“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.
“I was so excited to get an issue of Weirdo in the mail. I ran up my driveway and saw my neighbor and said, ‘Look! I got a letter from Robert Crumb!’ And he said, ‘Who’s that?’ And I thought, ‘Here’s my introduction to the mainstream appreciation of underground comics.'”
Viva Cubismo! Mary Fleener joins the show to talk about her career in cartooning, her love/hate relationship with LA (mostly hate now, but there was a little love in the early days), the Zora Neale Hurston story that made a cartoonist out of her, the story of how Matt Groening accidentally derailed her career, her past-life regression while attending the King Tut exhibition in 1978, the roots of her Cubismo comics style, the joys of simplifying her life, the new book she’s working on, the horrors of The Comics Journal‘s message board, and more! Give it a listen!
“When I was going to college, you’d pass the guys selling ‘Muhammad Speaks,’ then you’d run into the Hare Krishnas, then there’d be the La Raza guys, then the Jesus freaks. Everything was in flux. Everybody was getting in cults. Everyone was either asking you for money or trying to convert you.”
About our Guest
Mary Fleener was born in Los Angeles when smog was at an all time high, Hollywood was still glamorous, and every woman’s ambition was to own a mink coat. Inherited good art genes from her mother and never wanted to do anything else. A collection of her comics was published in 1994 by Fantagraphics as Life of the Party. Her Illustration work has appeared in The SD Reader, OC Weekly, The Village Voice, SPIN, Guitar Player, Musician, and Entertainment Weekly, as well as projects like The Guitar Cookbook, Weird Tales of the Ramones (CD box set), Star Time (the James Brown CD box set), Carlsbad Museum of Making Music – “Hands on the Future” exhibit, and CD covers for The Insect Surfers and Buddy Blue. Her paintings have been exhibited at La Luz de Jesus Gallery, Track 16, David Zapt Gallery, Laguna Beach Art Museum Annex, LACE (Los Angeles), COCA (Seattle), Southwestern College, Patricia Correia Gallery, Sushi Gallery and Ducky Waddle’s Emporium. She also enjoys making hand-built ceramics and wheel thrown functional pieces that she glazes and fires in her own kiln. She enjoys painting on velvet, that which we all consider the King of Kitsch, but which also makes her color and “cubismo” style of drawing even more dramatic and mysterious on the plush background of black velvet. She lives is in Encinitas, CA, with her husband, a dog, a cat, and lots of stringed instruments. They have a band called The Wigbillies.
Credits: This episode’s music is Boomcubism by Brian Eno. The conversation was recorded at Ms. Fleener’s home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. The intro and outro were recorded on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Garage Band. Photos of Ms. Fleener by me.
“I was asking not to be taken seriously, but I was also getting annoyed that I wasn’t being taken seriously.”
Peter Bagge, the comics legend behind Hate!, Neat Stuff, Apocalypse Nerd and Everybody is Stupid Except for Me, joins us to talk about his new book, Woman Rebel: The Margaret Sanger Story. We have a great conversation about why he chose to write about the founder of Planned Parenthood, how he made the shift from fiction to nonfiction comics, who his favorite “pre-feminist feminists” are, why he decided to stick with comic books over paperback books (and why he came around on the latter), what the strangest sketchbook request he ever received is, and how he feels about being a comics convention prostitute.
We also talk about how he never got a word of approval from his dad or his editor, how his libertarian politics got him ostracized after the 2008 election (and how some people seem to be coming around on that), why he doesn’t draw elbows, and what it felt like to be considered the “least insane of cartoonists” by R. Crumb.
About our Guest
Peter Bagge‘s newest book is Woman Rebel: The Margaret Sanger Story. He is best known for the 1990s comic book series Hate!, which followed the exploits of slacker ne’er-do-well Buddy Bradley (collected vols. 1, 2, and 3). He is a contributor to Reason magazine, which led to the collection Everybody Is Stupid Except For Me, and Other Acute Observations, and his work has appeared in Weirdo (where he served as managing editor), The Stranger, New York Press, Entertainment Weekly, Details, Seattle Weekly, Screw, and more. He is also the author of Peter Bagge’s Other Stuff, Reset, Apocalypse Nerd, Other Lives, and Bat Boy: The Weekly World News Comic Strips, among other works.
Credits: This episode’s music is Hateful Notebook by the Descendents. The conversation was recorded at the Bethesda North Marriott during SPX 2013 on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 mics feeding into a Zoom H4n recorder. The intro and outro were recorded in my home office on a Blue Yeti USB microphone. File-splitting is done on a Mac Mini using Audacity. All editing and processing was done in Garage Band. Photo by me.