A Conversation with Daniel Clowes at Regenstein Library

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BRENDA JOHNSON: Good evening. My name is Brenda Johnson. I’m the director
of the Library here at the University
of Chicago Library, and I thank you all so
much for joining us. It’s just great to look
out in the audience and see such a variety
of folks here tonight. We’ve got library
friends and supporters, but we also have
students, which is great –we don’t always have students
come to our Library Society events–and faculty from a
variety of different areas. So welcome to each
and every one of you. This evening we celebrate
comics artist and writer Daniel Clowes, whom we will have
the great privilege of hearing from in just a few moments. But last year, the Library
acquired the Daniel Clowes Archive. And this collection
is a cultural treasure of notes, outlines, narrative
drafts, character sketches, draft outlines, and more
for “Ice Haven,” “Mr. Wonderful,” and “The Death-Ray.” The Library’s just delighted to
house this important resource for students and scholars. So much that our talented
Special Collections staff has curated the
fantastic show that’s currently on view in our gallery entitled,
“Integrity of the Page: The Creative Process
of Daniel Clowes,” which really brings
out beautifully some of the highlights
of the Clowes Archive. Let me give a special,
special thanks this evening. This evening’s event
was made possible by the generosity of
our longstanding Library Society. Thanks to our
members, many of whom are here this
evening, the library is able to provide these
exciting event opportunities on a regular basis. So thank you so much,
Library Society members for your support and enthusiasm. I’d also like to
acknowledge the director of the Special Collections
Research Center and University Archivist Daniel Meyer,
whose vision made possible the acquisition of the
Daniel Clowes Archive and the presentation of
this terrific exhibition. Dan leads an extraordinary
team of librarians and staff who work tirelessly
to make our resources available and accessible,
to care for some of our most treasured materials,
and to organize a regular roster of excellent
and informative exhibitions. Thank you Dan and all the
staff of Special Collections. So without further ado, I’d
like to turn the podium over to Dan Meyer, who will introduce
this evening’s program. [APPLAUSE] DANIEL MEYER: Thank you, Brenda,
and welcome to all of you. Thank you for coming
out this evening. I’ve been reading some
of Dan Clowes’s reviews, I have to say. And it’s striking what the
range of commentary has been. There are many words
attached to his work. I found words like “complex,”
“melancholy,” “absurd,” “labor intensive.” If you’ve seen the show,
that carries some weight. “Funny,” “chilling,” “fearless.” Dan is renowned for his pathbreaking and influential body of work, spanning comic
books and cartoons and book-length comic novels,
beginning with the early “Lloyd Llewellyn” and “Eightball” comics, his imagination has led him through
a remarkable series of graphically vivid creations. And I’m sure they’re all
familiar to you. Works like “Like a Velvet Glove Cast
in Iron,” “Ghost World,” “David Boring,” “Ice Haven,” “Wilson,” “Mr.
Wonderful,” and “The Death-Ray.” As a screenwriter,
Dan has developed several notable
feature-length films, adapting and writing screenplays
based on his own works “Ghost World,” “Art School Confidential,”
and most recently, “Wilson,” being directed by Craig Johnson
and scheduled for release later this year. Dan has continued, of course,
to produce new, arresting work in book form as well. His latest book,
“Patience,” has just been published by
Fantagraphics, and it’s already attracting the kind of
enthusiastic critical acclaim that can only be
called Clowesian. So we’re very delighted to
have Dan with us this evening. Also joining us
is Daniel Raeburn, who is the lecturer
in creative nonfiction in the University of Chicago’s
Committee on Creative Writing. Dan Raeburn is the author
of the book “Chris Ware,” an exploration of Chris
Ware’s art, design, and narrative, and
their intersection with graphic arts, graphic
novels, and popular literature. Dan has also created “The Imp,”
an irregular series of booklets about underground cartoonists. His writings have
appeared in many places, including “The New Yorker,”
“The Baffler,” and “Tin House.” And he has just published
his own new book, “Vessels: A Love Story,” based on
the challenges of life and parenting that he
shared with his wife, Becca. We’re very pleased that Dan
is with us this evening to talk to Dan Clowes, a friend
whose work he knows very well. Before beginning
our program, I just want to say a few
words of thanks to those who were involved
in the work on the Dan Clowes Archive and Special
Collections and also in the preparation of
the Dan Clowes exhibition that many of you have
already had a chance to view in the gallery. From the outset an
enthusiastic partner in creating the
Clowes archive has been Hillary Chute, a
member of our faculty, the Associate Professor in
the Department of English, Department of Visual Arts and
Committee on Creative Writing. We are very grateful to Hillary
for her essential counsel and engagement. I’m sorry she can’t
be here this evening. She’s at Harvard. So we miss her and miss
her presence this evening. I also want to thank
Alice Schreyer, who is the former associate
university librarian for area studies and special collections
here in the Library, who provided important direction
and support in the development of the archive. I want to thank
Ashley Gosselar, who is our processing archivist
in Special Collections. She was the one who organized
and described the physical Dan Clowes Archive. She created the
online finding aid that is now being used
by scholars, students, and researchers to gain
access to and use the papers in Special Collections. Ashley is also the curator of
the revealing Clowes exhibition next door, “Integrity
of the Page: The Creative Process of
Daniel Clowes.” On display in this exhibition
is a fascinating and absorbing array of notes,
sketches, and drawings exploring the development of
three of Dan’s major works, “Ice Haven,” “Mr. Wonderful,”
and “The Death-Ray.” I want to extend my thanks,
too, to Patti Gibbons, who is the Head of
Collection Management in Special Collections. She was essential to
the transfer, shipment, and preservation of the
Clowes Archive and the exhibit materials throughout
this whole process. Joe Scott in Special
Collections, our exhibition designer, created
the striking design and beautiful installation
of the exhibition that’s on view next door. And I’m also glad to acknowledge
Dan’s colleague, Susan Miller, who, I’m very happy to say,
is with us this evening. She’s been an
invaluable collaborator at every stage of the
compilation and transfer of the Clowes Archive,
and she’s also been an essential part of the
planning of the exhibition. And in particular, I want
to express our thanks to Dan Clowes, who
has been warmly supportive of the Archive
from its inception and who provided the
loan of several drawings from his own
collection for display in the exhibition next door. So I’ll close with just a
few words about the structure of this evening’s program. We’re going to begin with a
conversation between our two guests, Dan Clowes
and Dan Raeburn, followed by an open
question and answer session. And then at the conclusion of
that Q&A, we invite all of you to take the opportunity to
visit the Dan Clowes exhibition in the gallery just next door. We also hope you can join
us for the reception, which will be taking place in the
Special Collections Research Center through the double
doors on the far side of the exhibition gallery. Copies of Dan’s
new book, “Patience,” are going to be
available for sale and Dan will
be signing books in the classroom in
Special Collections. So we hope you could be
a part of that as well. So now to get our
program underway, please join me in
welcoming in conversation, Dan Clowes and Dan Raeburn. [APPLAUSE] Does this work? Does the mic work? Can you hear me? Yeah. All right. Great. U of C technical guys
know what they’re doing. Just make sure this is
the one with pure gin. A good place to
start, I think would be with your phrase, the
integrity of the page, what does that mean? DANIEL CLOWES: Was
that my phrase? DANIEL RAEBURN: I
think it was. Wasn’t it lifted from
one of your interviews? DANIEL CLOWES: Boy, I
don’t even remember. I thought, what a great phrase. Who thought of that? DANIEL RAEBURN: Even
if it’s not yours, what would it mean to you? What does is it mean? DANIEL CLOWES: Why do
I– it if it’s not mine. You know, the page
is the unit of comics that I have broken it down to. That’s the thing that I feel
responsible for in the process. I have to just think
about each page one by one as I’m piling them up on the
table next to my drawing board. And so I have to think
about every little aspect of that page. And for me, the real challenge
is that it has to all be me. I can’t allow any other
input into that page. So you know, were I to use say,
a font, to do my lettering, rather than doing
it by hand, there’d be some slight
input from a machine or from some programmer
in Silicon Valley that has affected that page,
and so therefore, that would be missing from it. So to me it’s about
getting the essential, sort of the personal, onto that page. Comics to me are
the perfect one to one personal relationship
from an artist to a reader, where
you’re writing it alone and presumably, the
reader is not reading it with someone next to
them going, can you hurry up and turn the page? You know, it’s a very solitary
visual medium, one on one. DANIEL RAEBURN: It’s the perfect
art medium for control freaks. DANIEL CLOWES: It is, it is. DANIEL RAEBURN: In a
way that even prose does not allow, because you
have control over the visuals as well. DANIEL CLOWES: Yeah, whenever
I think about writing prose, I always imagine,
did John Updike know they picked this horrible
font for his paperback edition? To me that is such an integral
part of it or a bad cover or really any part of
the visual experience or the sensory experience of
reading the book that’s not in your control, I feel like
you’re letting that get away from the one on one input. DANIEL RAEBURN: The
thing I notice most when I visited the archives was
the sheer amount of paper you go through. I saw a spiral
notebook, then a lined– first a legal pad,
then a spiral notebook, then a sort of brown paper craft
lined perfect bound notebook, then tracing paper with magic
marker sketches, then just general kind of el cheapo
drawing paper, and then the Bristol board. And I was just wondering if you
could kind of walk us through, if you have a set process. DANIEL CLOWES: Do I have
stock in the paper company? DANIEL RAEBURN: Which
stage– I know a lot of this is outlined in
the exhibit there, but if you could sort of
tell us in your own words, to amplify what’s out there,
if you have this set process you go through for each book? DANIEL CLOWES: You
know, I don’t, really. You know, these books I think,
have more of a paper trail than many of my book. Some of them I would
jot down a few notes and just start right in with
the final page and sort of not know what’s going to happen
from one panel to the next. And I have others that are
actually far more detailed, where I would do several
more levels of revision along the way. And for me, it’s
a matter of trying to have everything
all figured out, trying to know what’s behind
the story before I even begin. I have to be able to hear the
characters’ voices speak clearly in my head without
any prodding from me. I have to know who the
people are, the settings. I have to know what their
rooms look like, all that. But it doesn’t have to
necessarily be written down. It just has to be something
that I feel comfortable knowing before I begin. Because I can look at certain
stories of mine and know, I didn’t really know
that guy in the beginning and I’m kind of finding
him on the page. And that’s always
something I want to avoid. DANIEL RAEBURN: I
wanted to ask you about the relationship between
the two building blocks in comics, words and images. Which comes first or do they
arrive at the same time? DANIEL CLOWES: It’s always
kind of an uneasy thing, because words and images are
two kind of fighting, competing forms of thinking and notation
that don’t necessarily correspond to each other. So it’s always awkward. It’s like you’re using this
one form of symbol that’s based on a similar
form of symbols and they’re kind of trying
to mix together in a way. And so that’s why I think a
large part of just getting the lettering and everything
to look as though it’s all done by one hand makes
it somehow more holistic, just by filtering it
through the one sensibility. But there’s no set
way of working. It’s often I’ll have a
very vague image, something I might have dreamed, something
that just came to me as I was walking down the street. And 99% of the time I’ll
forget that and never think of it again. But every once in
a while, I’ll have one that I’ll think
of the next week. I’ll think of it 16
years later and realize I’ve been thinking
of that same image once every couple days
for all that time, and that’s when I know
there’s something there. The engine that will create
an actual finished work, if something is–and I
don’t like to look into why something sticks in my head. Because that’s–once
you solve that mystery, you kind of don’t
need to do the story. DANIEL RAEBURN: You
have to hang it up. DANIEL CLOWES: You have
to analyze it and kind of go into the mystery. DANIEL RAEBURN:
Yeah, I was going to mention about with the
words and the pictures, I don’t know if you
ever try to read comics to your son Charlie at
night before he goes to bed, but it never works. It’s extremely awkward when
I read comics to my kids. DANIEL CLOWES: I
always–whenever I used to read comics
to my son, I would go, well, don’t look
at this drawing. It’s terrible. Ignore the
perspective, but if you can–but to me it was
more fun to have him read to me, because he would
go, this guy’s a robot. And I’d go, no, that’s Napoleon. His visual sense was so
much more interesting than mine was in terms of having
no idea what was going on. DANIEL RAEBURN:
One of the things, another thing I noticed was
in a patient’s interview you gave recently. You said I spend a lot of
time tinkering with the words, with the text. And the text, I spent
a lot of time on it. And the text is the lie and
the drawing is the truth. I was wondering if you
could explain that. DANIEL CLOWES: Well, that
tends to–that, I think, says more about my
characters than it does as a straight up
fact about all comics. But I tend to write
characters that are somewhat delusional,
or maybe not so, but the images I try to always
make the vision of reality as much as I can. If you were writing
a novel, those would be the descriptions, where
you’re setting the scene. And the dialogue and the sort
of the interior monologue is the way the character’s
kind of dancing around the actual reality. DANIEL RAEBURN: Right. And it’s the discordance
between the two that’s where the story lies. DANIEL CLOWES: Yes, that’s
where it’s interesting because I know I certainly
have that in my own life, where I hear my own words
as I’m justifying something that I know to be untrue. You know, especially when you
have a kid you do that a lot. Of course, you have
to do your homework. And then you’re
thinking, well, why? He’s got a point. It’s completely meaningless. DANIEL RAEBURN: Right. How has your artistic
process changed since “Mr. Wonderful” outside? “Patience” is a
different kind of book. It doesn’t have as marked
stylistic variation visually as your– DANIEL CLOWES: Mr. Wonderful
was done for a magazine. It’s the only thing
I’ve ever done kind of on the installment
plan, you know. It was done for a weekly,
“New York Times Magazine.” And so I had to think in
terms of that structure, in terms of writing
cliff hangers. I was really trying to see,
could I do a daily comic strip? That was sort of
my version of that. Could I do something
that’s limited, that’s going to end after a
certain amount of episodes, and kind of make it work in
that very constricted framework. Whereas “Patience” was something
that I initially thought would be much shorter. I thought it would be
about 80 to 100 pages. And I wrote only a very, very
careful outline that kind of had all the beats
to the story, but I didn’t plan out how much space
any of these beats would take. And so as I was
working on it, I kept having these
inspirations where I’d like to make this part
bigger, and I wound up cutting out entire swaths of the
story that no longer interested me. And so it took on
a life of its own and kind of expanded
in the way it wanted to much more freely than
anything else I’ve ever done. DANIEL RAEBURN: I wanted to
ask you about those beats. One of the interesting, many
interesting things you said was that while you’re
composing a comic, I gather at the thumbnail stage
or maybe at the final pencil stage, that you leave
blank panels in there. Like you need an
empty space, you know you need some space there. And you said, and I’ll just come
back and fill that in later. And you said, as I’ve been
doing this for years and years, I’ve gotten pretty good at
guestimating how many panels I need to leave blank. I wanted to ask you about
that, because that would seem to be kind of terrifying to me. DANIEL CLOWES: Yeah, it is. Well, it can go poorly. You can find yourself like,
OK, what do I put here? In this book, I had a few of
those, a few like full pages worth of, what am I
going to put here? And you have to be clever
about it sometimes, but sometimes you have to even
introduce a whole new story to fill up those pages that then
leads you back into the story that you had
already drawn later. It’s like designing a very
complicated algebra problem. You know, I always imagine those
scenes of the professor writing on the blackboard
with a huge formula, and oh, it doesn’t balance out. And it’s really like that. You really have to
get every little thing to equal n or whatever. DANIEL RAEBURN: And not just at
the level of plot, but rhythm. I think rhythm is
something that gets talked about a lot in music. But in comics, it
seemed to me when I was looking at your
preparatory sketches and your thumbnails,
that many of them are so basic they would
just be a circle for a head and then blank dialogue balloons
with nothing actually in them. That you were really
just working– DANIEL CLOWES: I dream to one
day only do that and publish them. DANIEL RAEBURN: It looked like
you were just really working out purely the
visual rhythm first, and then you’d kind of worry
about actually filling it in with the content later. DANIEL CLOWES: It’s
kind of like that. I mean the dialogue
is, I try to keep it really loose and spontaneous. And often, I just have sort of
a sense of what they’re saying and I rule out the lines. And then when I’m lettering it,
there’s some part of my brain that’s freed up by like the hand
movement, the memory of my hand lettering, that I can tap into. It’s maybe the panic
of like, I’m lettering. This is permanent. I’m lettering what
they’re saying, that turns this part of
my brain into the sort of the perfect vessel to hear
the voices of the characters. And that’s usually
when I’m committing to whatever line of dialogue and
changing it, calling an audible as I write it. And often that’s the
best it will get, although sometimes I’ll
look back on it later and, this literally
doesn’t make any sense. I was like listening
to the radio and wrote the wrong five words. DANIEL RAEBURN: Oh,
prices plunged today. DANIEL CLOWES: Pile
up on Eisenhower. Why does he say that? DANIEL RAEBURN: I
also wanted to ask you not just about the lettering
and about the rhythm, but about just the process
of revision in general. One of the things
you’ve said in the past is that if an artist
says, I’m going to go back and revisit
one of my earlier works and revise it, you have said and
thought to yourself privately, that’s work of yours
that I won’t bother with. The first one is the right one. I wonder how you balance
that against like really extensive revision that I
see out there in the exhibit, where– DANIEL CLOWES: Well,
because those revisions are done in the heat of the battle. You know, you’re in
the world of the story. You’re revising,
with that, you’re still in the eye
of the hurricane, to mix metaphors abruptly. You know, you’re still in
that thought process that carries you through a story. So it’s not the same as putting
something away and going back and going, oh, tut, tut. This could be much more clear. Oh, what was I thinking. How trite. You know, when you rewrite
that kind of stuff, you can’t tap into
the 28-year-old brain, reptile brain, that
created that work. I can’t think of a work
of art that was redone that was ever better, except
maybe Hitchcock’s “Man Who Knew Too Much.” I like the second one better. But the first one was fine. They’re very different. DANIEL RAEBURN: Well,
I guess the analogy I would make with prose writing,
which is the only art that I have any firsthand experience
with, is the first 89% of it, everything is really fuzzy. It’s sort of like
focusing a camera. And maybe this is the
way your dialog works. Everything’s pretty fuzzy
until the last minute, when you make really minute adjustments. But they have a
huge dramatic impact in terms of how everything
comes into focus. DANIEL CLOWES: I think prose
writing is very different. Having written screenplays,
I just type up the page. I’m just like batting away
without any thought at all, and then rewriting
it 8,000 times till I’m semi-happy with it. But it’s a much more, less
pressure-filled process. You start drawing a comic, if
you draw four pages of a comic and you decide it’s going
in the wrong direction, you’ll never like,
throw those away and redo them and start over. You’ll never regain that
little jolt of inspiration that you need. It really requires
you to stay inspired. You know that’s why I try not
to draw– you look at also all these layouts and
things, I try not to ever draw anything
but the little circles in the blank balloons. And I try to actually
dras– and I’m not trying to justify the
badness of these drawings, but I try to draw badly so that
I’m not dissipating my good art techniques onto
what’s not essential. DANIEL RAEBURN: Yeah, I gather
that for you, the writing is pressure filled and
therefore almost a chore, and the drawing is
the real joyous part. DANIEL CLOWES: I always
just wanted to draw. That was my goal all along. I want to draw comics, and
when I got out of art school, I thought, I’m going
to find a writer who could write these really
interesting little stories that I could then draw. And then we’ll have a
great collaboration. And I’ll be the best
man at his wedding. I just imagined this whole–
I was actually searching for a friend, I guess. I remember asking
a few people, and I had one guy who’s actually kind
of an interesting little short story writer who was going to
NYU that I knew, and asked him to write a few stories for me. And it’s like, you know,
nobody can write comics. You know, they’re this
description heavy, long things that would just have been
really a slog to get through and he was very insistent
that I put in all the prose. And it would have
just– tons of text with a tiny little drawing. And it wasn’t exactly
what I wanted to do. So just at that point
I thought, well, I’ll just try writing my own. And then someday I’ll meet this
guy, and I have yet to do that. I’m still slogging away. But it’s it isn’t fun for me. It’s fun to come
up with the ideas and sort of do the
creative work, where you’re just filling up pages. But the actual, the mechanics
of writing are not fun for me. DANIEL RAEBURN: Do you
find that drawing is– and this is kind of tricky. This is one of those
questions that I think can only be asked in
comics, that the act of drawing is sort of part of the writing? You know like, once I know
some your character studies, you’ll have a character
study of Marshall in “Mr. Wonderful” or a
guy from “The Death-Ray” and it will be a really
detailed portrait. And it’s like a study
that you’ve done. I was just wondering
how crucial to that is getting that character’s
voice in your head and that character fixed
in your mind in a way that you can’t do when
you’re at the typewriter or just jotting down words. DANIEL CLOWES: Yeah, I mean
I’m a very visual person. So you know, I have a
sense of a character, but I need to know what
they’re going to look like. I’d be more comfortable
being like a casting director and finding a character
actor to play the guy. And I often think
of my little– I have a sort of a stable
of characters that I use. And I often think
of, like this guy’s played by the same actor
who played that guy. You know, maybe I shouldn’t
have said out loud. That seems– my little
fantasy film studio that I’m working in. DANIEL RAEBURN: Yeah. I think we should turn over
some of the mic to the crowd because there’s so
many of you here. And I’m sure you guys
have a lot of questions. Do you want choose the people? DANIEL CLOWES: No, you do it. DANIEL RAEBURN: OK. Great. Over here, the guy
in the black shirt. AUDIENCE: I have a question
about whether there’s any particular aspect of Oakland
as a city or living in Oakland that informs your work? DANIEL CLOWES: Are
you from Oakland? AUDIENCE: I live many years
there and it’s grew up in me. DANIEL CLOWES: Ah, yes. Well, I grew up blocks
from this very space that we’re in Hyde Park. So certainly when
I dream at night, I still see Blackstone
and Dorchester. But I’ve lived in
Oakland for 23 years, and I now feel
comfortable saying, like, I’m in Californian. Because all Californians
are from somewhere else. And they all move as
far away from where they’re from as possible. And so I feel very comfortable
being a Californian. Oakland really reminds
me a lot about a lot of Chicago in a weird way. It’s kind of a microcosmic
of version of Chicago. It’s got the lake in the
middle and the buildings have a similar feel to me. So it’s I felt immediately
comfortable there. DANIEL RAEBURN: It’s the
second city syndrome. DANIEL CLOWES: Yeah,
But Oakland is now very- it’s becoming really
liked gentrified and expensive and very different from what it
was when I first moved there. It’s all the tech guys
are despoiling it. DANIEL RAEBURN: Who
else had her hand up? Ryder. AUDIENCE: I was
wondering if you could speak a bit more
about how you work on the pacing with your comics. Because in some way, Ghost
World was a bit more kind of, what an editor
would say, cuts only. Like it’s very regimented,
whereas other stuff is more sort of open, and
how you work that out. DANIEL CLOWES: You know,
it sort of a judgment call when you begin
a story, you think, do I need to hear
the character’s voice inside his own head or
do I need to– can I do it all through dialogue? Ghost World is completely
through dialogue. There’s no descriptions. You don’t over ear inside
the character’s heads. Something like Mr.
Wonderful was all about hearing the voice
the voice of the character in his head kind of crushing all
that appears in the real world. His voice is kind
of too loud for him to hear actual
voices in the world. So you have to think of those
things, kind of going into it. But then it’s getting the
rhythms is really just a matter of playing around with it. You know, I don’t know how to
do it other than to just keep trying, trial and
error, until it feels like it’s like
it’s moving along, and there’s nothing extra. You know, I’m always trying
to get rid of anything I don’t have to draw. That’s one of the
beauties of comics is that you’re making
work for yourself if you add extra stuff. So it’s great to have
that thinking, oh, I don’t have to draw that
train in perspective with the Apaches
throwing fire bombs at it or whatever complicated
thing that may come your way. DANIEL RAEBURN: Over here. Gotta pick this side some time. AUDIENCE: It seems like
there’s crime stories speckled in a lot of your comics. And thank you. And I was just curious,
is there anything that you’re reading
now or watching or listening to that
involves like crime drama but you’re into? Or are you one of those, I
don’t do anything at home, I just draw guy. [LAUGHING] DANIEL CLOWES: I can’t think
of it the anything in the crime genre. I mean, I kind of
like that genre, but it’s very rare that
anything like kind of makes the cut, where I feel like
I need to do like go see that. The last thing I
remember is that HBO show about Robert Durst, The
Jinx, which was pretty great. He really felt like
one of my characters. DANIEL RAEBURN: It’s true. He did. Actually, I wanted to
ask you about that David Goodis, the crime writer. DANIEL CLOWES: Yeah. DANIEL RAEBURN: You mentioned
him as a huge influence and I could never figure that
out until I read “Patience.” And I thought, oh, this
is really your most sort of David Goodis like work. DANIEL CLOWES: In a way
it’s more, I like him. There’s a biography
of David Goodis written in French that
somebody finally translated. And he was just such an oddball. He was a guy who, would
buy the worst clothes, like buy clothes at like
a thrift store for $0.50 in the ’50s. And then you would go to is a
rich Hollywood friend’s house and cut out the like
Yves Saint Laurent tag and sew it inside his jacket. Just filled with
stuff like that. He was just an impossible
weirdo, who lived with his mom. And was a raging
alcoholic and was as far from a hard
boiled detective type as you could possibly be. But I love his work because
it’s none of it makes any sense. All the stories are
nonsensical dreams. They’re just crazy fever dreams. And the fact that anybody
read those is amazing to me. DANIEL RAEBURN: With the
huge streak of romanticism. DANIEL CLOWES: Yeah, oh yeah. And humiliation and masochism. You know, the
characters are really humiliated deeply in
those books in a way that you can’t help but love. DANIEL RAEBURN: Back there. AUDIENCE: It was
interesting for me hear you say you
don’t write extra, of you don’t draw extra things. Because part of what I was
thinking as I was coming over here is how you taught me
how to look at Chicago, particularly in the water
towers and the alleys and the overhead lines,
and sort of all that extra within the early drawings. I wonder if you could just
talk a little bit about Chicago architecture, and
how you see our city. DANIEL CLOWES: Well, it’s
just part of my makeup. I grew up here and as I say,
when I wake up in the morning, I still think I’m in
ninth grade and I have to walk down Woodlawn Avenue. It’s all that stuff. In California, we don’t
have those water towers. And those are such– I
never understood, like, what are those for? I always thought they were
sort of like the reserve water when the civilization crumbles. Never quite figured
like, oh, that’s the actual water
for that building. It just seemed like,
would it be on the roof in a little you know,
shack, wood shack, it was just such
a mystery to me. So it’s whenever
cartoonists– like, there’s a cartoonist Steve Ditko
would always should slavishly draw those water towers. And I’m sure it’s because
he had an office in New York and he looked out
the window and that’s all we saw was those things. But there’s such a
beauty to that, to me. They don’t put them
on new buildings. DANIEL RAEBURN: Other
questions, Yeah, right here. AUDIENCE: Your colors
always stand out a lot from many other comic books. I was just wondering what
inspired your color schemes? DANIEL CLOWES: You
know, it’s the way I imagine old comics looked. But it isn’t really. A lot of my comics,
I have it in my head, there’s a certain way certain
artists worked, looked, or certain– there’s
schools of comics that drew in a certain way
or colored in a certain way. And then I’ll look
for inspiration, and look for something
to copy from basically. I’ll look through all my comics. I can’t find it anywhere. So I have to make it up. And so it’s like my brain has
created this like alternative history of comics
that has those colors. And I have this very kind
of particular palette I’ve made up over the
years, kind of building up different colors. And so I kind of know how
they all will print and look. So I’m now just
getting to the point where I feel like I
can use it effectively. DANIEL RAEBURN: Was
there a long learning curve for you with color? Because I do remember some of
the early issues of “Eightball,” if you ever tempted to go
back and revise “Eightball,” it would’ve been the color. DANIEL CLOWES: Well, in the
early issues of “Eightball,” we didn’t those
were pre digital, and I wanted the
flat kind of color. And the way they used
to do those old comics with the flat color, is
you did like a watercolor of just the basic, like
blue, red, pink on the page. And then you wrote in
these little serial numbers that would print the
color you wanted. And you had this little
chart that had maybe 30 colors on it, very limited. And so that’s how
I was doing those. And then it was just
a complete crapshoot as to how would come out. I should have been mad at how
terrible lot of those came out, but it was such a
force of nature, just, you’re sending it off and
some old lady in Connecticut is like filling in the colors
in some arcane process I can’t even comprehend. And you’d get the printed
copy and you’re, oh, my god, you know the purple
is like, eye melting. That’s what P3 is. Don’t use that one next time. And now I can mix it up to the
tiniest percentage in Photoshop and get it exactly right. DANIEL RAEBURN: How long did
it take you to color “Patience”? DANIEL CLOWES: It took me
a full year of living hell. You know, I say the
writing, I don’t enjoy– the writing is fine. I can do the writing. But the coloring is, yeah,
eight hours a day of like, click, click, like staring at
a screen, where every eyeball, of course, I’m obsessive. So everything, you know,
if you look in the book, there’s a little head, know
that that eyeball is colored in. You can’t see it. Not only is it colored in, but
it has a little white highlight in the eyeball, because I
figure, you never know, it’ll get blown up. In the future when they
first look at them on walls, I’ll be happy I did that. DANIEL RAEBURN: Wow. DANIEL CLOWES: And, so,
yeah, it was a year, and at the end of the year,
I was literally having dreams in Photoshop, where
I was walking around in a world of like,
two dimensional, you know like you see
a bad like rock a video from the ’90s, where you guys
in the world of an animated cartoon. And I felt like I
had lived the story, like I had been in the
story with the characters. And now I was out of it. So in that way, it
was sort of good. I felt like I was done. DANIEL RAEBURN: Yeah,
I wanted to ask you why you would put yourself
through that hell. It seems like if there were one
job you could outsource to John Kuramoto or, may he rest in
peace, Alvin Buenaventura, it could’ve been the
coloring, but you felt like it was necessary? DANIEL CLOWES: There is enough,
like, drawing involved in it where you have to make
shapes and things that I just could not. I mean, once like
20 years ago, I let my wife like black
in the background on something, just solid black. And she wanted– I was
like, go ahead and do it. And I still to this day,
look at that and go, that’s– I shouldn’t
have that panel in there. So that’s, telling you
what your dealing with. DANIEL RAEBURN: OK. So maybe your answer
to my earlier question about the integrity of the
page is just complete control. DANIEL CLOWES: You’re
completely out of your mind. Yeah. Because where else in the world
do you have complete control? And then of course, I send
it off to some printer, where they make the, oops, we’ve
jacked up the yellow, too bad. Anything can happen. DANIEL RAEBURN: Who else
had a hand up on this side? Yeah, there in the blazer. You. AUDIENCE: Thank you. I just want to say thank you
very much for choosing to have your exhibit at the MCA. I was wondering
if you could talk about how that
came to be and just the process of who came
to who and deciding what to include in it. DANIEL CLOWES: It had
nothing to do with me. I will tell you that. It was all the work of a
woman, Susan Miller, who is somewhere there
and Lynn Warren, who was the curator of
the show at the MCA and they made it
happen behind my back. And God bless them for it. DANIEL RAEBURN: Over here. AUDIENCE: So growing up
here in Hyde Park, were you and Archie and
Veronica kind of guy? Were you DC? Were you are Marvel? Or more Tales of the Unexpected? DANIEL CLOWES: What does that
have to do with Hyde Park? [INTERPOSING VOICES] DANIEL CLOWES: I was everything. I was as a Catholic
in my tastes, just because when
I was a kid, you could buy every single comic
they came out in the month if you really wanted to. I don’t think I ever
actually did that. But if I’d had the
money, I would have. I liked them all. I remember realizing, when
I was like 18, that like, I shouldn’t be
reading “Richie Rich.” Like, that’s really
embarrassing. I’m reading like Robert
Crumb and Richie Rich. DANIEL RAEBURN: Hyde Park
would be Classics Illustrated. DANIEL CLOWES: Hyde Park
would be “Classics Illustrated,” like the most dull version
of “The Man in the Iron Mask,” “Brideshead Revisited.” “Tess of the D’Ubervilles.” DANIEL RAEBURN: There
was another hand. I’m supposed to
choose on this side. But you, back there, yes. AUDIENCE: Yes. I’m curious if your
work that’s been adapted to the screen, if you feel like
it accurately sort of captured your intention from the written
page or if anything gets lost in translation or if it’s
like better than you expected? DANIEL CLOWES: It’s
all of those things. It’s just such a
different thing. Like the only way I
can, as a control freak, I sort of get a
kick out of working in a medium that is the
worst for control freaks. You can be the most
well-respected, successful auteur of film and
you’re still having to get 500 other people
to share their vision and do the makeup and the hair. You can’t do it unless you’re
doing like a little film on animated paper in your room. You cannot have full control. So I sort of like having that
thing where I write my script, and then I turn it over, and
then anything can happen. You know, it’s sort of
an exciting feeling. Can go either way. DANIEL RAEBURN: I’m always
reminded of that anecdote about the Nabokov. Kubrick approached
him and said, I want to make a
film our of “Lolita,” and he said, certainly,
I will write the script. And he gave him the script. DANIEL CLOWES: He
wrote 380 page script. And scripts are supposed
to be 100 pages. DANIEL RAEBURN: So it would
have been about an eight or nine hour film, DANIEL CLOWES: It would
have been a miniseries. DANIEL RAEBURN: Kubrick
said, thank you very much. And he went and made the film. DANIEL CLOWES: He didn’t
use a line of dialogue. But then the final film was
screenplay by Vladimir Nabokov. DANIEL RAEBURN: And
I heard the anecdote that Nabokov and his
wife went to the film, and for the first half
hour, he was outraged, but by the end he realized,
this is perfectly fine. DANIEL CLOWES: They actually
did a really good job. DANIEL RAEBURN: This has
nothing to do with me really. And so this sounds like that’s
happened with you a little bit. DANIEL CLOWES: Well, in
this current film, “Wilson,” I wrote the screenplay
and met the director and I really like him a
lot and I liked the cast. And I got to see a day or
two of shooting, which all looked fantastic, I must say. And then I look forward
to going to the premier and seeing the film
and seeing– I want to have that same experience. Because I never get to
see the films, you know. I’ve seen them so many
thousands of times by the time they’re all
done that it means nothing. So I really want to be able
to see if I can see the film, you know? DANIEL RAEBURN: OK
who else on this side? There were some
hands back there. DANIEL CLOWES: They fell asleep. DANIEL RAEBURN: What’s next? DANIEL CLOWES: What’s next? DANIEL RAEBURN: What’s
next, because “Patience” to me was, you’ve always,
as the gentleman here pointed out, regarding
your earlier comment about how comics forces
you to be a minimalist, essentially, because you
have to draw everything. It so laborious. You can’t create this big kind
of “War and Peace” Russian battle scene the way Tolstoy could
without having to draw it, And that forces you
assert minimalism. DANIEL CLOWES: It forces
think of doing something else. DANIEL RAEBURN:
Yeah, you just do a little chamber piece
instead of everything’s in a coffee shop or a kitchen. But with Patience, you’ve
always been like a taker outer. And I think that was
the arc in your work. Certainly up through
Wilson, where you really stripped everything down. DANIEL CLOWES: Yeah, “Wilson”
is like boiled 40 times to get everything, I mean I had
hundreds of pages of “Wilson.” DANIEL RAEBURN:
And it’s all bone. DANIEL CLOWES: I
wanted you to be able to get the story without a
single moment of what they call shoe leather, which is just a
character getting from A to B or explaining why
something happened. I just wanted– if I didn’t have
a good one page for that thing, you just have to surmise
it from what happens next. And it worked. That by extracting
everything, it worked. But it was also,
it was extremely difficult to do that book. And I wanted a totally
different experience. DANIEL RAEBURN: So now
you’re a putter inner. My friend Tom has this theory
that artists are either putter inners or taker outers. And it seems like you’ve
gone with “Patience,” it’s really expansive and rich. DANIEL CLOWES: The taker outer
in me did come in at the end and cut out a bunch
of stuff and there were whole big
chunks to that story that I was planning to
do that all of a sudden didn’t seem necessary
once I got there. DANIEL RAEBURN: Is it
really excruciating for you to cut that
part out or have you not gotten to the point
where you’ve actually drawn it? DANIEL CLOWES: Even if I’ve
drawn it, if I can cut it out, I love to cut things out. I love that feeling. Even if I’ve wasted
months of my life, I love that DANIEL RAEBURN: How do
you get to that stage? Because I’m always– I
teach creative writing. I’m always trying to teach my
students the joy of cutting. I tell them everything
can be cut by 50% and it’s automatically improved. And they don’t believe me
because they’re so in love with all they know. I spent a whole weekend
working on that paragraph. DANIEL CLOWES: This represents
three hours of work. DANIEL RAEBURN: And oftentimes
what they’re coming out is actually good. It’s a good set
piece in of itself but it’s not serving the story. DANIEL CLOWES: To
me, I just always know that if I feel like
I should cut something, it’s going to make the
story so much better. And there’s nothing
I want more than for there to be some set piece
that doesn’t help anything. I mean to me the hardest thing
to cut, and I’ve done this, is when the whole
idea for a story is some image, some
bolt of inspiration, and you’re carrying
that flame all the way through the process. And then you get to the end
and you realize like, yeah, that’s actually not what
it’s about at all anymore. And you have to get rid of that. That feels like a
failure to some degree. Because that’s the thing you
were– that little moment you had sort of a loan that
you’re trying to transmit to the reader is then lost. But you can’t keep it and if
it doesn’t relate to the story anymore. DANIEL RAEBURN:
When that happens– I guess my question is how do
you know when something’s done? Because when I’m
writing a long book, I know it’s done when I’ve
found the ending that I never expected. That’s how I know that
it’s going to surprise the reader if I was surprised. Yeah, but it also has to feel
inevitable and surprising at the same time. And I think that’s the paradox. DANIEL CLOWES: I have to write,
knowing I have a resting place. You know, this is
where it’s going to– this is where the final
showdown will take place and something will
come out of that. But I can’t know what it is. I can’t know the final verdict. You know. I, have to know, the
jury’s still out. What’s it going to be? And then, I have to live through
the story with the characters. And that’s sort of the
beauty of doing a comic. You could write a full
novel in a short enough time that you wouldn’t
have sort of absorbed the daily trials
of the character. But doing a comic is
so slow and methodical, that by the time you’re
done, you really have kind of lived it on a day to day basis. And you will know
what the ending is. And that’s that certainly
how this book was. I did not know those
last five pages, where it was going to go. DANIEL RAEBURN: OK. In “Patience”? DANIEL CLOWES: Yeah. DANIEL RAEBURN: Yeah I wanted
to ask you about the ending without giving it away,
because it’s definitely a book that can be
spoiled if you know what happens in the last few pages. DANIEL CLOWES: When
I did the book, I wanted nobody to
know anything about it. I wasn’t thinking like, oh
yes, we live in the world where that could never happen. But I wanted people to,
you know, pick up the book. What’s this? I’ve never heard of this? And read the first 10
pages and think, oh, it’s sort of a domestic drama,
and then all of a sudden it becomes something
else, and then it becomes another thing
and then another thing. And I wanted there to
be a few readers that had that experience. But of course, every
review basically tells 80% of the story. It would be like if
it was like well, Janet Lee gets killed by
Norman Bates in the shower and then it turns
out it’s his mother. He thinks he’s his mother, but
the rest of the story is great. Wait till you see
how it turns out. DANIEL RAEBURN: OK, Yeah. There you are,
question in the back, AUDIENCE: I was wondering if you
could talk a little about what inspired you and
influenced you when you were writing “Velvet Glove”? Because I think
every– it’s so funny. It’s so dark. It’s so surreal. The artwork is so inspired. I don’t know. DANIEL CLOWES: Well, that was
an example of just writing it a page or two ahead
as I was working, with no idea where it was going. I didn’t even know it was
going to be a two part story. I thought, after I
finished the first part, maybe I’ll do a second part. And then maybe I’ll do a third. And then it’s just getting
further and further into this super
complicated narrative that feels like it’s all
moving toward something, but, man, I had to immerse
myself in it so deeply, to kind of claw my
way out of that one. And whenever I
look back on it, I think like, there is not
a chance in the world that anybody could
know what I was trying to do with some of this stuff. It was so– anything that felt
like a painful, uncomfortable, deeply personal,
the kind of thing that you would
normally want to avoid, I thought I’m going to
go deep in that direction and see where it winds up. So that was that. DANIEL RAEBURN: Was
that a valuable lesson? I mean, what did
you learn from that? DANIEL CLOWES: You know,
was proud of myself for kind of tiptoeing
through the paint that I had painted around
myself in that corner. But it wasn’t a deeply
satisfying feeling. I felt like I was
trying to push up against the line of
what is completely personal that no one
could understand, and what is weirdly
like universal in a way you wouldn’t expect. And I was right on that line
a lot of it, and a lot of it crossed over and people
really responded to that. But a lot of it
they didn’t at all. And that was sort of the part I
wished everybody responded to. is it was sort of half
great and half frustrating. DANIEL RAEBURN: Yeah, over
here in the blue shirt. AUDIENCE: Have
you’re works received international
distribution and if so, what was the reaction abroad? DANIEL CLOWES: Yeah. I think “Ghost World” is
in 19 or 20 languages at this point and the new
book I think is 12 or 13. But I can’t read any
of the other language. So I don’t know what
the reviews say. I have a friend who’s
an Italian scholar and speaks fluent Italian. And I keep sending her
the Italian reviews. And I can tell, she’ll tell me
all about it when they’re good. And then she’ll like, oh,
that one, yeah, it was fine. So I think it’s probably just
as it is everywhere else. It’s very hard to tell. DANIEL RAEBURN: How
does the comic’s culture in other countries
differ, like in Europe, for example, where comics
are a more accepted art form? Until recently, how
is it different? DANIEL CLOWES: I don’t know. I’m not that interested in it. Like, I like the
comics, but I’m not interested in the individual
culture of each country. There’s something deeply boring
about when you go over there and they tell you the
history, and they always had these weird characters
that mean nothing to anybody outside
of their country. In Holland, they have these
characters, Suske and Wiske, and they’re on everything. And it’s just like,
they mean nothing to me. DANIEL RAEBURN: Like
their Mickey Mouse. DANIEL CLOWES: They’re
like Flemish, you know, children or something. But every country has that. And that’s all–and of
course, we have that too. But I grew up with it so
it’s more interesting. DANIEL RAEBURN: To go back
to what you and I and Ivan were talking about before
the show here started, in the 1990s comics were an
accepted art form in Europe, and I remember a
mutual friend of ours, Chris Ware said, yes, that’s
why they’re so boring. DANIEL CLOWES:
That mean be true. Yeah. DANIEL RAEBURN: Because comics
were so disreputable here, there was a real
advantage to that. DANIEL CLOWES: A lot of
weirdos and degenerates and people who had no other
source of potential income would do that. DANIEL RAEBURN: Right. DANIEL CLOWES: When
I was an art school, all the teachers said, a lot
of guys that draw comics, they’re really talented,
but they’re all alcoholics, because why would you do that? Because the money was–
when you look back at the money people made,
even really successful guys doing comics, it was just
insane, like $5 a page. DANIEL RAEBURN: And they had
to live in New York City. DANIEL CLOWES: Right. Where you literally,
like, to make a living you’d have to draw eight
pages a day or something. I mean, just the horror of that. DANIEL RAEBURN: Are you
able to– has your process sped up or slowed down at all
as you’ve matured and gained the sort of wisdom
you need to– this is, how many books
have you done now, 10? DANIEL CLOWES: A
lot, more than that. DANIEL RAEBURN: I remember
when I interviewed you in 1997, you said everything is
taking longer and longer. DANIEL CLOWES: Is that
when [INAUDIBLE] came out. I was trying to remember. DANIEL RAEBURN:
Yeah, it was right before “Ghost World” was finished, DANIEL CLOWES: Dan interviewed
me, what, 20 years ago for his magazine, The Imp. DANIEL RAEBURN: And you
were writing the “Ghost World” screenplay. DANIEL CLOWES: Yeah, OK. Yeah, everything does
take longer and longer. And I can’t quite explain it. Because I do a lot more
about what I’m doing, and I know a lot
about what not to do, like, don’t go down this road. That’s not going to work. But somehow it’s more
and more– I’m always trying to add another
element to every book, like another thing I’m trying
to master or something. So that’s it’s never quick. I always thought
when you get older, you just draw in like a
Sharpie and it looks great, draw in typing paper. You’re on the phone, not
even paying attention. DANIEL RAEBURN: Because
your work, it looks faster. I mean, not faster, but it does
look more fluid and fluent. DANIEL CLOWES: It’s fake. It’s fake faster DANIEL RAEBURN: I
mean, when I look at the early issues
of “Eightball,” there’s an incredible
amount of detail. DANIEL CLOWES: Well,
the early “Eightballs,” I was compensating for not
being able to draw it very well. And so I knew the
inking techniques and I knew like, if you
put this pattern here, it kind of hides the fact
that the space doesn’t make any logical sense,
things like that. And I was so tense,
drawing those comics. I was just desperately
trying to get the line. And you look at those early,
you feel the hand, just like a white knuckled
hand, inking those lines. And I would use like a circle
template to draw the lines. And now, it’s much
more like I know how to do it much more loosely. But the planning and
all the under drawing is much more complicated. And it’s all kind
of a fake thing to make it look looser
than it really is. I want you to feel, reading
it, not constricted in the way that those really comics
make me feel anyway, DANIEL RAEBURN: Yeah, DANIEL RAEBURN: So
basically, what I’m hearing is that it takes
longer to achieve– I don’t want to use
the word simplicity, but there is more of a
purity to the drawing, and to make it look less labored
over actually takes longer. DANIEL CLOWES: Well,
when a drawing is not designed as well as it should
be, it looks busier than it is. You see the detail. It just looks like
wallpaper at certain points. And if the designs
are all worked out and everything’s kind of in
the right place in the panel, your eye has an ease in
and out of the panel that gives it a look of simplicity. I mean, if you compare a
panel from the new book and from an old
comic, and you go, there’s the same amount of
bricks on the building and all that, but it has sort
of a design to it that makes it less,
so your eye just gets trapped in the little
spider web of noodling. DANIEL RAEBURN: I see. OK, so it’s more about it’s
the compositional aspect of you have to really
think that through. And what to leave out, so that
the eye can move in and out and not notice it. My wife does props and
wardrobe for film and she said, I know I’ve done my
job when nobody notices the props and the wardrobe. DANIEL CLOWES: Right. It’s like music in a movie. You know, if somebody comments
on it, then you’re showing off. DANIEL RAEBURN: Yeah, back here. AUDIENCE: I was curious
about your choice of titles for your books. Because I was also really
interested to see the different designs that you had
sort of experimented with for the lettering
on the title of “Death-Ray” and for “Mr. Wonderful.” And it was really interesting
to see how different those were actually. So I was curious
about how you know when you’ve picked the
right style for a title and also when you’ve picked
the right title for a work. DANIEL CLOWES: The title,
is a mysterious thing. And I have a superstition that
if you have a title right away, like a good title, that
the book will be good. And if I can’t come
up with a title, I should just not do it somehow. Like somehow, I need that
title to get me through a book. And I’m always terrified that
somebody else will come out with a movie with that
title or something else. And as far as the
lettering goes, you know, it’s like casting an
actor to play a part. The lettering has to match
what you’re going for. Are you trying to
radiate– often I’m trying to express
like an insincerity, like, sort of an over the
top, you know, like, title. It’s boom! And that the story
maybe doesn’t live up to the heroic promise of the
title or sometimes it does. So it’s a very
complicated process. That’s probably my
favorite thing to do, are drawing those
logos and doing that kind of big, what they
call display lettering. I should have just
been a sign painter. [LAUGHING] AUDIENCE: I really enjoy
your New Yorker covers, but doesn’t seem like
you’ve done any recently. Maybe I just haven’t seen– DANIEL CLOWES: I did
one about a month ago. But, yeah, I hadn’t
done any in a long time. I enjoy doing them,
but it’s really hard to think of a “New Yorker”
cover, because it’s not exactly a joke. Like if it was actually
funny, if you’re coming up with something that’s,
haha, that’s funny, I could do that pretty easily. But you can’t really be funny. It’s not funny. It’s supposed to make you
look at the image, pause for a second, and
go, uh, huh, ah. I’ll see what’s in the magazine. It’s a very specific beat
that they’re looking for. And it’s not– if I were
in control of things, it wouldn’t necessarily
be that way. But that so that’s how
the magazine works. And then certainly they
hire a few guys who can paint a bunch of flowers. And I think, why can’t
I do the flowers? I have to have some clever
joke that makes you go, hm, instead of just the comedy
and drama, tragedy masks or whatever. So yeah, I always
know it’s going to be like a month
of my life trying to come up with the idea. So that’s why I don’t
do them very often. DANIEL RAEBURN: If I can
get in one more question. I just want– we have a
couple of young men here who want to be cartoonists
when they grow up and women, but a bit of a couple of guys
I know are in the back there. And I was wondering if you
have any advice for aspiring cartoonists. Yeah. DANIEL CLOWES: I feel
like I don’t anymore. Because my words of
advice are obsolete. You could maybe
apply them, but I used to always tell
everybody, just do comics. Do short, don’t do
anything ambitious, long. Keep it short when
you’re starting out. Do a little mimeographed,
xeroxed zine and then give it out to people. And when you have
that, somebody has that, if somebody
gives me anything, I will always read it. And it’s always you
can see something, your friends will respond to it. If nobody says anything you
should probably try again. Try something else. But you know, that that’s
the most valuable way. But I think now
that whole process is done like on Tumblr
and other visual website kind of social media things. And people get like
immediate response and it’s a whole
different world in terms of figuring out if you’re
on the right track or not. And there are
communities so vast that I couldn’t even begin
to even know what they are and where they are. There’s all kinds of little sets
in the comic world that did not exist when I was starting out. DANIEL RAEBURN: It must
be a relief in a way to be free of that
sort, to sort of realize I am now officially out of touch
with what’s going on in comics. DANIEL CLOWES: I mean, I
want to know everything. I want to know
interesting young artists and so I have to rely on people
to tell me about– sometimes I find them on my own. But usually, it’s
like somebody’s like, you’ve got to look at this. DANIEL RAEBURN: You
need somebody else to comb the internet. DANIEL CLOWES: I need
like a gatekeeper to pass along information
or at least a young person. I’m kind of waiting. My son’s 11, and I’m hoping
by the time he’s like 14, he’ll be able to like, you know,
here’s where the cool kids are. DANIEL RAEBURN: Do we have
time for any more questions? It’s 6:30? DANIEL CLOWES:
I read any fiction? Are you asking, have
I read any fiction? Oh have I ever thought
of writing fiction? AUDIENCE: Well,
two part question. DANIEL CLOWES: Yeah I do
read a lot of fiction, yeah. Are you asking have I come
across anything that I would want to draw
in comic form, I see. I like that idea. I like that idea. AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] DANIEL CLOWES: Yes. Yeah. AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] DANIEL CLOWES:
Yeah, that would be the kind of thing,
something that had very little description
and a lot of dialogue. Because for fiction that’s
heavily based on description, that’s usually what is
the interesting part of it is the way they handle
that description. And then for me
to just draw that, then it sort of loses what
that work of fiction has. So I’ve actually thought
about writing my own fiction. And I’ve thought about
it, and when I sit down to describe the
character’s room, I find I could just
draw a picture of it. And I always think, well,
it would be so much better to draw a picture of it,
because if somebody describes the character’s room, they’re
not going to say, like, well, the windows are double hung
with the latch on the side and all kinds of things
that I’m actually going to draw that
you will then know, unless you’re like [INAUDIBLE]
or one of those guys who describes every, you know,
the paint peeling in the room. AUDIENCE: In the book
“Modern Cartoonists”– DANIEL CLOWES: There’s
a disembodied voice. DANIEL RAEBURN:
It’s embodied now. In “Modern Cartoonist,” it goes
through like “Mr. Wonderful” and “Ice Haven” and “Wilson”
and talks about it how you use the medium itself
to sort of show what– you use the stories to show what is
strong about comics as opposed to prose or film. And I’m wondering
if that is something you’re doing intentionally
or if it’s just a byproduct of
drawing the comics. DANIEL CLOWES: Well,
certainly I want my comics to be kind of pure comics. You know, I don’t want them
to be illustrated texts or airplane safety diagrams. I want them to be to– my
goal is to create comics that when you’re reading them,
you kind of forget that you’re turning pages and
you’re in that world and you’re a little
miniature guy walking around in a 2D world. And then you get
to the end of it, and you go, oh, wait, I
turned all those pages. And that’s the goal. And if you’re
really conscious of, oh, you know, this guy
lettered this panel and did all that
kind of extra stuff, then that’s not what
I set out to do. I know if that
answers your question. DANIEL RAEBURN: One
question I wanted to ask you was a follow
up question to something you had said in a recent
“Patience” interview, you told a crowd, I’m rarely
moved by comics, oddly enough, I don’t think I’ve
ever cried at a comic. I don’t think I’ve ever had
that kind of emotional response to a comic. I thought that was
really interesting coming from a cartoonist. I was wondering what you think
the reasoning behind that is. DANIEL CLOWES: I mean, it’s
such a demystified process. It’s very hard. I’ve certainly been moved. But not in the way I have
by fiction or even a TV commercial. I’ve cried at TV commercials. DANIEL RAEBURN: How
did they do that? DANIEL CLOWES: Yeah
when in 10 seconds, oh, the dog is getting– maybe
I’m reading the wrong comics. I’m not reading
manipulative you know, tear jerker kind of comics. But they’re moving on
a very different level, it’s a dialogue with
the person drawing it. It’s not the same
thing somehow for me. DANIEL RAEBURN: Do
you think it’s just– is it a structural thing
with comics themselves or is it just because– like,
I have friends who make movies and they are now is
capable of enjoying films. DANIEL CLOWES: I
think it’s the latter. No, I think it’s the latter. I can’t quite distance myself
from it, or from thinking about the person creating it. There’s actually a comic I
read a few years ago where, it was a very
thick comic and I’d learned the artist to
draw on the entire thing like on an iPad using a
little like [INAUDIBLE] pen. And the thought of
that, like the thought of creating this huge brick
of a comic doing that, I actually almost did cry. Because as a cartoonist that
felt so deeply tragic in a way, because at least I
have the joy of like, the pages are piling up. I have this paper. I have the museum showing. But the thought like,
here it is, iPad, oops, I wiped it clean. I don’t know. It just seemed like finding
out like all other humans that you’ve never seen in your
life are actually just exist in cyberspace and there are no
flesh and blood or something. It just felt uncanny in an
unsatisfying way or something. Are we going to stay
up here all day? Is this up to you? DANIEL RAEBURN: We’re
in for the long haul. DANIEL CLOWES: You’re
going to pull a marathon? DANIEL RAEBURN: I think
we should wrap up then. DANIEL CLOWES: All right. [APPLAUSE]

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