Monday, January 26, 2015

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SCOTT WILSON: The Walking Dead, In the Heat of the Night + In Cold Blood (MF GALAXY 010)




Acclaimed for stunning performances in films such as In the Heat of the Night and In Cold Blood, actor Scott Wilson is and best known to today’s audiences as Hershel Greene on AMC’s adaptation of Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead.

Wilson got an early boost from superstar Sidney Poitier who respected his work on In the Heat of the Night. Poitier alerted In Cold Blood director Richard Brooks about the young actor who went on to beat out Steve McQueen and Paul Newman for his role as real-life murderer Dick Hickock. His chilling performance put him on the cover of Life Magazine when he was only 24 years old.

Wilson went on to appear in numerous celebrated films including The Great Gatsby, The Right Stuff, Dead Man Walking, and Monster, and he was a recurring guest on CSI. Although by his own description he was devoted to the craft of acting and never sought fame, Wilson is now so much of a fan favourite that he earns even more from his autograph-signing sessions at conventions than he does from his acting.

Wilson spoke with me via Skype from the backyard of his home in Studio City, California, on January 13, 2015, when he discussed his approach to acting, and how he came to craft his iconic performances in In the Heat of the Night and In Cold Blood, and The Walking Dead.



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Monday, January 19, 2015

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GENE LUEN YANG: American Born Chinese, Boxers & Saints, and Being an Auteur (MF GALAXY 009)



Gene Luen Yang is the celebrated graphic novelist behind the recent LA Times Book Prize-winner Boxers & Saints and the award-winning American Born Chinese. 

Yang is a remarkable force in the world of American comics. He’s the first comic creator to be nominated for the US National Book Award and the first to win the American Library Association’s Printz Award.

He’s also the writer of the graphic novel sequels to the animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender. Somehow while he’s changing the face of American comics, Yang finds the time to teach high school computer science and graduate-level creative writing.

In part two of our conversation, Yang discusses:


  • how and why he joined three previously unrelated stories together to create his career-defining graphic novel American Born Chinese
  • how story and structure drove each other in American Born Chinese and Boxers & Saints
  • the anti-colonial movement featured in Boxers & Saints, a militia of traditional Chinese fighters called the Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists that the British occupiers blandly described as the “Boxer Rebellion,” since they didn’t know the terms wushu or kung-fu
  • why the Saints volume is so much larger than the Boxers volume, and why his publisher scuttled his plans to publish the Saints volume on deliberately inferior production materials
  • how he created the Saints protagonist Four-Girl, cruelly rejected by her own family and one of Yang’s few female protagonists, who is in fact partly based on one of his own relatives
  • the difference between being auteur on his own properties and the writer who has to explain everything for an artist, including the Japanese female art team Gurihiru that illustrates his Avatar scripts
  • how difficult it is to earn a living through comics, and why he hasn’t yet crowdfunded his work, and
  • his favourite Asian, African, and Indigenous American graphic novelists and writers

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Monday, January 12, 2015

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GENE LUEN YANG: Avatar Racefail, Analogue Comics + Inverting Jack Kirby (MF GALAXY 008)





Gene Luen Yang is the celebrated graphic novelist behind the recent Boxers & Saints and the award-winning American Born Chinese, and a remarkable force in the world of American comics. While thoroughly enthralled by the artistic traditions and lore of US superheroes, Yang is equally engaged by other artistic traditions such as Chinese opera, which is full of super-powered heroes and villains in primary-coloured costumes, and massive backstories with centuries of continuity behind them.

Although Yang laboured for years at making comics and losing money, he eventually struck adamantium with American Born Chinese. The 2006 graphic novel features a contemporary Chinese-American boy, an outrageously offensive fictionalised sitcom character named Chin-Kee, and the Monkey King from classical Chinese literature. The book is Yang’s fascinating fusion of three stories exploring alienation, racial self-hatred, and transformation of social consciousness and personal self-concept.

The graphic novel established Yang as one of the most important graphic novelists in the United States. It won the Eisner Award for Best Graphic Album, and became the first graphic novel to be nominated for a US National Book Award, and the first to win the American Library Association’s Printz Award. His 2013 two-volume Boxers & Saints explores the Chinese anti-colonial struggle that also pitted traditionalist Chinese against Chinese Christian converts, and by taking sides with neither, the book humanises both. It received a nomination for a US National Book Award and won the L.A. Times Book Prize.

In addition to having written and drawn many other works, Yang currently writes the sequel graphic novels to the animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender, where he ceded art-creation duties to the Japanese duo Gurihiru. He’s also taught high school computer science for almost twenty years and creative writing through Hamline University’s MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults.

Gene Luen Yang spoke with me via Skype on December 10, 2014, from his home office in Oakland, California. In our conversation, Yang explains:

  • What keeps him from migrating to an all-digital workflow in comics creation
  • Why he regards his own art style as simple
  • Why he doesn’t illustrate the Avatar: The Last Airbender graphic novels that he writes
  • His surprising opinions of Marjane Satrapi’s award-winning Persepolis,
  • How dramatic, personal comics demand an inverted Kirbyist style, and
  • What links Roman Catholicism, computer science, and comic books.

 



Monday, January 05, 2015

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BRANDON EASTON, Part B: CONFLICT BETWEEN COMIC WRITERS + ARTISTS (MF GALAXY Episode 007)



Comic book writer Brandon Easton’s original graphic novel Shadowlaw received an Eisner Award nomination for Best Single Issue and won the East Coast Black Age of Comics (or ECBAC) Glyph Award for Best Writer.

For scripting Watson and Holmes #6, Easton won three Glyph Awards, including Fan Award, Story of the Year, and Best Writer. He’s also written Miles Away, Roboy, The Joshua Run, and Arkanium, the motion comic Armarauders, and a bio-graphic novel about pro-wrestler Andre the Giant.

In addition to being the documentary film-maker behind Brave New Souls: Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Writers of the 21st Century, Easton is a screenwriter who’s worked on Transformer Rescue Bots and the 2011 reboot of ThunderCats.

In part 2 of our conversation, we discuss:

  • Easton’s experience of the US educational system in Baltimore as a student and in New York City as a teacher
  • Why he concluded the system was broken
  • How he attempted to improve kids’ lives and how those experiences affected his work as a writer among other writers
  • The critical importance of science fiction for personal and collective progress, and
  • The reasons for the conflict between comic book writers and comic book artists
Check out Easton's work here and here.
 
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