November 11th, 2007 | Travels and Appearances
Thanks for all your compelling ideas about visual storytelling in the last post. What an excellent and oddly synchronistic conversation, given my recent activities.
Here I am having dinner with Chris Ware and Lynda Barry after our PEN/Faulkner panel on Friday. The guy with the camera is Dan Raeburn, who moderated the discussion. You can’t tell from this picture that my brain is exploding in a spasm of profound cartoon transcendence.
Someone asked in the last post what Lynda Barry is like. She’s like what you’d expect, to the power of ten, and divided by zero. Which is to say, she’s a crazy mindblowing bodhisattva. In her reading, she asked the question—koan, rather—“what is an image?” And then answered it for us with her cartoons, like a zen archer hitting bullseye after bullseye.
Chris showed us how he created his series of four New Yorker covers for last year’s Thanksgiving issue. I had no idea there had even been four alternate covers—my copy arrived with this one, which was brilliant enough. But there was also a one-panel cover, a four-panel cover, and a 16 panel cover, which exploded the story of this family through time and space in an exponential progression of narrative detail that culminates in a 256-panel online strip.
How long did this take him, I asked, imagining it must have been the better part of a year. A month, he said. Well, maybe five weeks, he admitted when my jaw hit the table.
Not only are Lynda and Chris comics geniuses, they’re comic geniuses too. Onstage Chris reeled off dry, throwaway one-liners, and everything spontaneous thing that came out of Lynda’s mouth was funnier than the most polished of stand-up routines. Though perhaps her most ludic brilliance manifested backstage before the panel, as she tried to distract the three of us from our nervousness by doing obscene yoga poses and giving herself a wedgie.
Now I’m at home, slowly recovering and trying to assimilate all of this sensory input. One thing I learned this weekend: I need to draw more.