About six weeks ago, while doing my laundry in the basement, I noticed a pile of clothes someone had dumped in a laundry cart. The clothes looked damp, like whoever was cleaning them put them in hadn’t put in enough money to really get ’em dry. Someone else had needed the dryer and had tossed the half-dry clothes into a cart. As the days and weeks passed, I noticed the pile of clothes still sitting there, and figured they had been abandoned. (There are a number of apartments in my building which seem to host constantly changing itinerant folks, so my guess was the clothes belonged to a long-gone person.)
Cut to this morning, as I came downstairs to wash some of our linens. I’d been out of town for nearly two weeks, and the abandoned clothes were still there. For some reason, seeing them still there more than a month after they first appeared depressed me. I don’t know why, but after I put my clothes in the washer, I shook out the abandoned clothes and folded them. They were mostly sheets and towels, with three clothing items — a hoodie, a shirt, and a pair of pants — so it was a pretty quick job. Then I neatly stacked them on the laundry room folding table and went upstairs to my apartment.
Returning twenty minutes later to put my washed linens in the dryer, I immediately noticed that the abandoned clothes were gone! In six weeks no one in the building had touched them, but the moment I folded the clothes they were taken? It’s like someone had been waiting for me to make them more presentable! Was it the original owner? Someone else doing their laundry? Or a basement denizen I’ve never seen before? A mystery.
But the story gets weirder.
A half hour later, when I came down to the basement again to pick up my dried linens, I found another surprise. My laundry had been taken out of the machine and folded! Again, a mystery. Was it the same person who took the other clothes? Or a completely unrelated event? I may never know. But if this doesn’t prove the existence of karma, I don’t know what does.
My mother, Martha Rosler, was invited by L.A.’s MAK Center to create a billboard as part of their “How Many Billboards” project. My mom suggested that we do a collaboration, and our billboard is up! It’s on Sunset Blvd, just west of Cahuenga, on the north side of the street, facing east. Here’s a shot. I’m off to L.A. tomorrow (weather willing) to take part in the opening festivities, etc…
I’m way late in writing about this, but you should check out cartoonist/rocker David Heatley‘s "Suburban White Girls" video. Written by David when he was 19, it was remixed and re-recorded last year as part of his My Brain is Hanging Upside Down EP — which of course coincided with the release of his My Brain is Hanging Upside Down graphic novel (Pantheon, 2008). And now there’s a music video.
As befitting Heatley’s work, "Suburban White Girls" is "an anthem of uncomfortable truth, complex parody, and heartfelt angst." The really cool element of all this is that the video uses cutouts and puppets made from original artwork by over 30 cartoonists/illustrators that David recruited via FaceBook and other means. And — wait for it… I’m one of the contributors! (You didn’t see that one coming, eh?) You’d think that with that many different styles and aesthetics, the final product would be an eyesore, but David was very clever in his conception of the project. He asked each contributor for a particular element — in my case, a "nerdy junior high school white boy, circa late 80s early 90s," in full-figure profile — and provided everybody with a specific color palette of just 20 shades. (By the way, is it a coincidence that the character I drew looks a lot like me from that era?)
So the end result is quite cohesive, and really fun. Some of the other contributors are Heatley himself, Chris Eliopoulos, Dave Kiersh, Hope Larson, J.T. Yost, Sarah Glidden, and my old intern Ben Moody, flexing his yellow-school-bus-drawing skills! Check it out; and also make sure to watch the credit reel, which features an example of each artist’s contribution to the project; and David’s blog, which gives a blow-by-blow behind-the-scenes account of the making of the video.
Christopher Irving just interviewed me for the very cool website NYC Graphic Novelists. We talked about my development as a cartoonist, A.D., The Influencing Machine, and my penchant for collaboration (not to mention using fancy French words).
When ABC News’s Documentary Group approached me last fall to collaborate on a motion comic for an upcoming primetime show about climate change called Earth 2100, I was excited. Through an imagined future scenario — intermixed with interviews with scientists, a global summit simulation, and user-generated videos — the two-hour special explores the effects of catastrophic climate change, and educates viewers on possible solutions. Earth 2100 will air nationwide next Tuesday, June 2, from 9–11pm. (Here’s a promo.)
Earth 2100’s producers asked me (and my new studio Dojo Graphics) to create characters and scenarios that would put a human face on the hot-button issue. For me, this was a perfect match. Throughout my cartooning career (A.D., Titans of Finance, A Few Perfect Hours, and American Splendor), I’ve been drawn to documentary-style storytelling. And for my wife and collaborative partner Sari Wilson, this was an opportunity to use her strengths as a fiction writer and comics scripter to breathe life into my concepts and characters.
This year I finally joined the Park Slope Food Co-op and I’ve decided I actually like working there. For years I had avoided joining, while enjoying the fruits (literally) of Sari’s membership, but I was forced to sign up about six months ago.
I grew up in the lefty/hippie enclave of 1970s Southern California, and my mom even shopped at a co-op out there— called "People’s Food," naturally. Years later, when I went to Oberlin College, I wanted nothing to do with their strong co-op movement. I was turned off by the hairy, crunchy, unshowered ethos of those places, not to mention that I was too preoccupied with other aspects of college life to think about actually working for my food! Flash forward many years later, and those were the same reasons I didn’t join the Park Slope Food Co-op. Now that I’ve been a member for a while, I’ve certainly encountered my share of smug, ideologically driven co-oppers, but the vast majority of members are "regular folks" who enjoy being part of the community. Like Sari & me, they just want a place to buy cheap, fresh food, and don’t mind donating three hours of their time once a month to get it.
I’m in the shipping & receiving squad, and basically I unload trucks, stock shelves, and crush boxes. It brings back fond memories of my Red Cross deployment after Hurricane Katrina.So much of the life of a freelance cartoonist is about "selling yourself," "putting yourself out there," and "expressing your vision" — it’s a relief to let go of my ego, to just be a cog, as it were, working for the "greater good." I’m also grateful that my co-op duties involve physical labor, enabling me to get out from the desk and the drawing table. And the food really is good.
Sari & I have collaborated on a “Next-Door Neighbor” strip for SMITH Magazine. “NDN” editor
solicited a piece from me, and Sari came up with a great story from her childhood (and beyond) called “The Beekeeper.” Last week, after putting A.D. chapter 13 to bed, I put the pen to the grindstone and got our little collaboration drawn. We’re both pretty happy with the results. Why don’t you check it out and see if you agree?
Fresh from the success of Gone Missing, The Civilians have a new show, This Beautiful City, already in production in Colorado Springs, and a second one in the works. To that end, they asked me to whip up an illo for a fund-raiser they’ve got coming up in NYC in May. The play is called Paris Commune, and the illo refers to the captured Communards who were exiled to the Polynesian island of New Caledonia. So here’s our little revolutionary in his new tropical garb:
And here’s info about the benefit, which your welcome to attend, if you’ve got $25-$150 to spare:
PARIS COMMUNE II
Communards in the South Pacific
Monday, May 12, 8 PM to 1 AM, Performance at 9 PM
Element Nightclub, 225 East Houston Street
@ Essex Street / Avenue A, New York, NY 10002
Enjoy drinks and dancing in this Lower East Side club, surrounded by The Civilians’ artists, friends, and supporters. This benefit event will include complimentary sponsored drinks, full cash bar, light hors d’oeuvres, and a silent auction.
In honor of our production of Paris Commune at the Public Theater, the company will perform a special sequel to the revolution. Following the Communards (in song) from life in the streets of Paris to exile on the French Polynesian island of New Caledonia, this one-time only event is guaranteed to prove that the fight (and the show) must go on.
Tickets $25 to $150. R.S.V.P. at www.thecivilians.org or by calling (212) 730-2019.
On Saturday, Sari & I went to see the new production of The Civilians’ Gone Missing, at the Barrow Street Theatre, in the West Village. Gone Missing is a wry and whimsical documentary musical crafted from company interviews with real-life New Yorkers about things gone missing: keys, IDs, a Gucci pump… or one’s mind. Directed and written by Steven Cosson with music by award-winning composer Michael Friedman, The Civilians portray more than 30 characters in their signature storytelling cabaret style. This is The Civilians first open-ended Off Broadway production, which is a real coup for them!
As The Civilians cartoonist-in-residence, I was handed the assignment of coming up with art for the show’s publicity materials. Given the subject matter of the show, one of the ideas I came up with was the iconic milk carton image, stuffed with details about the show. Both the company and the venue loved that concept, so that’s what ended up being used for the poster, the program, etc.
The show has received raves (a “Critic’s Pick” from The Times, five stars from Time Out, and various accolades from Variety, The Times of London, The Village Voice,, and all the other New York papers), and I was excited to finally see the show in person. I’ve seen parts of it on DVD, but even though I did a two-page adaptation of one of the scenes for The Vagabonds #2, I’ve never actually seen the show live. And it was all we hoped it would be: inventive, often hilarious, and filled with great music. as always, I was a huge fan of Jennifer R. Morris’s work, who doubles as a woman who loses her pump and a professional organizer.
If you like offbeat live theatre and are in the area, make sure to see the show. And look for copies of The Vagabonds #2 and the (I Am) Nobody’s Lunch/Gone Missing paperback (which I did the cover for) on sale in the lobby.