Virtual Memories Show 241: Barry Blitt

“It was nice to have been offered this retrospective book, but I wish it had just stopped there.”

Why is award-winning illustrator Barry Blitt so uncomfortable with the flap copy praise of his new decades-spanning compendium, Blitt (just out from Riverhead Books)? We spend an hour trying to get to the bottom of that, starting with his horror at looking back at his work (both from seeing rookie mistakes and from deciding he was better back then). We talk about how his New Yorker covers shifted from observational to topical illustrations, how he’s become the de facto voice of that magazine, his Canadian roots (and how its attendant hockey fetish got him started as an illustrator), his first Mad magazine, his fear of overexposure, the difference between punching down and going for cheap laughs, and how he’s made smartassery as career asset. Also, I bust his balls about his uncanny resemblance to Bob Balaban. Give it a listen! And go buy Blitt!

“Playing piano is an antidote for drawing, where you put a line down and it’s there on the page. Here you play a note and it’s temporary, it drifts away. You make a mistake and it’s behind you in a second. If your next phrase is nice, that’s what’s happening now.”

“One of the great things about Francoise Mouly is that she insists on seeing everything I sketch in my sketchbook. ‘Please don’t self-edit’ is her credo.”

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

Lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Twitter, Instagram, Soundcloud, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Barry Blitt was born in Montreal, schooled in Toronto, and burnished to a gleaming shine in London, New York, and Connecticut. He has been contributing fussy little drawings to countless publications for what seems like years. His hobbies include visiting the shops and keeping friends and loved ones at arm’s length.

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 Barry’s home in Connecticut 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 me and Barry by me. It’s on my instagram. There are a bunch of neat pics in this set.

Virtual Memories Show 240:
John Crowley & Michael Meyer

“Writing has made people feel unsafe and uncomfortable since, oh, the Bible.”

One of my favorite authors, John Crowley, returns to the show to talk about his “final dress novel,” the wonderful Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr (Saga Press). We talk about the sense of his various endings, writing a talking animal book that’s actually about an old man dying, the challenges of reaching a broader audience and why he returned to fantastika, his retirement from teaching at Yale and his thoughts on how students have changed, his Catholic upbringing and how it informed his writing, the pressure of new rules and norms on writers, the radical challenge of sympathy, and more. But first, I call Michael Meyer to talk about his new book, The Road to Sleeping Dragon: Learning China from the Ground Up (Bloomsbury). We get into what Americans really need to know about China, how the country has changed in the 20+ years that he’s been working and living there (on and off), and why Pittsburgh is the Beijing of the US. Give it a listen! And go buy Ka & The Road to Sleeping Dragon!

“We will figure out how to write exactly what we want to write, but within a coded system where we can speak to one another as adults, while people who want to check it against the present rules can read it that way, but we’ll know better.”

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

Lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Twitter, Instagram, Soundcloud, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guests

A two-time winner of a Lowell Thomas Award for travel writing, Michael Meyer is also the recipient of the Whiting Writers’ Award for nonfiction and a Guggenheim Fellowship. His stories have appeared in The New York Times, Time, Smithsonian, Slate, the Financial Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, and on This American Life. The author of The Last Days of Old Beijing: Life in the Vanishing Backstreets of a City Transformed and In Manchuria: A Village Called Wasteland and the Transformation of Rural China, Meyer teaches nonfiction writing at the University of Pittsburgh. His new book is The Road to Sleeping Dragon: Learning China from the Ground Up.

John Crowley was born in the appropriately liminal town of Presque Isle, Maine in 1942, his father then an officer in the US Army Air Corps. He grew up in Vermont, northeastern Kentucky and (for the longest stretch) Indiana, where he went to high school and college. He moved to New York City after college to make movies and found work in documentary films, an occupation he still pursues. He published his first novel The Deep in 1975, and his fifteenth volume of fiction, Four Freedoms, in 2009. Since 1993 he has taught creative writing at Yale University. In 1992 he received the Award in Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. In 2006 he was awarded the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement. He finds it more gratifying that almost all his work is still in print.

Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission from the artist. The conversation with Mr. Crowley was recorded at the Boston Marriott in Quincy 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.

Virtual Memories Show 239:
Pete Bagge and Mimi Pond, Live at CXC!

“The way I draw is how I express myself. . . . Friends asked if I should have collaborated on these biographies with someone who draws realistically. . . . But then I wouldn’t have wanted to read it!”
–Pete Bagge

First Pete Bagge rejoins the show for a live Spotlight session at CXC – Cartoon Crossroads Columbus. We talk about Fire!!: The Zora Neale Hurston Story, his shift from fiction to nonfiction comics, his interest in feminist icons who didn’t ask for permission, dealing with cultural/gender appropriation issues in writing about women of color, expressing serious moments in his funnybones cartooning style, going through male menopause, making a living, and why he hasn’t made any Buddy Bradley stories in a long time. Then, we get a few segments from my CXC spotlight session with Mimi Pond, where we talk about her creative process, sexism in comics, and what she misses about the ’70s. Give it a listen! And go buy Fire!! and The Customer is Always Wrong and The Customer is Always Wrong!

“As long as you’re in your chair in front of your drawing board, there’s more of a chance that you’re gonna make a mark on a piece of paper at some point.”
— Mimi Pond

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

Lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Twitter, Instagram, Soundcloud, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guests

Alternative comic creator Pete Bagge is best known for the 90s comic series, Hate, featuring the semi-autobiographical antihero Buddy Bradley, whose adventures have been collected in two volumes: Buddy Does Seattle and Buddy Does Jersey, both from Fantagraphics. Bagge has also created three graphic novels: Reset, Apocalypse Nerd, and Other Lives. The journalistic strips Bagge has done for Reason have also been collected into a book entitled Everybody Is Stupid Except For Me. More recently, Bagge has written and drawn a full-length biographical comic, Woman Rebel: The Margaret Sanger Story, from Drawn & Quarterly, and a collection of short biographical strips, Founding Fathers Funnies, from Dark Horse. His newest book is Fire!!: The Zora Neale Hurston Story, from Drawn & Quarterly. Peter Bagge lives in Tacoma, WA with his wife Joanne and two darn cats.

Mimi Pond is a cartoonist, illustrator, humorist and writer. Her graphic memoir, The Customer is Always Wrong, was recently published by Drawn and Quarterly. It is the long-awaited 400 pages+ sequel to 2014’s Over Easy, which detailed her post-art school waitressing career in the late 1970s in Oakland, CA. Over Easy garnered a tremendous critical response, a place on the New York Times Best Seller List, the PEN Center USA award for Graphic Literature Outstanding Body of Work, and an Inkpot Award from Comic Con International in San Diego.

Pond has created comics for the Los Angeles Times, Seventeen Magazine, National Lampoon, The New Yorker, and many other publications too numerous to mention, along with five humor books. She has also written for television: her credits include the first full-length episode of the Simpsons in 1989, and episodes for the television shows “Designing Women” and “Pee Wee’s Playhouse”. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, the painter Wayne White.

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 Columbus Metropolitan Library 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 Pete Bagge by me. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 238:
Shannon Wheeler

“Cartooning for The New Yorker is like being in a jazz club, and you don’t go into a jazz club and play the Ramones.”

It’s late-night podcast-action with cartoonist Shannon Wheeler! We get into the history of his Too Much Coffee Man comics and his new book,Sh*t My President Says: The Illustrated Tweets of Donald J. Trump (Top Shelf), learning the language of cartooning at The New Yorker (and learning to work with a new editor there), the ways his architecture training informs his storytelling, his discovery of the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers at WAY too young an age, the cartooning trick that made him want to draw, his dream project on the history of northern California, and the redemption of the guy who used to dress up as TMCM at conventions! It’s coffee-fueled! Give it a listen! And go buy Sh*t My President Says!

“Liberals can be some of the most conservative people you’ll ever meet.”

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

Lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Twitter, Instagram, Soundcloud, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Shannon Wheeler is the Eisner Award-winning creator of Too Much Coffee Man, who has appeared internationally in newspapers, magazines, comic books and opera houses. He has contributed to a variety of publications, including The Onion newspaper and The New Yorker magazine. Wheeler currently lives in Portland, OR with his cats, chickens, bees, girlfriend and children. He publishes a comic every day at tmcm.com.

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 an undisclosed location 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. Wheeler by me. They’re on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 236:
Mimi Pond returns!

“I felt more of a sense of empty nest when I finished this book than I did when my children left home.”

Cartoonist and humorist Mimi Pond makes her third appearance on the show, this time to celebrate publication of The Customer is Always Wrong (Drawn & Quarterly). We talk about the joys of coming back to NYC (and her favorite diner in the city), the East Village becoming kitsch, the process of translating her book from prose to comics, the differences between working in print and making web-comics for The New Yorker, publishing the conclusion of her unreliable memoir and lamenting a story that didn’t make it didn’t make it into the book, navigating celebrity-adjacent moments in LA, her fascination with the Mitford sisters, her realization that San Diego Comic-Con is “cosplay concentration camp”, having a very creative plan for dental coverage, why she considers Beverly Clearly the Hemingway of children’s writers, her pet peeve of being shelved in bookstores beside superhero comics, and her great lesson for being an artist: “make friends with discomfort”! Give it a listen! And go buy Over Easy and The Customer is Always Wrong!

“I liked Archie comics because it was a look to an adolescence I hoped I would have. It turned out to be a crushing disappointment. There was no Pop’s Soda Shop! I didn’t get to date a guy with hashmarks on the side of his head. Most importantly, there was no Jughead!”

“The dark, ugly secret of comics is that just about everyone successful has a partner behind them, supporting them in some way.”

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

Lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Twitter, Instagram, Soundcloud, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Mimi Pond is a cartoonist, illustrator, humorist and writer. Her graphic memoir, The Customer is Always Wrong, was recently published by Drawn and Quarterly. It is the long-awaited 400 pages+ sequel to 2014’s Over Easy, which detailed her post-art school waitressing career in the late 1970s in Oakland, CA. Over Easy garnered a tremendous critical response, a place on the New York Times Best Seller List, the PEN Center USA award for Graphic Literature Outstanding Body of Work, and an Inkpot Award from Comic Con International in San Diego.

Pond has created comics for the Los Angeles Times, Seventeen Magazine, National Lampoon, The New Yorker, and many other publications too numerous to mention, along with five humor books. She has also written for television: her credits include the first full-length episode of the Simpsons in 1989, and episodes for the television shows “Designing Women” and “Pee Wee’s Playhouse”. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, the painter Wayne White.

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 Mimi’s friend Ann’s east Village apartment 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 Miim by me. It’s on my instagram.