“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?”
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.
“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.”
“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!
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.
“I have a split in my writing life. Part of my brain plans everything out, but I know enough now not to listen to that too much, and that I should be more open to improvising.”
Cartoonist Kevin Huizenga joins the show to talk about his new graphic novel, Glenn Ganges in The River at Night (Drawn & Quarterly)! We get into late-night reveries and using a character’s sleepless night as a base camp for a 200-page book, the ways repetition leads to time travel, making an artistic breakthrough partway through his new work, his modular approach to storytelling and how it jibes with his midwestern comics style, and the risk of identifying too much with his stand-in, Glenn Ganges. We also talk about video-game sobriety, whether his favorite creators are spending too much time on Twitter, learning about indy comics before the internet, and our shared cyberpunk upbringing. And we do the math on how many books in our libraries we’ll actually get around to reading! Give it a listen! And go buy The River at Night!
“One of the great rewards of working on something large over time is not planning it out ahead of time but letting it unfold organically and then looking back and seeing the paths that you didn’t plan.”
“Introspection and self-knowledge is a mixed bag. It’s often bad news when you think about it too much.”
Kevin Huizenga (HIGH zing guh) grew up in a suburb of Chicago, South Holland, which is a small town of Dutch immigrants. He is the son of an accountant and a nurse. In high school he started reading minicomics and quit playing baseball. He attended Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he started drawing the influential mini-comic Supermonster.
On the advice of a fellow cartoonist, Huizenga then moved to St. Louis where he continued to draw comics, which quickly caught the attention of the industry, and led to his comic book series Or Else. Eventually, he created his series Ganges. Huizenga lives in Minneapolis where he taught in the Comic Art program at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design from 2015-2019.
His graphic novels include Curses, The Wild Kingdom, and Gloriana (all published by Drawn & Quarterly). His work has been translated into six languages, including Dutch; he won five Ignatz awards and been nominated for Harvey and Eisner awards. His new book is The River at Night.
“I walked into Star Wars at 7 years old as one person, and I left as someone else. That movie introduced me to the idea of visual storytelling.”
Live from CXC – Cartoon Crossroads Columbus, it’s my Spotlight Session with Ho Che Anderson, cartoonist behind KING, Godhead (Fantagraphics) and plenty more! We get into the ups and downs of Ho’s career, his transition from “frustrated cartoonist” to “somewhat dissatisfied cartoonist”, his twin inspirations of Mister X and Black Kiss, and all the comic, writing and movie influences that went into his science fiction epic Godhead! We also talk about his being labeled an “openly black” cartoonist, how being Canadian gave him a different perspective on Martin Luther King when it came to tackling MLK’s biography, why he prefers writing a story to drawing it, the importance of world building in both his fiction and non-fiction work, and why you should never meet your heroes (unless your hero is Howard Chaykin)! Give it a listen! And go buy Godhead!
“I needed the mental real estate, so I had to get this story done, just so I could think about other things.”
“Even though most people think of me as an artist who writes, I’m more of a writer who draws.”
“My vision hasn’t been to be original per se, but to be good at what I do.”
Ho Che Anderson is a Canadian cartoonist living in Toronto. Anderson was launched into the comics scene with the publication of his erotic story I Want To Be Your Dog in 1990. He next embarked on the project he is best known for, KING, his 3-part comic series on the life of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. His other works include the graphic novels Black Dogs, Miles from Home, Scream Queen and Sand & Fury. His newest book is Godhead, from Fantagraphics.