by John Dermot Woods on Nov.09, 2010
Blaise Larmee is a particularly interesting presence in comics these days. While he certainly cartoons, his aesthetic is obviously drawn from a much broader vocabulary: philosophy, language, anti-narrative, deconstructed marks-making. You can see this on display in his book Young Lions. Follow his thoughts at the Co-mix (cometscomets) blog. And, now, see him publish books with his new press Gaze Books, which just released its first book, The Whale by Aidan Koch.
JDW: Name three or four comics artists whose work is particularly influential on the comics being created in 2010.
BL: Frank Santoro, Aidan Koch, Jason Overby.
JDW: Whose fiction and/or poetry are you into these days?
BL: I think Tao Lin has an interesting creative process. I tend to read texts as a creator rather than as a consumer, so pure enjoyment of a text is rare. I generally don’t read narrative-based texts.
JDW: You, and your co-contributors at the Co-Mix blog, seem pretty critically aware. I find that often comics artists refuse to acknowledge criticism (although I think Frank Santoro has done a lot to overcome this by setting the pace). How do you think this awareness effects your own work?
BL: My current creative process is to draw a single character in various poses often dictated by chance occurences in drawing (for example, drawing a shoulder too long may result in an extended arm), photographing these drawings, and ‘dropping’ them onto a template. My process, like my response to this question, is to avoid meaning as long as possible. I begin with drawings rather than words. The idea of narrative as continuous cause and effect intimidates me. Correlation seems more peaceful. But causality seems embedded within narrative structure. And narrative structure seems embedded in comics. I can relate to Gil Gentile when he says ‘my biggest problem is i don’t necessarily have a “story i need to tell”, like i am all weirdly only interested in the formal when i’m drawing (although not as a reader, thats 2nd and 3rd back)… and i don’t think id be able to productively collaborate with a writer because its difficult to think of comics-making as anything other than a very solitary activity at all stages of production….’ I think because (cause and effect here … going out on a limb) I am self aware my relationship to meaning and narrative – which are especially vulnerable to critical thought – is taut. I have yet to have had a narrative ‘just flow’ out of me. When creating a narrative I reflect on my own narrative and I ask myself, what narrative do I want in my life, what narrative do i want for my characters. Comics is a space to play with the ideal for me, to endlessly draft and revise. But to finalize one’s conception of the ideal is a heavy burden on the creator. I just started re-reading The Unbearable Lightness of Being and the idea of living a life only once becomes more complicated if that life (a narrative) can be endlessly drafted before it is bound into a book.
JDW: You just started a press called Gaze Books. While self-publishing is common in comics, you don’t see all that many small presses popping up, as you do with literature. Why do you think that is? Why’d you start Gaze?
BL: I imagine alt comics form a smaller and weaker sphere than alt lit. Also, as you say, alt comics creators are used to self publishing. I have only self published. I romanticized the idea of being published and otherized the publisher. I thought of the publisher as a resource that a creator had to somehow ‘trick’ into letting their creative vision manifest. In some ways i still believe this. Aspiring creators mimic house styles in the hopes of living in the house they long for. If the creator considers third party publication of their book as an integral aspect of the book (and why shouldn’t they) the book is conceived of as a compromise of vision. In my own experience this compromise exists in self publishing as well…
Some reasons for starting Gaze Books: to experience the feeling of being published vicariously, to foster a ‘good book’, to indulge in corporate aesthetics, to promote young creators, to separate the creator/publisher aspects of myself (and others), to influence the aesthetics, and structure of publishing culture
JDW: Do you think this assumption that all cartoonists’ eventual goal is to create a long work, a “graphic novel” will change? Are you working on a graphic novel?
BL: Creators desire to create graphic novels because graphic novels introduce the creator into a greater cultural circuit. If this circuit moves into other territories creators will move into these territories as well. The 1-2 page comic carries ill-defined currency in a variety of established magazines. This could be a fad or it could lead to a lasting form, depending in part on the publisher’s willingness to seek out creators (and vice versa).