This month marks the re-release of Kevin Huizenga‘s Gloriana (originally self-published in 2001, then first collected by Drawn & Quarterly in 2004). The writer/artist recently accepted my invite for an email interview about the new 96-page hardback edition, which includes four stories (The Groceries, The Sunset, The Moon Rose and Basketball). I was particularly pleased to talk to Huizenga about Basketball, given how he notes in the interview working on that story proved “surprisingly emotional for me at the time”. My thanks to Huizenga for taking my questions (and correcting me when I was misinformed with some aspects of my queries).
Tim O’Shea: Back in 2004 Tom Spurgeon interviewed you. At that time you were increasingly using computers with your work, also you discussed with Tom experimenting with the size of your original art (trying to work on larger pages). How large are the pages now that you work with and have you incorporated computers more into your work?
Kevin Huizenga: Readers of your website will be fascinated to hear that I draw at about 150%. As far as computers, doesn’t everyone use them for everything now? I fix and edit in Photoshop and have done so for many years now. I’m pretty sure everyone else does too, but I don’t use tablets or anything like that—it’s still pen and paper. I’ve been using the same scanner since 2000! An Epson. Now that I’ve said that I’m sure it will break tomorrow.
Jeet Heer is a critic and scholar who makes me realize I’m incredibly ignorant of the comics medium on so many levels. Therefore when I had the opportunity to interview him recently, to say I was intimidated (even though it was via the comfort of email) is an understatement. We covered a great deal of ground in our email exchange, but it is so diverse while at the same time succinct, I have opted to split the interview into two parts. The second part (found here) focuses on Heer’s collaboration with Kent Worcester. My thanks to Heer for his time and thoughts.
Tim O’Shea: What is the labor breakdown between you, Chris Ware and Chris Oliveros in terms of editing the collections of Frank King’s Gasoline Alley? Who handles what on the projects?
Jeet Heer: I see the Walt and Skeezix books as truly collaborative efforts. With each volume, Chris Ware and I make a trip out to see Frank King’s family, collect material and decide what the theme is going to be. I try to shape my writing around the visual material: thus in volume 3, we had a lot of photos of Gasoline Alley toys and merchandizing, thanks in large part to Chris’s efforts as a collector. See those photos inspired me to write about King’s ability to spin off merchandizing based on is characters. Chris Oliveros, of course, handles the production end of things, which is a big part of the book’s appeal (and a big reason why Drawn and Quarterly books are so treasured). I’m less involved in the production decision, but I often eavesdrop as an interested observer and it’s fascinating to listen to the two Chrises talk about paper stock, the size of books, the color scheme of the covers and other details. For both Ware and Oliveros, book making is truly an art. This is important to bear in mind because until recently, book production wasn’t a big part of comics: most comic strip collection and comic books were shoddily put together. To be sure, there were exceptions like the Barnaby books of the 1940s, or Walt Kelly’s warm and inviting Pogo paperbacks of the 1950s. But the real revolution in comics came in the 1980s and 1990s thanks to four people: Francoise Mouly, Chip Kidd, Chris Ware, and Chris Oliveros. The four really taught us that to do justice to comics as a visual form, the book design had to be specifically tailored to show the art in the best light.