“I think I made three cartoons about Jane Austen before I got around to reading a Jane Austen novel. And then I thought, ‘Oh, this is really good!'”
Cartoonist & illustrator Tom Gauld joins the show to talk about his new book, Mooncop (Drawn & Quarterly), and developing a post-optimistic view of the future. We get into his drawing and storytelling influences, how he got a weekly gig doing literary gags at The Guardian, why he likes doing illustration work, the time he melted down when he met his comics-idols, how he got his first New Yorker cover, the two key elements of productivity for all artists and writers (coffee & walking) and more! Give it a listen! And go buy Mooncop! (and his other books, Goliath and You’re All Just Jealous of My Jetpack!)
“I never tailored my work to an audience, other than just trying to make what I think is funny.”
We also get into the importance of the hand-drawn line, the question of collaborating with a writer, the balance of long-form comics and weekly assignments, his schoolteacher’s rapprochement with his compulsive cartooning, the challenge of doing literary comics while trying not to read too deeply, the scope-creep of doing the cover for the Drawn & Quarterly 25th anniversary collection, why weaknesses are as important as strengths to one’s style, and why he REALLY needs to learn to draw hands. Now go listen to the show!
“The constraints of illustration work are actually liberating. . . . I think I’d go crazy if I had to draw comics all the time.”
About our Guest
Tom Gauld was born in 1976 and grew up in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. He is a cartoonist and illustrator and his work is regularly published in The Guardian, The New York Times, and The New Scientist. His comic books, Mooncop, Goliath, and You’re All Just Jealous of My Jetpack, are published by Drawn & Quarterly. He lives in London with his family.
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 the Bethesda North Marriott home 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. Photo of Mr. Gould by me.
“There’s a deeper music that runs through and beneath the Bible.”
Biblical scholar David M. Carr joins the show to talk about his book, Holy Resilience: The Bible’s Traumatic Origins (Yale University Press). We get into how the Hebrew and Christian scriptures were shaped, the parallels between trauma and religion, the personal trauma that led to his thesis, the perils of applying modern psychology to people in antiquity, how he balances his faith with his scholarship, the problems with seeing yourself as “chosen”, the personal and communal trauma of 9/11 (it gets pretty heavy), and more! Give it a listen! And go buy Holy Resilience!
“I find Paul a fascinating figure. He’s incredibly irritating. He’s all over the place, in some ways. You can never pin him down. But he’s grappling with the reality of life, and life is itself untamable, so it’s an untamable text.”
We also discuss his favorite parts of scripture (something Old, something New), the social justice work that drew him into biblical scholarship, the difference between writing for other scholars and writing for a lay audience, the conflicted nature of Paul the Apostle and the enormous ramifications of that conflict, the tension between monotheism and cosmotheism, and the uncanny nature of celebrating the Cross as a symbol. BONUS: I ramble about visiting a sculpture exhibition in a cow pasture (photoset over here, plus these whitewalkers below)! Now go listen to the show!
“For some people this may be their first encounter with seeing the Bible as a human product, and it can be a little shocking.”
About our Guest
David Carr is Professor of Old Testament/Hebrew Bible at Union Theological Seminary in New York. Over his decades-long academic career, he has become an international authority on the formation of the Bible, ancient scribal culture, and issues of the Bible and sexuality. He has written numerous books and articles, including The Erotic Word: Sexuality, Spirituality, and the Bible and Writing on the Tablet of the Heart: Origins of Scripture and Literature, both published by Oxford University Press. He is now working on a major scholarly commentary on Genesis 1-11.
Decades into a career as a biblical scholar, he suffered a life-threatening bicycle accident that changed his view of the scriptures he had devoted his life to studying. As he grappled with his own individual trauma and survival of it, he became interested in how the collective trauma of Israel and the early church had shaped the Bible. He saw that these holy texts are defined by survival of communal catastrophe. This is part of what makes them special, what made them last. The result of this basic insight is Carr’s work, Holy Resilience: The Bible’s Traumatic Origins (Yale University Press).
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 Mr. Carr’s 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 enCORE 200 Microphone feeding into a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. Photo of Mr. Carr by me.
It’s time for our year-end Virtual Memories tradition: The Guest List! I reached out to 2015’s podcast guests and asked them about the favorite book(s) they read in the past year, as well as the books or authors they’re hoping to read in 2016! More than 30 responded with a dizzying array of books. (I participated, too!) So now that you’ve got your Hanukkah and/or Christmas gelt, the Virtual Memories Show offers up a huge list of books that you’re going to want to read! Get ready to update your wish lists!
This year’s Guest List episode features selections from nearly 3 dozen of our recent guests! So go give it a listen, and then visit our special Guest List page where you can find links to the books and the guests who responded.
About our Guests
The guests who participated in this year’s Guest List are Derf Backderf, Anthea Bell, John Clute, Michael Dirda, Matt Farber, Jonathan Galassi, Brad Gooch, Langdon Hammer, Liz Hand, Jennifer Hayden, Ron Hogan, Dylan Horrocks, David Jaher, Kathe Koja, Jonathan Kranz, Peter Kuper, Lorenzo Mattotti, JD McClatchy, Scott McCloud, Michael Meyer, Dan Perkins (a.k.a. Tom Tomorrow), Summer Pierre, Witold Rybczynski, Dmitry Samarov, Elizabeth Samet, Liesl Schillinger, Posy Simmonds, Levi Stahl, Rupert Thomson, Irvine Welsh, Warren Woodfin, Jim Woodring, Claudia Young, and me, Gil Roth! Check out their episodes at our archives!
Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission from the artist. Most of the episode was recorded at Virtual Memories Manor on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. A few segments were recorded by the guests and e-mailed in (which is to say: don’t blame me!). Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro.
“The things we were seeing on the lamppost that would wash away, the art on the walls that would get painted over: we wanted to codify that in World War 3 Illustrated.”
Alt-comix lifer Peter Kuper joins the show to talk about his new graphic novel, RUINS (Self-Made Hero), a beautiful book about American expats in Oaxaca, Mexico during last decade’s political upheaval. Peter also talks about co-creating World War 3 Illustrated and the legacy that anthology has left since its inception in 1979 (!), how surprised he finds himself to be teaching at Harvard, how he fights despair over the fight against climate change, the need to build one’s own artistic scene, what it’s like to be one of the only people who actually followed through on the “if Bush/Cheney are re-elected, I’m leaving America” pledge, and more! Give it a listen!
“For me, the safest thing has been doing things I love. I’m an atheist, but I’ve had the experience of putting in the love and the effort and have come to believe that it’ll work out. I know a tremendous amount of it is luck, but persistence and putting yourself in the way of possibility has worked.”
Seriously, Peter Kuper’s a legend in cartooning, and this wide-ranging conversations covers a lot of territory, including his revelations about murals in Mexican art, the wide variety of art-styles he employs, the economics of cartooning, the sink-or-swim experience his parents subjected him to in Israel (and why that led him to do the same to his kid in Mexico), the devaluation of political humor, the GOP candidate he fears the most, and the historical knowledge of comics his students at Harvard and SVA have (or don’t have), so go listen to our conversation and then go buy Ruins!
“We all draw. Every kid draws. For whatever reason, we give it up. I encourage people to keep it there. Why not sketch for pleasure? Turning it into a career is a whole other bag.”
We talk about some books in this episode. Here’s a list of them:
- Ruins – Peter Kuper
- Diario de Oaxaca: A Sketchbook Journal of Two Years in Mexico – Peter Kuper
- Stop Forgetting to Remember: The Autobiography of Walter Kurtz – Peter Kuper
- World War 3 Illustrated: 1979-?2014
- The System – Peter Kuper
- 7 Miles A Second – James Romberger, David Wojnarowicz, Marguerite Van Cook
- Flood!: A Novel in Pictures – Eric Drooker
- Watchmen – Alan Moore, David Gibbons
- The Arab of the Future: A Childhood in the Middle East, 1978-1984: A Graphic Memoir – Riad Sattouf
- The Complete Persepolis – Marjane Satrapi
- All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr
- The Martian – Andy Weir
- Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation – Bill Nye
- The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History – Elizabeth Kolbert
- Climate Changed: A Personal Journey through the Science – Philippe Squarzoni
- After Dark – Haruki Murakami
- Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage – Haruki Murakami
About our Guest
Peter Kuper has created over a dozen graphic novels, including The System, Sticks and Stones, and an adaptation of Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis. He is co-founder of the political graphics magazine World War 3 Illustrated and since 1997 has written and drawn “Spy Vs Spy” for MAD Magazine. He has been teaching comics courses for over 25 years in New York City and is a visiting professor at Harvard University. His new book is RUINS.There’s a more extensive 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 at Mr. Kuper’s studio 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. Kuper by Holly Kuper.
“I always get asked, ‘Could you draw properly if you want to?’ Also, ‘Who writes your jokes?’ Oh, and, ‘Have you ever thought of doing something serious?'”
UK cartooning legend Posy Simmonds, MBE, author of Gemma Bovery and Tamara Drewe, joins the show for a charming conversation about her career as a “literary” cartoonist, her childhood in postwar Britain, where she was raised on American comics and Americana, the allure of London, her top methods of procrastination, why her characters occasionally get trampled by livestock, what the French word is for comics with too many word balloons, and more! Give it a listen!
“The eternal thing in Madame Bovary is what the French call ‘bovarisme’, being very dissatisfied with your lot, and wanting to change it. We see it all the time: ‘If I get a new nose or new tits, I’ll be someone different!'”
We also talk about seeing her work turned into movies, her regret at not being able to attend San Diego Comic-Con the years she was an invited guest (!), the challenges of transporting Madame Bovary into modern-day France, working in serial format in The Guardian where she drew “giraffe comics”, and more, so go listen!
We talk about some books and comics in this episode. Here’s a list of them:
- Tamara Drewe – Posy Simmonds
- Gemma Bovery – Posy Simmonds
- True Love – Posy Simmonds
- Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
- Far from the Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
- Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic – Alison Bechdel
- Ethel and Ernest: A True Story – Raymond Briggs
- Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
- Rabbit, Run – John Updike
- The Centaur – John Updike
About our Guest
Posy Simmonds was born in 1945 and brought up near Cookham in Berkshire, England. She studied French (briefly) at The Sorbonne and graphic design at Central St Martins, London. While trying to find work as a cartoonist, she was a dog-walker, a cleaner, a governess, and sold Pyrex in Harrods. Her first commission was in The Times in 1968 – 5 tiny illustrations about loft insulation.
She is best known for the strip cartoons and serials that were published in The Guardian and the books that derive from them. These include Mrs Weber’s Diary, True Love, Literary Life and the graphic novels, Gemma Bovery and Tamara Drewe. Tamara Drewe was an Essentiel d’Angoulême in 2008, and won the Prix Des Critiques. Both novels have been made into feature films: Tamara Drewe, directed by Stephen Frears in 2010 and Gemma Bovery, directed by Anne Fontaine in 2014.
Posy has also written and drawn several books for children which include Baker Cat, and Fred, whose film version was nominated for an Oscar in 1996. Her work has been shown in exhibitions organised by the Arts Council and British Council, and in 2012 she had a retrospective exhibition at the Belgian Comic Strip Centre in Brussels. She is married and lives in London and is currently working on another novel.
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. Simmonds’ 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. Photos of Ms. Simmonds by me.
“Comics is a medium that isn’t going to go away. It may just now finally be coming into its own in the 21st century. In this internet era, there’s something very special about what comics do, no matter how much they get warped and changed by technology.”
More than 30 years after taking on the role of British comics’ Man at the Crossroads, Paul Gravett remains at the center of the global comics scene. We had an in-depth conversation about the growth of comics as an art form, the surprise of seeing local manga in Algeria, why he considers himself less of a comics historian or curator than a comics activist, how it feels to have been the first publisher of some of the finest cartoonists of our time, and why he should be called Paul “Mission To Explain” Gravett. Give it a listen!
“I’m probably slightly insane for wanting to go on looking and searching and questioning and provoking myself, trying to find stuff that doesn’t give me what I know already.”
Along the way, Paul and I also talk about his new book, Comics Art (Yale University Press), the new exhibition he’s curating for the British Library, Comics Unmasked: Art & Anarchy in the UK, the history of comics and his history within it, and the way virtually every lifelong comics reader’s home winds up resembling an episode of Hoarders. Paul Gravett is one of comics’ finest ambassadors, and it was a pleasure to talk with him during my recent UK trip. (Oh, and here’s a link to that Richard McGuire comic we effuse about!)
- Tom Spurgeon
- Roger Langridge
- Mike Kupperman / Ivan Brunetti
- Peter Bagge
- Maxim Jakubowski
- Ben Katchor
About our Guest
Paul Gravett is a London-based freelance journalist, curator, lecturer, writer and broadcaster, who has worked in comics publishing and promotion since 1981. Under the Escape Publishing imprint, he co-published Violent Cases in 1987, the first collaboration between Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean, three volumes of Eddie Campbell’s Alec between 1984 and 1986, and London’s Dark in 1988 by James Robinson and Paul Johnson. Since 2003, Paul has been the director of Comica, the London International Comics Festival. His very extensive bio can be found at his website.
Credits: This episode’s music is The Boy With the Jigsaw Puzzle Fingers by Karl Hyde. The conversation was recorded at the Hilton London Euston on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H4n recorder. The intro and outro were recorded on Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Garage Band. Photo of Paul Gravett by me.