Super I.T.C.H » Interviews
Get these books by
Craig Yoe:
Archie's Mad House Krazy Kat & The Art of George Herriman: A Celebration
Archie's Mad House The Carl Barks Big Book of Barney Bear
Archie's Mad House Amazing 3-D Comics
Archie's Mad House Archie's Mad House
Archie's Mad House The Great Treasury of Christmas Comic Book Stories
Archie's Mad House The Official Fart Book
Archie's Mad House The Official Barf Book
Popeye: The Great Comic Book Tales of Bud Sagendorf Popeye: The Great Comic Book Tales of Bud Sagendorf
Archie: Seven Decades of America's Favorite Teenagers... And Beyond! Archie: Seven Decades of America's Favorite Teenagers... And Beyond!
Dick Briefer's Frankenstein Dick Briefer's Frankenstein
Barney Google: Gambling, Horse Races, and High-Toned Women Barney Google: Gambling, Horse Races, and High-Toned Women
Felix The Cat: The Great Comic Book Tails Felix The Cat: The Great Comic Book Tails
Klassic Krazy Kool Kids Komics The Golden Collection of Klassic Krazy Kool KIDS KOMICS"
"Another amazing book from Craig Yoe!"
-Jerry Beck
CartoonBrew.com
Dan DeCarlo's Jetta Dan DeCarlo's Jetta
"A long-forgotten comic book gem."
-Mark Frauenfelder
BoingBoing.net
The Complete Milt Gross Comic Books and Life Story The Complete Milt Gross Comic Books and Life Story
"Wonderful!"
-Playboy magazine
"Stunningly beautiful!"
- The Forward
"An absolute must-have."
-Jerry Beck
CartoonBrew.com
The Art of Ditko
The Art of Ditko
"Craig's book revealed to me a genius I had ignored my entire life."
-Mark Frauenfelder
BoingBoing.net
The Greatest Anti-War Cartoons
The Great Anti-War Cartoons
Introduction by Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus
"Pencils for Peace!"
-The Washington Post
Boody: The Bizarre Comics of Boody Rogers
Boody: The Bizarre Comics of Boody Rogers
"Crazy, fun, absurd!"
-Mark Frauenfelder
BoingBoing.net
More books by Craig Yoe

Get these books by
Craig Yoe:
Archie's Mad House Krazy Kat & The Art of George Herriman: A Celebration
Archie's Mad House The Carl Barks Big Book of Barney Bear
Archie's Mad House Amazing 3-D Comics
Archie's Mad House Archie's Mad House
Archie's Mad House The Great Treasury of Christmas Comic Book Stories
Archie's Mad House The Official Fart Book
Archie's Mad House The Official Barf Book
Popeye: The Great Comic Book Tales of Bud Sagendorf Popeye: The Great Comic Book Tales of Bud Sagendorf
Archie: Seven Decades of America's Favorite Teenagers... And Beyond! Archie: Seven Decades of America's Favorite Teenagers... And Beyond!
Dick Briefer's Frankenstein Dick Briefer's Frankenstein
Barney Google: Gambling, Horse Races, and High-Toned Women Barney Google: Gambling, Horse Races, and High-Toned Women
Felix The Cat: The Great Comic Book Tails Felix The Cat: The Great Comic Book Tails
Klassic Krazy Kool Kids Komics The Golden Collection of Klassic Krazy Kool KIDS KOMICS"
"Another amazing book from Craig Yoe!"
-Jerry Beck
CartoonBrew.com
Dan DeCarlo's Jetta Dan DeCarlo's Jetta
"A long-forgotten comic book gem."
-Mark Frauenfelder
BoingBoing.net
The Complete Milt Gross Comic Books and Life Story The Complete Milt Gross Comic Books and Life Story
"Wonderful!"
-Playboy magazine
"Stunningly beautiful!"
- The Forward
"An absolute must-have."
-Jerry Beck
CartoonBrew.com
The Art of Ditko
The Art of Ditko
"Craig's book revealed to me a genius I had ignored my entire life."
-Mark Frauenfelder
BoingBoing.net
The Greatest Anti-War Cartoons
The Great Anti-War Cartoons
Introduction by Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus
"Pencils for Peace!"
-The Washington Post
Boody: The Bizarre Comics of Boody Rogers
Boody: The Bizarre Comics of Boody Rogers
"Crazy, fun, absurd!"
-Mark Frauenfelder
BoingBoing.net
More books by Craig Yoe

Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Artists Worth Watching: Sarah Becan

The Chicago scene is rapidly emerging as one of the hippest – and happiest – places for women’s indie comics. Boasting such talents as Lucy Knisley (Stop Paying Attention) and Corinne Mucha (Maiden Housefly Comics), Chicago is livening up printed comics and the web with witty, idiosyncratic, and beautifully-illustrated comics by women (and some men, too).

One of the most engaging and delightful of the Chicago artists is Sarah Becan. Her award-winning mini-comic Ouija Interviews features twee little ghostly characters telling painfully fascinating stories and spouting some rather obvious truths. These life lessons from beyond the grave are somehow made less pedantic by the ghosts’ incredulity. We sense them looking at back at us from the page, as if saying, “I mean, duh! You needed me to tell you that life is short?” Becan transfers that same talent to her web comic about food and body image. You can get your daily menus, recipes, and irony at I Think You’re Sauceome.

Meanwhile, Becan’s highly ambitious and genuinely interesting comic Shuteye eschews the often whimsical sweetness of the Chicago style in favor of a provocative, and sometimes quite dark exploration of the true nature of the dream state. Becan is expert at exploring violence without leaving her reader feeling violated. This is a rare skill, all too rare in contemporary comics.

Sarah Becan is an artist worth watching, and her Shortpants Press is a great place to do it. Not only will you find copies of Becan’s own work, but you’ll be introduced to the artists that she is watching. She is fast emerging as a leader: as artist, publisher, and promoter. We had a chance to interview her late last year, and hope you enjoy her sparkling personality as much as we do!

ITCH: What was your first comic strip/cartoon/comic?

Sarah Becan: Ok, you will laugh, but when I was about 9 years old I submitted a 4-panel comic strip to Cricket Magazine, a literary magazine for kids.

It was for a contest, and it won a prize, and got reprinted very, very small in the magazine. I can’t even remember it completely, but there was a boy, and he was fighting Captain Hook on the plank of a pirate ship, and then in the last panel it was revealed he was arguing with his swimming instructor and stubbornly refusing to dive off the diving board. It was very Calvin-and-Hobbes inspired. That was officially my first printed comic. I did some editorial and political cartooning in high school and college that I’m not very proud of, and I contributed to a few anthology projects here and there, but the first comic project that I really attacked in earnest is probably the first Ouija Interview.

ITCH: What are you reading right now?

SB: Vanessa Davis’s Make Me a Woman is my latest treasure. It’s a gorgeous book full of gorgeous drawings, very real and raw and honest. I absolutely recommend it!

ITCH: What is your guilty pleasure? At least, the one that really answers an ITCH!

SB: Oh, video games. I play Katamari and Okami and a few others, but I’m especially addicted to Persona 3 and Persona 4 from the Shin Megami Tensei series, they’re an interesting blend of high school dating simulator and monster fighting. Whenever I’m in the middle of a huge stressful project, I will find time to play, because in the game, while I may have to fight monsters, manage friendships, save the world and still take my final exams, at least I don’t have to work on that huge stressful project.

ITCH: Who was the first cartoonist/animator you met?

SB: Art Spiegelman. I saw him speak at UW Madison maybe 12 or 13 years ago. I was really impressed with how he kept lighting new cigarettes off of old ones while he was giving his talk. Afterwards I waited in line to have him sign my copy of Maus, and shyly chatted with him about wanting to draw comics too, I’m sure I was the 1000th person that night to tell him that.

ITCH: Which dead cartoonist/animator would you most like to meet?

SB: Walt Kelly, hands down. He’s why I got into comics in the first place. My grandparents collected Pogo Possum, and when I was visiting them as a child I’d hide in the closet and read them cover to cover. Obviously the subtle philosophy and politics of them were lost on me then, but Pogo can be enjoyed on so many levels.

ITCH: What would you say?

SB: I think I’d mostly just thank him profusely, and then yell at him for setting the bar so high.

ITCH: What has been the highlight of your career to date?

SB: This last SPX I was on a panel with Vanessa Davis and Gabrielle Bell, and I was a little lightheaded with excitement to be at the same table as the two of them, I admire their work so much.

ITCH: Please tell us a little about your latest project.

SB: I’ve got two main things going on right now. I’m trying to finish up my Shuteye series – I have one more story planned for it, which will loop back around to the first story, I’m writing it right now. I’m also doing an almost-daily webcomic called I Think You’re Sauceome which is part food diary, part in-depth examination of my issues with body and self-image. I’m also working on a Sauceome comics cookbook to go with it.

ITCH: Which old-time cartoon character do you most identify with?

SB: Is it bad that my first instinct is to say Churchy Lafemme from the Pogo books? He seems to vacillate wildly between boundless optimistic confidence and over-dramatic misery and insecurity, which sounds about right.

ITCH: If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

SB: Once, I told my boyfriend that I wished my superpower was being able to give cars flat tires whenever they cut me off on my bike, and he told me that my superpower could be accomplished with a nail gun.

We love hearing the news that Becan is working on the conclusion to her fascinating dream series Shuteye. We’re dancing around with excitement! Becan shows every sign of emerging as a major talent, and her work is well worth following. If you enjoy the witty travails of today’s hip and urban middle-class women, then we recommend signing up for the I Think You’re Sauceome RSS feed. If you enjoy something a little less easily-defined, yet even more engaging, check in frequently at Shortpants Press. If you’ve missed collecting Shuteye or The Ouija Interviews, now would be a good time to start tracking down the out of print stuff, and collecting the new stuff. Pay careful attention to the subtleties of Becan’s art and storytelling. In these subtleties lie the seeds of immortality. We’re sure of it!

And as always, thank you Sarah!

beth
beth

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Shannon Wheeler: Too Much Coffee Man!

I came quite late to the Shannon Wheeler party.  It was 2004 or 2005, and I was browsing the Alternative Magazines section at the Tattered Cover Bookstore in Denver.  I spied an odd magazine called Too Much Coffee Man that looked like it came out of someone’s circa-1985 basement.  I opened it up and instantly fell in love.  I had yet to see a cartoonist so effectively skewer the Iraq War while showing such deep empathy for the soldiers fighting it.  I became a loyal fan on the spot.

If you aren’t a fan already, there are all kinds of ways to fall under the spell of Too Much Coffee Man‘s creator.  Shannon Wheeler launched his famous character in the early 1990s, and Dark Horse has published five volumes of the collected strips.  Dark Horse has also collected  Postage Stamp Funnies, Wheeler’s weekly strip for The Onion.  Wheeler began publishing cartoons in The New Yorker last year, and his collection of New Yorker rejects, I Thought You Would Be Funnier, will be available later this year.  Currently, Wheeler is writing How to Be Happy, published in Mykl Sivak’s Nib-Lit, and posted to Daryl Cagyl’s Political Cartoonists Index.

I recommend browsing Wheeler’s website, distinguished by its entertaining search features.  Dropdown menus allow you to narrow your search of Wheeler’s extensive database of cartoons and strips using conventional tags like “politics,” “consumerism” and “death.”  But since you’re entering the world of a highly talented cartoonist, the conventional approach to searching breaks down quickly.  You can also choose from such nutty tags as “Too Much German White Chocolate Woman With Almonds,” “ugly island,” and “you need a smaller brain.”

I’ve always thought of Wheeler as one of the good guys, if not one of the best, and felt a giddy sense of delight when he agreed to be interviewed.  You won’t see a lot of biographical detail on Wheeler posted to the web, and you won’t find enough interviews.  So I feel proud of this — it’s a high point over here at ITCH!

What was your first comic strip/cartoon/comic?

I first drew some comics for my grandmother when I was 7 or 8. They were goofy gags – Mad magazine type things.

What are you reading right now?

Lost Girls. I’m a big fan of Alan Moore and I finally got ahold of a copy.

What is your guilty pleasure? At least, the one that really answers an ITCH!

A guilty pleasure in comics? That would have to be What’s Michael. I love that book.

Who was the first cartoonist/animator you met?

Sam Hurt was the first professional cartoonist I met. I bought his first book on a trip to Austin when I was a kid. His humor and art was a genuine inspiration. Meeting him only added to my positive impression.

A Sam Hurt sample:

Which dead cartoonist/animator would you most like to meet?

Edward Gorey…. Shultz… Alan Moore (he’s not dead – but I’m afraid he’ll die before I meet him).

What would you say?

“I… uh…. um…. love your work.” I’m sure I’d be a total idiot.

What has been the highlight of your career to date?

I’ve had a lot of bright spots. Having the New Yorker run some of my comics has been incredible.  Bob Dorough doing a Too Much Coffee Man song still blows my mind. Seeing a Too Much Coffee Man opera blew my mind.

Please tell us a little about your latest project.

I have three projects. The first is a graphic novel about the the oil spill in the Gulf. I’m also doing gags for a rewrite of the Bible, and I’m just finishing up a kids book called Grandpa Won’t Wake Up.

Which old-time cartoon character do you most identify with?

Sometimes I feel like Little Nemo in Slumberland… one weird adventure after another.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

I’d like to get my work done faster (and with less emotional trauma).

Over here at ITCH, one gets the feeling that Wheeler is in the middle of a creative explosion, especially with these three new projects in the works. It’s routinely amazing to read his blog, and to get sneak previews and insights into his creative process. Nearly 20 years in the business, and he remains a cartoonist to watch.  That’s stupendous!

And as always, thanks Shannon!

beth
beth

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Jen Sorensen: Political Cartoonist!

Jen Sorensen is a darling of the political left with her acerbic observations on the cult figures, rhetoric, and flawed arguments of Republicans and Tea Partiers.  She also excels in wry commentary on cultural trends, particularly our technological obsessions and the impact of those obsessions on human relationships.  Sometimes she combines both interests into one genius poke in the eye, as we see in this strip from 2009, Terminatrix, which offers a completely improbable, yet strangely plausible explanation for Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize:

Sorensen embraces the comic strip as her preferred medium for political commentary, but that doesn’t prevent her from dipping into the occasional single-panel approach to making a point.  In Choose Your Own Health Insurance Adventure!, she invites readers to locate themselves in a flow chart.  Polls seem to indicate that health insurance reform is actually quite popular with the American public, and if you’re wondering why, Sorensen makes the American reality quite clear while needling the naysayers.  I’m sure each of us can find our spot on this chart!

Slowpoke debuted in 1998, and has steadily cultivated a devoted following.  It has been reprinted in publications as varied as the Village Voice, Ms. Magazine, LA Times, The Daily Beast, CampusProgress.org,and Daily Kos.  I first started reading Slowpoke in Funny Times, and many readers have enjoyed it through reprints in dozens of altweeklies around the country.  Sorensen has won six awards from the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, and won Hunter College’s 2010 James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism.   Specifically, she is this year’s Grambs Aronson “Cartoonist With a Conscience.”  Well done, and well deserved!

Despite her very busy and productive schedule, Sorensen found a moment to sit down and answer a bunch of silly questions from ITCH!  I hope you enjoy getting to know her as much as I have.

What was your first comic strip/cartoon/comic?

My first “professional” work consisted a few short stories I drew for Action Girl Comics in the mid-’90s, while I was in college. Action Girl was an anthology published by Slave Labor Graphics that featured mostly younger women cartoonists. I also drew a daily cartoon for a year in college called Li’l Gus. Of course, I drew plenty of cartoons as a kid, so it’s hard to pick a true first.

What are you reading right now?

I’m reading the third book of The Tripods trilogy by John Christopher. I don’t normally read that much sci-fi, but my husband insisted I would enjoy these books that he read as a teenager, and he was right. Supposedly they’re making a Tripods movie, which will probably suck, but I’m still curious.

What is your guilty pleasure?  At least, the one that really answers an ITCH!

Just recently, we bought these chocolate cookies at Trader Joe’s that are shaped like cats. I literally cannot stop eating them once I start — they’re like potato chips.

Musically-speaking, I’d say my guilty pleasures are the Bee Gees and ABBA.

Who was the first cartoonist/animator you met?

You know, I can’t think of any that I met growing up. Early in my career, I met Jeff Smith of Bone through a mutual friend. He was probably one of the first.

Which dead cartoonist/animator would you most like to meet?

I would like to have met Edward Gorey.

What would you say?

I guess I’d ask him how he had the patience to do all that cross-hatching. And I’d discuss his story The Unstrung Harp, which I love.

What has been the highlight of your career to date?

In the summer of 2008, I went to Denver to cover the Democratic National Convention for my local alternative newspaper. I had a press pass, and I blogged and drew cartoons about my experiences. I got to watch Obama’s acceptance speech in the stadium. It was such an intense week of work and fun, one of the most fulfilling things I’ve ever done.

Please tell us a little about your latest project.

I’ve just been working on my weekly cartoon and various illustration gigs. I recently drew a two-page comic for the BBC quiz show “QI.” It’s for their annual humor book. That was pretty cool.

Which old-time cartoon character do you most identify with?

One thing that comes to mind is an old Tom & Jerry knockoff called Herman and Katnip in which the cat, Katnip, would say the catchphrase “Hmmm… That sounds logical!”  I used to say that when I was a kid. Also, I have always been fond of Pepe Le Pew.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

To stop time so I could get caught up on everything!

Four collections of Slowpoke have already been published, and I’m sure we can look forward to more.  You can also read the new Slowpoke — and plenty of archived strips — every Monday at Sorensen’s web siteSlowpoke also appears at Daryl Cagle’s Political Cartoonists Index.  Jen Sorensen is a wonderfully warm human being as well as a highly intelligent and entertaining observer of American political and cultural foibles.  Indulge!  You’re in for a treat!

And as always, thanks Jen!

beth
beth

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Los Caprichos de Mr. Fish

James Gillray. Thomas Rowlandson. William Hogarth. Goya and Nast. Mauldin and Minor. Conrad.

Political cartooning is a completely unique form of expression because what you say and how you say it matter in equal parts, and you have to be eloquent in a very tight space. These legendary cartoonists are the greatest of all time because their achievements in all areas are unmatched. Few others have even come close.

So am I saying that Mr. Fish belongs in this sacred pantheon? Well, no I’m not. And after reading his cartoon philosophy, I’m not sure he’d want me to.

But here’s what I am saying: keep an eye on him. This brilliant mugwump is still young. Watch him as he develops his art. I believe that in twenty years, critics will fall over each other to install him in that sacred pantheon. And knowing Mr. Fish, he’ll have something pretty biting and ungrateful to say about it.

That is precisely why we will mention him in the same breath as Goya and Nast, Minor and the others.

Mr. Fish is a prodigiously talented artist who doesn’t sacrifice at the altar of Art. He is a uniquely independent observer of political life and culture. He doesn’t think anyone with power deserves it. His satire is completely catholic, aimed at Republicans, Democrats, and Independents alike. Nor does he spare the public, and its odd obsessions and unrealistic expectations.

The cartoons of Mr. Fish are unpredictable and aggressive. He employs a wide range of artistic styles. Whether it is photorealism, collage, sophisticated cartooning, child-like scrawls, even manga, he uses the style most likely to make his point hurt. He can be cruel, savage, lewd, and rude. And sometimes, he can weep.

In the contest between word and image, he mixes it up without restraint. Sometimes his intentions are cryptic, and other times, brutally clear. He makes you stare, even if you wish could look away. Pay attention when he makes you squeamish. That’s when he’s found your truth, amputated it, and made you unwillingly regard it as a stupid joke.

Frankly, in his mastery of the form, he makes most of his contemporaries look like they are phoning it in. It’s hard to believe that he even gets published. Aren’t these the truths that society would rather not face? Yet he regularly appears in prominent publications: Truthdig.com and Harpers.org.

Mr. Fish is our constant reminder that the First Amendment belongs to us, the people, and we should use it with all we’ve got. For this simple reason, his work is breathtaking. It confirms him as the cartoonist most worth reading, and most worth watching to see what he’ll say next, and how.

Mr. Fish, a.k.a. Dwayne Booth (for those who read the fine print), is also a pretty awesome guy, a real mensch to a would-be interviewer like me, because he was so very generous in his answers to our questions. Here’s your chance to get to know a bit about the man behind the best political cartoons in America.

What was your first comic strip/cartoon/comic?

Trying to pinpoint my first cartoon is a little bit like trying to pinpoint the first time I used a joke to get underneath somebody else’s skin. There was a series of comic books that I drew while I was in middle school about a fat classmate of mine called The Magnificiently Meaningless Misadventures of Ms. Suey Pig, which was usually rendered in pencil and starred me and all my friends.

Then there was the first piece of art that I did specifically for publication in the school newspaper, which I did when I was eleven. These were a pair of strips (mis)using the Peanuts characters, one that saw the death of our school principal and the other one making a remarkably tasteless joke about rape, referencing a well-known news story about a 500-pound sex offender named Jo-Jo Giorgianni. (Both were rejected by the school paper.) Then there was the first cartoon that I drew, in 1982, that directly addressed the grotesque hybrid produced by the marrying together of rightwing Christianity and modern Republicanism. Then there was the first cartoon done for publication in a zine (remember those?!) that depicted Santa Claus giving birth to Jesus Christ in a bathroom. Then there was the first cartoon published by an international magazine, Anarchy, that was about post-modern environmentalism.

What are you reading right now?

Just finishing up Donald Hall’s Unpacking the Boxes: A Memoir of a Life in Poetry, while simultaneously beginning Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg: The Letters, having recently abandoned Jules Feiffer’s remarkably mediocre memoir, Backing Into Forward, while cheering the factual content and abhorring the style of David Bianculli’s book, Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of ‘The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.’ I am always re-reading Vonnegut and Mailer, mostly their non-fiction work, recent examples being Kurt’s Fates Worse Than Death and Norman’s The Spooky Art: Thoughts on Writing. Unable to read while I’m drawing, I also consume massive amounts of spoken word recordings, specifically the work of Lenny Bruce, Noam Chomsky, David Sedaris and Jack Benny.

What is your guilty pleasure?

My experience of pleasure is that it doesn’t have to be guilt-inducing. It is lovely. What’s lovely? Eating ridiculously expensive cheeses and cured meats and red grapes and crisp apples and artisan breads and drinking wine in front of an old movie, anything by Hawks or Hitchcock or Nichols or Allen, usually starring Bogart, Grant, Kelly, Stewart or Konigsberg, with my wife, who I’ve known since I was 18.

Who was the first cartoonist/animator you met?

Daryl Cagle, I guess, and a handful of his cohorts, none of whom I remember at all beyond their extraordinary kindness and benign joviality. I later interviewed Paul Conrad for the LA Weekly and accompanied him to a number of venues in and around Los Angeles. (Not surprisingly, I find that I don’t have a whole lot in common with other cartoonists.)

Which dead cartoonist/animator would you most like to meet?

John Lennon

What would you say?

I loved your books, In His Own Write, A Spaniard in the Works and Skywriting by Word of Mouth – found your lines as carefree as Picasso’s and as witty in their brevity as Thurber’s. I also understand that you did music?

What has been the highlight of your career to date?

Having my Can I Have a Grant… go viral before there was a viable Internet. Ever since first appearing in Harper’s Magazine in 1992, I’ve seen it taped up and tacked up and pasted to dozens of walls, bulletin boards and, perhaps most often, in espresso bars (where most artists work for at least a little while, usually until their rage and discontent dissipates along with their personal optimism and career prospects and they return to school to become underpaid English teachers), some as far away as the Czech Republic, a snapshot of which I received in the mail in the late 90s from a friend backpacking through Prague.

Please tell us a little about your latest project.

I currently have a half-hour animated pilot, called A Dog Goes Into a Bar, circulating around Hollywood. I also have a graphic memoir, that includes interviews with a number of counterculture heroes (like Mort Sahl, Joan Baez, Noam Chomsky, Graham Nash, and others), called One Complete Revolution, being shopped around. I also have a Mr. Fish cartoon collection scheduled to come out next year in conjunction with a pair of major art exhibitions in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Which old-time cartoon character do you most identify with?

Bugs Bunny, without a doubt.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

An unflinching confidence while wearing a leotard.

Unflinching confidence, indeed! The best way to read Mr. Fish is at his website. He understands better than anyone that sacred cows make the best hamburgers. You’ll fill your belly by going straight to the source.

And as always, thank you Dwayne!

beth
beth

Monday, September 13, 2010

Vote for Oh, Brother!

Sometime in early August, I devoured the entire Oh, Brother! collection to date in about 20 minutes. Then I played all the games. And now I am hooked.

With the news of Cathy Guisewite’s retirement, Sunday funny papers across the country will need a replacement.  Pennsylvania’s Patriot News is putting the decision in the hands of readers by allowing us to vote on one of five selections. Internet readers are included, so this means you!  Why not click on this link and vote for Oh, Brother! It only takes a couple of seconds!

If you’re not sure that Oh, Brother! is your first choice, please read on and enjoy this interview with creators Bob Weber Jr. and Jay Stephens.  And remember: if we make the Sunday funnies a happy place for kids, then there will be a future for Sunday funnies.

Oh, Brother! is the best kid’s strip in ages.  It’s sweet and charming, offering a daily peek into the funnier side of sibling relationships. Always funny and never mean, it’s one of the smartest strips I’ve seen in a long while. It really works for all ages. Older siblings can relate to Lily, and younger siblings can relate to her little brother Bud. Parents can smile over their own children all over again.

Oh, Brother! is the result of one of the most welcome collaborations since Parker and Hart brought us The Wizard of Id. The talents of Bob Weber Jr. (Slylock Fox and Comics for Kids) and Jay Stephens (Tutenstein and The Secret Saturdays) have combined to create a loving homage to Charles Schulz and all the comics featuring kids that he inspired. There is not one trace of snark or cynicism here.  Oh, Brother! is pure.

Not only is it the best kid’s strip I’ve seen in forever, it’s perfect for pocket computers. Kids can use their Nintendos or iPods or PS3s or etc. to read the daily strip, play the games, learn to draw, and interact with other readers by uploading photos of their pets and samples of their art.

Yet even though Oh, Brother! takes optimal advantage of new media resources, it honors old traditions, too. While web comics can be in color seven days a week, the Sunday strip is larger in scope and benefits from landscape orientation. It makes a big splash on the screen. All’s right with the world!

Bob and Jay kindly gave us a few moments of their time, so that you can get to know the creators of this delightful and intelligent new strip.

ITCH: What was your first comic strip/cartoon/comic?

Jay: I have a crappy memory, so I’m not sure if I’m recalling this correctly. Plus all those emotionally scarring Marvel comics I had in the 70′s like Son of Satan, Tomb of Dracula, Ghost Rider, and Morbius, the Living Vampire (care of Spider-Man) are messing with my memories by creating a traumatic mind-block of horror. I know I had, and loved, a bunch of those little Peanuts and Family Circus paperbacks. And I remember being enchanted with the early history of animation that Walt would occasionally cover on The Wonderful World Of Disney. I became obsessed with Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Felix the Cat and Betty Boop.

Bob: At age 21 I sold my first gag cartoon to American Machinist magazine ($15). I was also inking and writing gags for my father’s comic strip Moose and Molly.

What are you reading right now?

Jay: The IDW Family Circus collections. Hellboy. And Hayao Miyazaki’s Starting Point 1979-1996. Obviously my growth is stunted.

Bob: I’m reading volume 1 of John Stanley’s Nancy comics, published by Drawn and Quarterly. Before that I read Stanley’s Little Lulu collections by Darkhorse Books. Stanley is ‘the man’ right now.

What is your guilty pleasure?  At least, the one that really answers an ITCH!

Jay: I almost hate to admit I heart Harvey Comics. Casper, Hot Stuff, and especially Spooky. The writing is absolutely terrible, but I can’t seem to get enough!

Bob: My guilty pleasure is sitting down for lunch with my wife and watching the daytime soap The Bold and The Beautiful for the last 20 years.

Who was the first cartoonist/animator you met?

Jay: Genius Canadian underground cartoonist Chester Brown, I think. Don’t Google that if you’re under 14! Other indelible impressions were made early on by meeting John Kricfalusi (Ren & Stimpy) and Will Eisner (The Spirit).

Bob: The first cartoonist I remember meeting was um… my father. The second cartoonist I remember meeting was the wonderfully talented Orlando Busino. Living in Connecticut gave me the opportunity to meet some of the greatest cartoonists in the country. Within a few miles there was Stan Drake, Mort Walker, Jerry Dumas, Bill Yates, Dik Browne, Gill Fox, Hal Foster, Tony DiPreta, John Prentice, Dick Cavalli, Jerry Marcus, Dick Wingert, Kurt Swan, Whitney Darrow Jr. and more! Every one of them a gentleman and an inspiration!

Which dead cartoonist/animator would you most like to meet?

Jay: Ub Iwerks. Oh! And Winsor McCay.

Bob: Bob Clampett

What would you say?

Jay: Thank you.

Bob: Thank you!

What has been the highlight of your career to date?

Jay: Tied for biggest highlight is: 1) Seeing the float based on my cartoon character Tutenstein go by in the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and 2) Seeing the Mattel toy line based on my animated series The Secret Saturdays at Toys ‘R Us for the first time.

Bob: There have been three highlights in my career. 1) My first magazine sale. 2) The successful syndication of my Slylock Fox and Comics for Kids comic. 3) The launch of Oh, Brother!

Please tell us a little about your latest project.

Jay: Oh, Brother! is a dream come true for me. I’ve wanted to do an old-school daily strip forever! Three of my own pitches were rejected over the years, so I’m glad Bob could make my dream a reality by writing such instantly classic material. We both have older daughters and younger sons and can readily identify with the characters and situations. And we are both passionate about the history of comics and the need for more great all-ages comics in the current scene.

Bob: I am having a blast writing Oh, Brother! and my co-creator Jay Stephens impresses me every day with his beautiful and funny art!

Which old-time cartoon character do you most identify with?

Jay: Happy Hooligan. Or Sleepy from the Seven Dwarfs.

Bob: Mr. Peabody’s boy Sherman, from Jay Ward’s Peabody’s Improbable History segments on Rocky and His Friends and The Bullwinkle Show.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

Jay: The power to shift around my base elements a la Metamorpho. Nerd alert!!!

Bob: Flying would be awesome, x-ray vision could be interesting … but I’d settle for being the greatest guitar player in the universe.

Beth here: Sometimes I think if I could have any superpower, it would be the ability to survive without food, water, and shelter, so that I could spend my life doing nothing but reading comics from creators like Bob and Jay!  I know they’re not dead, but thanks, guys!  Thank you!

beth
beth

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Hassan Bleibel: Political Cartoonist!

American readers may be hesitant to tackle the work of Arab cartoonists because of the language barrier.  Not many of us know Arabic, in spite of the seven-year occupation of Iraq that only just officially ended.  I will say, in a kind of faint defense, that Arabic is an extremely sophisticated language that is exceptionally difficult to learn — I’ve tried and failed three times!  (All the more reason to take that extra step to show your respect and concern for our Iraq War veterans.)

But fear not, gentle reader, because Lebanese cartoonist Hassan Bleibel possesses advanced mastery of the power of image.  His wordless pictures speak volumes.  When necessary, he uses a brief phrase or two to underscore the meaning of his cutting visual comments on current events.  And when he does, he meets his international readers all the way, by writing in English.

In Bleibel’s single-panel interpretations of the world’s daily events, we hear cries of wounded compassion, pointed lacerations of global cynicism, and the kind of cold horror that comes from realizing that in the political conflicts that define our lives, no one has our backs.  No one, perhaps, except the cartoonist.  I’m  especially grateful for Bleibel, working with dauntless energy in the boisterous and tenuous democratic experiment that is Lebanon.

Bleibel is the regular cartoonist for the Lebanese paper Al-Mustaqbal.  He has also been published in a number of other Lebanese papers and in international publications like Al-Ahram (Egypt), The Washington Post, The New York Times, Le Monde, The Los Angeles Times, and various other American and European papers.  He has been published online at Courrier International.com, Al-Jazeerah.net, Cartunesebonecos.com, Al-Arabiya.net and others, and he’s a regular contributor to Daryl Cagle’s Political Cartoonists Index. Bleibel also maintains a highly entertaining website of his own.

We are so honored that he made time for an interview with ITCH.  The time difference made it much simpler to conduct the interview by email, and email was an amazing way to be introduced to Bleibel’s phenomenal personality.  He quite literally answered in glorious technicolor, which unfortunately will not reproduce here.  But you can enjoy the exclamation points!  You can enjoy the sunny personality that shines forth.

ITCH: What was your first comic strip/cartoon/comic?

My grandmother’s face!!

What are you reading right now?

A political book about the history of democracy in Europe.

What is your guilty pleasure?  At least, the one that really answers an ITCH!

Criticizing harshly the defects of others!!!

Who was the first cartoonist/animator you met?

Bahjat Osman (Egyptian).

Which dead cartoonist/animator would you most like to meet?

NAJI  EL-ALI (Palestinian).

What would you say?

Invention is the greatest pleasure in the universe!!! Ask  GOD.

What has been the highlight of your career to date?

When LE MONDE published my cartoons for the first time.

Please tell us a little about your latest project.

To win the Arab cartoonist award!!!

Which old-time cartoon character do you most identify with?

TOM!!!

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

I would fly!!!!

Hassan Bleibel’s expansive, generous, and totally ebullient love for humanity and for his craft should work as a catalyst for American readers.  Let’s take full advantage of our right to speak freely.  Got something to say?  Say it loud!

And as always, thank you Hassan.  Thank you so much!

beth
beth

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Randall Enos: Political Cartoonist!

The news broke on August 26th, in Daryl Cagle’s blog.  The headline read, New Syndicated Editorial Cartoonist: Randall Enos!

This sleepy journalist, who dozes through nearly every development and deadline, sat up and noticed.  Randall Enos, illustrator extraordinaire whose work has been featured by all the old grey ladies (The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Reader’s Digest) and their black sheep sisters (Playboy, National Lampoon), has joined Cagle’s syndicate.  This is extremely welcome news, because we all know Enos will bring his own unique sense of style to political cartooning, that wonderful exercise of free speech out at the blunt, brazen, and blasphemous limits.

‘Tis the season for campaigns and other types of egregious politicking, and that means ’tis the season for political cartoonists, the best friends of democracy, those who don’t mind poking at the soft belly of the political machine with the sharpest stick they can find.  I’m proud to say Randall Enos has joined ITCH for the first in our series of interviews with political cartoonists.

What was your first comic strip/cartoon/comic?

I started my career teaching at the Famous Artists School in their newly formed Cartoon Course (I was the first one hired). While I was there for eight years, I started my free-lance career doing not strips or panels but magazine and newspaper illustrations for places like Playboy and Harper’s Magazine. My actual first free-lance job was for a magazine called Cavalcade. I later also did some animation.

My first comic strip was Chicken Gutz for The National Lampoon, years later. Eventually I also did two strips which alternated in Playboy on their Funny Pages.

Is political cartooning a recent creative turn for you? And if so, why get into political cartooning now?

I’ve never “officially” been a political cartoonist before. But I have done quite a few for a group called INX…and throughout my 54 years in the business, I’ve done other political cartoons. I got interested because my regular markets — the newspaper and magazine illustration markets — are drying up on me and I’m looking for new things to do. I met Daryl Cagle at a National Cartoonists Reuben weekend where I had been nominated for my Broadway show poster. He knew and loved my work from way back and asked me if I might like to join his syndicate…so I did. It’s a little different for me. I think I’ll get the hang of it soon and then WATCH OUT!

Here’s a site where you can see up-to-date tons of my work. Take a look at the caricatures.

What are you reading right now?

I am Azorean Portuguese by heritage and I have a strong interest in studying whaling history so the book I am currently reading is And So Ends This Day which is about the Azorean Portuguese and their involvement in the whaling industry.

I would love to go whaling with you sometime. I have an excellent stomach for the ocean. But not much stomach for killing, so I might go below deck when that part happens.

Hey…I don’t kill animals either. Mocha Dick that I’m writing about was a hero whale. He protected his species from the whale hunters. I’ve already done one limited edition (36 copies) about this whale, hand bound, hand stitched, and beautifully printed on an old Vandercook printing press.  It’s called The Life and Death of Mocha Dick. We sell it for $300.

What is your guilty pleasure?  At least, the one that really answers an ITCH!

I’d have to say movies. I’m a terrible film addict and even watch while I’m working sometimes but I’m trying (after 54 years of doing it) to rid myself of the habit.

Who was the first cartoonist/animator you met?

My boss at the Famous Artists School, Bud Sagendorf who drew Popeye. He also gave me week-end work helping him on the Popeye comic books.

Which dead cartoonist/animator would you most like to meet?

George Herriman of course.

What would you say?

I’d say, “Mr. Herriman, sir, what were you thinking…a Kat with an ambiguous sexual identification?”

What has been the highlight of your career to date?

I think getting to do a Broadway theater poster (and ad graphics and web-site illustrations). It was off-beat with all my crazy linocut lettering etc.

Please tell us a little about your latest project.

My latest project is a children’s book that I am writing and illustrating for Creative Editions. It’s also about the huge white whale Mocha Dick — who was the REAL Moby Dick.

Which old-time cartoon character do you most identify with?

What a crazy question. Do most cartoonists identify with old-time cartoon characters?

If I had to pick one, I guess I’d say Jiggs from Bringing Up Father. I like his style. He’s impressed me from when I was a kid and now that I am also a hen-pecked husband who yearns to escape to the guilty pleasures of corned beef & cabbage in the company of low-lifes at the local tavern (even though I don’t drink… anymore), I guess I identify even more.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

I guess to be able to cloud men’s minds so they couldn’t see me… the way The Shadow did.

Check out Randall Enos’s new page at Daryl Cagle’s Political Cartoonists Index. It’s election season, which for fans of comics can mean only one thing: an avalanche of sharp wit, irreverence, and laffs galore!

And as always: Thanks, Randy!

beth
beth

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Paul Buhle Remembers Harvey Pekar Pt. 1

It goes without saying that the comics world was shocked and saddened by the death of Harvey Pekar, and that those feelings of loss extended well beyond the little community of comics. There is no shortage of tributes this week to his sweet soul and his absolute genius, all of them written with grief and honesty, and all of them inspiring readers to nod their heads, to think, yes, I felt that too.

I think the greatest compliment to Harvey Pekar is the abundant outpouring of messages of gratitude, not just from those who knew him, but from anyone who read his comics. What a beautiful reflection of a beautiful human being!

When I first heard the news my thoughts turned to Paul Buhle, a longtime friend of Harvey’s. In recent years their friendship has borne remarkable fruit in a number of excellent books about American social history, including The Beats, Students for a Democratic Society: A Graphic History, and Studs Terkel’s Working: A Graphic Adaptation. Their forthcoming Yiddishland (Spring 2011 from Abrams) will push our understanding of Yiddishkayt into brand new terrain. And yet now, it hints at the elegiac.

When I called Paul, he was working on a piece for The Forward about the lives of Harvey Pekar and Tuli Kupferberg, two great American prophets – in the tradition of Jeremiah – who died the same day. We talked a bit about what Harvey meant to comics, and what comics meant to Harvey.

The inevitable question of legacy comes up at a time like this, and I know you’ve already been asked about Harvey’s legacy. What I wondered is if you could speculate on how Harvey would have described his legacy.

You know, he said so often, and I’m just repeating the obvious, that anything could be done in comics. The idea that something as serious as Dostoyevski, a Russian novelist who he greatly admired (like a number of Russian novelists) could as well be done in comic art form as in the traditional words on the page form. And he not only believed in it, but he did it.

He produced what most people would call text-heavy comics, because they weren’t devoted to people hitting each other and saying “Bang! Wham!” But they also were very serious approaches to a large variety of subjects. And always treating himself very seriously, without ever being pompous. So the power to do serious things that had never been done before in comics, and to keep yourself in proportion in the picture. These would be really big for him.

Not everybody can do Dostoyevski in comics…

Indeed, indeed. Another thing, that my wife Mary Jo Buhle, a noted historian, said this morning, is that Harvey was the world’s most determined autodidact. He was delighted when the two of us were working on this book Yiddishland for next spring, because it gave him a reason to read a whole lot of newly translated Yiddish novels, translated into English. He had just never read those before, and he went down to the bookstore of a friend and bought some, and went to the library and got a bunch of others, and read them with enormous pleasure.

Likewise, with Beat Generation stuff. Of course he was familiar with Beat Generation stuff. But he hadn’t really sat down, at least not in recent years, to read it carefully as literature, and read the biographical treatments of these various hipsters and so forth, and he did it as a form of self-education, quite as much as he did it as a way of creating a comic. And the same thing would go for Students For a Democratic Society. So those are some good examples. And I don’t think he was all that familiar with Studs Terkel when we started on the Working book. He was aware of him, he’d read Working, but it wasn’t as if he, although very Terkel-esque himself, was a big aficionado. Doing it was a learning experience.

Come back tomorrow for Part 2 of our conversation remembering Harvey Pekar, in which we discuss his politics, and the wisdom therein.

beth
beth

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Young, Smart, Sexy: Meet Gene Kannenberg, Jr.

If you’ve met Gene Kannenberg, you’ll know what we mean when we say he is a beloved friend.  This intelligent, kind, and unassuming man has done more than anyone of this new generation to promote comics as a subject for serious academic study.  Many a comics scholar has at one time or another enjoyed his support, his assistance, or at least his awesome research tool, ComicsResearch.org.  He is the sitting Dean of comics scholars.

Kannenberg also wrote 500 Essential Graphic Novels: The Ultimate Guide for HarperCollins’ Collins Design imprint (2008).  There are a number of these “best-of” books floating around, and each of them have merit.  But Kannenberg’s stands apart from the others because of the substance of his writing.  He is equal parts erudite and accessible.  He is consistently insightful and interesting.

Perhaps you’re thinking “2008!  Isn’t it out of date already?”  It’s a great question, and one that Kannenberg anticipated as he compiled his list.  As a result, this book becomes an essential tool for selecting new “essential graphic novels” on your own.  It’s the best how-to guide for reading and appreciating comics that I’ve ever seen.

Dr. Kannenberg took time out from his much worthier pursuits to screw around with us.  After all, he rocks!

What was your first comic book?

I was all set to write about how my first comic book was actually two: My earliest memories of Marvel Comics (the kind I fell in love with) are of Amazing Spider-Man #160 and Doctor Strange v2 #18, which were both cover-dated September 1976. I still have the Spider-Man issue! In fact, it’s the very first comic I ever wrote about, first for a graduate seminar in Rhetoric (the topic was “write about anything”) and later revised as my first publication, “How I was Bitten by the Radioactive Comics Bug,” for Comic Effect 3.

However, suddenly I remembered another comic that I’m almost positive came first: The True Story of Smokey Bear, a giveaway from a state park. I must have re-read that book dozens and dozens of times, because its every panel is etched into my memory.

What are you reading right now?

Right now? The Complete Peanuts 1967-1968. I read many of these strips when I was a child, in my younger brother’s Peanuts books, and it’s pure joy to re-visit them now. Schulz was really in top form around this time. Fantagraphics has really done a wonderful thing by committing to publish this series! (I’m also reading Rocket Men: The Epic Story of the First Men on the Moon, by Craig Nelson.)

What is your guilty pleasure?  At least, the comics-related one!

I have no idea on how to answer this one, as my tastes are pretty catholic – I read a little bit of everything, from superheroes to webcomics to “art” comics to strip collections. But if pressed, I’ll say Wednesday Comics from DC – I know that many people thought it was overpriced when it came out serially, but I bought the hardcover a week or so ago and enjoyed it quite a bit. Not all of the stories work as well as they should, but all give it a good go, and there are moments of genuine fun. (I like fun!*)

Who was the first cartoonist you met?

That’s a tough one to answer; I’ve had the honor of meeting so many at various conventions and conferences. I couldn’t really say who was the first. The two I’ve met most often are probably Art Spiegelman and, luckily for me, the late Will Eisner.

Which dead cartoonist would you most like to meet?

Considering how much I studied him and his work while writing my PhD. dissertation, that would have to be Winsor McCay.

What would you say?

I’d want to ask him why his lettering was so sloppy! But more likely, I’d just stammer something about how much of a fan I am of his work. Maybe I’d have the nerve to ask for a sketch of Little Sammy Sneeze.

What has been the highlight of your career to date?

Wow, that’s a tough one, for all kinds of reasons. But I’ll say completing my Ph.D. dissertation (“Form, Function, Fiction: Text and Image in the Comics Narratives of Winsor McCay, Art Spiegelman, and Chris Ware”), because that project took so long – and led to so many other publications and opportunities.

Please tell us a little about your latest project.

I’m writing about the paratext in comic books, focusing on The Amazing Spider-Man. In short, the essay concerns publication design and how that has an effect on readers above and beyond the story itself. I’ve also been writing occasional reviews for the Ulysses “Seen” website. Finally, I’m busy cataloging and culling my book collection; I’m donating a large part of it to the Center for Cartoon Studies‘ Schulz Library.

Which comics character do you most identify with?

That’s another tough one, because I don’t really think in those terms anymore. When I was much younger, I know that I wanted to be like Peter Parker, but I felt like Charlie Brown.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

Super-perseverance, as I tend to start more projects than I ever can finish!

*We ITCH-ers are all about the fun!  Thanks, Gene!

beth
beth

Thursday, June 24, 2010

An Interview with R.O. Blechman

AND

PRESENT

Talking Lines: The Graphic Stories of R.O. BlechmanDear James: Letters to a Young Illustrator.  These are landmark publications, both by R.O. Blechman, one of our greatest living animators and cartoonists.  If I seem like a super fangirl about this, it’s because I am.  Blechman’s work has influenced me in myriad and powerful ways.  His creations have equal capacity for love and folly.  His satire is equal parts devastating and compassionate.  He surpasses the angry and reaches the sublime, and while it appears effortless, R.O. Blechman works his magic because he cares so much about his craft.

Talking Lines was brought to us with love by Drawn and Quarterly, insanely well-designed by Tom Devlin.  The book itself presents like a Blechman cartoon, everything possible stripped away and then stripped away again and again, until only the necessary remains.  It’s part autobiography and part collector’s dream — disparate cartoons gathered from the four corners and combined with previously unpublished work.  The introduction by Seth is brief and peerless, and I won’t bother to attempt a duplication here.  Let’s just say that in Blechman’s hands, the much-maligned and neglected “human condition” is fully redeemed.  I’m into redemption.  I look for it everywhere.  And when you find it in Blechman, you need look no further.

You need to check your pulse before reading Dear James, because it will stimulate you and excite you, and possibly provoke you into doing your greatest work to date.  It is quite simply the best book on creativity ever written.  You’ll be so motivated, and feel so empowered, that you may begin working round the clock.  Maybe see your doctor first, just to be sure you’re healthy enough to withstand the sudden flow of creative juice.  You’d take your car to the mechanic before racing in the Grand Prix, right?

The opportunity to interview R.O. Blechman left me with priceless memories, not only because I chatted with this wonderful man, but because it provided an occasion to collaborate with one of my colleagues, J.J. Sedelmaier, a graduate of The Ink Tank.  Who better to introduce Blechman than a fellow animator?

J.J. writes:

R.O. Blechman is one of this planet’s artist/designer treasures. Few people have had as much influence on their chosen industry and been witness to the transformation of their craft due to their involvement as R.O. His career launched early with the success of “The Juggler of Our Lady” as a book and soon thereafter an animated motion picture – narrated by Boris Karloff no less!

During a period when animated/cartoon characters were relatively conventional and formulaic, his collaboration with animator/director John Hubley demonstrated that a simple graphic cartooning style with broken lines could be indeed be animated.  Up to this point, the consensus was if a line had a gap, the paint/color would seep out – where do you end the color if there’s no line to contain it?

What’s taken for granted in 2010 was revolutionary in the 1950’s!

To this day, Blechman continues to grow as a graphic design force.  He still pushes himself and questions convention with his deceptively clean and simple (never simplistic) ideas executed in their trademark clever and witty illustration style.  I’ve always seen him as an artist/writer/chemist.  He puts all the elements into his centrifugal brain and distills the idea, the design, and the execution, into only what’s absolutely necessary.  All the useless stuff separates from the essential.

You have to reflect on how rare it is (especially in the world of advertising) to see an artist’s point of view in such a pure form.

R.O. Blechman: Unique. Special. Totally human.

Thank you so much, J.J.!  And now, without further ado, let’s get to know this man.

ITCH: What was your first comic book?
R.O. Blechman: As a kid I hardly read comic books. My parents disapproved of them, so I had to go to my Uncle Charlie’s house where his four sons had a huge collection of them.

What are you reading right now?
I’m about to read Philip Roth’s Exit Ghost because a dear friend of mine highly recommended it– and I like almost all of Roth’s writing.

What is your guilty pleasure?  At least, the comics-related one!
None. My guilty pleasures are all culinary.

Who was the first cartoonist you met?
My Uncle Nat.  When he came to visit us my brother and I wouldn’t let him leave the house until he had drawn a bunch of cartoons. He might have become a professional artist– maybe a cartoonist– if he didn’t enter the family business (wholesale dry goods. The building still stands: 555 Broadway, now the home of Scholastic Books).

This is a cartoon by my Uncle Nat.  He’s flying his airplane, circa 1938, which he gave up when my Aunt said, “You have to give it up.  It’s either me or that airplane.”  He made the wrong choice.

Which dead cartoonist would you most like to meet?
My uncle. But we probably wouldn’t discuss cartooning. I suppose if I could meet a dead cartoonist it would be Saul Steinberg. I suspect that as a person he would be as extraordinary as his artwork.

What would you say?
Probably either the wrong things or nothing at all. I once met Robert Graves at an intimate dinner party, and didn’t say a word to him even though I was in the middle of reading one of his books (a great one–his memoir, Goodbye to All That).  I was once seated next to Al Hirschfeld at a dinner party, and I was tongue-tied throughout the meal.

What has been the highlight of your career to date?
My animated film, an adaptation of Stravinsky’s L’Histoire du Soldat.  I suppose a second would be my latest book, Talking Lines.  It’s a great survey of my printed stuff, and beautifully designed.

Please tell us a little about your latest project.
No, I’m superstitious.

Well, alright, I’ll mention that Sempé asked me to animate one of his books (we show at the same gallery in Munich). I’ve already done the storyboard and now it’s a question of funding the project.

Which comics character do you most identify with?
None.  I’ve never been much of a comics reader.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
To persuade some billionaire to part with a few million to jumpstart one of my film projects.  Fat chance!

Dear reader, what we presented here today does not solve the mystery of how R.O. Blechman inspires such love, respect, and gratitude.  You’ll have to read his books to find that out!  But think about this: if I find his work life-changing, and I am neither an illustrator, cartoonist, nor animator, just imagine what his books can do for you!  After you get home from the bookstore, drop us a line and tell us what you think.

beth
beth

SUBSCRIBE