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Archive >> March 2011
[In this installment of our series of Editors Notes, Kim Thompson interviews himself (in a format he's dubbed "AutoChat") about Approximate Continuum Comics by Lewis Trondheim, now available to pre-order from us and coming soon to a comics shop near you. – Ed.]
Now this is the material that was serialized in The Nimrod, right?
Yes and no. The Nimrod #1, 6, and 7 featured the first three installments (out of six). So if you have all the Nimrods, sorry, you'll be buying half of it all over again. But the translation's been reworked and it's been re-lettered from scratch.
Why re-letter? I thought whoever did the comics did a really nice job.
I agree, but Jeremy Eaton's no longer interested in lettering, which means that the second half would've looked different from the first half. Also, in the intervening years, someone created a fantastic Trondheim font. And re-lettering allowed me to tighten up my translation. Turns out I've gotten better in the intervening years, I look at the Nimrod version and go "I can do better than that."
Is that the Trondheim font you used for his MOME story? That is a good font.
It's such a good font that the Eisner Awards jury nominated that story for "Best Lettering," which amused me.
Call me old school but I feel translations should be hand-lettered.
The problem is, if you hand letter translations you lose the infinite-tweaking capability that font lettering gives you. I tweak my translations endlessly, and if I were to do that with a hand-letterer every book would cost us ten thousand dollars to letter. And of course font lettering is far, far cheaper even setting aside my own undisciplined idiosyncracies. But I also think we've tipped over to the point where in many cases the font lettering actually looks better than the hand lettering, partly because it's in the artist's hand, partly because even the best letterer tends to tense up when trying to copy-fit, particularly when lettering those artists who in the original did their lettering and then drew the balloons around them to fit, like Trondheim and Tardi. The hand-lettered chapters of "It Was the War of the Trenches" in Raw and Drawn and Quarterly were done about as well as you could imagine, and I miss the irregularities of hand lettering that font lettering eliminates, but ultimately I think our font-lettered version is better.
One exception: Céline Merrien, who letters our Mahler translations for MOME and will letter our next Mahler project (not announced yet, you heard it here first), can do utterly flawless impressions of pretty much anybody and make it work so it looks like the original. But she's superhuman (and not cheap). If it wasn't for the flexibility/cheapness issues above, I'd hire her to re-letter every foreign book we do... I mean, except for the ones that were font-lettered to begin with, like King of the Flies and the Mattotti stuff.
So, getting away from the lettering nerd-talk, this is all autobiographical comics from the 1990s, right?
Right. Although as Lewis explains in his endnotes, it almost happened by accident. He was writing and drawing a comic in the U.S. "pamphlet" format which was intended to be a combination of fiction and little autobio vignettes, and the latter completely took over. The vogue for autobio comics didn't hit France nearly as hard as it hit the U.S., but Lewis is one of the few who really got into it — and still is, in his "Little Nothings" series. (Others would be Jean-Christophe Menu, Fabrice Néaud, and Guy Delisle.) What's funny is that Lewis is in person quite shy, but utterly willing to expose himself in his comics. He writes with extreme candor about his shyness!
Any juicy gossip about other cartoonists?
No. Several other cartoonists figure prominently, particularly his studio mates at the time (Émile Bravo, Charles Berbérian), and his L'Association compadres (David B., Jean-Christophe Menu, Killoffer), but no real dirt - unless it comes as a surprise to you that Menu is quite the lush! Mostly just mildly embarrassing anecdotes about things like Émile Bravo's annoying humming habits, and Lewis (who hits himself 100 times harder than he hits anyone else) lets the cartoonists set the record straight in a "Rebuttals" section at the end. Oh, there's a wordless cameo by Moebius, too, watching Lewis nearly throwing up.
Why did you stop publishing Trondheim? Fantagraphics was out front with both The Nimrod and the McConey books, then you just quit.
Because both series tanked! American readers rejected the European album format of McConey, and The Nimrod was caught in the death spiral of alternative comic books. Tom Spurgeon wrote a very nice little essay a few weeks ago about how if a great book like The Nimrod couldn't work that signaled the doom of the "pamphlet" form. On the other hand we'd kind of run out of Trondheim material that worked in that format, all we had left was to run more chapters of Approximate and that sort of seemed to be cheating; I'd started to resent the use of the pamphlets as just being double-dipping pre-graphic-novel content providers, and I'm sort of pleased two thirds of the Nimrod material did not fit that definition. (It does also mean that Trondheim fans who missed the now sold out issues are shit out of luck.)
Anyway, NBM and First Second have been doing a pretty stellar job of cranking out Trondheim stuff. NBM has been putting out three Trondheim books a year for a while, and when you consider their Dungeon books collect two of the French editions, the amount of Trondheim albums available in the U.S. has got to be pushing 40. Which is only about a third of his output, but still.
That said, I would like to get back into the Trondheim business and actually plan to start putting out two of Lewis's books a year.
That would be telling. It would make sense to put out La Mouche as a "pendant" to Approximate Continuum, of course. But wait and see. No matter what, I think he can still write and draw them faster than Terry Nantier and I combined can translate them.
Is Approximate Continuum some of your favorite Trondheim work?
Yes. Why else would I pick that since he's got a zillion other books to choose from? Check.
Because you already had it half translated, it was easier doing a new one from scratch, and you're lazy. Check.
Good point. But back then I picked it because it was some of my favorite Trondheim work too. Checkmate.
Well played, sir! And you're right, it is a great comic.
One of his best, I think.
Gary Groth gives the scoop on our publishing history and our plans for the forthcoming Carl Barks Library series in the new issue of the Carl Barks Fan Club Newsletter. It's available as a free download from The Good Artist (direct download link: 1.9MB PDF), and you can request a complimentary printed copy from the Carl Barks Fan Club.
160-page black & white 6.75" x 10.25" softcover • $18.99
Ships in: May 2011 (subject to change) — Pre-Order Now
One of the very first autobiographical graphic novels to come from France, Lewis Trondheim’s Approximate Continuum Comics set the standard for the honest, often hilarious chronicling of a cartoonist’s life. Trondheim’s typically graceful, confident cartooning shows him wrestling with his own demons (sometimes, in dream sequences, literally) and an often malevolent world, while trying to maintain his rising career as one of Europe’s most beloved cartoonists.
Approximate Continuum finally brings American readers the first portion of the “Trondheim autobio trilogy” that also comprises the Eisner-nominated “At Loose Ends” meditation serialized in Mome and the “Little Nothings” series of short slice-of-life stories.
This volume contains the first three chapters serialized in The Nimrod comic book (praised as "A rewarding, pleasurable and entertaining read from a fine talent... well worth the cover price" by The Comics Reporter), the last three (never-before-translated) chapters, and a hilarious “rebuttal” section in which Trondheim’s family and cartoonist friends (including Epileptic creator David B. and Trondheim’s mom) dispute (or ruefully agree with) Trondheim’s depictions.
Download an EXCLUSIVE 14-page PDF excerpt (903 KB).
Video & Photo Slideshow Preview (view in new window):
Excellent and welcome news: On his The Ruined Cast blog Dash Shaw announces: "The 13th volume of Wholphin, the McSweeney’s quarterly DVD anthology, will have my 2009 IFC series The Unclothed Man in the 35th Century A.D. on it." That's artwork from the animated series in the lower quadrant on the cover there; of course, much more artwork from the series, as well as a bunch of Dash's short stories, can be found in our companion book of the same name, and the series is still available to watch at IFC.com.
And more Things to See from the past week:
Today's Online Commentary & Diversions:
• Review: "...Freeway is often stunning. Kalesniko spent 10 years on the book, and the time and care is evident in the structural complexity. [...] One of the unique properties of comics — utilized well by artists like Chris Ware and Richard McGuire — is the ability to connect disparate pieces of information using the page like a chart. Kalesniko doesn’t draw any arrows or experiment with layouts, but he does convey the impression of a man dealing with his daily frustrations by letting every sight, sound, and sensation send him on a trip through his own head. And in Freeway, Alex Kalienka’s head is as vivid as the book’s depiction of key Los Angeles landmarks. Kalesniko renders both the exterior and interior spaces with a mix of loving care and impassioned disgust." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "This mesmeric saga [Freeway] is deliciously multi-layered: blending compelling narrative with tantalising tidbits and secret snippets from the golden age of animation with rosy reveries of the meta-fictional post-war LA and the sheer tension of a paranoid thriller. Kalesniko opens Alex mind and soul to us but there’s no easy ride. Like Christopher Nolan’s Memento, there’s a brilliant tale here but you’re expected to pay attention and work for it. Illustrated with stunning virtuosity in captivating black line, Alex’s frustration, anger, despair, reminiscences and imaginings from idle ponderings to over-the-top near hallucinations are chillingly captured and shared in this wonderful book..." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Review: "Dungeon Quest is unlike anything I have ever seen in the comic world. The closest comparison is some old comic strips in Dungeon Magazine from the mid-eighties but Dungeon Quest takes the level of insanity in those strips and adds +100 in delirium bonuses. If you know a manic dice roller, go out and purchase them both editions without thought. They will love you forever. [...] The story sounds a little like Bilbo Baggins' quest, right? Well, take Bilbo and drag him through a funhouse filled with drag queens and stand-up comedians from the eighties and you might end up with Dungeon Quest. The filth that spews from this book will make you blanch and make you laugh your lungs up." – Martin John, The Outhouse
• Review: "In short, The Arctic Marauder is pure fun, silly and dark camp. It’s a beautiful book, with an appealing cover and a sturdy hardcover binding. Tardi’s narrative voice keeps the proceedings puckishly light and pleasant, while the plot itself explores oceanic depths and throws out characters rife with madness and egocentrism. There aren’t many books quite like it; comics readers are better off for having Tardi available here in the States." – Michael C. Lorah, Newsarama
• Review: "The fun of getting caught up in a story that’s convoluted for its own sake, or the dazzle of pictures that preen the skill and effort that went into crafting them — they’re the hallmarks of a book that one reads to relax. Books that require an effort are ultimately more satisfying, but the smaller satisfactions are occasionally what one needs. The Arctic Marauder is fun, and it was nice to sit down with it after a long day." – Robert Stanley Martin, Pol Culture
• Review: "Screenwriter and novelist Claudio Piersanti's dark tale of a man driven to the depths of despair is beautifully captured in Mattotti's astonishing art [in Stigmata]. No artist is better suited to capturing all the intense violence, anger and despair this character suffers through." – John Anderson, The Beguiling blog
• Review: "Daddy's Girl is a comic book with a difference. Debbie Drechser uses mostly black and white illustrations to openly deal with the dark subject of abuse. [...] This is simply put, a masterpiece. The deeply disturbing subject matter of sexual abuse is brought to life with a startling brutality. It's impossible not to be impacted by the experiences within the pages. [...] It's a memorable, moving, bold, and — at times — emotionally challenging read that definitely rates a 5/5 from me." – Charlene Martel, The Literary Word
• Review: "Because Theroux knew Gorey personally — and remains a fervent fan — The Strange Case [of Edward Gorey] jumps from memories of the man to a more generalized biography, in between astute analyses of what makes Gorey books like The Hapless Child and The Gashlycrumb Tinies so haunting. The Strange Case isn’t organized like a conventional bio or critique; it’s more rambling and personal, working carefully past the psychic blockades of a man who once explained away the darkness of his work with the non-committal comment, 'I don’t know any children.'" – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "Rendered in an incomprehensibly lovely panorama of glowing art Prince Valiant is a non-stop rollercoaster of stirring action, exotic adventure and grand romance; blending realistic fantasy with sardonic wit and broad humour with unbelievably dark violence... Beautiful, captivating and utterly awe-inspiring the strip is a World Classic of storytelling and something no fan can afford to miss." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Review: "These superb oversized... hardback collections are the ideal way of discovering or rediscovering Segar’s magical tales. [...] There is more than one Popeye. If your first thought on hearing the name is an unintelligible, indomitable white-clad sailor always fighting a great big beardy-bloke and mainlining tinned spinach, that’s okay: the animated features have a brilliance and energy of their own... But they are really only the tip of an incredible iceberg of satire, slapstick, virtue, vice and mind-boggling adventure… [D]on’t you think it’s about time you sampled the original and very best?" – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Interview: At Newsarama, Zack Smith talks to Hans Rickheit about Ectopiary ("one of those webcomics that has everyone talking"), future plans and coelocanths: "The story divides into three parts which do not resemble each other. I wanted to draw an exotic science fiction, although the first hundred pages will contain very little in that vein. These stories aren't written; they simply occur to me. I prefer it that way. Good science fiction writers write about strange and inexplicable things. My job is make the strange things they write about."
Here are some great photos of Robert Crumb at the opening of R. Crumb: Lines Drawn On Paper at the Society of Illustrators in NYC last Friday (March 25). The top two are by Rob Sussman; the bottom one, with Bob in a saucy pose with SOI director Anelle Miller, is by Jordin Isip; all were provided by Drew Friedman (thanks Drew!).
UPDATE: More great pics by Edel Rodriguez here!
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