samzabelcoverVirtual Memories Show #140:
Dylan Horrocks, Straight Outta Hicksville

“When you love an art form passionately, it can get complicated. It’s not a simple, clean, pure love that constantly enriches your life. It can also break your heart.”

Live from CXC! Dylan Horrocks, the NZ cartoonist behind Hicksville (Drawn & Quarterly) and Sam Zabel And The Magic Pen (Fantagraphics), joins the show for a live podcast to talk about his fear of comics, our responsibility for our fantasies, the way he built a fruitful career around creative block, the influence of Maori culture on white New Zealanders’ perspectives, the way his backup stories keep becoming his major projects, his take on Charlie Hebdo and how it ties into his experience with the fatwa on Salman Rushdie, and the idea that America is a story we tell ourselves. This episode is part of our Cartoon Crossroads Columbus series of live podcasts. Give it a listen!

“Part of what I was trying to do was to explore what it means to be marginal. Comics were seen as marginal to the literary world and the art world, and New Zealand is seen as being at the bottom of the world. Instead of saying, ‘We’re on the edges of these two worlds, so let’s travel to the center,’ I decided that there is no center. Wherever you are on the surface of the world, that’s the center of the world.”

hicksvilledylanDylan also talks about backing into mainstream comics without a vision for what to do when he got there, his parents’ history in a Trotskyist revolutionary cell, the literary aspect of his work, and whether comics really will break your heart. BONUS: you get my story about how Hicksville led me travel to the other side of the planet (and make this jump). Go listen!  (And go buy Hicksville and Sam Zabel And The Magic Pen!)

“I have the idea that America is a narrative, a fiction, in the same way that every nation is kind of a fictional construction. . . . America is a story we tell ourselves.”

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

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About our Guest

3594884-dylan_horrocks23-copyDylan Horrocks is from New Zealand, where he lives near the city of his birth, Auckland, with his wife and their two sons. He published 10 issues of his legendary comic book series Pickle through Canada’s Black Eye Press in the mid-1990s. A collected version of his Hicksville serial was first published in 1998, and quickly became one of the cartoon works of its generation. Hicksville‘s vision of a small town where comics are so valued that, even those comics that never got to be created somehow exist, is a thrilling, yet human vision for the art form, and one which cartoonists and audiences have rallied to ever since. Horrocks has since drawn the comic book Atlas for Drawn And Quarterly, spent time working for DC Comics, and has become an educator and advocate for the art form in New Zealand and abroad. His newest book is Sam Zabel And The Magic Pen, a new graphic novel published by Fantagraphics about the act of creation and the pernicious qualities of being creatively blocked. His Incomplete Works will be published in the U.S. any time now. You can follow Dylan on Twitter at @dylanhorrocks.

Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission of the artist. The conversation was recorded at the Cultural Arts Center in Columbus, OH during Cartoon Crossroads Columbus in October 2015 on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro. Photo of me & Mr. Horrocks by Amy Roth. I’m afraid I don’t have a photo credit for that photo of Mr. Horrocks.

derfcoverVirtual Memories Show #139:
Derf Backderf

“My art has become good enough to tell the stories I want to tell. I’m a broken down punk rock geezer, but I’m still a relatively young cartoonist. I’ve only been doing long-form comics since 2010.”

Live from CXC! Derf Backderf made a mid-career course correction, going from alt-weekly cartoons to full-length graphic novels like My Friend Dahmer and his new book Trashed (Abrams Comicarts). In this live podcast, we talk about that transition, how he became political years after being a political cartoonist, the impact of Ohio’s rustbelt disintegration on his worldview, and the surprise of his success in Europe. How do you go from garbageman to winner of the Angouleme prize? Find out from Derf Backderf in this week’s Virtual Memories ShowGive it a listen! (And go buy Trashed!)

“The most surprising and one of the most personally satisfying thing to me has been the success I’ve had in Europe, especially France. . . . I walked around Paris last week just laughing; I can’t believe my luck.”

We also talk about the glory days of alt-weekly comics, the mental gymnastics necessary to write Jeffrey Dahmer as a human being, Derf’s observations and adventures in the French comics market, why he decided not to do a book about his cancer experience, how he made more cartoonist-friends after Joyce Brabner kicked him in the ass about being a recluse, and why it’s so much fun to develop good characters who can drive a story. Go listen! 

“I did an interview with a big national newspaper in France . . . and the opening question was, ‘We know the rust belt for three things: LeBron James, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and you.'”

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

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About our Guest

Derf Backderf was born and raised in a small town in Ohio, outside of Akron. He began his comix career as a political cartoonist, first at The Ohio State University, then at a dying daily paper in South Florida. He was fired for, as the editor put it, “general tastelessness.” Derf then gravitated to the free weekly press where his cranky, freeform comic strip, The City, appeared in over 140 papers during its 24-year run. As weekly papers began to wither, Derf moved to graphic novels, starting with Punk Rock and Trailer Parks (SLG Publishing, 2010). He followed that with the international bestseller, My Friend Dahmer (Abrams Comicarts, 2012) which was awarded an Angoulême Prize and named to the American Library Assocation’s list of The 100 Greatest Graphic Novels. His latest book is Trashed (Abrams Comicarts, 2015), a rollicking Rustbelt epic about garbagemen, a career Derf himself enjoyed when he dropped out of college for a spell. His books have been translated into French, German, Spanish, Dutch and Korean. Derf also won a Robert F. Kennedy Award for his political cartoons, and has been nominated for Eisner, Ignatz, Harvey and Rueben Awards. He lives in Cleveland, for reasons he can no longer recall.

Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission of the artist. The conversation was recorded at the Cultural Arts Center in Columbus, OH during Cartoon Crossroads Columbus in October 2015 on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro. Photo of me & Mr. Backderf by Amy Roth.

517fEFCEZ1L._SX339_BO1,204,203,200_Virtual Memories Show #138:
Bill Griffith

“With this new book, I’m reconnecting with my earlier self from the underground era, but with all the experience and skill that I’ve gained in the last 30 years of doing a daily strip.”

Bill Griffith is best known for nearly 30 years of daily comic strips featuring the absurd, surreal American treasure known as Zippy the Pinhead, but he’s also the author of the amazing graphic memoir, Invisible Ink: My Mother’s Love Affair With A Famous Cartoonist (Fantagraphics). This new 200-page work chronicles Bill’s mother’s affair with the cartoonist Lawrence Lariar, and explores notions of family, infidelity, art, vanishing New York, the transience of reputation and memory, and of course, comics. The book is so significant that I decided to have two separate sessions with Bill, one to discuss his background and his comics history, and the other to focus on Invisible Ink. In part 1, we tackle Bill’s discovery of underground comics and the scene in ’70s San Francisco, his fine art education, the inescapable importance of Robert Crumb, his collaboration with Art Spiegelman on Arcade magazine, how he wound up with a syndicated daily Zippy comic strip, his rediscovery of diners, muffler-men, and roadside advertising icons, his surprisingly youthful audience, the responsibility of blowing up his readers’ minds, and more! Give it a listen! (And go buy Invisible Ink!)

“We thought of Arcade magazine as a life-raft. We were worried that underground comics would die in two ways: economically, with the Supreme Court ruling on pornography . . . and through the limits of its own audience, which was centered around headshops. Arcade was supposed to be where underground comics went to grow up, and build a wider audience.”

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Part 2 of this episode takes place at the inaugural Cartoon Crossroads Columbus, where I interviewed Bill in front of an audience that included Art Spiegelman. This section focuses on Invisible Ink, and covers Bill’s relationship with his parents, the reasons he pursued the story of his mother’s affair, the transience of fame, his need to re-draw all of Lawrence Lariar’s art in his book, how he reacted when his mother wanted to get a tattoo of Zippy, what he’s learned from teaching cartooning at SVA, and more! We had two great conversations, so go listen to them!

“Art Spiegelman told me he liked Zippy, but it was a little like being stuck in an elevator with a crazy person.”

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

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About our Guest

Bill Griffith grew up in Levittown, NY. He attended Pratt Institute and studied painting and graphic arts concurrently with Kim Deitch — they dropped out about the same time. Inspired by Zap, Griffith began making underground comics in 1969, and joined the cartoonists in San Francisco in 1970. Griffith’s famous character Zippy the Pinhead made his initial appearances in early underground comic books, morphing into a syndicated weekly strip in 1976 and then a nationally-syndicated daily strip a decade later. Griffith is married to cartoonist and editor Diane Noomin. They live in Connecticut. His new book is Invisible Ink: My Mother’s Love Affair With A Famous Cartoonist (Fantagraphics).

You can find a more extensive bio at Bill’s site.

Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission of the artist. The conversation was recorded at Mr. Griffith’s studio in Connecticut in August 2015 and at the Cultural Arts Center in Columbus, OH at Cartoon Crossroads Columbus in October 2015 on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro. Photos of Mr. Griffith by me.

610yfF-huNL._SX351_BO1,204,203,200_Virtual Memories Show #137:
Scott McCloud – Tumblings

“I want to be working, making comics, and knowing that the thing I’m doing right now is the thing I should be doing and I shouldn’t feel guilty about doing it. I’ve been able to keep that going much of the time for the last 20 years, and it’s kinda great.”

Is Scott McCloud comics’ leading theorist or a deranged lunatic? Find out in this lengthy conversation we recorded during SPX 2015! Scott talks about applying (and forgetting) the lessons of Understanding Comics in his new book, The Sculptor (First Second), the massive implications of crowdfunding for cartoonists and other creators, the problems with ‘balance’ in comics pages, his rebellion against Facebook, the Laurie Anderson model of comics, how he defines success, how to keep a happy marriage inside the comics world, and more! Give it a listen!

“We’ve never seen the consumer dollar at full strength. In traditional print markets, somebody spends a dollar on my work, and I get 10 cents at the end of that chain, that massive army of middlemen. Now we’re seeing what kind of world happens when the consumer dollar stays closer to a dollar. That army of consumers really has an enormous power to put your boat afloat.”

We also talk about his next book (on visual communication and education), his strengths and weaknesses as a cartoonist, making a 500-page comic book that readers could tackle in one sitting, why Reinventing Comics was like “trying to eat 10 lbs. of potato salad”, how every success story in cartooning is unique, the differences in working in print vs. working for the screen, and trying to be a scholar for the first time. Now go listen!

“Craig Thompson’s Blankets is probably off the hook now, because I finally did a comic even more sentimental. So now I made Craig look like Gary Panter.”

We mention a few books in this episode. Here they are:

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes! You might like:

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About our Guest

21788606830_88d3dcf5b9_mScott McCloud is the award-winning author of Understanding Comics, Making Comics, Zot!, The Sculptor, and many other fiction and non-fiction comics spanning 30 years. An internationally-recognized authority on comics and visual communication, technology, and the power of storytelling, McCloud has lectured at Google, Pixar, Sony, and the Smithsonian Institution. There’s a more extensive and funny bio at his site.

Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission of the artist. The conversation was recorded during the Small Press Expo at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel on a Zoom H2n Handy Recorder and a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro. Photo of Mr. McCloud by me.

J.D.McClatchy_NewBioImage_Credit-GeoffSpearVirtual Memories Show #136:
J.D. McClatchy – A Forest of Things

“I’m now older than the two most important men in my life were when they died: my father and James Merrill.”

The great poet, essayist, librettist and bon vivant J.D. McClatchy (Sandy, to his friends) joins the show to talk about outliving his idols, adapting my favorite novel (The Leopard!) to opera, having his life changed by a course with Harold Bloom, collecting letters from the likes of Proust and Housman, and marrying Chip Kidd! We also get into his friendship with James Merrill, pop culture’s triumph over high culture, his genetic inability to read comics, why he loathed Ezra Pound as a person and as an artist, how sexual politics has replaced social politics, the experience of teaching the first gay literature course at Yale in 1978 (and getting dropped from the university because of it), how a serious poet writes for the dead, not the living, and more! Give it a listen!

“I think the problem of all young poets — which I shared — was that at the age of 20, 25, I didn’t have anything to write about.”

We also talk about the unique challenges of his various genres (poetry, prose, libretti), the benefits of a career in academia, the notion that the great treasures of western civilization have created us and are needed to sustain us, the true stakes of writing poetry, his commonplace book (being published next spring), his Ouija experience with Anne Sexton, sailing the Atlantic for his 70th birthday, how three Ring cycles equals one San Diego Comic-Con, and why it took him four years to begin writing in a new home. This one’s a great conversation, so go listen!

“The experience of watching kids grow up imaginatively, and grow out of themselves — rather than into themselves — in the first shedding of a false skin, is something I take very seriously in my responsibility as a teacher.”

We mention a few books in this episode. Here they are:

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

Follow The Virtual Memories Show on iTunes, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

Also, during the episode I promised to show you the official image of What Your Host Feels Like When He’s Reading Poetry, as illustrated by Roger Langridge. Whoomp, here it is:

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About our Guest

J.D. McClatchy is the author Plundered Hearts: New and Selected Poems (Knopf, 2014), as well as seven previous collections of poetry and of three collections of prose. He has edited numerous other books, including The Vintage Book of Contemporary American Poetry, and has written a number of opera libretti that have been performed at the Metropolitan Opera, Covent Garden, La Scala, and elsewhere. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, where he served as president from 2009 to 2012. McClatchy teaches at Yale University and is the editor of the Yale Review.

Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission of the artist. The conversation was recorded at Mr. McClatchy’s Stonington, CT home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro. B/W photo of Mr. McClatchy by Geoff Spears; color photo by me.