Colin's Comment

Thursday, September 21, 2006

So, I’m sitting at home, kicking back, congratulating myself on being ready for the Word Under The Street (hey, can I get a ride from anybody?) days earlier than expected, back from the radio show, got the kitty litter and I’m looking forward to a NICE CUPPA TEA when…

There’s a reason they call them bird brains. For some reason the chickadees have taken to playing chicken on my balcony railing with the cat. One landed on the railing in full view of Lomu who was quietly preening herself on the lawn chair, about two feet from the bird. So of course Lomu did what cats do and with a mad scramble caught the bird and ran inside. Oh no, what do I do? If the birds too badly injured I’ll have to get it away from the cat to put it out of it’s misery and of course whenever I got close to the bird Lomu picks it up and carries it to another room. It just seems cruel they way she kept it alive just to play with but perhaps that’s not what she had in mind at all. I’m told sometimes cats bring live prey to their humans because they’re trying to teach their human companions how to hunt! She’s done this sort of thing with mice before. So, we’re in the kitchen, the bird sits frozen on the floor with the cat looking on and I’m thinking “That bird looks like it’s not badly injured…” when it takes off like a rocket, zips pass my head, through the bedroom and living room and out the patio door to freedom, with the cat ineffectually chasing after it! I hope it’ll be okay. It did leave a lot of feathers strewn around the place, hard to vacuum something so light. Lomu was no doubt disappointed in me, but she got over it. To be fair, the crows were screeching at her earlier from a safe distance earlier, not something to endear her to their feathery brethren.

On the Inkstuds Show today we reviewed recent books that impressed us, we both brought along Alison Bechdel’s “Fun House”, one of the best graphic novels I’ve read in awhile. I brought in a Joe Sacco, I’m really looking forward to interviewing him later in the week for the radio show, and the new Scott McCloud book, “Making Comics“! Now a new Scott McCloud book is an event in comics publishing, Scott has done more to promote serious discussion of comics and graphic arts than anyone else in North America. “making Comics” is a graphic novel on how-to well, make comics, a genre I collect (you never know, might learn something) so it is more practical then his academic ground-breaking “Understanding Comics“, although I think you‘d do well to read them together. (I admit I wasn’t as pleased with “Reinventing Comics”, I’m not a big fan of the God Machine (although it does have it’s place) and found the tone a bit millennial. So far in Making Comics the computer is a choice, it’s about comics delivery and more about fundamental principles. I’ve read about a 100 pages so far, it’s remarkable for me to think of all the decisions I make as a cartoonist without even thinking about it. So much creativity comes from intuition and reading comics all your life. I hope that making Comics will help me think more deeply about drawing comics, even at a subconscious level. Making Comics is meant to be a textbook so all you aspiring cartoonists and even some comics veterans seeking a deeper understanding of the craft there’s much to learn from “Making Comics.” I’ve been told that Scott will be be on tour with the book to Vancouver, I’ll see about getting an interview for inkstuds!

When I got my copy of “Making Comics” home I noticed with dissappointment that one of the corners was dinged. Then I remembered when I had Scott sign my beaten-to-rat-shit copy of “Understanding Comics” to be signed at San Diego years ago he was pleased to see I had obviously been reading my copy over and over again. So, I’ll have to see how beat up I can get my copy of “Making Comics” before he comes to town…

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

I’m not sure I should be blogging in my condition, I’m not drunk or stoned or anything, I’m just burnt out… sometime in the last week or so I entered a state of pure comics consciousness, I became one with the universal spirit of comics storytelling… see what happens when you dabble in yoga? That is to say, I’ve been working my ass off getting my shit together for Word Under The Street this coming Sunday. I figured a couple weeks ago to do what I had planned I had to work flat out solid for the whole fortnight but such is my fear of missing deadlines it’s just about done, barring accidents (knock on cat, cat sighs) I’ll be picking up copies tomorrow, cutting, collating, folding and stapling and I’m done… viola! Nine friggin’ new self-published publications for the publics pleasure for Sunday, 6 new mini-’s , one mini collection of con sketches and 2 big (8 1/2 X 11) collections of stories from anthologies I’ve contributed too over the years. Is Word Under The Street worth all the effort? Probably not, I’m hoping to recover my costs (lots of money spent on photocopying) so I can buy some food afterwards, cupboards nearly bare. But it’s one of only two chances I’ve got in a year to (the other being Canzine West in October) get out there and remind people I’m still alive, still drawing and I’ve still got a passion for comics. It’s been fun.

If that wasn’t enough I at the same time I filled out an application for a Canada Council Grant! Once I realised the deadline was October 1st I had to do it fast. I had inquired about a grant for graphic novels months ago and was assured several times that such a thing did not exist, graphic novels were not literature, no, sorry. Then I get a message there IS a grant for graphic novels, so sorry! Better late than never. The thing is, you gotta understand, I hate paperwork. It not that it’s tedious or dull, it causes me to panic and break out into a cold sweat! Reading these things makes my head swim, I can’t focus. What if I fill out something wrong? Do they rate you for spelling and punctuation? What to I say that would impress someone who is fluent in artspeak, knows French literary theory (there’s a special place in Hell for French literary theorists!) and goes ga-ga for metaphors? Do I have a chance at all? So many things could go wrong! I really wish somebody else would do this for me! But I did it, hands shaking, fighting down the panic. I just tried to be honest and clear about what I wanted to do, maybe I’ll get in as some sort of outsider artist… that’s still big, right? Today I slipped some final copies into an envelope in a Thai restaurant, although my stomach was still acting up. I went to “Hellsgate” Mall and handed it to the mail clerk at the Shoppers Drug Mart postal outlet. She filed it in a draw with a casual speed that rather hurt me considering how much effort I put into it. But I’m just glad it’s done, out of my hands. We’ll see in about 20 weeks if I’m successful. Wish me luck.
And everyone who can, come to Vancouver for The Word On The Street and buy my comics! I’m counting on you! Besides, it’s a great event anyway, lots of discounted books and don’t let the family-orientated TV ads fool you, there’s us nasty folks downstairs at Word Under The Street to fill you with delightful adult content! Why, there’s Robin Bougie with his Cinema Sewers and it’s not a sewing mag, ladies! Look, comics despondent correspondent Joe Sacco himself will be there! C’mon, all you folks in Seattle, rent a car, come up! It’ll be fun!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

So, Robin and I were interviewing comics creator Alex Robinson, creator of the very good comics series “Box Office Poison” and the excellent original graphic novel, “Tricked”. Now, Alex’s stories are about characters struggling to survive in the real world and the way lives collide in the city, a bit of soap opera, a bit autobiographical. In the interview we were talking about other interests Alex has, as you probably know by now I have a theory that many auto and semi-autobiographical cartoonists have a affinity for history and so we asked Alex about this. As I suspected, Alex admitted to having an interest in history. Then he said something that surprised us. He asked us if we’d heard about the American Civil War up there in Canada! Okay, it’s not fair, I’m a military history nerd, a war gamer and the previous day I’d been reading a book on the Battle of Chancellorsville! (That Stonewall Jackson, man what a nutcase!) I’m not singling out Alex, who’s a pretty smart guy and has travelled (hell, the dreaded French gave him an award for Box Office Poison, which I assume put him on Dick Cheney‘s list of subversives), but I’ve encountered this sort of thing before from my American friends. They assume, naturally, because they know nothing about Canada that we in Canada know nothing about the USA.

How to explain the force of “American cultural imperialism” to someone in the United States? That our films, television, music and hell our comics are dominated by the cultural behemoth south of the border? That most of our cultural products (not comics of course) require government quotas and funding just to survive? That we love/hate American culture? That the Europeans do too, however much they live in denial! Even the people in Iran, America’s sworn enemy, feel the allure of American pop culture! Our “American cultural imperialism” is their pop culture, its all most of them know! I’ve also noticed that American’s who take an interest in history rarely study the history of any place other than that of the United States. I blame the schools. In a Canadian school the map of Canada includes the American border states on the margins. When I was in school outside Boston for a year I noticed the map of the United States was just that, the United States. No Mexico, no Canada, it’s like there was a big blank space where Canada used to be, between the US mainland and Alaska. I’ve met Americans who have never left the United States, some of them in border cities but have no interest in the world outside. You really gotta wonder how this totally insular worldview affects the way Americans see the world, and the evident belief by many that theirs is the only free and democratic country on earth. One guy I was talking to in the states seemed to think that Canada was still ruled directly by the whim of the Queen of England! Somebody said that war was how God teaches the Americans geography… mind you, that being said Roberta Gregory, born and raised in the USA, has one of the sharpest minds for geography I know.

I'm working on stuff for Word Under the Street in late September, I have 5 mini-comics done, want to do one more and I’m working on a couple more Colin’s Comics collections of stories from various anthologies. I’ve done the cover illos, back cover copy and now it’s just a matter of copying art, pasting up, copying comics, collating, folding and stapling. Piece of cake… yeah, right…

Saturday, September 02, 2006

I feel virtuous today! Yes, virtuous… by that I mean I did all I was supposed to do! When you live alone, without editors breathing down your neck, it’s all too easy to say fuck it, it’s too hot, I’m tired or feeling uninspired, it can wait so lets take the day off and watch TV or go out shopping for… whatever! It takes self-discipline and great moral fibber to be so self-motivating… plus it helps to be so broke that shopping is not an option. I got up at the crack of 11 (AM mind you, in the morning!) checked my mail (Guardian) and did my yotchi. That is, a half hour of yoga and an hour of Tia-Chi I’d taped off the multi-culture channel. It was when I was doing some yogic meditation that I had this odd feeling of solidity and strength in my whole body I don’t remember feeling before. It was like those “ecstatic moments” I sometimes get. Actually, I had one yesterday. Ecstatic moments are these brief, frozen moments when I’ll be looking at something I might see everyday, a tree, debris in a gutter, a patch of grass and I’m overwhelmed by the feeling that what I’m looking at is the most arresting, beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. And like debris in a gutter it doesn’t have to be beautiful. Apparently these things happen to us arty types…

I performed the whole 24 posture Tia-Chi and only wobbled a few times, I think I’m getting the hang of it… but I’ll never be able to do those kicks! Then I did some overdue vacuum cleaning of the carpets, I’d been putting it off as my vacuums broken but the floor was getting crunchy! So I pulled out my old vacuum which I had kept in case of emergency and gave the carpet a good suck! I had to replace the bag and clear a nasty paper clog but I got it done. Then I mopped the floors of the kitchen and bathroom. By the time I finished my bath it was time for the 6 O’clock news so I watched that over a late tea. I took the tea into the studio at 7 and got to work inking the Nine O’clock gun story making great progress, listening to “The Magnetic Fields“, “Pere Ubu” and “The Violent Femmes“. When I got tired of that I worked on inks for “The Littlest Gunne” mini-comic before going back to the main project. Dinner at 10 (pork chop with boiled potatoes, apple sauce and steamed vegetables) and back at work until nearly 3 AM! Now I’m telling you.

I was asked recently if I was happy, a question I’ve always treated with great suspicion. I mean, really, happy? Who’s happy? Stupid people mostly. My family does not do happiness. It’s a skill or an instinct that is absent from my family’s DNA, like, like albino’s who are born without pigment in their skin… I the best I can hope for is an absence of misery. I’m striving for contentment. I’m not sure if I would know happiness if it came up and gave me a bear hug, but today, on my own limited terms, I think I came close to happiness… can’t be bad…

I do fear and wonder how I will suffer for this happiness, for I find happiness never goes unpunished.