hmm … I need a coffee.
For those coming in late – this is my graphic novel that I am slowly inking and putting up here for people to read, my intention is to get it published, either through a publisher or self-published. It is designed to be read on the page, not the screen but I’m putting it here for people’s interest anyway. I’d love for people to leave comments, I was keen to start some discussion on this blog where possible. It has been received quite favourably by a lot of people … which is really great, I was actually expecting some negative feedback and I have been surprised so far that I have received none at all. Given that this has been viewed over 2’000 times (some of those figures may be the same viewed coming back for more) I would have thought that this work would’ve niggled someone’s nerve out there … but not yet.
So – if you’d like to get more context, rather than starting on the pages I have put up here you can read more -
First Chapter – Friday
Previous pages in the second chapter – 65-68
OR go back to the start of the Second Chapter – Saturday which starts at page 47
Next pages here … almost at the end of the second chapter. The third and final chapter is fairly different in its mood, more of a conversation really. I’m looking forward to inking it, though I have another project (Sleuth) that I’m working on concurrently which is eating into the time that I could be spending on this project.
These particular pages were particularly cathartic for me. I used to work in this place, it was … and is still … called the Mental Health Unit in the back of the Alice Springs Hospital. There is nothing identifiable about the girl in the High Dependency Unit part. I have sort of mashed together a whole bunch of the people that I used to work with in the MHU into the nurses in the comic … don’t be offended guys.
I no longer work in hospitals, I don’t particularly like them, though I still work in the area of psychiatry.
When bush people used to come in to the Alice Springs Hospital it used to be … and probably still is … particularly difficult. Having people locked up against their will is always difficult but when you came across people who had no concept of the processes that would lead to their incarceration, massive language barriers, a different way of dealing with adversity and different cultural understandings of mental illnesses it almost always led to conflict between the patient and the staff, sometimes physical. This can sometimes lead to physical conflict that people on both sides feel could be avoided if the other side would just LISTEN!! It was a particularly intense sort of place to work. Understandably this is one of those odd areas where cultural friction is at its most obvious and it can lead to traumatisation of both parties which in turn leads to an inability to want to listen to the other sides perspective.
In a lot of ways I found this place to be something of a microcosm of Australia.
The other interesting part about these pages is that of the Aboriginal communities that dot the region around Alice Springs, not covered in any great detail in this comi-essay but are an important part in the story.
I would be interested in hearing anyone else’s thoughts.
AND – Alice Springsians might notice the inclusion of the OK Sluts who were a FANTASTIC cabaret group whose show was all about the amazing burnout that over enthusiastic white people with ideals get when they work in Aboriginal communities … ridiculously popular … incredibly talented … sadly now defunct … Hannah May Caspar, Beth Sometimes and Matthew Hill PLEASE COME BACK … watch this video here. Ah the unbearable whiteness of being.
Another character in my sketchbook at the moment … striding around the desert, taking three fingered jacks out of the soles of his feet and muttering into his beard.
He’s also part of my end of year exhibition … and he is a giant.
More of the Tasmanian fox … this picture was part of my visual ramblings in my sketch book whilst searching for themes for my exhibition coming up later in the year in Hobart.
Here’s the fox image I put up before … it was related to some of the many media articles I had been reading about the fox eradication program here in Tassie which is apparently the largest pest control program of its kind in any one area in the world. They use the unpopular 1080 poison which also tends to kill pets and other predators … in Tasmania that means the already heavily endangered tassie devils … and any tigers that may still be lurking … keep your eyes open and your mouths shut if you see one (tigers that is … open your mouth if its a fox).
Nadine and I went to the Forest Festival up in Jackey’s Marsh in the North of Tasmania in Feb. Drive West Today (me) played in the forest there – it was beautiful … nothing nicer than a hippie festival. I only made time for a quick sketch that weekend – here it is. The Great Western Tiers are really nice. I’d like to go back and check out the caves up there if I get a chance sometime. Apparently they’re spectacular.
I am not a reviewer, I am a comic writer and I feel somewhat compelled to write something so that I can better get a grasp of what it is that I admire so very much about David B’s work. I first read David B a few years ago – Epileptic, which is the most widely spread piece of his work. It was translated into English in 2005, possibly not long after it was collated into the one volume. It is monumental. I have not read comics in this form before. The rich imagery and heavy, heady, symbolism is almost unbelievable. The words in the piece were very flat and almost monotone, purely descriptive. This seems to serve as an excellent foil for the fact that imagery is so heavy and symbolic and puts the words into a stark new context, turning them from something realistic and plain into something new and somehow magic. From my antipodean perspective, it seemed so French, in that their history is so littered with such pagan folklore and everyday mythology, indeed the entire of Epileptic is permeated with an animistic world-view, despite the narrator’s overt assertion that he is purely logical and rejects his mother’s search for an almost magical cure for her son’s unseen illness.
I recently bought a few more of his works through Fantagraphics – the Armed Garden & other stories being one of them … more of the same stuff … unbelievable. I can only liken it’s content to that of the Dictionary of the Khazars, a book written by a Serbian man which is famous for the fact that you can pretty much start the book at any point and open it it at different points and piece together your own version of the events. The main similarity between the works is the settings – middle age, middle-eastern setting with strong elements of magical realism an’ surrealistic story-telling.
David Bouchard was one of the founding members of L’Association but left in the mid-2000’s due to differences with Jean-Menu Christophe, the last of the founding members to be involved with L’Association, and possibly the reason it almost imploded. After this point Bouchard’s work became more wildly distributed in the English speaking world as he began to be associated with Drawn & Quaterly, Fantagraphics, Pantheon and the like.
I recently got my hands on Babel #1 and #2 … my goodness. I’m not sure where to begin, somehow these works are so elusive in their nature, not like anything I’ve read before. Part of the beauty is, of course, the beautifully production of the Ignatz series of comics. Babel #1 was the first in the Ignatz series which currently numbers over 40 issues from an international cast of el primo comic writers. The other part of the beauty is the beautiful two-tone theme of the Ignatz series which David B puts to great use. Epileptic had been in black and white but from Babel onwards he began to use one other tone with a masterful skill that gave the themes of the works a stronger sense of mood, starkly different and somehow more subtle than his previous works. The storytelling weaves in and out of the present and the past, dreams and fables to give a sense that it is all one story. Again this feels similar in its structure, or structurelessness, to that of the Dictionary of the Khazars. There is a Jungian fervour to the story, a way of making sense of the themes of his own life that seem universal in their appeal. Babel appears to have lost the negative and headiness of Epileptic, but perhaps this is because through Epileptic, David B has found some form of catharsis and moved onto some sort of enlightenment. I look forward to Babel #3, whenever it is destined to be complete, with much anticipation. It has been some years since Babel #2 was completed, but somehow I feel that the longer the wait, the better the piece will be.
Take your time B.
All images – David B
Warning – art-wank!
Please note: To ensure all wank does not go by unmissed – all French words are in italics .
This post is going to be part of a slowly growing process diary where I will talk about some of the strange discoveries I have made whilst working on Sleuth … which is an exhibition of comics where I will be sticking up comics all around a gallery room. It is a big personal experiment in how comics might be able to work. If you’re interested in this post, then you might be interested in other places where people write art-wanky content about comics such as Australian Pat Grant’s website (just google him), international places such as the Inkstuds (radio show and website), and other places.
For the most part I have decided to make comics that are quicker to write and make, which largely means that there will be drawings of characters without much background details, relying more heavily on the words to give context to the characters. This is mostly so that the interplay between the different comics is where the action is felt by the reader / viewer.
Back-story – For the past few years I have been slaving away on the Long Weekend, which is graphic novel (non fiction comic … is that still called “novel”?) which is long slog … and my heart’s desire was to churn out some comics that were far more intuitive and less thought through. I came up with a loose idea for criss-crossing comics on a wall and applied for a spot at an artist run space (Inflight ARI) in Hobart and got a slot for November 2012.
Even though I still had more of the Long Weekend to ink I haven’t had much left to do in the way of decision making, I had pencilled out most of the last chapter and made most of the grand decisions so it was down to the stage which I like to think of as meditation – just inking away over pencils that had been decided upon a while back. That doesn’t mean there’s nothing left to decide at all … au contraire – inking is still a very malleable process, lots of things get decided then too … just no where NEAR as much decisions need to be made as the earlier layout and pencilling stages (at least not the way I do things).
SO – my grand master plan was to make something super quick and dirty, making lots of mini-comics, but they wouldn’t be designed for the page, they’d be designed to spread across walls!!
“That’s not a big deal is it?”
WELL – it means a whole different bunch of considerations must be made! Which is when my creative interest is piqued! ( I have a fairly restless mind that needs to be engaged, or I get mssively bored … hence the need for a new challenge that is different to last overly ambitious thing I tackled).
The first thing I decided to do was to make a rough plan of the gallery space, and draw what it could look like … this is before I’d done any writing per se. I then decided on some generalised themes that rattle around my obssessive brain – mostly with a slight Jungian bent to them such as psyche and spirituality in modern Australia, Australian history, particularly that of explorers who die in the pursuit of glory (a ridiculous Australian pastime) … I decided to use these characters that I had invented in 2010 that I had in this comic that I called the Department of Conversation – Paul and Mary … and old retired couple, the baby-boomers, the grey nomads. I decided a comic involving a meandering conversation between them might make for a good “spine” for the whole artwork, something simple to get it all started. I’m quite fond of these two, they’re quite warm and funny in an old-couple kind of way.
I decided after that that I should make a lot of my decisions on the fly as it would give the whole piece a much more improvised feel, which would make it a process of discovery for me … I would discover the links between unrelated comics myself, perhaps I won’t even realise them until afterwards when other people point out links that they’ve made.
I recall a conversation I had with Bernard Caleo in 2011 about non sequitar arrangements (that’s Latin, not French), if you place things next to eachother and show it to people, their brains are hard-wired to search for the link themselves, they assume that since you’ve shown it to them then there is a reason, if you haven’t explained it to them then they will make up their own reason. HOW INTRIGUING!! That’s how comics work … or at least in part. You show people two images, they actively create the link between them panel to panel … but what about story to story?? That’s one of the things that I’m exploring myself. If I stick up a whole bunch of comics that intersect at certain points, then people will assume there’s a link, (otherwise why would I have put them all together) and then they will search for the meaning behind it all … provided I’ve kept if vague enough then unforseen meanings can spring into being within the reader / viewer’s mind!!
By and large – the most enjoyable and satisfying part of doing a wordy comic are the silent bits.
Go here for the next pages – 69-72
I s’pose technically this comic is mostly silent bits as there is narration as written by the main character, which is separate from the images BUT the nicest bits to draw were the quiet parts with no words. I figure that it also gives the reader a bit of a reprieve and some silence to digest the intense flow of ideas, and perhaps what is happening. It also helps to remind me and the reader that the place this is set in is Alice Springs …and there’s lots of places and people floating in and around the desert-town in the worn-down nubs of the Macdonnell ranges.
Silent comics are not things that I’ve ever done much of … but there is a different focus when it’s about movement, action and dynamism are fun too … I haven’t had much of them in this comic … just a few moments here and there to punctuate the stillness, which reminds me living in Alice. Long weeks of seeming stillness, but acts of violence or extreme behaviour occurring in some strange symbiosis with the quiet. Perhaps that’s why I found the place so intoxicating – it’s … quite frankly … a surreal place to live.
When I flew or drove home to Melbourne from the desert to visit my parents, mum used to listen to me talking and tell me that I should “write this all down” because I would forget it. It was only in those moments that I realised that I had a pretty bizarre job and life in the outback. The humdrum of doing a job can fool you into thinking that everyone experiences things like you.
I just finished reading the USA’s Anders Nilsen’s monolithic Big Questions … I can almost not believe the world he created in that extraordinarily beautiful masterwork of comics … go and get it – it’s bloody big, but if you’re into silence and mood it’s truly magnificent.
Later this year (2012) I shall be travelling to Europe and hopefully playing a few shows within this series of music. Recently played on the roof of Mona (see last blog) and the response appears to have been very positive which is nice: that was an outdoors gig, very chilled out and as, a consequence, less intense than this particular video. Highlight was playing with Brian Ritchie at the end – he chose the Beatles song – Within you, without you, which was a fave of mine in my adolescent years and it totally took me back.
This particular video was filmed at our house in Tasmania in front of the amazing wallpaper in our bedroom, Nadine helped me choose clothing that camouflaged me in with the surroundings, as Acousmatic sound is sound one hears without seeing an originating cause. Without any furniture in the room – the acoustics were phenomenal with the old Tassie Oak floorboards that we uncovered throughout the house.
Details of any concerts in Europe to be announced here.
Next pages – 65-68.
So far I’ve managed to complete up to page 84: the end of Chapter Two: Saturday.
Today I begin inking the final chapter … I have to rethink the ending.
The first page here is one of the more important ones to my mind, philosophically speaking that is.
Analysing Indigenous peoples is a little beside the point in this and in many things.
Looking at all of us together, the places of our interaction is more the task at hand.
I suspect that one of the reasons that the topic of Indigenous people is such an explosive topic with so many people (i.e. we are so politically correct, so polarised, so angry on their behalf, so angry the opposite way) is because the majority of us in Australia have mixed feelings about our role in the current state that the large amount of Indigenous people live in. Our role as perpetrators is traumatic for us also. In harming others, we harm ourselves also. In denigrating others we debase ourselves. When people point out our awful deeds as Australians, we are quick to become defensive, quick to blame the victim, quick to place the responsibility elsewhere. I suspect we do this because of our collective sense of guilt.
This is a difficult thing to depict, I hope that my slightly imaginative way of doing is effective.
In many ways, drawing this comic has been my way of unpacking this sense of guilt out and finding a way to think about modern Australia.