Interview: Charles Burns Pt. 3 [of 3]

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charlesburnsfearsofdark

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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charlesburnsspiral

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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