new york times
Most times, it seems comics aren’t about drawing what you see but what you want to see. From mythical locations to super-powerful heroes, it’s an escape from reality. But artist Jason Polan is using it to document the mundane things he sees in his day-to-day life. Running in the New York Times‘ Opinions Page online, Things I Saw is a comforting and somehow revealing visual list of, well, the things he saw.
Like reading someone’s grocery list, this unique way to show the artist’s life lets your mind fill in the blanks like imagining what’s going on between the panels of a traditional comic. Like a sort of visual stream-of-thought agreggator akin to social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, it shows the highlights of what Polan is seeing and allows you to imagine the rest.
The column is actually a continuation of a Tumblr blog Polan did in the summer of 2011 as part of an gallery exhibition that year. Seeing it get a second life inside the New York Times is an interesting and welcome sight.
Libraries | A middle school library in New Brunswick, Canada, has been asked to remove Joann Sfar and Lewis Trondheim’s Dungeon series for review after the mother of a 12-year-old student complained about the depictions of sex and violence in one of the volumes. The CTV News reporter goes for the easy gasp by showing the scenes in question to a variety of parents, all of whom agree they don’t think the book belongs in a school library, and in this case the mom has a good point: The book received good reviews but is definitely not for kids. [CTV News]
Publishing | John Jackson Miller has been looking at the fine print in old comics — the statement of ownership, which spells out in exact numbers just how many copies were printed, how many were sold, etc. One of the highlights is Carl Barks’ Uncle Scrooge, which sold more than 1 million copies, making it the top seller of the 1960s. “It’s meaningful, I think, that the best-seller of the 1960s should come from Barks, whose work was originally uncredited and who was known originally to fans as ‘the Good Duck Artist,’” Miller concludes. “Fandom in the 1960s was bringing attention to a lot of people who had previously been unheralded, and Barks is a great example. He changed comics — and now comics were changing.” [The Comichron]
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.
One of the sad consequences of having to let my New Yorker subscription run out (bad economy and all that) is that I’ve had to go through some serious Roz Chast withdrawl. Thankfully, the New York Times seems to be feeling my pain, as they recently enlisted Chaz to contribute to their ongoing look at insomnia:
One thing I do when I can’t sleep is play alphabet games. I try to list various things from A to Z: countries, rock groups, prescription drugs, movies, books, celebrities whose first and last names begin with the same letter… you get the idea. I don’t mind repeating categories from one night to another. Diseases might seem to be an unlikely insomnia game category, but for some reason, it’s one of my favorites.
It’s not quite Black Lantern Martian Manhunter tossing Green Lantern into the Batsignal, but as far as urban havoc goes, it’s the most excitement comics has seen in some time: A taxicab burst into flames around 9:30 this morning at 53rd St. and 7th Avenue in Manhattan — just across the sidewalk from the DC Comics offices at 1700 Broadway.
Through eyewitnesses, Gothamist reports that the fire resulted from an exploding gas tank and filled the area with smoke, though no one was hurt. The New York Times quotes FDNY spokesman Firefighter Hugh Giffords as describing the fire and its subsequent extinguishing as “routine,” but the conflagration was the talk of DC’s employees, many of whom could see it from their Broadway-facing windows or passed it on their way into work. Sources say it attracted even more attention than Paul McCartney’s recent performance atop the nearby Late Show with David Letterman marquee. You can see the full progression of the fire in our photo gallery after the break.
The incident obviously worked out pretty badly for the owner of the cab. But DC itself fared better than did some other comics publishers after memorable moments of car-based mayhem from the relatively recent past, as when rogue vehicles plowed through the offices of SLG in 2003 and Oni in 2007.
The New York Times’ Christoph Niemann illustrates his relationship with the Berlin Wall via construction paper weaving, like the kind I used to do in first grade, though he achieves results I never could. In my defense, I was only six at the time.
Comic-strip-style book reviews seem to be all the rage these days. First it was Ward Sutton, now Alison Bechdel reviews Jane Vandenburgh’s memoir, A Pocket History of Sex in the Twentieth Century, for the New York Times. (Thanks to Jeff Lester for the link.)
The New York Times debuted three new best-seller lists today under the heading “Graphic Books”: hardcovers, softcovers and manga.
According to the site, the rankings reflect graphic novels sales for the week ending Feb. 28 at thousands of venues around the United States.
The venues they’re using to determine the ranks include “hundreds of independent book retailers (statistically weighted to represent all such outlets); national, regional and local chains; online and multimedia entertainment retailers; university, gift, supermarket, discount department stores and newsstands. In addition, these rankings also include unit sales reported by retailers nationwide that specialize in graphic novels and comic books.” Maybe it’s just me, but I’d love to know more about the process they used to gather the data, or even a breakdown of what sells the most where. Those kinds of things are always fascinating, to me anyway, but then again I’m the guy who can spend an hour slicing and dicing all the Google Analytics data we collect, too.
So what’s making the list this week? Per the intro, a lot of books by Alan Moore. These include Watchmen (No. 1 on the softcover list and no. 3 for hardcovers), The Killing Joke and Avatar’s The Courtyard. Topping the hardcover list is the Starman Omnibus Vol. 2, while Naruto owns the manga chart, taking eight of the 10 slots.
Tom Spurgeon at The Comic Reporter comments, “That clicking sound you hear on the Internet is comics people reading this list trying to find out what the hell The Courtyard is.”