“One of the things I love and value about comics is the plasticity of it and the elasticity of visual representation.”
With his new book, Ex Libris (Uncivilized Books), cartoonist Matt Madden takes readers on a post-modern, formalist dive into comics. We talk about the challenge of tinkering with story structure while still delivering an entertaining story, the work involved in jumping from style to style throughout Ex Libris (and in his past comics), the joy & terror of a notional library of potential books, and the inspiration of Italo Calvino’s If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler, & all his literary, cinematic & comics influences. We get into his comics upbringing, his work teaching comics and developing comics textbooks, being in a two-cartoonist household — he’s married to Jessica Abel – and his kids’ attempts at keeping him (somewhat) culturally up to date, the perils & rewards of canonical thinking, and his use of Alison Bechdel’s comics-writing process. We also discuss the world that Factsheet Five opened up to him, his “welcome to comics” moment (courtesy of Bob Burden), Lewis Trondheim’s challenge to him to make a comic without formal commentary, the supply chain hiccup that postponed Ex Libris, and plenty more! Give it a listen! And go read Ex Libris!
“The comics world has become larger and more diverse, but also more diffuse. The comics culture that we grew up in was defined by a struggle between mainstream superhero comics and Weirdo, Arcade, and RAW. . . . But the kids that are growing up now have a whole other visual narrative world that blends into what was previously that walled-off comic-book world.”
“I think about register a lot. Not high/low art, but a different kind of brain-space and a different kind of intent when you’re drawing for a comic vs. drawing from life or drawing to hang something in a gallery.”
TUNEIN PLAYER TK
About our Guest
Matt Madden is a cartoonist, teacher, and translator. His best-known book is 99 Ways To Tell A Story: Exercises in Style, a comics adaptation of Raymond Queneau’s Exercises in Style. His recent work includes the comic books Drawn Onward and Bridge. He has been living in Philadelphia since 2016. His new book is Ex Libris.
Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded remotely via Zencastr. I used 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 Matt by Alain François. It’s on my instagram.