Sunday, November 11, 2018

Rina's New Book


The twenty or so people still checking on this near-defunct blog may remember in 2013 my book Ticket Stub was published by Rina Ayuyang’s Yam Books.
Hopefully everyone will already be aware if they weren’t before she is also a great cartoonist. Her new book Blame This on the Boogie has just been published by Drawn and Quarterly.


What the book is about is kind of her whole life story filtered through her enthusiasm for dance as portrayed in classic film and contemporary television. There is an amusing obsession with the program Dancing with the Stars. I will likely never watch Dancing with the Stars, but it doesn’t matter; her exhaustive disquisition on it is often laugh out loud funny.


If I had to compare Rina to another cartoonist, I would say she sometimes reminds me a little of Lat. 

Lat

A lot of her subject matter is family life, and it is usually brimming with affectionate antagonistic banter.
Her comics have an improvisational quality, where the layout is fluid and feels composed in the moment page by page.
She uses colored pencils to complete her drawings, an unusual choice that makes me think of a child's coloring book she has devised for herself.


I think of a lot of autobiographical cartoonists as portraying in their work a self-reflexive neurosis around the identity of being a cartoonist. Many do this brilliantly. With Rina though, she puts you into moments of her life and removes most of the evidence of the time spent cartooning them. Her work is usually not about being a cartoonist. And the warm feeling for the people portrayed in her work shines through, something of an anomaly for my generation of comic makers.


I should also mention that anybody who reads indicias might notice we both thank each other in our books, which makes me think of the old feature in Spy magazine, “Logrolling in Our Time.” 


This is because after Ticket Stub, Rina and I remained in occasional contact through emails over the years commiserating about the difficulties of drawing comics. 
I might email and say comics are a lonely business, and she might reply something humorous like, “I need to remember again how lonely comic-ing is since I haven't done it in a while.” Or I might say something like, “I've been kind of burnt out on comics, but Corey Feldman's dancing on the Today show got me back into it a little,” which I like to imagine she was a little horrified by.

Congratulations, Rina!

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Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Sir Alfred Chez Dargaud

Photo by Yoshiko Yeto

In September of 2017, I received an offer to publish Sir Alfred No. 3 from Thomas Ragon, an editor working for the publisher Dargaud.

A year later, here it is, in stores in France on 9/14.

If you purchase the book at a shop in Paris called Super Héroes, you can sign up to receive an exclusive signed bookplate.

When I was 14, I took French as an elective in junior high school. My teacher was named Madame Field, unrelated to the plural mall cookie magnate. I vaguely remember conjugating three basic verbs and learning about Guy, pronounced the same as Indian clarified butter, who appeared in sample conversations always seeming to have plans to go skiing.

I vaguely remember Madame Field drove a racing green MG, perhaps had a mullet before they were commonplace and often wore jeans tucked into leather boots. If that makes her sound vampy, it is more accurate to say she hopefully had interests outside of teaching a bunch of yokels in the San Fernando Valley.

I enjoyed French enough to want to proceed the next semester. The problem was there were only like 5 other people of the same inclination. Faced with being asked to teach two classes at once in the same classroom, Madame Field instead sent us with our "Son et Sens" textbooks to the library every day. There we were to read through each chapter, complete the study questions and turn them in at the end of the period. Unfortunately, we learned rapidly how to complete the work without really absorbing the intent, then copied each other’s answers. Since I was 14, I became more interested in the library's xerox machine. I discovered if you placed your face on the glass and followed the green bar of light that passed underneath for a portion of its path, you would end up with a distorted visage not unlike the cover of Public Image’s Second Edition.

As a result, I didn’t retain any of the other irregular verbs I barely studied, nor was I required to even try to speak the language aloud. 

To make matters worse, upon graduation I received an award—I’m pretty sure it was a piece of paper—for my French studies. Even then I knew I didn’t deserve it. There was a photo of me in the school paper:


This is a long explanation of why the feeling is about the same now ha ha.

If you had told me at 14 I would be publishing a book in France at 52, I might have paid more attention in class. But let's face it, I likely would've still xeroxed my face for most of the year. 

Anyway, I hope this edition of Sir Alfred finds an audience someday.

The book would never have occurred without the supervision of Thomas Ragon. Nora Bouazzouni was perfect for the translation, Emmanuel Justo did a great job of making a font of my lettering, and Yohan Faumont and others at Dargaud worked very hard to bring the book to completion. I'm grateful to them all for taking a chance on it. 

Although I clearly failed Madame Field as a student, she did instill a curiosity about the language and culture that has weathered my lack of diligence, among many other long remarked upon shortcomings.
Life can seem to have a strange symmetry if you live long enough.

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Monday, August 27, 2018

On the internet, a comic-book writer said some familiar things about 'comics' . .

. . .  that I disagree with:



“Comics aren’t for everyone”

Odd – would someone say movies or prose books aren’t for everyone? I doubt it, but maybe. Given how many people of all ages read comics and manga as well as comics-like things (memes, picture-books, etc.), it’s an odd claim. Is he talking about ‘comic books’ but instead uses ‘comics’? That’s a familiar, but pretty imprecise use of words. Maybe he means ‘my kind of superhero comic books aren’t for everyone’? That’s true. But the medium - comics - is everywhere, all over the internet, in newspapers, magazines, etc., and especially in the form of the near-universal ‘visual sequential’ instructions on product packing (there are many in every grocery store I've been in). In this way and many others, comics is/are literally for everybody (at least as much as anything can truly be said to be 'for everybody,' which, to be accurate, it can't.)

“Created by the children of immigrants”

I’m not sure who created comics – does he or anyone really know?  The medium goes back centuries, so again, an odd claim. If he means not ‘comics’ but ‘the American comic-book that emerged in the 1930s and that stars a costumed super-being’ then maybe I get what he saying - we know the names of (most of) these creators; but that’s not what he said. A superhero’s origin story may be pretty specific (though it’s often revised so many times that any one version  is no longer definitive), but the origin story of ‘comics’ is ongoing, elusive . . .

“It is the medium of the outsider and the outcast, the nerd who won’t fit in”

Maybe, but I’m sure countless non-nerds have for many, many decades read newspaper comics regularly; and my Facebook feed is full of non-comics people posting jokey online comics. Every week I see/read about some celebrity coming out as a ‘total comics nerd.’ It’s a thing. Comics are cool, I suppose.

So, to sum up:
Comics is/are for everyone, except those who don't like them.
We don’t know who created the medium (because it evolved over time in different places).
Reading them doesn’t (sadly) make me or you a rebel or an outsider.
And if you’re talking, not about the medium of ‘comics,’ but about ‘superhero comic books,’ just say that. It’s fine.



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Friday, July 27, 2018

Alvin at The Believer Archived


The Believer have updated their website to include all of the comic sections Alvin Buenaventura edited there: https://believermag.com/contributor/alvin-buenaventura/

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Wednesday, July 4, 2018

La Chute, 2003

I originally drew this for the SPX Anthology, when they had one, in April 2003, but it wasn't chosen. (The next year, their theme was "war." Not anti-war, but war, though one could argue war implies anti-war as well.) Luckily, the story was eventually printed in the also long-gone spiral-bound anthology "Studygroup 12 No. 3."
15 years later, it doesn't seem any more palatable and is appearing now mostly for the purpose of cold storage. It was before I settled into my "every comic takes 7 years" phase.







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Sunday, May 6, 2018

Koyama and Friends at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Museum


Last year I mentioned one of my original pages had been donated by Annie Koyama to the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum. 
Yesterday, a show opened there called "Koyama and Friends" curated by Caitlin McGurk.
I am one of the "and Friends." The exhibit will be on display until October 21 and looks great from the photos I've seen.

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Sunday, February 11, 2018

Remembering Alvin Buenaventura

Alvin Buenaventura left us two years ago. On the day he died, I had been thinking a lot about calling him, but decided not to. Unless we were in the midst of a comics project for his press, Alvin, ever elusive, often didn't pick up. In the fourteen years we were friends, if I wanted to get in touch with him, I knew what to do: Call him a few times over the course of a few weeks and he’d eventually get back to me, whispering in his almost imperceptibly soft monotone, “Hey Ken, I saw you called.”  When this tactic wasn't necessary — when I called and he answered — I felt lucky. I had someone smart, someone engaged to talk comics with.


Soon after learning he died, I remembered my desire to contact him the day before. I had gone through an unusual internal debate about it, picking up the phone, putting it down, then thinking about it again and talking myself out of it. It doesn’t seem quite right to say I feel guilty about not calling, though maybe that’s the best word. I don’t think he would have answered. Had he already gone? I don’t know. The timeline of events is uncertain. Only two years, and I’m forgetting the chronology, or perhaps doubting my memory of it, both of which make me sad.

My cell phone still holds his number. It seems almost traitorous to delete it.

*

In the months before Alvin left, he said several times that he wanted to take guitar lessons from me.  I was excited about it, and so was he. Alvin was such an artistic anomaly that I was curious to see what he could do. Always focused when it came to anything creative, he had in mind very specific kinds of techniques to work on. I’m sad we didn’t get the chance.

*
When organizing a bookshelf two weeks ago, I came across a small collection of drawings Alvin released through his Buenaventura Press: Amanda Vähämäki and Michelangelo Setola’s Souvlaki Circus


Its soft cloth cover somehow seemed significant in a way it hadn’t before, and the front cover’s image, a cut-away of an animal’s elaborate underground den, did too. It triggered familiar thoughts about what remains one of Alvin’s defining features: his complicated, maze-like internal life. Fragments of this life were sometimes made visible to his friends — though visible in such strikingly different ways to different people that I occasionally think none of us really knew the same Alvin. But mostly he kept this interior life to himself, a well-secreted possession he wouldn’t, or maybe couldn't, surrender. (I'm glad, though, that as a print maker and comics publisher, he generously released so many beautiful objects into the world.) 

On Souvlaki Circus, the longest pathway within the animal’s den travels from the front to the back cover and disappears under a vertical paper band. It ends in an image of a creature nursing several newborns. I wonder why I never looked underneath the band until today.



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