Cartooning Like You Mean It

Cartooning, Teaching & Living – by Tom Hart

Archive for February 2008

My bookstack, Feb 29

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The new trend seems to be posting ones “BookStack.”

That’s Nabakov short stories, hidden by the glare. Leela is fond of being surprised that I’m not finished with it yet, as I’ve been reading it off and on for 8 or 9 years. Of course, that’s the way to read some short stories. On the bottom is a stack of short stories pulled from the New Yorker; that stack is the unread pile. I finished 100 Years of Solitude recently but it’s still reverberating around in my head so I include it here. And that’s Tsuge, above Marquez. Luckily, some of those are in the scanlations I’m reading, see below.

I realized posting this “BookStack” that A) it should also involve a shot of the folder of scanlations I’m trying to make it through (image below) and that B) what I really would need is a “CultureStack.” Said CultureStack would incorporate the Messiaen concert I went to with Jon Lewis, “Shortbus” by John Cameron Mitchell, the Lucien Freud exhibit at MOMA, my printmaking class with Bruce Waldman, the amazing Monica Hunken and Judith Malina at the Living Theater, and maybe even the obsessive games of Just A Minute I’ve been playing with Brendan Burford and other friends. Would it involve the conversation I had with Josh Bayer about Jack Kirby, dovetailing into our investigations into the neurosis of some processes of cartooning, dovetailing again into the Bayer’s description of “dangerous and farcical masculinity” in some films he’s been seeing?

All these wonderful things are keeping me from and feeding my work of cartooning and teaching. But who has time to blog about it?

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February 29, 2008 at 9:19 pm

Shaenon Garrity on Popeye and Olive Oyl

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Genius Shaenon Garrity on Popeye and Olive Oyl.

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February 25, 2008 at 4:04 am

Matt Madden’s Pantoum

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Matt Madden has been studying poetry forms for some time; he digests them and creates new sequential art forms with them, or creates their equivalent. Matt’s latest exercise in the arena is the “pantoum.” Matt describes:

The pantoum structure is one of interlocking quatrains where the first and third line of one stanza become the second and fourth lines of the following one. The last stanza ends with the very first line of the poem and has the third line in the third-to-last position.

Here, he takes a three page story I made in 2001 (written in Lynda Barry’s workshops, for what it’s worth) and turns it into a 6 page festival of mud lust and paranoia.

Take a look at his posting and read the full comic here.

On a related note, Gary Sullivan chimes in about “Poetry in Comics” on my comments page here, and on his own blog, here. This seems to be spurred by Austin English’s letter in The Comics Journal a few weeks back, and Bill Randall’s published response.

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February 24, 2008 at 10:58 pm

R.I.P. Alain Robbe-Grillet

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I missed the death of Alain Robbe-Grillet, novelist and theoretician about novels. I found his “For A New Novel” in an Austin bookshop and devoured it, or the first half of it anyway. It was a series of essays and the first few were so powerful I never went on to finish the rest. Robbe-Grillet argued for a novel that was cleaved from character and plot, those were holdovers from drama. What a novel should do is use language to trigger events, images, etc. in the mind. He was especially drawn to the image, to seeing and describing, in cold detail, what was seen. An apple is no different than a cat, or an adulterous wife.

I wrote about that book on my teaching page here.

His novel Jealousy (La Jalousie) remains my favorite. Through sheer concentration of visual detail, and repetition of moments, he created a manic, frightened, furious book. A book filled with emotion, stemming mostly from a feeling of paranoia. It’s one of my favorite books ever.

I never could figure out In The Labryrnth but I’m determined to try it again some day.

Robbe-Grillet wrote the script for Last Year at Marienbad. What most people don’t realize is that script was EXACTLY how the movie turned out. That wild, cryptic movie was not trick of editing, or a product of an explorative process. It all came out of Robbe-Grillet, exactly as you see it. What a nut.

Today I value just the opposite in art. I did then, too, when I was reading his book. I value happy accidents and sloppy creation ,but his goals and my values are the same: absolute belief that something else is available for this form.

The only person I ever met who had read Robbe-Grillet (whom I didn’t foist it onto) was a cook in Austin named Flash- one of the grouchiest guys I’ve ever met. He saw me reading The Erasers, I think, and assumed it must have been for class. He told me about the half dozen of his books he had read, crushed his cigarette out and went back to angrily mashing Sunday’s eggs and ham around the grill.

NY Times article
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February 24, 2008 at 4:00 pm

Comics as Poetry, Part 1

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I’ve been obsessing about “comics as poetry” for about 15 years. The topic came up on the Studygroup 12 message boards, so I chimed in with this:

It seems to me (despite there being academic definitions) that “poetry” or “poetic” is about a simple communion between author and reader, where the image and meaning making is a task largely given to the reader, through a deft handling of compositional elements by the artist/author. In perhaps one other simple way to word it: a lot left intentionally out.

So poetic is Ben Katchor (left out: specifics of reaction, sometimes, or specifics of internal thought, or exact explanations of dialogue) or Peter Blegvad or “Screw Style” (though to my Western eye that may border on surrealism) or Ben Jones or Kevin H.

There’s a line where a narrative crosses into the “poetic” under this description. Is “Poor Sailor” poetic? Probably, sure.

Poetic also sometimes (though I may disagree) can refer to a virtuosity of language (here: words, pics, etc.) but sometimes that virtuosity is about the dexterity in leaving things in and out. The difference between Blankets and Lynda Barry, maybe. Or Fun Home and Graffiti Kitchen.

Anyway, that’s what I think. Poetry is how much do you give the trusting reader to create a dialogue between her/him and the art? And how penetrating or powerful is that thing that then happens?

Austin English is right to crave it. Go Austin, but be articulate, man, and don’t get sucked in by that Devlinian rhetoric (“EC comics are the worst, man!”)

I was surprised to see people giving poems to cartoonists to draw (but glad some colleagues got good gigs) for this exact reason: you’re asking another artist to add more stuff. It’s probably going to clutter and cloud it and I think Randall hits on the points well. When I think of my favorite real poetry (ie all words), the idea of an illustrations at all is absolutely antithetical to enjoying and experiencing them.

Oh yeah, drawings alone can of course be “poetic”, but it gets hard and weird to define. Renee French and Gabrielle Bell have a poetry in their drawings. In Gabrielle’s case, I think I can almost find the words for it. What is left out is how she feels about what she is drawing. There’s attention and grace, but the absolute understatedness of emotion allows a lot to happen between the viewer and the drawing.

This isn’t true of say, Dave Cooper, a creator whose interest lies in the weird conflicts and tensions he creates between thought and emotion.

In Renee’s case, there’s such a vivid investment in the drawing that it’s hard to know what she’s feeling. Seems like everything: rage, joy love, fear. Her poetry lies in there somewhere, I think.

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February 21, 2008 at 2:27 pm

You Are Here

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February 7, 2008 at 1:38 am

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Lynda Barry cartoons and images

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Have you caught on to
Lynda Barry’s myspace page? Full cartoons and other art there. See! One of America’s greatest treasures!

Written by hutchowen

February 3, 2008 at 12:02 am