Interview: Seth Pt. 3 [of 3]

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Some things just can’t be helped. Sitting out in front of the San Diego Convention Center, surrounded by throngs of showgoers decked out in their finest spandex, the conversation almost inevitably returns to the state of the superhero in contemporary comics, even with an artist whose life and work and are seemingly inseparable from sequential art of the past.

A line of questioning about Seth’s work on the gorgeous Complete Peanuts soon takes a turn for the superheroic when the artist mentions a childhood fascination with Marvel Comics, and a conversation about Jack Kirby progressing into philosophies regarding the negative pop cultural impact of Alan Moore’s Watchmen.

[Part One][Part Two]

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Interview: Seth Pt. 2 [of 3]

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From his book design to his brand of cigarettes, let there be no debate that Seth is a man of complete and largely uncompromised style, a fact that has made his art some of the most instantly recognizable cartooning work of this decade. The artist practically recoils at the mention of editorial oversight when it comes to his comics, by anyone from The New York Times on down.

In this second of our three part interview, we touch on that exact topic, as it pertains to his most recent book, George Sprott, and his work on the design of Fantagraphics’ Complete Peanuts.

[Part One]
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Interview: R. Sikoryak Pt. 3 [of 3]

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In light of his successful debut at San Diego Comic Con this past weekend, we may well be seeing a slew of new Masterpiece Comics strips debut from the R. Sikoryak camp. Of course, given that the first book took roughly 20 years to produce, perhaps it’s best not to hold our collective breath for another anthology.

In the meantime, I’d like to take this opportunity to encourage the artist to instate some manner of Internet-based suggestion box—not because I expect or even really hope he’ll elect to tackle proposed strips, but rather because proposing theoretical pairings of literature and comics is, simply put, a lot of fun.

Heck, I couldn’t help suggesting one of my own in the third part of our interview, and while Marma Dick wasn’t a creative high point for me personally, once you put yourself in that mindset, such suggestions can’t be helped. But ultimately, I suppose there’s a reason why Sikoryak is the master behind Masterpiece Comics.

[Part One]
[Part Two]
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Interview: R. Sikoryak Pt. 2 [of 3]

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What do Dostoyevsky, David Heatley, Demi Moore, and the guy who drew Bazooka Joe have in common? Why the second part of our interview with Masterpiece Comics Author R. Sikoryak, of course.

[Part One]

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Interview: R. Sikoryak Pt. 1 [of 3]

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It took Michelangelo four years to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Beethoven composed his 9th Symphony over course of six. Jonas Salk, meanwhile,  spent eight years chasing the cure for Polio. According to the copyright on the inside cover of Drawn & Quarterly’s Masterpiece Comics, the book’s 13 strips were created by R. Sikoryak over the course of 20 years—roughly the same period of time it took tens of thousands of workers to complete the Great Pyramid of Giza.

While it would, perhaps, be a bit of a stretch to suggest that the work were an accomplishment on par with, say, that big triangular structure in the middle of the Egyptian desert, the collection has certainly been eagerly awaited for all of those who’ve followed the New York-based artist’s work, which, over the past two decades, has appeared everywhere from RAW to The New Yorker to The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

But while Sikoryak has certainly built an impressive portfolio by way of his freelance output, the strips that comprise Masterpiece Comics are his masterwork, filtering some of the greatest works of literature through some of 20th century sequential art’s most iconic figures. The cast of Bazooka Joe plays out Dante’s Inferno, Garfield becomes Mephistopheles to Jon Arbuckle’s Dr. Faustus, and Beavis and Butthead wait patiently for Godot.

These 13 strips are not straight comic satire, however. Sikoryak’s Masterpiece Comics are defined by two key factors. First is the artist’s devotion to his source material—never straying too far from Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, even as Bruce Wayne’s alter-ego adopts the role of Raskolnikov. Second is Sikoryak’s commitment to aesthetics, switching gracefully from Winsor McCay to Charles Schulz to Joe Shuster.

In honor of the book’s release in September (with early editions available at San Diego), we sat down with Sikoryak to discuss the book’s secret origins.

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Cecil and Jordan in New York by Gabrielle Bell

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Cecil and Jordan in New York
By Gabrielle Bell
Drawn & Quarterly

gabriellebellcecilandjordancoverThey didn’t change the name of the title story or stick a group of actors on the cover or add the words “Soon to be a Major Motion Picture,” but timing reveals more than any of those things could—Cecil and Jordan in New York was released in an attempt to capitalize on Tokyo, a collection of film shorts recently released in theaters, a third of which was co-written by Michel Gondry and Gabrielle Bell. The lead off comic, which lends its name to this collection of short strips cherry picked from Bell’s work over the past few years, forms the basis of her segment in the film.

Let there be no mistake, however, while the release of Cecil and Jordan in New York is something of a thinly-veiled attempt to provide supplementary material to curious film-goers, it is, above all, an celebration of Bell’s work as a sequential artist. The decision on the part of the publisher to package the book as a fairly straightforward collection of comics, rather than a movie tie-in, is an attempt to create something that will outlast Tokyo’s likely relatively brief stint in limited theaters, a life that hinges on the quality of the strips contained inside. Fortunately as a cross section of some of Bell’s best work in recent years, there’s more than enough contained herein to sustain that life.

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Good-Bye by Yoshihiro Tatsumi

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Good-Bye
by Yoshihiro Tatsumi
Drawn & Quarterly

yoshirotatsumigoodbycoverMost people in the States—even comics people—don’t know the name Yoshihiro Tatsumi, but they should. Tatsumi is a vastly influential figure in the history of manga, the Japanese comics style that developed in postwar Japan and that has exploded in popularity abroad in the past decade or so; until fairly recently, however, few people here had ever heard of him.

Tatsumi is credited with being the creator of gekiga, comics for adult readers, which contrasted with the manga that was prevalent in the 1950s and ’60s, generally aimed at children. He is, in a sense, the godfather of alternative Japanese comics, and a look at any of his work, much of which is now being repackaged and re-published by Drawn & Quarterly, will instantly tell you why.

Tatsumi wrote about and drew everyday people, a practice that in and of itself carries historical weight, but more than that, he focused on lonely, marginalized everyday people. Reading Good-Bye, D&Q’s third compilation of his selected short stories, makes it immediately clear that Tatsumi’s Japan is not the bright, shiny place we might be tempted to envision. His is a dark Japan, full of confusion, depravity, and despair.

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Burma Chronicles by Guy Delisle

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Burma Chronicles
By Guy Delisle
Drawn & Quarterly

If there’s a major complaint to be levied against Guy Delisle’s new book, it’s a simple matter of unfortunate timing. When the Myanmar’s government was reluctantly thrust into the world’s spotlight by outrightly refusing aid following the devastating effects of Cyclone Nargis, many US residents were sadly left to our own devices, cobbling together what small scraps of information about the region that had been gleaned from latter day episodes of Seinfeld and strangely-named Boston post-punk bands.

It would have, perhaps, given a few of our more comics-savvy residents a bit of relief in the face of their own geographical ignorance to know that, in a matter of months, Drawn & Quarterly would deliver a book by Delisle that does for the region what Pyongyang and Shenzhen had done for their respective cities.

Burma Chronicles is, in many ways, the logical successor to those volumes, detailing Delisle’s life under yet another politically oppressive regime. Things are, however, a touch different from the outset. Where both Pyongyang and Shenzhen found the artist traveling alone as part of his life as a supervisor of animation, this time out it’s his wife, an employee of Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), whose career prompted the move with their infant son Louise in tow.
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Interview: Gabrielle Bell Pt. 2

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The diary strip has become a nearly ubiquitous form of expression in the world of alternative comics, and while there’s certainly something to be said for that old adage about writing what you know, it’s rare to come across an artist that breaks free from the pack.

Thanks in large part to her primarily autobiographical series, Lucky, Gabrielle Bell has managed to do just that, with oft introspective short stories that focus more on the power and humor of universal experiences than the pursuit of extraordinary circumstances.

In this second part of our interview with the author, we discuss the ups and downs of autobiography and the role that the Internet has played in Bell’s storytelling.

[Part One]
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