“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 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.