Comics College is a monthly feature where we provide an introductory guide to some of the comics medium’s most important auteurs and offer our best educated suggestions on how to become familiar with their body of work.
This month we’ll be taking a tour through the short but incredibly powerful and significant bibliography of artist Pheobe Gloeckner.
The featured guests for the third annual Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival have been announced, and whoo boy, it’s quite a line-up. And it runs the gamut, too: MAD Magazine legend Jack Davis, book-design kingpin Chip Kidd, The Diary of a Teenage Girl author Phoebe Gloeckner, Asterios Polyp/Batman Year One artist David Mazzucchelli, Providence artcomix vets CF and Brian Ralph, grossout-humor queen Lisa Hanawalt, and minicomics patriarch John Porcellino. An opportunity to encounter Gloeckner live and in person is not to be squandered, folks, and that’s just for starters.
Organized by publisher PictureBox Inc., retailer Desert Island, and scholar Bill Kartalopoulos, this year’s BCGF will take place on Saturday, December 3 from noon to nine at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, with programming hosted at the nearby Union Pool. If the last two years are any indication, it’s the alternative comics show to beat.
What is it with Lisa Hanawalt and the use of automobiles for untoward purposes? Last week she drew a review of Nicholas Winding Refn and Ryan Gosling’s neon-noir crime flick Drive, and now she’s selling an original art piece entitled “Car Wreck Totem Pole.” Originally created for the (very comics-friendly) Panorama issue of McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, the watercolor illustration was inspired by Crash, author J.G. Ballard’s novel about accident victims who’ve become sexually fixated on car crashes. (You may also recall director David Cronenberg’s kinky film adaptation, starring James Spader at his James Spaderest.) It’s on sale for $220 at Hanawalt’s new online store. Where does she go from here — The Road Warrior, Death Race 2000, Vanishing Point, Duel, Cars, 2 Fast 2 Furious, Herbie the Love Bug? The possibilities are endless and/or unleaded.
And hey, while we’re on a Ballard kick, it’s never a bad time to check out The Diary of a Teenage Girl author Phoebe Gloeckner’s extravagantly NSFW illustrations for Ballard’s The Atrocity Exhibition — well, unless you’re at work, in which case it’s a very bad time to do so. There’s also this examination of Ballard’s book covers by Simon Sellers and Rick McGrath, featuring striking from artists such as Salvador Dali, Chip Kidd, Max Ernst, David Pelham, Bill Botten, and Chris Foss. Finally, this is a bit farther afield from comics, but the excellent BBC4 rockumentary Synth Britannia, which is now available in its entirety on YouTube, spends some time tracing Ballard’s influence on early synthesizer-heavy experimental and synthpop acts The Human League, The Normal, John Foxx, and Gary Numan. Buckle up!
If you haven’t read much by Phoebe Gloeckner…well, frankly, I can’t blame you. I’ll tell anyone who’ll listen that she’s one of the very, very, very best cartoonists working today—if I were to make a list, she’d rank in the low single digits—and that her unique prose-comics-illustration-memoir hybrid The Diary of a Teenage Girl is maybe my favorite graphic novel of all time. But since that book came out in 2002 (her only other comics collection, A Child’s Life and Other Stories, debuted in 1998), her comics work has been next to nonexistent, with only a couple of cartooned contributions to The Comics Journal‘s short-lived line of Comics Journal Specials and several photocomics here and there to her name.
Today Pop Candy’s Whitney Matheson did something that some consider too revealing even in this socially networked, airport x-ray’d age: She posted 20 movies from her Netflix “Watch Instantly” queue. Like anyone else’s, it’s a motley crew of movies made possible by a massive library of films and the power to watch any of them at any time with a few clicks of a mouse — a blend of “comfort food” you want access to at all times, unwatched stuff you’re dying to see at the next available opportunity, major investments of time or energy you haven’t been prepared to make just yet, “eat your vegetables” fare you know you ought to watch eventually, and goofy guilty pleasures you’re simply tickled to be able to watch whenever you feel like it.
This got me thinking. I know there are any number of logistical and financial reasons why such a thing doesn’t exist for comics. But we comics readers are an imaginative bunch, no? And today I choose to imagine a world where I can load up pretty much any book I can think of and read to my heart’s content. So here’s what my imaginary “Read Instantly” queue would look like, circa today. Check it out, then let us know what’s on your queue in the comments!
Great news for fans of great theater based on great comics: The Diary of a Teenage Girl is sticking around for a few more weeks. Word went out late last week that the show’s run, which had been scheduled to end this past weekend (perfectly timed with the MoCCA Festival, as it happened), has now been extended through May 1st.
Based on (IMHO) one of the all-time great graphic novels by writer-artist Phoebe Gloeckner, Diary tells the story of Minnie Goetze, a precocious 15-year-old growing up in ’70s San Francisco who spirals into promiscuity and drug abuse after beginning an affair with her mother’s boyfriend. Harrowing stuff to be sure, but like the graphic novel, the play — written by and starring Marielle Heller and directed by Rachel Eckerling and Sarah Cameron Sunde — is often hilarious, frequently beautiful, and ultimately uplifting. You can read my full review here if you missed it.
The show runs nightly every day but Tuesday at the 3LD Arts and Technology Center at 80 Greenwich St. in Manhattan. Tickets are still just $25 if you use the code “ISAWIT” when purchasing. Go purchase!
I want to avoid the term “must-see” — I haven’t done theater since playing the John Cazale role in a black-box production of The Indian Wants the Bronx my junior year of college, but even I know what a cliche that must be. And yet. Boasting a quintet of strong, awkward performances, staged in an immersive environment best described as “Theater in the Rec Room,” and augmented with a breathtaking gallery of art from the source material, The Diary of a Teenage Girl: The Play is riveting theater, and as skillful a comics adaptation as I’ve come across. If you’re in New York and have any interest in the semi-autobiographical Phoebe Gloeckner graphic novel from which the play was adapted, or in an unusual and innovative theatrical experience, or simply in a movingly no-bullshit exploration of the lives of young people and the older people who shape them, I’m almost willing to buy you the tickets myself.
Holy smokes, talk about high-profile support for a worthy project. On Sunday, January 31, Saturday Night Live cast members Fred Armisen, Abby Elliot, Will Forte, Seth Meyers, Jason Sudeikis, and The Lonely Island’s Jorma Taccone will headline an all-star comedy fundraiser on behalf of the upcoming Off-Broadway adaptation of writer/artist Phoebe Gloeckner’s The Diary of a Teenage Girl. SNL writers Colin Jost, Hannibal Buress, and John Mulaney, comedians Bridey Elliott and Emily Heller, and musical guest (sorry, couldn’t help it) The Renaldo The Ensemble will also perform.
The Diary of a Teenage Girl uses a unique comics/prose/illustration hybrid format to tell the story of Minnie Goetze, a precocious teenager growing up in ’70s San Francisco who has an affair with her mother’s boyfriend. Sex and drugs abound, but it’s told in such an honest, hopeful, no-B.S. fashion that it’s as far away from after-school special territory as you can get. If you haven’t read it, you should — serious Best of the Decade material.
Want to help the curtain for the show go up on March 15 as scheduled? Buy tickets to the “Beyond Funderdome Comedy Blowout” fundraiser. Regular tix are $85; VIP tickets, which include pre-show drinks with the performers, will run you $150. The fundraiser takes place at the same venue where Diary will run, the 3LD Art & Technology Center at 80 Greenwich Street in Manhattan.
Phoebe Gloeckner’s graphic novel/prose/illustration/autobio hybrid The Diary of a Teenage Girl is one of my all-time favorite comics, so to say I’m looking forward to its upcoming theatrical adaptation is to understate the case considerably. Headed for a March 2010 debut at New York City’s 3LD, this multimedia extravaganza was written for the stage by Marielle Heller — who also stars as main character Minnie Goetze — and is helmed by co-directors Sarah Cameron Sunde and Rachel Eckerling. The above video provides a fascinating glimpse at the show so far, including some behind-the-scenes conversations between Heller and Gloeckner that provide new insight into (and photos of!) some familiar characters. I’m far from a theatre expert, but I have to imagine that in a post-Spring Awakening, post-Next to Normal theatrical climate, this stands a chance to get a lot of attention.