Monday, October 15, 2007

...ariel bordeaux finds happiness... a comix Q & A

i'm a comix junkie. it started with the archies and then i discovered zines, underground comix and "the girls"... meaning ariel bordeaux & julie doucet (i'm not the first one to think they are sisters)! i read ariel's acclaimed mini-comix series deep girl in the 90s while living in san francisco. we had a brief but thrilling pen pal friendship when she lived on the west coast. (i have one of her original signed drawings!) then we drifted. me back to jersey. and well, ariel, on to seattle. but i kept track of her. drawn & quarterly published her novella no love lost in 1997. then i wondered what next for ariel? but one summer during law school i went to the mocca comix show at the puck building in nyc and voila, there she was, with husband rick altergott, promoting their new collaborative work, the raisin pie series! i gobbled up every issue, but wanted more of ariel's stories and art. what was she doing with her time? i needed solace & comfort, her artwork provided that... so i kinda gave up, happy to see raisin pie and occasional work, such as henparty, a zine for mocca 06, and a story for stuck in the middle, a comix anthology about junior high school hell.

in her latest zine, henparty, ariel talks about her life from 95 to 06, getting back to her roots and her secret to happiness. i was intrigued. so i wrote her a few fan emails, hoping for the best. and she answered. i couldn't be happier.
here's an inside look at ariel's quest for happiness (and panels from her new work-in-progress):

SG: what books, comix are you reading now?

AB: I have so little time to read anything, but I recently subscribed to the NY Times Sunday edition so I could read Megan Kelso's fabulous story, "Watergate Sue" which ran over the summer. Now there's a DanClowes story running, which is of course shaping up to be another fine story.
SG: influences on your art?

AB: Currently my son, Eddie, is the most profound influence on my life and art. Everything that came before Eddie seems too trifling and insignificant to mention ... but, oh, I guess the most powerful "influence" has been my need to share all those icky, sticky issues of insecurity and low self-worth. All the comics of a personal nature that I read in my adolescence helped me figure out that I could achieve this sharing through comics. The whole Twisted Sisters generation of women artists was and still is really exciting to me.

SG: did you think deep girl would achieve such success?

AB: Back when I was an apple cheeked little art school grad with my first mini-comic, I was pure fan-girl nerd all the way. When I got to hand copies to a couple of my big heroes, Pete Bagge and Dan Clowes, in person I was so excited I just about DIED, right there on the spot. And THEN, when they invited me to join them with all the other local artists after the signing ... well, I knew I was on my way! Big city, here I come! Soon, I knew, I would be walking the funky, fungus-infected red carpet to the doors of Fantagraphics! Ah, yes ...

SG: how has your child changed your perspective on creating art and storytelling?

AB: Well, it's funny. Before having my son I had this idea that to have a child meant I'd basically have to quit making art for a number of years, and I was really pretty anxious about that, since I still kind of feel like I have yet to actually begin making comics for real. I did start to think a little differently about it right around or shortly before getting pregnant, I had kind of figured out why I had started to feel like I was stagnating. In a nutshell, I wasn't being really truly honest with myself anymore. I was denying a lot of my needs in life, and that just carried over in my work. So I was on a positive trajectory to turning things around already, and then when Eddie popped out (well, after the first blurry month or two) it just created, like, a big bang in my brain. It's not so much that I didn't "have ideas" before ... it's more like I was seeking a way to bring the immediate experience of life into my work. I'm now a little closer to writing about life as it happens, rather than trying to analyze the past so much. I think because babies are such perfect little Buddhas it helps me with my own mindfulness.

SG: which of your projects, zines & publications are you most proud of and why?

AB: Well ... pride is a tricky word. I can't really look back at anything with a sense of, "Yeah, that's it. I really got it there". I have a sort of affection for some of the stuff I've done, I guess a blend of pity and compassion for whatever unlabeled mental illness it is that I splash all over the page. Recently I did a story for an anthology called "Stuck in the Middle" about my junior high school experience. Some of the stuff in Deep Girl I can look at without wincing too too horribly ... I'm happy that I did Hen Party and Rooster, although certainly there are embarrassing things about both.

thanks ariel! can't wait for the next graphic novel & more of your stories. keep the SG posted, ok?


Anonymous said...

Stuck in the Middle is one of the best comix I have read. Full of anxiety, rage and discomfort. Wonderful to read. Thanks for the interview La Francaise. Keep it up.

Anonymous said...

Great interview-- Ariel's work is just super-- so authentic and immediate.

David Lasky, Esq. said...

Ariel is one of the best cartoonists working today; not enough people know that! Thanks for providing us with this update on what she's doing. I'm so excited to see that there is a COLOR work in progress!

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