The first one's always the hardest.
My name's Warren Ellis. I co-founded Artbomb and created orderingcomics.com. I've been writing graphic novels professionally for more than ten years now. I don't like to think about it. Seems like forever. I've been writing commentary on the business for some eight years, since before it got trendy to have a comics pro writing website columns; originally for the British print magazine COMIC WORLD, most loudly for the website Comic Book Resources. My year there generated a book, COME IN ALONE. It's been a couple of years since I finished that. COME IN ALONE was pretty buried in the weird small mechanics of the comics business. If you're interested in the minutiae of graphic novels, check it out. That's not really what I intend to do here.
Artbomb was designed for the non-hobbyist -- the people who don't hit a comics store every Wednesday, the people who read rather than collect, the people who don't follow the business like it was NASDAQ or the sports results, the people who don't know they like graphic novels yet. So's this. BRAINPOWERED is a weekly sit-down about whatever I'm interested in that day. Graphic novels and creators who are doing something interesting, or doing something that's not getting covered properly elsewhere. What I'm reading. What I'm listening to. Things worth taking notice of. Whatever's powering my brain on the day I sit down to write this.
It's not just about graphic novels because nothing is just about graphic novels. They're part of the creative landscape, an intrinsic element of the broader cultural conversation. It's not like all the musicians and writers and actors you read about don't read graphic novels -- because they do. And it's not like you don't read books and magazines and websites, and it's not like you don't watch films or listen to music. Is it?
Sit down. I have stuff to tell you.
XXXLIVENUDEGIRLS, by Laurenn McCubbin & Nikki Coffman, is a series of books full of short stories about lost girls in doomed lives. Little vignettes, moments from people in painfully real late-night places. Hating the people you love, loving the people you hate. It's my favourite new comic of the summer.
Laurenn McCubbin is the writer, and also co-creates the visuals in some weird complicated manner that I don't understand because I'm just a man. So I asked her what powers her brain:
What makes you make comics? Why work in this medium, rather than prose or another visual narrative art?
I like pictures, and I like them with words. Plus I like the book form, and I love design. I love to hold things in my hand. I don't know if I could make movies - if I wanted to make money there are too many rules that I could never follow, and it's a pretty expensive hobby if I was going to stick by my guns. I can afford to do exactly what I want to in comics. My friend Kelli Nelson has a good name for her pub. co: Cheap Paper Art. Yay, cheap paper art!
You've done a few shows now. What kind of people are reading your stuff?
Lots and lots of really cute girls. Indy boys with square glasses. Drag queens. Supermodel rockstars. Hot guys with tattoos. You.
Note how I don't get to be cute, hot, or a rockstar.
What are you doing when you're not doing comics? What're your other jobs/projects?
I am (among other things) the creative director for Kitchen Sink Magazine, a teacher at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, a freelance illustrator and designer, and oh, I shoot photos for a porn site that launched Aug. 20 - www.mythingie.com. Sometimes I sleep, but not very often.
What graphic novels do you keep that you never want to lose?
Death of Speedy by Jaime Hernandez, Moonshadow by DeMatteis and Muth, Twisted Sisters, and Dori Stories, which is a collection by the late Dori Seda. These have all traveled with me cross country and back, and thru' a million moves, and all are rather tattery. They are like comfort food. I like to chew on them when I am sad, or stuck.
What're you listening to these days, particularly while you're working?
Le Tigre, Neutral Milk Hotel, Hank Williams III, and many late 70's early 80 power pop mixes. (I love me some Nick Lowe.) I listen to just enough NPR to keep from getting anxious, and I have been known to watch the occasional daytime talk show. Just to keep myself informed, mind you.
Issue one of XXXLNG is sold out. Issue 2, a 65-page squarebound book with a colour section, is available now for $6.95. #3 is aimed for December. Visit the website at www.xxxlivenudegirls.com. Laurenn McCubbin lives in Berkeley with a dog and a cat and a very large husband indeed.
Everyone I know is sick of me talking about this record, but I don't care. I'm going to inflict it on you too.
The Polyphonic Spree are somewhere between twenty-three and twenty-eight people (reports conflict) from Dallas. Their debut single is "Soldier Girl." Listening to it for the first time is one of those moments when you know everything's changed. The last one of those, for me, was "Svefn-G-Englar" by Sigur Ros. Like that song, it's a signature piece that, for good or ill, they'll always be judged by. On the other hand, how many bands get to grab a piece of the sun like that? Twenty-odd people who barely know each other, combining to make the biggest thing I've heard in ages: too big to hold inside me. Nik Cohn observed that the greatest pop music was "a glorious burst of incoherent noise". "Soldier Girl" is four lines long.
- I've found my soldier girl
She's so far away
She makes my head
And it doesn't matter. From that they hurl up this immense vaulting thing that makes your heart ache, that just explodes and shatters with the pure joy of itself.
It's not a record you can be ambivalent about. You need to find it.