Towards the Stage II: Live Nude Cartoonist

Posted in Uncategorized on 10 August, 17 by cantocomics

“Live Comics Readings? What are you talking about? How does that even work?”

Well, hypothetical reader, I’m glad you asked. And might I add, you look lovely today. That shawl is positively ravishing on you.

A live comics performance can be pretty much anything you want it to be, as far as I’m concerned. But the version that I practice and am most familiar with is one that involves 

  1. Projected images from the comics page (usually a slide show built from single panels)
  2. Live voice acting (usually by the author)
  3. Occasionally sound effects, either live or prerecorded.

If you draw comics–and if you’re reading this, you probably do–you should try doing a live reading sometime. They’re a fun and largely painless way of experiencing the work from a different perspective, and they’re great for boosting sales at conventions–as well as reaching new readers.

I’ve been quite fortunate to have been invited to perform my own and Sophie’s work at a variety of conventions up and down the East Coast. I’ve seen people perform everything from autobio strips about teaching to retellings of Greek mythology to bonkers superhero books to historical retellings of snake smuggling. There’ve been a couple that have really stood out to me though.

The Intergalactic Nemesis is an Austin-based (represent) live comics reading project that has gained considerable traction in the past 5-10 years, having toured These United States and beyond. The format is similar to what I want for Büer’s Kiss: A trio of voice actors in front of a screen, acting out the parts of the comic’s characters in a configuration vaguely reminiscent of  Olde Tyme Radio Serials. I’ve not experienced the comic as an object separate from the performance, but the art was solidly mainstream and competently done. 

On the other end of the production spectrum is a live reading I saw the uncanny Tom Hart give at SPACE in the after hours readings at Kafe Keroac a year or two ago. Those unfamiliar with Hart’s work are heartily recommended to remedy that deficiency post haste. Hart read from his memoir Rosalie Lightning when I saw him at SPACE last year. I’ve never been a huge fan of autobio comics–it’s often too difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff in that genre (and, as with most things, it is primarily chaff)–but Rosalie Lightning is masterful. The book concerns Hart’s loss of his daughter, which is some heavy shit, articulated masterfully and impactfully by Hart’s expert hand. The drawing is simple, at times almost naive, instantly relatable. The storytelling functions similarly: Hart relates the facts and says how he and his wife feel about them (not great). The book is powerful stuff, an unpretentious, unassuming meditation on grief. Hart’s performance is what sold me, though. There were no bells, no whistles, just Hart, a screen, a microphone, and his pain. I felt raw afterwards–I’m not ashamed to say that I cried quite a bit despite the comparatively staid emotional response I’d had to the preceding readings.

I want Büer’s Kiss to fall somewhere between those two performances. I’m not a brave enough creator to share my personal life as honestly as Hart does, but I’m not terribly interested in producing something as poppy or nostalgicas Intergalactic Nemesis. I want polish, but some dings here and there. I want to leave my audience entertained, but with limgering questions and unease. 

Can I pull that off? I’ll let you know in April.

Till next time.

Towards the Stage: a belated Announcement

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on 25 July, 17 by cantocomics

Hello, my dearests. I’m going to try to #makeblogginggreatagain by reactivating this site as a kind of production diary of a piece that I’ll tell you all about below.

This March I became the honored recipient of a grant from the incredible and generous New Hazlett Theater here in Pittsburgh. I’m using this opportunity to expand the world I first began exploring in my pieces for Maple Key Comics way back when. If you follow me on other, slightly easier to update social media sites (Twitter, for example, or Instagram), you’ll have found that almost all my work since the first pages of The Pestle have been devoted to telling stories in this setting. 

The New Hazlett in Deutschetown. A swell place run by swell people.

The project is called Büer’s Kiss (😘😘) and, as with the PestleUntil the Blood Runs Black, and Turmring, is inspired by particular and somewhat obscure historical events. I have been reading an awful lot into the history of disease and epidemiology (the black plague and leprosy/Hansen’s Disease in particular) and that research feeds the fires below the boiler in my brainpan. This is not to say that any of those projects are relations of real historical events or faithful representations of anything aside from my own fevered imaginings (to say nothing of my imaginings about fever). 

Büer’s Kiss is going to be a mulimedia live comics reading performed by myself, my good friend and Dr. Sketchy’s partner Ms. Joanna Becker, and esteemed voice actor and all-round cool dude Ryan Haggerty.  We’ll be doing some live Foley effects as well as voice acting, and it promises to be a pretty interesting experience. I am both trepidatious and excited.

The script is finished, and it’s LONG. The longest I’ve ever written. I managed to get the first draft done in a little over a month, and I’m proud of it.

I’ve started drawing the pages as well, which feels good after having ground on the script for that long. Each one is at 14×17″, which is larger I think than I’ve ever worked. So in short: Bigger, Longer, More Important to my Career than anything I’ve ever done. No pressure.

This project comes after several years of performing live comics (usually Sophie’s) at conventions up and down the East coast and in the Midwest. 

I hope to be able to take this project on tour, either as a separate piece from my normal cartooning practice or as an extension. What you can expect to see in this space over the coming months of frantic preparation are:

  1. Pro(c/gr)ess posts
  2. Thoughts about Live Comics Readings 
  3. Brief asides about history and research
  4. Jokes
  5. Florid prose

All hopefully in a relatively regular schedule of updates. I’m drawing whenever I have time at the moment, but as winter approaches I’ll likely be at the drawing board more frequently.

I’m also in the midst of a very busy time in my other creative pursuits–those being hosting burlesque events and Dr. Sketchy’s Drink & Draw nights–both of which are just a hoot and a holler, but take a bit of time away from the other work.

In short, it is an exciting time to be me, and I’m looking forward to sharing with you.

The Pestle, Pt.1

Posted in Uncategorized on 6 February, 15 by cantocomics

PESTIL_1_TITLE_COLOR_PASTA
I present to you, dear and patient reader, the first installment of my current project, The Pestle. Behind the cut are the first twenty pages of what will be a seventy some odd page story, which is currently running in Maple Key Comics. Print editions, at the time of this writing, are available for purchase in the shop, and the third chapter is nearing completion–soon to be available in Maple Key Comics Issue 6.

You can get a print edition of this chapter in Maple Key Comics 4, and the second part in Maple Key Comics 5!

Continue reading

Writing Blog Tour: The Plot Congeals

Posted in Comics Pages, tbdathathotw with tags , , , , on 7 July, 14 by cantocomics

The lovely Sophie Goldstein tagged me in this Writing Blog Tour thing that’s been making the rounds among cartoonists I know. Longtime followers of this blog will have noticed I’ve not been using it much in the past couple of years, but it makes sense for me to do this here, I think. So, onwards:

pospencil

1. What am I working on?

The last few months have been spent, to a large extent, on projects for Maple Key Comics. For the book’s second issue, I completed a 24-pager called “A Sickness Upon the Land,” which was a refreshing diversion from my work on The Black Dog and the Hole at the Heart of the World. I’m also working on the fourth chapter of Black Dog and a three-parter called “The Pestle,” the latter of which will be serialized in Maple Key Comics issues 4-6.
I guess I’m doing some freelance stuff too–book design and branding for a few different people.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

This is a tricky question. Black Dog, I think, has similar elements to an indie comic like Adrian Tomine’s Optic Nerve (if I may be permitted to make that comparison), but with a generous dose of House of Leaves and some jokes and pop-cultural references thrown in. It’s talky.

TBDATHATHOTW3_WIP_16

“A Sickness,” on the other hand, is a horror/fantasy thing based on a fallacious medical concept that I read about in Roy Porter’s most excellent history Flesh in the Age of Reason. I know there’s a lot of #grimdark fantasy going around right now, what with the outlandish popularity of Game of Thrones and Mormon young adult novels in which vampires have to chew their babies out of their mothers’ wombs, but “A Sickness” is focused a lot on medicine, magic, and their intersection.

ASUTL_spotted_1

“The Pestle” has a similar focus, but is more of a morality play than the aforementioned. With “the Pestle” I’m trying to focus on some class issues, the omission of which from fantasy novels has long troubled me.

3. Why do I write what I do?

Why indeed. I’ve always thought of my writing as being somewhat exploratory–I’m always trying to think my way through a problem or a concept when I’m writing. With The Black Dog and the Hole at the Heart of the World, it’s a personal problem–looking back at my romantic history and the periods where I thought I was unlovable due to some unforgivable and unresolvable defect.

ASUTL_SPOTTED_7

With “A Sickness” it’s this old idea about the soul being something physical, a substance that can be withdrawn from the body. I wanted to do something with monsters and ghosts and things that are more fun to draw than people talking. “The Pestle” deals a lot with the town and surroundings of Hanover, NH, home of Dartmouth College. Much of the area around Hanover is pretty severely economically depressed, whereas Hanover is very affluent. Through writing this fiction, I’m attempting to explore that while entertaining myself and my eventual readers.

4. How does your writing process work?

It tends to work in stages: First, I’ll read about or encounter an idea–recently, it’s been stuff about premodern medicine–that sticks in my mental craw. The idea rattles around back there, picking up other pieces of intellectual detritus–with “The Pestle,” it’s that thing about Hanover, some stuff about Solomon’s Lesser Key, and the Schola Medica Salernitana–until one day something clicks into place, and a plot begins to coalesce around this skeleton of ideas.
Then I start writing. I work full-script most of the time, so I write the whole thing out by hand before I start doing any real drawing. Then I type it up and make copious adjustments before going on to thumbnails, then thumbnails to page, all the while doing further rewrites and improvising lines here and there. I feel pretty good about myself when I can throw in an extra joke or revealing line while I’m penciling.


I’m  going to pass the torch to C.J. Joughin, Jesse H. Mead, and Kevin Uehlein for the next leg of the tour–Good luck guys! I’m looking forward to WINDOWS OPENING INTO YOUR MINDS.

 

 

The Black Dog and the Hole at the Heart of the World, Part 2

Posted in Comics Pages, tbdathathotw with tags , , , , , , , , on 9 September, 13 by cantocomics

I don't think it'll show up on the internet, but there are some seriouslt interesting halftone patterns in the print edition.

In celebration of my completion and printing of part 3, here’s the second part of the Black Dog and the Hole at the Heart of the World for FREE. Don’t say I never gave you nothin’!

Part 3 is now available at my BigCartel shop for pretty darn cheap–help a brother out! Continue reading

Backgrounds and the Hole at the Heart of the World

Posted in existential, hipster, romance, tbdathathotw with tags , , , on 24 March, 13 by cantocomics

A friend of mine complimented me on the backgrounds in the Black Dog and the Hole at the Heart of the World pt. 2 this week, which naturally swelled my heart. So I thought I’d talk about drawing on lived experience to create environments.

Most of which comes from my recent tenure in Austin, TX, a city at the center of my home state and heart.Courtesy of freeaustinfun.com

As has been observed by countless vapid music and technology journalists, Austin has a pretty unique character: an island of liberalism in the middle of God’s Country, Austin boasts one of the liveliest music scenes in the US, a sizable visual art community, and reasonably functional public transit.

Which looks similar to this.

So the city in Black Dog and the Hole at the Heart of the World is basically Southeast Austin.

Part 1, Page 14, Panel 1

Courtesy of CitySearch.net

(Above: East Oltorf, more or less. I used to live in an apartment complex a little off the main street here with my brother. Shout out to Eric!)

I didn’t have a camera when I was living there, and I wasn’t really drawing as much as I should have been, so all I really have to go off of is my memory and Google, which serve nicely when I can remember what neighborhood on which I want to base the location.

I’m not using Google as much as I am my memory, though. I know that if I were to attempt to slavishly reproduce every neighborhood I want Caleb and Gabi to visit in this book I’d probably lose interest faster than your grandad diving into W.G. Sebald’s Austerlitz. So I’ve been trying to evoke an emotional likeness to Austin rather than a photographic likeness, which is, I think, more accurate.

(Do you remember what the bus stops looked like near your first apartment? Or do you remember what happened there?
Do you remember the logo of the pho place near Gordon’s house, or do you remember the first time he asked you out?
Do you remember the precise name of every business on South Congress Ave., or do you remember talking with Becca about how fitted jeans are a corporonormative fashion? Do you remember making up the word “corporonormative?” )

From Part 2, based on South Congress Street in AustinWe don’t remember specific details about our environments until they’re made important to us by emotional involvement,  I think. Which is why it’s so easy for cartoonists to draw only the barest suggestions of their characters’ surroundings, and why I can get away with only using one-point perspective most of the time.
I guess the Black Dog and the Hole at the Heart of the World could really be set anywhere; but because I lived in Austin for a while, it makes more sense to me to reference those spaces with which I am familiar.

Of course, some of my referenced locations aren’t actually in Austin; some are a bit closer to my current home in Vermont:

Outside 2DOGS BARCJs at Than Wheelers Tavern

(They’re pretty similar, trust.)

There’ll be something new in the store tomorrow! Keep your eyes peeled.

The Black Dog and the Hole at the Heart of the World, pt 1

Posted in Comics Pages, existential, hipster, romance, tbdathathotw, Unsettling with tags , , , , , , , , , on 14 February, 13 by cantocomics

Image Continue reading