A short review of the French translation of the Trans books appeared on Mediapart. I asked my now-living-in-France little sister to do a quick translation:
“These two “books” are curious objects, perhaps “booklet” is a more accurate word. Reversible and (double??), four stories that are in dialogue with each other and that complete each other, written by Tom Kaczynski, edited by the independent press Alter Comics. Taking the form of a mini comic, the subject is rooted in reality and draws inspiration from Pat Kane, Momus, Richard Florida, Heraclitus, Breton, and Orwell…to explore philosophical and economic concepts. The “autofiction” form serves as a point of departure for introspection. tom Kaczynski examines the world, and his immigrant identity, his life as an author, graphic artist, and human. He invokes nostalgia and modernity, the inherent change and immutability of things. A reflection on capitalism, wisdom, urbanization, information overload, and creation. A quest that is realized through illustrations. Almost a utopia.
Also, it has come to my attention that North American Francophiles interested in this edition can get it from Amazon.ca: Trans Alaska / Trans Sibérie and Trans Atlantide / Trans Utopie.
I’ve always admired French comics, now I made one… sort of. This is something I should’ve blogged about months ago, but I got distracted by work on Beta Testing the Apocalypse. Way back in May, my Trans-series (Trans-Alaska, Siberia, Atlantis, Utopia) was published in two tiny hardcover volumes. The books are published by Alter Comics. Each one is a flip-book with two comics back to back. I re-lettered each volume and re-worked a bunch of the graphics & typography to match the translation. I’m really happy how it turned out and extremely excited to have a book in French! As far as I know there’s one French review. Any French readers out there why might have read it, please let me know what you think. I’m really curious how it plays out there.
This is also a kind of homecoming for me. I grew up on European comics (Thorgal, Valerian, Asterix, Lucky Luke, Kajko i Kokosz, Funky Koval, etc.) and I’m honored to have my own comics appear on European soil. Seeing my own work being translated, made me also realize how little European work makes it over the Atlantic to the US. It inspired me to try to bring European work state-side via my Uncivilized Books project. Some announcement about this coming real soon!
SPX 2006 turned out pretty great. The new venue wasn’t too bad, though the food around the hotel sucked. But I won’t bore you with an exhaustive account, there are plenty of them out there. No need to add to the noise. Thanks to everyone that stopped by to say hi.
For those that have been following my notes posts to Trans-Alaska, but haven’t been able to get ahold of a copy of the book: I have finally re-printed all three of the Trans-Books. They have brand new covers hand made on the amazing, soon-to be obsolete Gocco.
They are available on my robot26.com site. Older editions should still be available from other places.
As I started to compile my notes on Trans-Siberia, I realized there was still a couple of things left unsaid about Trans-Alaksa. If you haven’t read the first batch of Trans-Alaska notes, you can catch up here.
Trans-Alaska was a very formless book. It was done without preparation and ‘straight to ink’, without any pencilled art. It’s title was a kind of last minute tribute to a series of dreams about Alaska that I had in the mid 90s. Those dreams inspired an attempt at a 24 hour comic. Instead of producing a 24 page comic in 24 hours, I made a 10 page comic in 6 hours.
That comic saw ‘publication’ in my last (semi) regular mini-comic Reduction #7. The story, titled ‘Slow’, was quickly forgotten. Recently, I re-read the story and I realized that ‘Slow’ was in effect the blueprint for the entire Trans series!
panel from Slow
For those of you interested, I’m posting the entire story here. Also, for those of you that still care about physical objects, a limited number of copies of Reduction #7 are available from me at robot26.com. It’s pretty embarassing stuff so don’t laugh! 😉
It’s pretty clear that a most of the ideas in the Trans books were already in ‘Slow,’ though in a very unformed fashion. It’s definitely stuff I was thinking about back then, but for one reason or another (working to pay the rent) I put that stuff on the back burner. Even some of the visuals are very similar. I guess I’m just a cheap copy of myself!
panel from Trans-Alaska
One of the reasons I started this blog was to make it a sort of digital bibliography for the comic-books I create. This is especially relevant to these three books: Trans-Alaska, Trans-Siberia, and Trans-Atlantis. All of the books are out of print at the moment. I’ve started working on new editions and I wanted to expand the notes section that can be found in the back of each book. I’m planning on a series of entries that hopefully will help me do that.
Trans-Alaska is the first book in the series. It was written and drawn over a period of about 2 weeks prior to the 2004 MoCCA Art Festival.
The notes section identified three main concepts that underpin Trans-Alaska. They are: Richard Florida’s Creative Class, Pat Kane’s Play Ethic and Momus’ Metaphysical Masochism of the Capitalist Creative.
Pat Kane’s Play Ethic is an attempt to create a new kind of philosophy of work in the 21st century. If the capitalist economic system has always relied on the Work Ethic as it’s engine, then in today’s (and tomorrow’s) post scarcity economies we will need something new: a Play Ethic. “If work doesn’t believe in you, why believe in work?” seems to be the general attitude. Kane is convinced that by embracing our inner homo ludens we can all become more creative, playful (responsibly so – hence the ethic) and happy. I sort of dismissed his ideas in the comic by pointing to the dangers of blurring the boundary between work and play in a capitalist context. At that time I hadn’t read Kane’s book The Play Ethic. I had only read his blog and some articles. The book is a much more nuanced examination of the possibility of a wider shift from work oriented culture to a ludic one. Although Kane suffers a bit from too much technophilia (for my taste) and is perhaps a little more over optimistic about the potential for play in a profit driven environment, nevertheless the book is a chock full of great ideas and concepts. I’m rooting for you Pat!
Florida is more of an urbanist and his concept of the Creative Class is deeply connected to cities. He sees the Creative Class (artists, designers, programmers, etc.) as the real economic engine that drives the vitality of cities… and economies. In that he is not that far off from the late and great Jane Jacobs. Florida’s book hinges on his Creative Cities Index. These cities, according to him, are attracting the creative work force necessary for competitiveness in the global creative economy. The book is almost a how-to guide for cities on how to re-create themselves to attract the creatives and by extension the businesses that want to hire them. And business brings all the ‘benefits’ like higher real-estate prices, more tax revenue, etc. This focus on the intersection of money and urbanism is pretty much what turns me off from Florida’s ideas. Momus said it best here. The influx of capital (and consequent rising prices) into creative city centers (often low-rent and marginal neighborhoods) chases those very creatives away. Soho in NY is a good example. San Francisco (number one on Florida’s Creative Cities Index) during the 90’s internet boom is another.
Speaking of Momus, he is probably the primary the catalyst for my doing these little theoretical comic tracts. Specifically I was very impressed by his Metaphysical Masochism Of The Capitalist Creative essay. In the essay Momus is taken by the ability of creatives to create metaphysical value out of the capitalist cesspool of money and greed. The equivalent of alchemical transubstantiation of shit into gold. Any designer trying to squeeze a drop of quality out of a clueless client will know exactly what Momus is talking about.
The notes ended with a bunch of Name dropping: Karl Marx, George Orwell, Chip Kidd, Witold Gombrowicz and André Breton. Karl Marx is a pretty obvious choice given the generally critical approach to capitalism in the comic. More will be written on him later.
George Orwell came to mind only briefly in the perhaps over-the-top assertion that the Play Ethic may be in danger of becoming a kind of newspeak version of Work Ethic. Following the 1984 logic of WAR=PEACE I was presenting my own WORK=PLAY. Pat Kane’s book rounded out his theory for me and I don’t think he implies anything of the sort. However the danger for that kind of misinterpretation is still valid think. Orwell will become more significant in Trans-Atlantis where I take a look utopias and dystopias.
I had read Chipp Kidd’s The Cheese Monkeys some time before I made Trans-Alaska. One of the characters, Winter Sorbeck, struck me a perfect Masochistic Capitalist Creative. That’s really the only connection here… though the novel did made it easier for me to think of design and it’s surrounding issues as a valid topic for a comic-book.
Gombrowicz is one of my favorite authors. Right around the time I was starting to work on the comic I was reading his novel Kosmos. The novel is this amazing study of nothing and everything. The main character from the most random occurrences, signs and coincidences, concocts multitudes of paranoid meanings. In some ways I see this novel as kind of template for the comics… a kind of archaeology of contemporary culture… digging up weird books and objects until they all start making some sort of sense.
André Breton. I probably should have said Surrealism. The influence of Surrealism has been with me for a long time. There are some obviously surreal moments in the comic (like the Giorgio de Chirico moment – see image above the Momus entry), but I won’t really get into the surreallity of capital until later books.
Well that’s it for now. More soon.