The sequence with the dog carrying the rabbit is based on the introduction to a story written by Alaskan poet Bruce Farnsworth. The original story was his contribution to the Marginalia exhibit (writing it out in its entirety in the margins of his copy of LrDL). The introduction was also included in the catalog and performed at the Marginalia opening reception in the fall of 2009.
The original story written by Bruce Farnsworth can be found on pages 80-85 of Appendix G:
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As I work on Held Up I ask myself why exactly it is I am interested in drawing comics? What about the medium attracts me? How does it suite what I am trying to communicate? This question is made ever more present by the feedback I have received from people who have read the first 2 issues. And the commitment that will be necessary to complete the entire series. Why a comic?
I very much appreciate Chester Brown’s answer to a similar question in the 2012 Best American Comics collection. He wrote:
“I don’t have an answer for this – sorry, anything I come up with just seems silly and reductive.”
I wish that I could give an anser like this, but instead I find myself giving one of 2 responses. Both of which could easily be described as reductive.
The 2 answers I give are as follows:
First, for Le Roman du Lievre specifically, Held Up is a complex system of mnemonic devices serving to record the marginalia, anecdotes, and free associations that surround a project that has become more and more blah, blah, blah, blah… I explain enough about this and the structure of the comic in the notes section of issue 1 and on this blog. This explanation is true, but formal. Also, while expressing a goal, it doesn’t really explain why I chose comics over film or audio.
Second, and probably closer to my real motivation, I enjoy how densely packed with information comics can be. Yet how easily they are read. That I can spend countless hours working on details, be they written or visual, while someone can pick up and work their way through an issue in a matter of minutes, jumping from one type of symbol to the next. I believe this readability is such that room is left for ambiguity in comics in a way that is not true of any other narrative medium.
What follows this second answer is a discussion about differences between high and low art and comics potential place in the middle, between the elite/conceptual and the easily digested. Then a comparison to film, a discussion of the cinematic nature of the medium, and debates about the differences between books and movies, active and passive audiences and relinquishing the control of time to the viewer.
After such a conversation I usually step back and come to realize that I am very interested in the point at which the comic narrative is just clear enough to keep the reader going, but that most of the rest of it is rhetoric.
It was during the research for this issue (#3) that I started to piece together a more honest answer as to why I had chosen the comic form. I read Introducing Consciousness, referenced on pages 18-21, and began to think a bit more about consciousness and dreams in relation to narrative. In our dreams we are able to gather together disconnected people, places, memories and piece them together into a sort story. Even if it is not coherent. It doesn’t matter. While sleeping we are not asking ourselves if the world we inhabit makes sense. We are immersed in it. Not until we wake up do we question the authenticity of our experiences. And it is the dreams incoherence, its ability to pull these disconnected parts together that makes them fascinating.
For me the comic form seems the perfect place to draw together all of the material I have gathered over the last 5 years. To let connections form and a narrative/world be built. Like a dream , the unique attributes of the comic, the way in which it can be so dense yet easily consumed, lends itself to this task. I hope that as long as the scale is not tipped completely in the direction of incoherence, the reader will be able to immerse his or herself in the panels of this story and accept whatever happens just as they would accept what happens in a dream.
NOTES: “Hare knew that he could only be happy in a shelter that was exactly the same at this moment as it had been the moment before. Out of this came his love of order and stillness.” – LRdL The cover illustration is derived from this quote. It is also a slogan that artist Jesus Landin Torrez lll has adopted and has used in his artwork extensively since the 2009 Marginalia show. More on Jesus later (Notes pg 6-14, 19, 20). The third chapter of Le Roman du Lievre focuses on Hare’s origins. We get to know a bit more about his character, exemplified in his cautious behavior. In Held Up I have taken this as an opportunity to look into the origins of our protagonist. We witness him prepare for his trip and are introduced to the environment, some of the ideas, and people that Le Roman du Lievre, Marginalia and this story came from. 2-4: In the final hours of working on this issue I made a few large changes. As I was writing the previous bit about room for ambiguity in comics, the point at which the narrative is just clear enough to keep the reader going, I realized I had crossed over to the other side. Too many ideas in too small a space. The story was nearly unreadable. So I changed some illustrations and cut out a bunch of the text. Leaving the pictures to tell the story. I mention this here, because one of the sections cut was largely responsible for the issues location, overall theme and mood. While planning this issue I was interested in the concept of psychogeography, how we change our environment, and more importantly how it changes us. I was also playing around with mapping, trying to draw a map of Anchorage (the town of my birth as well as the location for this issue) from memory. Pgs 3 and 4 were originally comprised of such maps and the introductory text alluded to some of these ideas. “Each generation reworks their landscape to speak to them of themselves. And in turn (consciously organized or not) these landscapes shape the emotions and behavior of the individuals living within them. Imagine yourself walking down a familiar street. By habit you choose the path of least resistance. Step off this path. Forge a new route. Why do you choose one direction over another? Have you become more aware of your surroundings? Do you notice as the atmosphere changes from block to block?” In the end having an introduction like this back to back with a discussion of consciousness and the soul was a bit too much. I will post some of the original drawings and links to information on the subject at the blog, as I do think it is a worth while topic. Also, maybe I will be able to work some of it into the collected version of Book One when it is completed early next year. Or I might rework the first 4 page, taking the emphasis off of the map, flight path, and bird’s eye view. 4,5: Part of this story takes place at the Anchorage Museum. Outside the museum there is a statue by Anthony Gormley titled Habitat. Its boxy form is said to apply an urban grid to the human body/form, which seemed relevant to the idea that the physical structure of a city could affect the mental structure of its inhabitants. (Though, as a city anchorage is lacking in such a grid, largely defined by the natural environment and its reliance on the automobile).
6,7: For the 2009 Marginalia exhibit Craig Updegrove designed a poster depicting Saint Francis making a shadow puppet of a rabbit. This is referenced at the beginning of the glove transformation sequence. 6-10: As mentioned in issue 2, copies of Held Up 1 were included on the merch stand at the Anchorage Museum as part of their recent Arctic Flight exhibit. Artifacts from Roger’s and Posts crash were included in the show. I thought it would be interesting to set the early part of this issue at that exhibit, making a visual note of this coincidence, possibly explaining why Post and Rogers were on our hero’s mind.
6-11: While working on Marginalia Appendix G I spoke with participating artist Anick Gosselin. She introduced me to the glove bunny. Anick provided me with hand drawn instructions for the process, which I used to guide me through the designing of this sequence. 6-14, 19, 20, The bearded character in this story is based on the artist Jesus Landin Torrez lll. The dialogue is derived from a transcript of a conversation I had with him in which he explained a project he had been working on. It is seriously edited from the original to make it fit. If you are curious about the ideas presented in it you should look him up and check out his website (www.jesuslandintorrez.com). I will try to post more about him and his project later. The beginning of souls being transcribed to music can be seen here:
Jesus participated in the marginalia exhibit. He drew the 3 words Love, Order and Stillness from the text of LRdL (specifically chapter 3) and created a pamphlet and mantra from them. He has continued to work with this text in a variety of ways over the years. Again, I will try and post links to more about all of this on the blog. 12: MTS Gallery is where the Marginalia exhibit took place. It is also the setting of the piñata “flash back” from last issue. 12,13: MTS was located in the neighborhood of Mountain View, which is where the beginning of this drive takes place. It is also one of the oldest neighborhoods in Anchorage. In 1989 Mountain View was names USA Neighborhood of the year. Just recently a study came out stating that it is the most diverse neighborhood in the country. Neither of these things matter to the story, but I thought they were worth mentioning. 16, 17: This 2-page dream sequence is a loose retelling of the Brer Rabbit Tar Baby story in a Peanuts inspired newspaper comic style. It will probably be changed before I print the virst book as a whole.
I chose to change the name of the Tar Baby to Gum Doll (a character in African legend that the Tar Baby was based on) so as to avoid the story being read in terms or race. Check out the Gum Doll story and the Native American Tar Wolf story to see where the Tar Baby story was derived. Some how a bottle of Brer Rabbit Molasses (Was the tar baby made of molasses?) ended up as a piece of ephemera in the Marginalia exhibit and catalog. Similarities between Uncle Remus and Saint Francis had also been discussed on the blog preceding the exhibit. These panels are intended to mirror the sock bunny narrative and give a bit more context to the clump spirit character and further the comic’s investigation into memory through metaphor. Also, while searching the internet I came across a few old Brer Rabbit Molasses ads, as a result I have started putting a bit of molasses in my coffee in the mornings and have discovered the delicacy that is molasses and milk. I recommend both. 18-20: The sequence with the dog carrying the rabbit is based on the introduction to a story written by Alaskan poet Bruce Farnsworth. The original story was his contribution to the Marginalia exhibit (writing it out in its entirety in the margins of his copy of LrDL) and included in Appendix G. The introduction was also included in the catalog and performed at the Marginalia opening reception in the fall of 2009. 18-21: While researching this issue I read Introducing Consciousness. The text from these pages is a rewording of a part of that book: “Sometimes consciousness is explained as the difference between being awake and being asleep. But this is not quite right. Dreams are conscious too. Dreams are a sequence of conscious experience, even if these experiences are normally less coherent than waking experiences. Indeed, dream experiences, especially in nightmares or fantasies, can consciously be very intense, despite their lack of coherence—or sometimes because of this lack. Consciousness is what we lose when we fall into a dreamless sleep or undergo a total anesthetic.” – David Papineau 21: Ted Stevens International Airport.
Woody Guthrie, Arguably America's most famous folk singer, was born in Okemah, Oklahoma. He is the author of This Land is Your Land, a song that is familiar to most Americans. At least the melody and chorus. Recently, while listening to the song, I was startled by the content of many of the verses. They were much more bleak and political than I expected. Read more at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/This_Land_Is_Your_Land
Like most fiction, Held Up draws much of its content from real life. In this case, almost as a rule, this content is related to the Le Roman du Lievre: Marginalia exhibition and those personal and cooperative endeavors surrounding it. In each issue’s notes section I will point out many of the references and quotations made. Though not detailed below, It can be assumed that the characters, places and events making up each issue are also linked to Le Roman du Lievre. Inside-Cover: An advertisement taken from the inside-cover of Kid Eternity 6 (1947). As far as I know this is the only other comic in which Wiley Post makes an appearance. His single panel appearance is below.
1,3,4: These 3 pages are based on Dore’s illustrations of The Fables of La Fontaine. As are the sheep on pages 12 and 13.
3-6: The letters on these pages spell out AMID, the first word of Le Roman du Lievre. “Amid the thyme and the dew of Jean de la Fontain...”
3: The text preceding the story of Rogers and Post paraphrases the introduction to Documents of Contemporary Art: The Archive, edited by Charles Merewether (2006).
13: “He became brother...” quoted from the first chapter of Le Roman du Lievre.
15: Lyrics from This Land is Your Land by Woody Guthrie.
19, 20: “Sister Anne…” Quoted from Blue Beard by Charles Perrault. Also quoted in Le Roman du Lievre chapter one.
20,21: The blindfold fabric pattern is based on a blindfold used at the first Uno De Mayo piñata-smashing event at MTS Gallery in Anchorage, AK. Artist Anick Gosselin from Quebec, CA attended the event, and used this fabric to cover her hand bound copy of Le Roman du Lievre for the Marginalia Exhibit.
22. “When is a hare not a hare?” taken from a blog post by Marisa Favretto preceding the Marginalia exhibit at MTS Gallery in Anchorage, AK. This post was also printed in Marginalia: Appendix G.
Back Cover: The original drawing for the third panel of page 11. Can you guess why I redrew it?
For the time being this blog will focus on the Held Up comic book. Posts from the 2009 Marginalia show can still be found in their original form below. Much of this content has been reorganized and included in Le Roman du Lievre: Appendix G. [gigya src="http://static.issuu.com/webembed/viewers/style1/v1/IssuuViewer.swf" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowfullscreen="true" allowscriptaccess="always" menu="false" style="width:420px;height:171px" flashvars="mode=embed&layout=http%3A%2F%2Fskin.issuu.com%2Fv%2Flighticons%2Flayout.xml&showFlipBtn=true&documentId=110520005347-b8e016e53415420b9590644b77fad2df&docName=appendixg&username=RabbitRabbit&loadingInfoText=Appendix%20G&et=1363067760875&er=62" width:420px;height:171px"]
More on Appendix G can be found at www.leromandulievre.com.
First, if you are looking for up-to-date information about James Riordan's Le Roman du Lievre project, Marginalia, the Return To Me Marginalia exhibits and roadtrip and related publications check out www.leromandulievre.com. What you will find here are blog entries from artists participating in the 2009 Marginalia exhibit at MTS Gallery in Anchorage and the novel Le Roman du Lievre in both french and English.
Today is Saint Francis of Assisi's feast day. Take your animals to your local church and get them blessed.
Opening reception Friday September 18th at MTS Gallery in Anchorage. Details about the show can be found on this site under the heading Marginalia. More information about the gallery is on its website www.mtsgallery.wordpress.com.
Books related to Le Roman Du Lievre (kind of) are being traded from Alaska's only mobile take a book / leave a book bicycle library in downtown Anchorage. One week only, the library will be available 24/7.