By BK Munn
It’s been almost a year since the New York Times Magazine announced it would be serializing the work of several cartoonists in a feature called “The Funny Pages.”
Since then, comics fans have been treated to the publication of two full-colour stories by masters of comic art: “Building Stories” by Chris Ware and, most recently, “La Maggie La Loca” by Jaime Hernandez.
The latest artist to receive the NYT treatment is the Canadian cartoonist Seth. His serialized story is set to debut Sept.17 2006 in the New York Times Magazine (a supplement available to readers of the Sunday NYT). Sequential caught up with Seth for the lowdown on this new story.
Sequential: Can you reveal the name of the new work you are producing for the NYT? What’s it about?
Seth: The title of the strip is “GEORGE SPROTT (1894-1975).” As the title implies it is a work about the life of one man, George Sprott.
Obviously, George died in 1975 so the entire piece is set in the past but
much of it takes place in “real time” allowing the reader to watch things
unfold. Narratively it jumps around in time and much like Wimbledon Green it has a variety of voices. George, of course, is an old man like almost all of my characters (for some inexplicable reason) and without giving away a single element of the story I will say that I have tried to retain some Canadian-ness to the setting and subject matter.
Sequential: Is it a stand-alone work or part of a larger graphic novel?
Seth: It is a stand-alone work. All-in-all probably running for about 20 to 22 installments. Each installment a “chapter.” What I will do with the work later is debatable. It may end up in an “Art of Seth”-type book sometime in the future or perhaps I will expand it a bit and come up with some kind of “clever” format to republish it. Either way, it is a story I have grown fond of and George is a character I “like” quite a bit.
Sequential: How do you feel about producing work for such a prestigious venue? Are you anxious at all about the implied strictures of working for the “The Grey Lady”? Jaime’s story especially, although beautiful and dense, read as sort of a “Love and Rockets lite” introduction to his oeuvre.
Seth: Excited. Thrilled –some trepidation. There is always a fair amount of stress in these sort of opportunities that takes the edge off a straightforward emotion. You always end up with mixed emotions. Is the work good? Can you sustain the reader’s interest over the run of the story?
On the flip-side there is the gratification that you will be reaching many
many readers who would never have encountered your work and may actually go out an purchase one of your books.
Mostly it is a tightrope of trying to structure the work for a weekly
experience and of making sure that none of the key elements that make
telling the story important get lost in the process of reduction that such a limited space requires.
(Seth’s latest graphic novel is Wimbledon Green. He recently published Forty Cartoon Books of Interest, a supplement to Comic Art #8.)