A while back, Scott Nickel asked me to be part of his ongoing cartoonist interview series. You can read my answers to his 20 questions at his blog, A Nickel's Worth.
Tim and I went to see District 9 last night. (Wikipedia synopsis here) I'm still hoping to see Inglorious Basterds before it leaves the theatres.
* SPOILER ALERT: a little farther down in this post *
Tim was disappointed. The jumpy camera bothered him. (A large portion of the movie is shown through the lens of a television news show's camera which is filming "onsite") I was very conscious of this at first, but as I got into the story I didn't seem to notice it.
I did seem to find it a little difficult to "see" the whole picture at times though. I often found myself "working" to see what was onscreen.
For one thing, the background scenery of the locale of "District 9" always seemed to be a bit blurry and out of focus. There just seemed to be this smoggy look to it that hindered the view ... and maybe that was intentional. Or - it could be that all the little shacks and all the garbage looked so bland and like such a hodgepodge of gray, that that's all you could see. It is a slum, after all. (OR maybe the dang movie theatre didn't have the film quite in focus) The thing is, the aliens (prawns) were coloured in shades similar to the background of the District 9 surrounding. I don't think they were distinct enough to appreciate them.
There were several scenes outside of the District 9 locale where I thought the colours were too similar to see things distinctively. Toward the end of the movie, for example, when one of the aliens and the main human character, Wikus are raiding MNU (Multinational United, a private military contractor) to retrieve a vital cannister of fluid, the alien is taken aback by the scenes of fellow aliens being disected for medical experiments. The disected alien he is staring at in shock is basically all black. Now, it's not that I'm complaining that "I WANNA SEE THE GORE! SHOW ME THE GUTS!" . . . it's just that it looked like a big blob of blackness with a few shiny highlights rather than a disected alien. It just wasn't distinctive. (Have I mentioned that already?)
( Hmmm . . . you know something? After looking at the above Youtube trailer, I think my complaints with the visibility of this movie are really with the movie theatre and not the movie. This Youtube clip is so much clearer. I think I'm going to call the theatre about this...)
Anyway, by the time Wikus is suited up in Sigourney Weaver's battle gear from Alien, it was very evident that the movie was not going to be resolved for the price of just one movie theatre ticket. District 9 is just the prequel to District 10. Or at least, the movie is poised to have a sequel if the bottom line says it's viable and the powers-that-be are so inclined. There certainly was enough innuendo suggesting that Christopher Prawn (the alien who manages to escape earth to return to his own planet) would be back in three years to (a) rescue his fellow aliens and (b) reverse Wikus's transformation of human to alien.
I enjoyed the story and was invested in it enough that I will go to the next movie if there is one. I want to see if Wikus is transformed back into human form. I want to see if the other aliens get rescued. I want to see if there's any payback for MUN.
I just hope I don't have to wait for three years. Hey, is there a District 9 book by any chance? . . .
Stephanie Piro has to be one of the most prolific cartoonists in the business today. She is the Saturday Chick for the syndicated comic strip, Six Chix. She also self-syndicates a gag panel called "Fair Game". Stephanie also has her own T-shirt company, the award-winning Strip-T Designs, which feature her own gorgeous cartoon designs. In addition to all of this, she has illustrated numerous cartoon books (My Cat Loves me Naked, Paws for Thought, 101 Cool Games For Cats to name a few), runs cartooning classes for children at her local library and is active in a multitude of other cartoon-related activities in her area. Stephanie was very gracious in agreeing to answer some questions about her career.(I first met Stephanie, in an online cartoon chat forum way back in the late nineties. The first time we actually met in person,was at the NCS Reubens weekend in Boca Raton, Florida in 2000.)Stephanie, I don't know how you find the time to do it all. Could we begin by you telling us where you went to school? Didn't you go to the School of Visual Arts in New York? Have you ever had a "real" job other than in the cartooning business?
Hi Sandra,Yes, we met on the Wisenheimer, (private online cartoon chat forum) and, if I remember correctly, you were my NCS sponsor! So, thanks, again for that!I went to SVA in 1969. I was in love with the city and had the best time at SVA while I was there. It was the 60's and NY was the most exciting place to be. There were Be-Ins, there were peace rallies and great used book stores and clothing stores all over. There was the first earth day, and some of the streets were closed, so I remember sitting in the middle of ...maybe third Ave with friends.At SVA, I couldn't get into any cartooning classes. I don't think there were many. I had Berne Hogarth for Art History. I took fine art the first year and Illustration the second. I had Robert DiNiro's Dad for a teacher, too.I started selling my artwork when I was 19. I'd met my future husband and his Mom hooked me up with a gallery on Long Island called Cherubinis. I sold there exclusvely for several years, so, that was my first real job. I sold watercolors and clay sculptures of wealthy people's pets.After a while, I also sold my work in other small galleries around LI and the city and Connecticut.I met a woman who was a decorator who had seen my work at Cherubinis and hired me to make lamps and mirrors that matched her swatches for fabric and wallpaper. That was fun.By the mid to late 70's, there was a recession, and there were gas lines, and several of the small galleries went under. This is when I started supplementing my art with waitressing.It was in the late 70's that I started cartooning seriously, and started trying to submit my work tomagazines. But you may bring that up in a later question, so I'll hold off on that for now.Which magazines did your cartoons appear in? Was the mag cartooning enough to make a self-supporting income? Were the mag cartoons the catalyst for beginning your silk-screened T-shirt business?
It was actually the other way around, Sandra. The first magazine I sold to was Glamour, I think that was in the late 80's. I know I've mentioned before that I started myt-shirt business when my cartoons continued to be rejected by editors, even with great rejections and one editor from Cosmo, whose name I wish I could remember, even tried to interest other editors and gave me the idea to do a theme book which became "Men! Ha!", and he even tried to market that!In 1984, after my daughter was born, I taught myself silk screening, very basic stuff, and printed a few dozen tees and took them to a craft show. Women LOVED them! I sold everything, and Strip T's was born. Women related because they really hadn't seen humor they identified with before.This began a number of boom years when I was actually earning a decent income from marketing my cartoons, without the editor middle-man, and going directly to the public. I also started licensing to card and calendar companies. This was all before that first sale to Glamour.Once Glamour started buying, they continued to use my work for a long time, until they eventually dropped the cartoon, and eventually brought it back with a NYer cartoonist doing it exclusively.I was also lucky to connect with Roz Warren in the early 90's who published a wonderful feminist series of anthologies "Women's Glibber" and my work appeared in all her books except the first one, and she went on to publish two collections of my cartoons "Men! Ha!" and "Caffeinated Cartoons".I've tried submitting to the NYer off and on. I've had notes from editors saying "Please Send More"! but they never bought and I write in a way that I can't submit on a weekly basis. Once I had this great idea. I took an issue of the NYer and pasted over all the cartoons with my cartoons (no offense intended NYer cartoonists!) including the cover and sent a note saying "Here is a visual aid showing you how great my cartoons would look in the NYer!"I never heard a thing for over 3 months! Then it came back in the mail. With nothing! I thought at least I'd get a note or even a standard rejection slip!Through a chain of events, you've had your cartoons syndicated with Chronicle Features, Universal Press and now King Features. Impressive company! You began your syndicated career with a panel called "Fair Game" with Chronicle. Did you just pitch that feature through the mail? How did you go from "Fair Game" with Chronicle to "Six Chix" with King Features?
Your cartoons have appeared in all kinds of book collections . . . some with other cartoonists, some with just your own work and some as illustrated cartoons for other authors. What are some of these titles?My first published work in book form was probably in Roz Warren's Women's Glibber books. Except for the first, Roz used my cartoons in all the other anthologies which included "What is This Thing Called Sex" and my own 2 collections "Men! Ha!" and "Caffeinated Cartoons".Early on, Page One published 2 graphic novels I did, "Blank Tapes" and "Boots and Salads" in one volume. These are two of my favorite works, but published rather on the small side.There have been numerous other collections I've had work included in.Then Donna Barstow and I collaborated on a book idea based on one I had self-published called "Love Me or Go to Hell", which included Anne Gibbons, Lynn Williams and Liza Donnelly.My latest collection was my own, "My Cat Loves Me Naked", a personal favorite as it included my writing as well as my favorite cat cartoons, many I wrote just for this book.I've illustrated a few books including "Understanding What My Cat is Thinking" by Anne Leighton and "101 Cool Games for Cool Cats" by Elissa Wolfson, which is both a challenge and fun.I have more ideas on the back burner as I've been very busy recently!Your cartoon art has a very lovely loose style with flowing line work. I would also classify it as being very feminine. I think your style enhances your cartoons because it seems to me that your writing would have a distinct appeal to women. While acknowledging that humour crosses over all boundaries, what do you think about "women's humour"? Does some humour have more appeal for women than men? Do you think there is a difference in gender perspective at times?Thanks, Sandra, what a nice way to have one's work described! I really think of women readers when I write and hope they enjoy what I have to say, but you'd be surprised to hear that a lot of the fan mail I've received over the years came from men.They were very complimentary about the art and the women I draw and a few, I think, may have harbored crushes on some of my women!I do believe there is a difference in perception. Not always, because I think Rina (Piccolo) can write some of the best gags out there, but I think women tend to enjoy more character driven or point of view humor and men often like the punch of a gag. I realize I'm generalising, here, because some gags make me laugh out loud, but I really enjoy more intimate humor like "Between Friends"!You have quite an extensive variety of work available at your Cafe Press store. (online store) Any thoughts on how the web is impacting on your career? What are your thoughts on what's happening in the newspaper industry at the moment?I sell far more gift items through my cafepress site than I do on my own, partly because I now experiment there with all the new designs there, like my library line and the baby and musician items.The Strip T's line on my site I primarily sell to cat shelters for fundraisers. They are a good and inexpensive way for even small shelters to buy a mixed dozen shirts and earn a little extra money.I'm sad about the newspaper industry because I grew up reading newspaper comics. They were an important part of my life, and it's a thrill to see my work appear in the papers. It never gets old. Not to mention syndication is all quantity and adding papers, so, the fewer papers there are the harder it is to earn a living through newspaper syndication.I suppose the next generations of cartoonists feel connected to the web, instead of newspapers.I saw you draw cartoons once and I was amazed to watch your create your art on a drawing board on your lap. Do you still work this way? What are your tools of the trade and what's your schedule like?I know, I'm archaic! I could never draw at a drawing table, maybe because I'm short, but it's the whole freeing up of the way I draw. I can get right into the art when I'm working on my drawing board. My studio is an art cart overflowing with pens and ink and always a scissors and glue stick for a quick paste-up if I need it. I have to have natural light to work, and quiet. I sit on a futon surrounded by 3 huge windows, and it is ideal for working. I'm lucky to have a nice quiet house and the space I need whenever I want to work.As for schedule... I work 20 hrs at the library, that's 2 evenings, an afternoon and Saturday till 2, so I've learned to work around that. I'd love a real studio to keep all my tools and accessories organized instead of spread all over the house. Maybe some day. That would be nice.Thanks, Stephanie!Visit Stephanie's web site here and you have to go and visit her Cafe Press store here. Also, you can catch up with her on the Six Chix blog here!
On Monday I am going to start the week off with the final installment of my Cartooning Women Conversation interview series. (unless I can wheedle some more cartooning girlfriends into being interviewed in the future)
My final interview is with my good friend, Stephanie Piro and you're not going to want to miss this conversation. She talks about how she got started in the business and the many different cartooning roads she travelled. She's very straight forward about the ups and downs she's encountered and she sent lots of different art for me to post along with her answers.
I really enjoy reading but I don't seem to have the opportunity to do it very much. At least, I don't read for pleasure. The books I give my time to these days are work-related. This means the books have something to do with cartoons. Wait a minute . . . I guess I do read for pleasure. It's just that there are non-work books that I'd also like to read but I don't. I buy them and put them on the shelf for another time. Maybe in my next life.
Graphic novels are books I never thought I'd warm up to . . . as much as I love comics I thought I'd get bored reading a serious novel that was told through drawings. I had a preconceived idea that graphic novels were extended versions of comics that would interest teen-aged boys. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
The first graphic novel I purchased was Persepolis 1 & 2 by Marjane Satrapi, a graphic memoir of the author growing up during the Islamic Revolution. I couldn't put it (them) down. Next, I bought Embroideries by the same author. It's a very women-centric story about Satrapi and her mother, grandmother and women neighbours having an afternoon tea session. The conversation between the characters is funny, heart-breaking, touching and culturally interesting. I love this book. I keep it in its plastic cover in my dresser drawer rather than on my book shelf. I want to keep it "new". I think it would make an awesome play.
The more I delved into the graphic novel market, the more I realized that like all books, there is something for everyone. My own particular interests vere toward books that feature women and our own unique circumstances.
Here's a few more I've enjoyed:
Fun Home by Alison Bechdel. A darkly funny, memoir of comic artist, Alison Bechdel.
Mom's Cancer by Brian Fies. The story of the author's mother and his family's experience fighting her metastatic lung cancer. Very personal.
Cancer Vixen by Marisa Acocella Marchetto. A witty and courageous story of the author's battle with breast cancer. (I didn't think I would like this book and only bought it because I couldn't find Fun Home, which I was looking for at the time. It totally surprised me. Lively art, great tempo, factual, entertaining . . . it engaged me completely.)
The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam by Ann Marie Flemming. The author traces her grandfather's life as a magician and turns up an amazing family story. Uniquely told and very, very historically interesting.
One more I'll mention before I have to go and get at my writing is I Feel Bad About My Neck and other thoughts on being a woman by Nora Ephron. The title is self-explanatory. This one isn't a graphic novel, it's a series of essays about moments in the author's life and dealing with things like getting older, menopause, empty nests and the tribulations of maintenance. What can I say? You gotta love Nora Ephron. . .
. . . and I can't describe my lovely week at Wasaga Beach any better than that.
We go away every year with another family and usually try to go to the movies one night during the week. There's 7 of us and we don't bother trying to accommodate everyone's different tastes in movies. We just all pile into our two cars, load up on popcorn and split up in various numbers to see whatever we want.
I went to see Julie and Julia. (Yes, I went by myself . . . no one else was interested in going and I really wanted to see it. My son was mortified that I would go into a movie theatre alone. Everyone else split up to see The Ugly Truth and G.I. Joe.)
Meryl Streep was awesome. I youtubed some real Julia Child television cooking show clips . . .
and Meryl may have gone just a bit over the top in her characterization, (if you can believe that's possible) but it really didn't matter. The movie was extremely funny and I'm probably going to get some girlfriends together and go see it again.
The only time in the film "Julia Child" lets her uber-chipper personality down is when she receives a letter from her sister telling her that she's pregnant. It's not explicit but I guess Julia must have wanted children and for whatever reason couldn't or didn't. It was a very, very brief segment and Meryl really handled the scene well . . . she definitely made my eyes fill.
The audience was filled with women. There was a group about two rows above me and they were stomping their feet and roaring with laughter. I should have been sitting with them.
You gotta love Nora Ephron (director and writer of the screenplay) and you gotta love Meryl Streep and you gotta go see it.
Now back to reality. No more vacations for me for a while. Lots of cartoony stuff I want to get cracking on.
Talk to you again soon!
I had good intentions of pre-programming the blog again but I just flat ran out of time. I actually got the second week of strips written for the week off but couldn't get them drawn and inked. So I'll be hitting the drawing the board the second I get back. But until then, I'm not going to think about 'em.
So have a good week! Click my widget and read "Between Friends" while I'm gone.
You have to go and visit the Six Chix site! (Okay, you don't have to but I highly recommend that you do.) Stephanie Piro ( Six Chix, Fair Game cartoonist ) visited Margaret Shulock ( Six Chix cartoonist, Apt. 3-G & Snuffy Sniff writer) and has posted some photos. Now you can see what life is like for a cartooning woman. Note the above wood pile. Ms Shulock split the whole bunch. All I can say is, don't mess with Margaret. Hey, Margaret . . . I love your place! All those gorgeous trees and land. Gaby must be in heaven. I'm feeling very claustrophobic here in suburbia right now.
Thanks for posting those photos, Steph . . . go and have a look-see.
Here's an old strip from 2001. I received an irate letter over this strip. One letter from one disgruntled reader is not a big deal but it never fails to surprise me what people find offensive.
The offense here has to do with the subtitle, "Spot the Working Mother". The unhappy reader felt this strip implied that women who do not work outside the home do not "work". She was not happy with me. She let me know that women who don't work outside the home happen to work very hard, thank you very much. They pitch in at school with baking and school trips and functions that women who work outside the home aren't able to do. And they yada, yada this and they yada, yada that. I was belittling all women who didn't work outside the home. All. Of. Them.
And she will never read my strip again.
Wow. Is that what I said? Is that what I did?
I didn't write back to her. Sometimes it's best not to answer some letters. If she felt I was dissing stay-at-home moms in the above strip, I'm not so sure I could have written an eloquently-phrased letter that would have changed her mind.
And there's one other thing . . . I've come to realize that when people over-react to something (and I believe this woman's letter was an over-reaction ) it's because they're really reacting to something else that is happening or has happened in their lives.
It's not impossible that this woman just had an argument with her husband or children about him/them not helping out more at home because she doesn't work. Or maybe she was roped into helping out with one more school function than she could actually manage because she doesn't work.
I could see how her perception of the above strip would be influenced in either case.
So, even though I get exasperated by the demands of "political correctness", I know I just have to stand back and take a deep breath and move on.
"You can please some of the people some of the time . . ."