Thursday, July 31, 2008

Process and religion

I'm not a huge fan of Alec Longstreth. I find his pacing too leaden, and his art too timid. I never understood why so many self published comics kids kiss the ground that he walks on. Until yesterday. Corinne lent me a couple issues of his self published zine, Phase 7. The issues in question (010 and 011) are a history of Mr. Longstreth's involvement w/ comics. He goes from childhood to whatever age he is now (early 30's, I suspect) in claustrophobic detail, outlining how he came to be the artist he is today. He worships Dave Sim for his monastic productivity. He reads Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics like a bible. He holds Bone up as and the greatest comic ever drawn (To me that is like someone saying that Jurassic Park is the greatest book ever written -- he could have chosen worse, but Bone, really?!?). He cites Blankets as a modern classic. In short, his heroes make needlessly thick books. This brings us to the interesting part of his 100-page meditation on comics. Mr. Longstreth sets out on an almost spiritual journey to find out how a cartoonist hones him-or-herself into a comics making machine. How you go from the kid at the kitchen table drawing two-page ninja turtle comics to a 32-year-old man in Portland obsessing about your high-school girlfriend for 4 years (or 500 pages, whichever comes first). I encourage every self-published cartoonist to pick up these zines, because we all need to adopt some version of his work schedule, which he calls the schedule. A rigid ten-hour work day broken up into three sections that has a planned lunch hour at noon, and a built in errand/hangout with friends time from 5-8 so that he can have some semblance of a social life. For him it isn't about what you get done in a day (like Dave Sim's page-a-day system) but just how much time you put in. I know that Corinne has a adopted an 8-hour version of this that's working very well for her. I have yet to adopt any such system. I really appreciated Longstreth sharing his knowledge with the rest of us. I wish more cartoonists would do likewise.

If anyone has a handle on the the schedules/work habits of other cartoonists or writers, please send me a link or the name of a book. I'll post them here.


  1. Uh... thanks! (I think?) I'm glad you got something out of P7 #010 & #011, even if you're not a big fan of my comics.

    Robyn Chapman started a comics productivity blog a few years ago it's got all kinds of tips you might find useful (including my original post about THE SCHEDULE)

  2. P.S. I just realized you are the guy who drew "Return Me To The Sea" Corinne sent me a copy and I thought it was great! That ending broke my heart something fierce... Anyway, keep up the good work!

  3. i imagine most folks hold alec in such high regard because everything he does, he does with such heart. meeting the man will convert you. his enthusiasm is intoxicating.

    his comics have only gotten better and better as he hones his craft (and schedule!) -- i look forward to reading his 500-page tome on whatever it is he cares to share.

  4. Alec, I'm sorry that I came out of the box so strong. I really did enjoy your zine and got a lot out of it. I don't feel obligated to write about work often, so please take that as a compliment. I'm not a huge fan of Scott McCloud's philosophy about comics (although my copy of understanding comics is just about falling apart). I haven't seen your more recent stuff, and I know I would be angry is someone was passing public judgment on work I did several years ago.

  5. dear writer Sam,
    starting out a blog post with "I'm not a huge fan of...." is generally not the best way to show how much you like something. (we can talk about this more later if you need explanation.)
    My work schedule is not as clean and rigorous as the one Alec proposes. But I find his commitment to comics genuinely inspiring, and I think these comics I lent you really show that. Most of this post seems to be about how you don't like the books he likes?
    Well, I think Battlestar Galactica is dumb and terrence malik is gay. and batman has terrible cuticles.
    Also, I was thinking that you should write a comic about being disorganized?...
    maybe we could write one together.

  6. Sam, no need to apologize! You are entitled to your opinions, and I definitely got the positive gist in your review. Like you said, even the fact that you took the time to review my comics is a compliment!

    I look forward to whatever you've got coming out next. Maybe I'll see you at SPX?

  7. dear reader Corinne
    Alec and I have different taste in comics, that's good. I look forward to locking horns with him in person. Since taking Alec to task about choosing Bone as his high watermark of comics, I've been wondering what I would put in that spot. I think "Big Guy" from Rubber Blanket #3 would be my nominee.

    I will be at SPX. I'm looking forward to meeting you and I'll have at least 2 minis that you haven't seen yet. Hopefully I can get my hand on more of your stuff and talk to you about it. I swear I'm a nice person.

    By the way, I REALLY like your dvorak mini from a ways back. It's nice to see someone using comics as a simple (and very effective) teaching tool. I should have mentioned that in the post.

  8. How embarassing. I meant "Big Man" not "Big Guy"