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Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading? Our special guest this week is Alex Dueben, who you probably know from his interviews for the main site, Comic Book Resources, as well as for sites like Suicide Girls.
To see what Alex and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
To paraphrase Mary McCarthy, every word in Françoise Mouly’s interview with CBR’s Alex Dueben is fascinating, including “and” and “the.” It’s a marvelously insightful look at nearly every aspect of the legendary RAW, New Yorker, and Toon Books editor’s multifaceted career: The status of Toon Books, the challenges of producing educational books for children that are also fun to look at and read, her personal history with comics, the importance and legacy of her and husband Art Spiegelman’s seminal alternative-comics magazine RAW‘s production values, the shift among underground/alternative cartoonists’ careers from character-focused (a la Zippy, Jimbo, and Adele Blanc-sec) to creator-focused, her duties and work style as The New Yorker‘s art editor, working with visual artists from across the comics and illustration spectrum, her dream of an increased presence of actual comics in the magazine, R. Crumb’s apparent New Yorker beef, Toon Books’ upcoming slate…pure gold from one of comics’ most influential figures.
At least that’s my takeaway from Alex Dueben’s excellent interview with Farmer for Comic Book Resources — and given the book’s extremely intimate subject matter of the cartoonist caring for her aging parents as their health declined leading up to their deaths, I’m not surprised.
CBR News: What was it like putting together a graphic novel for the first time? You’ve made many comics in the past, but a project this large is something else.
Joyce Farmer: First of all, I didn’t know what I was getting into. Second, I didn’t really know how to write something like this. I don’t consider myself a writer. It was overwhelming, and because it was overwhelming, it took me thirteen years. I would work and get to a certain point and then get overwhelmed both by the problem of putting my parents on paper and by the problem of a book. Then I wouldn’t work for as much as a year and then I’d beat myself up that I’d figured out this wonderful book and should get going before somebody else thought of it or it wouldn’t be of interest. Because the book is set in a certain number of years, named years in the book, I couldn’t let it go on forever, although I nearly did.
It was overwhelming. I think these younger people who do graphic memoirs seem to use a lot of paper and ink to say very little and it takes them quite awhile [to say it]. I’m not saying what they say is not worthwhile, I’m just saying that they’re not as condensed as I intended to be. It was way more work than I ever thought. Every time I’d get the book to a certain point, like the first drawing, somebody would suggest something that would be so obviously needed, I would have to go through the whole book and fix it. Then later when I’m inking, the same type of thing happened.
The first thirty-five pages I threw away after they were inked. I started completely over.
Dang. Special Exits ranked #29 on CBR’s countdown of the Top 100 Comics of 2010, and as I said in my write-up, it made me cry. Please do check it out, and read the whole interview, too.