ACA Thank-you Card Thanksgiving

Plug, Tribute

This is a week for giving thanks, so I’m penning a little shout-out to my Atlantic Center for the Art associates. They were a great group: so talented, dedicated, and inspiring! And after 20+ years of working solo in my home/studio, I have to say the experience of sharing a studio with them has made me rethink my aversion to studio environments. We shall see…

In the meantime, I wanted to show off the beautiful hand-made card my associates presented me at the end of our residency. Cliodhna Lyons fabricated the card (which measures 4″ x 5-1/2″) as an accordian-style pamphlet. It is now one of my most prized possessions. Check it out:

First, the cover, with a very snazzy French flap! “Team Bogota[s]” refers to a slight miscommunication between Neil O’Driscoll and Sara Woolley and the subject of her project:

ACA-card-cover-web

ACA Narrative Corpse Comix Yearbook!

Comics, Publicity

01-cover-webI’ve been back home from the ACA for about a week now, and am just starting to re-adapt to life away from the perfect temperatures, palmettos, and wooden walkways of the Atlantic Center for the Arts. One of the projects my Associates and I worked on was the ACA Narrative Corpse Comix Yearbook, a fun and unusual comics jam. We wanted to share the results with you, so starting today, I’ll post one page from the comic, to give you the feel of how it was produced. “Which was how?” Let me explain:

We were nine cartoonists fated to spend three weeks together in the beautiful environs of the Atlantic Center for the Arts. Everyone had their individal nonfiction projects to work on, but we were all eager to collaborate as well. And so it was suggested we do a project inspired by the Surrealist game “Exquisite Corpse,” a method by which a collection of words or images is collectively assembled—without prior planning or discussion.

Nine numbers were put in a hat (a San Francisco Giants cap, to be exact—Go Giants!) and everyone drew a number. Joe Luby had drawn first lots and he had the responsibility of starting the narrative. Dave Kiersh was next, and it was his job to continue the story—with nothing to go on but the final panel of Joe’s page. Dave guessed what he could from that clue and continued the narrative in his own unique way. And so it went, over the course of the residency, as each cartoonist’s turn came and went.

And what the heck is the result? We don’t know! Something definitely surreal—and, dare I say, quite beautiful. Just your normal semi-autobio fairytale with dragons and jellyfish and random references to Star Trek and Jodorowsky’s The Holy Mountain.

So, without further ado, head over to ACT-I-VATE to check out Joe’s page 1, and keep coming back daily until the 9-page comic is concluded. After all, as Team Bogotas member Cliodhna Lyons (and #3 contributor) expressed so perfectly: “We made comics. Comics pretty. Read comics.”

Here’s the URL one more time: http://activatecomix.com/181.comic

Terms of Service

Geek, Publicity, Work

tos-cover-smI wrote about it back in July and now it’s finally here: Terms of Service: Understanding Our Role in the World of Big Data. The new “graphic novella” (Al Jazeera America‘s first graphic feature) by myself and Al Jazeera America reporter Michael Keller examines the role of big data, privacy, and the implications of sharing personal information in the—all via the “characters” of Josh and Michael.

Hopefully, Terms of Service is a thought-provoking, entertaining field guide to help smart people understand how their personal—and often very private—data, is collected and used. Big Data powers the modern world. What do we gain from Big Data? What do we lose? Terms of Service look at such services as Gmail, the Progressive Snapshot program, FitBit and other activity trackers, and the not-far-in-the-future Internet of Everything.

Between social media profiles, browsing histories, discount programs and new tools controlling our energy use, there’s no escape. As we put ourselves into our technology through text messages and photos, and use technology to record new information about ourselves such as FitBit data, what are the questions a smart consumer should be asking? What is the tradeoff between giving up personal data and how that data could be used against you? And what are the technologies that might seem invasive today that five years from now will seem quaint? How do we as technology users keep up with the pace while not letting our data determine who we are?

Topics addressed in Terms of Service include:

My Atlantic Center for the Arts Residency Starts Monday; Presenting My Associate Artists!

Publicity, Travel

I leave Sunday for New Smyrna Beach, Florida, to start on Monday my three-week “Master Artist” comics residency with the Atlantic Center for the Arts. It’s been three years since I was first tapped for the ACA residency (giving up my spot in 2012 in deference to the Knight-Wallace Fellowship), and I’m psyched for it to finally be happening. (I’m also going to miss Sari & Phoebe! Happily, however, I won’t be without them for the whole time—they’re coming down the very first weekend after the residency starts for a three-day visit, occurring over Sari’s birthday! Do I hear a beach birthday?!)

My residency is focused around nonfiction comics, and I’m really excited about the Associate Artists with whom I’ll be working, who hail from all over the States and beyond, including South Korea, Australia, and Ireland. (It was quite a task whittling down the initial group of talented and deserving applicants for the residency, and I went through quite a bit of heartache selecting these eight exceptional cartoonists.)

My plan for the residency is fairly open-ended and in many ways will depend on the needs and desires of the group. I plan to spend good chunks of each day with them in a studio environment, and we’ll do the occasional group exercise and critique. Maybe some form of collaborative project will emerge? The main thing  I want for each Associate—and myself—is to come out of the residency with a clearer idea of their personal project, and renewed enthusiasm for finishing it.

So without further ado, here are the Associate Artists of ACA Residency 155:

Robin Ha—born in Seoul, Korea, and moved to the United States when she was 14. Since graduating from RISD with BFA in Illustration, she has been working in New York. Her work has been published in independent comics anthologies, as well as Marvel comics and Heavy Metal Magazine. Her plan is to continue working on a graphic memoir about her immigrant experience as a teenager in Alabama.

Sarah Howell—an Australian cartoonist who has worked extensively in festival and youth arts. Sarah’s project is a graphic novel (with support from the Australian Prime Ministers’ Centre) about the final days of the three P.M.s who died in office, all as witnessed by Dame Enid Lyons, the first female federal Member of Parliament.

James Kettner—“Kett” grew up in Westchester and studied Illustration at the School of Visual Arts in NYC. After a decade of misadventures he made it to the West Coast (now Oakland, CA) where he received his MFA in Writing from California College of the Arts. Kett’s comix have appeared in print and on the web in publications like SF Weekly, and he’s a regular contributor to the punk comix anthology As You Were. Kett’s project is Full Moon, a graphic memoir about his time working at an adult escort agency.

David Kiersh—an associate artist in residence at ACA in 2010, when he worked on his self-published book After School Special. He also received a 2008 Xeric Grant for his book Dirtbags, Mallchicks, and Motorbikes. Dave’s project will be his new book, Love is Strange.

Joseph Luby—a Savannah College of Art and Design honors alumni, where he majored in Sequential Art and Illustration. Joe says he “only ever wanted to do three things in life: be a teacher, be a good father, and draw comics.” Joe’s project is an illustrated history of earth-space science and the scientific method as taught and understood at the middle grade level.

Cliodhna Lyons—Irish illustrator and animator. She studied animation at Ballyfermot College in Dublin and comics at the School of Visual Arts in New York. She has contributed to several comic book anthologies and has self-published a number of minicomics and hand-bound books. In 2013 she became a comic book tourist and spent seven months traveling around the world meeting other comic book artists and creativites in over 30 locations. She currently lives and works in London. Cliodhna’s project is the tale of the ocean-going royal mail ship RMS St Helena, her  crew, and the tiny island of St. Helena which she faithfully serves.

Neil O’Driscoll—Irish illustrator and filmmaker who was born in the southeast of Ireland and is currently based on a cliff just outside of Dublin. Having trained in animation, design, and crafts before completing a degree in film at Edinburgh College of Art, he now works freelance while illustrating the independent comic Big Bastard. Neil’s project is a graphic novel about human rights pioneer Roger Casement.

Sara Woolley—illustrator and graphic novelist living and working in Brooklyn, NY. Sara’s project is a fictionalized graphic memoir written with her mother and art partner Leila Gómez Woolley about a young girl’s upbringing in, and exile from, 1950s Colombia.

In progress: big data/privacy piece for Al Jazeera America…

Comics, Geek, Work
Penciled pages so far

Penciled pages so far

I’m currently in the middle of a really cool comics project for Al Jazeera America‘s interactive multimedia team. In conjunction with AJAM staff reporter Michael Keller, it’s a process piece on big data and privacy, especially in relation to our roles as consumers. Michael came to me with the project, having already done a ton of research and reporting on the topic. Once I came on board, we did more reporting, wrote the script together (with great help from our editors), and now I’m penciling it.

Not to give away too much in advance, in the story we get into the pros & cons of such “free” services as Gmail, Facebook, and Foursquare, as well as the increasing popularity of devices like Progressive’s Snapshot and activity trackers like the Fitbit. Some of the experts we talk to include former California State Senator Liz Figueroa (one of the first politicians to recognize the privacy implications of Google’s Gmail), cyber-security researcher Dan Geer, privacy law experts Scott Peppet and Paul Ohm, social researcher danah boyd, and Alessandro Acquisti (who studies the economics of privacy)—as well as a bunch of “regular folks.” Also making an appearance: Al Gore! Imploding robots! The Database of Ruin!

As I mentioned, it’s kind of a process piece. Michael and I are both characters in the story, which tracks us as we travel the country, interview people, and wrangle the issues. It has a similar feel to my prior collaboration with Brooke Gladstone, The Influencing Machine, except I’m a character in the story too! (I find it ironic that after starting my career as an autobiographical cartoonist, I segued away from that into journalism, and have now come full-circle to “autobiographical journalism”!)

Being that the piece will live on the web, it’ll also include some multimedia functionality, à la A.D. on Smith and The Stowaway on The Atavist.

It’s been a fascinating piece to work on, and really the perfect thing for me. Michael did the bulk of the research and reporting, but I’ve been integral to shaping the script, and of course drawing the thing. I’m also excited to be working with the new-on-the-scene news organization Al Jazeera America.

One thing we haven’t been able to settle on, however, is a title for the thing. Even though you haven’t read the piece, feel free to weigh in—or suggest your own. These are some of the candidates (personally, I feel they’re all way too long):

  • “The Penumbra of Fear: The Future of Privacy and the Technologies and Temptations that Could Get Us There”
  • “The New Normal: The Future of Privacy and the Technologies that Could Get Us There “
  • “Cloud City: How Much Privacy is Technology Worth to You?”
  • “My Data for Your Love”
  • “TMI: The Dangers of Over-Sharing”

It’s been a labor love project so far: I came on-board in February and we spent at least two months just reporting and writing the script. I’ve been penciling since May. I should begin inking, coloring, and finalizing the piece after next week; we hope to debut it on Al Jazeera America in mid-to-late August. It’s going to be close to 40 pages in length!

Sari Wilson & I have a new piece in the comics anthology The Big Feminist BUT

Plug, Work

The Big Feminist But

Back in December I encouraged you to support the KickStarter campaign for the new comics anthology The Big Feminist BUT (I love that title!), and now, a few scant months later, it exists in printed form, ready for your purchase!

This beautiful 200-page softcover—whose full title is The Big Feminist BUT: Comics about Women, Men and the IFs, ANDs & BUTs of Feminism-–is edited by Joan Reilly and Shannon O’Leary, and features contributors like Hope Larson, Jeffrey Brown, Vanessa Davis, Emily Flake, Shaenon Garrity, Gabrielle Bell, Justin Hall, Ron Rege, Lauren Weinstein, Liz Baillie, Abby Denson, Jesse Reklaw, Kat Roberts, and Dylan Williams. It also includes a brand-new collaboration of mine and Sari’s (she wrote it and I drew it) loosely based on her experiences as a fact-checker for Playboy Magazine.

The book asks:

“What do we really mean when we start a sentence with the disclaimers, ‘I’m not a feminist, BUT…’ or ‘I am 100% a feminist, BUT…’ What do our great big ‘BUTs’ say about where things stand between the sexes in the 21st Century? We asked some of the most talented ladies (and gentlemen) working in comics and animation today, along with some of the smartest writers we know, to ‘but’ into the heated discussion about the much more level but still contradictory playing field both sexes are struggling to find their footing on today. Fans of Bitch Magazine, Jezebel, Love and Rockets, Wonder Woman, Girls and Mad Men will all find something to enjoy here, as will anyone who likes to read thoughtful, compelling, top-notch comics!”

I couldn’t say it any better—order your copy now.

Here’s a sample page from Sari & my piece (the original art of which was purchased by a KickStarter funder):

SW-JN-03-sm

Back my Illustrated Field Guide to Preventing Human-Elephant Conflict KickStarter!

Travel, Work

Trans Africa-Asia Human Elephant Conflict Education ProjectI wanted to let you know about a new project I’m involved with: The Pictorial Guide to Human-Elephant Conflict Education and Resolution.

Human elephant conflict is a serious threat to elephants in both Africa and Asia. You’re no doubt aware of the horrors of the ivory trade and poaching (36,000 elephants slaughtered every year!), but elephants in both continents are also in danger from the encroachment of humans into the animals’ habitats and other factors.

The Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society (SLWCS) is spearheading an education and awareness campaign to combat these issues. The biggest challenge is the vastness of the area, and the scale and magnitude of the problem. The other challenges are that even though human elephant conflict is common to both Africa and Asia, there are regional, geographical, and cultural variables that have to be given consideration. Through its partnerships with local stakeholder organizations, the SLWCS is working with local communities that are the worst affected by human elephant conflicts. Developing the project from a bottom-to-top process through discussion with all stakeholders will ensure that the project surmounts these challenges effectively and delivers the final project product: The Pictorial Guide to Human-Elephant Conflict Education and Resolution.

I’ll be illustrating the field guide, which will be translated into regional languages, and laminated to withstand the rigors of remote wilderness application. It will be distributed in areas throughout Sri Lanka, Botswana, Namibia, and Zimbabwe. It’s exciting to imagine that my drawings might help educate local communities and help to save elephants from threat!

The SLWCS has launched a KickStarter campaign with a goal of raising $20,000. Two weeks into the campaign, they’ve raised nearly $2,000—but that leaves only two weeks to raise over $18,000. (As with all KickStarter campaigns, the project won’t be funded—and you won’t be charged—if we don’t reach our goal.)

Take a look at the KickStarter page: watch the detailed explanatory video, read the FAQ, and check out some of the thank-you gifts. Please help if you can—and spread the word about this very worthy project.

"Stowaway," my new comics journalism piece, debuts on The Atavist today

Comics, Publicity, Travel, Work

The boutique digital publisher The Atavist releases Stowaway today, a new comics journalism piece by Tori Marlan and myself.

Atavist No. 17, Stowaway, is an “enhanced e-comic” that traces the 12,000-mile journey of an orphan from Ethiopia to America. Stowaway follows Fanuel on his odyssey from the streets of Addis Ababa to the deserts of Mexico, through the Atavist’s immersive storytelling technology, which includes sound, music, video, and interactive graphics. Fifteen-year-old Fanuel dodges authorities while relying on complete strangers as he struggles to find a mysterious woman in Seattle named Sofia,who is his last hope for the future. This is the first Atavist story to be available through the Web as well as The Atavist tablet app. The App version can be downloaded from the iTunes store.

The Atavist’s software team created a custom comics app which includes panel-by-panel navigation and a soundtrack integrated with all of the traditional extras features the Atavist is known for, like interactive maps, timelines, background interviews, and animations—all in the service of bringing the reader into Fanuel’s uncertain world as he tries to hold onto a dream which at times seems to disintegrate before his eyes. Extra features include a five-minute interview with Tori and me which also shows various stages of production of the piece, from script to thumbnails, pencils, inks, and colors. And the compelling soundtrack is by my brother-in-law Evan Wilson!

Tori, who I’ve known since the early 1990s, first met Fanuel in 2006 while doing research at the International Children’s Center in Chicago. She eventually learned the details of his journey to the U.S. Although Tori’s background is investigative print reporting, and she had never worked in nonfiction comics before, she felt strongly that a graphic approach would bring Fanuel’s story to the public in a unique way. Our collaboration developed organically.

Stowaway is $3, either through the app or on the Web. To learn more, visit http://www.atavist.com/stowaway.

Nick Flynn's BEING FLYNN… the back story

Comics, Illustration, Plug

I first met Nick Flynn back in the fall of 1999, in Provincetown, Massachusetts. I had accompanied Sari there for her Fine Arts Work Center fellowship, a residency which would keep us in P-town through the winter and into the following spring. Nick was a second-year fellow, and Sari and I were immediately drawn to his charm, intelligence, and good humor.

Nick was a natural storyteller, and had some amazing stories to tell, about a life filled with drama, heartbreak, debauchery—all that good stuff. By trade, he was a poet—a good one—and over the years he and I did some collaborations, basically me adapting his poems into comics. One of the pieces, “Father Outside,” had to do with the time Nick was working in a homeless shelter and his long-estranged father arrived as a new client. Another piece, “Bag of Mice,” dealt with Nick’s mother’s suicide. In all, we did three collaborations, all of which were published in literary journals (and later published my me in The Vagabonds #2). The original art from our first piece, “Cartoon Physics, Part One,” even traveled as part of a multi-city comics art exhibition.

In 2004, Nick published a memoir, memorably titled Another Bullshit Night in Suck City. (That was a favorite phrase of his father’s.) Nick hoped to collaborate again with me on the cover of the book (which was being published by W.W. Norton, much later to be my publisher for The Influencing Machine.) So we worked together on some sketches. Long story short, Norton declined to use my art for the cover (though it was eventually published as a frontspiece in the British Faber & Faber edition). And I have to admit that the art they used instead, by Hon-Sum Cheng, is far superior.

So, fast forward eight years, and Nick’s book has been made into a feature film. Now called Being Flynn (you can see why they didn’t use the other title), it stars Paul Dano as Nick and the legendary Robert DeNiro as Nick’s father. Julianne Moore makes an appearance as Nick’s mom—not a bad cast! The film opened last week, so to commemorate it, I’m sharing the book’s rejected cover art.

Another Bullshit Night in Suck City

Pull Up Those PIIGS!

Comics, Illustration

My mother, Martha Rosler, and I have just collaborated on a public art piece in central Berlin. It’s on the topic of the ongoing European debt crisis, and it’ll be on display on the building (at Auguststraße 10, 10117 Berlin, Germany) until the end of November. (I wasn’t aware of this beforehand, but “PIIGS” is an acronym used by international bond analysts, academics, and the economic press to refer to the economies of Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece, and Spain in regard to the ongoing sovereign debt crisis.)

My mom came up with the concept and text, and I did the illustration. The project was commissioned by DAAD (in English, the German Academic Exchange Service). My mother is in Berlin for a year on a residency sponsored by DAAD. This is the second large public art collaboration I’ve done with her, the first being part of the MAK Center’s “How Many Billboards?” project from last year.

The piece is quite massive, approximately 35′ x 42.’ Here’s a photo:

Pull Up Those PIIGS

Pull Up Those PIIGS!

This is how the building normally looks (without the palm trees), sorry about the weird cropping:

Auguststraße 10 10117 Berlin, Germany

And here’s a link to a larger version of the original illo, complete with the groovy yellow-green background which they had to cut out for print-compatibility reasons…