Today on the site, we present RJ Casey’s interview with Nick Drnaso, whose debut graphic novel Beverly recently hit stores.
Do you think geometry is part of your style?
I’ve fully embraced rigidity. There’s simplicity in it, I think. At a certain point I realized that stripping away was more effective than going in and adding things — at least for Beverly. I wanted to tear things down to their essence. Before I worked on these stories, and in an art school kind of way, I was searching for a style and hiding behind overly hatching things. I used to use wild angles and spend hours and hours crosshatching.
I don’t think there’s any crosshatching in Beverly.
I’m more concerned now with solid cartooning and transitioning from one panel to the next. If I was spending all that time drawing tiny hatches, my hand would hurt and I would get lost in all the meaningless details. With minimal amounts of detail, I want to worry about the story and the flow — what’s really important. The dialogue and if I can somehow make characters contradict themselves — those types of things are much more interesting to me than hatching for five hours.
We also have Rob Kirby’s review of the latest from Derf Backder, Trashed, a fiction/nonfiction hybrid about a group of garbagemen, and American garbage more generally.
Though J.B. and Mike are at the forefront of the narrative, their inner lives are only hinted at, and we don’t get to know them very well. Their antics serve best to illustrate the nonfiction portions of Trashed–where Backderf, a master of comics journalism, really gets to show off his chops. He begins with a brief tour through the history of garbage, offering several enlightening factoids, such as the fact that the first garbage dump was created in 3000 B.C. in the city of Knossos on Crete. We also learn that in pre-Civil War America, pigs were used to remove garbage on city streets: “New York City had so many free-roaming hogs that Charles Dickens in ‘American Notes’ begged city fathers to rid the metropolis of the ‘ugly brutes.’” Turns out that when Patti Smith sang, “The transformation of waste is perhaps the oldest preoccupation of man,” she wasn’t kidding.
—News. Virginia Paine has announced that over the next year, she will be shutting down Sparkplug Books, the publishing company started by the late Dylan Williams which made a deep impact on many of the independent comics artists of recent generations.
—Interviews & Profiles. Abraham Riesman at Vulture interviews Brian Chippendale about the new collection of Puke Force.
You do more gallery-style visual art, too. What can comics do that other mediums can’t?
The idea is that you have these sequential frames, so they’re really good for storytelling. You can follow a conversation or follow a movement through a page. They’re built to tell stories. For me, for a piece of fine art, if you’re looking at a flat surface, you can also tell stories, but I think they can be built to do other things, like to play with the medium, or to show one moment instead of a drawn-out amount of moments. Comics are good for narratives, and fine art is good for a moment.
I like melodrama. With the exception of Hey, Wait… I think there’s been a gun in all of my books. I like writers like Raymond Carver and Tobias Wolff. But if I use those kind of characters, I put them in other stories. Possibly he’s a divorced alcoholic, but at the same time he’s fighting monsters from Mars or zombies. I like that mix of everyday reality and fantasy. And I improvise my stories, so I don’t know where they will end up.
—Commentary. Regular TCJ contributor Ken Parille has posted a tribute to Alvin Buenaventura.
In early 2001, I lived on eBay, bidding on anything that had Daniel Clowes art on it: comics, LPs, t-shirts, etc. Every week I’d win several auctions, always defeating a bidder who went by “totoroar.” It wasn’t long before I started to feel bad; after all, we were fellow collectors, fellow obsessives. So, in an uncharacteristic act of generosity, I contacted totoroar and offered to give them a few Clowes-related things I had. Totoroar turned out to be someone named Alvin Buenaventura, a name I assumed was fake. I sent Alvin some comics and then we exchanged numbers. He eventually told me he planned to start his own press, asking if I’d help. I said “Sure.” And I can say — without the slightest exaggeration — that meeting Alvin fundamentally changed my life.