COMIC RIFFS CELEBRATES: 60 Telling Quotes About Comics and Cartooning

AS COMIC RIFFS celebrates its sixth birthday this month — and thanks to all those who have supported this burgeoning blog column along the way — here’s a wee token of my anniversary gratitude: 60 Telling Quotes About Comics and Cartooning from the past six years of ‘Riffs…

–M.C.

 

WE DON’T NEED ANOTHER HERO?…

 

 

“As a little boy, I would talk to the chickens. They would sit and listen. … They tended to listen better than some of my colleagues in Congress.”

– Civil-rights icon and first-time graphic novelist REP. JOHN LEWIS (Eisner-nominated “March: Book One”)

 

“We’re a country that’s scared — there are scary things in the world right now. 9/11 knocked us back on our a–. The idea that someone out there is trying to kill us. Even the bad superhero films do well. Why are they working? It’s not because of the violence [depicted] or because they’re colorful — it’s because we’re a country that is worried and scared .. and right now is starving for heroes. It’s even in the political culture — look at who we nominate for president. We’re not looking for politicians — we’re looking for saviors.”

— Political-thriller novelist and comics writer BRAD MELTZER

 

“It’s no accident that the first superhero boom came when we were facing the Great Depression and a world war. Superheroes represent the best in all of us — in that sense, they are us. So it’s natural that we look to them for our entertainment, whether it’s on the pages of the comic books or up on the big screen.”

JOE SIMON, virtuoso writer-editor; co-creator of Captain America; first editor of Marvel precursor Timely Comics (Simon died in 2011, at age 98)

“The Joker is my favorite villain in all of literature. … I think the Joker is sort of villainy at its purest, most fascinating and brilliant form. All he’s about is convincing yourself that the things you’re most afraid of are true. My favorite villains in all of literature do just that.”

SCOTT SNYDER, writer of the “Death of the Family” Batman

 

THE COMICS PAGE

“I’ve done the strip for 43 years — 45 if you include the college edition [at Yale] — and I’m ready for an extended break. A hiatus comes with uncertainty, of course: I can’t assume I’ll be welcomed back a year or two from now. The comics page is zero-sum real estate, and there are a lot of interesting new strips that editors could turn to while I’m away.”

– Pulitzer-winning “Doonesbury” creator GARRY TRUDEAU, on putting his strip on hiatus while he starts a second season of “Alpha House”

 

“You’ve got to make hay while the sun shines — there is an ebb and flow to this business. There was that epic period when in 1979, six of seven ‘Garfield’ books were on the bestseller list at the same time. That was a high-water mark. No one cares about ‘Garfield’ now.”

— “Big Nate” creator LINCOLN PEIRCE, on taking advantage of his feature’s current digital and publishing opportunities

 

“I miss the 70 million readers if you want to know the truth. Who wouldn’t? But it’s an era that’s past forever. I’m an author. It’s fun to have readers. But they’re elsewhere now.”
– Pulitzer-winning “Bloom County” creator and father of Opus BERKELEY BREATHED, on the shifting place of the comics page in pop culture

 

“I often shake my head and think, ‘Sparky would not like to see all this.’ ”

JEAN SCHULZ, widow of Charles “Sparky” Schulz, on the shuttering of the century-old syndicate United Media (which launched Schulz’s “Peanuts” in 1950)

 

“I’d just made a documentary about the best baseball player in the world, [Willie Mays]. So I decided to make a documentary about the worst baseball player in the world — Charlie Brown.”
-- Emmy-winning producer/director LEE MENDELSON, on the birth of the 1965 classic “A Charlie Brown Christmas”

 

“I’ve known for a year or more that I was working on borrowed time. My lettering had begun to wander off in 2009, but that could be fixed easily enough. But when Alice’s and Dill’s heads began to look under-inflated last winter, I figured I was losing control of the drawing, too. When I needed help with the inking — the hardest but most satisfying part of drawing the strip — well, that was probably a tipping point. Parkinson’s disease is horribly selfish and demanding. A daily comic strip is, too, and I can only deal with one at a time. So it was a long, gradual, sudden decision.”

“Cul de Sac” creator RICHARD THOMPSON, on ending his Reuben Award-winning strip amid Parkinson’s treatment

 

“I thought maybe Stephan [Pastis] and I could do this goofy collaboration and then use the result to raise some money for Parkinson’s research in honor of Richard Thompson. It just seemed like a perfect convergence. So I explained the idea to Stephan, and he was more than happy to give it a shot.” – “Calvin and Hobbes” creator BILL WATTERSON, in an exclusive about returning to the comics page for the first in nearly two decades, courtesy of Pastis’s “Pearls Before Swine”

 

“We need more cartoonists to truly retire when they retire, and not run repeats. Repeats are the absolute soul-crushing killers of the comics page.”

“Pearls Before Swine” creator STEPHAN PASTIS, on the state of the syndication industry

 

IS THIS REAL LIFE?

“I just happen to be part of this new acceptance of American comics abroad, and nonfiction comics journalism in general. It used to be just [Joe] Sacco. … Now it feels like comics journalism is expected out of any big news event — from Japan to Occupy Wall Street to economic protests in Europe and turmoil in Africa. It’s no longer such a shock to see it.”

JOSH NEUFELD, comics journalist and author (“A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge”)

 

 

“We’re still eager to kick a – -, especially if we’re not incurring [large] casualties. We get on the side of certain things — like the war in Iraq. The media trumpets it. If things are going well, everyone’s behind it. But once Baghdad falls, another reality sets in.”

– Comics journalist and Guggenheim Fellowship recipient JOE SACCO (“The Great War,” “Palestine” and “Footnotes in Gaza”)

 


Art by Michael “Canvas” Cavna

 *Quote from MARJANE SATRAPI

 

“For the first month or so, I was crying. I was devastated by the material — at having to climb back in. … I’m not metaphoring — I was crying, because [revisiting] ‘Maus’ meant having to develop the emotional calluses again to move forward. My skin had gotten smooth again since 1991. … It was like toughening-up to walk again over the hot coals.”

ART SPIEGELMAN, on revisiting his Pulitzer-winning landmark work to write his new book, “Metamaus”

 

“As soon as I saw that photo, I knew I had to incorporate him into ‘Candorville,’ if only to become a voice in the chorus that’s reminding people this was a living, breathing, vital human being with potential, not a useless stock character in the American story who deserved what happened to him.”

DARRIN BELL, on devoting a week of his strips to slain teenager Trayvon Martin

 

“We decided to tackle other Asian stereotypes, along with the [idea] of an Asian super-villain, because it is a really prevalent — not just in comics but in popular media in television shows and movies. When you need a bad guy, chances are the bad guy — an effective bad guy — would be Asian.”

KEITH CHOW, co-editor of the book “Shattered: The Asian American Comics Anthology (Secret Identities)”

 

“I think he’d probably most like to be recalled as a guy who struggled mightily to open the gates wider to multiculturalism within comics, he himself having been profoundly inspired by the example of the Black Panther when he was young — and wanting to pass that same sort of experience on to the next generation, regardless of their particular race, creed or background.”

— Marvel’s TOM BREVOORT, memorializing comics/animation creator Dwayne McDuffie (who died in February of 2011; he was 49)

 

 

“I think my art style draws primarily from Western influences. But at the same time, I grew up in a Chinese American household. My mother filled my head with the Chinese stories from her childhood. As a creator, I’ve tried to capture all that. I try to draw in a way that appeals to American kids, but at the root of my storytelling voice is that myth-logic from my mom’s stories.”

– Two-time National Book Award finalist GENE LUEN YANG (“Boxers and Saints” and “American Born Chinese”)

 

“I think selective outrage is a very good thing, and I am screaming on this one.”

Then-Oregonian political cartoonist JACK OHMAN (now at the Sacramento Bee), on the name of Nike’s Joe Paterno Child Development Center amid the Penn State scandal 

 

That was the motive behind my starting to fight against female genital mutilation at a young age — and then fight for women’s rights and civil rights when I grew up. In other words, you can say a personal crisis made me an activist on a wider public level.”

— Arab Spring activist and Egyptian writer DALIA ZIADA, on how female circumcision led her to spread the nonviolence teachings of Martin Luther King through a vintage comic book

 

“Fatwas suck.”

— Artist MOLLY NORRIS, after being placed on an “execution hit” list by Yemeni American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed in an October drone attack. (Norris, who created 2010’s “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day” poster art, subsequently changed her name for her safety)

 

“Joking [about] something is a defense mechanism to overcome your fear towards it. If people see their leaders in cartoons, that can help to make them realize they are not gods. Cartoons break people’s fear.”

— Egyptian political cartoonist SHERIF ARAFA, during Arab Spring

 

“Frankly, I never really talked to the guys about the war. I ask them questions like: ‘Are you able to talk to your family? Do you have kids? Is it a good thing or a [difficult] thing to see your kids on Skype?’ “It’s more personal. … They often want to talk about family and seem to want to talk about anything but the war.”
– “Family Circus” cartoonist JEFF KEANE, on visiting troops in Afghanistan as part of a National Cartoonist Society USO tour

 

“ ‘Habibi’ reflects my male guilt and worldview. … I grew up disgusted by my own kind. … I had to learn to embrace and embody being a man. … A lot of that happens in the course of this book.”

— “Blankets” graphic novelist CRAIG THOMPSON, on his epic new work — a love story about a harem girl and a eunuch

 

“As far as that mask is concerned, well, I’m happy it’s being used as a multi-purpose banner of protest. It’s like [Alberto Korda’s] Che Guevara image on T-shirts and such that was used so often in the past as a symbol of revolutionary spirit — the difference being that while Che represented a specific political movement, the mask of V does not: It’s neutral. It just represents opposition to any perceived tyranny, which is why it fits easily into being Everyman’s tool of protest against oppression.”

DAVID LLOYD, “V for Vendetta” co-creator, on the Guy Fawkes mask adopted by Occupy and Anonymous groups

 

“It was about the way of love. We were beaten and arrested . . . and that comic book ['Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story'] inspired me to make trouble. But it was the good kind of trouble.”

– Civil-rights icon REP. JOHN LEWIS , (“March: Book One”), on discovering a ’50s book about nonviolent protest

 

“I am becoming a connoisseur of teargas.”

SUSIE CAGLE, comics journalist who was arrested as she covered the Occupy Oakland protests

 

OF INDEPENDENT MIENS

 

“Before [Harvey Pekar], there wasn’t much to show. You had the power fantasies of 14-year-olds and the 19-year-old tits-and-drugs fantasies. … Harvey believed there was no limit to how good comics could be. To chronicle his life from these tiny wonderful moments of magic and of heartbreak — and the most important thing was that he did it. … I discovered Harvey somewhere around 1993 or 1994, when I picked up an American Splendor. I probably discovered him through R. Crumb, whom I had loved since as a kid. You come for Crumb — you stay for Harvey.”
NEIL GAIMAN, on the legacy of fellow writing legend Harvey Pekar [1939-2010]

 

“It’s heartening to be invited to an event where independent cartoonists are considered interesting and possibly even relevant — to say nothing of unapologetically using the word ‘small’ in their title.”

CHRIS WARE, on being a special guest at the 2012 Small Press Expo

 

“Unless I am trying to be obtuse — rarely — I don’t want the reader to be confused. Beyond that, I am really operating entirely on a self-indulgent level. I try to write just for myself. To try and get down on paper some small aspect of my inner life. That is my entire purpose as a cartoonist.”

– “Palookaville” cartoonist SETH (“It’s a Good Life If You Don’t Weaken”)

 

THE REVOLUTION WILL BE DIGITIZED

“Images are the language of the Web and infographics are all the rage. That’s what we share on Facebook — it’s all the images. If websites start to recognize what newspapers used to do — back in [Thomas] Nast’s day, there was a cartoon in a sea of text — [they’ll see that] images stand out and have power.”

2012 Herblock Prize winner MATT BORS

 

“One thing I really wanted to get out of him [involved] reader comments. I feel like my humor and my feelings toward my own work have changed because of commentary about my work. … You’re affected by it when there’s a surge and a quarter-million fans on Facebook [respond]. But Larson, he basically worked in a cave. I loved hearing that. I thought: It would be thrilling to be like you.”

— The Oatmeal creator MATTHEW INMAN, on lunching with “The Far Side” creator Gary Larson

 

“It turns out I had this huge geeky safety net out there that I didn’t know about this whole time, made up of people who have been reading my comic for nine years but never contacted me.”

RICH BURLEWon his record-setting $1.2-million Kickstarter campaign for his comic, “Order of the Stick” 

 

TRULY MOVING PICTURES

“We don’t have a story bible [at Pixar]. Everyone learns from each other. There’s definitely a Pixar flavor, but that’s less an intentional thing and more just the type of thing that develops if you have a consistent group of the same people.”

Artist/animator EMMA COATSon her “22 Basic Rules for Storytelling,” gleaned from her time at Pixar 

 

“This script is so dense and so ripe with invention, there’s no way I could have written this by myself…. I’m just one guy on a large team. There is so much manpower and brainpower applied to these scripts — it’s like working for NASA,”
– Oscar-winning screenwriter MICHAEL ARNDT, on writing “Toy Story 3″

 

“Both CGI and hand-drawn animation are achievements in art. Comparing them is like comparing a drawing and a photograph. … They shouldn’t be compared — they are different kinds of animation.”

— Oscar-nominated “Illusionist” animator SYLVAIN CHOMET (“The Triplets of Belleville”)

 

“There’s nothing you can’t do in terms of creating a performance. It’s only a matter of time, money and imagination.”
– “How to Train Your Dragon” director DEAN DeBLOIS, on discovering the powers of CGI animation

 

“Childhood is the well that never dries up. There is infinite material to mine there. …”

— ”Rango” writer and storyboard artist JAMES WARD BYRKIT

 

NEVER FORGET

“In the world of comics, Jack Kirby and Will Eisner may have been more influential artists, but Joe Kubert was its most influential man.”

— Eisner Award-winning writer MARK WAID

 

“Spain decided to take me around to his San Francisco haunts to show me how much the city appreciated my strip. “Everywhere we went, praise flowed — but it was as much for Spain as it was for me. If anyone was loved by everyone in San Francisco, it wasn’t me, it was Spain.”

“Zippy the Pinhead” creator BILL GRIFFITH, upon the 2012 death of underground comix legend and muralist Spain Rodriguez

 

TURNING POINTS

“Right now, we’re at what I call ‘Peak Geek,’ a moment when comics culture has taken over pop culture, including Hollywood. When you’re at the peak of a cycle, it’s hard to imagine the future as anything but a trend-line pointing ever upward. But there’s a lot of fragility and uncertainty in the system.”

— Futurist and fan ROB SALKOWITZ (author of ”Comic-Con and the Business of Comic-Con: What the World’s Wildest Trade Show Can Tell Us About the Future of Entertainment”)

 

 

“I told my wife Joanie, ‘I’m going to quit.’ But she said: ‘Why not write it the way you want to write it? If it doesn’t work, the worst that’s going to happen is that they’ll fire you. And you want to quit anyway.’ I tried having heroes [Mr. Fantastic and Invisible Girl] in love and getting married. And the teenager was a brother [the Human Torch] who didn’t particularly want to be a superhero.

“It was the turning point of my life.”

— Marvel mastermind STAN LEE, on the creation of the Fantastic Four a half-century ago

 



 

“Our libraries are becoming our community centers. Libraries saved my life as a kid. We didn’t have a lot of dough, but we had library cards.”

— “Our Cancer Year” co-author JOYCE BRABNER, on the successfully funded “Cleveland Heights Library Statue” Kickstarter project to memorialize her husband, comics great Harvey Pekar (who died in 2010)

 

“Once we teach people that they didn’t need their Monday [print] paper and their Tuesday paper, they’ll start to ask themselves whether they need their Wednesday paper, too.”

Pink-slipped political cartoonist STEVE KELLEY (“Dustin”), whose New Orleans Times-Picayune cut back its print publishing schedule from daily to three times a week

 

“I don’t want to kill newspapers. Anyone who tells you that the Internet is killing newspapers is full of it. Newspapers don’t have to die in order for my business to succeed.”
– “PvP” creator SCOTT KURTZ , on the title of his Macworld 2010 webcomics talk, “He Wants to Kill Your Newspaper”

 

“The hardest part was making the choice to pull the trigger and start the clock ticking toward unemployment. I’m a fancy man. I like things like food and shelter. It’s both scary and exhilarating leaving a job you’ve had for a long time to pursue something new and different. Kind of like the first time you try sushi. You might love it or you might get violently ill.”
– Political cartoonist DREW SHENEMAN, on taking a buyout offer from the Newark Star-Ledger

 

“Having people see our work was a completely new experience. We were trying to make comic books at Kinko’s and leave them at the store [for people to see]. We started to have an audience. … We were making [almost] no money — we thought the payment was that people were seeing it.”
– “Penny Arcade” co-creator MIKE KRAHULIK, on breaking into comics with Jerry Holkins in the late-’90s

 

“The fact of the matter is, comic books proper — whether in print or digital — is still a niche story art form and will never be able to compete with the Hollywood industry, The filet mignon I enjoyed at the Governor’s Ball in Los Angeles to celebrate the Emmy win … doesn’t mean I can stop working until midnight six days a week and stop eating peanut butter sandwiches at my art table for dinner. I do what I love and that’s almost why the pay is allowed to be so damned lousy but I have no fantasy that my work will get me on Easy Street and that’s okay.”
– Cartoonist DEAN HASPIEL, on life after winning an Emmy for the opening sequence of HBO’s “Bored to Death”

 

“We thought it was going to be creased, but it was beautiful. It is so close to perfect. This book has got freshness and bounce … it’s simply stunning.”

— Metropolis Collectibles’ VINCENT ZURZOLO, recounting the early 2011 rediscovery of a “9.0”-rated Action Comics No.-1 [left] in a California storage locker after a decade-long disappearance. The 1938 book sold at Metropolis’s online auction for a record $2.16-million.

 

PORTRAIT OF THE YOUNG CARTOONIST

“Yiddish excels at . . . combining aggression, friendliness, and ambiguity, a basic recipe for humor that my mother was excellent at cooking up and on which I was spoon-fed.”

– New Yorker cartoon Editor BOB MANKOFF (author of the memoir “My Life in Cartoons”)

 

“For me, drawing was an outlet. No one in school said, ‘Oh, she can do sports, or she’s pretty,’ but I could draw.”

– New Yorker cartoonist ROZ CHAST (author of the graphic memoir “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant​?”)

 

“If it hadn’t been for my father, I wouldn’t have been a cartoonist. … My dad said: ‘You’re crazy — go into advertising.’ He would complain about the ulcers and bellyaches and high-stress. ‘You’re crazy — go be a teacher,’ he said. But I went into Marvel after a circuitous route because of my father, the artist.”
JOHN ROMITA JR. on following Dad into the comics profession

 

 

“For kids like me, there was a map and a compass that was hidden [in] ’’ ‘Family Circus.’ The parents in that comic strip really loved their children. He put that image in my head and it stayed with me. I’d always heard that great art will cause people to burst into tears, but the only time it ever happened to me was when I was introduced  Bil Keane’s son Jeff. As soon as I realized who he was, I just started bawling my face off because I realized I’d done it. When I shook his hand, I realized I had climbed through the circle to the side Jeffy was on.

“To me, they are family. My soul family. That’s why if someone says a word against ‘Family Circus’ to me, I will slug them so hard.”

— Cartoonist LYNDA BARRY, upon the death of “Family Circus” creator Bil Keane (at age 89)

 


Art by Michael “Canvas” Cavna

 

WHAT’S THE BIG IDEA?

“I have decided that people like me, who presume to critique comic strips, are anuses.”
– Post columnist GENE WEINGARTEN, on what he’s learned as he enters the ranks of syndicated comic-strip creators

 

“Inspiration is for amateurs. Syndication takes discipline, creativity, and curiosity about the tiny moments of life. Oh, and some luck. We work pretty hard at having fun with the strip, as well.”

— Eisner-nominated creator JERRY SCOTT (“Zits” and “Baby Blues”)

 

“Ideas are easy. Knowing what to do with them is hard.”

— “Cul de Sac’s” RICHARD THOMPSON, weeks before winning the Reuben Award as 2011’s Cartoonist of the Year

 

 

 

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