A personal diary keeping people abreast of what I am working on writing-wise.

Saturday, May 17, 2008


It's hard to believe that it's been almost three years since I wrote "Marx and Engels" for the Belle & Sebastian comics anthology, Put the Book Back on the Shelf. Then again, I'm a few weeks shy of four years of having left Oni, and fourteen since I arrived in Portland, so time is a long and elastic thing.

"Marx and Engels," of course, began my working relationship with Marc Ellerby, and the beginning of the first significant comics work that I would end up doing. It wasn't long after the short story was completed that Oni and I decided to ask Marc to be a part of Love the Way You Love--and here we are, putting the finishing touches on the last issue. I approved the final lettering today, the design work is set to be done over the weekend, and then we are uploading to the printer on Monday, all for a mid-June release.

That alone is enough to feel sentimental. I've loved working with Marc. For as much as I give him a hard time, I think my feelings for him still come through. I adore the little guy, and our collaboration has been fruitful. To proofread the lettering, I printed out all 61 pages of the last issue. It's a lot different looking at art on the page than on a screen. Lettering changes it, too, it draws your eye to different things. I was impressed by the level of detail that now appears in Marc's drawing. There is a sequence in #6 where we see a little bit of the Tristan and Isolde legend, and when I wrote that part of the script, I was feeling a bit like a bastard for demanding Marc draw that in the same issue where I also make him draw mountain climbers. I'm glad I asked him to do both, because he really got a chance to flex a different skill set than we'd seen from him before.

If you really want to see the change, though, you have to look at the flashback sequence that we did. It hearkens back to the first issue, and as I mentioned on the blog before, it was a sequence that gave Marc a lot of trouble back then. I didn't decide to go back to it to be mean, though I suppose I chuckled a little when I typed it up; it is an important event as far as Tristan's relationship with Mariais concerned. Compare the two versions of the scene, though, and you'll get a real impression of how far Marc has come as a cartoonist.

Completing the issue was enough on its own to make me feel sentimental, but in one of those unexpected life coincidences, Jean-Luc Godard's 1967 picture La Chinoise was released for the first time on DVD this week, and I was lucky enough to get it for review. Anyone who has read "Marx & Engels" will know that the British girl in the story is wearing a La Chinoise T-shirt (the name misspelled in early drafts of the art, no less), and it is a topic of discussion between her and the American boy. It was a movie that I had heard about but had never been able to find; even so, its portrayal of college students enamored of Chairman Mao was ideally suited to my contemporary tale of kids from different worlds and their political posturing.

When my DVD Talk editor assigned me La Chinoise, I e-mailed Marc and said to him, "Do you realize that if we were wanting to do that story now, we couldn't?" The conversation between the students revolves around the difficulty of obtaining a copy of the movie. The girl with the shirt says she's seen it, and the boy is impressed because he never has. I remember looking around at the time, and there was maybe a Japanese DVD, but it was super expensive and possibly a bootleg. Now you can get it anywhere. Having seen the move, it's still a perfect centerpiece for the story, as La Chinoise is also about kids posturing and how being on two sides of a political divide can drive a wedge between lovers. Most shocking for me, though, was the revelation that the most radical character, the one played by Anna Wiazemsky, is the daughter of a banker. So is the girl in "Marx & Engels." I somehow tapped into the Godard lobe of the great Jungian brain while writing.

There are a lot of "what if?" games to play in life, and with a lot of them, more than hoping and dreaming that things had gone a different way, they actually confirm for you how lucky you were that they went the way they did. Marc and I would have probably still worked together, we might have even done the same story. I suppose there would have been a way to do it even if the students could stroll down to HMV and buy a copy of the disc. It would not have been the same, though, the way everything clicked. The pieces all fell into place as they did, and that can never be replicated. The Beatles solo are good, but as four guys working together, they had something else entirely, and had they not fired Pete Best and hired Ringo, had Stu Sutcliffe been able to stick around, would we have ever gotten Abbey Road?

So, I consider myself fortunate that I couldn't see a movie I wanted to see, that it's lead me here three years later. La Chinoise now comes as a kind of reward for taking a leap of faith, for putting in several years of work. But then, it's also overkill. I already had my reward in the book.

Or maybe it's just part of closing the chapter. Marc and I will be back as a team, but it will be in a world where La Chinoise is on sale at every website and can be shipped across the globe. (Is that more Communist or capitalist?) It's like a confirmation of our feeling that when we do get the band back together, we need to do something different. A different comic for a different world.

Thanks, Marc.

Current Soundtrack: Tindersticks, The Hungry Saw

Current Mood: thoughtful

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All text (c) 2008 Jamie S. Rich

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