Virtual Memories Show 409:
Rian Hughes

“In graphic design, if you define the problem clearly, the solution is almost immediately apparent. And if you can’t find a solution, it’s likely because you haven’t defined the problem well.”

With his amazing new book XX (Overlook Press), Rian Hughes gets to add “novelist” to his titles of graphic designer, typographer, illustrator, comics writer & artist, and photographer. We get into how he wrote a science fiction narrative using graphic design as a tool & mode of storytelling (& why more writers should consider graphic design as a part of their work), how technology had to catch up to his vision of the novel, his stab at going a step beyond Arthur C. Clarke, and why he’s so interested in semiotics and how ideas get into our heads. We talk about his childhood entré into type and graphic design, the boredom of illustration and marketing, the ways design involves defining problems and solutions and how that does and doesn’t apply to fiction, and his affection for science fiction pulps. We also discuss whether he can turn off his design eye, the new frontiers in technology and the plasticity of the digital realm, the perils of cultural conflict, how we grow into certain artists & genres, and why everything for him comes down to colors, shapes, actions and language and what they mean. Give it a listen! And go read XX!

“What I’ve learned it, don’t expect too much prior knowledge on the part of your reader or viewer, and give them as many opportunities to get on board as you can, before you take them off to the Wild Blue Yonder at the end.”

“The plasticity of the digital realm means that the only texture it has is the one that we decide to apply to it. The only sound that it has, the only shape or form that it has are the ones we decide it should have.”

“You need to step outside the form to see what the form is. Then you can very quickly understand that a lot of things that people take gospel aren’t at all, and you can mess with them.”

“If I was ruler of the world, the first rule I’d institute is that every shop on every high street would employ a graphic designer for their signs. The world should look more beautiful!”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

Lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Spotify, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, TuneIn, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Rian Hughes is a graphic designer, illustrator, comic artist and typographer who has worked extensively for the British and American advertising, music and comic book industries. He has written and drawn comics for 2000 AD and Batman Black And White, and designed logos for the Avengers, the X-Men, Superman, record label Hedkandi, MTV, and James Bond. He has edited books on mid-century lifestyle illustration and custom typography, and written on semiotics, culture, and collecting vintage science fiction pulps & paperbacks.

Follow Rian on Twitter and Instagram.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded remotely via Zencastr. I used a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Bio photo of Rian by Robin Farquhar-Thomson. No idea who shot the doorway one. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 405:
Jeff Trexler

“When you think about what law has meant to comics, it isn’t just about censorship. A lot of it is about access, about personal freedom. People want to be able to express themselves, and they want their work to be out there for other people to read.”

Lawyer, ethics advisor and comics nerd Jeff Trexler joins the show to talk about his new role as Interim Executive Director of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. We get into his plans to help rebuild the CBLDF’s reputation and ethics code after the sexual harassment scandal of its previous director, his experiences helping people pursue their harassment claims and launching antiharassment campaigns in the fashion world, how the Fund’s role has changed over the decades, and why he’s comfortable with that interim title. We also get into his obsessions with comics and design, the broad meaning of First Amendment law (and why R Sikoryak‘s recent Constitution Illustrated should be required reading), how to learn from ethics disasters, how nonprofits can grow and how they can become sclerotic, his childhood McLuhan-inspired interpretation of the theme to the Batman TV show, how our mutual friend Tom Spurgeon was the hub of the comics industry, and what it’s been like to live without him. Give it a listen!

“One of the things that’s impressed me about the comics community is that they take law seriously.”

“People don’t trust the law when they feel the legal system is detached from them.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

Lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Spotify, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, TuneIn, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Jeff Trexler is a long-time member of the comics community as well as an attorney and ethics advisor. He currently serves as CBLDF’s Interim Executive Director, bringing expertise that developed through his work advising nonprofit organizations, media companies, and fashion brands.

Prior to joining CBLDF, Jeff served as Associate Director of the Fashion Law Institute, where his work on ethics issues included advising government officials on sexual harassment legal reform. He is a member of the Ethics Committee at Kering Americas and also served on the board of the Museum of Comics and Cartoon Art.

In addition to creating the Fashion Ethics course at Fordham Law School, Jeff has taught at Yale, SMU, Pace University, and Saint Louis University. He has also been part of dozens of panels at comic-cons and continuing legal education programs. He holds a J.D. from Yale Law School and a Ph.D. in American Religious History from Duke University, and he is admitted to the U.S. Supreme Court and New York bars.

Jeff’s favorite comic book sequence is from the last issue of Grant Morrison’s run of The Doom Patrol: “There is another world. There is a better world. Well . . . there must be.”

You can find Jeff’s writing on comics and the law at The Beat, TCJ.com, and, via the Wayback Machine, Blog@Newsarama.

Follow Jeff on Twitter.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded remotely via Zencastr. I used a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Jeff by someone else. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 404:
Michael Shaw

“The Elements of Stress is the perfect gift for the person who HAD everything.”

Got the election / pandemic / climate change / midlife / inexplicable rash blues? Then listen to me and cartoonist & humorist Michael Shaw talk about his new book, The Elements of Stress and the Pursuit of Happy-ish in this Current Sh*tstorm (co-authored by the great Bob Eckstein, from Weekly Humorist Press)! We get into how Michael and Bob managed to mash up Strunk & White with Thurber & White to create a prose & cartoons handbook to dealing with This Whole Situation, then explore Michael’s history in cartooning and humor, how he balances that with a day job in writing and editing, his discovery that if he drew cartoons any better he’d be terrible, and why he took a hiatus from submitting gags to The New Yorker (and whether they know he’s taken said hiatus). We also get into his literary loves, the perils of listening to William S. Burroughs audiobooks on late-night commutes, how his florid-rococo style balances with Eckstein’s Hemingway-on-valium approach, the lesson he learned from Milton Glaser about One Element of Dissonance, and more! Give it a listen! And go read The Elements of Stress and the Pursuit of Happy-ish in this Current Sh*tstorm!

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

Lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Spotify, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, TuneIn, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Michael Shaw’s cartoons have appeared in The New Yorker since 1999 and have a habit of going viral—appearing on an ABC news special following the World Trade Tower attack and on 60 Minutes as one of New Yorker cartoon editor Bob Mankoff’s “top five favorites.” Shaw’s cartoon on Charlie Hebdo led to his appearance on Ronan Farrow Daily on MSNBC. His cartoons have appeared in The New Yorker Book of Literary Cartoons, The Complete Cartoons of The New Yorker, The Rejection Collection I and II, The New Yorker Encyclopedia of Cartoons, The Ultimate Cartoon Book series, and in The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Harvard Business Review, Weekly Humorist, and Prospect magazine. His new book, with co-author Bob Eckstein, is The Elements of Stress and the Pursuit of Happy-ish in this Current Sh*tstorm.

Follow Michael on Twitter and Instagram and visit the Chinese sports gambling site that took over his website after he let the domain name lapse.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded remotely via Zencastr. I used a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Michael by . . . someone else. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 403:
Merrill Markoe (+ Emily Flake)

“What you find when you look at your old writings is that you’re a completely different person until you’re about 13 or 14.”

Comedy legend Merrill Markoe returns to the show to celebrate her new graphic memoir, We Saw Scenery: The Early Diaries of Merrill Markoe (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill)! We talk about how it felt to spend time with her childhood self over the course of the book, the decision to illustrate it and what that process taught her about cartooning, what contemporary Merrill has to say to her younger self, and how she owns up to having a crush on a junior high boy who made Heil Hitler salutes at her. We also get into the influence of Lynda Barry on her work, why she’s considering leaving Malibu for the Pacific Northwest, her decision to auction off her Late Night with David Letterman gear to contribute to charities (like this one!), her love for Pen15, the joy of the Undo button, and how the world has changed for funny women. And speaking of, Emily Flake also joins the show to talk about the Kickstarter for St. Nell’s Humor Writing Residency for Ladies (expiring Oct. 30, so go check it out)! Give it a listen! And go read We Saw Scenery!

(& check out Merrill’s first Virtual Memories Show appearance in 2014)

“Everybody I know who’s compulsively funny for a living, it comes to them young.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

Lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Spotify, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, TuneIn, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guests

Merrill Markoe was the head writer for the original The David Letterman Show (the live NBC morning show that was recognized with a Daytime Emmy Award) and the co-creator and first head writer of NBC’s groundbreaking Late Night with David Letterman, for which she won three additional Emmy Awards. She engineered the majority of the show’s original concepts and created the segments “Stupid Pet Tricks,” “Stupid Human Tricks,” and “Viewer Mail.” Merrill also won a Writer’s Guild award for her writing/performing work on HBO’s Not Necessarily the News. She has written for television shows such as Sex and the City, Newhart, and Moonlighting and has written for many periodicals, including Rolling Stone, Time, US Weekly, People, Esquire, The New York Times, and The Los Angeles Times, and her cartoon work has appeared in The New Yorker. She was recently awarded the Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award for Television Writing Achievement.

Follow Merrill on Twitter, and Instagram.

Emily Flake‘s cartoons and humorous essays run regularly in The New Yorker, The Nib, and many other publications. Her weekly strip, Lulu Eightball, ran in alt-weeklies for many years. She’s written and illustrated two books: These Things Ain’t Gonna Smoke Themselves and Mama Tried. Her illustrations and cartoons appear in publications all over the world, including the New York Times, Newsweek, the Globe and Mail, The Onion, The New Statesman, and Forbes. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband, daughter, and a new cat. Her new book is That Was Awkward: The Art and Etiquette of the Awkward Hug (Viking Books).

Follow Emily on Twitter and Instagram.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded remotely via Zencastr. I used a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Merrill by . . . someone else. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 398:
R. Sikoryak

“I really wanted to make a book where anyone could pick it up and say, ‘That’s something I know!’, whether it’s something from a bumper sticker or a comic that they avidly read.”

Cartoonist R. Sikoryak rejoins the show to talk about his new book, Constitution Illustrated (Drawn & Quarterly), and how his mode of parodying other comics made a perfect complement to the founding document of the United States. We get into what surprised him about the Constitution as he read it for this project, the challenge of representing the Three-Fifths Compromise, as well as the other artistic and compositional challenges of the book (all those dense word balloons!). We also talk about his family’s immigrant history, how he’s coping with the pandemic after finishing this book, why we both miss SPX, the artists he had the most trouble parodying, the secondary reading that went into Constitution Illustrated, why he was glad to do a book without Trump in it, his devotion to the scratchy old newspaper style of comics, and why he had to use Peanuts to represent the First Amendment. Give it a listen! And go read Constitution Illustrated! (& check out our 2012 podcast)

“One thing that’s so great about Constitution is that it was written in the 18th century, but Amendments were continually added. Stuff happens. Things are decided in the beginning that are terrible ideas, but later on they’re replaced, eliminated, reconsidered.”

“I would love this book if I hadn’t made it. I can enjoy it abstractly, but maybe 20 years from now I’ll look back and it’ll surprise me.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

Lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Spotify, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, TuneIn, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Cartoonist R. Sikoryak is the author of Masterpiece Comics, Terms and Conditions, and The Unquotable Trump (Drawn & Quarterly). He’s adapted the classics for various comics anthologies, including RAW, Drawn & Quarterly, The Graphic Canon, and more. His comics and illustrations have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Book Review, The Nation, The Onion, MAD, and SpongeBob Comics, as well as on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. He’s done storyboards and character designs for Augenblick Studios on various animated projects. Bob teaches in the illustration department at Parsons The New School for Design and at The Center for Cartoon Studies. Since 1997, he’s presented his live cartoon slide show series, Carousel, around the United States and Canada. He lives in New York City with his spouse, Kriota Willberg. His new book is Constitution Illustrated.

Follow Bob on Twitter and Instagram.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded remotely via Zencastr. I used a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Bob by Kriota Willberg. It’s on my instagram.