“Comics are like life. You just grow with them.”
Mutts creator Patrick McDonnell joins the show to talk about getting a late start on his career as a daily strip cartoonist, how Mutts has changed in its 23 years, the evolution of his interest in animal advocacy, the overlap of comic strips and poetry, finding his Coconino County in the New Jersey suburbs, learning from Jules Feiffer’s paste-ups, the greatest blurb he’ll ever get, taking up painting, finding joy in collaborating (occasionally), and how the gospel of Peanuts taught him that the essence of life is love. (We also talk about what to do after you’ve lost a long-loved dog, but neither of us cry, I swear!) Give it a listen! And go buy his newest book, Darling, I Love You: Poems from the Hearts of Our Glorious Mutts and All Our Animal Friends (as well as the Mutts collections and all the other books and projects he’s done)!
“Giving some of the joy and comfort that I got from Peanuts back to the world, that’s my job.”
About our Guest
Patrick McDonnell is the creator of the comics strip Mutts, which debuted in 1994 and appears in over 700 newspapers in 22 countries. Mutts has been anthologized in 25 books in the US and in numerous collections around the world. Patrick has created a dozen children’s books, including the Caldecott Honor-winning Me . . . Jane, a biography of Jane Goodall, and the New York Times bestseller The Gift of Nothing. He collaborated with Eckhart Tolle on Guardians of Being: Spiritual Teachings from Our Dogs and Cats. He is a member of the board of directors of the Humane Society of the United States, the Fund for Animals, and the Charles M. Schulz Museum.
There’s a more extensive bio at Patrick’s website. You really should check it out.
Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at in Patrick’s painting studio on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photos of Patrick and Amelie and me and Patrick by me. It’s on my instagram.
“This book has three things I love: bookstores, painting and name-dropping.”
Artist, writer, humorist and cartoonist Bob Eckstein joins the show to talk about his wonderful new book, Footnotes from the World’s Greatest Bookstores: True Tales and Lost Moments from Book Buyers, Booksellers, and Book Lovers. We get into the origins of the project, how he survived the sheer volume of bookstore-cat stories, how he once got dirty in the back of the Strand Bookstore, getting introduced to art by Sports Illustrated, a great lesson in comic timing, getting a late start in cartooning but making up for lost time, marrying his biggest enemy from art school (and eloping to Iceland), becoming a champion of bookstore culture, and more! Give it a listen! And go buy Footnotes from the World’s Greatest Bookstores!
“I got paid the same amount of money doing pieces for the New York Times in 1982 and 1983 as I get paid now.”
We also talk about the collapsing economics of illustration, cartooning, and pretty much every other field Bob pursues, doing seven years of research on The History of the Snowman (in which he discovered some amazing stuff) and accidentally shooting down a TV project based on it, how Footnotes taught him that people’s real story isn’t always the one they think they’re telling you, his exultation at selling his very first submission to The New Yorker and his puzzlement when he didn’t sell another one there for a year, what makes for a good bookstore, the benefits of eavesdropping, and more! Now go listen to the show!
“Every bookstore is thousands of peoples’ dreams, either fulfilled or unfulfilled. Everyone’s life project is on the shelf. And it’s where people’s dreams are going to get triggered.”
About our Guest
Bob Eckstein is an illustrator, writer and cartoonist. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal, among many other publications. He is also known as the world’s leading snowman expert and is the author of the holiday classic, The History of the Snowman. He lives in New York City.
There’s a much more extensive (and funny) bio of him at bobeckstein.com.
Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission of the artist. The conversation was recorded at stately Virtual Memories Manor on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Mr. Eckstein & Rufus T. Firefly Roth by me.
“Frank Modell told me, ‘For the New Yorker, you have to draw better than you know how to.'”
Liza Donnelly joins the show to talk about her careers as a New Yorker cartoonist, women’s rights activist and live-drawing legend! We get into the weird overlap of respectability, responsibility and cartooning, as well as her work for Cartooning for Peace, the joys of drawing on the subway, how she benefited from Tina Brown’s love of snarky women, why she’s considering (but is daunted by) making a long-form comic, the evolution of her feminist consciousness, her trouble drawing George Clooney, and more! BONUS: my interminable intro takes up the first 13 minutes! Give it a listen!
“Social media is an extension of what drew me to cartooning initially; I was shy and I didn’t like to talk, and I was drawing to make my mother laugh. Drawing was communication, and sharing.”
We also get into the significance of The New Yorker (and New York), her book on the magazine’s women cartoonists, the TED swag that changed her life, the mentor/mentee relationship, the contradictions of meticulously developing a carefree style, how the internet has given her a platform, and more. Now go listen to the show!
“It becomes a matter of paring back your style, learning how to let go of detail, learning how to draw simply, making it look like you just whipped this drawing off, even if it took 25 attempts.”
About our Guest
Liza Donnelly is a writer and cartoonist with The New Yorker magazine. She is also a sought after public speaker and also does live drawings of events, covering the 2016 Democratic National Convention for CBS News and the presidential debates. She recently joined CBS This Morning as contributing cartoonist. She is a columnist and cartoonist for Forbes.com, specializing in politics and women’s rights. Donnelly draws a political cartoon for Politico and Medium, and she is a contributor to many other national publications. Donnelly was a finalist for the 2014 Thurber Prize, the only award for written humor in the United States.
Donnelly is a Cultural Envoy for the US State Department, traveling around the world speaking about freedom of speech, cartoons and women’s rights. As a public speaker, Donnelly has also spoken at TED (Technology Entertainment and Design), the United Nations, and The New Yorker Festival, as well as colleges, universities and corporate venues, among other places.
Donnelly was profiled on CBS Sunday Morning, NBC and BetterTV, and has been interviewed on radio and in numerous magazines, newspapers and online. Donnelly’s cartoons and commentary can be seen on various websites: the NewYorker.com; Politico.com, CNN.com; HuffingtonPost.com; Salon.com; DailyBeast.com; NarrativeMagazine.com. Her work has appeared in print publications, including The New York Times, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, The Nation and The Harvard Business Review.
Donnelly is the author/editor of sixteen books. Her most recent book is titled Women on Men, published by Narrative Magazine. Some of her other books are When Do They Serve the Wine?: The Folly, Flexibility, and Fun of Being a Woman, Funny Ladies: The New Yorker’s Greatest Women Cartoonists And Their Cartoons, a history of the women who drew cartoons for the magazine, Sex and Sensibility: Ten Women Examine the Lunacy of Modern Love…in 200 Cartoons and Cartoon Marriage: Adventures in Love and Matrimony by The New Yorker’s Cartooning Couple (with Michael Maslin). Donnelly’s book, When Do they Serve the Wine? was optioned by Mark Gordon Studios for an hour long comedy for television; and the book she wrote with her husband, Cartoon Marriage, has been optioned by Jennifer Garner for ABC Studios. Donnelly has written and illustrated numerous children’s books for Scholastic and Holiday House.
She is the New York Director of the international project, Cartooning for Peace, helping to promote understanding through humor; and is president and co-founder of USA FECO, the US chapter of the international cartoonists’ organization. Her work has been in numerous exhibitions globally, and she has curated exhibits of international cartoonists, here and abroad. Donnelly taught at Vassar College and the School of Visual Arts and is a member of PEN and the Authors Guild. She is the recipient of an honorary degree from the University of Connecticut, and received a Ruben Award, the Salon St. Just International Prize, AAUW Women of Distinction Award. Liza was a member the jury of the World Press Cartoon Prize in Lisbon, the Cartooning for Peace Prize in Geneva and the Aydin Dogan Cartoon Competition in Turkey.
Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission of the artist. The conversation was recorded in Ms. Donnelly’s kitchen on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. Blurry photo of Ms. Donnelly by ???.
“Satire is the art of exaggerating for humorous emphasis and to make a point, but how do you exaggerate Trump?”
Last July, I talked to Dan Perkins (aka Tom Tomorrow) as he was launching a Kickstarter to produce 25 Years of Tomorrow, a massive quarter-century collection of his This Modern World comic strip. It was way more successful than he anticipated (356% overfunded!), so at his book launch party at Mark Twain House in March, we recorded an on-stage followup conversation, plus audience Q&A! Give it a listen! And buy 25 Years of Tomorrow!
“Does political humor date? Sure, but I was writing about gun control and healthcare reform 25 years ago.”
Dan & I talk about the challenge of satire in this day and age, the benefits of operating under a pseudonym, the ways his life and work have changed as a result of the Kickstarter process, the ongoing labor of his production partners, Topatoco and Make That Thing!, looking back at 25 Years of Tomorrow, the mixed blessing of the internet, the doors that opened when he published a 1,000-page collection, whose hatred cheers him the most, why the internet is like Soylent Green, and more! Go listen and then order a copy of 25 Years of Tomorrow!
“It’s all fun and games until the crazy man is in the Oval Office.”
This episode is also the launch of our new monthly feature, #NJPoet’s Corner, where we’ll talk with philosopher-historian-zen-monk-poet Charles Bivona! (That starts around the 50:00 mark)
Also, if you want to find out who Dan and Chuck are reading nowadays and get a list of the books we talked about in this episode, join our Patreon and become a monthly contributor to The Virtual Memories Show! At the end of March, the new episode of our patron-only podcast, Fear of a Square Planet, will go up with a bonus segment about who they’re reading and why.
About our Guest
Dan Perkins, better known as Tom Tomorrow, is the creator of the weekly political cartoon, This Modern World, which appears in approximately 80 newspapers across the U.S., and on websites such as Daily Kos, and The Nation. His work has appeared in publications including The New York Times, The New Yorker, Spin, Mother Jones, Esquire, The Economist, The Nation, U.S. News and World Report, and The American Prospect, and has been featured on Countdown with Keith Olbermann. In 2013 he was awarded the prestigious Herblock Prize in a ceremony at the Library of Congress, and in 2015 he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. He received the first place Robert F. Kennedy Award for Excellence in Journalism in 1998 and 2003, and has also received the Media Alliance Meritorious Achievement Award, the James Madison Freedom of Information Award from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Professional Freedom and Responsibility Award from the Association for Education in Journalism, and the James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism. In 2009, he collaborated with Pearl Jam to create artwork for their album “Backspacer“. Dan has published 9 anthologies of his work, and one mega-sized 15-pound, two-volume slipcased edition of 25 Years of Tomorrow.
Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission of the artist. The conversation was recorded at the Mark Twain House. I recorded the intro and outro on a Blue enCORE 200 microphone feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro. Photos of me and Dan by Beverly Gage.
“The talk about race in America hinges on how comfortable white people are with it. Because once white people are too uncomfortable, they’ll either say you’re pulling the race card, or just say, ‘Enough.'”
We kick off 2016 with gentleman cartoonist Keith Knight! Keith & I met up at a cafe in Chapel Hill to talk about comics, race, fixing the Star Wars prequels, his career as a Michael Jackson impersonator, the literature course that made him a political artist, his campus lecture tour on race relations, the importance of crowdfunding, the reasons he continues with a daily comic strip (and two more strips), why you never see black people on Antiques Roadshow, the songs that will turn any party out (excluding tracks by MJ and Prince), the case for Off The Wall over Thriller, whether it’s an honor or a disgrace to be the first non-white guest on this podcast in two years, and more! Give it a listen! (the conversation starts at the 7:30 mark)
“The comics industry needs to catch up to its audience, because the creative side is not as diverse is not as diverse as their readers.”
BONUS: I launch a Patreon for the Virtual Memories Show! You get to hear me talk about all the neat stuff I’m planning for the show if we get enough support from listeners like you!
About our Guest
Keith Knight is many things to many people–rapper, social activist, father and educator among them. He’s also one of the funniest and most highly regarded cartoonists in America, and the creator of three popular comic strips: the Knight Life, (th)ink, and the K Chronicles. For nearly two decades, this multi-award-winning artist has brought the funny back to the funny pages with a uniquely personal style that’s a cross between Calvin & Hobbes, MAD, and underground comix. Keith Knight is part of a generation of African-American artists who were raised on hip-hop, and infuse their work with urgency, edge, humor, satire, politics and race. His art has appeared in various publications worldwide, including the Washington Post, Daily KOS, San Francisco Chronicle, Salon.com, Ebony, ESPN the Magazine, L.A. Weekly, MAD Magazine, and the Funny Times. His comic musings on race have garnered accolades and stirred controversies, prompting CNN to tap him to grade America on its progress concerning issues of race. Follow him on Twitter and support his work on Patreon.
Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission of the artist. The conversation was recorded at Caffe Driade in Chapel Hill on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro. “Yellow scarf” photos of Mr. Knight by me, no credit for the photo of him with a marker..
“I want to be working, making comics, and knowing that the thing I’m doing right now is the thing I should be doing and I shouldn’t feel guilty about doing it. I’ve been able to keep that going much of the time for the last 20 years, and it’s kinda great.”
Is Scott McCloud comics’ leading theorist or a deranged lunatic? Find out in this lengthy conversation we recorded during SPX 2015! Scott talks about applying (and forgetting) the lessons of Understanding Comics in his new book, The Sculptor (First Second), the massive implications of crowdfunding for cartoonists and other creators, the problems with ‘balance’ in comics pages, his rebellion against Facebook, the Laurie Anderson model of comics, how he defines success, how to keep a happy marriage inside the comics world, and more! Give it a listen!
“We’ve never seen the consumer dollar at full strength. In traditional print markets, somebody spends a dollar on my work, and I get 10 cents at the end of that chain, that massive army of middlemen. Now we’re seeing what kind of world happens when the consumer dollar stays closer to a dollar. That army of consumers really has an enormous power to put your boat afloat.”
We also talk about his next book (on visual communication and education), his strengths and weaknesses as a cartoonist, making a 500-page comic book that readers could tackle in one sitting, why Reinventing Comics was like “trying to eat 10 lbs. of potato salad”, how every success story in cartooning is unique, the differences in working in print vs. working for the screen, and trying to be a scholar for the first time. Now go listen!
“Craig Thompson’s Blankets is probably off the hook now, because I finally did a comic even more sentimental. So now I made Craig look like Gary Panter.”
We mention a few books in this episode. Here they are:
- The Sculptor – Scott McCloud
- Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art – Scott McCloud
- Reinventing Comics: How Imagination and Technology Are Revolutionizing an Art Form – Scott McCloud
- Making Comics: Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga and Graphic Novels – Scott McCloud
- Zot!: The Complete Black and White Collection: 1987-1991 – Scott McCloud
- Maus: A Survivor’s Tale – Art Spiegelman
- Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth – Chris Ware
- The Complete Elfquest Volume 1 – Wendy Pini
- The Dark Knight Returns – Frank Miller
- Watchmen – Alan Moore
- Beautiful Darkness – Kerascoët, Fabien Vehlmann
- Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant?: A Memoir – Roz Chast
- Kill My Mother – Jules Feiffer
- Blankets – Craig Thompson
- Here – Richard McGuire
- Gamify Your Classroom: A Field Guide to Game-Based Learning (New Literacies and Digital Epistemologies) – Matthew Farber
- The Year of Magical Thinking – Joan Didion
- Rosalie Lightning: A Graphic Memoir – Tom Hart
- Essays – Orwell
- Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything – Joshua Foer
- How Music Works – David Byrne
- Runaway – Alice Munro
- Blonde: A Novel – Joyce Carol Oates
About our Guest
Scott McCloud is the award-winning author of Understanding Comics, Making Comics, Zot!, The Sculptor, and many other fiction and non-fiction comics spanning 30 years. An internationally-recognized authority on comics and visual communication, technology, and the power of storytelling, McCloud has lectured at Google, Pixar, Sony, and the Smithsonian Institution. There’s a more extensive and funny bio at his site.
Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission of the artist. The conversation was recorded during the Small Press Expo at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel on a Zoom H2n Handy Recorder and a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro. Photo of Mr. McCloud by me.
“This Kickstarter, this is me, having seen my incredibly negative narrative and hopeless sense of the future just blasted out of the water. I feel like this week has changed my life.”
Dan Perkins (better known as Tom Tomorrow) is celebrating 25 years of his weekly political cartoon, This Modern World, with a kick-ass Kickstarter project to collect all of his strips in a two-volume, slipcased edition! Shockingly (to him, but not the rest of us), his fans hit his funding target in less than 24 hours, and more than doubled it by press time. (It’s open through August 4, 2015, so there’s time to make a contribution!) I caught up with a flabbergasted Perkins to talk about the resounding level of fan support for the project, the detective/archeologist work of compiling 25 years’ worth of his strips, the trepidation he had about looking at his early work, how This Modern World changed after the advent of the internet, the ways in which his cartoons work as a coded diary of his life, how the validation of this Kickstarter experience has changed his view of the future, and more! Give it a listen! (If you want to skip my rambling intro, you should jump to the 8:45 mark.)
“Charles Schulz said if he were a better writer, he’d be a novelist, and if he were a better artist, he’d be a painter, but he’s kinda good at both, so he’s a cartoonist. I’ve always held onto that.”
We also talk about his cartooning influences, his early attempt at doing a mainstream daily comic strip, his favorite contemporary political cartoonists (and his apologies for any influence he had on them), what he wants to do next, how he fights against burnout on a weekly basis, why having to make a comic about a terrible event is like sewer-work, why a Trump presidential candidacy is no fun for his comics, the way This Modern World served as a pirate radio signal, and why Pearl Jam lent him a hand on his Kickstarter (which, as I mentioned, is open through August 4, if you want to take part)!
“The internet has given mankind low-grade telepathy. We are now in this low-grade hive-mind where we have access to the darkest and most disturbing thoughts of many of our fellow humans. I think it used to be easier to maintain illusions about humanity.”
About our Guest
Tom Tomorrow’s (Dan Perkins’) weekly cartoon, This Modern World, appears online at The Nation, and Daily Kos, and in approximately 80 papers across the country. His cartoons have also been featured in The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Nation, U.S. News & World Report, Esquire, The Economist, and numerous other publications.
He was the 2013 recipient of the Herblock Prize, and was awarded the first place Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for Cartooning in 1998 and again in 2003. He was also a finalist for the Pulitze Prize in 2015. He has also been awarded the first place Media Alliance Meritorious Achievement Award for Excellence in Journalism, the first place Society of Professional Journalists’ James Madison Freedom of Information Award, the James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism, and the Association for Education in Journalism Professional Freedom and Responsibility Award. He is the author of 10 cartoon anthologies and one children’s book, and in 2009 collaborated with the band Pearl Jam to create the artwork for their Backspacer album.
Credits: This episode’s music is Just Breathe by Pearl Jam. The conversation was recorded at Mr. Perkins’ home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro. Photo of Mr. Perkins by me.