Gabrielle Bell is one of the most consistently interesting cartoonists out there with a distinctive style and wit. Here is a brief interview with the creator of “Lucky.”
HENRY CHAMBERLAIN: I’m so pleased to be able to go and read your comics on your site, gabriellebell.com. I don’t regularly gravitate to webcomics. I know I can rely on yours to have an authentic voice and be thoughtfully constructed. I think that has something to do with the fact that you began with having your work in printed form. Do you think that’s true? Do you think you add another layer to your work since you’re not conditioned to think in terms of digital shortcuts?
GABRIELLE BELL: Thank you. I don’t know if that is true about printed comics or not. I do love comics best in print, hands down. But I also like the instantaneous connection with the reader the internet provides. I like not having to wait for and negotiate with publishers, printers, book sellers, editors, etc. It’s given me the chance to earn the reputation of that thoughtful construction and authentic voice. But I am glad to have my comics packaged in a book! I think any cartoonist ultimately wants that, web or no.
HC: Can you walk us through your process? Maybe you could take a recent post and describe how it came to be or describe your working methods.
GB: The hardest part is writing. It takes me ages and I am tortured by self-doubt. Then I use a lightbox to turn my scratchy, messy thumbnails into drawings, then I do that again. Then I fill in all the black splotches. Then I scan it and manipulate it a lot on photoshop. Then color it, then I read it over, then I throw it on the internet.
HC: You have conquered autobio comics, in a way, I think, by never being obvious and always keeping a certain level of mystery. People are left to wonder what is true and what is not and finally let all that go and enjoy the storytelling. Is this something you set out to do, if I’m right? At least I think I’m pretty right. If falls in line with the best writing.
GB: Thank you, that is nice to hear. I hope I can continue to live up to it! I didn’t set out to do that. I have a compulsion to do diary comics, it’s like some nervous tic. I try to stop sometimes, and then I start again. There’s something psychologically gratifying about it. But I don’t want to offend people with my self-indulgence, so I’ve tried to make it work so that other people could get something out of it too. And that is the pain of it.
HC: What’s a good Charlie Rose type question to ask you? Comics, ah yes, were you always attracted to comics? What is it about comics that suits your needs as an artist?
GB: I think most artists are attracted to comics. I’m always hearing of writers and artists giving a shout-out to some comics. I just finished “Just Kids,” by Patti Smith, and she talks about sitting in her room in the Chelsea Hotel for days reading Little Lulu comics. There’s something very special about comics that are still not really recognized, in spite of this “graphic novel” phenomenon. As for me, it suits me because my two favorite things are writing and drawing.
HC: Please tell us about your more recent mini comics. What can you tell us about your “Diary” mini comics and the latest one, “July Diary”?
GB: “July Diary” is a collection of 31 comics I did last year in July, when I did a page a day that month. There’s also some scrawley sketchy outtakes. I’m told it is my funniest work. The “Diary” mini comics are collections from my blog, “Lucky.”
HC: Feel free to give us a pitch for your new book, “The Voyeurs.”
GB: “The Voyeurs” is a collections of the “Diary” minis, plus a lot more stuff, and all in color. I am told it is a handsome volume.
HC: Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?
GB: I’m going to be going on tour, doing lots of slideshows, with some great cartoonists, which should be very entertaining. There’s an events page on my website. Please come out and see me perform my comics if I come to your town.