Last week, I was emailing with MOME contributor Derek Van Gieson, who also happens to be a New Yorker contributor. He was bringing me up to speed on his next MOME story's progress, and mentioned to me that in the course of working on something for Vol. 13, he abandoned several panels. I told him I was sorry to learn he had worked hard on something only to abandon it, and later that day he told me not to worry, he'd found another home for part of it at The New Yorker. I half-jokingly told him I took a certain pride in knowing the New Yorker was publishing MOME's castoffs, and asked him to tell me more. It was an interesting story and insight into an author's process, so I asked him if he'd wanted to write something up about it for Flog. Derek's piece in MOME 12, "Parallelograms," is his MOME debut and I thought it would be an interesting way to draw some attention to his comics work. He was gracious enough to oblige...
I guess this can be best summed up as a "you got chocolate in my peanut butter" type situation. Let me explain — on my drafting table there lays the divide. On my right sits my Fantagraphics work for Mome, and on my left, a pile of drawings designated for the weekly Tuesday showing with Bob Mankoff at The New Yorker. The work for both differs so greatly, that the separation of these approaches could lead to artistic schizophrenic whiplash, yet through the power of cheap hooch, I persevere.
And yet, there I was- slaving away on Mome 13 when all of a sudden a break in style happened. All of the seriousness was sucked out of the room as one of my characters was positioned on a dock, engaged in fisticuffs with a rather silly looking shark. Sam Gross has a great expression regarding a situation like this- in cartoons you either have "funny drawings or you draw funny." Usually, you'd aspire to the former; in this case I think that actually happened, unintentionally. That shark is pretty goddamn ridiculous looking, it was indeed a funny drawing. Needless to say, it was clearly a cartoon and therefore didn't fit the story in progress about marriage and murder and ultimately sat awkwardly in limbo.
And then came the siren call of the New Yorker Cartoon Lounge with an assignment: the worst aspects about summer. At first I thought of a four-panel gag- the three you'll most likely become acquainted with, along with an unseen fourth panel involving a killer butterfly. I drew it a few times- it didn't look pissy enough and then I discarded it. But the other three panels are where it's at.
The first panel is the one I discussed above regarding the shark. I've seen some strange shit at Coney Island and so it seemed a great starting point- somewhat abstract and out of nowhere, what Mankoff would regard as my "Dada stuff". Lately I was told to lay off cats, werewolves, and aliens for my submissions but that's another story. The second panel is TRUTH. The summer is filled with random and spontaneous liquor choices, most of them against long standing convention. I know for a fact when I drew this panel I was indeed hung over, in this particular case from Harry Nilsson Brandy Alexander night at my apartment with fellow New Yorker cartoonist Emily Flake. It seemed appropriate to document this, as it was a consistent aspect of my summer. The third panel, which you'll find on the New Yorker website here, refers to Sid Harris having gave hell to another cartoonist about his appearance from the waist down. It was pretty funny and deserved documentation. I wear trousers to avoid such ridicule, however chummy.
Included here are the first two panels of the gag along with a preview of what I've been working on for Mome 13. It's pen & ink with coffee washes. If I don't drink it, it goes into the drawing. Have I mistakenly taken a swig from the ink and coffee wash cup? The answer is yes.
-Derek Van Gieson
1) Panels 1 & 2 of "The 3 Worst Things About Summer" (panel 3 here):
2) Sample page from "The Marriage Tree," from the forthcoming MOME 13 (November 2008).
Special thanks to DVG for doing this for Flog readers.
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