Today, we hear from Shutterbug Follies creator Jason Little.
Shutterbug Follies by Jason Little
Back when I was a kid in the '70s, Tintin comics weren’t nearly as ubiquitous as they are today, particularly in the small town of Binghamton, New York, where I grew up. But my anthropologist dad took frequent trips to Kenya, and would often have a layover in London. Each time he came home he brought me back a Tintin album in English.
This diet of Tintin made a profound impression on me. Practically everything in Shutterbug Follies is directly informed by Tintin: the pacing, the dialogue, the color, the plucky protagonist, the layout … Hergé looms large in my work, and informs it so naturally that I have to work really hard to pile on other influences to make myself more of an artistic melting pot.
Gasoline Alley by Frank King
One of the influences I strove to incorporate into my work is the aesthetic of daily strips from the '20s and '30s, like Gasoline Alley and Little Orphan Annie. I’ve often fantasized about time travel back to that period. In April 2013, I started a project that forced me to deliberately emulate Frank King and Harold Gray: I had an idea for a daily strip about a homeless man named Borb.
Borb by Jason Little
My plan was to evoke the vagabond tramp archetype from the early strips, but at the same time depict the real and timeless hardships of homelessness. I’m talking about the really grim and brutal stuff: disease, beatings, disfigurement, death, etc. But at the same time, I wanted it to be funny -- a tall order, it turns out. I decided to trust my instincts and follow the formal framework laid down by the masters. The result has been polarizing -- readers either love Borb or hate it. I ran the strip for three months at activatecomix.com, and then ended it. I’m delighted to say that Uncivilized Books will publish Borb as a book in April 2015.
Since I finished Borb, much of my time has been spent in the pursuit of stereoscopic 3-D comics. I’ve been putting stereo images in my comics off and on since 1998, when I drew a 3-D backup story (“The Abduction Announcement”) in my first published comic, Jack’s Luck Runs Out. This year, 3-D took over again, beginning with an invitation to contribute a story to an all-3D issue of the Portland alt-comics anthology Study Group Magazine. Wanting to make sure that the project came off without a hitch, I volunteered to manage the thorny task of making sure the 3-D actually worked and was pleasing to look at. I ended up doing many of the 3-D conversions in that issue. The Study Group website will also host a short story of mine in 3-D called “Selbstbildnis Walpurgisnacht Bildungsroman,” which should debut some time in July.
Selbstbildnis Walpurgisnacht Bildungsroman by Jason Little
The Study Groupwork led to an assignment doing a 3-D conversion on a poster for underground cartoonist Denis Kitchen. Denis also contributed to the research I was doing on the history of 3-D comics. This research turned into "3-D Comics Alive," a performance as part of the Comic Book Theater Festival this past June in Brooklyn. For this project, I did restoration work from old copies of selected 3-D comics from the '50s, '60s and '80s. I then turned these stories into slide shows, which I read radio theater-style with actors, music and sound effects interspersed with a visual lecture from me about the history of and personalities behind 3-D comics.
I’ve also been doing a lot of writing, and have treatments for three graphic novels in various stages of development -- including a third volume in the Bee series. There may be a 3-D component to at least one of these books. I’m very much looking forward to getting fresh Bee installments in front of readers’ eyes as soon as possible.
Want to hear more from Jason? Check out his website and blog, or follow him on Facebook and Twitter.