It’s not every day that we are needed.
This is the quote by Samuel Beckett that precedes the novel “Hologram for a King” written by Dave Eggers. If he had chosen to omit it and let the reader wander unfocused through the story I don’t think the desired effect would have been achieved. Hologram for a King is about Alan Clay, a man that used to run a bike manufacturing company in the Midwest that closed its doors after outsourcing. He lives in an empty house and watches old Red Sox DVDs. His neighbor after discovering transcendentalism walks into a lake and kills himself. His wife left him and he can’t help his daughter pay for college. At the beginning of the story Alan is headed to Saudi Arabia to sell King Abdullah a hologram for his King Abdullah Economic City. In 352 pages Alan waits for this king to show up- giving a second nod to Beckett’s classic, “Waiting for Godot.” And then it ends very open-ended but in line with the epithet.
Eggers litters his writing with echoes of Beckett’s bywords either with parallels to an eroding American economy or straightforward statements such as when Alan is writing his daughter and says “People think you’re able to help them and usually you can’t and so it becomes a process of choosing the one or two people you try hardest not to disappoint.”
Despite Dave’s intentions, this fundamental theme is lost by a large amount of readers as portrayed by the Amazon comments. It’s as if everyone vaulted past the epithet and began tearing through a book with the expectation of a unique character in a unique situation attempting to solve unique problems. But that’s not what this book is about.
Amazon quotes I found:
“I found the book depressing and often boring.”
“The main character wasn’t very likable to me, and I found myself irritated with his choices.”
“The story is rambling and nonsensical, with no real direction or purpose.”
This is a book about objects of importance losing their significances. It’s about becoming a thing of the past. After I finished reading it, yes, I felt it fell short of his previous works or what a story typically provides a reader, but the more I went back to the epithet the more it made sense.
My epithet for Sacco:
“If you told me nothing has a meaning you would be right, but something still has a meaning.” –Albert Camus
I chose it meticulously and with much thought because I wanted it to reflect the larger themes I was exploring. It took me six years to find a sufficient ending and a suitably longer time to find the beginning. But the beginning and ending, as it should be, are the hardest to write- they’re the bookends so to speak. And unlike Hologram for a King I hope people don’t tear through it and not see the direction and purpose.
When I was four I was immensely into tracing paper. So much so my parents would perform this song-and-dance routine treating it as a big-ticket item burning a hole in their pocket. But I knew it wasn’t costing them an arm and a leg as they purported it to be. Tracing paper was cheap. Still is. But to their point, I’ll admit moderation wasn’t in my vocabulary. I use to chain-trace images with barely a breath in between. At my worst I was probably tracing two to three packs a day. My composure towards tracing paper was that of a rabid dog- fiercely scribbling the black line paths of Casper and Scooby-doo from coloring books left stark white from an absent of crayon wax.
Those were my first memories of drawing and undoubtedly one of my first lessons. That being- know what you draw. A reliance on reference material is a common practice among illustrators and cartoonists but unfortunately misunderstood by fine artists. In fact my stint in art school was littered with lamenting fine artists who detested references to the point that it was a religion. The three issues not to bring up in art school were abortion, the death penalty, and using reference sources. Personally I felt the drama was unnecessary. Fine artists evoke inspiration from inside themselves and we, hedonistic miscreants, elicit inspiration from the carnal outside world. No hard feelings.
To boot it was also a process taken lightly by art students, as I experienced first-hand in continuously harrowing critiques where a student, who plain as day spent forty-five minutes right before class haphazardly scribbling a potted sunflower on top of a corvette while a sun blared down on them from the corner of the page, tried to defend that their illustration does in fact correlate with the assignment’s subject matter- the overcrowding of America’s prison population (to note the sun and flower did have a smile drawn on. Yes both of them). And those that stayed on topic drew a prison cell consisting of a room with not a window in sight and an inmate holding bars shooting from floor to ceiling with no apparent door built into them. Both of these individuals drew based on their internal interpretation of a prison cell (or smiling sunflowers- which don’t exist) and not from an actual prison setting.
To illustrate this point, below on the left is a horse drawing done by memory. And next to it is a drawing I did of a horse with references to aid me. I know it’s tough to say which horse is better, but if you are the art director at Horse Illustrated and you’re hiring someone to draw you a horse for next month’s issue…..
I wish I had more time.
Or more arms.
And here’s why: I want to draw a short story where I’m on a plane flying to China when it hits me- I forgot to learn how to speak Mandarin. It probably happens to many people. It’s one of those things like forgetting to turn off the oven. Luckily the guy in the seat parallel to mine tells me not to worry. He proclaims that with a little bit of guidance, his guidance, I can speak perfect Chinese. Wonderful! Perfect! Problem solved. Not with standing, this man sitting next to me, the one giving me sagely advice…. is Rob Liefeld.
Rob Liefeld became known for drawing comics in the 90s, specifically the New Mutants and X-Force. Spike Lee put him in a commercial. A video was made on how to draw like Rob Liefeld. And you can buy pillowcases with his drawings on them. At one point he left the Oligopoly of comic book publishers and founded Image Comics with a few other well-known comic artists and writers wanting to produce comics they owned out right with the ability to explore new content of what comic books could be. Rob did not follow this formula. Instead he ripped off nearly every character that already existed and gave them generic names such as Psilence, Diehard, Riptide and Prophet. He became known for the lengthy delays between his comic releases- having several months go by before even a mention of the next issue. Today there is a fake twitter account under his name with comments that almost sounds like the real Rob is writing them. And this is all without diving into the swiss cheese like holes in his actual drawing skills. For that you should see to the below two articles:
The Rob in my story attempts to cover up an inferior knowledge of Mandarin with the same techniques he uses to cover up his inferior knowledge of drawing… anything.
His go-to: pouches. Lots and lots of pouches. Are you unsure about how to ask where the library is?-cover it with a pouch! Does your pronunciation of the words “Ni Hao” pass off as the sound of a car running over a chubby fourth grader – cover it with a pouch!
Hey- I can’t really point a finger at the guy. I bought his comics when I was a kid. But what inspired me to want to draw this twisted idea was that at the end of one of his comics he drew a couple of pages featuring him proposing to his wife. To me, Rob Liefeld might just be better on the page than he is at creating one.
Every few days it dumps snow all over New York and it seems never ending. The snow is okay. The part I hate are the pedestrians. They turn into idiots when that sidewalk gets slick. Plus their cellphones are still glued to their eyes. Personal safety, schmersonal safety.
I’m still tinkering with elements of this site. I am having trouble making images larger so I haven’t posted any more pages for Sacco. But soon……
I’m currently re-drawing certain pages from chapter one and two. I’d like to focus strictly on the next chapter but when asked to see what I have done I don’t want to show pages I know I will edit.
I finally received the 30 page sampler to send to publishers. Here’s a few pics I took.
This past weekend I began drawing chapter four. If I have calculated it right- I should finish it next December. However during the down time between chapter three and four I’ve been prepping documents to send to publishers. I found Ka-Blam.com, an online printer, and had them print the first twenty pages of the book for me as a test run. What they produced far surpassed my expectations.
In addition I’ve been attempting to build this website (the one you’re on now) which has been one huge headache. I do not know why the wordpress program would be built as wonky as it is or why they have it be the farthest thing from being user friendly- but it is. And for some reason a large amount of people use it. It’s the One Direction of web programs.
If the people who made wordpress blog’s were pre-teen girls.
Oh! Also I’ve become addicted to two comic books: Saga and Stray Bullets. Saga most people have heard of and they recently went on hiatus from their third story arc. (They release 6 issues, break, release 6 more issues, break, etc- it’s sort of their thing).
Stray Bullets is a DIY comic from the 90’s that is getting a fresh start thanks to Image. If you read comics on any digital device you can download the original first four issues for free from Amazon or Comixology and get hooked yourself.
Oh and if you like Saga, check out Panelsyndicate.com for an online only comic written by BK Vaughn. The site has a pay-what-you-can motto so if you want a free taste- do so. And then throw them a few bucks.
Had some time to draw without purpose and let my mind run. I drew this image and decided to give it to my brother-in-law. Working right now on edits for the first three chapters and setting up chapter four while preparing submissions to publishers. Learning a lot of new processes which bring many headaches. When I return to drawing it will feel like a relief.
I decided to go to a meeting for aspiring comic book creators in NYC. I agreed to it and then forced myself not to think about it. Meeting new people is difficult. Throw in the fact you’re opening up about something close to you, something you’ve placed a lot of work into and it can be a bit nerve-racking. If I pulled anything away from my art school critique experiences its that the usual annoying personalities will be there-but hoped a few good eggs show up too.
I was not disappointed to see both groups well represented.
One guy, a screenwriter and not an artist, (maybe he misread the description of the group) was putting together “high concept” storylines (his words) that would instantly sell. He just needed to find financing for the projects. For example basketball players abducted by aliens to fight an intergalactic war- totally high concept right (not sure what that phrase means)? After looking at my work he attempted to recruit me to draw storyboards and when I told him my graphic novel (not a screenplay) involved a school shooting he informed me it wasn’t high concept enough. Hollywood would never pick it up. I wanted to ask him if I needed more aliens (I’ve drawn several basketball players in “Sacco” already- so I had that base covered).
I also met two guys that were in the beginning stages of their graphic novels. One was a writer and had a friend who was handling the artwork. The story-line was dark and the art matched it perfectly. The other person didn’t bring any material but could articulate his plot with great clarity and made his idea sound intriguing and not a simple one line blurb.
The screenwriter panned their ideas as low concept also.