Saturday, December 27, 2008

That Darn Cat!

Memo to myself ... start and finish at the rec center, not the other way around. The wind is always blowing north and east with the river.

Distance: 4.25 miles
Temperature: 66 degrees. It's gorgeous!

Fabulous day on South Green ... breezy and bright and warm. It's usually January when we get one (just one) of these freaky 70-ish degree days before slamming back into the deep freeze. But here we are. Anything can happen in Athens.

Second Christmas, lots of Bailey's spilled into morning coffee and lucky, lucky children getting a second helping of too many great presents. We are fortunate, indeed.

Best of 2008 Playlist
Lights & Music - Cut Copy
Let's Dance to Joy Division - The Wombats
Mansard Roof - Vampire Weekend
Don't Stop The Music - Rihanna
Black & Gold - Sam Sparro
Mercy - Duffy
2007, The Year Punk Rock Broke My Heart - Los Campesinos!
Check Yes Juliet - We The Kings
1,000,000 - Nine Inch Nails
Uninvited - Freemasons
Driving This Road Until Death Sets You Free - Zombie-Zombie
Cooldown: Blind - Hercules and Love Affair

Cat worries that she is not good enough an artist, but I feel so intensely grateful to have her as part of this project. She is a better artist than I am, don't let her fool you, and has a greater range of styles and influences. That's why she's doing this.

And what is she doing, exactly? She is the Hand of Pengo® acting as the cartoonist and illustrator I never was, the main character of this play.

So ... if this is an autobiographic solo performance, why are you not an actor? Because this is a play, silly, and my work is self-referential and navel-gazing as it is without making a number of pithy theater references. I did enough of that in Vampyres, God knows.

I needed someone who could represent my work as a high school newspaper cartoonist, and one in college, writing for a weekly alternative paper, a graphic novelist, a designer of greeting cards. I can't do all of that. And even if I could, some of what I share in this piece is difficult enough without anyone judging my drawing abilities.

I received a copy of Art Spiegelman's Breakdowns for Christmas. I love his work, but I found this one to be less than the others. It is half memoir and half reprints of work from the early 70s. I can't tell if it's a memoir padded out with old stuff or he wanted to share his less-known work and needed to ad an extended introduction to justify peddling reprints. He is without a doubt a master draftsman, but emotionally he goes over a lot of the same ground covered in many previous books, especially MAUS.

However, reading it reminded me of where I came from, and how I justified creating &TYD. The canon of autobiographic-graphic novels is becoming quite extensive, and those which shine are making it a lot more difficult for those who do not. The work of Harvey Pekar has been a great influence on me since I first began reading American Splendor in the late 80s.

Last year Leah gave my wife a copy of Alison Bechdel's Fun Home and me Peter Kuper's Stop Forgetting to Remember. The former is about the author's relationship with her closeted father and his possible suicide. The latter about the author's own anxieties about his penis, being a cartoonist, impending fatherhood and (I'm not kidding) September 11th.

I will let you guess which one I admired more. Let me give you a hint - the one is an outstanding piece of writing, illustration and pathos that I read in passive fascination until the final page, when I suddenly found myself weeping uncontrollably. The other I hope and pray to God is not how my own work comes off to friends or strangers.

And so; it is because I am presenting a play that I chose to make the main character a cartoonist. If I am really as good a graphic artist as Cat has suggested, then I will someday create a graphic novel about being an actor.

And here's your Saturday evening wake-up call:

1 comment:

Cat said...

Fun Home is brilliant. I've liked Alison Bechdel for a really long time, too. Not as long as I've drooled over Harvey's stuff (which hooked me the first time I saw it in the Cleveland Press, which tells you how long ago THAT was) but long enough.

I'm glad that there are role models now for girls who like to do comix. Now we have Bechdel, Ellen Forney, Lynda Barry, Megan Kelso, Jennie Breeden & Linda Medley. For a start!

Back in the day-- that's what I call it when I'm referring to the time when I looked for role models in comix, so, the late 80's-- I had Wendy Pini. And that's about it.

Dori Seda was around, although I didn't really discover her work until the early to mid 90's, as she tended toward the slightly pornographic.