“Time may have taught me things, but I don’t think I learned anything.”
Legendary cartoonist, illustrator, animator, ad-man, artist RO Blechman joins the show to talk about his work and life. We get into the importance of play, the development of his trademark squiggly line (and how he feels when he sees it in other people’s work), his literary upbringing, his News of the Weak series of painting/collages, why he counsels against going to art school, the fateful career decision that he rues 60+ years later, his Mad Men experience and what he learned about management from running his own animation studio, the mistake of turning down a Curious George movie, creating a fore-runner of the graphic novel, and being a 2-D character in a 3-D world. Give it a listen! And go buy all his books, including Dear James: Letters to a Young Illustrator, Amadeo & Maladeo: A Musical Duet, The Juggler of Our Lady, and Talking Lines!
“I really should have been a filmmaker. I really screwed up my life in a terrible way, because I had a chance to be a full-time filmmaker and I threw it away, and it just kills me.”
About our Guest
Born Oscar Robert Blechman in 1930, RO Blechman‘s internationally acclaimed artwork spans decades, mediums, and industries. He is one of the first contemporary cartoonists to pen a full-length graphic novel with The Juggler of Our Lady in 1953, which he published after graduating from Oberlin College. His illustrations and comic strips have graced magazines, anthologies, and newspapers. He has created more than a dozen New Yorker covers. Blechman is also an animated filmmaker, and at one time owned his own animation studio, The Ink Tank. He has been awarded the Gold Medal from the Cannes Film Festival, numerous Emmy Awards, and has been nominated for a BAFTA. In 2002, the Museum of Modern Art held a retrospective of his films. He is also in the Art Directors Hall of Fame, has been an Adweek Illustrator of the Year, and is the creator of many notable advertising campaigns. Blechman is married, has two sons, and lives in Ancram, NY.
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 Mr. Blechman’s farm 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 Mr. Blechman and his wife by me. It’s on my instagram.
“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.
“Before I did I Never Liked You I would think about those high school bullies and I would get angry about them. After doing that book, I was no longer angry. I was able to put them in context and see them as just kids. . . . I think you do see things in your life differently when you’re forced to sit down and write it out and draw it out.”
Chester Brown has carved a singular path in the cartooning world, starting more than 30 years ago with his groundbreaking mini-comic, Yummy Fur. We got together during the Toronto Comic Arts Festival to talk about the evolution of his work, the response to his 2011 book, Paying for It: A Comic-Strip Memoir About Being a John, the many reasons sex workers love him, the perfect Venn diagram of his next book, how he learned to abandon the negative aspects of religion and embrace the good stuff, and more! Give it a listen!
“Ultimately I think we should be working to do away with government as much as possible, and if that means we can do away with government completely, that’d be great. I’m just sure we can get that far.”
More importantly, this episode features the Paying For It Players! Past pod-guest Nina Bunjevac joins Chester to perform a segment from Paying for It! This may be the funniest thing that’s ever happened on the Virtual Memories Show; of course, it wasn’t my idea. If we’re lucky, this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
About our Guest
Chester Brown is best known for two non-fiction graphic novels, Louis Riel: A Comic-Strip Biography (2003) and Paying for It: A Comic-Strip Memoir About Being a John (2011). The former won widespread critical acclaim for its compelling, meticulously researched portrayal of Riel, the charismatic nineteenth century Métis leader, a crucial figure in Canadian history. The book won Harvey Awards for Best Writer and Best Graphic Album and was featured on Quill and Quire‘s list of the five best Canadian non-fiction books of the year, as well as The Globe and Mail‘s list of the 100 best books of the year. Paying for It was also cited by The Globe and Mail as one of the best books of the year.
Chester Brown was born in Montreal, Canada, in May 1960, and grew up in a nearby suburb . At nineteen he moved to Toronto where, in 1983, he began self-publishing his work in photocopied mini-comics under the title Yummy Fur. Those pamphlets attracted the attention of comic book publishers and, in 1986, he began began writing and drawing for the Toronto-based Vortex Comics. The first Vortex issue of Yummy Fur sold well and Brown quit his day job and began working full time as a cartoonist. In the pages of Yummy Fur he serialized a bleakly humorous story called Ed the Happy Clown, which was published as a graphic novel in 1989. It went on to become a cult classic and established his reputation as a prominent cartoonist.
In 1991, Chester signed with the new comic book company Drawn & Quarterly. His The Playboy was released the next year. That was followed by I Never Liked You (1994), an elegant, widely respected memoir about his adolescence. Four years later, his shorter pieces were collected in The Little Man: Short Strips, 1980-1995, which covers his transition from surrealism to autobiographical work.
During the course of his research for Louis Riel, Brown became interested in property rights and libertarianism. In the 2008 and 2011 federal elections, he ran for Parliament as a member of the Libertarian Party of Canada in the downtown Toronto riding of Trinity-Spadina. He lost to incumbent Olivia Chow.
Credits: This episode’s music is Love Will Tear Us Apart by Joy Division. The conversation was recorded at the Toronto Marriott Bloor Yorkville 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 Mr. Brown and Ms. Bunjevac by me.
“I have this one focus in my life, which is that this world isn’t real. There are much more interesting right behind it or in it and sometimes you can glimpse them. Those are the most interesting things. That’s what my work has always been about.”
The great cartoonist Jim Woodring joins the show to talk about comics, surrealism, Vedanta, the principle of fluorescence, and why he may be the reincarnation of Herbert E. Crowley! While he was in town for his first solo gallery show, Jim and I met up to talk about his conception of the universe, how his FRANK comics have and haven’t evolved in 20+ years, how art can convey the existence of something it can’t show, why it’s easier to express the grotesque than the beautiful, why younger cartoonists may be lacking the bitter, competitive drive of past generations, and why I think the Prado is a second-rate museum! Give it a listen!
“I always felt in my post-adolescence that, as soon as I figured out how to say what I wanted to say, there would be some people who would respond to it. I never doubted that people would find the work interesting if I could only produce it properly.”
Bonus: I’ve got BIG NEWS about booking an upcoming guest! It’s in the intro.
About our Guest
Jim Woodring was born in Los Angeles in 1952 and enjoyed a childhood made lively by an assortment of mental and 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 was recently collected in a single edition called 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, Congress of the Animals, and Fran.
Woodring is also known for his anecdotal charcoal drawings (a selection of which was collected 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 in Seattle with his family and residual phenomena.
Credits: This episode’s music is Forest Veil by Lisa Gerrard. The conversation was recorded 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. Woodring by me, photo of art by Jim Woodring.
It’s the ONE-HUNDREDTH EPISODE of The Virtual Memories Show! And they said it would never last! To celebrate hitting the century mark, I asked past guests, upcoming guests and friends of the show to interview me this time around!
This special episode includes questions and recorded segments with Maria Alexander, Ashton Applewhite, John Bertagnolli, Lori Carson, Sarah Deming, Paul Di Filippo, Michael Dirda, Robert Drake, Aaron K. Finkelstein, Mary Fleener, Drew Friedman, Josh Alan Friedman, Kipp Friedman, Richard Gehr, Ben Katchor, Sara Lippmann, Brett Martin, Zach Martin, Seth, Jesse Sheidlower, Ron Slate, Tom Spurgeon, Levi Stahl, Maya Stein, Rupert Thomson, Peter Trachtenberg, Wallis Wilde-Menozzi, Frank Wilson, and Claudia Young.
Find out about my reading childhood, my dream list of pod-guests, my best practices for productivity (don’t have kids!), my favorite interview question, my top guest in the afterlife, the book I’d save if my house was on fire, what I’d do if I won a Macarthur Grant. and more! Give it a listen!
About our Guest
Gil Roth is the host of The Virtual Memories Show and the president of the Pharma & Biopharma Outsourcing Association.
Credits: This episode’s music is Stupid Now by Bob Mould. Several of the conversations were recorded on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro and the self-interview segments on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro. Photo of me by Aaron K. Finkelstein.
Two years in a row? That makes The Guest List a Virtual Memories Show tradition! I reached out to 2014’s podcast guests and asked them about the favorite book(s) they read in the past year. More than 30 of them responded with a fantastic array of books. So, just in time for Hanukkah and Christmas, the Virtual Memories Show provides you with a huge list of of books that you’re going to want to read! Get ready to update your wish lists!
This episode features selections from nearly 3 dozen of our recent guests! So go give it a listen, and then visit the Guest List cheat sheet where you can find links to the books and the guests who responded.
(And check out the 2013 edition of The Guest List, too!)
About our Guests
The guests who contributed their favorite book from the past year — and that’s “favorite book I read in 2014,” not “favorite book that came out in 2014” — are Maria Alexander, Ashton Applewhite, David Baerwald, Nina Bunjevac, Roz Chast, Sarah Deming, Michael Dirda, Jules Feiffer, Mary Fleener, Nathan Fox, Josh Alan Friedman, Richard Gehr, Paul Gravett, Sam Gross, Rachel Hadas, Kaz, Daniel Levine, Sara Lippmann, Merrill Markoe, Brett Martin, Mimi Pond, George Prochnik, Emily Raboteau, Jonathan Rose, Ron Rosenbaum, Dmitry Samarov, Seth, Katie Skelly, Ron Slate, Maya Stein, Rupert Thomson, and Frank Wilson. Check out their episodes at our archives!
Credits: This episode’s music is The Book I Read by Talking Heads. 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 Garage Band.
“Fatherland is really about who my father was, getting to understand him, and also an attempt to explain how politics can tear a family apart, just like they tore apart the people of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.”
Nina Bunjevac‘s new book, Fatherland, explores her family’s fractured history against the backdrop of 20th century Yugoslavia. We talk about how she left her country in 1990 only to find that it wasn’t there when she went back. We also explore the risks and challenges of researching a terrorist organization, the comics tradition in Yugoslavia and her own comics history, Serbia’s culture of friendship, why the Toronto Comic Arts Festival is the best comics event in North America, how I discovered her first book, Heartless, the perils of too much stippling, why it was controversial to publish Fatherland in Serbian dialect in Croatia, and more.
“When I got to Canada when I was 16, I saw an issue of Raw, and that pretty much did it.”
About our Guest
Nina Bunjevac started her art training in Yugoslavia, at the Djordje Krstic School for Applied Arts; in 1990 she moved to Toronto, Canada, where she continued her studies in art at the Art Centre of Central Technical School; in 1997 she graduated from OCAD in the Drawing and Painting department. Formerly a painter, a sculptor and an art teacher, Nina found her calling in sequential arts, a form that seemed to naturally evolve out of the narrative component in her sculpture installation work. Pen and ink became her medium of choice.
Nina’s comics have appeared in a number of local and international publications: Komikaze (Croatia), Black (Italy), GIUDA (Italy), Stripburger (Slovenia), Zone 5300 (Netherlands), Stripolis (Serbia), ArtReview (UK), Asiatroma/Le Dernier Cri (France), Broken Pencil, Exile, Taddle Creek (Canada) and Mineshaft (USA). Her debut collection of comics, Heartless, came out in September 2012 with the Nova Scotia-based publisher Conundrum Press, and was translated and published in France in 2013 by Ici-même Editions. In 2011 Nina received The Golden Pen of Belgrade at the 11th International Biennale of Illustration in Belgrade for the cover image of Balkan Women in Comics (Fibra/Croatia); in 2013 she received The Doug Wright Award in the Spotlight category, also known as The Nipper, for Heartless.
Fatherland: A Family History comes out this month in Canada from Cape Graphic/Random House and will be released in the U.S. in January 2015.
Photo of Nina Bunjevac by David Hawe.
Credits: This episode’s music is Bomba by King Africa (I make no apologies). The conversation was recorded at the Marriott Bloor in Toronto on a Zoom H2n digital recorder (because there was a power supply problem that caused a weird reverb on my main recorder). The intro and outro were recorded on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Garage Band. Photo of Ms. Bunjevac and me by Amy Roth.
The great cartoonist (and designer and illustrator) Seth joins the Virtual Memories Show to talk about memory and time, his love of digression, being “Mr. Old-Timey”, what it means to be a Canadian cartoonist, and learning to let go of the finish and polish that used to characterize his work.
“When I was young, I thought there were an infinite possibility of stories you could do. As you get older, you realize you’re following a thread, and that you don’t have as much choice about what you’re writing about as you thought.”
“Style’s a funny thing. I think it’s important, but I think it’s a matter of the choices the artist makes that lead to the finished product. It is chosen, bit by bit over time, with each decision you make.”
“People only have a limited patience for listening to you go on and on about your own ideas, your own mind, your own memories. Art allows you to have that perfect experience of putting that down on paper without anyone growing tired and making you stop.”
“You add things onto yourself bit by bit through life to create the kind of person you want to be. Eventually, to some degree, it IS you. You picked these things deliberately.”
“There’s some little thing that makes it hard to let it go of trying to create that fetish object you always wanted, that comic strip that looks like the best you can make it.”
About our Guest
Seth is the pen name of Gregory Gallant, a Canadian comic book artist and writer. He is best known for comics such as his ongoing anthology Palookaville, George Sprott: (1894-1975), Wimbledon Green, The Great Northern Brotherhood of Canadian Cartoonists, and It’s a Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken, all published by Drawn and Quarterly. His illustrations have appeared in The New Yorker, The Washington Post, Details, Spin, The New York Times, and Saturday Night, and he has designed books and DVDs for a variety of publishers, including Fantagraphics (The Complete Peanuts), Random House (The Portable Dorothy Parker), and Criterion (Make Way for Tomorrow). Here are his favorite Criterion releases.
Credits: This episode’s music is Time Stand Still by Rush (because Seth’s Canadian, see, and his work revolves around memory and — oh, never mind). The conversation was recorded in Seth’s hotel room during the Toronto Comic Arts Festival 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 Seth by me.