Monday, June 15, 2009

A Graphic NYC Primer

Mock-up of the cover, used in proposal.

Quite a lot has happened with Graphic NYC since Seth and I started the blog, and had this to say about our future plans. Now, flashing forward several months, we figured it was time to touch base with older readers, and welcome the new ones.

A bunch of folks have asked us about getting the book version of Graphic NYC printed, and to this, all I can offer is the hope for some very good news really soon. Things have changed in the book version since we started this blog especially when we realized that the pitch had to change from a collection of photos and essays, and morph into something more akin to a narrative. Also, in interviewing cartoonists from several different generations, we found these amazing connections from one to another. For instance, Gil Kane mentored Howard Chaykin who mentored Dean Haspiel who has gotten a whole slew of new creators out there.

I’d done history books before, but this new approach is the most ambitious to date. For now, though, we’re working on making the blog the best and most varied assemblage of subjects that we can. It’s like we’re presenting the pieces online, and how it all comes together into one massive book at the end is the surprise we’re making everyone wait on. I can say that we plan on keeping the New York centric approach to Graphic NYC for the foreseeable future but the wider comics history view will run through the new book project, Leaping Tall Buildings.

Seth photographing Dan Goldman on a Williamsburg rooftop.

You can smell the history of comics here in New York City. The Big Apple, after all, was the birthplace of the medium, which is why we’ve been tracking the pioneers down just as much as the newer breed of cartoonist. If DC and Marvel Comics were to move shop to California, I’m not sure if New York would lose the comics community, because it’s just that – a community of people who are sharing their ideas and dreams. Even with the digital age of the Internet and webstrips, I have a very strong feeling that the comics world is too well enmeshed in New York’s mortars and foundations to go anywhere.

So, keep your ear to the tracks, and you’ll hear something coming your way very soon.
Another thing happened while working up this blog: Seth and I had quite a few adventures in meetings some of our subjects. Several of the more established creators required both of us to interview/ shoot them at the same time, due to availability. The first that comes to mind is Paul Pope, who we met at The Slipper Room in Soho on the first day we actually met in person. The result is that Seth helps me out with the interview process, and I get to hold the camera flash for the photos. I’m like Jimmy Olsen’s intern.

Seth and Christopher with Paul Pope (center) at the Slipper Room.

But it has been a dream come true: hanging out with Joe Simon in his apartment, seeing Jerry Robinson’s incredible collection of comics memorabilia, visiting Walter and Louise Simonson in their beautiful home (and here’s where I make a confession: as much as I love Walter’s work, I was just as excited to chat with Louise about her writing), visiting Neal Adams at Continuity for a couple of hours…I’d have to say the biggest and most intimidating subject I had was Jules Feiffer. His comics history book The Great Comic Book Heroes is what sparked my interest in the history of the four-color medium; getting to meet him was an exciting experience made more valuable by the man’s generous and kind personality.

The biggest challenge I’ve had is in writing essays that service the photos; there are times where I really try to capture the atmosphere in words that Seth has set down in the image, or where (like in Joe Infurnari’s piece) I go “behind the scenes” of each picture. My biggest hope is to create a synergy between words and pictures (like…big surprise…a comic book) to help create the best portrait of each person we can. It’s like he’s got the looks, while I’m really trying to express the personality underneath.

Seth and Christoper on the roof of the Flatiron Building.

So, for those who have been with us, thanks for checking up with us every week. For those who came late (as the old Phantom comic strip would say), feel free to get caught up with our prior photo-essay collaborations linked below.


Howard Chaykin

Becky Cloonan
Mike Cavallaro
Mike Dawson
Bob Fingerman
Simon Fraser
Dan Goldman
Tim Hamilton
Irwin Hasen
Dean Haspiel
Dean Haspiel and Seth on Caught in the Act (video)
Joe Infurnari
Al Jaffee
Joe Kubert
Christine Norrie
George O'Connor
Denny O'Neil
Paul Pope
Paul Pope (video)
Kat Roberts
Dash Shaw
Joe Simon
Walter Simonson

A special thanks goes out to Jared Gniewek for providing prompts for this piece.

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