“What I’ve learned about storytelling is that you don’t know what the story’s about until you’re halfway through it. You might have your plot, but plot’s just the vehicle.”
Master tattooist and comics artist Graham Chaffee joins the show to talk about his new graphic noir, To Have & To Hold (Fantagraphics)! We get into the culture(s) of LA and why it’s the quintessential 20th century American city, the way the internet has changed the tattoo business, Graham’s history with comics, the difference between the story and the plot, his lengthy hiatus from making comics and what brought him back to it, the joys of drawing a good dog, the accidental portrayal of race in his comics, and the time he did a full-back tattoo portraying the dark night of Lisa Simpson’s soul! Give it a listen! And go buy To Have And To Hold (along with Graham’s other comics)! And visit his tattoo shop, Purple Panther Tattoo, when you’re in LA!
“I think the dirty, old, crappy version of things was organic, and the newer, cleaner version is manufactured.”
About our Guest
Graham Chaffee is a professional tattoo artist and cartoonist. His previous books are The Big Wheels (1993), The Most Important Thing and Other Stories (1995), and Good Dog (2013). He lives and works in Los Angeles. You can find him on instagram at graham_chaffee
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 Purple Panther Tattoos 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 Graham by me. They’re on my instagram.
“My plan is to make this a research destination for comics studies, especially as they relate to comics in New York City.”
Karen Green, Curator of the Comics and Cartoons collection at Columbia University, joins the show to talk about her secret origin! How did she go from bartender to medieval scholar to comics librarian? We get into the evolution of the library and comics scholarship, her proudest acquisitions, her love of NYC and being a bartender there in the ’80s, reading Playboy for the cartoons, the experience of having a portrait done by Drew Friedman, her Venn diagram with Mimi Pond, and the one cartoonist she’s still speechless around. Give it a listen! And go buy Drew Friedman’s More Heroes Of The Comics: Portraits Of The Legends Of Comic Books; Karen wrote the intro!
“Things that were throwaway materials for the medieval or early modern period are now priceless artifacts in museums and libraries around the world. Who’s to say that the things we see as disposable culture today are not going to be given the same valence?”
About our Guest
Karen Green serves as Curator for Comics and Cartoons at Columbia University. She founded the graphic novels collection in the Columbia University Libraries, while working as the Ancient and Medieval History librarian. She has acquired the papers of Chris Claremont, Wendy and Richard Pini, Al Jaffee, and the Kitchen Sink Press for Columbia’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library, as well as items from the estate of Jerry Robinson and research materials from Larry Tye’s history of Superman. A former bartender, Green holds graduate degrees from Columbia University and Rutgers University. For four-and-a-half years, she wrote the “Comic Adventures in Academia” column for Comixology. She served as a Will Eisner Comics Industry Awards judge in 2011, a member of the jury for the Pulitzer Prize in Editorial Cartooning in 2014, serves as vice-president of the board of directors of the Society of Illustrators–and former trustee of the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art, before its transfer to the Society–has taught and lectured on comics in academia, and curated the Fall 2014 exhibition, “Comics at Columbia: Past, Present, Future,” in Columbia’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library.
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 in a meeting room in Columbia University’s Butler Library 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 Karen Green by me. It’s on my instagram.
“I have something to live for in the goal of producing this long, fascinating, convoluted, loop-de-loop, metaphysical story arc. And that’s the kind of thing that occupies me and makes my days the joyous things they are: living in this screwed-up dream-world that isolates me from the rest of the world and humanity in general.”
Jim Woodring rejoins the show to talk art, comics and the Unifactor! During a break at SPX 2016, we sat down to discuss the importance of Fantagraphics on its 40th anniversary, Jim’s move to Seattle in 1974 and his move away from there last year, camaraderie with the cartoonists of his generation, what he’d do if he was just starting out as a cartoonist today, the experience of seeing Frank in 3-D, the joys of drawing with a six-foot pen, just what Art is there for, and more! Give it a listen! And go buy his newest book, Frank In The 3rd Dimension!
“Some people say religious experiences are just in the person’s mind, but where else would they be?”
We also talk about how Jack Kirby drew like a haunted machine, why computers have led to a generation of prosthetic geniuses, why he sticks with analog drawing tools (like that six-foot-long pen, known as Nibbus Maximus), the remarkable experience of going on a tour of the South China Seas with “a billionaire friend of mine”, his relationship with the Unifactor (and the perils of trying to circumvent its storytelling imperatives), the role of perseverance in becoming a better artist, and the feeling that he’s done the right thing in his life. Now go listen to the show!
“I feel like a pretender next to guys like Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez. With my limited abilities and my ‘that’s good enough’ philosophy of art, I feel like I’ve just sneaked into the party.”
About our Guest
Jim Woodring was born in Los Angeles in 1952 and enjoyed a childhood made lively by an assortment of mental an psychological quirks including paroniria, paranoia, paracusia, apparitions, hallucinations and other species of psychological and neurological malfunction among the snakes and tarantulas of the San Gabriel mountains.
He eventually grew up to be an inquisitive bearlike man who has enjoyed three exciting careers: garbage collector, merry-go-round-operator and cartoonist. A self-taught artist, his first published works documented the disorienting hell of his salad days in an “illustrated autojournal” called JIM. This work was published by Fantagraphics Books and collected in The Book of Jim in 1992. A newer collection of these comics was published as Jim.
He is best known for his wordless comics series depicting the follies of his character Frank, a generic cartoon anthropomorph whose adventures careen wildly from sweet to appalling. A decade’s worth of these stories was collected in The Frank Book in 2004. The 2010 Frank story Weathercraft won The Stranger’s Genius Award and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for that year. Woodring has published two more FRANK books, The Congress of the Animals, and Fran. His newest book is Frank In The 3rd Dimension, with Charles Barnard.
Woodring is also known for his anecdotal charcoal drawings (a selection which was gathered in Seeing Things in 2005), and the sculptures, vinyl figures, fabrics and gallery installations that have been made from his designs. His multimedia collaborations with the musician Bill Frisell won them a United States Artists Fellowship in 2006. He lives on Vashon Island with his family and residual phenomena.
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 Bethesda North Marriott 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. Photos of Jim by me.
“I’m able to be what people want me to be when I’m behind the bar or playing music, but I’m not a performer by nature, so it’s not an easy transition. With comics, the joy I feel when I’m drawing comes through.”
Cartoonist Leslie Stein joins the show to celebrate her new book, Time Clock (Fantagraphics)! We talk about her amazing diary comics (recently collected in Bright-Eyed At Midnight), why she picked a really weird name for her ongoing comics project (Eye of the Majestic Creature), the artistic benefits of boredom, finding her style(s), drawing for online vs. print (and color vs. b/w), her strategy for surviving comic cons and festivals, how she got a gig publishing comics at VICE, the disconcerting discovery that she had an audience, and how she strikes a balance of cartooning, being in a band, and tending bar! Give it a listen! And buy her newest books, Time Clock and Bright-Eyed At Midnight (my personal fave of all her work)!
“I’ve been thinking about this one project for five years, and that’s been keeping me from starting it. I feel like it could be amazing or it could be terrible, and I just have to spend a few years on it to figure that out.”
This episode was recorded at the School of Visual Arts, where Leslie studied. Past guest Nathan Fox, chair of the MFA Visual Narrative Department at SVA, offered us a space to record. SVA’s low-residency MFA Visual Narrative Program includes two years online and three summers in NYC. The program focuses on the growing need for original content creators in advertising, video games, picture books, graphic novels, film, comic arts, illustration and animation, and it prepares artists and authors to become innovators in the ever-evolving art of visual storytelling. Now go listen to the show!
“I started diary comics on a whim, which is how I approach everything.”
About our Guest
Leslie Stein is a cartoonist and musician living in Brooklyn, New York. She is the author of the comic book series Eye of the Majestic Creature, as well as the author of Bright-Eyed At Midnight, a collection of diary comics, both published by Fantagraphics Books. She regularly contributes comics to VICE. She plays music with Prince Rupert’s Drops.
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 School of Visual Arts on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on the same setup, inside a closet in Des Allemands, LA. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro. Photo of Ms. Stein by me.
“The enemy of the artist is self-consciousness. You can’t be writing for anyone, because that’ll paralyze you.”
Phoebe Gloeckner, the author of The Diary of a Teenage Girl: An Account in Words and Pictures joins the podcast on way too little sleep to talk about transgressing borders: national borders, panel borders, and familial borders. We talk about Diary’s hybrid structure and why it would have been unpitchable to a publisher (luckily, she had a two-book contract), the tightrope of portraying a 15-year-old girl’s affair with her mother’s 30-something boyfriend without making her strictly a victim or “asking for it”, and some audiences’ obsession with “the facts” of the book. We also get into her ongoing, decade-long multi-media project to recreate a life in Juarez, Mexico, her place in the comics scene (too young for the undergrounds, too old for the alternatives), her unrepeatable approach to making art, and more! Give it a listen! And buy Diary of a Teenage Girl!
“If I thought of myself as a victim, there was nobody who was going to feel sorry for me, or help me. I was a victim, but a teenager in that situation doesn’t feel like a victim. The minute you feel like a victim, any power you have is sucked from you. It’s a dangerous thing to call yourself.”
She also tells a hilarious story about her first meeting with Matt Groening, explains why she’ll never get into another relationship, discusses her attachment to the works of Dr. Ira Lunan Ferguson, and reveals perhaps the most insane version ever of the “reconnecting with your ex on Facebook” phenomenon. Go listen!
“I know there are limits in art, but I reject them as long as I can.”
About our Guest
Phoebe Gloeckner is a graphic novelist and a Professor at the University of Michigan Stamps School of Art and Design. She is the author of The Diary of a Teenage Girl: An Account in Words and Pictures (which was recently made into a film), and A Child’s Life and Other Stories, as well as many short stories, illustrations, and comics which have appeared in a variety of publications over the last 25 years. She has a master’s degree in Biomedical Communications from The University of Texas at Dallas, and was an undergraduate at San Francisco State University. She also studied at Charles University in Prague and L’Unversité D’Aix-Marseille in France. She was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2008. Phoebe is currently working on a multi-media novel based on the lives of several families living on the outskirts of Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. She has traveled frequently to Juárez over the last 10 years to research the project.
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 ink48 Hotel in NYC on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on the same setup. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro. Photo of pissed-off Phoebe by me.
“I’d always been really wowed by the idea of artistic freedom, but that was all just an idea and not a reality. Actually being on the street and talking about artistic integrity is a joke. It’s a joke that’s laughing at you.”
In his new comix memoir, Chicago (Fantagraphics), Glenn Head follows Orwell’s maxim, “Autobiography is only to be trusted when it reveals something disgraceful.” We talk about how he approached his first long-form comic after decades in the field, what prompted him to chronicle his mid-’70s self, the allure of underground comix, how his next work may mirror another bit of Orwelliana, why it’s always good to delate your heroes, what he’s working on next, and more! Give it a listen, and go buy Glenn’s new book!
“I think fools are always sympathetic, because they don’t know better.”
We also talk about our favorite comic stores, what he discovered about storytelling in the process of making Chicago, how he balanced the joys (and hassles) of editing comics anthologies, what he learned studying under Art Spiegelman at SVA, who his toughest (and best) critics are, how becoming a dad revised his understanding of his old man, and what it was like living in NYC through the AIDS years! Go listen!
“I learned that I’m not going to do my best work unless I risk vulnerability and putting myself out there.”
Also, if you want to find out who Glenn is 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 he’s reading and why.
About our Guest
Glenn Head was born in 1958 in Morristown, NJ, and began drawing comics when he was fourteen. His work has appeared in many places—from The Wall Street Journal to Screw. Others include The New York Times, Playboy, New Republic, Sports Illustrated, Advertising Age, Interview and Entertainment Weekly. Glenn’s fine art has been exhibited in New York and across the country: Exit Art’s travelling cartoon art show, “Comic Power”; “Art and Provocation: Images from Rebels” at the Boulder Museum of Fine Art; and “The New York Press Illustrator Show” at CBGB’s Gallery. His editorial cartooning appeared in the Inx show at Hofstra University. In the early ‘90s Glenn co-created (with cartoonist Kaz) and edited Snake Eyes, the Harvey Award-nominated cutting-edge comix anthology series. His solo books include Avenue D and Guttersnipe – underground urban comix that capture the intense, gritty underbelly of streetlife. Head was a frequent contributor to the Fantagraphics’ comix anthology quarterly Zero Zero. The Simon & Schuster’s comic book anthology Mind Riot featured Glenn’s work – a collection of personal stories depicting teenage angst. His project, Head Shots, a sketchbook of cartoon art, followed. From 2005 to 2010 Glenn edited and contributed to the Harvey and Eisner-nominated anthology Hotwire (three issues). Over the past six years Glenn created his graphic epic, Chicago. This coming-of-age memoir centers around a starry eyed 19-year-old with dreams of underground comics glory as he encounters his heroes, faces homelessness, despair, insanity . . . and somehow survives.
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 Virtual Memories Headquarters on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on the same setup. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro. Photo of Mr. Head by me.
“I don’t think you can go predict when you go into a long-term memoir project, that the people you’re writing about will see their lives profoundly change.”
Carol Tyler spent 10 years making Soldier’s Heart: The Campaign to Understand My WWII Veteran Father: A Daughter’s Memoir (Fantagraphics). We sat down at her home in Cincinnati to talk about her perspective on the book now that it’s in her rear-view mirror. We also talk about the glass ceiling for female cartoonists, what it means to be a parent first and cartoonist second, how her dad’s PTSD affected so much of her life, how she drew the last part of Soldier’s Heart in hospital rooms, going on food stamps in the midst of this project, her struggle to retain her hippie-ish enthusiasm during a period of heavy loss (4 family members and 3 close friends in 4 years), and how she broke into a frat-house to steal post-party empties for recycling. It’s a fun, deep conversation with a master cartoonist (even when it borders on Gil-as-therapist), so give it a listen!
“I couldn’t solve my dad’s problems. I couldn’t solve him.”
I’m not kidding about the therapist business; we get into some really thoughtful stuff about how she dealt with her dad’s behavior, how she sorta tries to replace him now, and how it might lead her into whole new modes of storytelling. Go listen!
“Color speaks; it sings like music! It’s non-language-oriented. When i use it, it helps me tap into what is nonverbal so I can communicate those emotions.”
Also, if you want to find out who she’s reading nowadays and get a list of the books and comics we talked about, join our Patreon and become a monthly contributor to The Virtual Memories Show! The first bonus episode (coming Jan. 31) includes a conversation with Carol about how she became a reader, and the author she goes back to read perennially.
About our Guest
Carol Tyler is an award-winning comic book artist & writer best known for autobiographical stories. She received an MFA in painting from Syracuse University in the 1980s and soon after began to get her work published in San Francisco with Robert Crumb. At ComicCon in 1988, Tyler was awarded the Dori Seda Memorial award for Best New Female Cartoonist. Her work has received top honors, including ten Eisner Award nominations, the LA Book Prize, and multiple Harvey and Ignatz nominations. “The Hannah Story” was named on the list of the Top 100 Cartoonists of the Century. Her latest book is Soldier’s Heart: The Campaign to Understand My WWII Veteran Father: A Daughter’s Memoir (Fantagraphics). It describes the author’s relationship with her father and how his PTSD shaped her childhood and affected her relationships in adulthood. It has been on Time Magazine‘s Top Ten and recently on Rolling Stone Magazine‘s Top 50 Graphic Novels. She has also published two short story collections, The Job Thing (1993) and Late Bloomer (2005), all with Fantagraphics Books. Professor Tyler teaches Comics, Graphic Novels & Sequential Art at the University of Cincinnati and is also a Residency Artist with the Ohio Arts Council.
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 Ms. Tyler’s house 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. Photos of Ms. Tyler 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.