Dokumentarci (o stripu) i intervjui

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U gradu Lidsu je krajem septembra održan godišnji festival stripa Thought Bubble, i jedan od počasnih gostiju je bio Warren Ellis, i on je održao govor, čiji jedan deo prenosim ovde zahvaljujući Bruce-u Sterling-u i časopisu Wired. Nešto od izrečenog je moglo da se pročita na Ellisovom blogu pre više godina, ali vredi se i podsetiti. Zato što Ellis daje neka vredna zapažanja, a i ume sa rečima kao retko ko.

--- Quote ---*THIS IS HALF of a recent Ellis speech, but it’s them media-criticism half. Including a lot of digital media criticism.

I could talk about all my accumulated Wisdoms from having done this job since, like, the early 1400s. I mean, it’s a weird job and a weird form.

All those other artforms that grew out of and around comics? Comics sucked them back in and chewed them up and used them to grow new organs.

Comics are not like film. Comics take things from film, but the two cannot be interchanged. Comics became a hybrid artform. They take things from cartoons, illustration, prose, theatre, film, music, t-shirts, posters, journalism and a dozen other things. Imagine putting twenty different animals in a blender and that the resulting horror emerged somehow alive, shrieking and wearing Star Wars underpants three sizes too small. That’s comics.

And what’s even weirder is that there’s no one agreed format for writing them. I mean, if you invent your own format for writing a screenplay, unless you’re Cormac McCarthy the screenplay gets tossed out unread.Comics are a place without a lot of rules. I think that’s why it’s attracted so many mavericks, eccentrics and straight-up mental people over the decades.

Grant Morrison once described for me – and this is back around 1989 – his experience of discovering, while in the grip of severe hallucinogenic refreshment, that a comic is an entire spacetime continuum, capable of replay, non-linear access and chronological isolation.

I’ve had people tell me that they find comics hard to read. And they can be. The peak of the form should be complete clarity, but they’re what’s called a “cool” medium – they don’t emit information in a hot pre-chewed state, they require the reader to engage with the moving parts on the page. Comics do things that are kind of weird, like the way they communicate with time. Because Grant might have so high he was almost dead, but he was right.

Time in comics is completely elastic.

Japanese comics read very fast because they have very few panels a page and those panels generally contain little visual information. Occidental comics are often too dense for the Japanese to enjoy. I was told the same thing by my handlers when I was writing outlines for Japanese animated series. Too much story, too much information.

There’s a thing I love in manga, though: every now and then, you’ll find a panel knocked out to bleed at (say) top, left and right. Leaving the framework of gutter and margins. And it creates a complete stillness, a frozen moment that you live in for a little longer.

There’s a scene in Bryan Talbot’s LUTHER ARKWRIGHT where the protagonist slows down the time perception of a group of men in order to kill them more efficiently. He breaks each page down into a couple of dozen panels, showing movement in staccato increments. The sequence is entirely silent, but because there are so many panels, with actual information in each, you experience the sequence almost as slowly as do the targetted men in the story.

I’ve seen comics that have run two different timestreams on the same page. Recursive comics. Pages containing flashbacks to three different timeframes as well as moving forward in the present while making complete sense. Richard McGuire did a famous short comic in RAW that featured several different historical periods in the same room in the same page while maintaining a linear story flow.

Kevin Huizenga will turn a suburban stroll into a multi-linear history tour and then tie all the lines back together without losing you for a moment.


The point being: you’re not locked to one minute per page. In a film screenplay, one page of manuscript is one minute on screen. And, on the big screen, time moves normally, and you have no control over it . Not here in comics. You can make time run so fast that the reader thinks that your comic has been injected into their eyeball, or so slow and heavy that the reader feels like you’ve boiled a doorstop novel into some condensed informational substrate.

We’re out on the fringes of the culture. We can get as weird as we like.

Sequential art creates a suspension of disbelief and pulls you into its world. Television, you have to sit there and let it do it to you. Comics are a window you step through and act behind.

If Art Spiegelman’s MAUS had been filmed first, it would have had an audience of maybe three people at Sundance. Because the moment everyone trooped on wearing their mouse masks, any larger audience would have lost it and left giggling. Only in the space of cartooning could that conceit work. Not least because we’re already aware, when we come to cartooning, that we’re looking at someone’s processed and hermetic perception of the world. The great success of MAUS is that the mouse faces make us let our guard down, and so we’re hit by the horrible truth of that book from an unprotected angle.

There’s a page I often cite in these conversations, from the 1974 comic MANHUNTER by Archie Goodwin and Walt Simonson. It’s an entire Jason Bourne sequence in a single page. In a Marrakesh alleyway, Damon Nostrand is in a car attempting to run down Paul Kirk and Christine St Clair. Kirk pushes St Clair to cover, rolls under the speeding car, draws a knife, tears it through the car’s petrol tank as it passes over him, gets clear, lights a match, touches it to the trail of petrol the car leaves, the petrol blazes down the alley to the car, the car explodes, and then they do three or four lines of dialogue while watching Nostrand burn to death about how it’s horrible but really he was a bit of a git and completely deserved it. One page. Employing “camera angles” and compositions that even now the likes of Paul Greengrass would go blind trying to replicate.

Also: a curling, snarling Peter Kuper piece can sear the page with its anger in a way that no photorealistic artist will ever be able to communicate. Any single page by Julie Doucet was grimier and sleazier and more frightening and infinitely more real and true than the whole of Martin Scorcese’s back catalogue. A room drawn by Eddie Campbell will be more real than any snapshot, because his line is almost like handwriting, and has human breath upon it. Dash Shaw’s work may look rough on first look, but stay with it, look at how he conveys the essence of an idea in every panel, and you’ll realise how hard he sometimes works to evoke an entire world with so few elements. Allie Brosh’s mutated doodles immediately read as people wearing their emotions on the outside of their bodies.

Realism and naturalism have as little application here as they did in cave painting. Other peoples’ rules don’t count, here in our room. Our medium has the broadest reach because it’s such a simple thing, and yet engages with so many more parts of your brain, and the reader works with the creators inside the pages.

Comics are not film. We have a far larger toolbox. Tools borrowed from everything else, rooted in the original human expression of time and space and memory.

We have the tools to do whatever we want.


I mean, you’re at my mercy here. I can talk about anything I want.

I could give you my two favourite quotes about comics. Harvey Pekar said “comics are just words and pictures, you can do anything with words and pictures.” And Jack Kirby said, “kid, comics will break your heart.” And both things are true.

Of course, Jack also said, on reading that some new artist would be taking over on Captain America and hoped “to do it in the Kirby tradition,” that “This kid doesn’t get it. The Kirby tradition is to create a new comic.”

Make new sounds. Make new things. I was ranting about all this twenty years ago, back when I was the only idiot writing a straight science-fiction series for a major publishing house. And now it’s 2018, everybody’s doing a science fiction comic and original creator-owned material is something like a third of the monthly comics market-share. My commercial instincts are so finely honed that when original creator-owned work finally became broadly accepted by the market and the audience – I went off to write a novel. And now I’m the idiot writing a tv show and a movie and standing here shouting at you while everyone else is doing wonderful things. My work here is done. AND I’m still poor.

Meanwhile, Robert Kirkman uses the money he finds stuck down the back of his sofa to buy all of his employees a new liver every Christmas, Greg Rucka pays people to have diseases for him, and Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie are being pushed around this very town in a floating golden four poster bed with a mattress made entirely from the softest pubic feathers of swans.

I feel like it mostly worked out okay in the end.

It might not completely be the comics medium you or I wanted to see, but it’s tilted enough towards my dreams that I can smile and hum a happy tune as I stalk the beaches of Essex at night in pursuit of a seagull I can kill for food. It’s pretty good.


I mean, I could stand here and basically do the eulogy episode from the fifth season of BOJACK HORSEMAN – and, yeah, here we are in a world where the single bleakest and most existentially horrifying series on TV is in fact an animated series on Netflix. And here’s a thing. Twelve years ago, when Thought Bubble started, Netflix had just put their billionth rented DVD in the post. The changes in the world in just the lifetime of this festival are kind of insane.

So. I could stand up here and be the ancient rasp of doom, the actual authentic voice of a comics writer so far past his sell-by date there are mushrooms growing inside him. And that would work, because, distant as I am from the comics conversation, even I know we’re in another cycle where everyone is saying the sky is falling and sales are crashing and we’re all doomed.

But. I dunno. It’s the end of the weekend. Why would I send you out of here depressed? I mean, aside from the fact that I’d find it funny because I’m a terrible human being with no friends. And, anyway, it’s not true. Things aren’t perfect, but they’ve gotten better.

And, as more and more people realise that this artform is not in fact the exclusive preserve of fat old bald beardy white guys – hi – but is in fact a human commonwealth open to all – it will only get better still. New voices will be raised up, and the medium will change and grow and evolve. I don’t pay attention to what’s going in in comics at all and even I know that’s happening and will continue to happen. And it’s good. It’s making comics better.

I mean, for all that to really bed in properly, me and my generation will have to die. But I’m okay with that. Some of you probably only walked in here today because you thought I was already dead. As far as I’m concerned, it’s always been the time for ghosts. A few years ago I wrote a novel about crazy old futurists being stuffed in a rest home in the middle of a remote forest, and if you think I wasn’t laying the ground for my declining years, you’re crazier than I am. Old people are sneaky. It’s how we got to be old in the first place. Never trust us.

When I’m working and talking in the sphere of futurism, I try never to do predictions. Same as a science fiction writer. Speculation and fabulation is what I do, and it should never be treated as prediction. Prediction is a con game and a clown show. I wrote a political science fiction comic called TRANSMETROPOLITAN once and political writer and artist Molly Crabapple keeps saying I am the Cassandra of my age. I don’t really want that burden and I don’t really want to be sent more photos of two-headed cats.


It’s better business sense to tell you the sky is falling and everything is on fire, but if you fund my Indiegogo you’ll be striking a blow for success. But that’s crap, and you all know it’s crap. It’s the con game.

Things could be better. But things will be better. From my remote hermit cave, things look pretty good.Back when I were a lad, when we spent all day dodging dinosaurs and drying seagull meat in preparation for a hard winter, there were stripzines and mini-comics, run off on photocopiers or even cranked out on Gestetner printing drums. They were moved around by post or at comic mart tables. In fact, in my half of the country, just one table, the one run by Paul Gravett and Peter Stanbury, who came up with UKBD. People came from all over to get a little space on that table. And the print end of small press is still going – in London, there’s an occasional fair in Shoreditch, a whole big room full of small and self-publishers. I love that that’s still going. And the books look great.

Digital didn’t work the way anyone expected it would. I knew people in the US whose nearest dedicated comics shop was a 12-hour drive away. Digital should have bridged the gap for a lot of people. But digital got slowed down by weird technological and commercial impediments. Comixology are working new angles in the face of that ceiling, and it remains a significant parallel market, but it didn’t eat the world. Digital is a secondary system to mainstream comics publishing so far.

But webcomics! Webcomics are the global small press.

There was a big gap between the end of the old minicomics scene and the easy production of webcomics. And it was a terrible time. There’s a quote I remember from an American comedian called George Burns, from when all the old vaudeville venues shut down. He said, “Now there’s no place for the kids to go and be lousy any more.” Because most people who do webcomics are lousy. Your first comics are always lousy. I’m still lousy and I’m thousands of years old. But you get better by being printed. And for “printed,” here, you can substitute “uploaded” or “posted.” You can’t see your work properly until it’s some distance in front of you. On paper or on a screen. You won’t see what works and what doesn’t until it’s out in front of you. And your mistakes are more valuable than your successes. I guarantee you that you’ll never see all the things you need to fix until you’ve got a foot or two between you and it.

There’s always been great, important work done in webcomics. I mentioned Allie Brosh. You can add Kate Beaton, Juan Santapau, Paul Duffield and Kate Brown, Emily Horne and Joey Comeau – Natasha Allegri, who made the BEE AND PUPPYCAT show, started out doing webcomics on LiveJournal. I could recite this list forever. But there is also, thank god, a never ending stream of kids who show up to be lousy, and start learning.

The really interesting thing is that you will never see a lot of them in your local comics shop. You’ll see them in bookstores.

Comics had minimal bookstore presence for a long time. But here’s a thing that happened. The American companies like Viz who were translating and republishing manga in America could never get comics stores to take their books. I know, I consulted to Viz for a little while. And then they decided, the hell with it, let’s see if bookstores want to come out and play. And boom. Manga became the fastest-growing publishing category in the American book market. And that, in turn, really seemed to open bookstores up to graphic novels in a new way.

Oh, and for the sake of completeness, I should add that crowdfunded sales and micro-patronage systems like Patreon are supporting a lot of interesting work, beautiful and often experimental books, and valuable creative voices. Self-publishing has always been important to comics.

None of this means that the comics you like in the local comics shop will go away. It means that new voices find new audiences in new places.

Personally, I couldn’t have done without the bookstore market. I mean, as a comics writer, before I started writing novels. In bookstores, I reach people who don’t have a comics store near them, or who can’t find me in a comics shop, or just randomly discover me. Which is the best, really. You know what I like? I never really get to talk about this, but you’re all trapped in a room with me. I like being remaindered. I like being in the sale or being sold off cheap at a publishing clearance shop. Because when I was young, I was poor for a really, really long time. And the only way I could afford books was to go to charity shops, sales, and the cheapo book shops. If it wasn’t for those places, I would never have been able to discover the things I love. There’s nothing wrong with that. And, as far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing wrong with being an author in the cheap boxes. Those are the places where the people who need to read you will find you.


And in the comic shops? Like everything else, it’s a cyclical business. Shops close, and that’s always sad. Shops struggle, and in some ways that’s worse. But new shops keep opening. And ten years – and fifteen years ago and twenty years ago and probably last bloody week – people were predicting that the comics shop network was going to die forever. Remember what I said about prediction? Don’t do it. It’s a mug’s game. Turns out that the other major impediment to digital comics eating the world was that The Youngs are happy to rent their music and use YouTube as the radio and need Netflix to check to see if they’re still breathing every six hours – BUT they like their books on paper. Print publishing continues to see small year on year gains, because people entering the market like their reading material to be physical objects.

What’s new is that the best-selling comics in shops are creator-owned and NOT superhero fiction SAGA, written by a man and drawn by a woman, is probably the filthiest, queerest, most eccentric and just plain oddest book coming from a major publisher. THE WALKING DEAD is made by two guys but one of them has a severe physical deformity – a ginger beard – and it’s literally been, for fifteen years, all about suffering. Something like eighty thousand people show up every month to read about a cast of characters who just suffer, have bits chopped off them, and eventually die. That’s amazing.

Even at the work for hire companies, corporate-owned characters and properties are taking on the authentic voices of people of colour and different genders. Finally. Thankfully. Now, some of these new creators will stumble. Some will decide comics aren’t for them. This has happened for literally the entire history of comics. It does not invalidate the way-overdue opening of the gates to voices that don’t emanate from fat old bald beardy straight white guys. I mean, my god, Ta-Nehisi Coates is writing BLACK PANTHER and CAPTAIN AMERICA now. He’s an actual genius. With, like, paper to prove it.

Forty-five years ago, the guy drawing BLACK PANTHER was pretty much the only black guy working in superhero comics. We’ve come some way. That guy, by the way, was Billy Graham, who was also the first black art director in comics, and went on to do award-winning set design.


Things are good. Things are, broadly speaking, on track to get better. Comics are still here. And comics are still going to be here whenever any of you decide you want to come out and play with us. Comics are always going to be here. From the time one of us got up on their hind legs and thought, I feel like doing a one-page autobio piece about that elephant we stabbed yesterday. If you ever think to yourself, I want to make my own stories, with words and pictures, and I’m not really interested in rules and want to invent my own? We’ll be here for you. If you know that the only thing that matters is the story and the words and pictures that make it, and that telling the story you want to tell is more important than any other bloody thing – we’ve got seats for you.

From time to time, some of us will give up our seats and go hang out with the ghosts for a while. If you take our seats, then you know the deal – find new seats for new people to come and sit down with you. Keep growing. Keep moving forward.

This is the end of the twelfth year of Thought Bubble, and I’m here to tell you that the comics medium is in better shape than it was when Thought Bubble started. If you’ve taken even five minutes to walk around and look at the books being displayed here, you know it’s true. We’re alive, we’re growing, and we’re getting better all the time.

And me? I’m the dead that’s supporting your life. Go and do it all over again. Find a new favourite book, tell a new story. Do it in my name, do it for the ghosts, or do it for yourself. You have a thirty two thousand year tradition to uphold.

Thank you for coming to Thought Bubble, for supporting the festival, for supporting comics, and thank you for your time. I’m done. Good evening.

--- End quote ---

Razgovor između Mike-a Mignole i Geof-a Darrowa

Za Mehmeta, ali i sve ostale zainteresovane:

Video-intervju sa Džerijem Konvejem, u okviru serije Comic Culture (koju producira Univerzitet Severne Karoline u Pembroku). Njihovi intervjui su u proseku vrlo dobri.

Meho Krljic:
Hvala, hvala! Conway je i veoma aktivan na Tviteru (doduše, veliki deo tvitova mu otpada na politiku i slike lisica) tako da se može svašta zanimljivo od njega pročitati i videti.

Meho Krljic:
Ovaj Brajan Kej Von je stvarno, čovek, domaćin i Srbin. Vrlo lep intervju na Salonu (ne toliko zbog obaveznih političkih pitanja, koliko zbog Vaughanovog skromnog, trezvenog stava o svemu):

Comics author Brian K. Vaughan on his global hit "Saga" and making art in troubled times


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