Tuesday 6 December 2011

In conversation: Neil Gaiman talks to Shaun Tan
NG: Your stuff is always laconic. One of the things I love about it is that a picture is worth a thousand words and you make your pictures work very hard.

ST: The text illustrates the pictures – it provides a connective tissue for me. I usually refine the text last, partly because pictures are harder to do so it's easier to edit words – I use text as grout in between the tiles of the pictures. I always overwrite, really awful, long bits of script and then I trim it down to the bare bones and then add a little bit to colour it in. At the end of all of my stories I test for wordless comprehension. So I remove the text and see if it works by itself. And if it does I feel that that's a successful story. I don't know if that's an important principle but it's helped me structure things.


Blogger James said...

Actually, in most cases the images shouldn't work without the text. If they did, we wouldn't need text at all....comics could be wordless like those seen in Truffaut's Fahrenheit 451, designed to suit an illiterate society. In comics the art does not simply illustrate an independent text, nor is everything shown in the art dictated by the writer of the script. Instead, both text and art interlock to form a complete experience wherein the text and images are both "read" for narrative information. Both writer and artist contribute ideas and storytelling information to any given story, a reason why your "architect/carpenter" analogy in reference to your work with Alan Moore is inappropriate. Even as explicit as Moore's script was, you still added your own vision. The text cannot stand alone and it should not be redundant with the images, and vice-versa. Hoever, if one or the other collaborator is inept, the whole falls apart. So much of Toth's work is unsatisfying, for instance, in that the writing per se is so shitty. Toth's gorgeous visuals seem almost deceptive, they imply much more depth than is delivered by the complete interaction of word and image. A good example of this is in the lovely drawings he did of the female characters in his Zorros; one sees the sensitive renderings of women in crisis that resemble his romance work, but when one actually reads the story one realizes that the artist is at the service of utter drivel, retrograde crap much like the old stories you have been putting up here---consequently, one feels somewhat robbed. If the art was able to stand on its own, one would not feel thusly. Conversely, in Gaiman's work the artists are considered expendable, interchangable and are often switched in mid-storyline, with the result that the final work is often inconsistent and so compromised.

11 December 2011 at 08:13:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Eddie Campbell said...

Artists have been adding illustrations to existing 'texts' since the beginning of storytelling. for somebody to make up rules about it now is preposterous. I'm wondering why you read comics at all since you are so obviously above them. And you keep doing that 'good cop bad cop' thing without looking at me, so I feel that I'm getting in the way of a man who is shadowboxing. :)

11 December 2011 at 14:53:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Eddie Campbell said...

But to focus on a specific. You say "Toth's gorgeous visuals... the lovely drawings he did of the female characters ... one sees the sensitive renderings of women in crisis that resemble his romance work, but when one actually reads the story one realizes that the artist is at the service of utter drivel, " In one of your earlier comments you said that Toth was completely in tune with the message of the Aamodt romances (You said: "your response is a charming evocation of simpler times which reminds me of Toth's later longings. You might enjoy the spiral bound book of Toth's letters to Irwin Hasen) But here you separate the art from the story. And nowhere have you addressed any of my points, the first of which is that it is a mistake to think
"that you can separate everything else from the 'story.'"
In other words, Toth's concept of female beauty is a product of the same mindset that created the story. I think you are so intent on waving the feminist placard that you have distracted yourself from reading the evidence on the pages.

12 December 2011 at 01:19:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Eddie Campbell said...

on the blog also.

12 December 2011 at 01:46:00 GMT-5  
Blogger James said...

I realize irony isn't apparent in online writing. Toth wanted to recreate an illusory past that was never reality and I'd say that feminism is necessary when one is dealing with men who are ignorant of or dismissive about the relative human rights enjoyed by "old ladies". If you read the Hasen/Toth book you'll find such gems as Toth waxing on about an office girl with "delightfully ample knockers" who in fact was subject to what we would now call sexual harassment in her workplace. Me above comics? Not sure what you mean by that, I don't enjoy the wretched writing seen in most old comic books but I enjoy comics worth reading and there are more now than there were back in the day. We progress, we evolve. I'm not only a reader but a practitioner and I'm not the guy writing "it's just comics" which is condescending to the medium itself, as if it is incapable of being more than just half-assed entertainment. I had been under the impression that the goal of your own work was higher than that.

12 December 2011 at 07:52:00 GMT-5  
Blogger James said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12 December 2011 at 08:50:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Eddie Campbell said...

(James and I have gone private with this blather)

12 December 2011 at 13:06:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Similarly to many Aussie people who "talk" about writing and art in Comics, James completely misses the "big notes", the biggest points. The points brought on from his own comments, the pragmatic points, the points that if unseen, represent "failing to see the forest for the trees".

Shaun Tan never busted his ass illustrating anything for free. Because Mr. Tan is not an idiot. And since Mr. Tan is not an idiot, he does not bastardize his talent for barely-approved-by-Centrelink trumped-up coffee-servers at Brunswick, Fitzroy, Fortitude Valley cafes advertising themselves on message boards as "publishers". Nor does he create lay-out pages for retail-clerks at Newtown, St. Kilda and Balmain bookstores calling themselves "writers". Or provide s'boards for RMIT i-Life monkeys calling themselves "directors".

Just like Toth. Who did not worry himself with the wankerous wannabe aesthetic concerns presented by and purported by people who never had the nads to save up any money to pay him to draw comics. Or pay him to create characters standing the test of time like the icons of Hanna Barbera. Or even have the nads to learn enough to gain an entry-level position at a comic-magazine publication-company leading to an editor's assistant position leading to an editorial position at a REAL publication company, one with the budget to PAY Toth.

Toth drew what was asked of him to draw, because the people asking had a SPINE. Spine enough to develop a career (versus a Centrelink rapsheet). with which they could say to their boss, "I want to pay Alex Toth to draw some stuff to make you some money."

As opposed to people claiming to be involved in "comics publication" in Oz, most often people who are nothing more than half-assed poseurs who present themselves as publishers, but are in fact rarely more than PoD wannabes or the nephews of the manager of some semi-reputable print-shop in Blacktown.

The only people with any right to whinge or bitch about anything Toth did would be those with the balls to be -

1: someone with the balls to acquire the budget to PAY someone like Toth, which means real pay, not some cockless and cowardly "deferral" bullshit,

2: someone who has bothered to train themselves to be an illustrator of the same level as Toth, Eddie or any other artist who has managed to receive more than a bag of stale skittles for doing comics-pages, versus just posting scribbly-crap on various free sites,

3: someone who's BOTHERED to spend some (or *any*) of their Playstation or Nintendo budget on learning how to get the funding to pay an artist of Tan's level, Eddie's level or Toth's level.

Because if James, or anyone like him, does not fall into any of the above three categories, then James or anyone like him, does not get to post ANYTHING about Toth, or mock anyone else's use of "architect/carpenter". Since carpenters and architects are PAID, and in Australia, paid better than almost anyone. Toth was a paid artist. Tan is a paid artist.

Any opinion from anyone who has not been ACTIVELY and OFFICIALLY part of an enterprise that has properly paid such artists for their time, skill and diligence is worth as much as the opinions of B. Madoff on the subject of responsible investment.

As are the opinions of those who are "buddy buddy" with "writers" who suck up to Eddie in person, but then mock his seminars at Graphic on massage-boards later on. Most likely after Eddie declined to offer to waste his time illustrating their "ideas" for free.

14 December 2011 at 01:09:00 GMT-5  
Blogger James said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

14 December 2011 at 12:30:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Eddie Campbell said...

(at commenter's request)

14 December 2011 at 19:36:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Another Vertigo Guy! said...

Maybe I'm missing something here, but a lot of this reminds me of a Friends of LuLu argument from the 90's during a well known Comic Con rather near to Berzerkely ~ ~

Frinds of LuLu to a male artist: "Draw things with women the way we want women depicted!"

Artist: "No sweat. My page rate is $150 per page for pencils and 65% of that for inks. Just send me the contract or freelancer-work-agreement like Vertigo does and we'll go from there."*

"Oh, sorry, we didn't expect you to expect to get paid for doing and drawing the right thing..."

"No sweat, but 'the right thing' won't stop my landlord from evicting me. And I can't get groceries with it either. So I assume if I draw stories for you that are not drivel, involving women, in a way you approve of, that I can crash on your couch and eat your food, right?"

"Well, no, sorry, we never said that..."

* since apparently 'anonymous' did not see the reams (pun intended) of Vertigo material Mr. Romberger has done.

14 December 2011 at 23:18:00 GMT-5  

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