• Review: "Sala’s work is like a fusion of Hergé and Charles Addams, yielding a simple, cartoon-like style that makes his moments of gothic horror all the more disturbing. ...[The Hidden] is a beautifully pulpy and incredibly imaginative book that gives a fresh spin on a well-used set-up." – Publishers Weekly
• Review/Interview:SF Weekly's Casey Burchby, who says "Richard Sala's new full color graphic novel, The Hidden, fuses two classic horror tropes — the story of Frankenstein's monster, and the ever-popular zombie apocalypse — into a new form that is surprisingly free of cliché and enriched with a strange sensitivity, owing far more to the classic horror literature of the 19th and early 20th centuries than it does to more contemporary EC horror comics, slasher flicks, or Stephen King," talks to Sala, who says "...as I began to write the book, elements of it started to seem oddly autobiographical — on some kind of psychological level, that is — and I realized the story had become less about Frankenstein specifically and more about the act of creation and its consequences."
• Review: "This French artist's unabashedly campy tribute to Jules Verne's proto-steampunk adventure yarns [The Arctic Marauder] is all about the art — spectacularly composed black-and-white evocations of arctic landscapes and Victorian contraptions.... Tardi has drawn a tribute to a venerable genre that partakes of its wonders while poking gentle fun at its preposterous twists and turns. The result is pure fun." – Laura Miller, "The Best New Graphic Novels," Salon
• Review: "Ryan’s line work is at its best in some parts of this volume, showing the ability to continually come up with inventive weird visuals. The first half of the book is nothing but new forms of violence and strange creatures that become different strange creatures. Every page brings a new visual that you will never, ever be able to forget. The second half shows off more minimalist compositions, giving the book an interesting asymmetry. The only bad thing about Prison Pit Book 3 coming out is that it will be another year until Book 4 is released, especially with the cliffhanger that this volume ends on." – Chad Nevett, Comic Book Resources
• Review: "Johhny Ryan’s artwork on Prison Pit could be described as cartoonish, but to be honest it’s better described as looking like the insane doodling of a madman, as found etched upon the walls of his padded cell — I would not be surprised to find out that this book was ghost-written by Charles Manson!... Ryan draws gore like no one else, and his creature designs are the stuff of nightmares — one of the monsters in the latter part of the story makes Cthuhlu look like a character from a children’s story!... Prison Pit: Book 3 is a comic unlike anything you’ve ever read before — the plot is outlandish, and the artwork is violent, bloody, gory, and completely unapologetic in its brutality.... Rating: 10 out of 10" – Edward Kaye, Newsarama
• Commentary:Robot 6's Sean T. Collins comments on the must-read Comics Journal interview with Johnny Ryan: "I’ve spent years enjoying Ryan’s scabrously offensive humor comics like Angry Youth Comix and Blecky Yuckerella, as well as his extravagantly vicious action comic Prison Pit, and I’ve often wondered where his search-and-destroy ethos originated.... Thanks to Pearson and Ryan’s jawdroppingly candid conversation, I finally feel like I understand..., at least a little."
• (Not a) Review (Per Se): "This isn't a formal review, per se, but instead a few gut-reaction thoughts on the remarkable new issue of Love & Rockets: New Stories (#4). I've never bothered to do this before in a review, but the nature of this issue demands that I note that there are spoilers below." – Rob Clough, High-Low
• Review (Audio): The Extra Sequential podcast discusses "the whacky and funny Fantagraphics collection of Carl Barks’ much loved 1940s Donald Duck stories," Walt Disney's Donald Duck: Lost in the Andes: "We tell you why creator Carl Barks is loved for his storytelling prowess and surprisingly funny and absurd humour in his Donald, Scrooge, etc. tales..."
• Interview:Comic Book Resources' Tim O'Shea has a funny and informative Q&A with Michael Kupperman: "Actually I’ve been hearing from [Twain] a lot. I thought that one meeting would be it, but since then he keeps reappearing, asking for help dealing with today’s publishing industry. He’s written a new novel called Prairie Rumpus, which I feel is dated in its use of slang and locale. Meanwhile I’ve got a lot of interest in my novel The Fart Vampires, a lotta heat building up."
• Commentary: At About.com Manga, Deb Aoki reports on our publishing announcement regarding Moto Hagio's The Heart of Thomas (note that the "The" was initially left off our announcement by mistake), calling it a "very exciting development" and saying "Fans of A Drunken Dream and Other Stories will also be glad to hear that Matt Thorn, the translator of this critically acclaimed book will also be handling the editing/translation duties on this title as well."
• Review: "David B.'s newest, The Armed Garden and Other Stories, finds the creator turning his gifts to the world of historical legend. The subject may be different but the artist's mysterious and melancholy style saturates every panel; what's more, the three graphic novellas collected in The Armed Garden provide him with plenty of opportunities to draw the epic battle scenes he so loves.... The Armed Garden and Other Stories is the witty, finely executed work of an artist uniquely capable of capturing both the fervid ecstasy of belief and the dull, heartsick ache left behind once it cools." – Glen Weldon, NPR.org
• Review: "In Mark Twain's Autobiography 1910-2010, Adult Swim contributor and comics creator Michael Kupperman (Snake 'n' Bacon) reworks [Hal] Holbrook's Twain as a Zelig-like immortal cruising through a century of life after his 1910 death.... Some of the tales are hilarious koans of absurdist comedy — Twain as the unknown fourth astronaut on the Apollo 11 mission is fabulous. Although it sometimes has the feel of a Saturday Night Live skit stretched into a feature film — perfect in small doses but unsustainable over a longer haul — the premise is too good to abandon." –Andy Lewis, The Hollywood Reporter (reviewing the book in tandem with Holbrook's memoir Harold: The Boy Who Became Mark Twain)
• Review: "Kupperman is a comedic genius. Filled with deliberately odd syntax, wizards, snarky dialog, vampires, outer space adventures, car UFO chasing, and nearly every significant event of the past one hundred years Mark Twain’sAutobiography [1910-2010] is easily the funniest thing that I have read in a very, very long time. Come to think of it, I don’t think I have ever read anything funnier. Nearly every page had me rolling. It wasn’t just a chuckle or even a hearty guffaw, either. It was maniacal hysterical, snorting, crying, temporarily not breathing, and contorting my body into uncomfortable shapes type of laughing. It’s that goddamn funny. So funny, in fact, that I would be entirely satisfied if Kupperman went ahead and decided to write the biographies of everyone else, ever." – Zack Kruse, A Little Nonsense
• Review: "Love And Rockets: New Stories Vol. 4 contains the conclusion to the recent run of 'The Love Bunglers' stories — again with a heartbreaking digression into the past.... This is incandescent work. At this point, Jaime Hernandez draws comics better than maybe anyone's ever drawn comics. The story is beautifully paced, there are at least two stop and stare sequences in there..., the characters are warm and human and funny, one of the subplots addresses with significant insight and potency Jaime's long-time fascination with the power of memory in providing life with meaning and the ending made me choke up both as a moment with resonance across decades of comics but also for the thematic twist it provides on something we've seen in the last few appearances of Jaime's best character... I don't know that it's something you can pick up out of the blue, but my God, what a remarkable comic. I'm so grateful to have read it." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
• Review: "Congress of the Animals might be my least favorite Woodring book, but it’s still overall strong and compelling. I love the fact that Woodring has made a huge, fundamental change to the world of Frank, and that in doing so it still feels like an old familiar friend. I’m not sure just anyone could have pulled this off so late in the game, but with Woodring it feels like a natural extension of everything we’ve seen up until now. There’s no other comics quite like Woodring’s out there, and I’m forever thankful that we get these amazing, disturbing, wonderful creations from him. After all, a 'merely good' comic from Woodring is still better than most other comics out there." – Greg McElhatton, Read About Comics
• Interview: If you read one interview with Johnny Ryan, make it Jesse Pearson's epic, revealing talk with Johnny at The Comics Journal: "When I was first doing book one of Prison Pit, I felt like even though it was about monster men and fighting and all that shit, it was revealing more about myself than any of my earlier works. I removed a lot of that aggressive humor that was working as my armor."
• Interview:Panel Bound's Matthew Manarino talks to Freeway creator Mark Kalesniko: "I like doing comics, as you saw in Freeway, I like doing some comics with detail, I like to go in and show people a world and paint it and draw it. With Freeway I can take you to downtown Los Angeles and really give you a tour.... With Freeway and even Mail Order Bride I wanted to give you something where it’s not a crude drawing but give you a layout so you really feel like you're there. There is also a joy with that kind of work were you can come back to it over and over again and always find something new." (Mark's advice for submitting work to publishers is great, by the way.)
• Feature: In "Graphic Medicine" at Comics Forum, M.K. Czerwiek (RN) spotlights Joyce Farmer's Special Exits in an article on comics dealing with hospice care issues
• Review: "As journalist Avery documents in this cohesive biography-cum-first anthology of the onetime Rolling Stone record review editor’s oeuvre [Everything Is an Afterthought: The Life and Writings of Paul Nelson], Nelson was a gifted early practitioner of new journalism and, though a child of the Sixties folk and rock counterculture, one of its most vocal critics.... Reading his inconceivably insightful profiles of Bruce Springsteen, Leonard Cohen, Warren Zevon, and Rod Stewart helps make sense of a needlessly guilt- and disappointment-laden life — here was a hyper-romantic Midwesterner by birth but a New Yorker by necessity who thought he could transcend mundane cruelties by dedicating himself to the popular arts. Seamlessly incorporating the perspectives of Nick Tosches, Robert Christgau, and Jann Wenner, Avery has crafted both a cautionary tale and a celebration of a noir-influenced writer who deserves a place alongside Lester Bangs for his ability to live, always, in the music. Devotees of folk, establishment rock ’n’ roll, and pulp fiction will rue not having discovered Nelson sooner." – Heather McCormack, Library Journal (Starred Review)
• Review: "[Richard Sala's] latest appetising shocker The Hidden returns to the seamy, scary underbelly of un-life with an enigmatic quest tale... Clever, compelling and staggeringly engaging, this fabulous full-colour hardback is a wonderfully nostalgic escape hatch back to those days when unruly children scared themselves silly under the bedcovers at night and will therefore make an ideal gift for the big kid in your life — whether he/she’s just you, imaginary or even relatively real." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This
• Review: "I had the opportunity to do a Q&A panel with Johnny Ryan at SPX last weekend. One of the more interesting parts of discussion was when Ryan said how each volume of Prison Pit had to have a different vibe or theme so that the different books didn’t feel interchangable. That’s certainly true in volume three, as we see the inclusion of a new character, who, while just as violent and vicious as CF, is completely different in attitude and demeanor. Plus, he has one of the most amazing (and utterly grotesque) resurrection scenes I’ve ever seen. There’s also a neat little bit toward the end where it seems like Ryan is heavily drawing upon the Fort Thunder crowd, particularly Mat Brinkman. All in all, it’s another excellent volume." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Review: "This [fourth] volume [of Prince Valiant] covers the most of the WWII years, 1943-44, when the paper shortage was at its highest. As Brian Kane notes in the introduction, this meant creator Hal Foster had to format the strip so parts could be cut for papers that had been forced to shrink their page count.... Still, while no doubt hampered by this new situation, it did nothing to harm his storytelling skills, and Valiant remains a hugely enjoyable action strip, as Valiant battles a variety of ne’r do wells on a quest to find his true love, Aleta." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Review: "I’ve talked at length before about how good the Mome anthology has been, and while I’m sad to see it come to a close, it’s nice to see it end on such a high note. Seriously, this is the best volume of Mome yet, with standout contributions by Chuck Forsman, Eleanor Davis, Laura Park, Dash Shaw, Jesse Moynihan and Sara Edward-Corbett. But really, there’s not a bad story in this entire book. It might seem weird recommending the last book of a series, but if you gotta only read one of these things, this would be the one." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Interview: Brian Heater's conversation with Drew Friedman at The Daily Cross Hatch continues: "But a couple of guys claimed that I didn’t get their names right, like Don Rickles. His PR guy contacted us and said, 'he’s really angry. His name is not Archibald, it’s Donald Rickles.' So, we said in the second book 'Don Rickles says his name is not Archibald, so that will be corrected in a future volume.' Sid Caesar was annoyed. He called Fantagraphics and started yelling at Kim Thompson, because he claimed his name is not Isaac. He was on the phone with him for half an hour. He was doing Jewish schtick and German dialect. Kim was amazed."
• Review: "Alex Toth worked in a multitude of genres while at Standard (crime, romance, and horror among them) and they are, to the last one, collected here. Also, Toth’s Standard work has been reprinted somewhere between infrequently and not at all, and to have it all collected (and collected beautifully; the digital restoration keeps the original look perfectly) in this work fills in a sizable gap in comics history. Bravo for Fantagraphics.... If you’ve ever wanted to see what the 'big deal' is with Alex Toth, I can think of absolutely no better place to start. There’s no better bang for your buck this year thanSetting the Standard." – Alonso Nunez, Giant Fire Breathing Robot
• Review: "Field mouse Sibyl-Anne... lives a quiet life in the French countryside, alongside her friends Sergeant Verboten (a porcupine), Floozemaker (a crow), and fellow mouse Boomer. When the greedy, power-hungry rat Ratticus shows up, his destructive ways turn the animal community upside down.... Macherot’s plotting is lively and unexpected... Thompson’s translation is colloquial and funny and, one can assume, smooths out some of the original’s mid-century social attitudes." – Publishers Weekly
• Interview:Comic Book Resources' Alex Dueben talks to Gabrielle Bell about her comics and her experience being in Mome at the beginning and end: "Well, it was very stressful. I wasn't very fast. I was really struggling, and it was hard to do. It was a good challenge. It really helped me to learn to put out comics regularly, but I think I wanted my own space to put my comics. Now I have my blog, and it certainly doesn't bring me much money or fame [laughs], but it does feel good that it's mine. I'm doing it as almost my own personal newsletter. Mome was very helpful and a good challenge. Maybe I outgrew it?"
• Review: "Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse: Race To Death Valley by Floyd Gottfredson will be warmly received by comics aficionados but should also intrigue Disney animation buffs who aren't necessarily plugged into comic strip history. Editors David Gerstein and Gary Groth have not only scoured the planet for the best surviving artwork on Gottfredson's first epic continuity, which ran in newspapers from April to September of 1930; they've provided background essays (by a raft of experts), vintage press materials and artwork to put it into the context of Walt Disney's burgeoning career, and Mickey Mouse's budding stardom.... I have a feeling that this book, crafted with such obvious care, will earn Gottfredson a new legion of admirers." – Leonard Maltin
• Review: "Popeye hawking newspapers? Donald Duck selling gasoline? You'll find them and a whole cavalcade of comic strip characters in Drawing Power: A Compendium of Cartoon Advertising, edited by Rick Marschall and Warren Bernard. In a hundred-plus pages you are treated to a sampling of cartoon print ads from the 1890s to 1940s. There are short informative blurbs about the cartoonists (some of whom were featured in ads themselves) and the history behind the ads. A great treat for fans of comic strips, Americana, and ephemera." – The Christian Science Monitor "Top Picks"
• Review: "Not long ago a very interesting book was released which aims precisely to investigate and chronicle the parallel paths of comics and advertising from 1870 until 1940 entitled Drawing Power: A Compendium of Cartoon Advertising. Fantagraphics Books offers a hearty volume... which is our guide with text and images to the 'commercial' roots of the comic strip and the amazing work that resulted from comics creators who worked in advertising.... Drawing Power: A Compendium of Cartoon Advertising is a book that will surely pique the interest of those involved in the communication sector, but also all who are drawn to pop culture. An excellent edition from Fantagraphics..." – Lida Tsene, Comicdom (translated from Greek)
• Review: "Richard Sala’s The Hidden is yet another undead saga, though it’s more ambitious than most.... As the backstory deepens, Sala ties The Hidden to older literary traditions, weaving in pieces of folktales and the legend of Frankenstein. Because Sala has had a career-long fascination with B-movies, gothic illustrations, and general ghoulishness, this plot is right in his wheelhouse. But The Hidden isn’t just an entertaining riff on well-worn horror concepts. Taking his cues from Mary Shelley, Sala explores human vanity and arrogance as a way of showing how everything can go so wrong so fast." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "...Mome 22 concludes the run of one of alt-comics' longest-running and most essential anthologies. Like Weirdo before it, Mome bridged the gap between veteran cartoonists and the new breed... Here’s hoping that as with Zap, Raw, Arcade, and so many that have gone before, another anthology will rise to take Mome’s place. And soon." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "...Shimura Takako is a master at portraying subtle events in a slice of life story about adolescence that never feels didactic.... One of the things I like about Wandering Son is the way many of the events in the book are simultaneously safe and filled with dramatic tension.... Like the storyline, Shimura’s art is simple but nuanced.... As you’d expect from Fantagraphics, the production quality for Wandering Son is excellent. I hope that more manga is on the horizon from them. While I’ll happily read more cheaply produced manga, it is nice to have a variety of options. Carefully curated manga like Wandering Son is a treat." – Anna Neatrour, Manga Report
• Review: "Jason’s deadpan, anthropomorphic characters make his books must-reads for me.... I'd give [Isle of 100,000 Graves] to my daughter... and my wife... in hopes that, after laughing at the Hangman’s Academy’s students, teachers, and administrators, they’ll agree to dress up in multi-colored hoods and carry instruments of torture next Halloween." – Gene Ambaum, The Unshelved Book Club
• Review: "Chun fills his collections with the best cartoons – the ones that can still delight readers, and Covey uses his lively and inventive design sense to make these old cartoons fresh and vital. With The Pin-Up Art of Humorama, Chun and Covey will once again make you believe that the art of Humorama is still alive and kicking – although the line ceased to exist decades ago. [Grade:] A" – Leroy Douresseaux, I Reads You
• Review: "This Fantagraphics edition collects the first two French albums of Les Aventures Extraordinaires d’Adèle Blanc-Sec (Pterror Over Paris and The Eiffel Tower Demon) in a large format hardback edition, and it’s beautifully presented. First released in 1976, Jacques Tardi’s story has a timeless quality, set in an alternative, steam-punk universe, shortly before World War I.... Tardi’s art recreates the scenery beautifully, with stunning backdrops bringing the architecture and beauty of Paris to life. ...[A] compelling and enjoyable mystery story with an alternative Victorian feel." – Grovel
• Review: "Comic fanboys have read Sgt. Rock or The Howling Commandos which are realistic in many ways, but there was a time when a comic mag got down right truthful. I’m speaking of Blazing Combat #1-4 (1965-66, Warren) and recently Fantagraphics collected the run in both hardcover and softcover. Blazing Combat was an anthology comic that showed the very dark and very real side of war. A loose followup to the EC Comics War genre books, it showed US G.I.’s dying in terrible ways, commanders giving orders with little regard for consequences and the militaristic definition of collateral damage. Jim Warren let it all hang out when it came to editing Archie Goodwin’s writing... Of course Goodwin is a genius and I’m usually more of a word-man when it comes to comics, but this time it’s the art that captured my attention. It’s a who’s-who of monster talent..." – Chris Marshall, Collected Comics Library
• Review: "Fred [the Clown] is a figure of innocence, a lovelorn sad sack who keeps getting hit by custard pies — and, even harder, by life — over and over again, but keeps standing back up to go on. Langridge mostly tells his story in short wordless comics stories... in his usual style, a crisp modern interpretation of the classic '20s animation look... They're slapsticky stories of a sad clown, using the accouterments of vaudeville and early Hollywood, that nonetheless feel entirely new and fresh and funny. I don't know how Langridge does it, but he does it very very well." – Andrew Wheeler, The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.
• Plug: "You must buy @DaveMcKean's NSFW book 'CELLULOID' at your local comics or book store. Or in a plain brown wrapper..." – Neil Gaiman
• Preview/Plug:Comicsphere re-formats and re-presents one of our previews of Johnny Ryan's Prison Pit Book 3 to their readers, with Josh West saying "This is set to be 120 pages of ‘once you see it, it can’t ever be unseen’ scenarios and, honestly, Comicsphere couldn’t be more excited! Unbelievably unpredictable, violent, satirical and likely to entertain more than anything else on the shelves through September, the Prison Pit makes Hell look like nothing more than a relaxing Sunday morning stroll through a (really hot) meadow."
• Interview:Comic Book Resources' Tim Callahan has a wide-ranging conversation with Johnny Ryan about Prison Pit and other topics: "I guess I have this fascination with stories where the 'hero' is not a hero at all. He's a loser or an idiot or a scumbag, but somehow the author makes us give a shit about him or her.... I think this is a strain that also runs through my work. It's about bad people, doing bad things, but I try and trick people into caring about or liking these people."
• Preview/Plug:Comicsphere gives the same treatment as above to our excerpt of Jacques Tardi & Jean-Patrick Manchette's Like a Sniper Lining Up His Shot, with Josh West saying "...Jacques Tardi returns to the world of guns, crime, betrayal and bloodshed with this stunning, grisly, and remarkably faithful interpretation of Manchette’s last completed crime thriller."
"Athos in America – Jason returns to The Last Musketeer and includes other Jasony stories like 'The Brain That Wouldn’t Virginia Woolf.'"
• Plugs:Graphic Novel Reporter includes almost everything we have coming out over the next 3 months in their "Great Graphic Novels of Fall 2011" roundup, particularly the Adult Fiction and Nonfiction categories (though we feel we should point out that Alexander Theroux's Estonia is neither fiction nor a graphic novel)
• Plug: "We’re over halfway done, and have moved into the last 20 years of the strip with the release of The Complete Peanuts: 1981 to 1982. Can you believe how fast time is flying? Kudos to Fantagraphics for maintaining the incredibly high standard of quality and presentation they established at the outset, with this entry featuring an introduction from cartoonist Lynn Johnston. More!" – Ken Plume, FRED
• Interview:Newsarama's Albert Ching talks to Michael Kupperman about his new book Mark Twain's Autobiography 1910-2010: "One other character I frequently think of when doing Twain — writing that book, or doing him in Thrizzle — is Dave Thomas from SCTV doing Walter Cronkite. Which in some ways is very similar — this kind of roguish, semi-self-befuddled character, roaming around having adventures."
• Interview:The Daily Cross Hatch's Brian Heater begins a multi-part chat with Drew Friedman: "Basically when Monte Beauchamp who edits those books invited me to do a book, I thought about what I like to draw the most. I like to draw comedians and old Jews. So I put those two together and started working on them between assignments over a year. I just got pleasure in drawing them. I could put aside any annoying assignment I had and just get down to drawing those old Jewish faces. That’s what it came down to."
• Interview:Washington City Paper's Mike Rhode had a little pre-SPX Q&A with Noah Van Sciver: "I'm excited to stop by the Fantagraphics table and say hello to those guys and see what's new." Well shucks!
• Lore: "’71 was a weird year for me. I never had quite so many women coming and going, as I did that year in the apartment I shared with Gary. But I was still drinking too much and just overdoing it in general, hedonistically speaking. I was getting very little good work done (gosh, I wonder why?) and was generally pretty miserable." – Kim Deitch's epic memoir-in-music "Mad About Music: My Life in Records" at TCJ.com forges into the 1970s
• Staff picks: Our own Ambassador of Awesome (and funniest Flogger) Janice Headley is the guest contributor to this week's Robot 6 "What Are You Reading?" column
We were very fortunate to have directors David P. Moore and Audry Mandelbaum in attendance, and you can check out an interview David did with Dan Morrill of ComicsForge.com below (or on YouTube)! It's a great look around at our bookstore & gallery, and there's even a lo-fi preview of Tony's interview at the end:
Come visit the Fantagraphics Bookstore and get hooked on comix yourself! We're open daily from 11:30 to 8:00 PM, and open on Sundays until 5:00 PM. You can find us at 1201 S. Vale Street (at Airport Way S.) in the Georgetown neighborhood of Seattle.
This interview was conducted by Fantagraphics intern Sam Chattin. Thanks to Sam and Kevin!
Ganges 4 hits stores in October, or get your mitts on an early copy at SPX, September 10th & 11th in Betheseda, Maryland! Kevin will be signing at the Fantagraphics table from 1:00-3:00 PM on Saturday, and 3:00-4:30 PM on Sunday. -- janice
NOTE: THERE ARE SOME SPOILERS IN THIS INTERVIEW [esp. #8]. READ THE COMIC FIRST IF YOU DON’T WANT SOME STUFF RUINED FOR YOU. -- Kevin H.
SAM CHATTIN: Your stories are marked by this deep comprehension of the various sciences (everything from zoology to physics). Why do you choose to include those expository elements in your stories (which often take up multiple pages)?
KEVIN HUIZENGA: That’s nice of you to say, but I feel like my knowledge of these subjects is still pretty superficial. Laying out things and looking at things is more interesting to me than dramatic storytelling. That’s not a value judgment; it’s how my brain is wired. Other writers I know can effortlessly think up dramatic situations —characters who want things and have conflicts — but my story ideas tend to be more like “what is chlorophyll?” or “walking around/oxytocin” or “terrifying TV commercial,” which are the kinds of things that reveal how solitary and lonely a life I live. I’m terrified that if I really indulged myself and my instincts I would just make comics that are diagrams of how things fit together, like complicated diagrams or giant flowcharts, and become a completely hopeless case.
CHATTIN: The often anti-climatic endings and rambling narratives add a sense of realism to your stories. It feels as though we’re peeping at not only the life but also the working mind of some stranger. What made you go this particular route?
HUIZENGA: I wish I had a more interesting answer, but really it’s just as simple as writing in a way that seems least gross to me. I feel pretty good about how things turn out, for the most part, but at the same time there’s little voices saying “what are you doing?” and “you thought this was a good idea why?” But you have to ignore these voices and start another one and keep moving. Judging by the kinds of ideas I start out with, I maybe could be writing essays or poems, but I got mixed up in comics. I thought it would be a good idea to draw comics and build upon and around Glenn Ganges as a blank character, and now it’s too late. I’m only being half-serious here. Because there are limitations to writing prose without pictures that would be very frustrating to me. I want to see what things look like and I want to see things diagrammed. When I read pictureless prose I’m often imagining illustrations or emblems or diagrams of whatever I’m reading about, and part of me is frustrated that those don’t exist.
HUIZENGA: I write notes, I think about a story, I get irritable and crabby, I eventually start drawing it, etc. I don’t think I go very deep into my subconscious. I’d like to try doing that more in the future. It’s a way of thinking and trusting your gut that’s not my usual method, I guess. In this issue “the Wanderer” was improvised in an attempt to, I don’t know, go from panel to panel with a different kind of story logic than usual.
There’s an interview where Dan Clowes says (this is pre-Ice Haven days, I think) something about how he thought he’d get faster over time as his skills improved but that he found himself getting slower because he kept trying out complicated effects and tricks in each panel. That really fits my experience drawing this issue. It took me a long time. There was a lot of trying something, then changing my mind, then going back and forth, etc.
CHATTIN:How heavily do the misadventures of your characters (specifically Glenn Ganges) reflect your own personal experiences?
HUIZENGA: It’s not autobiographical. I take things from my life, like any writer does, and I try to make a new thing out of it that others can identify with and hopefully enjoy.
CHATTIN:How do you choose which experiences will work best in the comic medium?
HUIZENGA: You just sort of know. Or sometimes you think it won’t work, and the trick is in finding a way to make it work. The point isn’t really the ostensible subject, the point is figuring out how to package the ideas in an interesting form. It’s like a puzzle. I like puzzles when there’s no pressure, and no one cares about how you perform. I think that explains a lot about my career and my personality.
CHATTIN: Glenn Ganges’ latest adventure concerns a restless night. What is your preferred method for combating these moments of temporary insomnia?
HUIZENGA: A bowl of cereal (low sugar) and a book that is kind of boring and/or hard to read.
CHATTIN: How would describe the structure ofGanges #4?
HUIZENGA: An infinite grid of panels, only some of which you can see and read, but occasionally you catch a glimpse of it fading off into infinity, and also the grid contains itself nested within itself at different levels.
CHATTIN: Was it an aesthetic or symbolic choice — or neither — to break up the panels on the bottom of pages 10-13?
HUIZENGA: I’m not sure what you’re asking, but I probably wouldn’t want to answer anyhow, since this seems like the kind of thing where I’m being tempted into explaining the thinking behind a story. Obviously I have to do some of that in an interview, but I try to keep it to a minimum. As a reader I often want a writer to explain their thinking behind a short story or a poem, but at the same time I really don’t want to know, either. And the same thing holds for writers too, I think—they often want to know what readers think, but at the same time they don’t, really.
CHATTIN: How did you tackle, visually, working with so much moonlight and shadow inGanges #4?
HUIZENGA: Experimenting with tones and shadows in Photoshop, making a mess of it, and settling for the least gross-looking version of the panel. I wanted to try to draw Glenn walking around the house at night, and it took some experimentation to get something interesting that worked. I’m still not satisfied with it, but I think I know how to fix it for the collection.
CHATTIN: What are some of the challenges of depicting Death, who appears in your latest work?
HUIZENGA: It didn’t feel like it was a challenge at all. As I understand it, it’s been pretty well established that Death is a skeleton in a cloak with a scythe. I’d like to think that death appears in many of my comics so far.
CHATTIN: I found the connection with Earth’s calendar and Glenn’s calendar amusing. What kind of thought process goes into making these connections?
HUIZENGA: I don’t think it gives anything away to say that Ganges is largely about time, and different ways representing and thinking about it. The Earth’s calendar thing is a pretty common illustration in popular geology books and natural histories, and since Glenn is reading Basin and Range in the story, it was an obvious way to go.
Yesterday's and today's Online Commentary & Diversions:
• Review: "Sala consistently introduces red-cheeked, innocent characters and then puts them through the meat-grinder, and in The Hidden he plays with mad science. ...Sala’s novel features plenty of 'tell,' because if it’s one thing mad scientists enjoy, it’s expository dialogue. There are gorgeous single-panel pages filled with huge dialogue balloons, and it’s to the author and illustrator’s credit that it’s always a hoot; Sala is a professional when it comes to tongue-in-cheek visuals (the friendly looking characters with spilled intestines) and storytelling.... Its ending is... abrupt..., but it leaves ample room for a welcome continuation. The lushly colored package is vintage Fantagraphics, of course." – Alex Carr, Omnivoracious (Amazon.com)
• Review: "Relaunching in a book-sized format, Comics Journal #301 came out from Fantagraphics this summer, and has already gone through a second printing. The magazine is dense, with over three hundred pages, containing enough essays, interviews, reviews, and art pages to easily fill 2-4 of the old issues.... Where else in comics journalism are you going to find a viewpoint of comics encompassing enough to put so many different realms of the artform under the same microscope and give it all due consideration? The drastic shift in format indicates a willingness of Fantagraphics to take risks with its flagship publication." – Greg Baldino, Bleeding Cool
• Review: "...[T]his gentle, inviting series about two transgendered elementary school students... has truly captured my attention.... Wandering Son feels at times more like a series of character sketches that all connect together than a narrative-driven book, but it’s a structure that makes me that much more intrigued... Takako’s art is beautiful here, delicate line drawings that fit well with her story.... Last but not least, props need to go to Fantagraphics for a great physical design of the book.... This isn’t quite like anything else on the market right now, and I’m thrilled to see Fantagraphics exposing it to a wider audience." – Greg McElhatton, Read About Comics
• Interview: The normally Love and Rockets-focused Love & Maggie blog steps out of their usual purview to hit up Gary Groth for more information about our forthcoming series Jack Jackson's American History (starting next year with Los Tejanos/Lost Cause) — if you're at all interested in these books, definitely check this out
• Lore: "Before resuming I should say this: Drug taking, by myself and others, really peaks in this chapter. It isn’t something I’m proud of or a thing I endorse. But it is the way it all happened." So begins the ninth installment of Kim Deitch's epic memoir-in-music "Mad About Music: My Life in Records" at TCJ.com
And there appears to be a new (I think) installment of "Crumb on Others" where the man holds forth his candid opinions on various prominent figures in comics and popular culture, from his underground contemporaries to Charles Schulz, from Walt Disney to Walt Kelly, from The Beatles to Bettie Page. Must read!
• Review: "After far too long a hiatus the new incarnation of The Comics Journal is available and as inspired as ever. The Journal is the paramount English-language publication dedicated to the Art of graphic narrative, covering comics, cartooning and related fields domestic and global; interviewing creators, disseminating the facts and even advertising the best and most challenging product. They’ve done it competently, passionately and proudly for decades. You won’t always agree with the opinions expressed — editorial or from the many and various insiders and cognoscenti who have been featured — but you’d be an idiot to ignore or dismiss them if you care at all about the industry or the medium.... This is a superb uber-magazine for comics lovers: it won’t ever tell you where and when to buy but it will certainly make you wonder why you do or don’t." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Plug: "...I heartily recommend Dave McKean’s new 'erotic graphic novel' Celluloid. Mixing paint, photography, ink, and charcoal — and eschewing dialogue altogether — McKean creates a comic book version of one of Radley Metzger’s erotic art films, in which lustful impulses lead otherwise civilized people on a dark, surreal journey." – Noel Murray, in a thought-provoking essay on erotica in comics and beyond at The A.V. Club