Conversations with Comic Artists Series

Published by: University Press of Mississippi

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Conversations with Comic Artists Series

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Chester Brown

Conversations

Dominick Grace

The early 1980s saw a revolution in mainstream comics--in subject matter, artistic integrity, and creators' rights--as new methods of publishing and distribution broadened the possibilities. Among those artists utilizing these new methods, Chester Brown (b. 1960) quickly developed a cult following due to the undeniable quality and originality of his Yummy Fur (1983-1994).

Chester Brown: Conversations collects interviews covering all facets of the cartoonist's long career and includes several pieces from now-defunct periodicals and fanzines. Brown was among a new generation of artists whose work dealt with decidedly nonmainstream subjects. By the 1980s comics were, to quote a by-now well-worn phrase, "not just for kids anymore," and subsequent censorious attacks by parents concerned about the more salacious material being published by the major publishers--subjects that routinely included adult language, realistic violence, drug use, and sexual content--began to roil the industry. Yummy Fur came of age during this storm and its often-offensive content, including dismembered, talking penises, led to controversy and censorship.

With Brown's highly unconventional adaptations of the Gospels, and such comics memoirs as The Playboy (1991/1992) and I Never Liked You (1991-1994), Brown gradually moved away from the surrealistic, humor oriented strips toward autobiographical material far more restrained and elegiac in tone than his earlier strips. This work was followed by Louis Riel (1999-2003), Brown's critically acclaimed comic book biography of the controversial nineteenth-century Canadian revolutionary, and Paying for It (2011), his best-selling memoir on the life of a john.

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Dave Sim

Conversations

Eric Hoffman

In 1977, Dave Sim (b. 1956) began to self-publish Cerebus, one of the earliest and most significant independent comics, which ran for 300 issues and ended, as Sim had planned from early on, in 2004. Over the run of the comic, Sim used it as a springboard to explore not only the potential of the comics medium but also many of the core assumptions of Western society. Through it he analyzed politics, the dynamics of love, religion, and, most controversially, the influence of feminism--which Sim believes has had a negative impact on society. Moreover, Sim inserted himself squarely into the comic as Cerebus's creator, thereby inviting criticism not only of the creation, but also of the creator.

What few interviews Sim gave often pushed the limits of what an interview might be in much the same way that Cerebus pushed the limits of what a comic might be. In interviews Sim is generous, expansive, provocative, and sometimes even antagonistic. Regardless of mood, he is always insightful and fascinating. His discursive style is not conducive to the sound bite or to easy summary. Many of these interviews have been out of print for years. And, while the interviews range from very general, career-spanning explorations of his complex work and ideas, to tightly focused discussions on specific details of Cerebus, all the interviews contained herein are engaging and revealing.

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Ed Brubaker

Conversations

Edited by Terrence R. Wandtke

Ed Brubaker (b. 1966) has emerged as one of the most popular, significant figures in art comics since the 1990s. Most famous as the man who killed Captain America in 2007, Brubaker’s work on company-owned properties such as Batman and Captain America and creator-owned series like Criminal and Fatale live up to the usual expectations for the superhero and crime genres. And yet, Brubaker layers his stories with a keen self-awareness, applying his expansive knowledge of American comic book history to invigorate his work and challenge the dividing line between popular entertainment and high art. This collection of interviews explores the sophisticated artist’s work, drawing upon the entire length of the award-winning Brubaker’s career.

With his stints writing Catwoman, Gotham Central, and Daredevil, Brubaker advanced the work of crime comic book writers through superhero stories informed by hard-boiled detective fiction and film noir. During his time on Captain America and his series Sleeper and Incognito, Brubaker revisited the conventions of the espionage thriller. With double agents who lose themselves in their jobs, the stories expose the arbitrary superhero standards of good and evil. In his series Criminal, Brubaker offered complex crime stories and, with a clear sense of the complicated lost world before the Comics Code, rejected crusading critic Fredric Wertham’s myth of the innocence of early comics.

Overall, Brubaker demonstrates his self-conscious methodology in these often little-known and hard-to-find interviews, worthwhile conversations in their own right as well as objects of study for both scholars and researchers.

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Seth

Conversations

edited by Eric Hoffman and Dominick Grace

Canadian cartoonist Gregory Gallant, pen name Seth, emerged as a cartoonist in the fertile period of the 1980s, when the alternative comics market boomed. Though he was influenced by mainstream comics in his teen years and did his earliest comics work on Mister X, a mainstream-style melodrama, Seth remains one of the least mainstream-inflected figures of the alternative comics’ movement. His primary influences are underground comix, newspaper strips, and classic cartooning.

These interviews, including one career-spanning, definitive interview between the volume editors and the artist published here for the first time, delve into Seth’s output from its earliest days to the present. Conversations offer insight into his influences, ideologies of comics and art, thematic preoccupations, and major works, from numerous perspectives—given Seth’s complex and multifaceted artistic endeavors. Seth’s first graphic novel, It’s a Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken, announced his fascination with the past and with earlier cartooning styles. Subsequent works expand on those preoccupations and themes. Clyde Fans, for example, balances present-day action against narratives set in the past. The visual style looks polished and contemplative, the narrative deliberately paced; plot seems less important than mood or characterization, as Seth deals with the inescapable grind of time and what it devours, themes which recur to varying degrees in George Sprott, Wimbledon Green, and The Great Northern Brotherhood of Canadian Cartoonists.

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