Archive for the 'interviews' Category

Hype: Titian caricaturing Michelangelo and Raphael painting the Pope’s Beard

No, these aren't the caricature mentioned, but they're also by Titian (and/or his assistants), and they're on the back of the Ancona Pala Gozzi.


In the latest issue of the scholarly journal Artibus et Historiae, I have an article on a caricature found on the back of a Titian canvas, seemingly depicting Michelangelo. It’s fairly speculative, I suppose, but that’s the nature of such things, and in any case it engages a number of issues — caricature, cartooning, the grotesque — that have been chronically under-examined in the history of art and the humanities in general. Oh, there’s also an extensive excursus on Pope Julius II’s beard, and Raphael and Leonardo are implicated…

Here’s the abstract:

The article examines drawings found on the back of the canvas of the recently surfaced Portrait of a Man (Girolamo Cornaro?) painted by Titian around 1511–1512. Drawn with the point of the brush, they depict a large head in profi le and two smaller figures. Loose and broad in execution, at least the former belongs to the domain of caricature. By comparison with similar drawings, on paper as well as the versos of other paintings, the drawings are here attributed to Titian. Further, the possibility that the head might be a portrayal of Michelangelo is explored, as is its value as evidence of the reception of Michelangelo’s outsize public stature and self-fashioning as an imperfect, Socratic artist whose work carried palpable overtones of the grotesque. The two figure studies, in themselves acutely Michelangelesque, are related to inventions by other contemporaries. Next, the fact that the caricature wears a beard, but no moustache, occasions an excursus on contemporary facial hair generally and specifically that of Michelangelo’s patron, Julius II. Ecclesiastical beards were a controversial issue at the time, and shaving one’s upper lip carried liturgical significance. Julius was the fi rst Renaissance pope to grow a beard, as is famously charted by Raphael in his portraits of him in the Vatican frescoes and elsewhere. By focusing on the depiction of his beard, the article sheds new light on the iconography of these pictures and potentially their confused chronology. Lastly, Titian’s drawings are examined in the context of contemporary grotesques with reference to Leonardo’s explorations of exaggerated physiognomies. On this basis, it proposes a reevaluation of Renaissance caricature.

The issue is second of two dedicated to Professor Peter Humfrey in his retirement. I am very happy to thus take part in the celebration!

Artibus et Historiae vol. 68 is available now in a specialist library near you!

On The Mount — An interview with Gary Panter

Jimbo in Purgatory


This interview with Gary Panter was conducted over a crackling phone line in New York in the spring of 2004. Panter had recently released his magnum opus Jimbo in Purgatory, a reading via comics of the middle part of Dante’s Divine Comedy, the Purgatorio , via Boccaccio and a host of other classics of European literature — particularly of the medieval and renaissance eras — dressed in pop culture drag.

Surely one of the most unusual works of comics of the past couple of decades, it is an incredibly dense and (let’s face it) difficult work. layered as it is in intertextual reference. But it rewards the committed reader, providing an oblique viewpoint upon the classical tradition, and not the least its humanist iteration as born in the late middle ages and developed through the renaissance to shape Western culture as we know it. Although its particulars may largely be forgotten today, Panter insists upon its currency and situates it at the heart of contemporary culture in what is merely the most hubristic manifestation of his ongoing efforts to break down the barriers between so-called high and low culture. By demonstrating that the two were always of a piece, fruitfully synthesized in multifarious ways through the early modern period, and alive and kicking today.

The interview was originally published in Danish at Rackham back in 2004, and was followed by my review of the book, which we also reprinted here recently. We named Jimbo in Purgatory Book of the Year back then, and the interview and review were at least in part an effort to get behind the scenes a little bit in order to unpack the work for the first-time reader, as well as to provide a little extra for Panter connoisseurs. I hope we succeeded, even if Panter’s subsequent edits never made it to my inbox, leaving a few lacunae in my transcript exposed and unelucidated. A pity, but in a way not inappropriate.

I’d like to start out by asking you about how the project came about. What prompted you to embark upon Jimbo in Purgatory? Which thoughts and ideas did you bring to it initially?

Two things happened. The first was that I started reading Finnegans Wake along with the footnotes to it. Secondly, I started thinking about why I had named my first Jimbo collection, the Pantheon book, Jimbo in Paradise. It clearly had to do with Dante, but I’d never actually read Paradise, I hadn’t read the Comedy. The reading of Joyce and the footnotes to it lead me to all this medieval stuff, all this satirical stuff, which really appealed to me, while Dante lead me to Boccaccio… Continue reading ‘On The Mount — An interview with Gary Panter’

Big K.R.I.T. Interviewed


At the Roskilde Festival I had the pleasure of interviewing one of the up-and-coming stars of Southern hip hop, Big K.R.I.T., who blessed the festival with an awesome concert on Sunday afternoon, closing the show after his country cuzzin Yelawolf had torn up his part of the program. A great afternoon. Check out the interview, filmed and edited by Kenneth Nguyen for Rapspot, above and visit K.R.I.T.’s website where you can download several of his mixtapes for free.

And keep checking for him. It’s great hip hop music, going places.

Wivel’s Nordic Mixtape

By Steffen Rayburn Maarup

As mentioned in this space once or twice, Kolor Klimax — Nordic Comics Now, edited by this site’s owner Matthias Wivel, is now available in bookstores across North America, and thus the rest of the world. To mark the official release, I decided to ask him a few questions on the book, the project and the future.

Why a Nordic comics anthology? Why the US? And why Fantagraphics?

The idea came from the Finnish Comics Society. They’ve been running an international initiative called Nordicomics — which includes exhibitions and workshops — for a number of years now, and figured that publishing an anthology series in English would help their mission to promote Nordic comics internationally. The idea is that this is the first in a series of books with rotating editors, under the general helmsmanship of Kalle Hakkola of FCS, who is responsible for Nordicomics. The second book is already being planned and will be totally different from Kolor Klimax in concept as well as content. As I understand it, the idea is that every book will be a stand-alone work.

As for Fantagraphics, I basically bit the idea from you. As I’m sure it did for your Danish anthology From Wonderland with Love, it just seemed the obvious choice — besides having been one of the best American comics publishers for decades, they’re consistently the most interested in supporting grass roots projects such as this one, as long as the quality is there. And co-publisher Kim Thompson is half Danish and knows about and is interested in Nordic comics already. Continue reading ‘Wivel’s Nordic Mixtape’

Take Two — An Interview with Ruppert/Mulot

From Sol Carrelus


The cartooning duo Florent Ruppert and Jérôme Mulot are amongst the most remarkable emerging talents on the Francophone comics scene. A two-headed cartoon beast, theirs is an organic collaboration, melding writing and drawing. Their comics are possessed of a strong experimental formalism — elaborate analytical constructions, in which characters move and interact for our entertainment, as if in a petri dish. Continue reading ‘Take Two — An Interview with Ruppert/Mulot’

On the Real — An Interview with Chester Brown


This interview with Chester Brown, who is currently garnering much attention for his extraordinary new book Paying for It, was conducted at the 2004 MoCCA Arts Fest in a small storage room where they kept the boxed-up Harvey Awards, a couple of hours before the ceremony was to start. Brown had recently released the collected edition of Louis Riel, which naturally became the main subject of our conversation.

As should be evident from my 2005 review, I consider this a remarkable book in a remarkable oeuvre. I never thought the interview rendered Brown nor the book justice, consisting mostly of dead ends and leads left unpursued, but I still think the artist makes a number of interesting points and observations and foregrounds the motivations that led him to write Paying for It. I am in any case grateful that Mr. Brown took the time.

The interview was published at Rackham in 2004. This is its first publication in English. I hope you enjoy it, despite its shortcomings. Continue reading ‘On the Real — An Interview with Chester Brown’

Fabrice Neaud interview at The Comics Journal


I conducted an interview with the great Fabrice Neaud back in 2009, on the occasion of the publication of his ‘augmented’ version of his masterpiece Journal III. A candid conversation on art, life and the risks incurred in their intersection. It’s now up over at The Comics Journal.

Chris Ware interview at The Comics Journal

ware_quimby.jpg
The first half interview I conducted in front of a live audience with master cartoonist Chris Ware at Komiks.dk last May is now up in transcribed form on The Comics Journal; Part 1, part 2.

I’m grateful to Henry Sørensen for transcribing the interview.

Distant Relatives — Nas & Damian Marley Interviewed

kn_damian_nas3.jpg
One of the most positive musical surprises this year for yours truly has been the recently released Distant Relatives, which sees reggae scion Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley and hip hop veteran Nas teaming up for an Afrocentric album on the theme of our common heritage.

Far from an assured success, the collaboration and the thematic focus the two have selected make for a remarkable consistent album, containing moments of vocal fire as well of spiritual oomph. The maturation Marley exhibited with last year’s remarkable Welcome to Jamrock continues on this record—his vocals are more varied and self-assured than ever—while Nas has not been this consistent on a whole album for many years.

Musically, the album could have been a little more adventurous, sounding perhaps a little too polished, but it is skillfully and melodically composed by Damian and his brother Stephen and carries the amazing vocal performances perfectly, with nary a weak track and only one or two instances of ill-advised sentimentalism.

I caught up with the two of them on their tour stop in Copenhagen the week before last, a few hours before a fantastic, sold-out show at Store Vega and got the chance to ask them some questions for Rapspot.dk. I was joined by my buddy, DubCNN’s PTA. Since we were in his hotel room, we started talking to Marley, but Nas showed up about half-way through.

kn_damian_nas1.jpg
Matthias Wivel: How did the album come to be? What made you decide to work together?

Damian Marley: The album came to be because we were respecting and being fans of each other’s music. I invited Nas to be on the Welcome to Jamrock album, on a track called “Road to Zion”, and he had invited me to do some work with him on the Hip Hop Is Dead album—unfortunately, the song that we did together didn’t make it onto that album—so we always had an interest to do more work together. And then our management teams came up with the idea to do an EP of four songs based upon Africa. And when we started working on that EP, it became an album, so that’s how it happened. Continue reading ‘Distant Relatives — Nas & Damian Marley Interviewed’

Androids Can Dream — Robert Venditti interviewed

surrogates_4_rt.jpg
By Andrew Firestone

A great man once said, “It is no small thing to make a new world.” And he’s only really half-right. It is a rather small thing to make a new world in one’s head. It is an entirely larger accomplishment if one delivers on the artistic and philosophical promise of this new world.

So while, yes, The Surrogates film starring Bruce Willis may have been a bit of a letdown, Robert Venditti’s consummate vision of a strikingly modernist post-modern future still vibrantly successful, in no small part to his recent prequel The Surrogates: Flesh and Bone. Begun in a mini-series published by Top Shelf in 2005, Venditti’s The Surrogates quite dutifully reimagines the Yeatsian postmodern societal disintegration in a world in which people do away with their physical selves in preference to beautiful idealized androids, which they then live vicariously through. In the first series, Atlanta has already been taken under the spell of this corporate wundermachina; Detective Harvey Greer, the main character, never even sees his wife physically to have dinner. Despite its simple premise, Venditti achieves a contemporary ethos which holds a mirror up to a reality-show culture, summoning the most biting fable of American socio-cultural trends in recent memory. What is most impressive is not that the story is soundly constructed, but how vast an area of area of the American mindscape the story encompasses, yet how personal it feels. These poignant narrative techniques evince the abilities of a great storyteller in the making. Continue reading ‘Androids Can Dream — Robert Venditti interviewed’

From Wonderland with Love at MoCCA

fromwonderland.jpgThe MoCCA Art Festival, this coming weekend, will see the debut of the English language anthology of Danish comics, From Wonderland with Love, published jointly by Fantagraphics and Danish small press publisher Aben Maler. This book contains some great work by the cream of Danish cartoonists working today, and a handful of them will even be on hand to push the book at the Art Festival. On the occasion of the release, here’s a short interview with editor and publisher at Aben Maler, Steffen P. Maarup.

Can you briefly describe Wonderland?

The book’s subtitle sort of says it all: Danish Comics in the Third Millennium. It’s basically the best short comics of the past decade, selected and edited by me. 19 artists, 176 pages. There’s quite a range of different material in there: from funny, satirical newspaper cartoons to crazy, graphically experimental contributions — but all with an indie, graphic novel sensibility. Fantagraphics are publishing the book in the US, and my own publishing company, Aben maler, is putting it out in Denmark. Continue reading ‘From Wonderland with Love at MoCCA’

Kom hjem: Interview med Thomas Thorhauge

Kom_Hjem_Thorhauge
Det kan næppe have forbigået Bunkerens læseres opmærksomhed, at Thomas Thorhauge netop har udsendt sin anden større tegneserie, Kom hjem, udgivet af Rosinante. I den anledning har han og jeg besluttet os for at lave dette interview. Continue reading ‘Kom hjem: Interview med Thomas Thorhauge’

Tegneseriemarkedet: Enter Rosinante

julie_pm.jpg
Rosinante har netop søsat en ambitiøs tegneserielinie, med speciale i graphic novels, på det danske marked. De to første udgivelser er danske Thomas Thorhauges Kom hjem og engelske Posy Simmonds’ Gemma Bovery. Med denne satsning på dette særlige tegneserieformat, er Rosinante det første danske mainstreamforlag der følger i sporet efter amerikanske bogforlag som Pantheon og Houghton Mifflin og franske som Le Seuil, Gallimard og Hachette, der alle med succes har publiceret tegneserier de sidste 5-10 års tid og dermed har været med til at styrke det iøjnefaldende fænomen tegneserien efterhånden er blevet på det internationale bogmarked.

Metabunkeren har taget sig en snak med Rosinantes ansvarlige redaktør Julie Paludan-Müller som i forvejen har udmærket sig i dansk tegneseriesammenhæng ved bl.a. at oversætte og bringe Marjane Satrapis Persepolis, og dermed hele graphic novel-fænomenet, til landet. Continue reading ‘Tegneseriemarkedet: Enter Rosinante’

Stranger in an Un-Strange World: An interview with Brad Neely

brad_neely.jpg
Having forgotten to ask Brad Neely for permission to use his work as illustration, we must make do with a sketch of the man himself.

Brad Neely’s drawings work, because you read them in an instant.

The images tend to move, but Neely isn’t really an animator. His drawings are all single instances, flashing by, at a pace that’s slower than ordinary film, but still fast enough to keep you focused.

And as he piles on layers of madness and weird moves – George Washington eating brains, snorting cocaine, making rough love to bears and radiating gamma all in the span of one brief video cartoon – you absorb all of it, cause every panel’s done just right.

Brad Neely provided the headline. He is at once cartoonist, musician and video director, and strange and hilarious creations emerge from his pen and brow. In this interview he talks about his characters, how he fleshes out the world surrounding them, and how he works as an artist.

First up: How come videos?

The big steps in my life are blind. I’ve never really considered my videos to be “videos.” I’ve always wanted to make movies, but I was poor, unconnected and uneducated about the process. So, I couldn’t make movies, and I lacked the discipline to draw real comic books in a professional sense. Somehow I found a place in-between that I could afford and control by myself. It’s a bastardized process, but it works. I guess.

Like a lot of people I came across your work when I saw the Washington video. It’s funny, and then after a while you realize that the song’s a hit. Is that how you get inspired – by writing songs and then illustrating them?

Yes. Some of the time. Music is a great starting point. Sometimes I start with an overall feeling, an abstract place that I want the piece to evoke. Music sometimes is the right tool to use first. Sometimes it’s the pace of the language; sometimes I want to try for plot. With intention I have a lot of options. Continue reading ‘Stranger in an Un-Strange World: An interview with Brad Neely’

Komiks.dk 2010 — Interview med Mads Bluhm

bluhm_slv_gs.jpg
Den danske tegneseriefestival Komiks.dk blev som bekendt afholdt for tredje gang i sommers. Arrangementet var en succes på snart sagt alle planer og det virkede derfor på mange som om festivalen var kommet for at blive. Det håber vi alle fortsat, men arrangørerne har meddelt, at de har behov for flere hænder hvis det skal lade sig gøre igen at holde festival i 2010 som det er planen. Derfor har de indkaldt til generalforsamling søndag d. 23 november kl. 14.00. Her kan alle interesserede komme og give deres besyv med, og forhåbentlig også melde sig til en eller flere af de arbejdsgrupper festivalarbejdet er organiseret omkring. Mere information kan fås her, og på festivalens Facebook-profil.

I anledning af dette tog jeg mig en kort snak med festivalens formand Mads Bluhm om situationen som den ser ud nu, de umiddelbare planer for den næste festival og den desværre stadig overhængende risiko for, at der ikke bliver en festival. Continue reading ‘Komiks.dk 2010 — Interview med Mads Bluhm’