From the Hutch Owen collection

From the Hutch Owen collection: One of the first Sunday-style Hutch Strips I did.

I wish I could find the scrap of paper where I wrote "Grover Norquist=John Milius!" That was the first idea behind treating Grover Norquist in these strips.

Norquist, of course, is the ridiculous baby-man whose man fight in life is to save his tax money from the government. He had President Bush's ear, he's ridiculously influential in Washington and near as I can tell has the mind of a 4-year old.

John Milius also has the mind of a 4-year old but at least he's making movies. Milius, of course is the wacko right-wing screenwriter responsible for Conan the Barbarian, Red Dawn and parts of Apocalypse Now. The wonderful thing about Milius is that he's shameless. Shamelessness- it's a great thing in art, a stupid thing in politics. Norquist can go to H-E-double hockey sticks. Milius can come over for beers if he wants.

Norquist became Public Enemy 1 in my strips, because if there's anything I hate in politics, it's acting like children. Kids need to learn if you hit another kid with a hammer, it will hurt them and it is probably a bad thing. Adults need to teach kids to share. Adults teach children to see beyond themselves to the feelings and needs of other people. Norquist never learned any of this.

So in my strips, he wears diapers and sabotages even his own publisher.

More from these strips later in the week.


Broken Embraces

(spoiler alerts!)

Broken Embraces
is the first Almodovar movie I want to rewrite.

First, let me say I was captive for the full 2 hours. It's beautiful to watch, and moving and funny in places.

But in the end I almost feel cheated. There was no murder (there almost was) no adultery (there sort of was) no hookers (a hint of one) no abused sons or nuns. None of the usual melodramatics Almodovar uses as his material But these histrionics that Almodovar uses in his movies are usually what he transcends to make astonishing, surprising, giant and humane works.

In Broken Embraces, Almodovar under-challenged himself. His task here seemed to be to make a story full of mostly reasonable if somewhat obsessed people. It's like was trying to make Husbands and Wives.

Broken Embraces is not:

--A movie about a secretary who wants to be an actress and occasionally sells her body to further her ends though that story is in there.
--About the gay son, in adulthood, who only upon his father's death musters the strength to transcend his father's oppressive hand though that story is in there.
--It's not about the obsessive business man with his fingers and strings in everything, though that story is in there.
--It's not about a fraught love affair, a secret son, jealousy and camaraderie over 2 decades of shared creativity, though that story is in there

In fact, I'm not sure what Broken Embraces is about, except being in love with Penelope Cruz.

In the end, I hate to say (because I'm sorry to make any artist fulfill my expectations) that what I want Almodovar to break my heart, to surprise me with another person who at first seems unlovable, or who commits acts that should make me want to turn away. But he makes me/you love them. Almodovar opens those people out and it almost feels like he's watching as you learn to love them.

In this new movie, you start out by loving Cruz, his star. Everyone loves her. Her only impropriety is a momentary glimpse and feels like a plot device. The only character you're don't much like at first isn't a real character, and you don't really know or like him more by the end. HR COSTIGANHe's too simple, he's just a type, like HR Costigan before Jaime Hernandez drew BAY OF THREES.

Here's what I would offer as possible rewrites:

--The Ernesto Jr character kills Lena. NOW why did he show up on Mateo's door when his father died?
--So Lena hooks on the side? What does that entail? WHY? What kind of actress is she anyway? Is she good?
--The son Diego is known from the beginning. Everyone knows anyway. Get the confession out of there.
--Lena shines when she is really loved. Show this in the film Mateo is making. The dichotomy between her normal fraught life and her vitality on screen when she is genuinely loved should be marked larger.
--Judit is full of potential. Who is she? She can never be a Lena, that's for sure. Show that.
--Who is Ernesto Sr? Chilean? Did he make his money under Pinochet? Who is he? Where is more of his trail?
--Mateo shines when he can aid his son Diego in writing the latter's dumb vampire script. Show that relationship.

All the above is latent in the movie, just not explored or opened much for consideration. Instead, it's a love letter to Penelope Cruz, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown and movie making in general(and not even movies, just some vague notion of movie making.)

Almodovar usually breaks my heart, forcing me to see it in a new way while I pick up the pieces. Even the movies of his that don't instantly do this (I'm thinking Bad Education) are still stirring.

I'll see this one again and hopefully learn to love it. But I wanted my heart broken, dammit.


David Mamet vs Werner Herzog

A link to my new small essay on David Mamet vs. Werner Herzog.


I love Mamet's book. It's an arrogant, self-satisfied book, so laser-focused on telling a story that anyone in any medium will benefit from it. In detailed conversations with students and illuminating supporting essays, he describes what kinds of shots and scenes move a story forward, and which ones don't. If scenes and shots don't move the story forward, they're of no use.

In my mulitple readings of the book, I can only recall him mentioning one director by name who represents the type of filmmaking he has no use for: Werner Herzog. He says: "... listen to the difference between the way people talk about films by Werner Herzog and the way they talk about films by Frank Capra, for example. One of them may or may not understand something or other, but the other understands what it is to tell a story, and he wants to tell a story, which is the nature of the dramatic art- to tell a story." Mamet finishes this line of thinking with "The only thing the dramatic form is good for is telling a story."

Read more at Seth Kushner's Graphic NYC blog


Following Barney Banks, Chapter 3

Continuing notes and sketches from
Barney Banks, Extra Life.

Aug 1, 2009,

Finished page 17 - the first page of part 3 (in some numbering system) which was begun yesterday. Now concerned it's getting mundane, and where it isn't mundane, it's dumb. Video games? As a motif? Really? I realized today- at some point, if SHE plays the game (being an outlayer at first), it's a betrayal.

The original ideas, young adults, being emo and wearing real bear suits and stuff, is now becoming more about video games? I have to make sure that is not the case. But it does give Banks something to rail about, something to be RIGHT about, and angry about, especially when he can't even model a better behavior. Is living “emo” (protected, harmless, gentle) and in video games better than fucking up time after time like Banks? This might be a governing question...

Aug 2, 2009:

Drew page 18. 3 panels, but a weird sort of agony. It's always about the decisions. What would the characters be saying here? Eventually I found it, after a break to go to the farmer's market. Needed to get to the “I was in a war” stuff, to connect her working with his working, also to make her verbose. I'm finding that's important, believe her being wordy and alternately silent will drive Banks crazy, and puts her into a rambunctious range of character drives that I think makes sense.

Frustrated at this point that what seems to be happening is that the alternating “formal” bits will probably be imagined sections. I don't want this to be the case, but think that's where we're leading. Thinking I have to merge reality with imagination or vice versa at some point. Gary Panter says make it ricochet like pool balls to get you there. Or something. Next, the next sequence of dialogue is easy- something about trading war stories, interrupted by game playing, maybe he follows, or watches her go to the main building, the store...

Following Barney Banks. Roughs, ideas and worries up during the 2nd chapter

Trying to be transparent with the process of creating EXTRA LIFE. (on ACT-I-VATE, HERE) Most of these notes were written immediately after inking a page, or sketching some page, trying to document everything in my mind at the time.

July 28 2009-

Off the project happily for two weeks while teaching in Hawaii. I barely thought about this, except for during the plane flight in, where I made these sketches. Mostly looking for other crazy characters to introduce into the gallery of youngsters hanging around the campground where Banks winds up. I want them surreal, funny, possibly avatar-like, something someone might design for a lousy video game.

Next I sketched a few thumbnails for the next pages. Thinking what needs to happen is the introduction of MITCH, the box with dials and a handle that assigns something, or predicts something, or changes something, I don't know. These thumbnails so tiny, I got excited thinking I was working like Brian Eno here, the way he would throw out syllables and rework them until they made words. These half-sketched stick figures were just potential movement, potential compositions. (See Mitch HERE in Act-I-Vate, page 12)

Next, I get down to drawing again.

July 30, 2009-

Two new inked pages, inked quickly, I really don't know what's going on. This originally going to be a repeat- the characters both pulling the handle and changing instantly, but then what to do about that trail of paper receipts on the left side of Mitch? You can see from the margins (see sketches below) I thought- Banks picks it up, reads it; or other characters alternate and pick it up, or else maybe it gets left behind until much much later. I got bored with repeating the characters actions, and thought I should just have a character right now pull from the receipt, and then do something. I think one of the themes here is young people and their love of emo, animals, video games and other things I don't get.

July 31,

I'm sure I've ruined it. It's got all this video game imagery in it that I absolutely hate. I don't hate my version of it, but what I am doing playing with it? I have no idea what's going on. Part 2 is finished, and is not the formalistic treat I thought, but it is something. I opted for silent, and a rigid page structure. But I have to stick with the fever dream. If I am going to hit my goal of believing in whatever this project wants to become, and in my finishing it before the end of the year, then I have to treat it like a fever dream. I don't know what's going on, but I will stay with it. I can only try to parse it out, reflect a little, and move through the story forward.

More about part 3 later...


On a panel about Political Cartooning this week

On a panel about Poilitical Cartooning this Tuesday:

Moderated by Bill Kartalopoulos, featuring Peter Kuper, Eric Drooker, Tim Kreider and myself. I'm the cautionary tale.



Version #48 of book in progress up

How To Say Everything version #48 is up in PDF form for those reading and keeping watch. Significant changes/edits to the Poetry section, the linefield section, and to many of the exercises in back. Go to http://www.howtosayeverything.net for instructions on downloading the PDF.


Chapter 2 begins on Act-I-Vate

New Banks Act-I-Vate Pages Here

Two blog postings about this update. One trying to sketch some crazy new characters for this new chapter/section: HERE

This section is the first in what I was hoping would be alternating formally unique sections. I wrote my friend Matt Madden about this concept. He replied and those postings are HERE.


Barney Banks: Extra Life! on Act-I-Vate

The Barney Banks book documented here on this blog is now up and running and 10 pages to date at the ACT-I-VATE site here: http://www.activatecomix.com/87-1-1.comic

You can read, in a How To Say Everything way, all about those 10 pages below.


Following Page 8 and 9 inks

Having now inked page 8 and page 9, (page 7 will be just display text: 2 words: "IT'S OK."),so much is changing:

-maybe this will be a short piece (it was originally designed to be large- large enough to envelope as large a middle section as I wanted. In other words, a comic-strip. A set-up, an indefinite middle, an ending. But now, I'm thinking the arc will be it and it will be over. (THE STORY... more soon.)
-all the kids are in outfits- AVaTaRS?
-the giant hippo in the stream

I'm also digging up old notes, and digging them, so to speak:

-there's an old train wreck or wrecked train car around.

-an old dream where I am crawling around on my belly in a forest. it's about power. this is the most powerful way to move. I get all my food that low to the ground. This dream was powerful, I want to experience drawing it. Find a way to incorporate.
- banks' talking: I just want something to happen! I played by the rule, I expected a reward...
-banks toasting youth- they toast back making video game noises.
-”I should get drunk more often. the kids like me more when I drink”

It's time to talk STORYCLOCK. Despite appearances, I haven't been avoiding this.

BANKS: original, ordinary world: he's a loser, fast-food restaurant managing, play by the “rules” but afraid to act kind of older guy. With epilepsy. He finds himself (HE FLIES- the 1:00, the CALL TO ADVENTURE) in a campground with a bunch of kids. The new world- kids world, video games, avatars, dumb jokes. ALSO: This forest. Is it video game land? mushrooms, coins, hippos, weird machinery. But he wants LODI. She's the cute wreck of a girl who talks to him sometimes. He wants to be loved. He follows her as she follows other things... He wrecks himself trying to get near her (we're in 4, 5 o clock on the story clock.)

I figured a key moment would be Banks dressing up in a bear outfit, for their big party. He looks like a dork, everyone laughs.

Another key moment. Banks has a seizure. Now is revealed as an epileptic. The kids love this, he's a shaman, man! He tries to take advantage.

Now- the 6:00, I wrote a bunch of possibilities on a sheet:
-Lodi is his daughter?
-Banks kills a man for her?
-Police come and arrest him for we don't know what?
-Lodi is found dead?
-The boyfriend kicks his ass?
-Her parents rescue her as s runaway? ***
-She kisses him drunkenly? (Then the boyfriend kicks his ass!)?
-The beach explodes? (I don't even know what that means...)
-He gets a call from the future. Or is it the kids, torturing her?
-He finds a dead body?
-He has a dying relative at home. Is angry?
-His daughter finds him?

It's bad to not know the ending or at least have some ideas, but with a sense of structure, you can know what will lead to an ending. Right now, I don't know, but many of these could word. I know the ending I have in mind is vague, poetic, and brings back a motif. He has what seems to be a seizure. Cut the tape. But that cutting has to mean something, has to hinge on something substantial. From the list above, from unseen themes and motifs yet, etc.

Ok, back to work...

Following New Banks Book - Page 5 and 6 inks

Ok, here are the inks for page 5 and page 6 here. The larger version will appear elsewhere soon. About to sit down and draw page 8, here's where I'm at:

Ideas are coming and going. A new idea: the whole thing is three parts: part 1 is Banks walking around. part 2 is Banks in a ditch. Part 3 is Banks as a ghost. Don't know how to pull of part 2. Obsessed with ghosts and hauntings lately.

More importantly. What the hell is going to happen? This used to have lots of characters, lots of adult characters in the plan. The only thing I'm certain of is two character on page 8 are introduced. Then what?

I really don't know. Here's some options in my notes, in my idea logs and cards:
-kids are always twittering
-there's a hippo in the stream
-burning man is coming up
-there are conversations to be had
-the girl, lodi, works in a bar or cafe at the campground or something
-and lastly: each episode, meaning scene, needs to be a certain different narrative style. What will be next?
to these I have no confirmed answers or ideas.

Following New Banks Book - Page 4 inks

This is page 4 inked.
Page 3 is a title page, see the sketches earlier.

My main concern here is that the "flying" sequence will be much too small, because I will get bored. My sketches already showing it as just one big panel following this one, then a few shots of trees then it's over. Will this work, or in order to get across the feeling of flying, will I need a longer sequence?

Nadia Sahmi: We shall see.

Following New Banks Book - Page 1 and 2 inks

Page 1 and page 2 inked here. Panel 3 went through a lot of permutations: I am the wind, I am gigantic, made of iron will and sod. None of which led well to what I know the next moment to be: Banks lifting off the ground. Panel 2 surprised me by looking nice. Panel 1: Wasn't sure if the visual ideas (sketchiness- loose approximations of background elements) was going to work, but I think I like it so far; we'll see if it holds up. I don't want to be ruined by the combination of my infatuation with Joann Sfar and my own limited drawing talents.

Have to go take out the balloon on page 1, and see if the narrative text floats well on its own like it does on this page.

As my good friend Nadia says with frequency: We shall see.


From Peter Brook's The Empty Space

From Peter Brook's The Empty Space: page 52: "Merce Cunningham ... has evolved a ballet company whose daily exercises are a continual preparation for the shock of freedom."


Quentin Tarantino on Tavis Smiley

Quentin Tarantino on Tavis Smiley this weekend:

"I try to tell my story and try to be as personal as I can, but as opposed to writing autobiographical things, I can hide inside a genre... I'm being very personal. I get to hide in plain sight."

and "That's what a writer does. You write all types of characters. It should be an investigation into other people's humanity... You should have a curiosity of other people's plights."

Here's the whole interview: http://www.tavissmileyradio.com/guests09/082809/QuentinTarantino.html

Listen also to how his characters write themselves, and his description of Elmore Leonard's writing as well.

How to Say Everything!


Kubrick's SIX something or others

Talking with Lauren Weinstein yesterday, she mentioned Stanley Kubrick shooting for 6 concrete images, or plot points, or sequences or something, that he tried to aim for in his films. Not sure of the specifics. Does anyone know what she was referring to?


Stories and characters

Sometimes a story is... sometimes you just have to stare a character in the face... you have to stare in the MIRROR that is your character, stare it in the face and tell it to GO TO HELL.


PDF version 47 up

For those who've taken a look at the book, version 47 has just been posted, with considerable changes to the Linefield and Poetry sections.


Pj Harvey and David Byrne on not knowing what you want to say

Exactly. I remember Glenn Dakin saying this to me when I was a lot younger too. This is so important, but gets glamorized: "oh the romantic artist who channels the divine!" Instead, just be a creator who follows her impulses, who chases what moves her. You'll make some sense of your work, but it will make more sense of you. That's what you want.


Jim Jarmusch on Stealing

"Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don't bother concealing your thievery-celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: 'It's not where you take things from- it's where you take them to.'"
-Jim Jarmusch


Banks On Act-i-vate

This story will continue on Act-i-vate in Mid September. Still drawing, and still recording the story in progress, and will post pages, comments, sketches and worries when we pick up properly on Act-i-vate. Stay tuned, early to mid-Sept.

In the meantime, I'll be posting more in the "storyclock" section.


Following Barney Banks - Sketches for part 2

Off the project happily for two weeks while teaching in Hawaii. I barely thought about this, except for during the plane flight in, where I made these sketches. Mostly looking for other crazy characters to introduce into the gallery of youngsters hanging around the campground where Banks winds up. I want them surreal, funny, possibly avatar-like, something someone might design for a lousy video game.

Next I sketched a few thumbnails for the next pages. Thinking what needs to happen is the introduction of MITCH, the box with dials and a handle that assigns something, or predicts something, or changes something, I don't know. These thumbnails so tiny, I got excited thinking I was working like Brian Eno here, the way he would throw out syllables and rework them until they made words. These half-sketched stick figures were just potential movement, potential compositions.

Plus- more ideas and images. A discarded, broken train car on the beach. For Banks it's a refuge? A stage? Also, a hippo in the water. It's a god, or in my writings, I'm treating it as one. In improv comedy, there's a game of speaking to your God directly, naming it, describing it. I'm doing this here to try to understand this damn hippo...

Next, I get down to drawing again.


Dear Matt, #01

Hey Matt-

I've been busy on that new project and wanted to tell you where I'm at. I've found a structure I think, and am at the point where I want to force it to become and remain interesting for myself, and hopefully for readers too. I hate writing/drawing a basic story. I want to play with tone, rhythm, POV, etc., in a way I haven't really since New Hat or The Sands.

My main idea is: lots of small chapters, every other chapter being odd or unique somehow, formally unlike the traditional storytelling in between.

I've posted a long blog posting about where I'm at now, here. It seems the most compelling options right now to me for this next section are:
-Silent (I've done a lot of considering of silent comics in my teaching)
-No main character (Barney Banks out of it, recuperating, and anyway, abandoning your main character is a way to force yourself to see your story differently (Brian Eno: abandon the most important thing (I think!)))

Other options:
-List making
-2nd person narration, any narrative POV shift
-No faces
-Word heavy, narration separate from pictures, on two different tracks
-Jump drastically back in time or forward in time
-Fast fast fast or slllooowwww
-Chords and harmonies (duel tracks)
-Recaps, summaries, simplifications. Fairy tale.

If you've got any suggestions for particularly fun or useful or compelling short forms for a section, please let me know.

Pretty sure this next section will be silent and feature character after character acting strangely after interacting with a little meter-machine. Almost a list format in that it will introduce a number of new characters, one after another.

I'd love to hear what you think so far, and feel free to offer some suggestions. I don't think I'm going to do any drastically Oubapian strategies like palindromes or cyclical passages, but why not? I'll put those two on the list.



Following Barney Banks #6

The interesting thing about this is that AS YOU GO, ideas arrive, but more importantly, half-ideas develop further. You absolutely have to start.

Status 7-10-09:

At this point, a mere 10 pages in (it reads so fast!) I am now in a new place. I don't have a plan for my next step. But this starting was essential, and I can begin to sort through the huge number of notes I've been assembling for years (though to emphasize, I think the bulk of the important ones have been one year or less) and now can start to see if there is a structure where I think there is one.

Three things to me are essential: 1- that Banks has seizures, and these mark at least two important structural points in the book. These things start or end sections. 2- That Banks feeling accepted ruins him. 3- I'd like it to be made up of small sections, and if so, then every other section must be a unique or slightly untraditional storytelling form. In between, the bulk, will be the main Barney Banks story, told in traditional omniscient form.

Why the structural changes? Because I WANT to. Because part of what I want to explore, in addition to Barney's character, and the epilepsy that has me haunted, and Barney's thematic inclinations (imagination vs action, girls, asocial behavior, girls, etc.) are the formal possibilities of tone of voice, point of view, differing rhythms, etc.

And now, I'm at the end of the first traditional section, and I know that the next should be something else, formally.

I go by hunches based on prior work and details: I know there is a thing in the world that is a sort of electric meter looking thing. Dials for eyes and a mouth that spouts paper. I know there are a bunch of kids around. I know we're in a campground. I want there to be a big hippo in a pond or stream, but haven't been convinced of that yet. I know Banks will get to know his rescuer, Lodi, well. I know she is slightly to the side of the other kids in that she works here. I think this is all I know. I have notes for wordplay- conversations, possible plot points. And importantly: images that are enchanting me. The meter-creature mentioned above, spouting out pieces of... wisdom? Advice? The hippo in the lake. Lodi surrounded by fans. Barney standing up, asserting himself, shouting, etc. Barney lying in a ditch, Barney floating around as a ghost.

So this being where I'm at, I pulled out all of my cards to see if there's a structure. It feels like a seizure should mark 6:00- the lowest point, or if not a seizure, then something more desperate. Another image is in there, and has been for a while: Barney listening to Lodi and another character copulating in a tent. Disgusting. Perfect for Barney's lowest moment. Does he barge in? Make himself known? Fall apart? Something. Let's mark this as the lowest point, and pull the seizure (his first or his second?) out of this scene.

I know "entering the new world" means starting to figure things out, starting to learn. And I know for Banks to go from who he is at the beginning (somewhat arrogant, somewhat hopeless old guy) to arrogant loud and suspicious, he needs to shed some of his hopelessness, he needs to have some minor successes to get his courage up. So there's the beginning of an arc: the character starts to become friendly with Lodi, or accepted by others, and this propels him into being more brave, more arrogant, more suspicious. What ever culminating event that comes from this arc needs to project him further or elsewhere: into redemption or into something worse than before. For it to feel like a story, that's what needs to happen.

A lot of this is internal for me, and I know innately that Banks never wins, so we need to pick the "something worse." Now the image of the ditch pops up. Lying in a ditch is pretty good. I mean pretty bad, and maybe useful in these later sections. Banks can go farther into desperation, as he tries (though there's not a chance of it now, since he has humiliated himself) to ingratiate himself further into the worlds of the kids. Things are getting worse, things are getting hopeless. He's could die here and who would care?

So this starts to feel like a plot-less, detail-less structure. And with that in hand, I thumb through my cards. I divide the sections into "Acts" 1, 2 and 3. (This is traditional, but I don't always do it. Here it feels right.)

The picture above shows the organization process.

Below is the final stack full of ideas for each section, each act. Will all of these work? Will this remain exact? Is this an exact plan? No, no and no. But these are possible, probably points to reach. A plan in case no better plan emerges. In a project like this, we like a better plan to emerge. The structure may remain, but the details may arise as we go, feeding off the details we've already noted, or coming simply from the process of working.

Next: That darn next section.


Following New Banks Book #4

More Ideas and Images.

Here's the last sketch so far. covering maybe something for page 10- doodling an image of him at the picnic table.

Note the "OPTIONS" regarding that on the right:
-tell big stories;
-is told about this campground;
-"yeah man, relax, you're among friends."

Banks has never been around friends, not friends he can relax around. And this will probably prove to be untrue anyway...

Other options crawling down the margin:
-sees dude in bear costume (this will be a young guy who takes to wearing bear costumes and is basically Banks' antagonist in this story I think.)
-he's getting ready for Burning Man (or something like it.)
then below that there's a bit of dialogue I'm hearing.

More importantly, at the bottom: DON'T FORGET NEW METHODS (P.O.V.) WHEN? ASAP!

The thing that worries me about my own actions here is I'll SETTLE for not exploring formal options, which was most of my impetus to start this thing. SO I MUST I WILL! CUE ARIA! I WILL DO WHAT MY HEART TELLS ME TO!


Following New Banks Book 5

Ok two more sketches and we're reasonably caught up.

The important thing here is sketching towards those next few pages. Adding dialogue, trying this and that. Was toying with condiment as war paint, but instead, as you'll see in the inks, just went for big sandwich mess as ritual mask. Also, just realized he's talking to his sandwich there. Sad I didn't follow up on that. Some other strip, I guess...

This one thumbnailing up to page 8. Page 7 is exactly what the first moments after a seizure feel like. Did Banks have a seizure here, or really fly? Dunno!

NExt: Inks to page 2.

Following New Banks Book 4

Not much here, except really the first sketches for page 1. I knew Barney was running away from being fired in panel 1, and eating or about to eat by the end.

The important thing on this second sketch above is the list of "THINGS I KNOW", including "Banks has epilepsy", "flies is rescued by kids" , and the thing that makes me most nervous, "has many points of view." This last thing is something I'm determined to make work. Change the POV, or the timeframe, the narration, etc. I'll know more when I get there, but for now I am thinking of a formal structure that sets every other chapter to be a unique style, POV, something, with the main in between sections being more traditional. WHO KNOWS?!!!!!!

This one, starting to think about page 2. He eats the sandwich wildly, with such primal self-assurance that he feels he can do anything.

Following New Banks Book 3

Working on page 2, getting these postings on page 1 and other prepartory things up to date.

A few more sketches, all examples of what I'm talking about in How To Say Everything...

This first one some dialgoue, some ideas of his character- I was a fast runner! I'm a force of nature!

This next one some thoughts and dialogue: You know very well you can't fly! Etc.

And some more:

I'll tell you about the bear costume, and the robotic thing a little later. Right now, trying to draw for real page 2 and finding much difficulty. It's not the drawing, it's the ideas. Is this even the right character? How can I make him ugly but not repulsive? Would it better if he were some generic homunculus? More on this later.


Following New Banks Book 2

It's imperative to locate other artists who have moved you, and to aim your own cannon into their atmosphere (or something.) To have models.

There's a note above my desk that reads "Your model for this is Orange Guy."

"Orange Guy" here is Yoshida Sensha, manga artist and weirdo. I first discovered him in the early 90s in Seattle. Mike Buckley knew his name, I could never remember it. I always called him Orange Guy cause the book I book at Kinokuniya had a great second orange color on the black and white interiors. These images of weird characters in costumes, or strange squids or squiggles in mini-dramas always pleased and befuddled me. In fact all the manga I saw at this time did. It was bolder than any American comics- they would put anything on the page. Nothing mattered except the imagination. This was deeply inspiring.

So I realized I want the weirdness and boldness "Orange Guy" gets. He's fearless, tells wacko stories. You never believe you're in the real world. In my own notes and sketches I always stay grounded, and I want lift off. Sensha lifts off. The imagination has to be the core.

So at some point I realized I need something to keep me UNgrounded. To keep me and the reader aware that this is imaginary. I always wanted to infer Barney had been fired from Arby's ("I was in restaurant management.") And also, I never had the right image for HOW BB gets to the campground where this is to all take place. Then it occurred to me: he should fly. If he flies, we are in the realm of the imaginary. It gets him to a strange place, and in a strange state. Yes, let's do that.

Below, some notes once I figured out this beginning.

New Barney Banks story sketches, beginnings, notes

Ok I've decided to put my money where my mouth is and show the development of my next project as fully as I can- sketches, notes, etc.

Sadly, I've got about a 5-year head start. I remember setting up a new studio around the time I started Hutch Owen as a daily strip. New shelves, new systems, new teaching folders, etc. There was also a blank plastic binder I had been carting around from place to place. I kept this on the shelf, empty, until one evening alone, I scrawled hundreds of little notes for it. The idea would be that this would be my next story. It would incorporate a larger arc and more dark subject matter than I was capable of doing in comic strips. I was consumed by these ideas:
--A campground, with lots of men. Yeah, it would be male-centric, this book. The campground would be a sort of place where guys go to convalesce. Or bide time. Run by a woman, Mathilde, basically inspired by the Scott Walker interpretation of the Jacques Brel song. ("Fellas, don't leave me tonight, tonight I'm going back to fight, wretched Mathilde's in sight...")

--Other ideas: Fen, from the Sands would be in it, as a sort of magician/guru. The guy who has pierced the veil, and maybe delivers supplies. Aleki and Banks, from Banks/Eubanks, and others. It would be about men: men evolving, men devolving, men wanting women, men misunderstanding other men. Stuff like that. I dubbed it "Sick Men."

So, this notebook became a series of index cards with Barney Banks on the front. I soon realized the only character I was certain of was Barney Banks, and maybe this Mathilde character- more about her later maybe.

My wife Leela wonders why the characters in my books are so asexual, and why they don't "get any." I argue it's because my skills as a cartoonist better serve the goofy, and not the erotic; the angry and vehement, but not moments of adoration or love. Hmmm. But also because I think the issues between men and women are horribly complicated and difficult. Like Spike Lee avoiding drug use in Do the Right Thing, I thought dealing with men/women would just be opening too many other doors.

But I started letting Banks' eye wander. I've used him as a character to explore where I fear I could have wound up: old, alone, full of vague big ideas and no history of having achieved anything. No one to love him because he is too full of his own self-image to allow anyone near. Despised but determined but not capable.

I started to collect notes about the kind of "some" a guy like that would try to "get" and daydreamed in the context of this campground what he would do, how he would behave, etc. I started adding to the stack of cards, and slowly the book seemed like it needed to be about him, trying to attract a young woman, possibly as a surrogate for his lost youth, or even possibly for having lost touch with his own daughter (still playing with that one). Really just to get a smile would change this guy's life (Chris Rock on Stevie Wonder: "Can the brother get a peek!? Just one peek!"

A few images sit with me that kick-started this:
-- Banks hearing from outside a tent, the object of his adoration in the throws of (*ahem*) with another guy. He is compelled to listen and interpret. (This comes from a moment in my history I'd rather not go into...)
-- Banks trying to get near her but there are dozens of guys around her already

And an idea:
-- Banks WANTS SOMETHING TO HAPPEN. He'd LOVE to find a dead body or something. His life is awaiting a kick-start, but he's too fearful to do it himself. He almost calls into being this dead body. ("It's like Stand by Me!")

Of course, no good book only about one character. It needs to go deep into all players. This woman- where, who what? The other ideas, Fen, Mathilde, Aleki- are they still there? And more importantly, is Banks his own worst enemy, or are there other characters impeding him?

This is where we reconvene. After either weeks or months or years of thinking, (frankly I think the best thoughts has been in the past few weeks) I've come to the point where I am convinced of the following:

-- Banks is epileptic. I am epileptic and have recently wanted to explore it. It's horrible, and underrepresented in comix (despite David B's great book, and subtle clues from inside Julie Doucet's work.) It could become an even further way he is outside society. This feels right.
-- He adores a girl who works/lives at the campground. She's got braids cause I like drawing braids. Her story will reveal itself, but I think she is wounded and stuck, like Barney. But this alone doesn't mean they are meant for each other.
-- Banks doesn't fit in in the younger culture of the campers. Though they think his epilepsy is cool.
-- Formally, this must adapt to quick, improvisational ideas, and allow me to have ideas and draw them quickly. I'm about to have a baby (Hi, Lightning Bug!) and I know I will have little time to make this happen. So the format has to be flexible, as does the plot so that I can throw in new ideas now and then. This being one of the joys I came to experience while doing comic strips.

So that's about it. And I still didn't know where to start it.

Next posting, where some more inspiration lies, and an idea of how to start it.