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January 3, 2010


CR Holiday Interview #13 -- Tucker Stone On Ganges

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Tucker Stone may be best known as the comics critic with his own video series, which is sort of appropriate in that he's probably the most entertaining of the newer writers about comics in text, too. I constantly feel like I'm one step behind where he's going, which is a thrill, and in fact he takes one of the questions I asked him here and beats me about the head and body with it -- can't say I was expecting that! One of Stone's choices was Kevin Huizenga's work generally, which I asked him to focus into a discussion of the Ignatz book Ganges. Ganges #1 was the first book I asked CR readers to buy solely on my say-so, back when the thought of doing that and maybe a dozen or so people saying "what the heck?" was a total thrill. I stand by the recommendation, and that book's creator has since cinched his place among the handful of the world's most important cartoonists younger than 40. I loved the Ignatz format, too, which I suspect will seem very much of this time years and years from now. -- Tom Spurgeon

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TOM SPURGEON: Tucker, can you contextualize your encounter with the Ganges series? Was that your first encounter, had you been reading the mini-comics? Had you read about him before you read him? What then was your initial impression of Kevin Huizenga's work?

TUCKER STONE: I didn't know anything about who Kevin Huizenga was, nothing about his work, I just found a copy of Or Else # 1, I think that was in 2004 or 2005. The cover is what drew it to me -- I don't know the history of its publication, but when I saw it, it jumped out from the Wall of Minis due to the way he drew Glenn's baseball t-shirt. I liked what I read, and when I eventually started reading comics blogs on the internet, his name would come up. I think he also showed up in a Comics Journal best-of-year list, and up until 2006-7, I was using those lists pretty frequently to supplement my own ability to track stuff down. I don't remember when Curses came out, but I remember being excited to see a larger piece of work from him. From what I've read, he seems to have been pretty active with Supermonster, but I've never had the chance to see what those looked like.

My initial impression was that I liked his art, and I felt like the stories in Or Else had a different perspective to them -- the small town quality, the riding bikes stuff. Part of it was personal identification. There's a story in Or Else built around those languid conversations one can have with strangers in a Waffle House, and that's exactly what I did in college. But mostly, I just felt like he captured feelings really well. The dragging of feet through the leaves, the way the comic could turn to information dumps regarding what was obviously personal interest material -- I just found that Or Else read like an overstuffed comic, a cheap delivery system for massive amounts of "stuff." That's how I felt at first. It was pretty, clean. It reminded me of Frank King's work, although I don't know how to explain that. I actually pulled out my Gasoline Alley collections to see if I could nail why I feel that way, but it's not apparent to me. Maybe it's just that sense I get when I read them of where I grew up. My wife has pointed out to me that I have a tendency towards homesickness, romanticizing the area I grew up in... I don't know. Or Else and Ganges remind me a lot of college. Gasoline Alley reminds me of my dad. I would hope that I have a better reason besides that, but I imagine it's quite likely that I don't.

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SPURGEON: The first issue of Ganges was one of the first works in the Ignatz series I'd seen. Have you enjoyed that series of books? Are there any specific offerings in addition to Ganges that you feel have really worked? How do you feel about them as a publishing project?

STONE: I think that the Ignatz series is really remarkable in that it doesn't have a lot of dead spots -- I haven't kept up with the series completely, but I'm pretty sure I've at least tried at least one issue of the various titles. Grotesque was one of the more recent ones I've really liked, but the Gipi books, New Tales of Old Palomar -- I think those are all really great comics, and while I'm probably in agreement with anybody who has ever thought too long about how to store them, I think they have a really nice physical quality to them. One of the things I find myself continuously disgusted by is the overwrought and over-designed nature of the comics that one sees from almost every single company right now, the way that absolutely everybody pumps out an overpriced hardcover of something that doesn't deserve it, but I don't harbor those feelings towards the Ignatz series. The size, the price point -- they completely appeal to me, I only wish they could be just a few centimeters taller, so they could fit perfectly alongside my copies of Rubber Blanket. I do wonder whether a larger range of color might help the series in the long run, but for now, I've been pretty happy with what I've seen of the line. There's a lot of really great comics in there, and the hit-to-shit ratio is higher than most. My favorite of the series is Ganges, but those Gipi ones are excellent as well. If they stopped doing them, I'd miss them.

I don't have a publishing perspective on them -- well, what I mean is that I don't have any grand, backseat driver's outlook on them. It's Fantagraphics, so I guess one could probably get an answer of how they sell from Eric Reynolds if one tried, but I've never thought about it too much. It does seem that the Hernandez/Gipi/Huizenga/Sala ones have a bit more prominence than the others. I think it's kind of cynically amusing that they're designed in a fashion that makes them useless to a Barnes & Noble as well as making them hard to rack in a direct market store. I guess they're intended for people who order their comics online, which is too bad, because I've had a lot of problems ordering stuff from Fantagraphics directly. Oh well! It wouldn't be comics without difficulty.

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SPURGEON: Do you think Ganges takes advantage of the formatting available through the Ignatz project? Can you describe something in one of the Ganges books that you think works differently because of the size, the paper, whatever, that might have worked different in his series or in a mini?

STONE: Oh, absolutely. The first thing that comes to mind is the portion of Ganges #3 where Glenn is crawling around inside his brain, being swarmed by the dialog balloons -- having the scale is what makes that work. If that had been delivered in the smaller Or Else format -- well, first off, it wouldn't have been possible. There's just not enough physical room on the page to make it work. The other thing that I think is interesting is that the scale of the comics doesn't really affect the size that Kevin draws Glenn -- look at Or Else, look at Ganges, you're dealing with a comic that physically dwarfs the other one -- but the figures roughly approximate the other, they aren't scaled down to any major degree. That's what limits the size of Or Else's ability to delve into the way the character thinks, because he isn't filling up the page with the amount of panels that Ganges has. There's plenty of times in the Glenn stories where the beat, the joke, is on Glenn's daydreaming or burst of memory, but there isn't enough size on the page to actually draw it out, so it's delivered in punchline panels. Ganges is big enough to let the visuals tell the story -- he's fighting with his own thoughts in #3, he's shooting them with a gun. His head has filled up with coffee.

The size also allows for a bigger jump when the story goes from paneled pages to full page drawings -- the impact in Or Else is muted, it can't go from nine panels to one, it can really only do two to one, or four to one. It lessens the range of volume, lessens the shift. In the case of #2, which featured ornate avatars similar to the ones from Fight or Run, he was able to achieve a better sense of the space they're in because he's got more of it within which the characters can play. From your basic plot standpoint, Or Else and the minis -- they aren't doing the sort of long narratives that Ganges is doing. When I look at the blown-up Or Else pages in Curses, they aren't mistakable as Ganges pages. He's doing that thing Frank Santoro preaches about, drawing pages that fit with the format.

It's a stretch, but have you seen how they reduce those Boom kids comics or the Marvel Noir series down even further for the digest reprints? The Boom comics have space in them, when they go smaller, it's not as noticeable. But those Marvel Noir digest books -- that doesn't serve them well at all. The art gets way too noisy, the dialog gets sandwiched too closely. Although the Or Else/Curses material went in the other direction, it's the same sensation to me -- a feeling that the size just doesn't work for the art. The Or Else stuff goes big, and it looks off, it slows me down when I'm reading it. Which... not everybody has that problem, it's a good problem to have, I think. If you're looking at a comic, and it can work at any size, reduced or enlarged, that seems to me that you might not have something very special. It should make a difference how big or small a work is going to end up being, it should be something that the artist is aware of, they should know how they work well enough to know that. Hell, look at those Little Nemo reprints -- if you've seen the Splendid Sundays books, the miniature reprints are intolerable. Same with Maximum Fantastic Four -- you look at some of those Kirby panels all blown up, they look like kitschy bullshit. But on the page, in color, they read, they breath, they move. Same thing, ruined by fucking with the size, and that's because the artists involved knew what they were doing.

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SPURGEON: When I was preparing materials for this interview it struck me that this is basically a three-issue series about domesticity, which is nuts. You read a lot of superhero comics, and one thing you hear from mainstream fans in this kind of fat slip of fist into hand way is how they don't care for all these whiney, mopey comics -- usually autobiographical, but I think the reasoning applies here, too. Can you provide any insight into why fans of a certain kind of comic don't care for certain issues to be portrayed, or is that impulse just as bone-ignorant as it seems on first glance?

STONE: Ha. To be honest, I think the ignorance is mostly a shared one, sorry. Part of that Insta-Recoil attitude towards autobiographic work (which I don't think of Ganges as being) stems from the fact that hardcore super-hero fans are just more vocally honest about what they want, which is more super-hero comics. I think it's easy to pick on them for that -- it's obviously fun to pick on anybody who is willing to fight back -- but it's an attitude that's tied up in a bunch of idealistic bullshit I don't agree with at all. Should people who read "mainstream" comics read more autobiographic stuff? Should people who read autobio stuff read more Green Lantern? Of course not, not unless they want to. Readers should read what they like, buy what they like -- go on from that. The only people who should keep up with all the strands of comics, with everything that's available, be it Slam Dunk, Tatsumi, old Jack Kirby comics, Kramers Ergot, MOME, R.E.B.E.L.S. and whatever John Romita, Jr. is drawing are the people who want to speak with any kind of authority on comics, the people who want to talk about what comics is/can be/should.

Does anybody ever bark at MOME subscribers for not reading Tiny Titans? Sure, idiots do that. And idiots bark at Green Lantern fans for not reading Kevin Huizenga. Who gives a shit? They're both moronic things to do, and there's no reason to give that discussion any credence at all. For me, I just think of it like sports, in that some people watch basketball and nothing else. And some people just watch NCAA basketball, and nothing else. Are you more of a grown up if you've moved on from basketball to hockey? Are there people who will make fun of you for not watching football? I'm sure there are. I could give a fuck why, and even though you're asking, I don't think you really believe there's a lot of reasoning behind the attitude either. Nothing magical happens to you as a person if you choose to read John Stanley instead of Dragon Ball Z. You don't get smarter, you don't get more cultured.

There's a temptation to label mainstream fans as being lazy for not caring about Swallow Me Whole or Blankets, to call them "bone-ignorant" -- that's just a bunch of horseshit. It's an attempt by boring assholes to assign an overall meaning to a bunch of personal choices made by a group of people that those boring assholes don't know anything about. On an individual level, I've heard a couple of people say they don't want to read comics that focus on the mundanities of regular life, but I'm more often exposed to people who just like what they like because it's what they fucking like. Besides, the attitude you're describing -- that's not coming from real sampling of readers. It's coming from the internet's sampling of readers, it's coming from small publishers (and most small publishers are readers with credit problems), and the internet and small publishers are pretty much wrong all the time about why people like the things that they like, because most of the people who write blogs, read blogs, leave comments -- they aren't the majority opinion. They're the minority opinion. If the comics internet was an accurate representation of what comics mattered to people, it would be shitloads of articles about Bone, Y: Last Man, Crumb's Genesis -- and it's not. And thank God it's not! But what you're talking about -- why people react the way they do, and what does that mean -- hell, the internet isn't going to answer that question. It doesn't know either.

I don't know the answer to your question, I guess that's what I'm saying. I see those people who say things like "I just want to be entertained", and that's why they don't read stuff that's bleak or realistic or autobio or whatever -- yeah, I think it's stupid too. But I think it's stupid because I'm imagining the rest of that person's life, I'm making the assumption that they don't do anything that's hard or awful or bleak or unsettling, and that they're just a dumb joker at work all day and they come home and read dumb joker shit all night, unless CSI Miami is on. But what do I know? Maybe the people who don't want to read auto bio comics, who don't want to read depressing Tatsumi stories, maybe they just have a really hard job and they want a release on their downtime. Of course -- Ganges isn't a complicated comic to read, it's probably a complicated comic to make -- but yeah, if you're the kind of person who gets off on something that's action-y or genre-y, then I can see why you'd say "this is about a dude who drank too much coffee and is thinking about stuff? No thanks!"

Hey, maybe Lovecraft was right, and reading -- anything -- is the passion of people who are on some level terrified of real life, and maybe the jokes on all of us, super-hero nerds and Fun Home fans alike. Maybe we'd all be better off doing push-ups and running marathons. I don't think that's true, but there's no evidence for either side of that discussion, the way I see it. I read a lot of different comics because I like comics, because I like to see as much contemporary stuff as possible. But I'm pretty sure I don't deserve a prize for that, the same way I'm pretty sure that nobody else deserves a prize for only liking one type of thing in the first place. The world isn't going to become a better place if everybody starts reading a wider variety of comics. Not going to happen. It might make the conventions more interesting, that's about it.

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SPURGEON: Wow, that is... I strongly disagree with most of that, but having that discussion now would lead us pretty far astray. In broad terms it's not that MOME readers should be suggested to read Tiny Titans, but that a hugely presumptive, distorted dismissal on their part should be as open to criticism, especially when it risks the industry being shaped according to those presumptions. Maybe another time we can get into it. To edge this back into Ganges, I wanted to ask you for your general thoughts on three different but representative stories from the series, what strikes you now thinking on them, or a recent re-read, anything you'd like to say. I apologize for the lack of direction here, but I'm more interested in hearing from you straight up. The first is "Glenn In Bed," which hit a lot of people like a ton of bricks.

STONE: I can see why it did, it's a particularly moving story. Part of the reason I was a little apprehensive about agreeing to talk about this is because of that story -- it's just too personal in the way I read it. I'm a skinny white guy who thinks too much about myself, I usually go to bed after my wife does, and I think my wife is way more interesting to talk to than anyone else on the planet. Her > Everybody else, including Timothy Olyphant and Tom Spurgeon. And when I read "In Bed" -- the first time, the middle times, the last time -- I think about her, and I think about how lucky I am, and when I'm not being self-centered, I do think things like "wow, I hope everybody in the world gets a chance to feel this way."

Up until this past year, I was working in advertising, and while it was a really good job, a job that paid me more than I honestly think of myself as being worth paying, I really didn't like doing it. On top of that, we were hemorrhaging staff, with people getting fired because of the economic slowdown, and people quitting because of the increased workload -- and I had to fire people, kids with dreams, and it was horrible. No joke. Just awful. I started having these moments where I'd lay around and think about getting fired, think about the place closing up completely, and it was driving me a little bit crazy. But then it hit me one night, after I'd gone to bed, with Nina laying there and drooling, and I just figured -- fuck it, you can't fire me from this, and as long as she doesn't die, I've got the best gig in the world. I used to wash dishes for a living, and I was happy.

Cliches and sappy anecdotes aside, "In Bed" captures that feeling -- it's got a moment of "how lucky I am," it's got a moment of "I hope everybody else does too," it's got the requisite "this world can be hell for everyone," and even the "oh shit what if she dies Law & Order style." And then it ends the same way those moments always do, with your attention panning out until you fall asleep. If it wasn't for Ganges #3, where you find out that Glenn couldn't fall asleep, you'd expect him to just wake up for another day. And you know, I'd love to read about that comic from a technical standpoint, to hear a cartoonist explicate on the way its drawn, something along those lines. It would just be dishonest on my part to pretend I don't read it the way I do, which is purely from the point of view of realizing how specific and wonderful being in love can make you feel, how it really can redeem almost anybody, how it's just a world-shaking, mind-altering kind of thing. But -- man, I'm sorry, this is pretty cheesy -- it's the end of that story, that's what makes it sorta genius -- this isn't a special event. This isn't Glenn feeling something he's never felt before. This is the way it feels all the fucking time when you get in bed and she's sleeping and it feels like a pop song. It's not an anniversary moment, it's a regular Tuesday night.

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SPURGEON: The second is Glenn Ganges In Pulverize, which is the videogame one and this sideways portrait of late '90s Internet start-ups. That snuck onto a few top 10 lists, and is one that has grown in my estimation since.

STONE: Pulverize might be one of my favorites he's done so far, it's definitely one of the more ambitious. I've come around a bit on my feelings about Fight or Run, but I still hold that opening section of Ganges #2 -- which serves as the opening for the Pulverize story -- as a real strong example of how different Huizenga's cartooning can work when he's got scale to work in. As funny as Fight or Run can be, it read to me as being limited by the page, whereas the avatars in the pre-Pulverize pages seem limitless in how large they can become, and when they start growing all those Hindu looking arms and legs -- it's brilliant.

I'm not sure how to describe this, let me see: you know how in Proust, the madeline [episode] is what gets the whole ball of wax rolling? That's how Pulverize reads to me. Glenn sits there, messing with this video game that Wendy mentioned in Ganges # 1, and it's like a switch gets flicked, and he's off remembering this entire anecdote from his life, and the story gets pushed and pulled along all these various moments -- it's almost like driving down a highway, where the highway is the entire story, and Glenn keeps pulling off into a roundabout, almost like he's actually sitting there telling it to you -- "Yeah, yeah, the CEO was one of those guys who memorized little things about everybody's personal life, he'd always ask me about science books because I was reading one when we first met", and then it's back to the story, and then it's, "One time my wife and I sat around debating video game violence due to the time I spent playing Pulverize" and then it reaches this conclusion -- where everybody sat around switching over to CANDYPANT's avatar because they knew he was getting fired, and yet Glenn holds off on making a statement about what that meant, why they did that, there's nothing explicit. They just did it because it was a nice thing to do, but it read to me like Huizenga realized that there was a personal feeling amongst these characters that you couldn't describe to an audience, because they wouldn't understand. (I don't think that Glenn is scared of his wife making fun of him, but it's sort of like that -- you and a bunch of friends do something nice for somebody, but you gloss over it whenever you tell the story, because all you really did was some specific video game thing that nobody who wasn't there is going to understand.) Those guys in the office, switching to the dude's avatar the night before the guy got fired -- that's the meat of the story, beyond the cartooning. It's what that bubble was about, a lot of young turks getting a chance to play all day and get paid for it, and then they all lost their jobs when we realized they weren't accomplishing anything beyond playing all day. The stakes they were playing for were so low, so clearly not going to last -- Glenn's description of the "We don't know, and that's okay" motto isn't at all an exaggeration. Internet start-up gigs were ridiculous, that Simpsons joke where they have stock options on a paper towel roll was right on the money. And yet -- you put a group of people in a room, give them nothing real to do, they're going to attach a massive, freighted amount of import to something. In that story, it's a video game, and the best thing in the world that any of them can do is reach out and look after the guy who is going down, the guy they can't help in real life.

(Re-reading that story, I was reminded of that part in Ganges #1 where Glenn describes his shock and contempt for the litterbug he sees, and then Wendy blows him out of the water when she realizes that, for all of Glenn's complaining, he didn't actually go and pick up the litter himself. He just watched. Now, I don't know what Glenn could have done for the guy who was going to get fired, but it's interesting to me that the character recalls the story, and he's obviously attached this mystique to the CANDYPANTS switch -- but did he reach out to the guy afterwards? Did he take him out for coffee? Did he call him on the phone? Probably not, but that's pretty much the case for the way things go nowadays -- turn your twitter page a certain color, reblog something from Huffington about the heath care bill -- you did something easy, but it was fictional. The actual reality of it was left alone. Going after somebody, helping them out, picking up the fucking trash yourself... not for me!)

It's also -- Pulverize is just a fucking bang-up, funny story, too. When the characters are running around the roof and Glenn gets shot through the other dude's body, or when Glenn is wandering around hallucinating from a first person point of view -- it's just great shit.

One of the things that bugged me at a few of the conventions I went to in the past year was how rare it was to walk by a table where I felt like what I was seeing meant anything about 2009, the snark I said about it to my buddy was that it felt like nobody in comics listened to rap music. But they do listen to rap music, that's the thing, so many people in comics listen to all that kinda shit. But -- where's it at? Where's the comics about those two wars we're still fighting? Where's the comics about Jay-Z, Lady Gaga, freak-folk, whatever. That Eddie Campbell line about Exit Wounds being a comic he couldn't have imagined about a place he didn't know -- that's sort of what I was thinking. Where's the real shit about today in your comics, convention table? And Ganges #2 had that, it reminded me of what we do right now, of the most popular form of entertainment on the planet, of the fictional lie of so many of the jobs that young people end up in right out of college -- it was a story that couldn't have happened in the 90's, it could only go down right here and now. And it wasn't set in New York!

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SPURGEON: Finally, the insomnia story, of which I can't remember the name and make take up the entirety of #3. I thought that featured some of his most daring cartooning, but I remember thinking that some people just may look at it and think "Is he back in bed again? What's up with that?"

STONE: If you're reading Ganges for a plot synopsis, sure. Guy drinks too much coffee, gets in bed, figures out that he can't sleep because he drank too much coffee, puts headphones on his wife, listens to music too loud, cops show up. Hell, the biggest part of the drama of the issue isn't even shown! The cops freak and pull their guns when they see Glenn carrying a knife, and it immediately cuts to the aftermath, with one of the cops recommending that Glenn masturbate as a way to fall asleep. If you're looking for the story to be heightened drama, no, you're going to be disappointed.

Daring cartooning -- maybe, sure. The stuff in Treehouse of Horror was pretty out there, I think Joe nailed that down when he put up that picture of Bart's eyes shooting lazers, but I think everybody has a tendency nowadays to warm towards what Huizenga is doing. All those panels of the character struggling against the thought balloons, shooting at stuff with one of the weapons from Pulverize, being sucked into the coffee that had filled up his head, which is also the page design -- I don't know how ambitious it is from an "all cartooning ever" standpoint, but it was different for his work, for that series. But it's still the same thing that was in Ganges #2 (not in a bad way!), it's more of Glenn's entire thought process being laid out in a way that's readable, while still being true to the way in which it happened in his brain. He's laying in bed. He's trying not to toss and turn and wake up his wife. Why is he awake? He remembers why he's awake.

That's all pretty insular stuff, it's not something that can be told in way that's compelling -- unless it's drawn. That's the thing about Ganges #3 that makes it a unique comic -- it cannot be told in another medium and work. How are you going to write that down, that aspect of Glenn chasing his own thoughts and memories about completely personal, mundane life aspects, without drawing the character swimming around in his own head? How are you going to find an actor that can deliver the dialog and voice over without layering in a personality that the audience has to come to either negative/positive terms with? That's a big part of why Glenn works so well for me as a protagonist -- he's not someone that I have bad or good feelings for, he's someone I just want to watch, to comprehend.

Daring -- that's a good choice of word, I would've used "ambitious," but I overuse that word and bastardize its meaning. I think about it like this: the second issue was the recall of a memory and a video game, and so that's what the art had to show. The third issue isn't about a tangible memory, it's about a guy trying to figure out why he can't sleep. The daring part was when Kevin decided that was going to be what he had to draw. I have a hard time believing that he didn't think he'd be able to pull that off.

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SPURGEON: What is your opinion of Huizenga as a picture maker, a visualist? I wrote some pretty regrettably stupid things about that aspect of his talent when I reviewed Supermonster back in the day, and now he's one of my favorite designers and artists in comics. How do you appraise that part of his work?

STONE: Well, it's sort of obvious that my language for it is pretty vapid. Clean, makes me feel -- these aren't the phrases one looks for in smart art criticism. I think there's a tendency to focus on the newspaper aspect of his comics, and I was thinking about the way he draws noses for a while, and then it finally hit me that it's sort of like the way [Garry] Trudeau draw noses in Doonesbury. A lot of his figures look like newspaper strips, and when the comics are small, with few panels, that similarity can get a bit overpowering. But if you throw in the other stuff -- the Beanworld-y avatars in Fight or Run and Ganges #2, the info-dump stuff that's in Fact Parader, and, of course, Treehouse of Horror -- he's more of an artist than he lets on, and I think he's just using what works best for the format and the story that he wants to tell. This isn't a knives out ninja goes spastic story, it isn't going to look like that.

imageBut look at something like Ganges #1, where the litterbug starts showing up, beating somebody to death, where you see him standing in the dark backyard, how Huizenga always depicts this goofy looking dude in a bike helmet -- I mean, I've come around a bit in my tolerance, but I think it's pretty much rule-of-law that people in bike helmets look like goony fucking morons -- and the guy is scary-looking. But what's different about the way he's drawn? Nothing. It's the environment that surrounds him, it's the panels that he's getting shoved into. I don't mean to focus on "what's different" so much, but that's part of the thing that makes Huizenga's stuff so appealing to me -- all of the natural, real world scenes are set in a consistent, clean setting, and the people remain identifiable and attractively cartooned. But there's so much going on around them, with the video game that opens Pulverize collapsing back inside the computer monitor it's being played on, with the odd "movement" lines of text written in to explain a twist, the fractured sketching that gets used in the first issue to show a head shaking back and forth -- there's a lot going on.

I've got a problem here: I've gone on and on about the story and what I interpret it as being, and my art language is limiting my ability to do so otherwise. Honestly, I wish a lot more comics looked like Kevin's. They're really nice to look at, they're deceptively simple, they look like something that I want to believe people could create if they cared to take the time. But... I don't think that's true. I don't think that a lot of people can draw like this, with this decade-long consistency of character, with this range of scope and size, with this near-Sin City use of blacks and shadows. I've eaten as much of this guy's comics as I can find, the church sketchbooks and the feathered ogre and the rest. I think whatever he does is worth looking at as much as it's worth being read.

SPURGEON: Do you think Huizenga changed as a cartoonist between #1 and #3? How? Are you able to track the way he's progressed through the decade entire?

STONE: No, I don't think I am. I don't know what to make of a decent chunk of his work, like what the message is behind "The 100 Most" cartoons, or whether or not he plans to draw more old Buddhist stories. I do think you can look at the first Ganges issue and see it in a different light from #s 2 and 3, which are more specific about being start to finish stories. (I should be clear that I don't separate the second issue into two separate stories.) Ganges #1 uses the larger size to have more panels, but it's similar in tone and brevity to the Glenn stories in Or Else. Ganges #s 2 and 3 -- those are full-on comics, they're graphic novels, whatever -- they're long. And they're his best work, which says something. When you add in Fight or Run and Treehouse of Horror, I think you've made the case that he's interested in doing more than just the hyper-detailed introspection of Ganges, he just needs a scale to deliver those stories, he needs the opportunity and place. I was re-reading the first chapter of Rumbling -- that's the one that has a post-apocalyptic thing going on -- and having Treehouse's Laser Eyed Bart in mind, imagine if that story was being told in an Ignatz scale, or if it was at least in the color mainstream format that Treehouse was.

Man, I really wish I could say something towards tracking his work through the decade. I think he's gotten better, sure. I think that any eventual collected edition of Ganges is going to knock some people out, because reading those things back to back is a fantastic experience. I can't say much beyond that.

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SPURGEON: Tucker, I forget how old you are but I know it's way younger than me. Huizenga is in his early 30s, but is one of the two or three youngest people widely recognized as an top of the line cartoonist, I think. Do you connect to him at all that way? Is there anything about him that's particularly post-1990s comics, do you think?

STONE: I don't know much about Huizenga's background, and I think I tend to associate some of the things Glenn does as being autobiographical. I couldn't tell you that I have much in common with him, but there is an aspect of ownership I feel simply because I've read his comics for an extended period of time that pre-dates hearing about him from other people. Of course, that's a completely made-up bullshit feeling, but no different from the ownership that Paper Rodeo readers have for [Mat] Brinkman, or anybody who says, "I liked _____ before they were big". And since I didn't read Supermonster, I'm still a Johnny-come-lately to some. Connecting to his age -- I want to say no, because I don't think I knew he was early 30's, but I bet I would've been surprised to find out he was 40, or 19, or something like that.

Do I think he's post 1990? I don't think so. His work has a new quality to it, with the subject matter including video games, etc, but it's really just straight up personal expression, you know? I've never felt like what I was reading was reactionary, with the possibly vague and imagined connection between those numbered lists that King Cat and Or Else have. And for the most part, I think a whole lot of mainstream stuff is reactionary comics, it's reverential and talk-back as possible. There's a pretense of original voices, but that's all it is, a pretense. Ganges and Or Else read to me as being Kevin Huizenga comics, I think it's a bit too kind to rank some of the trash in there with them as being in the same category. His work would have been special whenever it came out.

Wait, you wanted me to make a joke about you pretending you're old, right? Should we talk about ragtime music or something? Do you want to borrow some nitro pills for your heart? I could talk about smartphones and twitter and glo-fi music, and you could say something about how the mimeograph machine at the VFW.

*****

* Ganges #1, Kevin Huizenga, Fantagraphics/Coconino Press, softcover, 32 pages, 1560977620, 2006, $7.95
* Ganges #2, Kevin Huizenga, Fantagraphics/Coconino Press, softcover, 32 pages, 9781560979425, 2008, $7.95
* Ganges #3, Kevin Huizenga, Fantagraphics/Coconino Press, softcover, 32 pages, 9781606993385, 2009, $7.95

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* CR Holiday Interview One: Sean T. Collins On Blankets
* CR Holiday Interview Two: Frank Santoro On Multiforce
* CR Holiday Interview Three: Bart Beaty On Persepolis
* CR Holiday Interview Four: Kristy Valenti On So Many Splendid Sundays
* CR Holiday Interview Five: Shaenon Garrity On Achewood
* CR Holiday Interview Six: Christopher Allen On Powers
* CR Holiday Interview Seven: David P. Welsh On MW
* CR Holiday Interview Eight: Robert Clough On ACME Novelty Library #19
* CR Holiday Interview Nine: Jeet Heer On Louis Riel
* CR Holiday Interview Ten: Chris Mautner On The Scott Pilgrim Series
* CR Holiday Interview Eleven: Tim Hodler On In The Shadow Of No Towers
* CR Holiday Interview Twelve: Noah Berlatsky On The Elephant And Piggie Series

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