Episode 151: Noah Van Sciver, Derf and Tommi Musturi


We kick things off Noah Van Sciver, one of comics’ most exciting — and prolific — young talents. Last year alone, the Denver cartoonist released three books, all of which made their way to various best-of lists: St. Cole, Fante Bukowski and My Hot Date. The artist is also well-known in indie comics circles for his on-going series Blammo and the 2012 Fantagraphics title The Hypo, following the life of a melancholic young Abraham Lincoln. Released that same year on Abrams, My Friend Dahmer details Cleveland cartoonist Derf’s experiences attending high school with future serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. The book’s followup, Trashed, debuted from the publisher last year, offering a fictionalized version of the time the artist spent working as a sanitation working as a 19-year-old. Derf is also the author of the alternative weekly comic strip, The City, which ran in 140 paper before coming to a close in 2014. Finnish cartoonist Tommi Musturi made his Fantagraphics debut last year with The Book of Hope, which follows the life of a retired couple. The artist is also known for his wordless comic  Samuel, and for co-founding the publishing house Huuda Huuda, for whom he has translated a number of prominent English language artists, including Daniel Clowes and Edward Gorey.


Episode 150: Bill Griffith


It’s been several years since I last spoke to Bill Griffith. I’m fairly certain I spent much of that last interview attempt to talk the cartoonist into drawing a full length book — and while I certainly can’t take any of the credit, I’m happy to say that the artist was on-hand at this year’s Comic Arts Brooklyn to discuss just such a project. Invisible Ink marks, incredibly, Griffith’s first full-length graphic novel, after four decades spent drawing comics professionally. Of course, working on a daily strip ha kept the cartoonist plenty busy, producing a cumulative output that dwarfs any of his underground comics contemporaries. While others focused on floppies and books, Griffith took a more traditional approach to the medium, infiltrating national newspapers with the sublimely, absurdly subversive Zippy the Pinhead.  With Invisible Ink, Griffith explores his mother’s life, uncovering her diary, unfinished novel, and a “long and happy” affair she carried on with a fellow cartoonist. The conversation is a wide ranging and fascinating look at one of alternative comics’ most enduring and beloved careers. It’s a great way to celebrate episode 150.


Episode 149: Josie Long


“It’s woven very densely into the fabric of my life,” explains Josie Long. “It happens when you do your accounting every year. You look at your receipts, and everything there you’ve written about.” The comedian began her standup career at the tender age of 14, scoring a BBC New Comedy Award three years later. Having spent more than half her years on Earth as a standup, it’s certainly understandable that comedy has become the filter through which Long examines her life. I caught up with the comedian ahead during a week-long string of shows in New York. She’d been out swimming in the ice cold Atlantic in the midst of an autumn chill, her voice slightly worse for wear. But she happily spoke the cross section of the personal and professional, an area she had been mining heavily for the set she was performing later that evening.  Cara Josephine trades her often political source material in for stories about family and failed relationships, making for far away Long’s most personal show to date.


Episode 148: Eric Bogosian


Eric Bogosian is not an easy interview — but he’s a good one. I came ready to discuss his recently published book on the Armenian genocide, Operation Nemesis — but the writer quickly made it known that he’s not keen to reflect upon something that’s already out in the world, particularly not with something new in need of promotion just over the horizon. Before we began, he sat me down and played a handful of examples of his 100 Monologues project, featuring a rotating cast well known actors from stage and screen acting out works written by Bogosian between 1980 and 2006, arguably the purest manifestation of the work at the hard of an incredibly diverse career. Over the decades, he’s written books and appeared in myriad films, sitcoms and stage productions , but its Bogosian’s career as a playwright that will almost certainly be his legacy. And here it’s shown bare for all the world, just his words and an actor’s performance cast against a black backdrop. The interview, conducted several months ago, has been waiting for the release of the 100 Monologues Kickstarter campaign to go live, timed to promote the project, which is currently seeking $25,000 to shoot and post the the second 50 monologues. It’s an ultimately a wide-ranging talk focused on Bogosian’s current passion project, while taking the occasional peek back at an utterly fascinating career in art and entertainment.


Episode 147: Walter Martin (of The Walkmen)


Walter Martin and I keep getting kicked out of coffee shops. It’s a strange thing. Over the course of the 50 minute interview, we close out two places in Manhattan. But as romantic as getting kicked out of two New York City establishments in under an hour with an indie rock star looks on paper, the whole thing is slightly mundane. Turns out the coffee shops in midtown like to shut their doors before eight. And Martin, for his part, doesn’t appear to be embracing the rock and roll lifestyle these days. The Walkman multi-instrumentalist has settled down a bit, starting a family and taking a step back from the heavy touring. In 2014, Martin issued his post-Walkman debut, We’re All Young Together, a delightfully catchy collection of all-ages kids tunes recorded with members of bands like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. The followup, Arts & Leisure, is due out next week. The songs are a joyful celebration of Martin’s love of fine art, filtered through the youthful passion of singer-songrwriters like Jonathan Richman. Coffee shop shut downs aside, we managed to have a fascinating conversation about rock band politics, playing solo and what it means to grow up.


Episode 146: Carla Speed Mcneil and Denis Kitchen


Our final round of interviews from Baltimore Comic Con includes two artists who have had a profound impact on the American underground/independent comics community. Carla Speed McNeil has produced the sprawling, epic aboriginal science-fiction series Finder since the mid-90s, making it one of the longest running series in all of indie comics, with 10 printed volumes of output released through the artist’s Light Speed Press. McNeil has also collaborated on a number of series through the years, including Queen & Country: Operation: Stormfront with Greg Rucka and the recent Image miniseries  No Mercy, created with writer, Alex De Campi. Inspired by underground masters like Robert Crumb and Jay Lynch, Denis Kitchen began self-publishing comics in the late 60s. The artist would ultimately have more of an impact behind the scenes, through publishing companies like Kitchen Sink Press and Kitchen Sink Books, as well as serving as an agent for the works of comics giants like Will Eisner and Harvey Kurtzman.

Kitchen also counts the founding of The Comic Book Legal Defense fund among his many industry-shaping accomplishments.


Episode 145: Judd Winick


In A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius Dave Eggers describes the auditioning process for The Real World: San Francisco. The spot the McSweeney’s founder tried out for was won by another artist, a cartoonist who served a, perhaps, the moral compass for a reality show fueled by roommate strife. Most of us can count on a single hand the moments that had a truly profound impact on our lives. For Judd Winick, that key moment was spread out over an entire season and broadcast on MTV. But while the show put the artist on the pop cultural map, it’s the work he’s done in comics and animation that will be his lasting legacy, from his break through Graphic novel Pedro & Me, to his run a slew of DC Comics titles and his work as the creator and lead writer of the Cartoon Network series, The Life and Times of Juniper Lee. Released in September on Random House, Hilo marks his most ambitious work to date. The comic is fun, funny, and instantly engaging, a welcome embrace of all-ages comics from an artist with kids of his own.


Episode 144: Chip Kidd


Of course Chip Kidd put out a book with Art Spiegelman. In an age when the transition to digital seems all but inevitable, both artists have a vested interest in the book as object, crafting tangible experiences that cannot be recreated on a tablet or e-book. For his part, Kidd is probably best known for his book designs for cartoonists Daniel Clowes and Chris Ware, along with a who’s who of contemporary novelists, including Haruki Murakami, Cormac McCarthy and Donna Tart. But the designer is an author in his own right, having penned two novels, a tribute to Plastic Man creator Jack Cole (alongside Spiegelman), and  Bat-Manga, a collection dedicated to Japanese Batman esoterica. His latest release is Only What’s Necessary, a gorgeously designed volume that pulls together little seen work from Peanuts creator Charles Schulz, including sketches, unpublished strips, letters and merchandise. It’s a lovingly designed tribute to one of newspaper comics’ most beloved pioneers. Kidd joined me on the jam-packed floor of New York Comic Con to discuss the book and long standing love of print in a world gone digital.


Episode 143: Colin Hay


“All you really want to do is get yourself excited, get your wife excited, get your friends excited,” Colin Hay explains with a smile. “Beyond that, who knows? You want to say to someone who’s upstairs, ‘hey, come and listen to this. This is cool.’ ” The crowds, the fans, the radio play, the record sales are secondary. Thirty-four years after the release of Men at Work’s debut, Business as Usual, Hay is a songwriter first and foremost, having settled in to a seemingly zen-like approach to the craft. Distribution methods and record industry nonsense be damned. Write a great song and it’ll find an audience. A decade and half after putting his band to rest for good, Hay has never failed to find an audience. Where many of his contemporaries have relied on nostalgia or quit the game altogether, Hay’s work has managed to attract new generations of fan through thoughtful, straightforward songwriting. Hay and I sat down at the bar in his hotel lobby ahead of a New York City show to discuss growing as a songwriter on his new record Next Year People, coping with loss, and why writing the perfect three minute pop song has never gotten any easier.


Episode 142: Jules Feiffer


The artist has been something of a hero before I’d even heard his name, through his illustration work in the aforementioned classic children’s book and as the screenwriter of Robert Altman’s perfectly chaotic 1980 cinematic adaptation of Popeye. Since then, Feiffer’s work has been a constant in my life, from his four decades long stint as an editorial cartoonist for the Village, to his early apprenticeship with Will Eisner, and a stint of film projects like Little Murders, the artist’s work always seems to find its way back into my life. Now in his mid-80s, the modern day renaissance cartoonist is trying his hand at an entirely new endeavor, writing and drawing his first graphic novel 69 years after he first began working his way through Eisner’s The Spirit at the tender age of 16. Kill My Mother maintains the cartoonist’s loose approach in a far more sustained form than his other cartooning works, marking yet another remarkable turn for the octogenarian.   We pulled up a couple of seats in the lobby of the hotel where Feiffer was staying during Baltimore Comic Con to discuss his latest career and the important of perpetually testing one’s limitations.


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