Archive for March 2009
There is this moment I think about all the time from The Young Ones. The Young Ones was an ensemble comedy TV show from the early 1980s on BBC about 4 horrible college students living together in squalor who hate each other. Vivian, the house “punk” has devised a trick involving a fake finger and a kitchen knife. The other three roomates are hollering amongst themselves, while Vivian is shouting over them, trying to get their attention, wildly brandishing his kitchen knife, screaming “Watch my trick you bastards!”
That’s it. That’s the moment. For some reason, this image resonates with me, sings in me, stops me in my tracks and makes me smile sometimes. I don’t know why. I don’t need to know why.
But if I think I about it, I understand: It echos my need for attention, and my glee in silly grotesqueries, and my delight in being brazen and especially in demanding that you want something from people. Something about those qualities make me love this moment- this dramatized, actualized, manifestation of those themes in my life. I am haunted by the Jon Lewis image above for the same reason, I think.
In fact, when I look at the last 2 1/2 years of my comic output, I now realize this was the governing theme: trying to be heard. No wonder these images speak to me so much.
We all experience images from narratives this way. There are always moments that sticks with us, for reasons we may uncover later.
I asked a couple friends for their “images that sing” and here’s what I heard.
One friend says he always remembers a moment from a 40s-era Dick Tracy comic strip, where The Brow is being squashed by a Spike Machine. The brow is desperately crying: “Oww. Somebody stop the spike machine.” Another friend said that an image from the movie The Shining always haunts her, of the Shelly Duval character dragging a knocked down out Jack Nicholson character down the hall and locking him into a food closet.
The first image is about pain, oppression, helplessness, and a desire for connection. The second, about empowerment after feeling victimized by someone you love.
—————“DON’T ANALYZE!” HOGWASH!—————
I’ve heard that people think it’s dangerous to analyze such connections, and that there’s a magic in not knowing how certain connections work. I don’t buy it. First: emotion will always work faster than analysis. Second: there will always be new things to be moved by. Third: let yourself be moved by the understanding, too.
Look at Kiki and Herb. Kiki and Herb are a faux-torch song duo who perform as if they are on a reunion tour of sorts. Their supposed heyday was decades before and now Kiki; damaged, drunken, spiteful and absolutely, desperately human sits on the piano basically dying, telling old stories and singing cover songs.
They perform a version of the 80’s hit “Total Eclipse of the Heart” which is quite moving, a little funny, and desperate. The final minute or so of the song is monstrously powerful. A crescendo has been building for minutes, Kiki is now riffing on the original’s “turn around bright eyes” motif. Kiki is quoting The Byrds, Joni Mitchell and louder and louder, she ends by screaming, yowling Yeats poetry (with Herb like a lost sailor shouting his background parts into the storm of Kiki’s desperation) “The falcon cannont hear the falconer… Surely the second coming is at hand…”, riffing more, “Turn around…. turn around… don’t turn your back on me… don’t turn your back on Kiki!!! Kiki loves you! Kiki needs you! Kiki would die for you!!!”
All this crazy manic energy has just coalesced, and you realize, the decades old “turn around” of the pop hit has been transmutated. Now its a plea: “Turn around, come back. TURN AROUND, STAND STILL AND BE LOVED BY ME GODDAMIT.”
Kiki -and if anyone is a falcon who can’t hear the falconer, it’s her- is crying for you to believe in her transformation, her second coming. She is turning and turning, and transforming and transforming, watching you walk away, but she won’t have it .TURN AROUND! TURN AROUND! The song ends with her demanding to have her love accepted. DON’T TURN YOUR BACK ON ME! KIKI WOULD DIE FOR YOU!
It took me dozens of listens to this song at full volume to realize all this. It gets more powerful each time I hear it, and the more I decode, the more it moves me to tears…
And of course, this moment too, is about being heard, like most of the moments that are moving me right now.
What are your Images That Sing? What are they about? Pay attention to those, like anything you attend to, it will grow. More will appear, and they will strengthen your own work. DON’T TURN YOUR BACK ON ME!
SOME FRAGMENTS as I get organized.
Why what’s the point why why?
because we as a race of creatures constantly want stories, we want
images and stories that can add to our ever changing (and not always
maturing) understanding of the how what and why of life? Why are we
here? How does it work? What the hell is going on anyway?
stories and images help us triangulate ourselves, find ourselves in
the sea that is the answers to these questions…
Attaching images to images, stories to stories
this is the assembling that all narrative works from. Pulling from
your collected store of images and stories and creating more, explore
the existing paths already between them.
How do we do that. Go back to mess mode. But now with a starting place.
want to make a giant graphic novel? The connections will start to make
sense via plot. Of course the mother who discovers the knife is the
woman I imagined crying at the zoo… She went there because it was
where her husband was a custodian. She discovered the knife when she
found him dead in the pool. The woman’s story begins to emerge. She
must find her husband’s killer, and will learn more about… …
look to your other images and fragments. What else suggests a double
life, unsolved mysteries, or what else just calls out to be part of
this larger story?
Want to work in short forms? You’re more than halfway there. Connect
the two images… Tick that “story clock” one or two notches and get
notes re: sit com
With good characters and the self discipline to sit down, you can
write dozens more of these effortlessly. The key is having good
characters, and injecting them with an interesting enough new
We always wonder about our plots? Is it funny enough? Grave enough?
Puzzling and suspenseful enough? None of this matters before you
sitting down to explore your characters. None of this matters before
you sit down to explore your characters. The only thing plot does is
enliven your characters…
meta is different.