Virtual Memories Show 290: Jason Lutes

“Berlin was not a story that felt at arms’ length to me; there were many resonances with my life, and it’s all the most strange that the publication of this book coincides with a rise of nationalism in our own country.”

For the third installment in our ad hoc Germany/fascism triptych, Jason Lutes joins the show to talk about completing his 22-year opus, the 550-page graphic novel Berlin (Drawn & Quarterly)! We talk about the changes in his life, his art, and comics publishing over that course of this project, the ways Berlin evolved and changed over the years, Jason’s struggle not to re-draw panels or pages or full issues for the collected edition, what he learned about human nature and fascism in the course of making Berlin, and the imaginative benefit of not having Google Image search when he started doing research for it. We also get into his storytelling and cinematic influences, the balance of formalism with fluid storytelling, what he’s learned from teaching at the Center for Cartoon Studies, his epiphany at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum during CXC 2018, my inadvertent comparison of him to Britney Spears, and plenty more! Give it a listen! And go buy Berlin!

“Print comics are constraint-driven, and I learned to work within those constraints.”

“I tell my students: don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the functional.”

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, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Jason Lutes was born in New Jersey in 1967 and grew up reading American superhero and Western comics. In the late 1970s he discovered Heavy Metal magazine and the tabletop role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons, both of which proved major influences on his creative development. Lutes graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design with a BFA in illustration, and in 1993 he began drawing a weekly comics page called Jar of Fools: A Picture Story for Seattle’s The Stranger. Lutes lives in Vermont with his partner and two children, where he teaches comics at the Center for Cartoon Studies. His new book is Berlin, from Drawn & Quarterly, completing a serial he began in 1996.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at 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 Jason Lutes by . . . somebody. It’s not on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 289:
Nora Krug

“The decision to make this book was the excuse to finally ask questions of my family.”

With the brand-new visual memoir Belonging: A German Reckons with History and Home (Scribner), writer/illustrator Nora Krug explores her family’s history in World War II and her own struggles with her identity as a German expat in America. We get into the meaning of Heimat and why her questions arose when she was living outside of Germany, the challenges of telling the story without devaluing the Holocaust itself (thanks, Jewish beta-readers, incl. Nora’s husband!), the pendulum swing of collective guilt, the failings of German’s education system to address the war, and whether certain books should be banned (and what happened the time she tried reading Mein Kampf on the subway). We also get into the process of editing her life and her discoveries into a narrative without eliding the truth, how Belonging/Heimat has been received in Germany, writing it in English, and the detective work that went into making the book. Plus, we talk about her visual storytelling style, teaching art at Parsons, why she doesn’t keep a sketchbook (but doesn’t tell her students that), and the German stereotypes she does and doesn’t live up to (she’s getting better at small talk!). Give it a listen! And go buy Belonging: A German Reckons with History and Home!

“A lot of Germans in my generation feel like everything has already been said about the war. But in reality the war is so embedded in their consciousness.”

“The whole research process was an internal struggle of trying to test the limits of my empathy for the decisions that my grandfather made.”

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, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Nora Krug is a German-American author and illustrator whose drawings and visual narratives have appeared in publications including The New York Times, The Guardian, Le Monde diplomatique and A Public Space, and in anthologies published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Simon and Schuster and Chronicle Books. She is a recipient of fellowships from Fulbright, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, the Maurice Sendak Foundation, and the German Academic Exchange Service. Her books are included in the Library of Congress and the Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Columbia University. Her illustrations have been recognized with three gold medals from the Society of Illustrators and a silver cube from the New York Art Directors Club, while her visual biography, Kamikaze, about a surviving Japanese WWII pilot, was included in Houghton Mifflin’s Best American Comics and Best Non-Required Reading. Nora’s work has been exhibited internationally, and her animations were shown at the Sundance Film Festival. She is the author of the visual memoir Belonging: A German Reckons with History and Home (foreign edition title Heimat), about WWII and her own German family history. She is an associate professor in the Illustration Program at the Parsons School of Design in New York City.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Ms. Krug’s home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. But we had an equipment failure, so I used the backup Zoom H2n 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. Krug by me. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 288:
Ken Krimstein

“I think philosophers are all frustrated cartoonists and cartoonists are all frustrated philosophers.”

With his new graphic biography The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt: A Tyranny of Truth (Bloomsbury), Ken Krimstein combines his interests in comics, history and philosophy into a dream project. We talk about how he made the shift from “average NPR listener” to deep scholar of Hannah Arendt, teaching himself phenomenology in mid-life to balance story with philosophy, trying to understand the relationship between Arendt and Heidegger (and trying to understand Heidegger’s philosophy and whether it fed into his Nazism), seeing through Arendt’s eyes and taking solace from her philosophy, and how he got laughed at by other cartoonists when he told them he thought he could draw this 240-page book in 6-8 weeks. We also get into Ken’s history in comics and advertising, the alchemy of the New Yorker cartoon, how he learned about culture via Mad Magazine, his failed attempt to be Saul Bellow, the lesson that problem-finding is more important than problem-solving, the Chicago comics scene and the Evanston arts-mafia, what he misses about New York, and Saul Steinberg’s central role in art and comics for the 20th century and beyond. Give it a listen! And go buy The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt!

“When Walter Benjamin collects all the stuff for The Arcades Project, he’s just like all the collectors of old comic books. We look at the detritus, the scraps, and say, ‘This is what was really going on.'”

“You draw somebody 10,000 times, you get a sense for what their face is like, and their character.”

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, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Ken Krimstein‘s cartoons have been published in the New Yorker, Barron’s, The Harvard Business Review, Prospect Magazine, Punch, The National Lampoon, the Wall Street Journal, Narrative Magazine, and three of S. Gross’s cartoon anthologies His humor writing has been in The New York Observer’s “New Yorker’s Diary” and humor websites, including McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Yankee Pot Roast, and Mr. Beller’s Neighborhood. His series of graphic reporting appeared in The Chicago Tribune‘s “Printer’s Row” literary magazine. A book of his Jewish-themed cartoons, Kvetch As Kvetch Can, has been published by Random House/ Clarkson Potter. In addition to teaching at De Paul University and The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, he is also an advertising creative director. His new book is The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt: A Tyranny of Truth (Bloomsbury).

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Ken’s friend Kathy’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. Photo of Mr. Krimstein by me. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 278:
Dmitry Samarov

“The curse of knowing more is that you see more.”

After our pre-opening tour of the Milton Resnick and Pat Passlof Foundation museum, artist Dmitry Samarov and I repaired to a cafe where we recorded a noisy conversation while Dmitry sketched me. This ridiculously casual episode gets into artists and suicide, the process and revelations of assembling 20 years’ worth of work for a mid-career retrospective (as well as his new exhibition of his CTA illustrations), the losing proposition of chasing stats, the launch of his own semisorta podcast, the fanciest dumb-phone around, becoming a journalist/reviewer, and how you gotta find the right tool for the job/art. Give it a listen! And go sign up for Dmitry’s weekly e-mail!

“People are so involved in their screens that they won’t look up in a 45-minute bus ride, which makes them the perfect subjects/victims for my art.”

“The goal is to outlive my parents. Everything is just gravy.”

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, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Dmitry Samarov is a painter and writer who lives in Chicago, IL. His first two books are Hack: Stories from a Chicago Cab, and Where To?: A Hack Memoir. Here’s his sketch of me.

Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Irving Coffee Roasters on Orchard St. on a Zoom H2n 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. Samarov by me. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 277:
Nathaniel Popkin

“A city, like a book, can be read.”

For a guy who calls himself a master of nothing, Nathaniel Popkin does a pretty good job for himself as a novelist, literary editor, critic, journalist, and urban historian. Nathaniel joins the show to talk about his new novel, Everything Is Borrowed (New Door Books), as well as the new literary anthology he co-edited, Who Will Speak for America? (Temple University Press). We get into the fertile subject and setting of Philadelphia, the goal of building a literary hub for his adopted city, the process of writing a novel about anarchists and architects (which I sorta characterize as the anti-Fountainhead), the necessity of self-delusion for artists, his background in urban planning and how it informs his writing, the challenges and rewards of seeking diversity in art, the importance of the Writers Resist movement, how becoming a writer was his way of being Jewish in the world, and why he eschewed MFA vs NYC in favor of PHL! Give it a listen! And go buy Everything Is Borrowed, Who Will Speak for America?, and Philadelphia: Finding the Hidden City!

“The question of who will speak for America is vital at this moment.”

“Philadelphia is an injured city. It wants to be something but never quite can achieve it.”

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, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Nathaniel Popkin is the author of five books, including the new novel Everything Is Borrowed (New Door Books), called “utterly absorbing” by the writer Robin Black, and the co-editor of Who Will Speak for America?, a literary anthology in response to the American political crisis, forthcoming in June 2018 (Temple University Press). He is the fiction review editor of Cleaver Magazine, as well as a prolific book critic—and National Book Critics Circle member—focusing on literary fiction and works in translation. His work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Public Books, The Rumpus, Tablet Magazine, LitHub, The Millions, and the Kenyon Review, among other publications.

As a keen observer of cities and lived places, Popkin has often turned his eye to the layers of history and life in his own city. He’s the founding co-editor of the Hidden City Daily, a web magazine that covers architecture, design, planning, and preservation in Philadelphia, and the co-author of the 2017 work of non-fiction, Philadelphia: Finding the Hidden City (Temple University Press). He’s also the senior writer and story editor of the multi-part documentary film series “Philadelphia: The Great Experiment,” for which his work has been recognized with several Emmy awards. He was the guest architecture critic of the Philadelphia Inquirer from 2011-12.

Popkin’s first novel, Lion and Leopard (The Head and The Hand Press), is a mediation on originality and influence in art. It reimagines the life and tragic death of the first great American genre painter, John Lewis Krimmel. Lion and Leopard was a finalist for the Foreword Reviews Indie Book of the Year Award, and novelist Ken Kalfus described it as “historical literary fiction at its most engaging.”

Lion and Leopard followed two books of literary non-fiction, the 2002 Song of the City (Four Walls Eight Windows/Basic Books) and the 2008 essay collection, The Possible City (Camino Books).

Popkin has been a Pennsylvania Council on the Arts fellow and a writer-in-residence at Philadelphia University and the Athenaeum of Philadelphia.

Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at the Philadelphia Athenaeum 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. Popkin by me. It’s on my instagram.