A Cartoonist’s Diary

Dash Shaw: Day Five


I'm still at Fantastic Fest. I'm here now mostly to do press interviews and things like that, but I spend a lot of time watching other movies in the program, talking to people, and sitting in my hotel room reading and writing. I'm reading Guy Debord's The Society of the Spectacle (which I've never read before) and an issue of Nemo magazine devoted to Chester Gould. It has a long interview with him conducted by Max Allan Collins, and some great episodes in it. I like buying old Nemo and Comics Revue magazines because I can find them for a buck and they're light, so I don't have to carry around a heavy Volume 17 of Dick Tracy in my backpack. I even tear out pages to put in my pockets so I have something to look at. I started doing that when I didn't want to carry a whole book on the subway. Also, I decided I didn't want to carry a sketchbook and a book, so I just started writing and drawing in the endpages and margins of books. I'm the least precious person with books. Once I started tearing and scribbling in books, it helped me become more engaged with my reading... I started treating books as tools instead of collectables. I'm sure this is blasphemy to some people, but it's how I'm happy treating them, and it's improved my life a great deal.

I got dinner with my only friend who lives in Austin, the cartoonist Jonny Negron. We ate ramen and talked about our inability to make small talk with strangers. Here's a photo of Jonny with his bike.


I saw a few good shorts here, including Julia Pott's Summer Camp Island, which had a great gag with a living pair of pajamas that controls the wearer into dancing, and a hypnotic stop motion short based on Dave Cooper's designs. My favorite short was something titled The Itching by Dianne Bellino... It was really a painful experience! Ha ha.


At Fantastic Fest, a key turning point was when I realized that the filmmaker gift card the festival gave me had two hundred dollars on it, so I could just keep eating fish tacos and drinking and watching horror movies... and that's exactly what I did! I went to the big 1979 Phantasm remastered screening. The cast and director were there. The score, especially, sounded great in the remastered version. I was very excited to see the French cannibalism movie Raw because it's represented by the same publicist as my movie, so I'd heard a lot about it at TIFF. It was fantastic. It reminded me a bit of Romero's Martin.

Tim Burton was the belle of the ball here, and I went to his Q&A. Leonard Maltin said, "Ed Wood was incredibly passionate and ambitious, he just didn't have any talent," and Burton threw his hands up in a "like me!" gesture... it was very funny and charming. I'm fascinated by artists' careers... They are nearly impossible to do "correctly," and they are never planned. Everyone always just does what they can do at the time. I love reading artist biographies. Think about this Tim Burton (b. 1958) sweep: Pee-wee's Big Adventure (1985), Beetlejuice (1988), Batman (1989), Edward Scissorhands (1990), Batman Returns (the best Batman movie, imho, 1992), Ed Wood (1994). Pretty freaking amazing. Trying to be an artist is hard enough, but when you add huge outside forces and everything else, business and psychological anxieties and terrors, all on top of it, it's nearly impossible.