Dead wood version of Comics Journal hits newsstands this week. Interviews this time out feature “Skeleton Key” creator Andi Watson:
- PAUL GRAVETT: Silence is something that comics can capture beautifully and specifically, in a way that perhaps no other medium can. What appeals to you about using silence in your comics?
ANDI WATSON: Silence is one weapon in your comic-book armory that you can deploy. My aim with it is to capture a moment and keep it there, because it’s in front of your face. A movie is temporal and constantly moving, whereas with a comic you also have more control and can get the feeling in your head you want to convey and hopefully put it down on paper. It’s the same with expressions on characters’ faces. And then you can make a point by making a panel bigger or by showing the same scene with minor changes over several panels. One of the bands I like is Low — they’re very slow and they use minimal instrumentation and notes. Their moments of silence are as important as their moments of music. There are so many ways a story plays out in comics, not only in choosing a moment to have stillness to highlight an emotion or a moment, but also the gaps between the panels, where you try to suggest things in between.
GRAVETT: Do you see the page as the unit of the comic, to end a scene or make a reader pause, if only to turn the page over?
WATSON: Exactly, like a full stop, the page and double spread, those are the units that go back to thumbnailing. Though I’ve had to change that slightly with Slow News Day because of space constraints.
GRAVETT: Here in Breakfast After Noon, you have a silent transition, a passage of time.
WATSON: Without saying “The next day” in a caption.
GRAVETT: So you never use location or time captions?
WATSON: No, saying “Meanwhile back at the factory” invades your suspension of disbelief. It’s like you’re breaking the moment. There’s no division between writing and drawing when I’m thumbnailing. When I start, they’re usually more detailed, but at a certain point they’re like chicken scratchings! First, when I’ve refined it down to a story and its scenes, I work out my order of scenes, each on a different piece of paper, and then I write out each scene in longhand. And then I’ll go back and work out the thumbnails and page divisions. Then I break it down per page and do thumbnails. And often that’s when I find out I don’t have enough pages to fit in all the story. So I go back and start editing again. For Dumped, I had to go through three times. That’s the hardest part. All longhand, not on computer, since I’m not a very good typist. I’m sat here in my chair and can plan on the paper as directly as possible and scribble notes, erase, add, correct, do changes as I go along. Then when I’m thumbnailing, I may lose bits, it keeps it organic. So I’ve got some room to expand or contract scenes, or I might edit some out or contract two pages into one. And I leave some pages or panels blank for “passage of time” sections. So it’s not all predetermined. I got Dumped finished to this stage at the end of January and I’m going to be drawing this sucker ’til mid-March. I don’t want everything decided ahead of time, there’s got to be room for some flexibility.
“Nexus” artist Steve Rude:
- TOM SPURGEON: There’s a phrase that you use as far as your artistic upbringing, that you wanted to be worthy of those who taught you. Can you explain what you mean by that?
STEVE RUDE: I hope that I can say it the way I know it inside. It means that I should be worthy of the great artists I’ve learned from and pass on the baton accordingly.
SPURGEON: In what areas would you apply this maxim? I know you feel it’s important to be professionally responsible when you’re conducting yourself in public, like at a comics convention, so I can see that it might apply there.
RUDE: Especially at conventions. I’ve heard one too many stories of people mistreating other people at conventions, of professionals doing unnecessary damage to a very young and impressionable fan who is there because they like a pro’s work and would like nothing more than to meet him and go away feeling that they’ve met a very decent person. When you hear those stories about professionals, it makes you know what not to be.
SPURGEON: Have you heard these stories a lot?
RUDE: Enough to know that I have to do the reverse.
SPURGEON: Do you think that comics and cartoonists in general lack for that sort of professionalism?
RUDE: I usually just look at one individual at a time. I once had a talk with my friend Mark Evanier about companies, and he mentioned that even if there’s a good person working at a bad company, he won’t work for them. I don’t do that. To me, if you’re a good human being, then it’s unnecessary to punish that good person for the sins of the company that they may work for. How else could I work for Marvel?
SPURGEON: Can you detect any change in your two decades in comics? Do you think there is more or less pride in that kind of professionalism? How has that climate changed?
RUDE: I don’t believe there is a significant change in human behavior since we ran around in bearskins. There are good ones and rotten ones.
SPURGEON: Are you suggesting that people fall into one of those two camps?
RUDE: No, those are the extremes. It’s easy to see extremes. Most people don’t fall into those extremes — the normals, I’d call them.
SPURGEON: With your specific outlook, how tough has it been for you to negotiate comics’ historical mistreatment of artists?
RUDE: It’s not. Because, knowing how crappy people can be, none of it surprises me. Everyone makes their personal choices about what they’re going to do. Most people like to hide behind company policies when they don’t want to own up to something. We hear it every day. People who are really responsible in their life don’t do that. They’ll find their own integrity over a company policy that they have to recite. That’s a terribly difficult way to live; it makes your life miserable and ten times as hard as a person’s who doesn’t follow those moral rules of behavior. By the way, if you are wondering where all of this talk of mine comes from, it comes from comic books. And the extremes are always the most visible in a comic book. The extremes of human beings. I focus on them because they are of personal interest to me.
The comic books that I read as a kid — I mentioned Master of Kung Fu and all the Jack Kirby books — got me through high school. They’re all about these intense things, and my life was very intense back then. What does a guy do when he’s tense? He seeks out things that are likewise intense and maybe gets some sense of peace from reading them. Did you get that when you read comic books?
Don’t forget comics blog Journalista either:
- Raymond Savignac died in Trouville, France on October 28, at the age of 94. The internationally-renowned commercial artist used his cartooning skills in posters advertising everything from automobiles to the films of Robert Bresson, as well as sharply designed public service posters, and his work has been exhibited in galleries around the world.