Graphic Novels: 2018 National Book Festival

Graphic Novels: 2018 National Book Festival


>>Sarah Burnett:
Hello, everyone. Welcome to the Graphic
Novels Program. My name is Sarah Burnett,
and I serve as the director of operations for
the Small Press Expo. Our executive director,
Warren Bernard, was supposed to be here. He sends his regrets and
requests for painkillers because he pulled his back out. I’m so pleased that I
can stand in for him. I’ve got to tell you, it’s
tough to reconcile being someone who usually spends a
Saturday afternoon curled up with a book standing in
front of a large crowd, [laughs] but I get the sense that
you guys are my people, and I’m really glad
we’re all here today. The Small Press Expo,
or SPX, has been proud to help organize the lineup
of graphic novel authors here at the National Book
Festival for the last 5 years. This year, we’re particularly
excited to support appearances by Tillie Walden
and Ed Piskor today. Both have been mainstays at SPX. Our show this year
is just 2 weeks away and will feature many authors and artists you’re familiar
with, like Roz Chast, Jules Feiffer, Derf
Backderf, and Carol Tyler. We’ll also have folks
like Rebecca Sugar of Steven Universe
fame and Ngozi Ukazu, whose web comic Check, Please! became the most funded web
comic kickstarter of all time. With more than 600 creators
on our exhibiter list, you’ll discover a lot
of new talent too. I hope you’ll join us
just outside the city at the Bethesda North
Marriott Conference Center on September 15th and 16th so we can continue celebrating
great authors and artists like the ones you’re
about to get to know. There are some flyers that can
you grab at the back of the room to learn more, and hope
you plan to join us. Now, for why you’re really
here, it is my pleasure to introduce Michael Cavna. Michael is the columnist
and cartoonist with The Washington Post. His prose and pictures for
The Post have been honored by the Society of
Professional Journalists, National Headliner Awards, the
Society for Feature Journalists, the Harvey Awards,
and the Eisner Awards. This is Michael’s fifth year as
the founding emcee and moderator of the festival’s graphic
novel stage programming. Please join me and welcome
him, and let’s get started. [ Applause ]>>Michael Cavna:
Thank you, Sarah. Thank you guys for coming out. Are you ready for
2 hours of comics? This is the recess
of the festival. This is when you were in school. You know, we can bring my
Post colleague David Ignatius, you know. He’s our social studies
class, and all, and I sat next to Jon Meacham last
night and was talking about presidential history,
and he was reassuring me that 1933 wasn’t so
different from this year. And then, we had a few
drinks or a lot of drinks. And I mentioned drinks
because this was started based on drinks. It’s adult recess. This festival started, you
know, by Laura Bush was who really got it
going, backed it. But for years, there
was no separate graphic novels programming. They were individual stages. And then, you had some
enlightened people talk to the Library of Congress,
took them out for beers, got them a little drunk,
and said, you need comics. This is our fifth
year doing this, so for the grown-ups,
alcohol can work. Again, my name’s Michael
Cavna of The Washington Post. The Washington Post is a charter
sponsor of this festival. I do want to give a big
shout out and thank you to the festival co-chairman,
David Rubenstein, and all the generous sponsors
who make this event possible. It’s huge. And if you, per chance, would like to add your
financial support, you know, please feel free. There’s information in your
program about how to do that. And at the end of the
2-hour, near the end of the 2-hour presentation, we
should have time for questions. We will have monitors, I
mean, microphones right there. And just for everyone, the,
this is being videotaped, so if you do appear, do come
to a microphone, you may show up in a broadcast or
in some other way. So you’re agreeing. That’s your consent if
you dare walk up here. The, one thing David
Rubenstein didn’t talk about last night was
literacy, the high degree of illiteracy in this country. Also, just being a
reluctant reader. We often get teachers
here, and for comics, it’s very much the
power of comics is to activate your brain
in different areas. Some of us are visual learners. Some of us, it triggers,
you know. I’ve talked to students
who it gets things going. So a big reason we do this
is because graphic novels and comics are huge to
get young people to read. So we have several Eisner
winner awards tonight. We have a big Reuben
Award winner to my right. And his name is Mr. Patrick
McDonnell, the creator of Mutts. Can I get a big hand
for Patrick McDonnell? [ Applause ]>>Patrick McDonnell: Thank you. [ Applause ]>>Michael Cavna: Mutts, as you
may know, was started in 1994. It’s in more than 700
papers, last I looked. You may have picked up
some since we sat down.>>Patrick McDonnell:
Nowadays, it’s a little tough to pick up newspapers. [laughter]>>Michael Cavna: But as you
know, Mutts is the lovable, sort of New Jersey world of Earl
and Mooch, the dog and the cat. Just as a baseline, do we have
any fans of cats or dogs here? Really? Not so good. All right. I won’t separate and say which
is the better animal to own, but, you know, and you have
is the, it’s a strip that is, it’s special, and it’s both, it
makes you feel good to read it, but it’s also artistically
the epitome of the art form. Charles Schulz, who
we both would meet at National Cartooning Society
conventions, he called Mutts — and as you know, he was
the creator of Peanuts — he called Mutts one of the
best comic strips of all time. He said, “Mutts is exactly
what a comic strip should be.” And Matt Groening, the
creator of The Simpsons, said, “Mutts cheers me up every day.” And I don’t know about you,
but some days, these days, I need a little cheering
up in my morning newspaper. And so I turn to Mutts. It’s just, it’s a
tremendous feat, but he’s also a children’s
illustrator. He’s also a playwright. Mutts has spawned 3 books
— I mean, many books, dozens of books —
but such books is Year of Yesh is what it
is, and #ILoveMutts and The Mutts Spring Diaries. He’s really the man who taught
us how to say “yesh” with an H and “snax” with an X. And
his play, The, his book, The Gift of Nothing, was
adapted into a play that played at the Kennedy Center that
won Helen Hayes Awards. He also did the book, Me… Jane, with, about Jane Goodall,
and that won a Caldecott Award. So basically, you’re
just hitting on all cylinders these days. So 1 more hand. He’s doing it all for
everything he does.>>Patrick McDonnell: Thank you. [ Applause ]>>Michael Cavna: So am I right? Am I forgetting? Is Mutts, will Mutts
be a feature film? Is that going to happen?>>Patrick McDonnell:
Knock on wood, someday.>>Michael Cavna: Okay.>>Patrick McDonnell:
Hollywood works a little slower than daily comic strips.>>Michael Cavna: Okay. Well, let’s get to
our images, and — oh, good, we do have
the cover there.>>Patrick McDonnell: Oh, good.>>Michael Cavna:
Good to see it, yeah.>>Patrick McDonnell: Well, you
know, I, much as my combination of my love for the art of
comics and my love for animals, so I brought slides that
show my love for comics and my love for animals.>>Michael Cavna: Yeah. Now, you are an illustrator. You were doing things
for the New York Times and many other publications
before you launched Mutts. Were — I know I’ve
talked to other creators who do [inaudible] animals, and
the animals were often popping up in their margins or animal
characters would just keep speaking to them
when they would draw. When did animals sort
of enter your page?>>Patrick McDonnell:
That’s funny. I always wanted to be
a comic strip artist, but when I graduated
from school, I started getting
magazine illustration work, and that kept me busy
for quite a few years. But in my magazine
illustrations, I always drew a little,
white dog with a circle around his eye just in
the background somewhere. And I didn’t have a
dog at that point, but I really wanted a dog. And he didn’t have a name. He was just this random dog. But when I finally decided I
wanted to do a comic strip, I actually went out and
got a Jack Russell Terrier, and his name was Earl.>>Michael Cavna: Wow.>>Patrick McDonnell: And
he inspired the comic. So the illustrated, the cartoon
dog I was drawing became a real dog, and then the real
dog became the cartoon.>>Michael Cavna: Wow. And did that real dog demand
royalties from the other dog? [ Laughter ] But, you know, we’re going to
concentrate on a couple themes that consistently come up
in Mutts, and one of those, we spoke of Charles Schulz. And, you know, there
is a through line. I mean, the fact that Sparky
is, as we call him, you know, he personally blessed your — he, Sparky didn’t
like everything, and he would let you know
it, but he loved Mutts. So can you talk about
what you’re doing here?>>Patrick McDonnell: Well,
I’ll read the strip real quick.>>Michael Cavna: Yeah.>>Patrick McDonnell:
Charles Schulz said, “A cartoonist is someone who
has to draw the same thing day after day without
repeating himself.” Yesh, you can say that again.>>Michael Cavna: [laughs]
And then, we have a follow-up.>>Patrick McDonnell:
Charles Schulz said, “A cartoonist is someone who
has to draw the same thing day after day without
repeating himself.” He said what?>>Michael Cavna: Oh, man.>>Patrick McDonnell: I
literally did that for a week.>>Michael Cavna: Wow, yeah. You literally repeated yourself.>>Patrick McDonnell: And
then, I enjoyed it so much, a couple of months
later, I did a few more. [laughter] And I think
I might’ve used it as much as I can.>>Michael Cavna: Okay, so this
isn’t appearing next week as a–>>Patrick McDonnell: It might. [laughter]>>Michael Cavna: And so–>>Patrick McDonnell: It’s
actually a great quote, and Charles Schulz is the
reason I became a cartoonist. I mean, I grew up with Peanuts. And the fact that I actually got
to become friends with my hero and idol was just amazing. And when he said he
liked Mutts, I said, okay, I could retire now.>>Michael Cavna: Right? Yeah, exactly.>>Patrick McDonnell:
Instead, I kept on doing it. And actually, next year’s
going to be 25 years of Mutts.>>Michael Cavna:
Wow, congratulations. That’s a huge, [applause] in
this market and everything.>>Patrick McDonnell: Well, you
know, when you think about it, Charles Schulz did
it for 50 years.>>Michael Cavna: Fifty years.>>Patrick McDonnell:
I’m only halfway there.>>Michael Cavna: Really, so
you’re going to keep — okay. You’re going to repeat
yourself for 50 years.>>Patrick McDonnell: I’m
not going to promise that.>>Michael Cavna: Okay, but, so to continue the
theme of the meta here.>>Patrick McDonnell: Yeah, so, do you have any ideas
for today’s comic? No, but I’m sure I’m come up with something
by the third panel. Boy, that got here fast.>>Michael Cavna: Now, is that
how you feel as an artist? You know, some, like,
prefer the 4-panel thing? They like a longer arc
to build to the joke. But some, you know,
you’re, you, 3 panels seem to be your main thing.>>Patrick McDonnell: Yeah,
most of my strips are 3 panels. It’s really, it’s the
classic way to tell a story. It’s the setup, and then,
you know, the action, and then the punchline.>>Michael Cavna: Yeah.>>Patrick McDonnell:
So 3 panels work, but they do come fast sometimes.>>Michael Cavna: Yeah. [laughter] Well,
continue, again, the meta.>>Patrick McDonnell: Okay. Cat Comics by Mooch. I’m thinking of sch-making
this into a graphic novel. [laughter] I bought this
one because I was surprised when I was asked to be on
the graphic novels panel. I don’t, you know, I’m
doing a graphic novel, but it’s taken 24
years to write. And I feel like Mooch would,
if a cat did a graphic novel, just different favorite naps
would be a good graphic novel.>>Michael Cavna: And when, you
know, the animal [inaudible] is such a distinctive part. No one does it like that now. Did that, was that organic
from the beginning, or–>>Patrick McDonnell:
Well, you know, I was, I’m a big fan of
old comic strips. And old comic strips,
people used to have little, silly ways of talking. I mean, Popeye says,
“I yam what I yam.”>>Michael Cavna: Yeah.>>Patrick McDonnell:
And Barney Google. You know, every, there was more
of like playing with language, so I thought one of my characters should
talk a little silly. And when Mooch came up, I
thought he was the character that should talk a little silly. And I had a friend growing up
who, whenever he got in trouble and had to admit to
something, he would say, yesh. And I thought “yesh” would be
a funny thing for Mooch to say. And then, I had him
say “sch-maybe,” and then it just got
out of hand, and–>>Michael Cavna: There you go.>>Patrick McDonnell: He’s
shushing all over the place. I literally once had a woman
write me a 2-page letter that said she was really upset
that Mooch talked like that. And at the end of the letter, her thesis was her cat
would never talk like that. [laughter] I wrote her
a little note back, and I just wrote, “Sch-orry.”>>Michael Cavna: Okay. [laughter] Nice. I thought you were going
to call the authority-sch, maybe, on that. Do your characters speak to you? Some creators have told me
they know they’re in the zone when their creators, when their
characters are practically speaking to them.>>Patrick McDonnell: Yeah,
well, you know, I mean, it’s a corny thing to say,
but the characters come, sometimes do write themselves. The way I’m work, I’m visual,
so my notebooks isn’t, you know, writing as much as drawing. So I’ll just draw
Mooch, and I’ll think, well, what could he do? And put him in a
certain situation. And then, he kind of
takes over and tells me–>>Michael Cavna: There he goes.>>Patrick McDonnell:
Tells me what to draw.>>Michael Cavna: There he goes. Okay.>>Patrick McDonnell:
Like this one.>>Michael Cavna: Yeah.>>Patrick McDonnell:
Think of a punch line. Oof.>>Michael Cavna: [laughs]
And in a similar vein.>>Patrick McDonnell: Yeah,
again, I’ve said, well, I’ve brought all the strips
that talk about it too. Art of comics. So Mooch, in the
first panel, as, he’s a wizard here,
Prospero [phonetic]. “I will now cast a sch-pell
for us to travel back in time.” Poof. “Wow.” “I will now cast a sch-pell
for us to travel back in time.” So it’s, what’s kind of
interesting about this strip, you know, we learn
to read comics. It’s a very strange
thing, but, you know, each panel’s a different moment
in time, and it’s something that you have to
acquire after a while. I had a woman that I met
who never read comics, so she couldn’t,
in the beginning, she really couldn’t figure
out what was going on, but, so it’s something I think we
just learn, but it was fun to play with the concept
of time in a comic strip.>>Michael Cavna: And this
is, I was reading something about the comic Norm Macdonald
the other day talking a platonic joke would be where the setup and the joke are
almost identical. Well, if you were an anime,
if you were a manga reader, you could read this
right to left, and it would work just as well. [laughter] It would literally,
it’s that circle, you know. It’s a platonic strip. Sparky really knew what the heck
he was talking about, basically. And so more fun.>>Patrick McDonnell: So
here’s Prospero again. “As the great cat wizard,
I can see into the future. How does it look? Empty for now.”>>Michael Cavna: And then, what other art form
could you do this? Play with the art form within
the art form in this way. Oh, I love this.>>Patrick McDonnell:
Oh, here’s one.>>Michael Cavna: Yeah.>>Patrick McDonnell: And
this one isn’t going to appear until next Sunday,
so you’re getting a–>>Michael Cavna: A tease.>>Patrick McDonnell:
A tease here.>>Michael Cavna: All right.>>Patrick McDonnell: “Va-voom.”>>Michael Cavna: Are they
allowed to take pictures and post on social media?>>Patrick McDonnell: No, don’t. [laughs] “Va-voom.” “What was that?” “Onomatopoeia.”>>Michael Cavna: Love that.>>Patrick McDonnell: I’ve
been doing much for 24 years, and it’s the first time
onomatopoeia was a punch line.>>Michael Cavna: Wow. And you’re going to
teach a few people too. They will, the Google,
there will be a Google spike for that on Sunday morning. So another key theme
and huge part of Mutts is not only the
laughter, but the heart, the soul, and you, you know,
you have this uncanny ability in 5 panels or 3
to also just yank on our heartstrings so hard. It’s a gift. It’s, you know, you
really do it. And can you talk a little bit
about just the origin of this and the response you get
from doing Shelter Stories?>>Patrick McDonnell:
I’ll read this one first.>>Michael Cavna: Yeah.>>Patrick McDonnell: So this
is Shelter Stories, Bowser. “I was the first
picked from my litter. My family thought I was
the cutest little thing. In a year, I was gone. It was a matter of size. I got big, and their
hearts got small.”>>Michael Cavna: Oh.>>Patrick McDonnell: Yeah.>>Michael Cavna: Oh, man.>>Patrick McDonnell: You
know, I was doing mutts for about 4 years and, or maybe
3 and a half, and I was thinking that Earl and Mooch have loving
guardians and a loving home, but I was thinking about all
the dogs and cats in shelters that are waiting for
that opportunity. And I was trying to, I was in my
sketchbook trying to figure out, how can I get shelter
animals into the Mutts world? And then, a woman from
the Humane Society of the United States
wrote to me and said that November’s National Animal
Shelter Appreciation Week, Month. And could I do something? I said, well, that’s
the perfect opportunity. So I started Shelter Stories,
which I do twice a year — one, the first week in May and
the first week in November. They just remind the readers
that if they’re thinking about getting a new best friend, that the shelter
was the place to go.>>Michael Cavna:
So you’re funny, but you’re saving
lives, to be honest. [laughs] You’re literally, you’re a great spokesman,
by the way.>>Patrick McDonnell:
You know — thank you — you know, in doing Mutts,
I really, even though Earl and Mooch talk, I really
wanted it to, people to connect with their own cat and dog
because if you have a cat and dog, you all know
how funny they are. They — I’m sure everyone’s
cat and dog can be a cartoon. And they’re based on my memories
of different cats I’ve had and the dog and cat I have now. And, you know, I just
thought that I was trying to see the world
through their eyes, and trying to see the
world through their eyes, I realized how tough a lot of
animals have it on this planet, so I just wanted that
to become part of Mutts.>>Michael Cavna: Let’s tell
some more of their stories.>>Patrick McDonnell:
Yeah, so this is Sky. “Sure, I know I’m deaf, but I’d
still make a great companion. Just do like I do:
Listen to your heart.”>>Michael Cavna: The faces.>>Patrick McDonnell: I put
that one in particularly because I got a letter
from a policewoman, and she said she just did a
drug raid, and in the drug raid, there was a deaf pit bull that
she had to take to the shelter, but she was just really attached
to this dog that she had to bring to the shelter, and
she didn’t know what to do, but she came home, relaxed,
took out the newspaper, and that strip was in the
paper the day she did that.>>Michael Cavna: Oh, my.>>Patrick McDonnell: And
she literally went back to the shelter, and adopted
that dog, and named him Sky. So you never know how
you might touch somebody.>>Michael Cavna: Saving lives. I’m not kidding. I’m not kidding. Okay.>>Patrick McDonnell: And this
is another one, Sweetness. “Tom and Karina drove 3
hours to come and adopt me. They saw me in my
shelter, in my sweater on the shelter’s website. It was love at first sight. Likewise.” And this was another opportunity
that I got to go to spend a, 2 days at the New York City
shelter and did stories about real things, and
that was a real story. Someone drove 3 hours from
Vermont or Maine, I think, to adopt this dog in New York.>>Michael Cavna: Wow.>>Patrick McDonnell: Chickpea
and Chickpea’s brother. “Well, the shelter’s
closing up for another day. We didn’t get picked.” “I know. Tomorrow, guaranteed.” I did this story about
Chickpea and Chickpea’s brother in the shelter, and at
the end of the week, they didn’t get adopted, and
I got a lot of nasty letters. So a couple of months later,
I had them both adopted. And Guard Dog. I always get letters
about Guard Dog. They want me to free him. And someday, I definitely
will, but for now, I feel like he has
a message to say for people who chain their dogs. And hopefully, more and more
states are outlawing that. So, “Beware of dog. I might break your heart.” This is a strip I did a few
years ago, Sweet Dreams. And in the first panel, Millie’s
petting Mooch in her home. But in the second
panel, we have pigs in crates wishing they
were running free, an elephant in the circus
wishing he was running free, chickens in battery cages
wishes they were running free, chimps in the laboratory
wishing they were running free, and then ends with
Guard Dog wishing that he was getting
sweet dreams. What’s amazing about this
strip, I did it quite a, like 10 years ago or maybe even
longer, and, you know, progress. You know, Barnum & Bailey
don’t have elephants in the circus anymore. Like, things are
definitely getting better, and there’s optimism that
the world will start having more empathy.>>Michael Cavna:
Yeah, absolutely. And then, here.>>Patrick McDonnell: “I’m going
to get you, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Millions of chickens are
kept in cages so small, they can’t even spread
their wings. Now you know.” And that was done, California
was passing a proposition to let chickens in cages
actually have more space, and so I wanted to be
part of that message, and they actually
voted that through. So the power of the comic strip.>>Michael Cavna: Yeah.>>Patrick McDonnell:
I’m going veggie.>>Michael Cavna: Yes. You’ve gone veggie
yourself, right?>>Patrick McDonnell: Yeah,
that, I tell you, the, more and more, I feel
like that’s what’s going to change this planet. I mean, even if you just
did Meatless Monday, you could help millions
of animals. It’s amazing how many
animals are killed for that, so I thought we could
do that message. I started out with only eating
— my wife and I, 40 years ago or 30 years ago, said, let’s just have meat
1 day, once a day. And then, it became once a week. And then, we just got off it. And now, we’ve been vegan
for quite a few years. And it just gets
easier and easier. We went to a great vegan
restaurant right here in Washington, D.C. for
breakfast, so it gets easier, and I think that’s what’s
going to change the world. There’s more and
more vegan products that everybody could enjoy.>>Michael Cavna: Yeah. We had to shut a few
concession stands right out here when you came up [laughs]
just to make sure.>>Patrick McDonnell: I’m sure.>>Michael Cavna: Yeah. And then, similar, you
know, talking about planet and just the larger
picture there.>>Patrick McDonnell:
Well, like I said, when you start seeing the
world through animals’ eyes, you see how tough it is. I mean, there’s so, we have so
much plastic in our oceans now. See animals are dying from
being choked with plastic. So I did this strip. And I, actually, there’s
a guy in I think Arizona who just wrote to me that
he’s spending his life trying to solve that problem. And he said it because he
was reading Mutts as a kid since he was 5 years old. So you never know who you’re
going to, who you might touch.>>Michael Cavna: Did
you mail back thank-sch?>>Patrick McDonnell: No, I’m
going to send him the original.>>Michael Cavna: Yeah.>>Patrick McDonnell: So this is
a comic I did a few years back where Noodles says
to, Shtinky says to Noodles, “Yes, Mr. Noodles. Sometimes I do get
compassion fatigue.” “Gee, Jules, how do you get
over something like that?” “Well, my autographed photo
of Dr. Jane Goodall helps.” [laughter] And that
appeared in the paper, and the Jane Goodall
Institute called me and said, can we put that on
our newsletter? And I said, you can do
anything you want with it. I’d love to send you the
original to give to Jane. And they said, well,
Jane’s going to be in New York next week. Why don’t you just give
it to Jane herself? I said, oh, okay. So I got to meet Jane,
which inspired me to do a children’s book on
Jane Goodall called Me… Jane.>>Michael Cavna: The Caldecott
Medal winning children’s book.>>Patrick McDonnell: Yeah. Yeah, thank you. [applause] And, you know,
it’s a love letter to Jane, but since we’re here
at the book festival, it’s a love letter to books. I mean, the power of books,
you know, part of that, that’s an auto, a biography
about Jane as a young girl, and she just talks about
reading Tarzan and Dr. Dolittle, and it was those books in her
childhood that made her dream of going to Africa and
working with animals. So, boy, just the
power of books. I’m sure everyone here has a
book that changed their lives, and I think that’s why
we come here and read.>>Michael Cavna: Yeah. Did you have a book or books
that changed your life early on?>>Patrick McDonnell: You know,
probably Come Home, Snoopy. [laughs] You know,
that was my religion. Before I went to bed, I read
those Peanuts paperbacks.>>Michael Cavna: Yeah.>>Patrick McDonnell: So, yeah, that was what changed my
— you know, like Jane. I mean, Jane at 4 years old
knew she was going to do that, and I think at 4 years old, I knew I wanted to
draw comic strips.>>Michael Cavna: And
then, it all came together.>>Patrick McDonnell:
Dreams can come true.>>Michael Cavna: Her, Jane. You, Patrick. And that’s made for books. Well, it is now time to
welcome 2 more nature lovers and animal lovers to our
stage, and they’ll get a chance to talk with Patrick too. The first is Tillie Walden, who,
2 years ago, 2016, you know, right up the road, we
heard Sarah talking about Small Press Expo. If you live in the area, if you’re around the
area — there she is.>>Tillie Walden: Hi, hi.>>Michael Cavna:
Thank you, Tillie.>>Patrick McDonnell:
Nice to meet you.>>Michael Cavna: Well, let’s give Tillie Walden
and Penelope Bagieu. [applause] Thank you guys. So while they get mic-ed up,
so Tillie, if you get a chance to go to Small Press
Expo, she won not 1, but 2 Ignatz Awards 2 years ago,
and it’s a great place to see who the, where the
rising stars are. At the time, she was 20 and
just continued to do great work. Then, last year, she
came out with Spinning, which just weeks ago won an
Eisner Award, which is the Oscar of comics, so that’s huge. She has lived in a number of
places, but Texas is her home and where she was from. You went to the Center for
Cartoon Studies to study with the great James Sturm,
and it’s a great place. If you have a child or someone
close to you and they want to become a cartoonist
and get serious, the Center for Cartoon
Studies up in Vermont is one of the great places to land. And so we have Spinning, and
we also have her new book comes out in October, On a Sunbeam,
and I got to read a preview of it, and I can’t
recommend it more highly. So you’ve done 4 graphic novels. You had your web comic come out. The great Brian K.
Vaughan, cartoonist, said, “Tillie Walden is the
future of comics.” And we have 2 people here
are the future of comics. With Penelope Bagieu, who this
is the third time I’ve had the pleasure of moderating you because she is a true
rock star in comic. She’s a rock star in France. She also is in a
rock band, so that, she has, she’s, that is she. She, her blog, My
Quite Fascinating Life, started drawing great
attention in France. Then, she, you know, I’m
not even going to try to pronounce this French. I had French, and I don’t want
to mangle one of your titles. But in English, it is
Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World,
which came out this year. One critic called it
“beguilingly brilliant.” Wait, that was me. I reviewed it and wrote
“beguilingly brilliant.” [laughter] You know, to quote
yourself is always good. But she did, she came out with
the graphic novel Exquisite Corpse, which is wonderful. Last year, she was here for, in the area for California
Dreamin’, which is the story of Mama Cass Elliot
because even in France, her parents would play
American rock music on cassettes or 8-track, and she was
hearing the Mamas & Papas. So Mama Cass Elliot,
if you don’t know, grew up in this area,
was in Northern Virginia, then in Baltimore, and
she beautifully tells, you know, that story. And we’ll talk about
her new one. But 1, while we’re
up here, so Patrick, we’ve heard how much he loves
animals and how much it, through his art, you show that. Tillie’s bio literally
says, “I love cats.”>>Tillie Walden: It does. I felt like I should
just be clear about it. [laughter]>>Michael Cavna: Be upfront. So, and you have said, Penelope,
that you love nature shows, so can you talk, you guys,
just a little bit about, with animals, is there an
animal that you turn to, either personally, or animals, a breed that kind of
inspires your art? I mean, I haven’t asked you cat
versus dog because that’s, like, you know, the worst — we’re already divided
enough in this country. I don’t want to go there. But can you guys talk
about the animals and art? Do they inspire you?>>Tillie Walden: Yeah, I, I’m
obviously very inspired by cats. I think they’re wonderful
and fascinating creatures. And I think when
you’re drawing a story, especially a graphic
novel, and you want to tell the audience
something about your character, have that character
interact with a cat. Like, I’m serious. It says a lot about
who they are. You know, do they
immediate go for the snuggle? Do they talk to them
like they’re a senator? Do they, you know,
like, how do we do this? And I love using animals as a
way to express who people are and how they show love.>>Michael Cavna: Yeah.>>Penelope Bagieu:
There’s a theory saying that if you want a character
to look immediately mean and for people to hate
him, he has to kill a cat. And if someone kills a cat–>>Tillie Walden: I
would never draw that.>>Penelope Bagieu: No matter
what you write afterwards, your readers will hate
him no matter what, and, or if he saves a cat,
then he’s a good guy for the rest of the book.>>Michael Cavna: So
that’s a signifier with how you treat a cat. Wow. Well, I know Patrick
talked about, you know, the work you’ve done
in terms of, like, drawing about marine
conservation and the planet. And you actually got,
what, thousands of people to sign about, it was, had to do with the saving marine
life, right. Can you talk a little,
just a moment about that?>>Penelope Bagieu: Yeah,
there’s a fishing technique, and industrial fishing
technique all over the world called
deep-sea fish trolling, which is very destructive
to the Earth. And there was supposed to
be a law that would be voted against this, and
a lot of countries for not super clear reasons were
against the banning of this, and so I met this woman from
an NGO who’s been fighting against this all her life, but she couldn’t really
make people care about this because it is not a very
sexy subject, honestly. So, and so I made a comic online
about this because there was, we were just about
to have a vote at the European Parliament
about this. And so she made this petition
online, and she had a hard time, yeah, raising attention
from people. And so she had maybe,
I don’t know, I think it was 14,000
signatures to her petition. So we made this comic
online, and within the month, we had a million signatures. So that was very,
yeah, that was nice, except that still
they voted against it. Yeah, so, but that taught me a
lot about how democracy works. [laughs]>>Patrick McDonnell: It’s
also the power of comics that, you know, we talk to
people at their level. It’s like more of a
family conversation, and you can really say a
lot of important things that people will take
easily than, you know, so that’s the power of comics. You did a great thing.>>Michael Cavna: That’s it. Well, on that note, we have to
say goodbye to Mr. McDonnell, but for Patrick McDonnell,
can we get a big hand but also say a huge yesh? [ Applause ] You can sit where you
can, however you want to–>>Penelope Bagieu:
Because that’s weird. Just kidding.>>Tillie Walden: I’m
not going to do that.>>Michael Cavna: We, no. [laughs] That’s a
later show, and, but cats, we need cats up here.>>Tillie Walden:
Let’s get cozy. Oh no. We’ve ruined
their whole setup for us. Sorry, guys.>>Michael Cavna: I know. I know. But–>>Tillie Walden: Rebels.>>Michael Cavna: Yes. So, you know, I don’t know if
you were anticipating, you know, even though the hash, the “me
too” hashtag was a decade old, but where we are now, but the
culture is just so, you know, so ready and hungry as
ever to hear these stories. When you thought about
and obviously came out in France first, but with
Brazen, when you started this, were you sensing
shifts in the culture, or was your timing
just impeccable?>>Penelope Bagieu: [laughter]
No, there was a long pre process to it, so I would’ve loved
to do this book 10 years ago, but it just had to, you
know, mature a bit more. But then, yes, obviously,
my editor wouldn’t deny it. The timing was perfect. [laughs] But it’s just
that it took me a long time to gather all these
stories, so that was–>>Michael Cavna:
Twenty-nine, no, they’re great, and it’s a great
array of stories. But let me ask. You mention your editor. You guys both are at First
Second Books, which, you know, is just a marvelous imprint. What is in the water there that
not only do they draw such, having such a great eye for
talent, like such with both of you, but the editors seem to
draw out that talent so well? What’s First Second
doing right in this time when so much great work is being
done beyond the big 2 or big 3 when some people
think of comics? But it’s just great stories. I mean, you know, not
to put you on the spot, but what are they drinking
up there that’s going right?>>Tillie Walden: I think
First Second really understands comics, and that’s
not actually a given with a comics publisher,
necessarily. There are a lot of book
publishers that now want to get into graphic novels, but
they just don’t understand that it is an extremely
unique medium. Very different from prose. And I feel like at First
Second, they have worked with so many cartoonists. They have published so many
successful graphic novels that they understand what works and they understand
how cartoonists work. And so it’s a very artistic
and kind of loving environment, and they just, they have a great
team, and they all really care about comics, and they
have good aesthetic, good aesthetics, good design. I don’t know what it is, really.>>Michael Cavna: Well,
we know that France is one of the nations that truly
appreciates comics, and–>>Tillie Walden:
That’s what I heard.>>Michael Cavna: By the way, Mark Siegel at First Second
Books, with his strong ties to France, has a great
tie, so he appreciates — sometimes, I feel like the
United States is still trying to catch up with much of the
rest of the world about–>>Tillie Walden: We are.>>Michael Cavna:
Appreciating, yeah, we’re–>>Tillie Walden: No, we are.>>Michael Cavna: It’s
going to take us a while. Well, let’s get to these stories and have you tell
specifically about some of them. So here are there are 29
stories total, and, you know, you have to tell these
biographies quickly, and so your pacing
is just magnificent, but, you know, and that. That’s just beautiful. That’s just gorgeous. So can you tell me, this
is Mae Jemison, right, the first black astronaut or the first black
woman to go into space? Can you tell her–>>Penelope Bagieu: And to be in a Star Trek episode
at the same time.>>Michael Cavna: Really?>>Penelope Bagieu: Yeah.>>Michael Cavna: So
can you tell, what–>>Penelope Bagieu: She was
a Star Trek fan, and she–>>Michael Cavna: What
drew you to her story?>>Penelope Bagieu: What
drew me to her story, the fact that she was
afraid of both heights and darkness when she was a kid.>>Tillie Walden: Wow.>>Michael Cavna: Wow.>>Tillie Walden:
That’s amazing.>>Penelope Bagieu: And–>>Michael Cavna: Yeah.>>Penelope Bagieu:
And she ended up, you know, kind of nailing it. [inaudible]>>Michael Cavna: And
then, can you tell us, is this the rapper
from Afghanistan?>>Penelope Bagieu: Yeah,
this is Sonita Alizadeh. She’s a young girl who
was supposed to be married when she was 10 by her
parents in Afghanistan. She grew up under the Taliban,
and so she, and one day, she heard an Eminem
song on the radio, and she didn’t understand
the lyrics, but she really got struck by the
rage in the way he was singing. And she said that
that’s what I want to do, so she recorded her own rap
song about forced marriage. And she was, back
then, living in Iran, where it’s illegal
for women to sing. And so she put it online. She shot a little video,
music video on her own, and she put it online. And she was awarded a grant
to go and study music in Utah. And so she had to escape her
family to come to Utah to work on her rap, and she was
17 when she did that, which is such a lesson because
I remember what I was doing when I was 17, and–>>Tillie Walden:
What were you doing?>>Penelope Bagieu: Nothing. [laughter] I was
doing nothing, mostly. So–>>Michael Cavna:
You were saving cats.>>Penelope Bagieu:
Yeah, not even. I was watching TV,
so I thought, yeah, and she’s now — what’s she? She’s your age. She’s still very young, and
she’s still going on stage now.>>Michael Cavna: Yeah. And to me, what’s amazing
is the fact she physically, her body was going to
be commerce by age 10. You literally, that was
her fate unless, instead, she turned her mind
into commerce and art. I mean, that’s just
a beautiful twist, and you tell it well
and quickly. And is this Nzinga or–>>Penelope Bagieu: Yes, it is.>>Michael Cavna: And what
drew you to her story?>>Penelope Bagieu: She was
queen of what is now Angola, and she was really
smart, really witty, and she had a very dumb brother. But he became king because
he was the only son. And when she was born,
the woman who put her to the world told her father,
she will became a queen. And so she had her
brother killed, and so she became a queen.>>Michael Cavna:
Now, that’s gangsta.>>Penelope Bagieu: Yeah. [laughs] And she was a
very good peace negotiator, and she was very fair and just. And she was amazing. And she said that she
would never have a husband, but she would have many lovers. And she was really cool. And she was a queen until the
age of I think probably — well, it’s not very well
documented about this — but probably around
her late 70s. And she was still
on the battlefield, on the front row to fight. So she’s super cool.>>Michael Cavna: A
true woman warrior. Yeah. And this is the
bearded lady, right, as she was [inaudible]. Can you tell us what, her story?>>Penelope Bagieu: Yeah. So her name is Clementine
Delait. She was the first
bearded supermodel because she was a bearded
lady, but she refused to be in a circus, like in a show,
nor to shave, of course. And she said, I don’t want
to be part of a freak show. I want to be like a freelancer. And so she was selling
her autographed pictures to her fans. And then, she started her own
cabaret in the east of France, and she adopted kids, and
she was really amazing. But she started her life
by, of course, being shamed for her beard, and then she was
offered as the only opportunity for a woman like her to
be, yeah, to be a freak. And that was early 20th century, so there were not
many other options.>>Michael Cavna: So so far,
every woman we’re talking about basically was, had been
assigned a role by her birth, essentially, and having to
steer hard against that.>>Penelope Bagieu: Yeah.>>Michael Cavna: Yeah. And then, yeah, there we go. Try this again. Look at her there. I love — look at
that top panel. That’s just beautiful. That’s her story.>>Penelope Bagieu: And even in
France, she’s not that famous, which I thought was very unfair. And that is the thing in common for all these women I think
is just that the reaction that I had mostly with this
book was people telling me, oh, how come I never heard of
that woman, even if she was like a Nobel Prize for Peace? Because some of them are. And as usual, they are
invisible, so I thought, in a very proud way, I was
very proud when people say, I have never heard about
them, and that’s my, yeah.>>Michael Cavna: Yes. And it’s a great
mix because some of the people you may have even
heard of like Josephine Baker, known as a club and cabaret,
or Hedy Lamarr, the actress, but we didn’t know sort of,
when it came to World War II, what they were doing, whether in
terms of sleuth work, spy work, or technology, this
whole other side that just never came to light. Yeah, that’s beautiful. Look at her there. And then, so this is
Las Mariposas, right? Can you tell us about, was
this, and they’re Dominican?>>Penelope Bagieu: Yeah,
so they were 4 sisters, but 3 of them became
resistant to the local tyrant in Dominican Republic. And what they had in common
was that they were very smart, but they were also
very beautiful, and that men had the horrible
habit of kind of going fishing for young, beautiful
girls to hang around with. And so he invited them over
to his sort of palazzo, and he was hitting on them,
like, very, very intensely. And that’s what threw them
into politics because they were so sick of being seen as a
piece of meat that they decided to fight back the power. And they were put in jail. They were tortured. But they still fought him
with all their energy. And eventually, they
were murdered. And today, the International Day
Against Women Violence, Violent, yeah, Violence Against Women is
the day they were killed still, so.>>Michael Cavna: So they
were, so they became martyrs–>>Penelope Bagieu: Yeah.>>Michael Cavna: Essentially. Yeah, yeah.>>Penelope Bagieu: What?>>What about the fourth one?>>Michael Cavna: What
happened to the fourth sister?>>Penelope Bagieu:
She was mild. She was not that much
into politics, I think.>>She was what? She was wild?>>Tillie Walden: Mild?>>Penelope Bagieu: Yeah,
she was more, you know. She had more mild
political stances, I think, than her sisters. So these are the other 2.>>Michael Cavna: So she
got to live, basically.>>Penelope Bagieu:
No, she died too.>>Michael Cavna: No?>>Penelope Bagieu:
No, that’s very unfair.>>Michael Cavna: So either way.>>Penelope Bagieu: So, yeah.>>Michael Cavna: Yeah. I love the art of that,
and there they are. Let’s see if there’s, get to,
trying to get to the next one. Can we get to the next one? Oh, Margaret Hamilton. Now, I mean, I’ve, I
have relatives who talk about being scared as little
kids when we watch Wizard of Oz, and Margaret Hamilton in that
green makeup, and the poof, and the fact that
you get behind, you know, behind her story. What drew you to her story?>>Penelope Bagieu: Same thing. I was terrified by her as a kid. I had to leave the room every
time, with all the scenes where the witch was
on, I had to leave. And then, my parents
would come, would call me to come back whenever
she was gone. So–>>Michael Cavna: I’m just —
anyone else here at all scared by the Wicked Witch
in Wizard of Oz?>>Penelope Bagieu: Yeah. She was ranked the fourth worst
villain in the history of movies after Darth Vader and I
think Hannibal Lector.>>Tillie Walden: Yeah, I was
going to ask, who’s number 1?>>Penelope Bagieu:
It’s Darth Vader.>>Tillie Walden: Oh.>>Michael Cavna: And they
both got to wear masks. She was just–>>Penelope Bagieu: Yeah,
and she’s the only woman.>>Michael Cavna: Wow.>>Penelope Bagieu: So, yeah,
so, and for a long time, I was really, even just to see
her face was too much for me. And then, one day, I heard that
she was actually a schoolteacher to begin with and that she
loved children, and I thought, what a curse it must’ve been
for her because for the rest of her life, she was, I think
probably kids were running away screaming whenever they saw her. And then, I heard that she had
been a single mom struggling to get parts, and she wanted
to play romantic roles, but all the casting directors
told her she was too ugly to play that. And so she thought, okay,
then plan B, I’m going to be, if I can’t be the pretty one,
I’m going to be the scary one because I’m really
good at being scary. And so she heard that they were
auditioning the part of a witch in a movie, and so
she went there, and she became the most
famous witch in the world, so.>>Michael Cavna: Yeah.>>Tillie Walden: Wow.>>Penelope Bagieu: Yeah.>>Michael Cavna:
And so I just want to let people know we have
just a couple minutes here with this [inaudible] so
— and who is this again? This–>>Penelope Bagieu:
It’s Nzinga that we–>>Michael Cavna:
This is Nzinga, yeah.>>Penelope Bagieu:
Mentioned before, yeah. And that’s me.>>Michael Cavna:
And that is you.>>Penelope Bagieu: With
a beautiful other picture. [laughter]>>Michael Cavna: You were
voted the least terrifying woman in the world in the
most recent–>>Penelope Bagieu: Well,
there’s actually my story at the end of the book,
which was not my idea because I thought that
was really pretentious. But since we had to remove
1 story from the original because it was originally
30 women, and 1 was removed for the American edition
because it was too hard, [laughs] so it was removed. And so instead, my editor,
our editor suggested that I put my own story in it
being told from the outside, which is a super
weird experience. So I wrote a 2-page comic
to explain how I was brazen and cool, so [laughs]
it’s horrible, but it’s still in the book.>>Michael Cavna:
Does that exist? Is that in there? Is that–>>Penelope Bagieu: Yeah, it is. Yeah, it’s the last 2 pages, and
it’s, and then, Penelope went on to become, blah, blah, blah. And I wrote this, so
this is really weird.>>Michael Cavna:
Okay, no, I read that. It just, okay, it felt humble. It didn’t feel pretentious. Okay, that’s why — I was,
I thought there was a comic out there where it
was like you were–>>Penelope Bagieu: No.>>Michael Cavna: Yes, okay. [laughs] So with
Tillie, Spinning. You know, this, it’s such a beautiful work,
a heartfelt work. Deeply personal. I could sort of mangle
it and try to say, explain in 30 words all
— no, but the drama. I mean, what I will say is
what you get, the sheer, raw, tender emotion is apparent. I’ve experienced it. When you see a teenage
girl, when something that, when you’re a little
older, is just a mild thing, but everything new is,
just feels so immediate and can feel incredibly
dramatic, and your life is upside down. So when you’re working, I mean, you’re a competitor junior
skater, and you are, you know, looking, having, you’re
having skating with different, in the morning, see a different
girl, one who’s 5 years older, and you’re sensing a
stirring, an attraction.>>Tillie Walden: Oh, yeah.>>Michael Cavna: Yes. See, right there. That “oh, yeah” said more
than my previous 40 words. Please, you can do
it better than I.>>Tillie Walden: You
mean describe Spinning.>>Michael Cavna: Want
me to describe Spinning and then what sort of,
what it’s like to be that personal on
that level in art.>>Tillie Walden:
It’s kind of awful. It’s very hard to make a memoir, and I think no matter what age
you are, it’s very hard to look at yourself with
honesty and bravery. And Spinning is, it’s
about my childhood. I grew up as a competitive
figure skater. I did synchronized
skating as well. Not a lot of people
know what synchro is. And I grew up in New
Jersey and Texas. And I’m also a lesbian. And I felt like I was breaking
into this thing where it was like not only are almost all
skating narratives just awful, and really boring, and
stupid, and they end with them getting a gold medal. And, like, oh, look, a cute
guy on the side of the rink. And I was like, oh, gross.>>Michael Cavna: [laughs]
That’s not your rom-com.>>Tillie Walden: No. I was like, I have been, I
grew up being so frustrated with skating media and very
frustrated with sports media that I wanted to tell a story
about what it means to grow up in a sport, what it means
to grow up being pushed to do something that you are
good at and that you also hate, and then also to be a
lesbian while doing that. And that–>>Michael Cavna:
And discovering.>>Tillie Walden: And
discovering that, and figuring that out in the locker room,
and trying to decide whether or not these girls would let me
come back in this locker room if they knew I was a lesbian.>>Michael Cavna: Yeah. Well, at 1 point, I
think you actually say, you feared acknowledging
you were gay or you feared that awakening. Or you even talk about fearing, not writing gay characters
because of that. Like, you had to–>>Tillie Walden: Oh, yeah. Yeah, I spent, when I first
started drawing comics, all my characters
were little boys.>>Michael Cavna: Yeah. [laughs]>>Tillie Walden: And I
guess they were straight. I have no idea, but it
was all this just kind of internalized stuff. I spent my whole life seeing
media that told these kinds of stories, so when I sat down
to tell stories, naturally, I told, I reflected them
back, the things I had seen. And you, I think there
has to be a moment where you say to
yourself, hold on. What is important to me? What do I actually want to say? And you have to push yourself
to put that in your comics.>>Michael Cavna: Yeah. And I should point
out, it wasn’t just that you were skating. This was a 12-year saga. I mean, this is hard core. This is–>>Tillie Walden: I
was skating far longer than I’ve been drawing.>>Michael Cavna: Wow.>>Tillie Walden: I’m a much
more accomplished skater than I am an accomplished
artist.>>Michael Cavna: No, no, no. But I love the way, you know,
different chapter titles, the way you have axel,
or lutz, or counter. And so what that
hammers home is it’s not, you describe the technical move, but then you realize that’s
also an emotional state. And it just works beautifully
on that level because you sense, you know, it feels like
as you’re discovering it, we’re so in the moment with you. We’re feeling with
you moment to moment. Oh, there’s Lindsay,
and here comes Caitlin, and there’s Molly, and there’s,
you know, and there’s Ray, and then, is Grace sort of
your nemesis, would you say?>>Tillie Walden: Yeah, yeah.>>Michael Cavna: Okay.>>Tillie Walden: I mean, some
of the book is about bullying and things I experienced.>>Michael Cavna: So here,
the massiveness of a rank, and there you are back again. You talk about–>>Tillie Walden: Well,
and what’s strange is that I didn’t use any photo
reference for this book. I, because I just, I
wanted the drawings to reflect how I
remembered things. Like, if you all think back
to your childhood home, in your mind, it’s a lot
bigger than it actually was because when you’re a kid,
everything seems huge to you, and I wanted the scenes to
feel like those memories. But that rink, I drew
it in this huge way, and when I finished the
book, I actually looked up what it looked like. It is that big.>>Michael Cavna: Wow.>>Tillie Walden:
I wasn’t wrong. It’s huge, and there’s
an American flag in it. I was right.>>Michael Cavna: So
draw it when you’re 20, not when you’re 40,
is what you’re saying.>>Tillie Walden: Or
draw whenever you want. Who cares.>>Michael Cavna: [laughs]
But your sense of it. And it’s just, and, you know, by
the way, on a technical level, your grid work, you know,
the way you’ll do 6 panel, and then you have these 24-panel
pages, it’s, on the ice, it’s just heart — I mean,
you feel the immediate. It also reminded me because I
was just a, on a much less so, I was a competitive junior, as
a kid, junior tennis player. And, but I wasn’t thinking
about my makeup, and I wasn’t, use your wording,
I wasn’t thinking about whether my crotch was
showing as I’m doing a move. And I wasn’t worrying about,
you know, just concerns that I’ve covered both men’s
and women’s sports early in my career, and the
difference, you make us aware of everything in those panels. And it just, everything feels
just painfully, and it feels like almost anything is
a potential embarrassment when you’re that age.>>Tillie Walden: Well, yeah. And it’s a sport all about
your body, and I was in it through my entire childhood,
so my body was changing and growing, and I was having
to experience that while in like a skintight
dress with no underwear on because skaters aren’t
allowed to wear underwear because the judges might
see it, like a line of it. And they were like, no, no. And, like, having to understand
your body while having an audience looking
at it was like — but thing is it’s
not just skating. If you’ve been in dance, if
you’ve been in gymnastics, I would probably say even
tennis or even a lot of sports, there’s a lot of that. It’s, this isn’t an
isolated experience.>>Michael Cavna: Not at all. Not at all. But to do it when you’re young,
to be, to have, you know, you’re not even 18, and, yeah. And so you go from there. So you go from memoir
to fiction, and then–>>Tillie Walden: I wanted
to perk up a little bit.>>Michael Cavna: Did you? Okay.>>Tillie Walden: Yeah.>>Michael Cavna:
[laughs] And so could, so this was a web comic. This was an Eisner Award
winning web comic was this? This is Ignatz Award winning.>>Tillie Walden: I don’t know. I don’t remember.>>Michael Cavna: They pile
up, like your skating medals. At 1 point, you say that
you have an unhealthy amount of skating medals, right?>>Tillie Walden: I threw
them all out, except for 1.>>Michael Cavna: Really?>>Tillie Walden: I had so
many, it was disgusting. My door actually broke because
my mom used to hang them on my door, and then
my door broke. And I was like, this is
like, this is stupid.>>Michael Cavna: Yeah, and
it came across in the book as, like, not like, oh,
look at me, but, like, literally weighing
you down with the–>>Tillie Walden: Yeah.>>Michael Cavna: What
you’ve been through. So can you talk about, this
book comes out in October. I can’t recommend
it more highly. Can you talk about transitioning
to a work of space fiction?>>Tillie Walden: Yeah. I mean, it was easy. It was just like, let me
shut down that part of myself that wants to, like, examine
who I am and just tell a story about all the fun stuff
that I want to do. And I would really like to go
to boarding school in space, so [laughter] I started
with that. I would also really like to
live on a spaceship with a bunch of other queer women
and just, like, be a little family
together, so I did that too. And that’s what the
story is about. It’s about this girl, Mia, and
these 2 stages in her life — 1 when she is at boarding school
in space, and falls in love, and deals with some
things, including bullying, and then her, in her older
life, trying to understand who she is not as a student, not
as a girl at boarding school, but as a girl who
is now a woman. And it’s long and fun, and
it’s still a web comic. It’s still for free. You can read the
whole thing online if you just Google On a Sunbeam.>>Michael Cavna: On a Sunbeam. And in October–>>Tillie Walden:
Where did you get that?>>Michael Cavna:
Oh, I have my ways. [laughter] I just, you
know, it’s the patriarchy. It’s [inaudible]. Did I just say that out loud?>>Tillie Walden: You did.>>Michael Cavna: Yeah,
I’m sorry about that. No, what it is, it’s partly that
it’s the power of First Second, but also the power
of Small Press Expo, which will be in 2 weeks again. They have helped
make it possible to bring Tillie Walden
here as well as the person who will follow us
next, Ed Piskor.>>Tillie Walden: You mean Ed?>>Michael Cavna: I mean Ed. [laughs] But, you know, another thing
is 1 thing you guys both are drawing about and writing about
is fear versus fearlessness, the fear paralyzing you versus
people who seem like they just, they seem able to conquer fear. And there’s so much
that goes into that. I mean, you talk about quitting, and you thought quitting
would be a big deal. You quit skating, and was it
your mom that’s like, oh, okay.>>Tillie Walden: It
was not a big deal.>>Michael Cavna:
Not a big deal. Everything you thought —
can you talk, you know, in getting across that emotional
state, just very quickly, can you talk about
sort of tapping fear versus fearlessness
for, in your work?>>Tillie Walden: I don’t know. I don’t know if there’s
a way to conquer fear. I feel like all I can do is
just try and work through it and try and understand it. That’s all I really
know how to do.>>Michael Cavna: Yeah, yeah.>>Penelope Bagieu: Yeah, and the fear will
always be there anyway, probably until the end. So I don’t think
there’s a moment when you start not being scared
anymore, so you just have to live with it and be
able to work with it. And the good thing
is that it’s not us. It’s our books. So we’re not directly going
towards, you know, people. And we something in between. We have the books,
so we’re safe.>>Tillie Walden: And it’s
our way to process it. Art lets us deal with it.>>Michael Cavna: Absolutely. I just fear, deadlines I think
is what I end up fearing most when I’m trying to,
and I really mean that. Well, what that leads us to,
speaking of Small Press Expo and someone along with Tillie
who will be here in 2 weeks, someone who I first met at
Small Press Expo 6, 8 years ago. Straight out of Pittsburgh. He is a huge fan of Marvel
Comics and that ’70’s aesthetic. He’s a huge fan of hip-hop. He’s a huge fan of
so many things. But he’s able to put it all
in his art with this sort of aesthetic that
only he is doing. He’s one of the very few, if not
only cartoonists working for one of the big 2 who does
the writing, the drawing, both the penciling and inking, the color separation
from end to end. He’s a 1-man machine. Growing up in Pittsburgh,
he went to the Kubert School of Art, you know, started
by the great Joe Kubert, if you know your stuff. He got to know, if you know
Harvey Pekar, American Splendor. Ed, at a young age, was
doing that, working with him on Macedonia, and The Beats, and
American Splendor [inaudible]. And so then, he went
to Wizzywig, which was an Eisner nominee. Then, he did Hip Hop
Family Tree, and this is, we’ll get into how this
is a work that, you know, you either have credibility,
you have cred with the hip-hop
heads or you don’t. And he got mad cred for that. And so what’s coming up now
is he’s been working on X-Men: Grand Design, and Marvel just
threw him the sandbox and said, do what you want to do. And so we’re going to
have 2 Eisner winners up here at 1 time. Please welcome Eddie
P. [applause]>>Tillie Walden:
Should we move over? I think he needs this —
Ed, you need his microphone.>>Michael Cavna: Okay. And while he’s doing that, some
of the praise for X-Men so far, it’s been called a love
letter to that era in comics, and it’s been called the
intricate labor of love. And it’s just, it’s beautifully,
it’s done with such depth, and you’re able to get, capture
that old Marvel aesthetic, and it’s a masterpiece, really.>>Ed Piskor: I agree.>>Michael Cavna: So, yeah. [laughter] So 1 thing I want to
ask you guys about is, you know, it’s, to different degrees,
you’re working with editors, but when you’re telling
personal stories, you need certain
amount of freedom. Do you feel like once
you have a vision, do you feel like you’re
able to sort of push back against editors, or convince
them, or be persuasive and say, here’s the vision I have? And are there ways to do that where they respect
you creatively?>>Ed Piskor: There are ways that they respect
you creatively, and by way of Hip Hop Family
Tree being a New York Times best seller, [laughter]
they seem to trust that I’ll be able
to sell them books. You know, like when it comes to
that realm of corporate comics, which I’m not really
familiar with — I’m just kind of visiting
— it’s all about the money. So, like, the things that I’m
doing are not so controversial that they really, I really need
much of their input or whatever. And to some extent, in that
universe, I am a little bit of a prima donna where–>>Tillie Walden: Are you?>>Ed Piskor: I would
like to just work on my own stuff in
a lot of ways. So, you know, if they
push back too much, then I’ll just go back
and do my own thing. You know what I mean? Do Hip Hop Family Tree,
Volume 5 or something.>>Michael Cavna: Yeah.>>Tillie Walden:
Yeah, I don’t know. I feel like my editors know
a lot more than me at times.>>Michael Cavna: Really?>>Tillie Walden: Yeah. I’m very much like, after I do
the first draft, and they, like, look at a scene, and they’re
like, uh-uh, I’m like, okay, you’re probably right.>>Michael Cavna: So you’re
saying you’re not a prima donna?>>Tillie Walden: I guess not. I guess I just, I know that
I’m so biased, I can’t look at my work critically at all.>>Michael Cavna: So,
yeah, you rely on someone with critical distance to say–>>Tillie Walden: I do. I do, yeah. I have to.>>Michael Cavna: Yeah. And Penelope?>>Penelope Bagieu: Oh, yeah. Totally relying on my editor. I give him half of my brain
when I begin the book. He knows where I’m going, and
at some point, he knows better than I do because he
remembers my original idea where I’m totally lost and confused along the
way, and he’s like, focus. Remember. I’m like,
okay, thanks. So, yeah. Totally need him too.>>Michael Cavna: Yeah. You know, to me, often, there’s,
there has to be 1 point where, you know, you just feel like when you’re writing,
you trust your voice. You know your voice. Have all 3 of you
gotten to places where you know your voice? You know, because we all
have, we’re influenced by different writers
and artists early on, but then you learn to trust. Something inside
gradually emerges. You feel like you all have
reached a place where you just, your voice is your voice
and you are very comfortable in that place?>>Tillie Walden: Yeah.>>Michael Cavna: Yeah?>>Penelope Bagieu: Yeah.>>Tillie Walden: Yeah, I do.>>Penelope Bagieu:
At least, yeah.>>Ed Piskor: Took me
a really long time. I think I was like 27, already
in the game for like 6 years when I finally accepted
who I was. You know, I was always trying
to make comics like this or like that because there was no
empirical data that the things that I like, my taste levels
would resonate on the shelves because I had nothing
to point to. So it took a lot of trust in
myself to get to that level. It took a while.>>Michael Cavna:
But you’re there.>>Ed Piskor: I guess.>>Michael Cavna: Okay.>>Ed Piskor: Never satisfied.>>Michael Cavna: Okay. Well, since you’re
not satisfied, you have to stay with us. You have to stay after
class, begin recess. But you guys, thank you so much. Tillie, Penelope, please
give them a big hand. [ Applause ] Okay. All right. There he is. There he is. Man, this book is beautiful. This is just a — you know,
I’m going to take a minute. I’m going to find this book
because — and you’ve got a, you had a new one
just drop, right? A new X-Men?>>Ed Piskor: New issue
just dropped, and the, like the second big book will
come out at the end of October.>>Michael Cavna: Yeah.>>Ed Piskor: That was
the cool thing too, like, dealing with Marvel, like, they accepted the format
changes I wanted to make. Generally speaking, all the
Marvel books are of a piece. They look the same. They fit next to each
other on the bookshelf. But my ego doesn’t
work that way, so I wanted the book
to be big and giant. And if they were going to
use my full superpowers, they have to let me design it, so they were accepting
of that too.>>Michael Cavna: Tell me,
you know, we talked a bit about this, but how
does this happen? I mean, this is Marvel, and
for them, it’s one thing to hire a writer to,
or an artist and say, hey, we like your stuff. You want a shot at writing a
limited run on x, so to speak? But to say, we’re going
to let you really play in a huge sandbox and trust
you to go to town, I mean, it’s, that’s a rare thing. How does that happen?>>Ed Piskor: When I got
the Eisner Award for, I think it was the second
volume of Hip Hop Family Tree, and you’re there at the
event, they call your name, and as I was walking up, I
didn’t quite feel the feeling of satisfaction I’ve been
searching for my entire life in this game, and I didn’t want to do Hip Hop Family
Tree anymore, actually. I had about 10 pages to
go on the fourth volume, and I got up there and accept
my award, and I’m like, this didn’t give me what
I, this trophy’s hollow. You know what I’m saying?>>Michael Cavna: The
ultimate metaphor. You hoist it at the event. You haven’t even left the
San Diego Comic-Con Hall, and you feel hollow.>>Ed Piskor: Totally.>>Michael Cavna: Okay.>>Ed Piskor: So I
put a tweet out there. I drew just for pleasure for,
like, the first time in years, and I decided to draw
this elaborate picture of the X-Men because, like,
as a kid, I liked the comic or whatever, and I’ve been
so far away from those kinds of comics, I decided just
draw this thing for fun since I developed some skills. I have never drawn any
of that superhero stuff. And it was a lot of fun. Put a tweet out into
the universe and said, Marvel should just let
me make whatever kind of X-Men comic I feel like
making, just like that.>>Michael Cavna: So you
weren’t even tweeting at Marvel. You were just tweeting
to the universe, so to speak, the
Marvel universe.>>Ed Piskor: Yeah, because I
never thought about doing work for Marvel in any way. Like, as a cartoonist,
you make comic books. Like, you don’t need
to be paired up with a writer or artist. You know, like–>>Michael Cavna: You do it all.>>Ed Piskor: Just, yeah. So I make comic books.>>Michael Cavna: So how long
did it take to hear from Marvel?>>Ed Piskor: Like an hour.>>Michael Cavna: Wow.>>Ed Piskor: Yeah, yeah. It was pretty cool.>>Michael Cavna:
The game has changed.>>Ed Piskor: Yeah,
it was pretty cool, and I let them know that, you
know, this is what I would do. The X-Men, for those who don’t
know, it’s a very sprawling, kind of convoluted narrative. It goes all over the place,
and there’s a lot of confusion in those comics,
which is actually kind of like what I liked
about it when I was a kid, but it takes a lot of work
to parse through all of that. So my idea was to take, you
know, the first 30 years of those comics —
that’s the stuff that I liked when I was a boy–>>Michael Cavna: Yeah. This is Chris Claremont
stuff, right?>>Ed Piskor: Yeah, the
Chris Claremont era. And when he left the–>>Michael Cavna:
X-Men fans here? Any fans of — yes. Nice.>>Ed Piskor: Whoa, way
more than I thought. That’s awesome.>>Michael Cavna: Yeah.>>Ed Piskor: When he left
the series, I left the series and graduated to, you know, Fantagraphics and
stuff like that. So they liked the idea,
and I’m quite sure that they would’ve liked me
to have done it, you know, inside of a year or
something, but 240 pages, doing the whole kit and
caboodle, it takes a while, man. So it’s 3 years. I’m good for like 80
to 90 pages a year.>>Michael Cavna:
You know your rate. You know how to pace.>>Ed Piskor: Yeah.>>Michael Cavna:
You know how to pace. Well, let’s talk about
Hip Hop Family Tree. I mean, this is just
from Fantagraphics. It’s, you know, it’s just
gorgeous, but also, like, I have a Post colleague,
Washington Post colleague who is working on a big
hip-hop book now that came out of an article, and whenever,
you know, hip-hop is still, people are so passionate about
it, and even though it’s been around for so many decades, so
many aspects of it feel so fresh to people that they, you
really can’t get it wrong. If you get anything
a little bit wrong, you’re going to hear from it. So credibility is
everything, just starting out. And so you had to
really do your homework. I mean, you can’t
just wiki that.>>Ed Piskor: No.>>Michael Cavna: You really
— can you talk about, this is, just from a research standpoint,
was a mammoth undertaking. Can you talk about doing that?>>Ed Piskor: Yeah, for sure. I mean, with both
of these projects, there’s just all
this back-end work that doesn’t get
seen on the page. And with–>>Michael Cavna: All
behind the curtains.>>Ed Piskor: Yep, and with Hip
Hop Family Tree, you’re right. You have to have
some credibility, and it has to feel organic. It has to feel authentic, man. Like, that phony
stuff will not fly. So my kind of solution to that
with Hip Hop Family Tree was to kind of dull the
strips out online first to just have even a
fresh set of eyes. Like, you know as well as I do
that the anonymous commenter on the internet is
very quick and happy to let you know if/when
you got something wrong. I’m very happy to say that
that just has never come up in, like, in the comments on–>>Michael Cavna:
That’s amazing,>>Ed Piskor: Online
because I really did try to make my research as
bulletproof as possible. And when we first met, you
brought up the word, like, “journalism” and using
a journalist process.>>Michael Cavna: You’re
doing comics journalism.>>Ed Piskor: And I never
thought of it as that. I just didn’t, I just wanted
to have artillery in the pocket in case somebody said something
weird, and then I could just, like, present the materials that
I used to put my comic together.>>Michael Cavna:
Well, here’s the thing. I mean, and we know
beefs are still happening about who gets credit
for what, right. I mean, we can’t seem to resolve
[inaudible] Marvel Comics what Stan Lee gets credit for versus
Jack Kirby versus Steve Ditko, or Gene Cullen [phonetic], or
Marie Severin, who just died.>>Ed Piskor: Yeah,
rest in peace.>>Michael Cavna: May
she rest in peace. She was legend, and
she was there. She worked her way up
from colorist all the way up to co-creating Spider-Woman. Or, you know, we just
lost Marvel editor and creator Gary Friedrich,
who co-created Ghost Rider. So if you can’t parse
that out in a, in the Marvel method system,
hip-hop trying to parse out who gets credit for
what beat and doing what when they’re all in
that creative caldron at the beginning, and you in some ways are
having to officiate. You’re kind of, drawing
that is kind of refereeing that a little bit.>>Ed Piskor: Yeah, but I
hedge my bets in ways too. So like in that first
hip-hop book, I believe there are no
less than 3 or 4 guys who I allow the space to
claim the creator of–>>Michael Cavna: Nice.>>Ed Piskor: Hip-hop.>>Michael Cavna: And
then, did you ever hear from one or the other? Like, hey, that’s not my take.>>Ed Piskor: Sure, yeah. Like, after the first volume,
which was largely constructed from found materials, that’s
when I started to get the calls about just like, okay, when
you start to cover me, like, let’s talk, and then, you know,
I’ll give you the full story. But the way that hip-hop works,
so you have your, you know, Malcolm Gladwell, 10,000
hours in interviewing. I don’t. So these guys were
trying to run all over me, and the way hip-hop works, you
have to puff your chest out, and you have to take command, and you have to be
the alpha dog. And I just know that I
was being told fictions. And I would just say, like,
man, that’s a wild story. I love it. Is there anybody
else on this planet who could corroborate
what you just told me?>>Michael Cavna:
Yeah, second stories.>>Ed Piskor: Anybody else, man. And it would always
come back sort of, no. Oh, you don’t believe me. And it’s just like, it
was pretty wild, man.>>Michael Cavna: Yeah. So you’re getting fake news.>>Ed Piskor: Fake news.>>Michael Cavna: Okay.>>Ed Piskor: Yeah,
before it was trendy.>>Michael Cavna: [laughs]
Well, can you talk about it? I mean, you ended up, you’re
either going to hear back, you’re going to hear back one
way or the other, and not just from anonymous commenters. You’re going to hear back
maybe from an Ice Cube, maybe from a Grandmaster Flash. Can you talk about what it was like to have certain
people really who were there in the closer [inaudible]
at the beginning or who were really big
and say, you got it? Or just even offhandedly,
go look at this. What was that like?>>Ed Piskor: Oh,
it was incredible. You know, I operate in a vacuum. I don’t work closely with any
editors or anything like that. My entire process has
always been just sit down, make the comic, see which
publisher likes it the best, and then move forward
from there. So putting the strips
out online, it became a really fun game
almost week in, week out, where I would just kind of
look online and see, oh, so this famous rapper
tweeted the comic or that. I mean, the success of
the series is really in, thanks in great part
to the kind of word of mouth that, you
know, Ice Cube–>>Michael Cavna: What’s,
yeah, I was going to — what’s one of the coolest
things you saw that was like, whoa, okay, so-and-so–>>Ed Piskor: Yeah, well,
this photo right here, man, this is Fab 5 Freddy,
the host of Yo! MTV Raps from when,
you know, I was a kid. Like, you know, when, I
didn’t take this photo. You know what I mean? This was just something that
was online that, you know, I was tagged in on Twitter
or something like that. So when I see things like
this, it blows my mind. The most popular strip was
definitely this one that I did about how Ice Cube met Dr.
Dre at like a backyard cookout in the super early ’80’s. And when Ice Cube
spread the strip out like on his social media
platforms, you know, his people or whatever, he took
ownership of it. So he said, hey, read this
comic about when I met Dre. So it wasn’t like,
look at this bullshit. You know, pardon my French. It was like, yeah, this is, check out this comic
about when I met Dre. And it just, it spread
like wildfire.>>Michael Cavna: Yeah, and
that’s the kind of thing, the kind of recommendation
like when you say to a friend, you know, that isn’t, you
don’t need a hype man. That’s just a friend saying to
a friend, check this out, which, in a way, has a lot more, you
know, a lot more influence.>>Ed Piskor: Never took
it for granted, man.>>Michael Cavna: Yeah, yeah. That’s the way to do it. So look at that. And look at, now, am I wrong? You know, so you’re
nodding to Marvel. Is that a little bit of
like a Kirby crackle there, a little nod to Jack Kirby?>>Ed Piskor: Oh, for sure. At any moment, like, I
wanted this comic to look like it was ripped from that
time period that I was covered, so it’s like late ’70’s, early
’80’s, and try to capture that aesthetic as
much as possible.>>Michael Cavna: Yeah. And you even captured, like,
you didn’t want to do it on a slick white paper. You wanted that sort
of tan, weathered, 6-month old comic
book aesthetic, right?>>Ed Piskor: Yeah, yeah. I just like that look and feel
of a well-read, old comic book.>>Michael Cavna: Yeah,
yeah, which, in a way too, is great because old
album covers, you know, they get a little
weathered, and so part of it, you feel like you’re, like,
holding a weathered comic book, but also, some of these are
so evocative of the time, you feel like you’re
holding an old album cover. People remember vinyl or new
people use, buy vinyl now.>>Ed Piskor: Down to
the paper that the, those books were printed on was
a design choice that I made. Like, I called and got in touch
with several Chinese publishers to try to get the
exact perfect paper. And the biggest compliment
whenever I’m at a signing or anything like that,
when I see people kind of like rubbing my books. Like, even subconsciously,
it’s a big compliment. And if we’re going to, you know,
chop down trees to make books, like, might as well make
very tactile experiences, like the most beautiful
books possible.>>Michael Cavna:
Yeah, and I should, reminds me all these
authors will be signing, so if you haven’t
gone to the, you know, you should go to their signing. When is your signing,
by the way?>>Ed Piskor: I think it’s
like five thirty to six thirty.>>Michael Cavna: Okay. So if you go to his signing,
make sure to rub your book, and he’ll check it out. [laughter] So–>>Ed Piskor: Well, now, that
would just be pandering now. You don’t have to.>>Michael Cavna: It would. So, but you can see that
weathered aesthetic, but, I mean, so can you talk about,
you know, you’re evocative of Claremont’s X-Men and getting
to play with the superheroes? And, I mean, you
really, I think, it seems like you’re
referencing, you might, like hundreds of comics
and dozens, and dozens, and dozens of characters. I mean, you’re going deep with
little nods here and there. You talk about, it seems
like Hip Hop Family Tree, you’re really, you’re going
deep with the knowledge.>>Ed Piskor: Yeah, it took
about 8000 pages of material. You know, it’s 30
years of comics, not just from the main series,
but there are tangential series and all sorts of
things like that. About 8000 pages of material. Cull all of that down
into a 240-page story with a satisfying beginning,
middle, and ending, you know, like not that bait and switch
of cliffhanger at the end. Come back next month. See how they get
out of that scrape. Leave on another cliffhanger. So I, when I started
this project, I got, I bought the biggest kind of bulletin board
that money can buy. It’s like as big as a school, as
a elementary school chalkboard. And I just sort of
put it on its side and got all these note cards as I was making notes
along the way. And, you know, red
yarn string from this and pushpin to that one. And this very–>>Michael Cavna: Almost like
the way you track a mob family.>>Ed Piskor: Exactly. It, like, it was like, you
know, the Barksdale family tree or something like
that in The Wire. And, but it would
be these phrases that would just sound totally
insane read all by themselves. So, like, I was praying that,
you know, I just wouldn’t die in a car crash or
something like that. My parents have to
clean out my house, and then they see this bulletin
board full of these notes that say something like, the shadow king was sexually
transmitted to his son, or, and then, like, you know,
my parents might think that they dodged a bullet. You know, it’s like,
oh, it’s good. It’s good he’s off the streets.>>Michael Cavna: But then, they
would say, he was a cartoonist, and that explains it all. You get away with so much when
you’re a cartoonist, right. Your research material. But, I mean, and this
is just gorgeous. Do you have a favorite
X-Men artist?>>Ed Piskor: I don’t. Like, they definitely,
they being Marvel, definitely hired the
top talent of the day to draw their comics
or whatever. And, yeah, I, you know,
there’s a million of those guys that I like, and it’s all
for different reasons.>>Michael Cavna: Yeah, yeah. So you were nodding — so was
there, when it comes to X-Men, if you had to bookend certain
years that really influenced you and you really were
nodding to more than others, what would you say sort of a–>>Ed Piskor: You know, I don’t
know what years these things came out, but it would be
Issue like say 108 to 137. Late, mid ’70’s. The John Byrne, Chris
Claremont era. And that’s the, those
are the comics that all of these movies kind
of derive from. And I kind of think of that the
stuff that Chris Claremont did in his early career
on the X-Men, he created a pretty
astounding piece of kind of modern mythology. And part of my take on this
project is the way mythology works, it has to be
kind of reinterpreted, almost like a sort of
a game of telephone. So in a world now where I,
like, just walking here, like, I see people with, like,
Avengers shirts on, and, like, when I grew up, like, Avengers
was as corny as can be. Like, the X-Men were
like the pirates, and the Avengers
were like the Navy. So I have to–>>Michael Cavna: Whoa, hold on.>>Ed Piskor: Well,
I’m just saying, like, they were just more
punk rock, more outlaw.>>Michael Cavna: Yes.>>Ed Piskor: So I just have
to remind everybody, like, kind of how cool the X-Men are.>>Michael Cavna: Yeah. No, Avengers Assemble
sounded cornier before. And are you a fan of the —
I mean, the Avengers, yeah — are you a fan of the
X-Men films at all?>>Ed Piskor: I’ve seen them
all, but I kind of, like, as soon as I leave the
theater, I forget about it. You know, just go there with
friends and kind of hang out. I like it at the time, but
I’m not one of those people who sees a movie that’s
based off of a book, and I complain that, like,
oh, they got it wrong. Like, it’s a different medium.>>Michael Cavna: Yeah, your
childhood wasn’t ruined.>>Ed Piskor: That’s, and
that’s what I say to people, like the old, kind of
like basement-dwelling, neckbeard guys who mess around. Like, I’m like, listen, I’m
not coming to your house and burning your old comics. Like, if you don’t like
it, just don’t read it.>>Michael Cavna: Okay, so we
apologize if you are in the Navy and are a neckbeard guy. The twofer. We’re really–>>Ed Piskor: Nah,
the Navy’s cool. I’m just saying it’s, I’m
just saying that it’s–>>Michael Cavna:
Not the neckbeard.>>Ed Piskor: You know, square.>>Michael Cavna: Yeah, yeah. [laughter] The, we
talked about you getting, I know you don’t
need affirmation, but getting confirmation
from the hip-hop community, from old X-Men guys who
worked on the X-Men books and, or anyone else from
the Marvel world. Have you gotten sort of
that kind of, I don’t know, not affirmation, but just
sort of positive reaction?>>Ed Piskor: The answer would
kind of be not no, but just, it’s just like a baseline. Like, I got to spend a lot
of time with Chris Claremont, and my approach when
dealing with him — now, Chris Claremont
wrote this comic for, like, almost 17 years. It’s his baby. So my approach when dealing
with Claremont was almost like, I felt like I was kind
of dating his daughter. So I just, as a student of this
form, you know, I don’t pretend to know everything, and I
consider myself to be a student. I shut my mouth. I opened my ears. And I just receive
information, you know. So it was, you know,
senpai, kohai kind of thing.>>Michael Cavna: Yeah. And in terms of the artistic,
I mean, how did you approach, are there certain ways —
you know, you’re so specific. You remind me of, like, when I
talk to someone like Chris Ware, and if it comes back, if it
ships back from, say, China, and just he can see, you know, colors just on page
93, building stories. Just something, they
didn’t quite nail it. But now, instead of, like,
working with Fantagraphics, working with Marvel, when it
comes to the art, the printing, lettering, is there anything
that, does it all feel the same, or is there something
you’ve had to adjust to?>>Ed Piskor: It feels pretty
much the same, but the thing is, you know, working with
a Fantagraphics, you’re, I get to work with the
people who have kind of skin the game, so to speak. Like, the people who are there,
like, investing their money into the product, and they
want this book to be true to the vision that
it’s supposed to be. With Marvel, it’s been a
long time since, you know, Martin Goodman was there. And then, the closest relation
to the originator was Stan Lee, and he hasn’t been in the mix
for a really long time either. So it’s all, you know, just people who are
going to their job. They have a certain
passion for it, but you can absolutely tell the
difference that, like, you know, Disney money is being spent
on this rather than, like, the money from my own
pocket kind of thing. That said, the people
that I work with there are totally behind me
making the most beautiful books that we can. So we’re able to get, you know,
proof copies way ahead of time so that I could adjust
things and, you know, have a lot of say
in the paper stock. Like, all of these kind of
back-end elements to just try to make, like, a
really solid unit.>>Michael Cavna:
Yeah, absolutely. And these covers, and
so to have such control over the covers because, you
know, you have top writers and artists working
for the big 2. They don’t, they might not
have any say over the cover. So the fact that you get
sort of not only, you know, beginning to end process and
cover to cover, it’s all you.>>Ed Piskor: Part of the
idea is to make these, this Grand Design thing kind
of the definitive X-Men comic, a comic that you can
point to and give somebody if they were curious
about the X-Men. And now, the comic books
have different covers than what we’re seeing appear. And that, those comics
have a different kind of distribution mechanism. They go to comic shops. So the guys at the comic shops,
they want to see cool costumes, and, you know, muscles,
and whatever. These books are in regular
bookstores, you know, at Barnes & Noble or whatever. So what I want to communicate
with the covers of the big books that have, like, a
wider distribution, I need to get the
concept across, like, as fast as possible, and that’s
the spirit with these things. And so it’s less about just, you
know, putting, stacking bodies and fight scenes or whatever. Just communicate the idea in
as quick a fashion as possible.>>Michael Cavna: Yeah. And, you know, Rob Liefeld,
the Deadpool creator, I mean, what he called the way you did
is he calls the perfect primer, or some people say
“primer,” for young and old if you want to learn X-Men. Do we have anyone here
considers themself young? Anyone? Anyone? Oh–>>Ed Piskor: I see a youngster.>>Michael Cavna: How about old? Anyone consider? Old, but you–>>Ed Piskor: We got a lot
of middle agers, it seems.>>Michael Cavna: Yeah, wow. That’s, so this, no,
this book is so for you. It’s just beautifully done. So, you know, is it, knowing
how you work, you know, you’re not the type to
sign an Aaron Rodgers deal and commit yourself to,
or [inaudible], you know, to Marvel for 5 years. You’re not going to do a James
Bond thing and be locked in. What, how far out do you
see going with Grand Design?>>Ed Piskor: I’m working
on the last 2 issues. It’ll take me until next
summer, but, you know, that’s, this is what I have
to offer them. You know, like I try — thankfully, the Hip Hop
Family Tree thing really blew up in a way that I
could really pick and choose what I’m
going to end up doing. And this is what I
could offer them. This is all that I have
to kind of give them. And I have to go back
and just get these ideas that I’ve been having
in my head, get them out there on paper. This is the example of one
of the comic book covers that would be in
the comic shops.>>Michael Cavna:
That’s just beautiful. And so that, was that your idea
to kind of have these covers? You know, the–>>Ed Piskor: It
actually wasn’t. Like, that was like a
really great contribution of the editor. I came up with some ideas that
ended up being variant covers or whatever, but when he said, what if we do 6 interconnecting
covers that just kind of show the whole
tapestry of the–>>Michael Cavna: Is this
[inaudible] or somebody else?>>Ed Piskor: It was my direct
editor named Chris Robinson.>>Michael Cavna: Okay.>>Ed Piskor: Good guy.>>Michael Cavna: Shout
out to Chris Robinson.>>Ed Piskor: Yeah, and
when he came up with that idea, it was a bet.>>Michael Cavna: These
are just beautiful. Just gorgeous. And look at that. I mean, that, you know, the
depth of field, by the way, you’re able to achieve, that,
you know, that’s a long time. That’s–>>Ed Piskor: Yeah, thanks, man.>>Michael Cavna: That’s
decades of skills right there.>>Ed Piskor: Yeah,
I guess, man. We’ve known each other
a long time, Mike. Goddamn.>>Michael Cavna: [laughs]
You know, like you said, been in this game a minute,
and, but look at the texture, the feel of the Ben-Day dots,
you know, on there, and–>>Ed Piskor: Yeah, once again,
doing everything I can to try to make it look like
it was a comic ripped from that time period. Now, this panel would’ve been
maybe 1 of like 10 panels on a page, so that’s a
very, very small panel, so that’s why she looks
like she has measles.>>Michael Cavna: Yeah. [laughter]>>Ed Piskor: Because
it was very, very tiny.>>Michael Cavna: You’re
approximating the tech of the time, you
know, what you had,>>Ed Piskor: It’s very
Lichtenstein blown up that way.>>Michael Cavna: Yeah, and
the classic Snikt Wolverine, just even nodding to that. I love that. When Wolverine was still,
you know, closer to 5 feet than 6 feet and low
to the ground. Yeah, and look at that. Oh, that’s just gorgeous. A little more Kirby
crackle popping there.>>Ed Piskor: Yeah, I’m learning
a lot just in terms of, like, drawing this, like, action stuff that I never even
thought to draw. It, everything I do is kind
of just like an education. And playing around with
this superhero stuff, it’s like now I can’t really,
like, fake my anatomy as much. You know, like I would
be raked over the coals by the superhero fans. So it’s like I’m kind of
learning on the job to try to get more dynamic
and whatever, for this project, you know. Of course, it’s required
for this, but–>>Michael Cavna: If
you’re going to, like, foreshorten an arm and
do something like that, you’re going to have to
nail it, and, you know, Kirby could go bold, but
still had to be true. This is just, look at that. That’s just, that’s gorgeous. So what is, what’s next for you? Because I know every project
for you is a project of passion.>>Ed Piskor: It’s true.>>Michael Cavna: Yeah. Do you know what’s
coming up on, for you?>>Ed Piskor: I definitely
do, and there’s, it’s a subject matter that’s
really not been covered much in — it’s very, there’s some
new stuff that’s happening in our culture, and I
just don’t want to say because I can’t let some
other schmuck beat me to it.>>Michael Cavna: [laughs] Yes. Yeah.>>Ed Piskor: But
I do have ideas. I have a ton of them. I’ve been taking notes, putting
things together ahead of time, so it’s like I have
62 more pages to draw. I could do 2 pages a week. You know, once I
get done with this, I’m going to just probably
go to Japan for a month, and check out the scene there, and then come back,
and get busy.>>Michael Cavna: Nice. Well, do you, early on,
you were collaborating — Pekar, Harvey Pekar
and other people could. But now, you, you know, you
have the creative control to do your own thing,
could you see a situation where you were collaborating
again, where you’re turning over part of it to someone else?>>Ed Piskor: There are 3
people who I would work with, like off the top of the bat. Like, and they’re the top
dogs as far as I’m concerned.>>Michael Cavna: And
you can tweet this. And within an hour, maybe
they’ll respond to you.>>Ed Piskor: Yeah, maybe.>>Michael Cavna: Yeah.>>Ed Piskor: Alan Moore,
Frank Miller, Neil Gaiman. Like, I would collaborate
with those guys. And then, whatever
they had in mind.>>Michael Cavna: Alan Moore,
Neil Gaiman, Frank Miller.>>Ed Piskor: Frank
Miller, yeah.>>Michael Cavna: I’ve
talked to 2 of those 3. They’re great interviewers,
great fun. Alan Moore, maybe
1 day, you know.>>Ed Piskor: Oh, sure.>>Michael Cavna: We know Harvey
Pekar’s widow, Joyce Brabner, knows Alan Moore, so there
may be a way for you. Yeah.>>Ed Piskor: Oh, yeah. I’m not worried.>>Michael Cavna: Yeah, yeah. But, you know, so, and by the
way, I always, I’ve asked this of a lot of creators
because if you’re any, a fan of any particular
kind of mind, often, you listen to that music to
fire you up, get you inspired. Did you listen to hip-hop while, did you have it banging while
you were creating Hip Hop Family Tree? And what do you listen
to when creating X-Men, your version of X-Men?>>Ed Piskor: I did
listen to a lot of rap music while putting
Hip Hop Family Tree together. With X-Men, I consider it to
be kind of like a true epic, so this is how I
discovered, you know, the Game of Thrones
audiobooks and stuff like that. But just a lot of podcasts. Just a lot of fiction. A lot of, you know, of going
through Stephen King’s body of work while I’m working, the,
you know, audiobooks because I, if I’m awake, I’m putting
that pencil to paper.>>Michael Cavna: Yeah,
and that gets you going. You know, I think the — 1
last question for you is, do you remember — many of us remember the first time
we saw something on a page that awakened us to the
miracle of what could be created on a page, whether
written, drawn. Do you remember what sort of,
what was that thing for you?>>Ed Piskor: I do, and it
wasn’t a particular drawing, or words, or anything. It was the credits box
on an old X-Men comic with the name Chris
Claremont, writer. Dave Cochran, penciler. You know, Joseph
Rubenstein, inker. And this is before I even
knew how to read words, and I asked my mom,
what is this? And she says, okay,
this is a credit box. These are the people
who made the comic. And I thought, oh,
people make this. A human hand makes this comic. That’s what I’m going
to do when I grow up.>>Michael Cavna: And
that raised the curtain on what you were doing. With that, we will close
the curtain here on–>>Ed Piskor: Thank you, guys.>>Michael Cavna: With Eddie
P., the great Eddie P., the Eisner-winning
Eddie P. Thank you.

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