Interview: Bob Fingerman Pt. 3 [of 3]

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Of course Bob Fingerman is kidding when he suggests that the title of this article ought be “Bob Fingerman: Portrait in Self-Defeat.” Well, mostly.

Fingerman doesn’t go out of his way to please all the people all the time—after all, that’s what syndicated Sunday funnies are for. In the most simplistic terms, his work often reads like an adult What If? comic. What if zombies took over an elementary school? What if a black man’s brain was transplanted into the body of a white teenage girl? What if vampires had a conscious about the whole killing people thing?

The results are strange, warped, hilarious, occasionally disturbing, and, above all, aggressively unique, which is no doubt one of the main reasons why the artist’s short-lived stint on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles book wasn’t exactly a match made in heaven.

But, while Fingerman has seemingly been less than eager to compromise his work for the sake of wide-scale acceptance, over the years, the industry has largely come around to his unique vision.

In this third and final part of our interview with Fingerman, we discuss the artist’s brushes with the mainstream.

[Part One][Part Two]

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Fuzz and Pluck by Ted Stearn

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Fuzz and Pluck
by Ted Stearn
Fantagraphics

fuzznpluckOne thing you have to be ready for if you read Fuzz and Pluck, you’re going to laugh. I semi-guarantee this – if I can offer guarantees as a book reviewer, I would like to guarantee Fuzz and Pluck with this statement: it’s funny. I stand behind that statement. Let’s look at it: a plucked rooster and a discarded stuffed bear walking down the road. Yes, this is very much a part of it. They embark on their journey. “I’m tired,” says Fuzz. “Oh come on,” Pluck demands, “what do you think you have two legs for?”

When all other avenues to truth and justice are exhausted and a man must amuse himself, yet he has ideals – beliefs about life and beauty – lofty things, that must be delivered with due justice and truth, he has no other recourse than to make art. An artist must not go lax on his ideals, no matter the subject. Be your subject a plucked rooster, justice must be done by it. Be it a stuffed bear, okay, take comfort. Let’s examine a moment the relationship between Fuzz and Pluck. The perfect passive aggressive couple: Fuzz and Pluck. A pissed rooster – hey, he’s a plucked rooster: he’s good reason to be angry. And a stuffed bear, prone to doubt and insecurity. The repartee between these two is funny because they are exaggerations of our own inner poles: between the part of us who wants to get things done and now – and has the necessary aggression to do what needs be done – and that part of our self that has doubts, lacks initiative and wants to be safe, protected, and hey, maybe the sex object of a rich suburban housewife. Read the rest of this entry »

The Lagoon by Lillie Carre

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The Lagoon
By Lille Carre
Fantagraphics

lilliecarrelagooncoverA black triangle to one side of the nose is Lilli Carré’s graphic trademark. It drew my attention when I read The Lagoon, and after a while it becomes something you see but don’t notice. It’s like recognizing a person, ‘oh that’s Lillie Carré.’ When I first encountered her trademark nose, I kept looking at Grandpa where he says, “I couldn’t make up a song that pretty, you know that!” The tip of Grandpa’s nose meets his laugh line and flattens the effect of the rendering to make the black triangle look like a hole. An optical effect where the positive and negative shapes swap places.

Carré draws figures with the push and pull of black and white. Transitions between the two poles often employ the artist’s brush in the manner of woodcut illustrations. In woodcut, the tool gouges out the black. Her brush feathers in the black. The gouge and the brush. Hard metal. Soft fiber. They’re strong opposites and they can create a very similar graphic style. Black and white. There’s no crosshatching. The white shapes are as necessary to define the figure and ground as the lines, patterns, and black ink. With this balance, Carré creates a pleasurable line of sight through the book. Her story dances on the surface and has a depth that one must put on a diver’s size thinking cap to plummet.

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Interview: Bob Fingerman Pt. 1 [of 3]

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In 2003, Fantagraphics released Beg the Question. The 240 page hardcover book collected the entire run of Bob Fingerman’s mid-90s series, Minimum Wage—which, to this day, remains the author’s best known work. The mini-series follows the story of cartoonist and part-time pornography enabler, Rob, and his girlfriend Sylvia. While the book’s thinly-veiled autobiographical aspects shed a good deal of light on both the artist’s early career and, perhaps, a healthy dose of neurosis, Minimum Wage is hardly typical Fingerman fare.

From his first graphic novel, the science fiction satire White Like She to the recent short Dark Horse book, Recess Pieces, an elementary school-based zombie splatter fest, Fingerman’s work is largely concerned with the social and comedic implications of juxtaposing the fantastic with the mundane, a formula that has played out in both his first prose novel, Bottomfeeder, centering around a neurotic vampire, and his year-long run on The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in the early 90s.

Published in late 2006, Bottomfeeder was Fingerman’s last major release. The artist is gearing up for another big year in 2009, however, with releases from both Fantagraphics and IDW. We caught up with the Fingerman just before the Christmas holiday.

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Interview: Kevin Huizenga Pt. 2 [of 2]

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Kevin Huizenga is a difficult artist to pin down, and the cartoonist, it seems, wouldn’t have it any other way. At any one moment, Huizenga is in the middle of a handful of a series for a handful of publishers. The combination of artist’s talent and seemingly endless output have made him one of the most visible indie cartoonists working today.

His creative restlessness, however, has assured that, while he’s got any number of on-going projects serialized at the same time, there’s little conceptual overlap from one to the next, even when—as is often the case—they star Huizenga’s empty vessel protagonist, Glenn Ganges.

In this second and final part of our interview with Huizenga, we discuss the magic of zines, writing about religion, and why you can’t please all the people, all the time.

[Part One]

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Beasts: Book 2 Curated by Jacob Covey

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beastsbook2It would have been a hard sell at nearly any other publisher, a coffee table art book devoted to the much maligned pseudo-science of cryptozoology—let alone a sequel to such a thing. And, had someone actually bit and jumped at the opportunity, the results would likely have been an unmitigated disaster.

In the loving hands of Fantagraphics, however, Beasts: Book 2 is a thing of beauty, from the fittingly classical packaging, presented with shades of Chris Ware and a metallic ink on the edges of the pages that unintentionally shed onto the hands of all who pick it up, to the impressive roster of artists—a sort of coming together of indie comic’s new and old guards, from Kim Deitch and Peter Bagge to Kazimir Strzepek and Jillian Tamaki.

It’s hard to say exactly who the target audience is with a book like Beasts, but surely there’s a fair-sized overlap between lovers of the paranormal and connoisseurs of fine alternative art. The bulk of the second Beasts is devoted to 96 plates. Each features a brief description of a fantastic creature from the world of cryptozoology, accompanied by a one or two page artistic representation of said animal. The beauty of the pieces is not only in the skill of the artists on display, but also the diversity of a stable that includes both cartoonists and artists from other worlds like children’s books, fine art, poster design, and skate graphics.

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Interview: Charles Burns Pt. 3 [of 3]

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Common themes, of course, can be recognized across the backcatalog of any established artist. In some ways, however, such signposts feel all the more prominent in Charles Burns’ work. The artist has maintained a powerful sense of stylistic consistency across his output—both in terms of his approach to aesthetics and storytelling—that lesser artist find difficult to maintain over the course of a single story.

In this third and final part of our interview with Burns, we discuss the influences—both conscious and otherwise—on his singular artistic vision and how they influenced both his most famous book, Black Hole, and his more recent venture into the world of film, Peur(s) du Noir—a dark and haunting work that fits in perfectly alongside his better-known work.

[Part One][Part Two]

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Interview: Charles Burns Pt. 2 [of 3]

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At its best, Peur(s) du noir is arguably one of the scariest films you’ll have the opportunity to see in theaters this year. The film, a collection of black and white animated shorts brought together by French producers Valérie Schermann and Christophe Jankovic, doesn’t embrace the ultra-violence and gore of the vast majority of movies than come through your local Cineplex. Rather, like the most compelling horror films, the animated segments confront the psychological, revolving, in some form or another, around the titular fear.

The film is a perfect vehicle for Charles Burns’s art. It’s quietly creepy, exploring themes or youth and fear of the body, all while retaining the artist’s iconic aesthetic in a manner that likely would have proven nearly impossible with more traditional animation, all of which no doubt owes a good deal to the fact that Burns played the role of both writer and director of his piece.

Burns’s segment, however, while successful, gives rise to some familiar questions about film adaptations of graphic novels, specifically the upcoming film version of the artist’s magnum opus, Black Hole. In this second part of our interview with the artist, we discuss the project for which Burns has largely opted to remain hands-off.

[Part One]

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Interview: Charles Burns Pt. 1 [of 3]

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When it was finally collected by Pantheon in 2005, after a decade’s worth of serialization, Black Hole confirmed Charles Burns’s place as the master of indie horror comics. Where many of his fellow graduates of Art Spiegelman’s RAW had long sinced forsaken the teachings of the tattered EC books on which they were weaned, there was something in the youthful psychological terrors which Burns could not abandon—or perhaps more accurately, would not abandon him.

The persistent existentialist horrors of Burns’s work are, if anything, only compounded by the artist’s brush work, which has long since become one of the most familiar styles in all of contemporary sequential art, instantly recognizable, the moment it pops up in some anthology or on the frontcover of McSweeney’s The Believer–its stark, shadow-heavy black and white an ever-present homage to the subtle terror of the earliest of horror movies.

That Burns should attempt one day to make his own horror film should come as a surprise to no one. The artist happily signed on to direct a segment for Peur(s) du NoirFear(s) of the Dark. The Guillermo Del Toro-approved collection of dark animated shorts has been making its way around the festival circuit over the past year.  The film is subtly frightening in a manner that most contemporary horror films forgo, too often embracing the shock of overt gore—a method that never seems to translate sufficiently in the world of sequential art.

Burns’s segment is the clear centerpiece of the film, and thanks to the subtle form of computer animation employed, which retains his style in a manner which would like be lost on more traditional animation methods, from the moment a character appears on the screen, there’s no doubt who’s behind the piece.

Burns, who has been traveling a bit to promote the film took time during a recent New York appearance to talk to us about Fear(s) of the Dark.

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Interview: Art Spiegelman Pt 5 [of 5]

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In much the same way that that old stock faux-intellectual question of “what is art” played a major role in earlier installments of our conversation with Art Spiegelman, much of this fifth and final part of our interview delves into the concept of unintentional fictionalization.

It’s a key concept, to be sure, given the artist’s role at the forefront of the autobiography of movement in independent comics, a role best personified by books like Maus and In the Shadow of No Towers, and to a degree, in certain selections from his newly revamped anthology of early work, Breakdowns: Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@&*!.

Spiegelman argues, I think accurately, there’s essentially no such thing as complete non-fiction, especially in the incredibly subjective world of autobiography, a concept he illustrates using a powerful example from Maus.

In this final part, we also discuss what made Spiegelman leave The New Yorker, the birth of Raw, why he isn’t an “artist’s artist,” and what role, if any, he played in that now infamous Obama cover.

[Part One][Part Two][Part Three][Part Four][Heeb Feature]
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