Hello and welcome once again to What Are You Reading?, where the Robot 6 crew talk about the comics and graphic novels that they’ve been enjoying lately.
Today’s special guest is Ryan K Lindsay, a staff writer for comic news and reviews site The Weekly Crisis. He also runs a comic scripting challenge site called thoughtballoons where each week a character is picked, and every member of the site must write a one-page script about that character. He’s also been known to throw a think piece up at Gestalt Mash and is hoping one day to have his many comic pitches drawn by people with pencils.
To see what Ryan and the Robot 6 crew have been reading this week, click the link below …
What does it take to make a story just right for some creators? As revealed in this interview with Megan Kelso, with her latest book, Artichoke Tales (released by Fantagraphics a few months ago and praised by Brigid just yesterday)–it took 10 years. Not every storyteller takes the time to indulge my questions in the manner that Kelso did, an effort for which I’m extremely grateful. Here’s the scoop on the book: “Artichoke Tales is a coming-of-age story about a young girl named Brigitte whose family is caught between the two warring sides of a civil war, a graphic novel that takes place in a world that echoes our own, but whose people have artichoke leaves instead of hair. Influenced in equal parts by Little House on the Prairie, The Thorn Birds, Dharma Bums, and Cold Mountain, Kelso weaves a moving story about family amidst war. Kelso’s visual storytelling, uniquely combining delicate linework with rhythmic, musical page compositions, creates a dramatic tension between intimate, ruminative character studies and the unflinching depiction of the consequences of war and carnage, lending cohesion and resonance to a generational epic. This is Kelso’s first new work in four years; the widespread critical reception of her previous work makes Artichoke Tales one of the most eagerly anticipated graphic novels of 2010.” Fun aside, in clarifying a detail about this interview, I learned that Kelso created a iGoogle theme, which can be accessed here. One last item, Fantagraphics posted a 16-page preview here.
Tim O’Shea: Creating Artichoke Tales represented more than six years of your creative life–can you describe how relieving (or what emotion you felt) when you finished the tale?
Megan Kelso: Truth be told, it was more like a ten year project. I think for some reason my publisher wanted to down play how friggin’ long it took me to finish this book. It was very protracted because I took a lot of breaks to do other things; freelance work, a wedding, moving, having a baby, moving again. I actually finished pencilling the last two chapters in 2005, which is really the heart of the creative work. I pushed myself on that because I wanted to be done with the storytelling part of it before I was pregnant. But then the final denoument, the inking, the computer shading, the corrections – I didn’t begin that work until two and a half years later. It was kind of excruciating doing all the final work on the book after it had been completely drawn – I think because the urgency and excitement of getting the story out was over. Then it was just drudge work. I finally finished all the work just before Thanksgiving of 2009 and I was 100% thrilled and happy about it for months. The let-down, “nothing left but doubt” part of finishing a huge project did not set in until I recently saw it in printed form. I am totally happy with how the printing and production came out, but even still, there’s a bit of a void. I think I’m fending off a bit of a mid-life crisis.
There’s much to chew on in writer/artist Megan Kelso’s interview with CBR’s Alex Dueben, from the history of her decade-in-the-making fantasy graphic novel Artichoke Tales for Fantagraphics to the reason for her current hiatus from active comics-making. But I was particularly struck by her observations regarding “Watergate Sue,” the strip she did for The New York Times Magazine‘s “Funny Pages” comics section.
Serializing the story one page a week is a very different beast from telling a story in comic books or serializing a story that way.
Yeah, and I don’t know about you, but I had a really hard time following other peoples’ stories. I became a loyal reader, but it was not easy. Even if I really liked the story, that week to week thing was just really hard going for the readers. They had to be really motivated to read it every week and remember what happened last week. I just think it asked a tremendous lot from the readers to read comics in that form. They were doing the prose stories at the same time, and those people got a few pages, so what they were able to cover in their episodes was so much more than what the cartoonist was able to do. I just think that, as cool as it was that the “New York Times” did that, and they did it for many years, they had a serious commitment to it, but I still think it was a flawed experiment. I’m glad they did it, but I just think it was hard for the cartoonist, and it was hard for the readers, to do comics in that form and to read comics in that form.
Kelso has a lot more to say on the subject: about being the first woman cartoonist to contribute comics to the Times, about how Seth’s strip for the paper showed her what not to do, about stepping in only after Marjane Satrapi turned the gig down, about being too “headstrong” and not tailoring her strip to the paper…like I said, much to chew on.
Megan Kelso, creator of Squirrel Mother, returns with a new graphic novel in 2010 called Artichoke Tales, which is about a young girl “whose family is caught between the two warring sides of a civil war, a graphic novel that takes place in a world that echoes our own, but whose people have artichoke leaves instead of hair.” Courtesy of Fantagraphics, we’re pleased to provide this exclusive preview of the book.
You’ll find two more pages and additional information on the book provided by the publisher after the jump …