Derik A Badman is a librarian living outside Philadelphia, PA who writes the blog Madinkbeard (an anagram of his name). After about a year of focused blogging on constraint in literature (the Oulipo and related artists), he switched the focus of his blog to comics. He writes about all kinds of comics from classic comic strips to European bande dessinÃƒÂ©e (and much in between), often concentrating his attentions on the formal elements of comics and the experimental use of such elements. Maroon, his webcomic about a man stranded on a tiny island, ran from August 2005 through July 2006, using a number of constraints. His current webcomic is Things Change: The Metamorphoses Comic (started August 2006). Derik is using Ovid’s Metamorphoses as a generative device for structure as well as characters, themes, settings, or phrases. His other comics experiments include pictureless comics, comics haiku, and a comics pantoum.
Simon Owens: Any internet nerd out there could tell you that the web comics scene has become huge. As someone who both does web comics and blogs, which group do you feel more connected to? Do the two projects compliment each other?
Derik Badman: I’ll take your second part first. The two projects compliment each other wonderfully, at least for me. Part of my blogging about comics is an investigation into history and form. In that regards I think it makes my comics work better. I am a firm believer in knowing one’s forefathers and foremothers when working in art. By not only reading comics but also writing about them, I pay closer attention to the works and garner more that I can put to use (or not, in the case of negative examples) in my work.
As far as feeling connected to either bloggers or webcomickers… I don’t feel particularly connected to either. Most comic bloggers are writing a) news or b) superheroes. Even those that stray from such rarely write with similar intentions to how I see my blogging (albeit my writing is still an evolving function). That isn’t to say I don’t enjoy a lot of comics blogs (or other blogs) and learn about new comics or old comics from them, but that I don’t find a lot of compatriots (or whatever you might call them). I certainly end up getting a lot more links from non-comics bloggers than comics bloggers.
Similarly with webcomics. The majority of webcomics fall into genres which hold no interest to me (webcomics is the only place where “gamer” and “manga-esque” are prominent genres) or are sub-par brethren of print comics. Perhaps it is hubris to see my work as so much different from the rest, but I haven’t found much else that comes from a similar (perhaps literary? experimental?) angle. I’d love to find more interesting webcomics, and maybe they are just lurking below my radar. As there is a huge glut of bad webcomics, it often gets wearying to try to find ones that are worth the time. Sometimes one wonders if certain cartoonists have read much else than other comics in their genre.
Simon Owens: How hard is it for you to meet the deadlines you set for the updates on your web comic?
Derik Badman: So far the only time I missed a deadline was when I was working on a (printed) mini-comic while drawing my now completed strip Maroon. That said, for Things Change I’ve set myself a twice weekly deadline. I’ve only published five strips as of this writing, but I amassed about 10 strips before I started publishing them to give myself a head start.
I actually enjoy deadlines, which fits in with my former blogging focus of constraint. A regularl schedule forces you to work.
Simon Owens: Let’s switch gears. Does being a librarian affect your blogging at all? Do you feel like you’re close to the pulse of the book-publishing scene?
Derik Badman: I’m sure there must be a librarian influence on my blogging… my tendency to cite sources? The rare books I can get through interlibrary loan (just got a French book that performs a close reading of a Tintin book, in the same vein as Barthes’ S/Z). I don’t have any sense of the pulse of the publishing scene. I find the publishing scene predominantly uninteresting. I do manage the occasional worthy review copy, though so far not from any of the better comics publishers (Fantagraphics, Drawn and Quarterly, etc).
Simon Owens: Who are some of the main comic creators who inspire your own work?
Derik Badman: That’s a hard question, as I read so much, I’m not sure how much I’ve incorporated from others. Certainly my influences do not start or stop with comics creators. Probably the Oulipo writers, particularly Queneau and Mathews, have been huge influences on the way I work. Without them I never would have started Things Change with its use of Ovid as a generative device. The movies I’m interested in probably color my work in less obvious ways, particularly film noir and the French New Wave (Godard and Rohmer mostly).
But, to name some comic creators: HergÃƒÂ© (Tintin), Lewis Trondheim (Lapinot), Osamu Tezuka (Buddha), Dave Sim (Cerebus), Jaime Hernandez (Love and Rockets), Harold Gray (Little Orphan Annie), George Herriman (Krazy Kat), John Porcellino (King Cat), and lately the Archie house style from past decades. That probably says something about my comics reading and taste, though I can’t imagine I achieve anything like what these creators have done.
Simon Owens: What upcoming book publications are you looking forward to the most?
Derik Badman: Curses, a collection of short works by Kevin Huizenga. Mother’s Mouth by Dash Shaw (whose work is extremely inventive if still rather undeveloped). The new volume of Kramer’s Ergot, which I usually only half like, but that one half is good enough. The new Finder collection by Carla Speed McNeil. And new reprint volumes of Gasoline Alley, Peanuts, Krazy Kat, and On Stage.
Simon Owens: What are the five blogs you’d recommend to supplement the reading of your own?
Derik Badman: I feel like the supplement blog, but…
1. Tom Spurgeons’s The Comics Reporter is the best place to go for news, commentary, and links on a regular basis. The too infrequent appearance of Bart Beaty’s pieces on Eurocomics is the icing on the cake.
2. Jog Likes Comics writes on a wider range of comics than I would read, but Jog is consistent in posting and quality. His enthusiastic writings even got me reading Grant Morrison’s Seven Soldiers series, a superhero book (which is a genre I do not usually pay any attention to).
3. The Comics Comics blog from Dan Nadel and Tim Hodler supplements their new Comics Comics magazine. Both write intelligently on a wide range of comics. Dan in particular is good at finding the forgotten greats.
4. du9, “le autre bande dessinÃƒÂ©e,” is a great French comics site, offering regular news and reviews. Lately they’ve been posting a long thesis on silent comics.
5. Not a blog, but Douglas Wolk’s regular comics reviews in Salon are great examples of mainstream (as in the wider public not the “mainstream” of comics (superheroes)) comics reviews.
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