With Putin’s Russia: The Rise of a Dictator (Drawn & Quarterly), cartoonist Darryl Cunningham undertook the most intense and difficult process of all of his nonfiction books. We get into Putin’s postwar upbringing in Leningrad, his KGB career and the fall of the USSR, and how those key elements play into his strategy and tactics for Russia on the world stage. We talk about how this book was an outgrowth of his previous Billionaires, what it was like transitioning from the .01% to the REALLY wealthy, the ways in which money is weaponized, the challenges of visually representing Putin and of conveying some of his atrocities on the comic page, the need to push back against authoritarianism, and why he wants people to understand his book is not anti-Russian. We also discuss how he’s taking a break from nonfiction to work on his longform supernatural story, Far Beyond Midnight, on his Patreon, the influence of Dark Shadows on his young mind, what it’s like posting pages online as soon as they’re done and how it affects his creative process, and more! Give it a listen! And go read Putin’s Russia!
About our Guest
Darryl Cunningham is the cartoonist of six non-fiction books, including Supercrash: How to Hijack the Global Economy, Billionaires, and most recently, Putin’s Russia: The Rise of a Dictator. His comics explore subjects as diverse as mental health, science, economics, and politics. He has given talks at the London School of Economics and the City of Arts and Lights, Valencia. In 2015 he was one of 30 world-renowned photographers, painters, sculptors, writers, filmmakers and musicians who were invited to contribute to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Art of Saving a Life project, to promote vaccination in the developing world. In 2018 he was awarded an Honorary Degree of Master of Arts from Leeds Arts University.
Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded remotely via Zencastr. I used 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 Darryl by someone else. It’s on my instagram.