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Review: Hillary L. Chute’s Outside the Box: Interviews with Contemporary Cartoonists

This is a satisfying survey of the artists who’re still actively turning the graphic novel into a new kind of literature.

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Review: Hillary L. Chute’s Outside the Box: Interviews with Contemporary Cartoonists

Almost eight years ago now, Yale University Press released a thick, glossy book by Todd Hignite called In the Studio: Visits with Contemporary Cartoonists. It was a collection of interviews with indie cartoonists, among them Robert Crumb, Art Spiegelman, and Chris Ware. The book not only reproduced, in its almost 500 full-color illustrations, examples of the work of the artists being interviewed, but also reproduced the comics they read and loved and studied and borrowed from while developing their own way of drawing and of telling stories.

Last month, the University of Chicago Press released a book by Hillary L. Chute called Outside the Box: Interviews with Contemporary Cartoonists. While it doesn’t have as many lush, dramatic reproductions of comics new and old as Hignite’s book has, it’s nevertheless a satisfying survey of the artists who have turned and are still actively turning the graphic novel into a new kind of literature—and in so doing are now being stamped with the approval of academia and its elite university presses.

Chute’s book contains 11 interviews and spans the range of the comic medium’s creativity, from the artists whose work is fully fictional (Ware, Daniel Clowes, Charles Burns, and Adrian Tomine), to work that’s closer to memoir and essay (Lynda Barry, Alison Bechdel, and Spiegelman), to new forms of political journalism (Joe Sacco and Phoebe Gloeckner), to theory and aesthetics (Scott McCloud). Chute also interviews two women who were at the helm of the most important underground comics magazines of the 1980s: Aline Kominsky-Crumb, who co-edited Weirdo with her husband Robert Crumb, and Françoise Mouly, who co-edited Raw with her husband Art Spiegelman, and who today is the art director of The New Yorker.

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Chute is a minimal presence in the interviews and gets her subjects to talk about how they got into comics, how they got their breaks as professionals, and what their stylistic and storytelling preferences are. The conversations are cross-cut with full-page excerpts from the cartoonists’ work, allowing you, while reading, to take a detour into a page from a graphic novel, then return to the interview and keep on going. In Chute’s interview with Ware, there’s a two-page spread of how a single page of his comics grows from fluffy sketches with a non-photo blue pencil, to then having black ink applied and all the details sharpened and the text written out, to then, finally, having color applied digitally and, as it were, all the scaffolding taken down and cleaned away. Those two pages alone can teach you more about how professional creativity works—about what it takes to go from a vague notion of a scene in a story to actually having that scene become polished and sharp and legitimately, nicely, beautifully finished—than a semester of art classes or creative writing workshops.

If there’s something missing in Outside the Box, it’s the acknowledgment of cartoonists outside the U.S. and the English-speaking world who are also creating the kind of dense and confrontational and artful comics as the people Chute interviews here—cartoonists in Canada like Seth and Chester Brown, or in Europe like Joost Swarte and Ulli Lust, or in South Africa like Anton Kannemeyer and Conrad Botes. It may be the case that New York, Chicago, L.A., and the Bay Area are where the majority of the people in this book either currently live or got going in their career, and yet it’s just plain old provincial to assert that it’s only in America that worthwhile work is being done today in indie comics.

Aside from that, how refreshing it is to listen to these cartoonists talk about a branch of the culture here in America that isn’t plagued by feelings of decay, repetition, malaise, or despair. Yes, it’s a little unnerving that indie comics are being swept up into the machine of academic scholarship, as if soon enough they’ll become ossified and frozen and just another object for observation, but that hasn’t happened quite yet, and these interviews are as good a reminder as any that, at least for the world of alternative comics, the blood is flowing and the people believe.

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Hillary L. Chute’s Outside the Box: Interviews with Contemporary Cartoonists is available now from University of Chicago Press; to purchase it, click here.

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Watch: The Long-Awaited Deadwood Movie Gets Teaser Trailer and Premiere Date

Welcome to fucking Deadwood!

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Deadwood
Photo: HBO

At long last, we’re finally going to see more of Deadwood. Very soon after the HBO series’s cancellation in 2006, creator David Milch announced that he agreed to produce a pair of two-hour films to tie up the loose ends left after the third season. It’s been a long road since, and after many false starts over the years, production on one standalone film started in fall 2018. And today we have a glorious teaser for the film, which releases on HBO on May 31. Below is the official description of the film:

The Deadwood film follows the indelible characters of the series, who are reunited after ten years to celebrate South Dakota’s statehood. Former rivalries are reignited, alliances are tested and old wounds are reopened, as all are left to navigate the inevitable changes that modernity and time have wrought.

And below is the teaser trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tAcftIUE6MQ

Deadwood: The Movie airs on HBO on May 31.

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Watch: Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Gets Teaser Trailer

When it rains, it pours.

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Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Photo: Columbia Pictures

When it rains, it pours. Four days after Quentin Tarantino once more laid into John Ford in a piece written for his Beverly Cinema website that saw the filmmaker referring to Ford’s She Wore a Yellow Ribbon as Tie a Yellow Ribbon, and two days after Columbia Pictures released poster art for QT’s ninth feature that wasn’t exactly of the highest order, the studio has released a teaser for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. The film was announced early last year, with Tarantino describing it as “a story that takes place in Los Angeles in 1969, at the height of hippy Hollywood.”

Set on the eve of the Manson family murders, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood tells the story of TV actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), as they try to get involved in the film industry. The film also stars Margot Robbie (as Sharon Tate), Al Pacino, the late Luke Perry, Damian Lewis, Dakota Fanning, Emile Hirsch, Timothy Olyphant, Kurt Russell, and Bruce Dern in a part originally intended for the late Burt Reynolds.

See the teaser below:

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Scf8nIJCvs4

Columbia Pictures will release Once Upon a Time in Hollywood on July 26.

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Watch the Stranger Things 3 Trailer, and to the Tune of Mötley Crüe and the Who

A wise woman once said that there’s no such thing as a coincidence.

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Stranger Things 3
Photo: Netflix

A wise woman once said that there’s no such thing as a coincidence. On Friday, Jeff Tremaine’s The Dirt, a biopic about Mötley Crüe’s rise to fame, drops on Netflix. Today, the streaming service has released the trailer for the third season of Stranger Things. The clip opens with the strains of Mötley Crüe’s “Home Sweet Home,” all the better to underline that the peace and quiet that returned to the fictional rural town of Hawkins, Indiana at the end of the show’s second season is just waiting to be upset again.

Little is known about the plot of the new season, and the trailer keeps things pretty vague, though the Duffer Brothers have suggested that the storyline will take place a year after the events of the last season—duh, we know when “Home Sweet Home” came out—and focus on the main characters’ puberty pangs. That said, according to Reddit sleuths who’ve obsessed over such details as the nuances of the new season’s poster art, it looks like Max and company are going to have to contend with demon rats no doubt released from the Upside Down.

See below for the new season’s trailer:

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YEG3bmU_WaI

Stranger Things 3 premieres globally on July 4.

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