Monday, October 28, 2013

Sturgeon General's Warning: Hunting Snark May be Hazardous to Your Wealth

THE HUNTING OF THE SNARK by Lewis Carroll, a graphic novel by this artist and explained here, page by page, panel by panel, squiggle by squiggle … right now we're in Fit the Seventh … 

For five panels now we've been tootling merrily along on our Snarkic Soul Train, through English garden parties and homunculi-haunted jungles into the depths of Page 72, where our train has debouched at last into the jumbled contents of a cigar box.

These contents are nothing less than the raw materials of the Snarkic Galdor which has resonated throughout this poem to such hypnagogic effect: soap, a thimble, hope (personified as an anchor), smiles (a Dali-esque sofa) and a railway share. But where's the care, more petty-minded Carrollians might ask?

To which this illustrator replies: care? You dare to question the care I've taken over this drawing? Go ahead and count the lines, squiggles, blobs and crochets of inky care I've lavished on this Snarkic semioglyph … even better, peruse the various labels & inscriptions embellishing the cigar box into which I've heaped up the raw stuff of our verse … all of 'em scraps torn from a larger whole:

Lo buscaron con dedales, con cuidado lo buscaron,
lo persiguieron con tenedores y con esperanza.
con acciones del ferrocarril lo amenarazon
y lo hechizaron con sonrisas y jabón.

Indeed, it is our Snark Hunter's Galdor-Refrain cast in the language of Castile, the language of Don Quixote, who must surely qualify as the Snark Hunter par excellence!

The cigars which once occupied this box were manufactured, as the upper label notes, in the manner of the Indians. Naturally, the Indians referred to here are the now-extinct Caribs & Arawaks who first introduced the Conquistadores to the joys of the evil weed, tobacco.

But we Snarquistadores are more literal-minded fellows and prefer a bit of geographic veracity with our cigars & porto; the Indians we refer to shall be the 100% genuine, curry-inflected East Indians of Uttar Pradesh and the Punjab, the Indians of Old Delhi, to be precise.

All shall become clear in good time, dear reader, for now, just remember that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, even in the increasingly Orientalist labyrinths of our geographically discombobulated Snarkian Multiverse!

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Snark takes Manhattan

THE HUNTING OF THE SNARK by Lewis Carroll, a graphic novel by this artist and explained here, page by page, panel by panel, squiggle by squiggle … right now we're in Fit the Seventh … the Banker, played by Karl Marx, will soon discover that a certain pesky specter haunting Europe is none other than the dreaded Hindustani Bandersnatch!
The Snark Hunters' Express continues its wordless journey into the jungles of Fit the 7th and the inquiring reader is already growing impatient with all this 19th-century transportation technology put at the service of 19th-century Nonsense Verse by a 21st-century illustrator wallowing in his 20th-century obsessions. Sure, it looks cool but in the immortal words of Flakey Foont: what does it all mean?

Indeed! Ideas are the bane of the more fashionable modern hipster and most of 'em avoid that sort of thing like the plague. It's hard to have an idea and listen to one's iPod and update the world on one's various bodily eructations on Twitter, it simply cannot be done without incurring the risk of stopping to think. Especially if one has nothing to think about besides oneself and one's accessorized relationship to other consumer units.

But this illustrator is brimming with ideas, both visual and verbal. He keeps them in a mental swipe file which he can access at any moment by merely lying on a comfy sofa, having a really good cup of tea and then taking a nice nap. Whilst asleep, the thousands of books, paintings, sculptures, drawings and movies he's seen and read do their mysterious mojo thing inside his cinematically furnished mind and when he awakes, bingo! An idea is born!

Richard Muller (German, 1874-1952) “Miracle of Training”, 1911

Our drawing of a Snark Hunting train in the jungle was spawned by a vague visual memory I had, an image which I later discovered to be a drypoint by Richard Muller, an obscure yet quite talented German artist from Dresden. The basic idea of training something to do the impossible was the starting point that Muller furnished me; it led me to eventually depict the training of a train by a jungle homunculus magician, a personage which fit perfectly into the earlier depiction of the same homunculus-magician luring the train out his snake-charmer's basket.

Muller's style of German Symbolism was similar to that of the better-known Max Klinger and eventually this style would merge into what we call Surrealism. There is a subtle difference between the precursor and its more celebrated descendant: the former depicted the reality of dreams by using the reality of waking, while the latter was a far more ad hoc business which eventually trafficked mostly in solipsism and amateurism.

Young illustrators take note! The technical rigor of the Symbolists' training and their conceptual precision came from a careful study and understanding of all the arts, ie., they did not reject the past as un-hip nor did they wallow in self-expression without self-analysis and self-correction. This precursor of Surrealism is not only a rich vein to mine for ideas but more importantly, a perfect example of the usefulness of learning draftsmanship to better depict that which cannot be seen.

Zen-like, huh? But don't worry, most art directors today could care less about all this and in fact, you'll get more work doing the exact opposite of what I just recommended. Double-Plus Zen-like, dude!


NB. Last week's signing tour of NYC for the Adventure Time Encyclopaedia was a smash success for all concerned, both fans and artists. Besides getting to hobnob with Martin Olson and his daughter, the talented Celeste Moreno and all the great people at Abrams, this illustrator was able to parade his moustache all over Manhattan and Brooklyn without once being asked to autograph a pre-war Iraqi dinar …

From left to right: Mahendra Singh, Martin Olson, Celeste Moreno, Olivia Olson, Jessica DiCicco
Many thanks to the great folks at Forbidden Planet, who furnished us with a NYC-block's worth of Adventure Time fans … and also Bergen Street Comics, a venue which was so crammed with great comix that it was hard to leave.

Photo courtesy of Vida Shi
 And finally, imagine my delight when I discovered that three of the young people in the gargantuan ATE signing line at the NYCC were Snark Hunters! Yes, bona fide Snarkistas, brimming with good cheer and reeking ever so slightly of forks, hope, smiles and soap. They called themselves the Snarky Geeks and they made this somewhat jaded and semi-surly illustrator's heart soar! It's nice to know that even in the hurly-burly of the pop-culture world, there are still those who search for the Snark! The kids are all right!

In any case, the overwhelming success of the NYT-best-selling Adventure Time Encyclopaedia has changed this artist's life. Put the banana peels on ice, Mrs. Singh, tonight we dine on … soylent green!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Iron Man vs. Lewis Carroll … Snark-down!

THE HUNTING OF THE SNARK by Lewis Carroll, a graphic novel by this artist and explained here, page by page, panel by panel, squiggle by squiggle … right now we're in Fit the Seventh … the Banker, played by Karl Marx, will soon discover that a certain pesky specter haunting Europe is none other than the dreaded Hindustani Bandersnatch!
Attentive readers (shut-ins, penitentiary inmates, nursing home loafers, etc.) will have noticed by now that these last four panels share a common motif: a miniature train packed to bursting with all 10 of our Snark Hunting B-Boyz.

This is not an accident, this is what literary critics call a TRANSITIONAL MOTIF. You see, this illustrator needed to solve the problem of bridging two entirely different Fits; Fit the Sixth, which was set in a vaguely Gilbert & Sullivanesque inflected version of Pepperland and Fit the Seventh, which will eventually disembark into the British Raj of the Old Delhi Railway Station.

Lesser illustrators would have simply hired a charabanc or a palanquin or even a scooter rickshaw to schlepp their characters from one scene to another but this illustrator is made of sterner (and cheaper) stuff. In fact, if there's anything which makes this illustrator wax extra-wroth, it's the all-too-common phenomenon of artists choosing vague or irrelevant symbology to bind their pictures to their words. Just as the punishment must fit the crime, so must the conveyance fit the time!

Well-oiled Carrollians will sigh with appreciation at all of the above, for they are well aware that the Great One, Lewis Carroll, was fond of playing at trains in his youth, so much so that his undeservedly obscure puppet play, La Guida di Bragia, is set in a train station and features two station masters whose resemblance in manner & bearing to Vladimir and Estragon cannot be coincidental …

But more to the point, the very first time that the name of Lewis Carroll ever appeared in print was in a magazine entitled The Train. It was with that small poem, "Solitude", that Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (prompted by the editor Edmund Yates) hit upon the happy device of latinizing his name into Lewis Carroll. The year was 1853 and curiously enough, (1+8+5)x3=42 … and as all Carrollians know, the number 42 is the cabalistic key to the entire Snarkian Multiverse. And you thought I was making it all up as I went along, didn't you, admit it! Ha!

Of course, there are some other, equally pesky readers who are asking: from whence come these urbanite, minaret-and-souk-bedecked camels seen in the above picture? Is this another example of the dreaded Orientalism run amuck?

Perhaps it is, but I must also draw such readers' attention to the fact that from the Oriental point of view of the unseen inhabitants of these Camel-Cities, a point of view blighted by the sudden appearance of a steam-locomotive with various Victorian gentlemen aboard it, it's a case of the dreaded Occidentalism run amuck.

Occidentalism is the persistent belief shared by many Orientals that the West is crammed to the gills with purring, blonde sex kittens, gun-wielding Christian mullahs and shamelessly easy credit.

If only, huh?

NB. Along with several other illustrators, voice talents and the book's author, Martin Olson, I'll be appearing this week at the New York Comic Con — and other comix venues in NYC/Brooklyn — to promote the Adventure Time Encyclopaedia! 

This Adventure Time thingie has made it onto the NYT best-seller list … this will be a rare chance to catch a glimpse of various illustrators, actors, writers and editors basking in the glow of success as opposed to our usual glow of abject fear and loathing. Come and see us interact with the hoi polloi … you won't be disappointed.

• Thursday, 10 October, 2013, at Forbidden Planet, 832 Broadway, Manhattan, 6-8 PM

• Friday, 11 October, 2013, Bergen StreetComics, 470 Bergen Street, Brooklyn, 6-8 PM

• Saturday, 12 October, 2013, New York Comic Con at the Javits Center, New York … The Adventure Time Encyclopaedia Panel, Room 1A08, 5:30 PM-6:30 PM and …
a signing immediately following the panel from 6:45-7:45 in autographing area at table 21

 In this panel, editor Eric Klopfer will moderate a conversation between Martin Olson (a.k.a The Lord of Evil) Olivia Olson (a.k.a Marceline the Vampire Queen), Jessica DiCicco (a.k.a Flame Princess), and evil illustrators Celeste Moreno and Mahendra Singh about the recent release of Martin's new book The Adventure Time Encyclopedia. Events include a slide show and a theatrical reading from the book. Hunson Abadeer will make an appearance, there will be a possible surprise premier of a great new music video from the Nightosphere and the official book trailer will be screened.