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 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 287:
Audrey Niffenegger

“The success of The Time-Traveler’s Wife didn’t change me as an artist, it changed me as a person who was able to control her own time.”

In NYC for the Brooklyn Book Festival, author/artist Audrey Niffenegger joins the show to talk about her work and life. We get into her new collaboration, Bizarre Romance (Abrams), being Parent Trapped (maybe) by Hayley Campbell, her interest in taxidermy and what it does and doesn’t signify, how she shifts from prose to comics and vice versa, the allure of Chicago, getting consent to convert people into characters, writing the sequel to her best-known work, The Time Traveler’s Wife, how that book’s success changed her approach to art, how art school taught her to see, getting turned on to print-making as a teen by a book on Aubrey Beardsley, the books she’s still hoping to get around to reading, and plenty more! Give it a listen! And go buy Bizarre Romance!

“I have a pretty holistic idea of what a book is and what can be in a book.”

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

Audrey Niffenegger is the author of the international bestsellers The Time Traveler’s Wife and Her Fearful Symmetry, as well as a fine artist who has previously published four illustrated books with Abrams: The Three Incestuous Sisters, The Adventuress, Raven Girl, and The Night Bookmobile. Her newest book is Bizarre Romance (Abrams), in collaboration with Eddie Campbell.

(There’s a more extensive one at her site)

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Jesse Sheidlower’s apartment on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on the same equipment at the Bethesda North Marriott during Small Press Expo weekend. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Ms. Niffenegger by me. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 285:
Glen David Gold

“As a novelist, you get an idea of listening to a character, and thinking about what the character would do, judging whether an action would be true to the character. If you base it on a real person, a lot of those questions are answered, and it becomes a question of finding an avatar for them.”

How did Glen David Gold get over his Stalinist attitude against memoir to write his amazing new book, I Will Be Complete (Knopf)? Listen in as we talk about his transformation from novelist (Carter Beats the Devil and Sunnyside) to the narrator of his own life! We get into his realization that not only was his upbringing not normal, it needed to be revised and refined into a story (in which his dad comes off as a benign putz, which is fine compared to his mom . . .). We also talk about how Vivian Gornick’s The Situation and the Story fixed him up, coming to understand the narrator’s voice by performing parts of the book at open-mic nights, his introduction to Marvel comics & the magic of Jack Kirby, how the UC Irvine fiction-writing program saved his career, his brilliant idea for a podcast (which I’m tempted to steal), his teenaged nerd-out moment with John Irving, the pros & cons of collaborating on comics and screenwriting vs. the solo work of novel-writing, the cultural history of LA, his 3-week work ethic, why he pushes Bourjaily’s Now Playing at Canterbury on anyone who’ll listen, and more! Give it a listen! And go buy I Will Be Complete!

“I thought of Kirby’s Silver Age work as his Ulysses, and the ’70s stuff was his Finnegans Wake.”

“One of the things I’m interested in is artists’ careers after their first act is over: where do they go, and why?”

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

Glen David Gold is the author of the bestselling novels Sunnyside and Carter Beats the Devil, which has been translated into 14 languages. His essays, memoir, journalism and short fiction have appeared in McSweeney’s, Playboy, Tin House, Wired, Zyzzyva, the New York Times Sunday Magazine, the Guardian UK and London Independent. He has written The Spirit for DC comics and The Escapist for Dark Horse. His essays on the artist Jack Kirby accompanied the landmark Masters of American Comics and Comic Book Apocalypse museum shows. Recently he has co-written episodes of The Thrilling Adventure Hour and Welcome to Nightvale. His new book is the three-part memoir I Will Be Complete.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Glen’s house 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. Gold by me. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 279:
Hal Mayforth

“As a kid, I was scared of Superman comics. Robots, too.”

Illustrator-painter-cartoonist-musician Hal Mayforth joins the show to talk about making art out of the everyday. We get into his daily sketchbook practice (along with transcendental meditation), the shelf-life of illustrators’ styles, the music he makes out of found vocals, and how he balances personal art alongside his professional work. We also talk about his explorations into AbEx and how he made the shift from illustration to fine art, how he built his portfolio by doctoring alt-weekly articles with his own illustrations, why playing in a band offsets the solitary aspects of making art, his Screaming Yellow Zonkers animation that never aired, whether living in New England (Burlington, VT especially) helped or hurt his illustration career, the inspiration of EO Wilson on his Biophilia paintings, teaching himself portraiture by working his way through an old World Book encyclopedia, his campaign to get May 4th declared a national holiday and why he feels upstaged by Star Wars fans, and why he chooses soul over technical perfection (and Lightnin’ Hopkins over Steve Vai). Give it a listen! And go check out Hal’s art and listen to his music!

“I wanted to be a rock star; the arts thing came later.”

“I think George Herriman is like Shakespeare, Michelangelo and Leonardo in one package.”

Want a little bonus podcast action? Check out this minute-long video of Hal playing his favorite guitar prior to our pod-session:

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

Humorous Illustrator Hal Mayforth was born and raised in Vermont. He was lucky to have graduated from Skidmore College with a degree in Fine Art because he spent most of his 4 years playing rock and roll in bars. He started his illustration career in Boston, returned to Vermont to raise 3 boys with his wife and recently, like a yo-yo, returned to the greater Boston area. Hal has been the recipient of many awards and honors including a swimming award at Camp Abnaki in the early ’60’s. In addition to drawing little guys with big eyes and big noses for money, he is also serious about drawing in his sketchbooks every morning and fashioning those drawings into paintings.

Hal Mayforth’s paintings have been featured in exhibitions in museums and galleries throughout the US, including the Housatonic Museum in Bridgeport, CT; the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, MA; La Luz de Jesus Gallery in Los Angeles; the Sylvia Schmidt Gallery in New Orleans; Monserrat College in Beverly, MA; the Wood Gallery of the Vermont College of Fine Art in Montpelier; the Virginia Lynch Gallery in Tiverton, RI; the Furchgott-Sourdiffe Gallery in Shelburne, VT; Studio Place Arts in Barre, VT; The Helen Day Art Center in Stowe, VT, The Quimby Gallery at Lyndon State College in Lydonville, VT and the Tarrant Gallery at the Flynn Center for Performing Arts in Burlington, VT.

As a nationally recognized humorous illustrator, Hal’s work is published in national magazines and newspapers, including Time, Newsweek, US News and World Report, Rolling Stone, Forbes, Outside, Road and Track, Reader’s Digest, Mother Jones, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Boston Globe.

He’s also recorded 4 albums.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Hal’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 Hal & his sketchbook & studio by me. It’s on my instagram.