Tag: graphic memoir

I really was expecting something different

Cartoonist Michael Kupperman gives a bracingly honest interview to Simon Abrams at The Comics Journal. His 2018 graphic memoir, All the Answers, was one of the more moving books I’d read last year. I wrote about it here and, when Hyperallergic asked about my favorite comics of 2018, I had the chance to pitch it and write about it for the site. It was a big shift for Kupperman to write something so probing and intimate—while All the Answers received an Eisner nomination and eventual critical acclaim, the book was poorly promoted, and he expected the comics publishing world to react differently than it did.

From the interview at TCJ:

The people in comics who thought I wasn’t worth taking seriously still thought I wasn’t worth taking seriously. I mean, one of my aims in the book was to make it look easy. I think that’s always one of the goals in comics, and maybe I made it look too easy. But no, I felt the reaction in comics was very disappointing, to be honest. I was extremely disappointed by the reaction from the comics world. There’s been almost none, and there were people I’d worked for, where I’d told them they were part of the reason I was in comics, because of their work. They didn’t respond to me at all even after I sent them copies of my book. I mean, I was really hurt by some people’s reactions, to be honest.

I really was expecting something different. I thought, you know, the people in comics who I’d known for years would applaud it. That’s not why I did the book, obviously, but I really was surprised by the absence of reaction from certain quarters, and yeah, it was intensely dispiriting. I did think of quitting. I found last year one of the most emotionally stressful years of the last decade, and that’s saying a lot.

Read the whole thing here, and check out Kupperman’s work.


Nothing would ever be the same again

For my debut at The Los Angeles Times (!), I wrote about cartoonist Brian Fies’s graphic account of losing his home in the 2017 California wildfires. A Fire Story is his chronicling, in comics, of life during and after the second-most destructive wildfire in the state’s history:

Following a tense sequence that has the cartoonist and his wife springing from bed and frantically hauling belongings out to their driveway and the palpable heartbreak that materializes later when Fies scouts out their rubble-strewn streets, A Fire Story shares lesser-broadcast hardships as well as how quickly wildfire victims are expected to process a frenzied cycle of emotions.

A drawn five-key keychain has three keys that “don’t do anything anymore,” explains Fies in a caption. Homes elsewhere are reduced to wholly blacked-out, cross-hatched blots on stretches of sepia-toned blocks that look like a war zone, where neighbors comb the charred ruins of their houses’ foundations. Discussions with utility companies prove pointless. A tally of long-gone items on a single-panel page is slugged “Things I Will Never See Again.” But a vulnerable Fies doesn’t grieve alone—the careful accounting here culminates in what’s better described as a work of comics journalism than it is autobiography.

Read my whole piece at The Los Angeles Times.


A comic shaped by trauma

As I mentioned on Twitter in October, I would totally read a longform magazine piece from cartoonist and writer Michael Kupperman about making All the Answers, his graphic memoir that was published by Simon & Schuster’s Gallery 13 in 2018. A book that was initially projected to be an examination of his father Joel’s life as a famous child prodigy, All the Answers became something wholly different after Kupperman discovered some hidden scrapbooks at his parents’ Connecticut home. During a recent, heavily illustrated talk at Google, the cartoonist discussed how finding these scrapbooks meant that he would be creating a memoir about his relationship with his father and how Joel’s past had affected that relationship.

Liana Finck on Longform

Cartoonist Liana Finck, who has a comic-based advice column at The New Yorker and a new graphic memoir out called Passing for Human, is interviewed on one of the only podcasts I regularly listen to. On the Longform Podcast, Finck talked about Passing for Human, which took her six years to produce before she looked for an editor. It began as a comics adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov’s The Real Life of Sebastian Knight before it became clear that it should be a memoir:

By the time I heard from Nabokov’s estate that I wasn’t allowed to do that, I was maybe very five hard-worked pages in, so I slowly started changing that into fiction that was just based on The Real Life of Sebastian Knight. It turned the two brothers…one is a brilliant writer who has died and the other one is telling his story; it takes place in, I don’t know, 1930 or something…and I changed those to two sisters who were growing up in the 80s, and I set it in my childhood house. And that’s how it became a memoir.

Listen to the whole episode here, and see a recent comic from Finck at Catapult.

Note: I love the Longform Podcast. The interviews, which are usually conducted with a writer of nonfiction—such as a contracted magazine writer or a reporter—about the path to said writing job, the way that she/he tells a story, etc., can be really riveting.