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Centerfold missing, interrupts art and story. Rust migration. Add to cart VF- 7. This is a worthy successor to Invisible Ink , every bit as engrossing and even more poignant. Did your relationship with Zippy the strip, the character change as you undertook this project? Did your relationship with Schlitzie evolve as you completed it? There's an undeniable correlation between Schlitzie and Zippy. I needed to imagine dialogue Schlitzie might have had, based on reports from his late manager, Ward Hall.
I let Zippy enter Schlitzie's head a little. Both are prone to word repetition and non-sequiturs, so Zippy influenced Schlitzie in some imagined scenes like when S. Will Schlitzie bleed into Zippy in future Zippy strips? Time will tell. I think I'd been repressing the long-form narrative in me for decades, concentrating mainly on my daily strip. When I started Invisible Ink , it felt like a dam bursting. The book just flowed--not without the inevitable editing and rearranging, of course. Ever since Maus , I would keep asking myself, "Do I have a graphic novel in me?
After I finished Invisible Ink , I missed the immersion of the long, weaving narrative form, so after a few months, I started Nobody's Fool.
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Once Nobody's Fool was done, the same void opened up again so, a few months ago, I started my next book, a bio of Nancy cartoonist Ernie Bushmiller. I know there were various Zippy movie projects and deals over the years. Were any of those traditionally structured narratives, and did that kind of work help you hone your sense of long form narrative when it came time for these books?
You're absolutely right. No one has ever pointed this out in any interview I've done, about Nobody's Fool , Invisible Ink , or any Zippy collection in which there have been many long narratives embedded in the daily strip. I spent a couple of decades , off and on, writing a total of nine drafts of Zippy live-action as well as animated screenplays, with my wife Diane Noomin and a few others.
Notably, I worked with two Seinfeld writers in the '90s. They taught me a lot about story structure and plot. I became keenly aware of continuity, keeping the narrative flow going along smoothly. I can't tell you how many times, for both books, I had to create "bridge" pages between scenes that felt choppy. If you lose the clear narrative flow, you lose the reader. While choppy cuts are common in film, where the audience receives the experience in a passive state, in comics, the reader is a participant in the story.
It's an intimate, tactile experience to hold a book in your hands, turning the pages. His life is pretty well documented, albeit loosely, from the late s up to his death on What's mysterious are his early years. I'd love to have known what his life was like as a child and a teenager. He was probably taken from his family around the age of eight but his first verified sideshow appearance wasn't until when he was billed as "Tik-Tak, the Aztec Child" in Coney Island.
And I'd love to have eavesdropped on his interactions with Tod Browning on the set of Freaks. One of the themes of this book as well as an ongoing subtext in Zippy is the comfort of the cute. What do the Campbell kids and Felix the Cat mean to Schlitzie? I imagined Schlitzie, like most innocents, would have responded to cute pop culture imagery. Unlike Zippy, who likes to straddle the line where cuteness becomes horrifying, Schlitzie clung to his childhood cute stuff in order to comfort himself.
Zippy doesn't need to comfort himself--he just needs a date with the Pillsbury Doughboy. When Schlitzie hallucinated Felix the Cat, once again, he's doing it be happy. Zippy is more about satire. Schlitzie is about coping. What about your own glucose tolerance? When does cuteness become horrifying for Bill Griffith? Is there a sliding scale? Is your own scale identical to Zippy's? Where does Baby Huey fall? We perceive faces as cute if they conform to that of an infant. So while a real pig has a sloping, wrinkly forehead and a long snout, Porky Pig has a big bulging forehead and a short snout--resembling the proportions of a human infant's face.
A real duck is all beak and small eyes. Baby Huey aptly named, see above has big eyes and fat cheeks. All cuteness has an "aw" factor. Some of us fall for it, while others are repelled. But we're hard-wired to respond to cuteness by liking it--to act parental toward it, to protect it. It's all about preserving the species. Still, there's good cute and bad cute. Hello Kitty takes cuteness into a different place, where infantilism is still going on, but in a flat, diagrammatic style.
It's no accident that Hello Kitty has no narrative. It's cuteness without content, Cuteness for its own sake. A lot of modern cuteness is influenced by Japanese cuteness, with big heads and little bodies pushed to an extreme, unrelated to any story. When does cuteness cross the line into grotesque? For me, it's almost always. Intentional cuteness is, by definition, suspect.
Disney is selling us cuteness--so it's tainted. Mickey Mouse is, essentially, an infant. His rat aspect is subsumed deeply beneath his friendly, child-like face. A few Disney characters escape this syndrome, notably Gyro Gearloose and Goofy. To Zippy, the line between cute and grotesque is blurred in a different way. Zippy can be attracted to, and horrified by, Baby Huey at the same time. In as much as Zippy is a vehicle for satire, this works well for me, because, while I'm basically repulsed by cute, I can't help to be affected by its power.
I feel compelled to analyze it to death. I used to have a collection of cute advertising figurines on display in my studio, but one day, they started to menace me. I took them all down and stored them away. I think this tells you a lot about my feelings toward cuteness. Is it? Have you eliminated the technical struggle? Hard for me to analyze my own drawing. I just like to draw.
I used boatloads of reference material for the book, always intent on accuracy. I figured if I keep the backgrounds rooted in reality, I could let Schlitzie float around crazily inside them. Well, after thousands of Zippy strips, I have significantly added to my repertoire, drawing-wise. Maybe decades of staring at Reginald Marsh paintings helped, too. It feels like some of the pop-culture analysis ground you once covered so adroitly in Griffith Observatory was eventually absorbed into the daily Zippy strip.
Nobody's Fool harnesses elements of both to the engine of history and biography. What is the ideal set of ingredients for a long-form Bill Griffith project? I never really fully turn off my "Noticizer" button. What was the biggest challenge of this project?
The greatest pleasure? The challenge in both of my graphic novels so far was maintaining smooth continuity. Constant reading as I finished pages--by me and my wife Diane Noomin--led to lots of shifting and the need for bridge pages. What seems continuous inside my head was not always true upon reading, so I had to always guard against bumps in the narrative. One bump and the reader could easily lose the flow and, worse, lose interest. Well, doing "location" scenes, setting the stage for the action, was always the easiest part of the job.
The big drawings. Buildings, perspective, cars, circus tents from a distance, were pretty enjoyable to do. I felt like a movie director, getting a mood just right, before diving into action. From your long-range view at the telescope of the Griffith Observatory, how did we get here? That's really not for me to say. I simply tried to portray a human Schlitzie--not the Schlitzie of the sideshow bally, but, employing fact-based imagination, a real child-like man, with the capacity for a full range of human emotion.
He was at times playful, affectionate, angry, afraid, mocking, loving. I like to think that I succeeded in humanizing Schlitzie. And, if I did, I like to think that's why the book is being well received, perhaps in a way it wouldn't have been fifty years ago. I'll just say that it's a deeply researched biography of Nancy cartoonist Ernie Bushmiller--and the cartooning worlds he lived among in New York from the late s to the s--helped along considerably by interviews with Ernie's still-living friend Jim Carlsson and the generosity of yourself in giving me access to interviews and research you and Paul did for How to Read Nancy.
I'll just add a line of mine from an introduction I wrote for a Nancy anthology: " Peanuts tells you what it's like to be a child.
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Nancy tells you what it's like to be a comic strip. Michele Nitri is the founder of Hollow Press, an independent publisher based in Italy. Your business model with Hollow Press is to buy each page of original artwork the artists create for your books. Then you are able to sell the original art later along with the books.
This struck me as such a smart, outside-of-the-box way to approach book production and artist patronage. Is this an accurate description of how you initially or completely? How did you develop this idea? To be clear I have never been rich or come from a very well-off family. I would say a pretty normal and cool family. Simply, I always spent my money since I was 17 years old for art and almost nothing else. So when I thought about starting a press I faced one of the greatest problems of the underground comics world: the poor compensation, at least compared to the time that artists require to make their own comics.
So the artwork sales are just a parallel way to provide more money to the artists. There are no rules about the artworks sales, it really depends on the project and the artist prestige. Sometimes I buy a bunch of original pages, sometimes just a few and sometimes I buy all of them. Considering these two main elements, usually with me artists can get more money than anywhere else excluding very very big and mainstream publishing houses obviously. This is not a guarantee, it always depends by "how much you are on the wave and the amount of your sales".
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Anyway, almost all the artists I publish have reached my final goal: they earn good money compared to the time they spend to work on my projects. I could do real examples but this would be unprofessional and a violation of privacy. How did that working relationship start? I knew them from before as a collector. Anyway I don't think there is a strategy at all.
I think the best way is to be yourself. If you are in tune with each other everything comes up naturally. Also I always suggest to be polite, professional and transparent, artists deserve that. What was that like? It changed my life. How did you find his work in Europe? The first Brinkman comic I saw was Multiforce. I think about years ago. I was at home with one of my best friends Ratigher. He showed me the Picturebox edition, telling me that Brinkman was the Jesus of recent underground comics.
I publish him too and he is really famous in Italy right now. He is the art director of one of the greatest publishing house here in Italy, Coconino Press. He has won several prestigious awards in Italy and sooner or later will be famous worldwide too. Great friend and great artist! Also, Brinkman comics have a special way of spreading around the world.
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We all know that many artists love him. Everyone in the underground worlds love or respect him. So at that time in Italy many underground artists knew him. Readers didn't know him but artists did of course, and this is the indisputable proof of the worth of his art. That reading was something that really revolutionized my life and influenced my tastes in what kind of art I wanted to find. You need to know that in my boyhood I was a super fan of fantasy worlds, video games, boardgames, Magic the Gathering, live RPGs, Warhammer, films and novels no comics! But I had a big change when I was about years old.
I impacted with the harsh crude realities of life. I started to feel that all that fantasy was shit, good and evil, hidden politics stuff and only business So I grew an interest for the extreme underground; starting from films, writers like William Burroughs etc, then flowing for the first time in the comics world.
So, right now you are thinking "what's the point? The point is that Mat Brinkman comics have the aesthetic I love: the fantasy from my boyhood, but is really cynical, crude and funny as the real world is. So he was the true hidden taste that I had for art, from a mature point of view. I couldn't imagine how to categorize his kind of comic, but these descriptions are helpful to do research and find what we love. That was a fucking under dark weird fantasy ground comic.
Got it! Besides Mat Brinkman, what were some other key influences in the development of your comics tastes? At what point were you inspired to start publishing yourself and working with these artists? After the U. During my free weekends I started to self-publish U. I made two issues, but with passing of time interior demons were devouring me.
But that is another story. Anyway I would say that the main inspiration was Brinkman art. But above all I was really influenced by the true dark fantasy, in my opinion really present in some videogames and mostly in several old fantasy novels. I believe you are the only comics publisher working with him since Picturebox.
Do you have any insight in how he likes to work or interact with the comics community? What is it about Hollow Press or the European art scene that is compatible with his preferences? I can't reply to this question properly. Because it requires too many explanations of "why? Mat has no rules, a no-rules guy has no "why".
He just does what he want and love. So I feel we were like two dark celestial bodies that casually met each other. Furthermore, to meet him in Bologna in this November BilBOlbul international comic festival in Italy was a great revelation for me, and I hope the same for him. We are in tune with each other. We have the same vision of art Instead he was better and more true than what I would have ever been able to imagine. By publishing all of your books bilingually in Italian and English your intention is to reach a global audience for these artists.
What can you tell readers in the US about these artists and the Italian underground comics world? Yeah that's the goal. I think that underground readers are too few, considering each country on its own. So one of the main goals of Hollow Press is a sort of conjunction of all the underground readers around the world. Italian comics are really important in comic world.
We have a lot of masters here and now we are living in a time of great mutation with a lot of really interesting Italian underground artists. Of course I'm gathering the craziest ones. They are all really different from each other with a strong surreal component that allows me to link all of them in a common line, the dark weird fantasy comics I will try in future to sell rights of their books worldwide. Who knows, maybe in the USA too. Because I think that readers from all the world deserve their art.
I know that you have plans to reprint all or most of your out of print titles. Can you share some exciting news about other projects you have planned for and beyond? Yeah I'm so excited too. I think we will do a great job together, and of course I love the idea that you can be the bridge from Hollow Press to the American audience.