Comics Works: An Interview with Gabrielle Bell

Gabrielle Bell is a California-raised cartoonist living in Brooklyn. The Voyeurs, her latest collection of autobiographical comics and the first book-length release from Uncivilized Books, has been called “funny and endearing, even beautiful,” and “a rare glimpse of the fiercely mysterious human heart.” The stories throughout The Voyeurs document everything from the ebb and flow of relationships to the clamor of San Diego Comic-Con to Bell’s struggle to attend a party held in her honor, all with wit, an ear for the languid conversations of longtime friends, and occasional flourishes of the absurd. Bell spoke with me via email, and her replies were much like the vignettes in The Voyeurs: concise, self-deprecating, and dryly funny.

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Online talk surrounding your work is perhaps at an all-time high, with mentions on some widely ready non-comics outlets, as well as sites like The Comics Journal. And funnily enough, I came across those articles immediately after reading chapter one of The Voyeurs, with its section about how hard it can be to stay away from the Internet. How conscious are you of the online chatter?

Very conscious!

Have you had to make an effort lately to ignore mentions of yourself online?

No, I mean there’s not THAT much stuff about me on there. And I already know I won’t resist looking at it, so I’m not going to try.

What kind of changes did you have to make while adapting your online material for a print collection?

I did a lot of editing of the narrating and dialogue, reworded sentences, took out many extraneous words and sentences. Sometimes I took out whole panels, sometimes added whole ones in. I think working in film taught me not to be afraid to freely edit. Continue reading

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Reading Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, part 8

"Elektra Lives Again," page 37 (detail) (1990). Art by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley.

Already in this set of posts we’ve looked at Frank Miller’s career before The Dark Knight Returns (Parts 1 and 2), and performed close readings of that series’ respective four chapters (Parts 3, 4, 5, and 6). And the last time around, in Part 7, we examined the character of Batman both before and after Frank Miller had his distinctive way with him. And we could probably stop there, but I think there’s value in surveying Frank Miller’s own career after TDKR, with a special focus on his more recent—and much more controversial—work on Batman.

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Blaise Larmee’s Trophy Economy

Blaise Larmee has a really compelling opinion piece up at The Comics Journal. He describes the world of book selling (and comic-art-object selling) as a “trophy economy.” He claims that the ease with which we can create and share digital media has separated content from medium, and as such the book has become “a hollow trophy, a signifier of cultural values, a rewarding/recording of its own existence, an indicator of class, taste, investment strategy, morality, etc.” While I agree, it surprises me that he would describe this trophy as “hollow.” He explains how many subcultures are subsidized by trophies, as trophies, unlike digital content, cost money. He says this encourages a further fetishization of the trophy within that subculture. This is particularly interesting, considering this article is in TCJ, which is largely read by indie comics artists and readers. At Big Other we often discuss our love of books and bookshelves and covers and things. But I’d say that the indie comics subculture takes this to another level with it’s focus on book making, respect for self-publishing, admiration for the rare and difficult (despite it being a medium of simplicity and reproduction). Larmee makes a good point.

(Coincidentally, Larmee’s own self-published, Xeric-grant funded debut, Young Lions, just showed up in my mailbox. Going to go read it now.)

Reading Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, part 1

Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8

These days, Frank Miller is arguably best-known as a filmmaker. He co-directed Robert Rodriguez’s adaptation of his long-running comic Sin City (1991–present), which he followed with his own peculiar 2008 adaptation of Will Eisner’s classic comic series The Spirit (1942–52). In between, he executive-produced Zack Snyder’s hugely successful adaptation of his 1998 graphic novel 300. Hollywood’s current infatuation with super-heroics has served him well.

Most of Miller’s work, however, has been in comics, a medium he has helped revolutionize over the past twenty years. Since comics sadly remain an understudied and under-analyzed literary medium, I thought I’d take advantage of John Madera’s generosity—and your patience—to sketch out some thoughts about the form and importance of Frank Miller’s 1986 graphic novel Batman: The Dark Knight Returns.

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