Virtual Memories Show 352:
Robb Armstrong

“These marks that the artist makes are our signature, our footprint. They have to stay.”

At Cartoon Crossroads Columbus – CXC, cartoonist Robb Armstrong joins the show to talk about celebrating 30 years of his nationally syndicated comic strip, JumpStart. We get into how he made the transition from gags to character-based humor, the early days of doing the comic strip while holding down a full-time job in advertising (and some absolutely crazy stories about how he used to get original art from Philadelphia up to the syndicate office in NYC), the pop culture references he regrets from the ’90s, and why believing in in his characters helps his readers believe in them, too. We also discuss the challenges of breaking into cartooning and the support he got from past African-American cartoonists like Morrie Turner and Buck Brown, the influence of Charles Schulz on his work and his character, the inescapability of Bill Watterson, how he learned to stop worrying about industry awards, and the move from Philly to LA and the lessons learned from going through the TV production process. We also get into his strong belief in helping other artists, why he thinks pencils and erasers are the devil’s tools, what he’d tell the Robb of 30 years ago about what he has to look forward to, and plenty more! Give it a listen! And go read JumpStart daily at GoComics!

“If I could go back 30 years, I’d tell myself: ‘Pace yourself.’ ‘Be grateful.’ And, ‘You can do a good strip every day.’”

“Perfection is not necessary when you’re thinking, when you’re drawing, when you’re creating something.”

“As sexy as it would have been, I bet I dodged a bullet not getting a TV show. I don’t think the strip would have survived the cancellation of a show, and these shows have such a short life span.”

“Helping a young person solidify their belief in what they can do isn’t just a good deed, it’s extremely urgent. Without saying to a young person, ‘You’re special; you need to do this,’ you’re pulling up the ladder, and that’s not right.”

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

Robb Armstrong is the creator of the nationally syndicated comic strip JumpStart, which recently celebrated its 30th anniversary, and will see a retrospective collection in 2020. He is also the author of Fearless: A Cartoonist’s Guide to Life.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at the Hotel LeVeque during CXC – Cartoon Crossroads Columbus on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on 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 Mr. Armstrong by me. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 351:
Annie Koyama

“More and more in this society, if you have more than other people, you have a duty to share it.”

Toronto-based small press comics publisher Annie Koyama joins the show to talk about her decision to shut down Koyama Press after 13 years, her thoughts on how artists should be treated (and how they should treat themselves), and how to make the most out of life after getting a terminal diagnosis. We get into what comes next in her support for the arts, how the publishing business has changed and what risks she can and can’t take, the near-death experience that led her to launch Koyama Press (and the accidental naming of the company), and the most surprising success in her backlist. We also discuss how her artists took the news, what she’ll miss the most, the importance of supporting artists throughout all stages of their careers, how not even her previous careers in film and advertising could prepared her for the world of art comics publishing, and more! Give it a listen! And go check out Koyama Press’ catalog!

“Koyama Press is something I accidentally fell into, and yet I probably love it more than anything I’ve ever done.”

“I like to get stuff done, and every time I have a health scare, it reminds me that I have to start running faster, or I’m going to have to not do all the stuff I want to do.”

“I want to do too much; that’s my problem but it’s also what fires me.”

“I hope I’m always curious, to a fault.”

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

Annie Koyama is the publisher and founder of the Toronto-based Koyama Press. After working in graphic arts, set painting, and film, she found herself in advertising, making commercials. After a surviving a terminal diagnosis, she decided to dedicate her time and resources to supporting primarily emerging artists. In 2007, she published Koyama Press’s first book, Trio Magnus: Equally Superior, by the Trio Magnus collective.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at the Bethesda North Marriott during Small Press Expo (SPX) weekend on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on 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. Photos of Ms. Koyama by me. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show:
Tom Spurgeon Bonus Episode

“The danger isn’t in the limits of what you can do for someone. The danger is in withdrawing, and realizing you don’t have those relationships anymore. If you can be engaged in someone’s life . . . that’s what you have and that’s what you work with.”

Following the unexpected death of Tom Spurgeon, my best friend and an inveterate supporter of the show, I’ve re-posted our 2012 conversation, along with a new (and emotional) introduction. Give it a listen

“I was morphined up and looking out the back of an ambulance for about three hours. You get to see things as a beginning, middle and end. . . . My story might end in a couple of hours. What does that mean? What was that life like?”

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

About our Guest

At the time of his death at the age of 50, Tom Spurgeon was the editor of The Comics Reporter and executive director of CXC – Cartoon Crossroads Columbus.

Credits: The conversation was recorded at Small Press Expo in Bethesda, MD in 2012 on a pair of Blue enCORE 100 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H4 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on 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. Photos of me & Tom by my wife. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 349:
Pete Bagge Returns!

“One of the reasons I wrote about these three women for my books is that the lives they led give me something to draw.”

Third time’s the charm! Cartoonist Pete Bagge returns to talk about his new comic biography, Credo: The Rose Wilder Lane Story (Drawn & Quarterly), and we get into the thematic ties of his three biographies — Lane, Margaret Sanger, and Zora Neale Hurston — and how he learned the biographer’s art over the course of those works. We talk about how he discovered Rose Wilder Lane’s walk-the-walk libertarianism, her transition in and out of socialism, the likelihood that she co-wrote her mother’s Little House series of books, Pete’s own history with libertarianism and the uncomfortable questions he’d ask his parents, and why his own biography would be a lot less interesting than those of his subjects. We also discuss his writing and drawing process and how he structured these books, why he’d prefer to produce comics in installments and how economics mitigate against that model, how trying to write for TV made his comics writing more concise, and why he’s likely sticking to shorter biography comics for a while. Oh, and we talk about his ’80s/’90s editorship of the anthology Weirdo, how he followed R. Crumb, and the artists he pissed off as well as the ones to whom he gave their first shot, and the memoir he’s written but has yet to draw. Give it a listen! And go buy Credo: The Rose Wilder Lane Story!

“RAW was full of art and artists that I loved, but it was clearly designed to appeal to people that I hated.”

“Something that I’ve been struggling with since I’ve been a cartoonist is to be more concise. I have a bad habit of being too verbose.”

“There are these 400-page graphic novels out there, and by page 50, I just have no motivation to turn another page.”

“Drawing Buddy Bradley over and over at conventions? It beats drawing nothing.”

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 Peter Bagge is the Harvey Award–winning author of the acclaimed 1990s alternative comic series Hate, starring slacker hero Buddy Bradley, and a regular contributor to Reason magazine. A graduate of the School of Visual Arts in New York City, he got his start in comics in the R. Crumb–edited magazine Weirdo, of which he later became editor. Bagge has published three critically acclaimed books with Drawn & Quarterly: Fire!!: The Zora Neale Hurston Story, Woman Rebel: The Margaret Sanger Story, and the recently published Credo: The Rose Wilder Lane Story. He lives in Tacoma with his wife, Joanne, daughter, and three cats.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at the Belnord Hotel on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on 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 Mr. Bagge by me. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 348:
Steven Heller

“It’s a learning moment of how powerful symbols are and how powerful graphic design is.”

The Nazi swastika is a symbol of evil, but what about the pre-Nazi version of that symbol? With the publication of The Swastika and Symbols of Hate: Extremist Iconography Today (Allworth Press), Steven Heller returns to a topic he’s spent decades on: the power of graphic design and its abuses by Nazis and other totalitarian movements. He rejoins the show to talk about whether the swastika is redeemable to its original purpose as a Sanskrit Buddhist symbol, why it’s uniquely toxic in comparison to other national and religious symbols like the USSR’s hammer & sickle, and Steven’s biggest surprise when he began researching the swastika’s history. We get into how he teaches students about the ramifications of swastika-derived designs, how most Nazi, nationalist and white supremacist groups are variants of the Cross, his sadness about having to revise and reissue this book for our current era (but happiness about giving it a tighter, more effective layout), the ramifications of free speech vs. hate speech, and whether it’s okay to punch out a Nazi. We also tackle my experiences visiting Germany, the coding of modern-day white supremacists, the impact of graphic design and illustration on Resistance, Antifa’s unfortunate similarities to the SDS, and the question of whether he’s obsessed with hate imagery. (We also get into non-swastika stuff, like how he’s staying occupied while his Daily Heller blog is on hiatus, the role he played in giving a number of illustrators and cartoonists their first gigs, the memoir he’s working on, and why he’s not looking to be the subject of a documentary.) Give it a listen! And go buy The Swastika and Symbols of Hate: Extremist Iconography Today!

(And check out my 2018 conversation with Steven!)

“There are all these ambiguities, but at a certain point you have to put your foot down and say, ‘This is how I see it.'”

“Doing the daily blog, you get into a regular groove, and when you stop, you wonder how you can get back into the groove.”

“When I lecture these days, sometimes I feel like the students know more than I do.”

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

Steven Heller, former art director of the New York Times Book Review, is the cochair of the School of Visual Arts MFA Design / Designer as Author + Entrepreneur Program. He is the author, coauthor, and editor of more than 190 books on design, social satire, and visual culture, including Iron Fists: Branding the 20th Century Totalitarian State. He wrote the Daily Heller for Print magazine and contributes to Design Observer, Eye, Wired, the New York Times, and the Atlantic. He is the recipient of two honorary doctorates, the AIGA Medal for Lifetime Achievement, and the Smithsonian National Design Award for “Design Mind.” He lives in New York City. His new book is The Swastika and Symbols of Hate: Extremist Iconography Today, from Allworth Press.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Mr. Heller’s home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on 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. Photos of Mr. Heller by me. It’s on my instagram.