Monday, October 12, 2009

ACT-I-VATE week at Graphic NYC!

We're proud to announce ACT-I-VATE Week here at Graphic NYC, to celebrate the release of the ACT-I-VATE Primer by IDW.

Consider this a primer on ACT-I-VATE before the ACT-I-VATE Primer's release on Wednesday, featuring snippets and links to the profiles we've done on ACT-I-VATE-ers from the past. Click on their names to go directly to their profiles for the rest of their GNYC stories.

And be sure to check in tomorrow for our profile on Tom Hart.

“With every project I take on, starting from when I first began making comics while at Fat Jack’s Comics Crypt back in 1993, I’ve wanted to learn something,” Nick reflects. “I’ve always had this idea of where I wanted to go with comics and that the comics I’ve wanted to make have been the ones I’ve wanted to read – they’re intricate, complex, moving, they’re funny, they’re human, but the also ask a lot of odd questions, and also have quirky moments. With every project I’ve taken on, I’ve given myself a new goal, a new little chip off this giant block of comics.

“Being involved in Act-I-Vate is the most important thing that has happened to my career as a cartoonist, but Deep Six, the studio, is an extension of that. You put six people in the same room, there are going to be disagreements, but ultimately we help each other a great deal. I have all this combined experience to turn to for advice on how to handle something. I can get five or six different opinions on different things. We keep each other employed, because we’re always getting offers that we can’t handle or don’t feel like we’re the right fit for, and we can hand it off to the guy next to us who may need the work. It’s been an essential part of my life, and I couldn’t do any of it without Deep Six. There are no comic book artists where I grew up, so being here with access to this rich community of people doing different things from different perspectives has been valuable.”

“There’s always a part of me in everything I do, and I guess I drew on pieces of myself to get the characters’ personalities to come out,” Kevin admits. “So, putting myself in that place, I had to sympathize with completely unsympathetic characters. I had to get in the headspace of these kids and figure out how they would react to these situations. Because I had decided to make it a thematic and symbolic biographical piece, I had to make up personalities for the main players. I came at them as characters, and that was the only way I could do it. So by default, there's a lot of me and people I've known in there.”

“At Dr. Sketchy’s I open my mouth, and at a fine art show, I shut up,” Molly jokes. “I think that’s the difference. At a fine art show I have a painting hanging on the wall and I have my glass of wine, whereas at a Dr. Sketchy’s I’m talking to sponsors, giving interviews to the press, and running around like a madwoman. The fine art show is more relaxing.”

“I think about kids a lot, and the siblings are like that, where it’s not too long before they’re at each other and fighting,” Mike elaborates. “I have a sister and we were like that, and my wife and her older brother were that way. With me, I think it’s funny, especially when you give them these powers. It’s not like Power pack where they form a team and do something with their powers. They’re basically using it to mess with each other.

“I hate when people say that ‘Everything’s been done’, because that reveals their own limitations. Not everything has been done,” Michel Fiffe says halfway through our interview. “That’s so fucking limiting and frustrating, yet it’s another way of naysaying. Another way of putting everything down, which is funny because this is the age where everyone’s allowed to and given the forum to express themselves, so everyone’s a creator, even people who shouldn’t be. What happens is that you get a lot of mediocre stuff, a glut which exists in the industry, anyway. The challenge now is that you have to stand out even more. If you think everything’s been done, you have no hope in creating valuable work, which is what’s going to survive.”

“Because of the way Act-I-Vate works, you have an audience that responds,” Simon notes. “You get immediate feedback. As an artist you kind of feed on that, if not actually feeding your stomach. What started out as a forty-eight page graphic novel is now becoming a hundred page web comic. I think I have something that’s much better than what it started out as. I look at the original script, and it's really just a sketch. What started out as a proof-of-concept project turned into a much more personal thing. My own obsessions and worldview came in; traveling, parents, love in it's many forms, trust. All the things I feel strongly about.”

“I don’t think digital comics replace books whatsoever, but all it does do is allow the tentacle of the octopus to reach out far more people that will come back and buy books when they’re available,” he notes. “The opportunity to publish on both paper and digitally exponentially extends the reach of your work. Comics are well represented in a publishing industry that is failing; everything’s going to have to change, and this is part of it. We just got our literary credibility at the right time because, had it been a year or two more, the publishing industry wouldn’t have had the strength to hard sell the media on comics being ‘legit’ as literature. That happened to us two or three years ago, for real. Now that the House of Usher is shaking down, we’re all going down together. As digital and electronic solutions happen, we’re in it together. We’re not on a dinghy being dragged behind the ship, but we’re on that ship, too. I think that’s really significant and exactly how it’s supposed to happen: whatever coming mutations publishing is going to go through, when it all comes out the other side, comics will be there, too.

“And that’s all that matters.”

“With anything I’ve done after 1999, I’ve attempted to destroy how I used to draw in the ‘90s,” Tim reflects. “I deconstructed how I drew to the point that my art instructor here in New York was like “I don’t know what you’re doing. You’re going for something and I don’t know what it is!” I realized I was just destroying how I used to draw and really over doing it. But he (my art instructor) got me to rein it in, and I did pretty much create a new way of approaching my art after that…As far as art, and life in fact, goes we are all prisoners of our own minds. Who says I can’t draw a comic with magic markers and a crayon?”

“Mike was wondering what the hell was happening, and I’m sitting there with my nose busted. I didn’t even know what it looked like at the time. The ambulance came and they took out two guys from inside the bar on stretchers. One guy had glass in his head, and a pool cue had been broken over the other guy’s head. I went to the Emergency Room and they pushed my nose back over without pain medicine. It hurt like hell. The next day I took some pictures, which wound up being my portrait for The Quitter. “So, I’ve been in lots of fights and accidents. I’ve been in the wrong situation at the right time. It always makes for a great story.”

“Ultra-lad is about nostalgia,” Joe reflects. “I’ve been thinking about this a lot, lately, and it’s a Trojan horse that lulls you into this quiet comfort and familiarity of these musty old comics, but I think the message behind Ultra-lad is to not be nostalgic. Life is about moving forward. The characters in it are ensnared in some way because of their inabilities to accept life as it is. I think it would be a great way to draw people in with that sense of old comics as well as emphasize the physicality of these ephemeral, decaying pages. I also enjoy the fun anachronism of having a new character and comic idea presented to look old and do it on the web. You have a web comic that looks like it was printed years ago. I’m doing that for a reason and as part of the storytelling. The longer I’ve been doing it, it’s granted me the opportunity to use crayon, or the paper model idea, the Sunday newspaper strip pages, cutting out a panel or a piece of the page…all those things come from trying to exploit this comic as though it were really printed.”

“It’s impossible for me to imagine doing it [all at once] because I’d never taken on a project that was this long before…I don’t think I was capable of conceiving and writing what was essentially a novel, and draw it, in two years,” Josh admits. “Even though doing it online and serializing it that way was difficult, it made me produce, since every month I had to have a chapter done. I was building towards something. The real challenge when I made it into a book was taking these fourteen episodes that had their own rhythm. Comic strips need to have their own rhythm and beats that you need to follow, but it wasn’t as easy as that on A.D. It had that same element where there had to be a dramatic structure in each chapter, and it had to end on a certain note that got you interested in the next one. The challenge with the book was not only reformatting the art so that it would fit, like expanding panels to make them fill a two-page spread, but also in linking it all together in a narrative rhythm that seems more novelistic than serialized.”

“Tension’s created narratively the same way it is in any other narrative medium, whether it’s the movies or a novel or a play,” Leland points out. “The characters want something, and then the story leads to it over the top of obstacles. The closer they get, the more the characters want something, the higher the obstacles get, and the tension gets higher. That’s one technique. The tension and relief is a narrative issue, and not one that’s expressionistic. What I’m talking about is thinking purely in a visual representation when a character feels when they’re reacting to something, or in the textures that go on that maybe go from a simple, quiet moment where there’s limited mark-making and lyrical line work to really high textures where you might feel you’re getting white noise, like here in the bar, where you’re getting a lot of background stuff, and there’s a lot of texture to the recording right now, rather than if we were sitting in a sound studio and sipping our tea or whatever.

“I was writing my own stories and had just begun trying to make them into comics, but they were really horrible,” Kat laughs. “I was fortunate enough to meet Dean Haspiel at a signing some time after that, and we kind of recognized each other, and realized we were neighbors. Dean was kind enough to invite me over to draw with him and some other creators, but I didn’t want to go because my work was shit. I kept bumping into him and finally I went decided to drop by with my work.

Want more? Check out the above folks and all their cohorts on the ACT-I-VATE Creators' page.