Peggy convinced me it’s the logical next step and she’s usually right about this sort of thing. Palookaville’s transition to books was the right move and now I think digital is the next place we have to explore. I probably owe Scott McCloud lunch or something though.”
Asked about his hesitancy to embrace technology in the past, Seth laughed about it, “I was at first, but while in New York Adrian Tomine persuaded me to go check out an Apple store. I was quite taken by the place, it was a temple. Not as warm as i’d like but I appreciated the clean style of it all. And I was surprised how many people knew who we were there. It’s hard to remain aloof with so many twenty-somethings high-fiving you. I caved and picked up an iPhone and iPad there and haven’t looked back. Signed up in FourSquare and named my house Dominion. I’m mayor of it now, which is the closest I’ll get in real life”.
Seth’s new book will be available on the iPad and in traditional ‘book’ form in the fall. Pricing on the e-book has not been determined, but Burns indicated it will be comparable to the book price in order to enrage blog commenters everywhere.
16.Mar.2011 Interview with Joe Sacco (Part 1)
Portland-based cartoonist Joe Sacco is in Toronto for the next little while as part of the University of Toronto Speakers in the Arts series. A longtime cartoonist, Sacco’s oeuvre is well-known by now, particularly for his long-form comics journalism books Palestine, Safe Area Gorazde and The Fixer. His latest (and largest) work is Footnotes in Gaza, a work that tells the story of hundreds of tragic-and mostly forgotten- deaths in Gaza in 1956. Through Sacco’s investigation, people who lived through the era tell their stories and history’s echoes resonate.
Sacco graciously made time to speak with Sequential in Toronto and will deliver a public lecture at U of T on Thursday (Innis Town Hall, 8-10 PM Details here).
So you’re here in Toronto at U of T speaking to some students and doing a lecture Thursday. I was wondering, what do you get from this process?
You mean besides a cash cheque?
What do I get out of the process?
Yeah, what do you learn from it?
It’s not so much what I learn—it’s interesting to get feedback from people—but I kind of like meeting the people who have read the book and they often have good questions. And, if anything it helps me hone my so-called theory of what I do. I mean there’s no theory when I set out to do it, but when people ask you lots of questions about it, you kind of have to come up with answers or see if there’s some kind of organic process that you can’t quite put your finger on. So it makes you think about your work when you hear the questions.
As far as giving a lecture, where I get up and give some straight talk with a PowerPoint, maybe assembling that together I have to think about my work. But I get more out of the questions from people, I enjoy that part a lot.
Do you see part of your role as a cartoonist as an educator too? Lots of the work you do are stories that you don’t see on the news every day, certainly not in the same depth.
I don’t really see myself as an educator, that’s sounds—
Well, I guess I have a mission that’s not… education is an offshoot of it. It’s to get to the truth as I see it, an honest truth of some situation. Often some situation that I’m interested in and feel compelled to find out about. So, that’s sort of what I see as my mission, and doing that, I think has an educational purpose. People learn about what I’m interested in. Ultimately, it’s very much focused on my own interests. And I know those things are interesting for some other people, I guess they’re along for the ride. I’m educating myself by going there, they’re educating themselves by reading my book about my going there.
And those interests you were talking about earlier, it seems like one common theme throughout the stories you choose to cover are those that don’t get a large amount of coverage… I hesitate to use the word ‘underdog’…
…it’s fine, you can use the word ‘underdog’, ‘dispossessed’. The disinherited, whatever you want to call those people. That stuff matters to me. I hope when people read my book that it will matter to them in the same way. That’s the idea. With comics you want to take people, the reader, and allow the reader to meet the people I met. So maybe they’ll be interested in those people’s lives as I was. Maybe they’ll befriend someone through the book in a way that you feel as though you’ve met on some level. Those lives matter.
There are a lot of interesting things in the world. I mean, I think it would be perfectly valid to write about architecture or that kind of thing, or the new car coming out, fashion week. I think there’s nothing wrong with that, I’m all for it. But my own particular interests are with those people we kind of run over.
That’s something you’ve done pretty much from the start of your career it seems. Even in your rock n’ roll journalism. They weren’t necessarily big name bands, but represented the gritty lifestyle of a touring band. What first got you interested in those kinds of stories?
I think ultimately it was a satirical impulse. I’ve always been interested in satire and satire is always looking at social, political problems or issues or values and holding them up to the light, somehow refracted through humour. That social criticism that comes from satire led me to a more direct analysis or direct journalism about subjects. I mean, if you read my very earliest work, they’re all kind of life’s big losers or life’s big winners at everyone else’s cost. Because even as a kid you say, “why is that asshole there, how did he make it to be CEO”, or “why does that guy think he can run for president? Why do any of them think they can run for president? What’s in the psychology of that person?” Those things start to go through your head and you begin to look at the world critically. So it comes out of humour, satire.
Yeah, and in some of that early stuff I see a Mad Magazine influence.
Oh yeah, and especially the Mad comics. The magazine I read and once there were some reprints of the early comics in the early 70s, I could never look at Mad Magazine again. All that mattered were those old Mads, they were truly funny. Mad Magazine suddenly looked like a child’s magazine. I was no longer interested, I didn’t know what I had been missing. That had a big influence on my sense of humour.
Bill Elder had a huge impact on the way I drew because his backgrounds were so busy that they overwhelmed the foregrounds. It’s that sense of detail, all that stuff that you can put in that’s amusing, I used to do that in my early comics and my earliest stuff that probably hasn’t been printed. Later, you develop that detailed style. So it comes out of that on some level I imagine.
What were some other influences on you growing up?
You know, I read these Sgt Rock comics before that, these British war comics—I used to live in Australia, so I used to read those. They didn’t really have an effect on me except that at some point I looked at Sgt Rock and said ‘this couldn’t possibly be true’. You know when you have that moment when you’re not sure something you’re reading is true or not and you say, ‘wait, these five American soldiers wrestled a gun out of a German tank and then shot down a plane with it’. Even in my child’s mind, I could realize this wasn’t possible. You realize that of course there’s a facade there, and maybe it’s understood that it’s a facade but when I was a kid I took it a bit more literally I guess.
And that kind of connects to your quest to find truth
I’m not sure you can draw a direct line, I mean you do realize there are lots of tall tales told and as much as possible I’m interested in work that is honest. It can have an opinion. It can have a perspective. It doesn’t have to be objective in that so-called way but honesty matters.
You made that transition from your early comics in Yahoo to Palestine, that was quite a jump. From satirical comics to gritty, meaningful stories about people who are struggling.
Right. That trend sort of started in my Yahoo stuff, I did a story about my mother in WWII and I did a story called “How I Loved the War” about the Gulf War started up and I was living in Berlin and breaking up with my girlfriend in America and how these stories intertwined, which I think is still one of most sophisticated works although I think other people might not think so.
But, yes, there are certain things that carried over. I had learned to tell other people’s stories, I had some inkling on how to tell other people’s stories from telling my mother’s story. I did a story, one of the last Yahoos, was about a stripper and she wrote it and I drew it. So you learn to work in that way where it’s someone else’s story and you’re trying to imagine it in your head and you ask visual questions to fill it in.
And then I also came out of that autobiographical trend, which is the reason why my journalistic work is autobiographical was that I wasn’t really thinking about, ‘oh, journalism has to be a fly on the wall’, so going to a place like the middle east and writing about my own experiences seemed to just come out of autobiography. It might be a leap, and I think it is, but it definitely is rooted in some of those early Yahoos.
And then Palestine did not do too well.
Oh, it was a rock, it sank like a rock.
As a cartoonist, I’m sure that was fairly difficult.
Yeah, it was difficult. Comics in those days, the idea was that you got one done every three months. The reality was you got one done every six months, or four or five months because you couldn’t make a living at that and you have to do other things to support yourself. Even other work- and I did some work with Harvey Pekar which helped a lot- but yeah, it’s depressing. In those days you would find that number four sold this much, number five sold a little less and so on. By all rights, Fantagraphics should have cancelled that book. One of the issues sold less than 2000 copies. Really pathetic. When it came out as a book, it did quite well which to me showed that the distribution system was probably a problem. In those days, people didn’t go into comic book stores. They were just the nerdiest places to go into, some of them probably still are. But there wasn’t a store like the Beguiling, or if there was there were very few. Was it around?
Yeah, I think so.
Oh. Was it up to its current standard and independent?
It was at a different location, but from what I’ve read about then, it was.
Very few places and avenues like the Beguiling though. And I suppose the subject matter was just coming out of the blue for a lot of people in comics. It took people who were not comics readers to pay attention to it before comics readers ever did and I still think I have a bigger fan base among non-comics readers than I do with comics readers. Most of the people who read my work are not big comics people.
That’s really interesting. How do you find interacting with those individuals? Do they respond to your work differently?
I think there are people interested in the art form of comics in every way it can go, so those are people who are interested in my work; they’re interested in the literary comics, political comics, they’re interested in the medium itself.
I find more than half of my readers are from schools, in classes where they read my work. People have been to the regions and they’ll see, oh this medium has taken this on, I’ll pick that up. It’s sort of more book people than comics people. Although some of those are the same people, and thank God.
But I mean, Palestine wasn’t a grunge comic. In that way, it wasn’t looking at alternative lifestyles and I love those comics, I really enjoy them. But it wasn’t that comic, and I think that’s one of the reasons it had a very muddy beginning, an uncomfortable birth.
And then Safe Area came out.
Safe Area was the one that sold well. And that pulled Palestine up and now Palestine sells better than Safe Area. Actually, I think Palestine came out as a single volume book after Gorazde. Just months after, or a year or something.
And Gorazde did well. I kind of owe that on some level to a review I got in the NY Times Books Review. For better or worse, there’s a few publications where they will do a feature or a review and other editors pay attention to that. It was after that that I started to get calls from other journalists. I mean I had always had some interviews but never from the big mainstream publications and suddenly I was just getting a lot of that. That’s when things started to work out financially for me.
In Part 2 Joe talks about the 7 years it took to make Footnotes in Gaza and his process among other things.
16.Jan.2011 Dylan Horrocks and the Infinite Atlas
Since then, through a combination of being pretty busy at work and lazy at home, I haven’t got around to posting Part 3. So my apologies for the lateness.
Also apologies go out to Nick Craine and Richard Case, who originally had their names misspelled. This was corrected a few days after the post was made.
In part 3, the conversation shifts to how we process and think about comics, first through a comparison to map-making and then through discussion of the role of criticism.
Also of note is Horrocks’ recent conversation with Tom Spurgeon (who is coincidentally discussed in this interview). Spurgeon and Horrocks spoke about issues and concerns surrounding piracy, copyright and artistic ownership, which provides more depth to what he and I discussed in part 2 here. Well worth the read.
You can check out the latest Dylan Horrocks comics and news at hicksvillecomics.com
One thing I was interested in when I read Hicksville, and it’s something you see in Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, is the use of maps.
Interesting, I didn’t even think of that in Fun Home; I was so focused on the people.
I guess why I was interested is that maps and comics have similarities in how they’re perceived in that they provide spatial relationships to tell stories. Maps in particular, it’s a very tangible way to reduce the 3-dimensional world onto paper and to make sense of it in a shorthand, which is what is done in narrative.
A map is not even a 3-dimensional world transformed into two dimensions, it’s a multi-dimensional world that includes layers of politics and history and people’s emotional attachments to certain aspects of the landscape- all sort of things are feeding into the decisions that a cartographer makes about what to include in your map, what to highlight in your map, effectively what story you’re telling about this landscape with the lines and colours and so on. And so you get all kinds of maps telling different things about the same landscape.
With comics, I guess the landscape we’re mapping are our internal landscapes: the daydreams, the fears, the fantasies, the experiences.
So how does comics do that differently than other media, like theatre or film?
Well it does it a lot more cheaply than film.
Ha, exactly. It’s one reason I’ve always felt very grateful to be in comics. I know so many people working in film and it’s a tough road. I love film, absolutely love film.
I don’t think I could ever work in it (laughter).
It’s funny, the question you ask isn’t a question I’m so interested in. I apologize.
26.Nov.2010 Interview with Inkstuds’ Robin McConnell
Just before TCAF 2009, Conundrum Press publisher Andy Brown sent an e-mail to Robin McConnell asking what he thought about making a book out of the archive of Inkstuds interviews he had been doing for over 3 years. The idea intrigued McConnell and a year and a half later, the 280 pp. book ($20) has been published.
It’s a selection of some of the best Inkstuds interviews of the past 5 years, which has been one of the best sources to hear independent cartoonists speak at length about their work and comics in general.
Sequential had a chance to turn the tables on McConnell and ask him about how he went about selecting interviews for his book, what he learned from the process and why he feels it’s important to do interviews.
After the interview McConnell spoke in very grateful terms to what the Beguiling means to him as it was at TCAF that his book became a reality and that he has received valuable support from the people there over the years.
On Sunday, he’ll be promoting his Inkstuds book and interviewing Ottawa cartoonist Dave Cooper (promoting his new book, Bent) at a Beguiling event. The event will last from 3-6 and take place at The Central, the pub directly north to the Beguiling at Markham and Bloor. You should go there.
I guess you started doing your show about five years ago now?
Yeah, just over five years now. Five years and a couple of weeks I think.
Well happy anniversary.
Thank you man. It’s been a pretty active time of year, it’s been pretty exciting.
So when you started, did you think it would get to this point?
I had no clue (laughter). When I started it, Robin Fisher, who hosts the Onomatopoeia Show, she had given up the space at the station because she was moving to Montreal and so there was the opportunity there to do a show and I was in a flux time in my life and I said “sure, what the hell, I’ll give it a shot”.
And the show started out pretty painfully. For some reason that first interview with Seth, people seemed to like, and I’m pretty happy with it. But we did a lot of shows that weren’t really… as engaged as the interviews were, so once I really started getting into the interviews then I realized what I wanted to do with it.
It’s been pretty fun since then. It’s kept me active, involved.
Nice. So when you sat down to do this book, and you have these 300 interviews to go through, how do you begin to choose which ones belong there?
Well, it was kind of crazy narrowing it down from 300 to 30. The first thing is obviously it’s a Canadian publication so we want a substantive amount of Canadian content, that was important to me. We wanted to capture Canadian comics beyond the obvious of Seth and Chester Brown, there’s David Collier, Rebecca Dart, Jillian Tamaki. I mean, look at the book, it’s half Canadian. So that was the first step, really identifying those Canadians that we wanted, me and Andy Brown the (Conundrum Press) publisher talking back and forth. On top of that we did a list of what I felt like my top 50 or 60 were and slowly narrowed it down.
One thing about this book, there is a narrative going through it, as far as who we chose for the interviews that kind of connects them all. There’s a lot of interviews I chose not to include in this that are fantastic interviews but I don’t think they really connect with what’s going on in the book. Hopefully you noticed the big “1” on the side of the book, so hopefully there’s more to come.
You mentioned the Canadian content and how that was a conscious choice to bring them together to give a sense of what Canadian comics are like and what current ideas are out there. Did you get a better sense of what that means when you put those together?
Kind of. I’ll also say a mea culpa in that these are all limited to English-speaking cartoonists and I think there’s a lot of great French guys that I haven’t talked to, like Michel Rabliagti is one of the pre-eminent Canadian cartoonists right now. He is so amazing, he’s such a fantastic storyteller. But I haven’t interview him and I don’t know his level of English. Julie Doucet is another person who captures that Canadian identity is not in the book and whose English, frankly, is not, I don’t think, up to doing a radio interview unfortunately.
But for the rest of Canada—
Yeah, yeah it captures a wide range of Canada. I guess I kind of went off there. But yeah, I mean guys like Marc Bell, there’s so much behind him and so much surrounding him that’s why having someone like him is important. When you look at an anthology like Nog a Dod, which is a collection of this great group of people who have the same ideals and there’s even more that aren’t in that book, that kind of follow in those footsteps. And there’s all these linkages with these guys. And there is now, and then too, other Canadian cartoonists where you can see that layer of influence—like Dave Cooper, who I’m talking to on Sunday, going through his work you really see how important someone like Chester Brown was to him. Joe Matt and Seth. Well, Joe Matt isn’t Canadian, should be careful with that one.
Oh, kind of. He lived here for a while.
I don’t include it (laughter).
I know there are others that give him honorary Canadian status, but he’s in LA now. He lost it. (more…)
“Memory is the diary we all carry with us”
Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest
Sequential doesn’t make a habit out of reviewing minis by North Carolinians, but seeing whereas this one was published by Toronto’s Koyama Press and Dustin Harbin has a soft spot for Canada, why not.
Diary Comics (48 pp. Koyama Press, $6) collects the first six months of Harbin’s attempt to do a daily comic for 2010 in a nice format (die-cut cover) and very affordable price.
In the first few weeks, the results come across as spontaneous doodles. The lines are scratchy, and the lettering small. Harbin acknowledges this in the first page where he warns the reader –caveat emptor– they were not originally conceived for publication.
But therein lies the charm. The renderings are what you would expect from the marginalia of a throwaway sketchbook, and provide a window to the spontaneous and honest thoughts of the author.
As the months go on, Harbin clearly invests more time and attention into his daily four panels. With that comes a new set of tensions: the pressure to produce a daily strip with certain standards, the effort to find a suitably interesting subjects and what these mean to an aspiring cartoonist.
These themes are addressed through honesty and self-deprecating humour. The honesty allows the reader to become invested in Diary Comics as an authentic exercise while the humour illustrates that Harbin doesn’t take himself or his comics too seriously.
This is true for most comics, but not all. Some of Harbin’s best ones stand in contrast to his funny over-the-top self-characterizations. Periodically, a dandelion-shaped aura surrounds Harbin to indicate a state of malaise or depression. It’s a nagging sluggishness, one that doesn’t define Harbin but defines moments in his life. Where Harbin’s humorous self-deprecation comes across as exaggerated and severe, the honest assessment of his malaise is subtle and nuanced.
In the image above, Harbin displays a quiet victory. In the first panel, Harbin his old foe is re-introduced in the background until Harbin is mostly obscured in the second panel. The granular lines that define the second panel are the worst enemy of Harbin as a cartoonist as they cloud his goals of clarity, communication and understanding. He manages to fight it. After all, there’s really not a choice if he is going to complete his daily comic among other responsibilities (like his work on Casanova, HeroesCon and building relationships with people). He literally sucks it up and walks away.
In the background, we see the invisible hand of depression re-group to strike next time as Harbin whimsically whistles away. The last note can just stand alone as a humorous way to defuse a sensitive subject, but there’s something else too. Harbin walks away knowing that his sluggishness will return someday, but that he has the tools to face it—his art and attitude– and is thus able to walk away in a relaxed, calm manner.
In Part 1 of our interview with Dylan Horrocks, we discussed his connections with Canada by way of Guelph’s Black Eye Comics and later, Drawn and Quarterly. At the end of that part, we started to discuss his journey into the world of superhero comics and how he suddenly felt lost artistically within the corporate structure of DC.
In part two, Horrocks expands on his sentiments and we focus on the development of his ideas regarding copyright and intellectual property. This is closely related to his DC experience, about which he is quite open and honest.
The time at DC for Horrocks comes across as one that provided opportunities for learning and introspection, and we explore the copyright side of that here.
So the intersection between art and commerce complicated your artistic vision?
Yeah. Suddenly it was a job, and it was a job that I wasn’t as good at as I thought I might have been (chuckles). So that was difficult, I found that difficult. That affected the comic I was doing for Drawn and Quarterly, which was Atlas. It was probably the main reason there was a three year gap between issues one and two. Then another couple of years before the third issue of Atlas. It was partly because I was spending so much time writing for DC, but it was also because I was becoming increasingly lost.
That kind of ties into your views on copyright and intellectual property. And that for you, you shouldn’t be doing art for commercial reasons, that it’s about self-expression rather than trying to pad the bank account?
It’s not that I think people shouldn’t be doing art for commercial reasons, I think that’s absolutely fine- a lot of art I personally like is done for commercial reasons, and I don’t think there’s anything morally wrong with that at all. But I think I learned that I shouldn’t do it for commercial reasons, that it’s not healthy for me.
So there’s that. Writing for vertigo, I had a lot of trouble trying to get on top of writing a comic that worked in that setting. Once I was writing Batgirl, that became much more difficult. I had never been a superheroes comics enthusiast. I had an appreciation for superhero comics, but they were not like the Batman comics being published under the umbrella at the time. If I had been a different kind of writer, I’d have gone into Batgirl saying, “OK, this is how I’m going to do it”, and if they don’t like it, fine I’ll quit. And a lot of writers go into it that way and it works and it sells comics. So I’m thinking Alan Moore, Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, guys like that. They shake it up, and they do it their way. But I’m not that kind of person. Still, I went into it thinking that it was just a day job, let’s try and work at it and do these things, and that was a terrible mistake as well.
So really, the Batgirl stuff was a low point for me personally as a writer and there’s some things about those stories I’m fond of too, but overall I think it was a mistake for me to do it the way I did.
The thing I learnt writing Batgirl particularly that even applies to Vertigo—a lot of people think Vertigo comics are much more like indie comice, but they’re kind of not. Vertigo comics are still part of the corporate structure. And though there are some lovely editors there, and a lot of creative stuff goes on, there are still corporate pressures as to what the corporation wants to get out of the comics.
Writing for DC, what I learned is that DC really doesn’t exist anymore to create great comics. It doesn’t even really exist to sell comics. The primary existence of DC now is to serve as an intellectual property platform for Time Warner. That’s why the movies are such a big deal. The movies make money. And the movies make the brands massive. So the comic books aren’t just there to provide product for the movies either, they are the origin of the brands. Batman is a brand. Superman is a brand. Wonder Woman is a brand. Sandman is a brand, and so on. The comic books provide new brands but most importantly they maintain existing brands.
27.Oct.2010 Interview with Dylan Horrocks
Over the past few days, New Zealand’s Dylan Horrocks has been participating in the International Festival of Authors in Toronto. On Saturday he was part of a panel of three cartoonists that included Seth and Charles Burns and he did another panel last night. He’ll be making his way to Montreal to give a talk at Drawn and Quarterly’s Bernard St. Store Tuesday night, ostensibly to promote Hicksville.
Earlier this year D+Q published a new edition of Horrocks’ acclaimed series. Hicksville is centred on the titular town in rural New Zealand, (or to paraphrase Horrocks’ interview on Inkstuds, it’s centred on the fringe of the fringe). So naturally this would be a place for a comics utopia where the town acts like it’s Angouleme Comics Festival every day.
While this place sounds ideal, Horrocks uses it to localize ambivalent sentiments about comics. Hicksville sets the tone for this immediately when the book opens with a quotation from the king of comics, Jack Kirby, “Comics…they’ll break your heart”.
In a wide-ranging and lengthy interview before Canzine, Horrocks spoke with Sequential about his varying relationships with comics, his connection to Canada, his anxiety about art and commerce, shared thoughts on copyright and why he thinks Batman should be considered folklore.
This interview will be released in parts.
So you’re here for the International Festival of Authors, but it’s not your first time to Toronto, is it?
That’s right. My Mom’s from Buffalo, so we would come over on occasion. When I was 7, we lived there (Buffalo) for a year, so we’d make some trips. I remember going to the Science Museum (Ontario Science Centre). But since then, my first publisher in North America was Michel Vrana who had a company called Black Eye and he was based in Guelph, so I did a couple of visits to Guelph and Toronto when he was publishing Pickle and then when the collection came out. I was here ten years ago when the first Atlas came out.
And you had a show back at The Beguiling in the nineties as well?
Actually that was 10 years ago, I think it was 2001, and the first issue of Atlas had come out. Also at the same time I started writing for Vertigo, a series called Hunter although at the time it was probably The Books of Magic miniseries that led to Hunter.
I gave a talk at The Beguiling which was a really strange talk. I decided to give a history of comics… in Cornucopia. Which is the fictional country where Atlas takes place. And I presented it completely as if it were a non-fictional talk. So it was a straight lecture about how comics had developed in Cornucopia over the past 100 or so years.
I’m sure Seth would approve.
Yeah (laughter). Well, he didn’t say anything rude about it. At no point did I give any hint that it was in any way not real. Dave Sim asked a question that was somewhat probing, but a couple people in the audience left there completely convinced for sure.
And you’re very into that world-building.
Yeah, partly it’s because growing up my obsession apart from comics was fantasy. In particular, role-playing games.
I was introduced to Dungeons and Dragons when I was 13 or so. I remember being at a friend’s house and ringing my mother and begging to be allowed to sleep over at my friend’s so we could continue playing. And I said to her, “It’s unlike anything I’ve ever played before. It’s like I’m inside a novel”. And that was what really grabbed me about it, that you actually travel to another reality and live inside it. I was completely hooked. From then on, that’s been my other big creative passion- gaming. I’ve been running games since I was 13 and the biggest pleasure for me is constructing a whole world, a whole alternative reality.
Once in a while there comes a politician who you just look at and say, “Wow, there’s a Leader”. You know, like Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill and Jed Bartlett. This hasn’t been the case in Toronto’s current 37-month mayoral campaign as some people (a lazy writer’s way of saying me) have bemoaned the lackluster candidates. But change is coming as there’s someone new who has (sort of but not really) entered the race.
Newspaperman/cartoonist Steve Murray/Chip Zdarsky is just as unqualified as the other candidates, except he is a leader of humour, as seen on his excellent website. His campaign, “Murray for Mayor” (or M4M, which has curiously seen a lot of support in classified ads) is kind of like Ross Perot’s- alternately angry, funny and bizarre. The only difference is that Perot had $4 billion whereas Murray only has some perspective.
His site does not take contributions, but I hear he does accept cupcakes sent to the National Post.
Looking to secure the coveted independent Canadian comics enthusiast demographic in Toronto, Steve graciously answered some questions by e-mail:
Given that the comics community is a core constituency, how can we expect you to pander to them as mayor?
As mayor, I fully intend to declare a day for free comics, where citizens can go to their local comic book establishments and get a wonderful selection of comics featuring characters that they love, like Aqualad, Cindy Cinderblock, Mister Good, Green Lantern, Johnny Lad, Prince Tickle, The Wonderful Squirrel, Library Thomas and Thundermuscle! Or even comics featuring fan favourites like Vincent Man Go, Rocket Raccoon, Stretch X, The Domestic Abuser, Iron Man, Terry Boyorgirl, Garfield, Sarah The Unusual Witch, and more! I would call it Free Comic Book Day. This is my promise to the comics “community.”
As a Professional Artist Guy, do you believe you have an advantage given that your main four competitors are cartoon characters ? (UPDATE: Since this interview, Rocco Rossi has dropped out to make it 3 competitors. This is presumably due to Murray’s campaign.)
Ah, yes. The cutting caricatures (left) I did of my cartoonish challenger candidates. The pen, as they say, is mightier than the sword. They also say that a picture is worth a thousand words. Also, every dark cloud has a silver lining. Can a rolling stone gather no moss? We’ll see come October 25, when I illustrate my way across the finish line and roll into the mayor’s seat, ready to begin mayoring.
Given your momentum in the mayor’s race (coverage in the National Post, Toronto Star, Torontoist, as well as winning the 4Square mayoralty of your campaign office, Rob Ford’s and Joe Pantalone’s), you must be thinking about who you would bring with you to city hall as your brain trust. Can you give us an indication of who you’re considering?
There are some people, yes. I don’t feel comfortable listing them here, but I’m going to do it anyway, because I trust you to not publish this.
Chester Brown: Head a committee to observe the sex trade industry and its rules & regulations. Will keep a close eye on his office budget.
Dave Sim: In charge of street repair. Specifically filling potholes, which he keeps referring to as “street voids.”
Seth: Something to do with heritage, I guess.
Ryan North: In charge of revamping the City of Toronto website. At the very least, taking what’s there and adding exclamation marks and references to “sexy times.”
Warren Ellis: Minister of Executions. Obvious, really.
On October 7, 1990, MoMA opened its doors to a controversial new exhibition entitled High/Low. The exhibit featured art by Pablo Picasso, Jasper Johns, Marcel Duchamp and Rene Magritte next to their ‘low’ pop culture inspirations from the fields of advertising, caricature, illustration and comics.
Some of the representatives for comics included George Herriman, Robert Crumb and Mort Walker. Art Spiegelman, among others, bristled at the implication that comics only qualified as ‘low’ art and served as feeder system to influence ‘high’ art. He took to the pages of ArtForum for his rebuttal, using comics to satirize what he perceived to be the elitist ideas behind New Yorker critic Adam Gopnik’s and mega-curator Kirk Varnedoe’s show.
By furthering the distinction between high and low and treating the comics medium as necessarily ‘low’ and separate, Gopnik and Varnedoe failed to converge the two. As Roberta Smith reviewed the show in the NY Times, the exhibition represented a big, unique chance to engage recent developments and connect them to the rich and complicated heritage of modernism, yet Gopnik and Varnedoe fritter away the opportunity in a cavalier and dismissive manner.
This Saturday will feature two Beguiling sponsored events in Toronto, Wendy Everett and Blake Bell discussing Bill Everett in the afternoon and the prolific
French cartoonist Lewis Trondheim in the evening. Bell is in Toronto promoting Fire and Water, a historic overview of Bill Everett and his comics. Everett is most known for creating the Sub-Mariner and his (somewhat controversial) role in creating Daredevil. He’s also related to William Blake, which should allow Bell to find curious symmetries to tie his book together. After all, Blake’s experimentation with text and image has had an impact on the likes of Robert Crumb, Alan Moore and Grant Morrison.
The event will take place at 4:30 at Innis Town Hall, 2 Sussex Dr. (just south of St. George and Bloor).
You might want to save your seat though, because only an hour after the Everett event ends the Trondheim one begins in the same location (7:00). The creator of countless books (he averages a few a year), co-founder of L’Association and Angouleme Prize Winner, Trondheim will be speaking in both English and French (translated) at the event. I would be most looking forward to his live drawing presentation, but I’ll be out of the city Saturday and will be missing both of these opportunities.
Sunday marks the 20th year of Word on the Street, a free literary festival that takes place in Halifax, Kitchener, Saskatoon, Toronto and Vancouver. The large Toronto event will close down Avenue Rd. south of Bloor and the streets adjacent to Queen’s Park.
There will be a strong comics contingent exhibiting in Toronto, including: Jason Bone, Conor McReery, Elizabeth Todd Doyle, Diana Tamblyn, Lesley Davidson, Tory Woollcott, Xeno’s Arrow Comic, Labyrinth Bookstore, Hairy Tarantula, Koyama Press (with Aaron Leighton, Tin Can Forest and Patrick Kyle at the Pop Sandbox tent) and Drawn and Quarterly.
I’m sure there are others in attendance I have missed and if so, please add them in the comments.
There are also lots of other notable writers, including Yann Martel, Kim Echlin, Kenneth Oppel and Anthony De Sa.
But really, I’m most looking forward to giving a high five to Polkaroo.
This Monday morning, all Canadian universities will be in academic mode (some started earlier), and with that comes the annual rite of handing out class syllabi. At the University of Toronto the second year English course “The Graphic Novel” will have its syllabus distributed, and with it 200 students will study 7 graphic novels.
In order to further examine the decisions and thought that goes into making a graphic novel syllabus, I interviewed course instructor Andrew Lesk. Lesk has taught the popular course (it fills up very quickly) on and off since its inception in 2006 and he organizes the annual comic scholarly conference in conjunction with TCAF, “New Narrative”.
David: Before we get into specific syllabus selections, what are the criteria for choosing appropriate items for your graphic novel class?
Andrew: You use the word “appropriate,” which makes me think of how much a work I might be considering pushes the envelope, in terms of graphic sex and the like. And that would be true. Some of Julie Doucet’s and Phoebe Gloeckner’s work is endlessly interesting but very disturbing.(I once taught part of Debbie Drechsler’s Daddy’s Girl, and despite my warnings about the material some students still took umbrage.)
Second to that is price. I know that students are on a budget and that graphic novels are usually more expensive than your paperback Margaret Atwood. Alan Moore’s and Eddie Campbell’s From Hell would be a great addition, but it’s $45. Even Seth’s It’s a Good Life…, at $30, is, I think, too costly.
But these two things are, ultimately, minor: I choose a work because of how I think it can address certain issues I want to cover. In the introductory course I teach, Watchmen is a staple because it does what it does very well–and students love it.
You mention the student reaction to Drechsler’s Daddy’s Girl, and that it seems somewhat anticipated given your warnings. What unexpected student reactions have you encountered to course selections?
Most reactions deal with the perceived difficulty of a work. This usually doesn’t surprise me (eg, Eddie Campbell’s The Fate of the Artist), but in other instances it does (eg, Chris Ware’s Jimmy Corrigan). I suppose that I think that in university “difficulty” is something to be expected, even anticipated. Perhaps some of that difficulty arises, though, in that many students aren’t schooled (no pun intended) in how to read art. Even texts as presumably self-evident as Watchmen can be remarkably complex, especially in its artwork.
So then is choosing works that challenge students to analyze art in different ways an objective in choosing books for the course, or a by-product of the artistic diversity in comics?
That’s a great question, really. Though it is more likely a mix of the two, I think it’s really the latter. It isn’t a course in art–perhaps I didn’t use that word wisely earlier–so much as in narrative, and visual literacy.
What are the syllabus selections for the fall term?
This term I am teaching Watchmen, Jimmy Corrigan, Fun Home, Fate of the Artist, Weathercraft, Black Hole, and Skyscrapers of the Midwest.
28.Aug.2010 Zine Dream in Toronto Sunday
For the third year, the bar/cafe/arts space on Brunswick just south of Bloor will play host to a variety of (mostly) self-publishers/crafters, including Doug Wright winners Marc Bell and Michael DeForge, Dalton Sharp and the Wowee Zonk crew. It’s PWYC and there will be music going on as well.
Check out more links on the 50 exhibitors at this event here.
No word on whether Stan Lee will speak at this particular event.
In a short time Anne Koyama, the publisher of Koyama Press, has made quite an impact in independent comics.
by David Hains
It’s a recent development; in 2007 she began to publish art a variety of art projects (The latest being Aaron Leighton’s Spirit City Toronto) and since then branched into comics.
TCAF 2010 came with recognition for the work Koyama Press was doing. Michael Deforge, one of the first cartoonists (Edited: originally this indicated Deforge was first, but that was Chris Hutsul. Apologies for the error.) published by Koyama, won the Doug Wright award for Best Emerging Talent.
Koyama took some time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions about how she got into comics, which upcoming cartoonists she thinks you should check out and comments on which cartoonist’s Kung Fu skills scare her.
For more on Koyama, check out this recent interview done at Avoid The Future.
Thanks for taking the time to do this Anne.
It’s my pleasure.
You have a background in film and as far as I understand didn’t really get into comics until recently. How did you get into comics and what is it that you found compelling about them?
As a kid I read and loved Little Lulu, Nancy, Archie, Peanuts and some superhero comics. My uncle had Pogo comics so they were around too. I didn’t read them again until Calvin and Hobbes came out.
I got back into comics because I found and loved Michael DeForge’s art and when I approached him to work together, we decided to publish his LOSE comic.
I credit him with introducing me to the work of a lot of current comic creators.
I really like what a lot of indie comic artists are doing these days. It’s the art that attracts me but the writing has to be good too.
12.Aug.2010 Scott Pilgrim Film Review
As soon as the opening credits rise
on Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World,
we know this will not be a typical movie.
By David Hains
The Universal Studios globe logo
is pixelated and accompanied
by the tinny theme music of an 8-bit video game.
As much as Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World is
about Scott Pilgrim taking on the world,
it’s also about re-imagining the film world
in comic and video game terms.
The re-purposed Universal globe is an invitation to the join the madcap world of director Edgar Wright and author Bryan Lee O’Malley. After the pixelated globe, the film begin deceptively low-key to dull the audience’s senses. In a typical apartment for young twenty-somethings the audience meets the titular 22-year-old Scott (Brampton’s Michael Cera), his band and creepily-young sort-of girlfriend Knives (Toronto’s Ellen Wong). The clichéd setting and characters contrast and thus highlight the unique, heavily stylized delivery of the content that defines the film. When phones ring, RIIIIIING is scrawled across the screen, when characters pee, ‘Pee-meters’ drain and captions give ratings to newly introduced characters.
24.Jul.2010 O’Malley, Stewart, Churchland win Eisner Awards
At the 2010 Eisner Awards in San Diego last night Canadian cartoonists Bryan Lee O’Malley, Cameron Stewart and Marian Churchland each won their respective categories. Drawn and Quarterly also picked up two awards for their edition of Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s epic A Drifting Life.
O’Malley’s Humor Publication award for Scott Pilgrim 5 was presented by part of the cast of the upcoming Pilgrim movie, out in theatres August 13. It caps an eventful week for the 31-year-old, who released the final book Tuesday at Midnight in Toronto to a packed street of 2000 people, flew to San Diego the same day for Comic-Con and had one of the biggest panels of the Con on Thursday with the entire cast of the movie.
Cameron Stewart beat out fellow Montrealer and Transmission-X Comics member Karl Kerschl in the Best Digital Comic Category for Sin Titulo.
Marian Churchland won the Most Promising Newcomer award for her debut graphic novel, Beast.
David Mazzuchelli’s long anticipated Asterios Polyp did particularly well, picking up wins in three of the four categories for which it was nominated.