Tuesday, January 17, 2012

an interview with Aviv Itzcovitz of the Web Comic Stupid Snake

A while Back I was having a conversation with the Israeli cartoonist Aviv Itzcovitz in an undisclosed location the topic turned to silent comics as he has a wonderful one.
    of course with my incomplete grasp of what decade it is I brought up the little king and this is where y'all came in 
the little king we are talking about.

[AVIV] (I felt like it was kinda taking over Ryan's "Sarah and the Seed" post, so I'm sending a private message instead.) <here is a link to Sarah and the Seed -jake>

I am not familiar with The Little King. Quite a gem. I'm always on the lookout for wordless (or almost completely wordless) comics, old or new, so I have to thank you for this discovery. So thanks!

[JAKE] Soglow is a genius.
I am pretty much obsessed with every new Yorker cartoonist till about 1972.As well as sunday full sheet guys from the turn of last century.
Do you enjoy Winsor McCay?

[JAKE] have you seen this?

[AVIV] McCay was amazing. I mostly know Little Nemo, but I've seen some of his other strips.

[JAKE] the most startling early animation is not Windsor it is

[AVIV] Oh, I think they meant Winsor was the first one to make animated-drawing films. What we refer to as "classic animation" nowadays. He didn't invent classic animation, but he was the first one to make actual films with it.  That film you linked to is cutouts, which is a different technique. Probably influenced by 'shadow play'.

[JAKE] Oh I was not showing it as a counter example to MacCay's title
Just as a mindblowing example of early animation. Are you influenced at all by silent film I see a bit of Buster Keaton in the PJ wearing character.

[AVIV] I think that character is mostly based on Charlie Chaplin. I saw all of Chaplin's movies as a child so that was pretty big influence on me. I did watch one Buster Keaton film a few years before starting Stupid Snake, though. Maybe there's something to it. Kinda hard to say. Maybe it's both of them...?
Either way, silent films are an obvious influence on Stupid snake. That might be why I never even entertained the notion of coloring it. It makes sense in black and white.

[JAKE] hey do you mind if we continue this as and interview?
I am thinking about doing reviews on my other blog.

[AVIV] Sure. I've never done that before, but I'll give it a try!

[JAKE]You seem to have a strong Japanese flavor but seem to be able to resist
the manga cliches what is your method of distilling influence?
[AVIV] I'm pretty methodical. When I start to work on a comic I make specific rules to stick by. I try to come up with different rules for each project. When I started Stupid Snake the list went something like this:
1) It's going to be completely wordless.
I did a graphic novel just before Stupid Snake that had plenty of wordless parts, but it also had plenty of dialogue. I liked the parts that didn't have words, so I decided to take it a few steps further.
2) I wanted it to look like some mangas I was reading at the time, hence the manga look. I didn't change my style, really, I just applied tone the way the Japanese do. It wasn't my first time doing so, but again I was taking it way more seriously this time.
3) It's going to be long.
Just an excuse to draw more comics, really. This is my longest comic to date, when finished it'll be more than 550 pages long.
4) I decided the genre will be Fantasy, because that would be a first for me as well.

My stuff doesn't look like manga simply because I don't favor it over other styles. I enjoy Katsuhiro Otomo just as much as Moebius, Hergé or Mike Mignola. What comes out is perhaps a strange mix of everything I've ever enjoyed visually.

[JAKE] We can talk a bit later about your earlier work I am very interested.
So you are influenced by manga and the Bande dessinée.
How does the American comic book, newspaper strip, panel gag tradition effect your work if at all? (I am putting Mike in with the bande dessinée for convenience and because Hellboy and his work on Atlantis point him in that direction)

[AVIV] Well, up until high school I was reading X-Men, Spiderman and Batman. Earlier favorites include Garfield, Calvin & Hobbes and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. At the same time I was reading Asterix and Tin Tin. It was all happening at once. I was excited about all the comics I could get my hands on and there wasn't a whole lot to read back then. I guess I should point out that I'm from Israel. We didn't have any comic shops back when I was growing up. We had Tin Tin and we had Asterix, but you got those at the bookstore. Every now and then there would be something else, translated into Hebrew of course. I couldn't read English anyway, so my options were very limited. I read translations and comics by Israeli cartoonists. Eventually they started to sell translated superhero comics and some bookstores even sold individual issues of the latest Superman or whatever. I got some of those simply because there wasn't much of an option. I then started to order comics from abroad and it was heavenly. This all ended when I started high school. That's when I pushed all the American influence aside (which was mostly mainstream) and started to finally draw comics seriously. They were pretty depressing, I hated high school.

    Regarding Gag strips and comic books - I have a comic strip planned that I might get into drawing eventually, and an upcoming project that will be serialized in traditional comic book form. I don't read many comic strips and comic books are mostly mainstream drag, but I do love these formats and I want to do something with them, eventually.

[JAKE] I too have an intense love for the form and a sickly embarrassed feeling in my stomach from nearly every example of it.
Tell me more about Israeli cartoonists. show examples if you can.
Do currently live there? How does Israel inform your work if at all?

[AVIV] I'm still here. Never left. I live in my own bubble, I suppose. I hardly indulge in Israeli culture. I only read some comics in Hebrew, as well as create some of my own, and that's about it.
I'm not sure that living here really affects my comics. Maybe someday I'll manage to write about the conflict with the Palestinians or something about the Holocaust even (I tried when I was younger, it didn't pan out). Right now I'm more interested in writing fiction.
Stupid Snake was originally about false gods, when I started to write it. Living in Israel, it's impossible to escape this concept. Three religions are certain theirs is the only true God. They'll slaughter each other over it, over the land, over nothing at all. The idea was to make up a creature (this is the snake in the comic) that would be both a monster and a god - depending on which character interacts with it. It's developed quite a bit, but this notion is still there.

There aren't many cartoonists around here, almost none that you would have heard of. The only one that comes to mind is Rutu Modan.

But the biggest and most prolific cartoonist we have is Uri Fink. He is a huge influence on pretty much everyone who does comics, around my group age (I'm 27) and much younger. I stopped caring about his work when I was still in Elementary School.

A recent addition is Ido Hirshberg. He's younger than me, and far more talented.
Here's a wordless comic he made, "On the Planet of Love":
 (Don't forget to read from right to left!)

[JAKE] Hirshberg is amazing he makes me wish my Hebrew was better.
he reminds me a bit of Abner Dean of whom I have been a devotee for some time.
I am going to leave the links in so folks can see what we are talking about.
whats the point commenting on the holocaust when there is Maus?
Well three final questions as this is a lot of text to expect comic fans to read.
Who are you most excited about today?

[AVIV] I'm mostly excited about making comics and reading them, so I'm just gonna dump some stuff by people:
Brian Ralph's Daybreak, Brandon Graham, Orc Stain by James Stokoe, everything by Michael DeForge, Forming by Jesse Moynihan and... that's probably enough.
I'm working on several comics right now, as well as translating my first graphic novel from a few years back into English. Lots of stuff in the works but nothing will be completed and/or published anytime soon.

[JAKE] What are you musical tastes? (I have a theory about cross-pollination)

[AVIV] My musical tastes are kinda broad. In the last couple of years I've been enjoying more instrumental stuff (Red Sparowes and Yann Tiersen for example) and more recently music that has a lot going on at the same time, like Estradashpere, Irepress or Deerhoof. I love The Mountain Goats, you can't beat their lyrics. I really like The Knife. There's tons more, but I'm gonna stop here.

[JAKE] what is the future of the field?

The future of the field, unfortunately for me, is probably more digital stuff made specially for the iPad or whatever. I'm not into that at all but these tablets are going to become a huge market in the not so far future.

A self solving problem