Comics, Dood

I met someone recently who is teaching a course on comics at a local college and she emailed me to continue our conversation.  In her email I noticed she referred to graphic novels instead of comics and discussed them as a genre rather than a medium.  Both of these are common phrasing with people who didn't grow up reading comics and I usually don't correct them because I don't wanna be that annoying guy who's always correcting people about the one thing he knows about (to be fair to myself, I also know about sharks) and I know they don't give a shit anyway.  Since this woman is teaching a class, and was actually asking for my input, I started typing.  More words came out than I intended and so I'm pasting it below, minus her name.     

Hiya Teacher's Name

I'm always happy to talk about the creative process. I usually learn something myself in the course of those conversations. I'm excited about what you're doing and looking forward to helping in any way I can.

To that end and with no intention to offend; comics is a medium not a genre. As a storytelling medium it may be used for fact or fiction of any genre the creator wishes. Comics do seem to be mainly associated with the more fantastic genres of fiction - sci fi, horror, superheroes of course -  and any mash up or combination thereof. Personally, my theory as to why comics seem to lean that way is that there is no special effects budget, literally no constraints other than the limits of the creators abilities as to what may be shown. With no limits and little monetary pressure, comics are one of, if not the most direct way for an artist to share his or her dreams with an audience.  There are historical and financial reasons why comics, having started out as children's entertainment, have mostly been some kind of fantasy, but that's a whole essay which has probably already been written by someone who knows way more about it than me.  I do maintain that comics are particularly well suited to more bizarre or larger than life stories because they allow an artist to take whatever is in his or her head and show it to someone else.  

When we spoke you mentioned Maus and Persepolis and I would argue that these are prime examples of that kind of direct communication.  They both tell their stories in ways that could not be done in any other media.  Those two works are not celebrated just because of their harrowing humanist content, but because they are incredibly well crafted examples of comics storytelling.  Obviously, if they weren't good, we wouldn't still be talking about them.  Both creators excelled at utilizing comics unique visual language to present a story that sucks the reader in.  It is the most direct line of communication I can think of because - when done well - it reaches into a deeper part of the human brain than language can hope to penetrate, while still utilizing languages' ability to engage our intelligence.  At their most ambitious, comics can hit us in the same places that cave paintings and Charles Dickens do but simultaneously.  

Comics is the medium. Graphic Novel is a format for presentation, as is Webcomics, the European style Graphic Albums (the format Tintin was presented in until quite recently when the stories were repackaged to resemble a more American idea of a book or graphic novel), newspaper comic strips and the traditional American comic book. The phrase graphic novel seems to be used mainly to lend the medium - because of it's history, generally considered a children's entertainment - a little dignity. In traditional industry terms, a trade paperback is a run of comic book issues collected into book format while a graphic novel is a single story presented, upon initial publication, as a book. We call everything graphic novels now because it sounds more grown up.

Again, I don't mean to offend or to lecture. I just wanted to express the difference between genre and medium with regards to comics but I found a couple of tangents I needed to barrel down, I guess.  I think it's cool that this kind of class is happening outside of someplace like RISD where you might expect it and I'd be happy to come in next semester and assist you however I can. 

I would also recommend getting in touch with a group called the Providence Comics Consortium.  I don't know them personally but I've spoken to some of the kids they work with and they are clearly a group of people who love comics and what they can do.

- Seth



Drawing is cool

I'm on a roll, everybody.  New stuff in the online galleries, new stuff showing up in the holiday sales, new stuff getting worked on in the studio.  See, we moved into this house and I put all my stuff in my studio but it wasn't set up quite right and I didn't know what was wrong.  It got messy and I didn't like being in here.  Finally, right before Halloween, I had something I wanted to get done and I came in here, got frustrated and angry and spent a day cleaning and reorganizing.

 One of the major things that was really holding me back?  My lamp was on the wrong side of my drafting table.  Seriously.  It was on the left so I'd position my drawing to the left but my ink and brushes were on the right.  I kept swatting at the lamp and having to sidestep to dip my brush.  I moved the lamp to the right side of the table and it's been smooth sailing ever since.  Make of that what you will.  I can't look at it too closely myself, I just have to find that groove and try to stay in it or I end up walking by this room every day and glaring at it like it's taunting me.

We are down to about 300 copies of the Rhode Island edition of Old Salty Dog.  Tell your friends because when it's gone it's gone.  Ten years from now you'll be paying through the nose on ebay so you can say you were into it before the movie ruined it (everybody got mad when they cast the kid from Twilight as the Sea Serpent).


Taking Stock

Literally, as per our latest count we have 430 copies left of Old Salty Dog: A Rhode Island Folk Tale.  As I have mentioned in the past, further editions of this book will bear the subtitle A New England Folk Tale as we endeavor to reach across state lines.  I want to make sure that everyone who wants this special RI edition gets one.  

Things are going well.  We had three good shows with Festival Fete, and are looking forward to a very busy October/November.  A couple of new and different things for anyone interested in new work; STORYTELLING is a collaboration between myself and Deb Hickey.  She created a series of photo collages and I wrote text pieces to accompany them.  The opening reception for this show will be at Chez Pascal, Monday October 27.

Come see me at Rhode Island Comic Con if you wanna see some oddities from the dark side of my imagination as well as the launch of my new project, you heard it here first, called WeirdOnauts.  Also available ONLY at Rhode Island Comic Con will be another collaboration, a short comic book created, written and painted by Gabriella Shelton, Age 10, with drawings and editing by me, Age 36.

That's it.


Here's the Southern Rhode Island piece on their website:,13160?category_id=7&town_id=4&sub_type=stories,packages,photos,blogs,dining

OSD is SO Rhode Island

The current issue of SO Rhode Island magazine, a free magazine distributed around southern RI has a little article on Old Salty Dog.  Page 19.  Thanks to Cindy VanSchalkwyk for taking the time to sift through my rambling answers to her questions and for the nice things she wrote.

Books Are For Reading!

So my book, Old Salty Dog: A Rhode Island Folk Tale, is out in the world.  I've heard back from a couple of folks and it's already been worth all the time, money and work we've put into it.  I'm grateful to each person who reads this book.  It's a hell of a thing to have people respond to something you made. 

We have it for sale right now at Chez Pascal, 960 Hope St in Providence, at the Coffee Depot, 501 Main St in Warren and we will be part of a holiday sale at New Urban Arts, 705 Westminster in Providence this weekend.  Check the calendar for details.


My First Website

Look, Mommy, I'm a real artist now!  Well, kinda.  I built this myself using squarespace and if it works at all, it's due entirely to the quality of their program.  I just wanted something simple where I could show some drawings and have a shop with prints and books.  Hopefully that's what we've got here.   

Mindy and I will start shipping out books as soon as we get them in.  Most people will get them the second week of December.  Not as soon as I originally hoped back in July but hopefully soon enough for everyone.

So I have a website now.  Can I get rid of facebook yet?