About a dozen years ago, while I was on a business trip to the Bay Area, the cartoonist Adrian Tomine asked if we could meet to discuss an idea he had of publishing the work of an obscure, mostly forgotten Japanese cartoonist named Yoshihiro Tatsumi. At that point, only one collection of Tatsumi’s comics had been translated and published in English, and that edition, from 1987, wasn’t produced in the best of circumstances: it was a bootleg, published without Tatsumi’s permission, featuring poorly reproduced artwork and somewhat stilted dialogue as a result of a subpar translation. And yet somehow that lone volume managed to find its way to Sacramento in the late 1980s, into the hands of then-fourteen-year-old Adrian Tomine at precisely the moment when his own sensibility as a cartoonist was beginning to take form.
During our meeting, Adrian showed me this book, as well as many more untranslated pages that he had managed to track down. It didn’t take much (if any) convincing on his part: I was immediately impressed with Tatsumi’s stark artwork, and there was a definite appeal in the narrative representation of the dark underside of late sixties Tokyo. Drawn & Quarterly managed to secure the rights and commission proper translations, which led to the publication of several volumes of Tatsumi’s short stories, with Adrian working very closely on every aspect—as editor, designer, and even letterer of the series.
We were little surprised when the series received immediate acclaim. After all, the everyday realism portrayed in Tatsumi’s comics has a particular affinity with literary graphic novels of North America, with one important exception: Tatsumi’s comics (which he called gekiga, meaning “dramatic pictures”) predated any similar material being produced here by at least a couple of decades. Read More
In Kevin Huizenga’s new book, Gloriana, the character Glenn Ganges describes a magnificent sunset witnessed from his carrel at the library—or rather, he begins to tell the story, and then he begins again and again and again. With each successive retelling, Glenn’s perspective becomes increasingly abstract and frenetic—focusing now on shelves of books, now on a patron’s feet, now on a book flopping open—until the tale explodes. The story loses its temporal thread; objects and figures reject the panels’ prescriptive limits. The result is a panoptic narrative, in which not just actions but also thoughts and impressions occur at once. That page, originally a fold-out in Supermonster no. 14, is reproduced here.
I live in a neighborhood in Montréal called Parc X. Now, I confess this sounds a lot more ghetto-y and gangsta than it actually is. It’s really a hard-working, largely immigrant neighborhood that is in imminent danger of being overrun by white hipsters.
We do literally go through a hole in a fence from our slum to take our son to his school in the neighboring wealthy Anglophone area, but the fact that he wears a fancy school uniform does slightly tarnish our street cred, I admit.
Montréal’s ostensibly a French-speaking city, but the French language is rarely heard in my mostly Greek and Pakistani neighborhood. I am neither French, Greek, nor Pakistani and speak none of their languages with proficiency, so I’m perpetually an outcast, though I am, by nature, a bit of a Zelig, attempting and failing to ever fit in. Always the pale, white, cultureless bridesmaid.
It was Easter recently, which this year not only coincided with Greek Easter, or “Greece-ster,” as I sensitively and cleverly have named it, but also Passover. In the French-speaking world of Quebec, Passover is noted on French calendars as “Paque Juive,” or Jewish Easter (!), which my Jewish homeys find offensive based on the fact that Passover preceded Easter and therefore should not be relegated to Easter-spin-off status. Oh people, why can’t we all just get along?
Lynda Barry is many things: a cartoonist, best known for her long-running strip, Ernie Pook’s Comeek; the author of two illustrated novels, Cruddy and The Good Times Are Killing Me; and the sought-after instructor of the workshop “Writing the Unthinkable.” In her two memoir-cum-workbooks—2008’s What It Is and Picture This, published last month by Drawn & Quarterly—Barry puts her many talents into play. The books’ dense collages, lively cartoons, and hand-drawn text use autobiographical tidbits and philosophical flights of fancy to explore the creative impulse, asking such questions as What is an image? and Why do we stop drawing? Barry, a friend of Matt Groening’s since their days at the Evergreen State College in the seventies, agreed to meet me for breakfast, where we talked art, writing, and cigarettes.
One of the themes of Picture This is forgetting in order to remember, which seems pretty counterintuitive. When you combine it with Don’t—the name of the cigarettes, which are a running gag throughout—the meaning of the lines becomes very contradictory.
Forget to remember to forget to remember, or remember to forget to remember to forget. Yeah, it just makes your brain go uuuuuuuhhh. That’s exactly what I wanted: to get to the point where you realize you don’t know what you’re looking at. Plus, it’s fun coming up with slogans. “What would you do for a don’t?” “Don’t consider it.”
I stumbled on these magazines called Grade Teacher, which were sent to grade-school teachers every month, and I have a pile of them from the late twenties to the sixties. They have stuff like “Fun Things to Draw” or “Let’s Do Our Bulletin Board.” But the big ad sponsorship is from coal companies and asbestos companies: “Free giant charts for your class about how wonderful coal is!” The weirdest things are the art projects with asbestos powder, like “Lets make beads and make necklaces and wear them.” I am not joking.