• Laura Hudson's Myriad Issues
  • Brill Building
  • The Comics Reporter
  • The Newsarama Blog
  • The Beat
  • Comics Should be Good
  • Comic Feed
  • Chris Arrant
  • Comics Waiting Room
  • Dave's Long Box
  • Neilalien
  • Love Manga
  • Progressive Ruin
  • Comics Worth Reading
  • BeaucoupKevin
  • Riot
  • LeftyBrown's Corner
  • Comics Ate My Brain
  • Mark Evanier's News From Me
  • So So Silver Age
  • A David Lewis

  • Meta:

    10 Questions With Lilli Carre

    By Tim Leong

    Last month at the MoCCA Art Festival, Lilli Carre’s book, Tales of Woodsman Pete (Top Shelf Comix), grabbed a lot of attention — so much so that Publisher’s Weekly Comics Week called it the biggest debut of the show. Now, after her book is out and the buzz is yet to crest, Carre talked with us in the latest installment of 10 questions.

    1. You did the cover for the 2006 Best American Comics. How did that happen and what do you think it means?
    Originally, Anne Elizabeth Moore contacted me (I believe she had gotten my Woodsman Pete mini comics at either Quimby’s or Chicago comics) and then I later found out I was to be included in the anthology. Then, perhaps a month later or so, I received a call from Houghton Mifflin, and they asked if I would like to do the cover but that the timeline was fairly narrow. They asked if my cover design could somehow imply a narrative, specifically a comic narrative, and that I should shoot for something whimsical. I thought that a firefly scene would suit whimsy but a firefly in the eye would add a proper amount of coarseness. It was as odd task making the cover for the first book in this new series, especially without specifically knowing who else was to be included in the anthology. Trying to represent the book as a collection and not as something specific to my work was a weirdly big responsibility. In terms of what it means to have done the cover, I guess many more people will be introduced to my work that wouldn’t see it otherwise, and amongst the company of some of my favorite cartoonists who I’ve since found out are to be included in the anthology as well. Then those people will possibly wonder why every character I draw has in inexplicable shadow on their nose.

    2. How has animation influenced your work?
    I was doing hand-drawn animation before I found my way into making comics. In making hundreds of drawings and going through stacks of paper to make a character live on his own for a couple minutes, I found a style for myself and developed the general look of my characters through that process. The stories in my animations are much more ambiguous than my comic stories, I’d say, sometimes not stories at all. Animation deals with time and sound quite differently in addition to relating to a whole different history than comics, but I do think that concocting self-contained stories from a blank piece of paper with unlimited possibilities makes you draw from a similar place in terms of story writing. Both mediums offer that space to create a whole world for characters to exist in based on the information you draw in. Whether you write in cricket noises in text in a comic or have it playing in the background somewhere in an animation, or a character stares at something for 10 panels versus 20 seconds of screen time, you still need to establish all the subtleties of the environment and story; you get to be responsible for every element within complete open-endedness. I would like to continue to do both comics and hand-drawn/puppet animation, though it’s hard to know how to balance the time spent between the two, both processes being classically laborious. Unfortunately I’ve fallen for both. I think having studied animation history has resulted in some of the cartoon logic and style found in early American cartoons seeping into my comics. In some places the logic is similar; a character’s eyes may grow saucer-size in both, but the punch line is handled differently. I’m interested in the crossover of various types of character-based storytelling with a shared elasticity, and will most likely continue to incorporate both into each other.

    3. You self-published two comics in 2004 — how have you grown as an artist and a writer since then?
    At the School of the Art Institute of Chicago we had access to a Heidelberg Offset press from the late 1960s, an amazing resource to have access to. I took that Offset Productions class four times in a row and every semester tried to take as full advantage as I could of that machine, resulting in producing new mini comics each semester in runs of 200 to 500 copies. The cool thing about comics, I discovered, is how far they reach without you knowing it — your books can take off running without you. I sold my comics on consignment in Chicago comic book stores, as well as Hideho in Santa Monica and Atomic Books in Baltimore. It helped to get responses from people I didn’t know and have this unseen audience, which I never experienced before with my work. Each time I made a book it was pretty different from the previous one, style-wise and also in terms of subject matter. I think my characters are straying from their original reliance on a cuteness that’s common in comics, and the stories I’m working on now are getting stranger, with rounder characters that seem to have more of a life off-camera, so to speak, rather than appearing to live within the walls of the comic page they appear on. I think the more I work on comics the better I’ll get at articulating the types of characters that I’m interested in creating, and getting my drawing skills up to the point where I can properly depict what I need to. At the moment, however, I’m quite far from mastering the tools and the craft of comics, and spill ink nearly every day, amazingly.

    4. How do you think the storytelling in Woodsman Pete is different than most books? What challenges did that create as you were writing it?
    It’s tough to make a series of stories with just one talking character. In that way I think it stands apart from some other books. At first, the Woodsman Pete stories were goofy vignettes, and still are, but a whole book of a rather flat character would get really old really fast, I think. I knew that I would have to find someway to make it a little richer, I liked the Pete character a lot and wasn’t sure what to do with him next so that he could exist outside of a one-liner. Perhaps what I liked about him as a character was that I couldn’t decide for myself whether I liked him or found him loathsome, or affectionately loathsome. I was thinking about the malleability of oral history and the subjectivity of personal history and it just started to build upon itself, and introducing Paul Bunyan into the picture opened up the storytelling a lot. It gave something to contrast Pete and to compliment him, though still at the end of the day Pete got to be the only real character in the book. Once I had the two character sets, that of Pete and Philippe and that of Paul and Babe, I was able to really get into the writing again and weave them into each other in a way that brought out some of the themes I originally set out for and allow it to grow out of its original har-har simplicity. Originally in the form of three mini comics, it’s nice for me to see all the vignettes finally stand together as one story.

    5. What was your thought process in concepting your typography in titles and lettering throughout the vignettes?
    I guess I was going for a more antiquated look for the titles on each page, but honestly it wasn’t too conscious, it’s just a style I’ve gotten into the habit of, I like it aesthetically.

    6. Tales of Woodsman Pete is your first major body of work - what’s been the scariest part about your “debut”?
    I wouldn’t say that anything’s been scary, really… if anything, it’s been really fantastic having a book get printed and distributed without that labor on my part. I didn’t get to see the book or a proof or anything until it was printed and waiting for me to stand behind at the MoCCA fest, so that was kind of weird, and actually, perhaps that lack of direct control over the product was kind of scary, especially since it has a much higher print run than anything I ever printed myself. Also the fact that this was my debut in terms of my first published book and that it would be the first impression people would get of my work made me pretty nervous. I’m curious about how it will be received now that the audience for it has expanded quite a bit. Much more exciting than scary, certainly.

    7. This is your first book under a big publisher - what has this experience been like? What are the pros and cons?
    Like stated before, the lack of control over the entire product was both a relief and an anxiety. Otherwise it’s been great so far, Chris (Staros) and Brett (Warnock) at Top Shelf have been really helpful and have been supportive of my work since I first delved into making comics around two years ago. It’s been less than a month since the book surfaced, so I think I’m still very much at the start of learning the whole process of working with a publisher.

    8. Tales of Woodsman Pete is a collection of vignettes. Why do you think it’s so popular for indie books to be in vignettes rather than one continuous story?
    There’s the history of the one-page comic strip, which at first is what I was trying to adhere to; I think it’s a good framework and I like the pacing and resolution required for a story that ends within a page’s length. I can only really speak for myself, that I started with the formula of the one-page strip for Woodsman Pete, especially because at first a short format suited his flippant disposition and tendency towards punch lines, but the stories got a little longer, they tied themselves together, and soon it became a collection of vignettes. It just evolved that way. For me it was more natural to build a story and a character through many parts rather than constructing the entirety of the story’s trajectory first and then executing it. The overall story grew while I made each piece. I can’t speak at all authoritatively on why I think indie books are often constructed through vignettes, but perhaps it’s a just a common tendency towards letting something stray as you build it, or an affection for a collection of disparate moments rather than a solid point.

    9. You’re a cartoonist with your entire career ahead of you – where do you want you and your art to be in 10 years? What specific goals do you have?
    I want to be able to keep making stories, and hopefully I will find a way to have that be my main job rather than something that I have to do in my leisure time after work. I don’t think I can decide to not make comics, so being able to have time to devote to making them is something that’s very important for me to figure out. There’s so much that hasn’t really been explored in the medium, it has a weird seat, historically, and seems that recently it’s been getting more attention or at least cocking heads in terms of its placement in culture…I’d like to explore comics as a literary form in the work I’m making now and eventually.

    10. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned since entering the comics industry?
    I’ve just now poked my head into the industry, so I have yet to know its inner workings. We’ll see

    Posted by Tim Leong on July 6th, 2006 filed in Story Archive |

    Comments are closed.