Doot Doot Garden: The Blog of Craig Thompson
Doot Doot Garden: The blog of graphic novelist Craig Thompson
drawing brothers July 3rd, 2014

Just returned from one month in France where I began a collaborative book with 72 year old French comics master Edmond BAUDOIN.

(A – Edmond with Cambodian cartoonist Tian, left. Amiens Cathedral, right.)

(B – Signing at the Palais du Commerce, left. Little Prince statue in Place Bellecour, right.)

After book signings at the A) Amiens BD festival and B) Lyon BD festival, Edmond & I retreated to his childhood haunts of Villars-sur-Var -
a mountaintop village near Nice to churn out drawings and write thumbails for our book.

Our timing aligned with village festival of their patron St. Jean – documented in Baudoin’s book LE CHEMIN DE SAINT JEAN.
Edmond has over 60 books in his bibliography, though zero are translated in English at this point.

Our collaborative project has just begun… the next step is Edmond visiting my stomping grounds in Portland & Wisconsin… BUT for the rest of the year, I plunge back into SPACE DUMPLINS to hit that deadline for a FALL 2015 release – the tenth anniversary of Scholastic’s GRAPHIX line.

les petits riens June 10th, 2014

“Little Nothings” — that’s the title for a book Maurice Sendak was working on when he died- based on Mozart’s first ballet.
Today is the anniversary of Maurice’s birth 86 years ago.

In the last year of his life, Maurice became an adopted grandfather and we chatted weekly on the phone. I transcribed bits of his conversations, almost all of which are too personal or vulnerable or hilariously vulgar to share here on the blog… but to commemorate his birthday, I found something petit. On July 31, 2011 speaking of his other project left unfinished - “THE NOSE BOOK”, Maurice said,
“I am writing something. A door is opening — moreso a WINDOW is opening. It’s FUNNY. I’ve never written anything funny before. No tragic overtones… just plain silly. But I’m not gonna judge it, or condemn it. … Which is very unlike me.”

 

The photo is with my dear cartoonist buddy Aaron Renier who introduced us in 2011.

In a later conversation, Maurice said, “I’ve been feeling fetid in my efforts at writing. Feel as if the creative spirit has departed. It better not leave me or I’ll have a SHIT FIT!” That’s how I was feeling when I left for France – I’m in Paris today – taking a breather from SPACE DUMPLINS to work in a sketchbook outside the studio again.

One more: “You just gotta get old and whatever was unattractive about your work is suddenly all right. Everything becomes silly.”                   
Still miss him everyday.
amiens et lyon May 22nd, 2014

Related to the straight-to-sketchbook project mentioned in the last post, I’ll be spending the month of June in France. While there, I’ll also participate in the Amiens BD festival and the Lyon BD festival to compensate for my abbreviated French presence during 2011′s HABIBI book tour. As some may recall, the French edition of HABIBI was late from the printers and so I’d done press at that time, but no signings.

To prep for travel, my friend Lucie is tutoring me in French. Here’s a little excerpt from my study notebook — a homework exercise to “write (& draw) a dialogue with two (or ten) characters” in which Little Zacchaeus (from CARNET and SPACE DUMPLINS) interacts with references from some favorite bande dessinée – including PETIT VAMPIRE VA À L’ECOLE by Joann Sfar, LES OGRES by David B. & Christophe Blain, CÉFULUS by Ludovic Debeurme, and SALADE NIÇOISE by Baudoin. (Translated or not, it makes no sense.)

color tweaks & carnet’s tenth March 5th, 2014
Just wanted to share some of the incredible work Dave Stewart’s pouring into the SPACE DUMPLINS colors.

We decided the palette was getting too muted & subdued, so he’s tweaking the pages just enough to infuse the grimy dinginess of outer space clutter with a burst of cartoony, kid-friendly levity. Previous incarnations on the left – updated versions on the right.

In other news, I realized that today is the exact ten year anniversary of my CARNET DE VOYAGE travel & book. To celebrate, I dug around for a photo or two, but they were sparse, because as noted in the back of the book, zero cameras were used in the creation of it. It is my unaltered travel diary begun March 5th, 2004 and ended May 14th, 2004. The week following, my buddy Frédéric and I scanned the three sketchbooks and layed out the book in Lyon, France – no edits other than a proofread from my non-native English speaking friends.


After spending 6-7 years on HABIBI, I can’t fathom that I created a book in less than three months. It helps to not make anything up, not edit, not use any photo reference, and avoid penciling as much as possible. First scruffy photo is in Morocco on the journey to Merzouga.


The second photo was provided by Lewis Trondheim – me drawing on the beach in Montpellier, France: young, naïve, skinny & shirtless.

green bean & wordstock September 24th, 2013

After getting home from three weeks in LA, I have a couple events unfolding in the Portland area.

1) The local launch for First Second’s FAIRY TALE COMICS with cartoonist (and Laika storyboarder) Graham Annable at GREEN BEAN BOOKS. 1 PM on Saturday, September 28th (1600 NE Alberta Street, Portland). More on that anthology – a sequel of sorts to NURSERY RHYME COMICShere.

2) A two-way stage conversation between Gene Yang and I to scour the crossover themes of our coming-of-age memoirs (AMERICAN BORN CHINESE) and historical, religious epics (BOXERS & SAINTS) at the WORDSTOCK literary festival. 3 pm, October 5th, Oregon Convention Center.

Hope to see you locals there!

 

world comics June 24th, 2013
My Korean publisher OPEN BOOKS translate my work with incredible attention to design & production. Check out their edition of CARNET DE VOYAGE with a 3/4 jacket.

In the upper right is a “LASER QUEST” jam with Lewis Trondheim. I’m reminded that Kim Thompson
was the first to translate & publish Trondheim’s work in the US.
Also, this news is late now that Hassan Rohani has been elected president of Iran, but my dear friend Amir co-orchestrated a very cool presidential campaign for the star of his & Khalil’s book ZAHRA’S PARADISE. (author photo by Michael Macor)
http://vote4zahra.org/  If you haven’t yet read their book, you must!  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-22803971
salam à la comics October 1st, 2012
My trip to Jordan turned out to be was the most fulfilling possible conclusion to HABIBI book tour. It was hosted by the US Embassy in Amman; worth noting as a reminder that our government cares about the arts (and graphic novels!) and sees them as a vehicle for cultural exchange. This turned out, however, to be a difficult & chaotic time for US Embassies in the Middle East, beginning with the attacks in Libya. It was an unsettling surprise, two days after my arrival, to learn that HABIBI was on the banned books list. And it was surreal to be ferried around in an armored vehicle, past security checkpoints, to roomfuls of adorable children brimming with creative energy, while elsewhere in the region, violence was breaking out over an internet video.
 

During a two week stay, I conducted graphic novel workshops to three entirely different groups, each with their own inspiring dynamics. The first were deaf children (ages 5 – 20) at The Holy Land Institute for the Deaf in Salt, Jordan. These kids were a bit baffled by the concept of comics (perhaps even drawing) on the first day of classes, but by the third day, they were churning out comics with wild abandon. The institute is a boarding school, and the theme of missing one’s family was a common one in many of their stories, but the concurrent theme was that of gratitude towards finding an extended family they could actually communicate with.

Through comics, these kids proved quite eloquent with word balloons, sound effects and visual music. My favorite exercise was a pairing up of students – boy/girl, young/old – in which one student signed a story and the other translated it into comics form on a board in front of the class.

The second batch of workshops was with inner city youth – teens and university students – at the Princess Basma Youth Resource Center Computer Clubhouse.  They channeled passions for music, graffiti, writing, architecture, and even computers into comics pages, collaborating on an anthology conceived and drawn in only three days — a pretty impressive display of constructive teamwork.  If only I’d been so focused at that age!  The girls (above left) are refugees from Syria and amazingly prolific cartoonists. They talked of creating a graphic novel to document their experience fleeing their war-torn homeland. The world needs this book to exist!

In the final workshops (below) held at Mlabbas – a hipster t-shirt shop on Rainbow Street in Amman – we gathered professional artists with specific interest in graphic novels.  It was refreshing to be around like-minded, similar-aged peers without a language barrier, and also to witness the outset of a burgeoning comics scene. Every single meal we shared was an AMAZING FEAST! The media paints a bleak outlook for the region, but there is a visceral optimism around the arts and self-expression and the medium of comics.

Finally, despite the banning, we were able to organize a bookstore signing where I met HABIBI fans from Jordan, Palestine, Syria, and Iraq. These two fans (below right) had only recently left their homes in Iraq. Readers found the book’s ban quite arbitrary, and felt it corresponded with a time of public frustration towards increasing government censorship in Jordan. Many Muslim readers thanked me specifically for the reverent depiction of their faith in HABIBI.

At the Holy Land Institute in Salt, there were children who were not only deaf, but blind.  They and their teachers labored so intently, against all odds, towards dialogue and understanding. Humans need communication. Art is a privilege, a great responsibility, and a necessity.
Thank you to the US Embassy and to their program that has represented music, theater, and dance for specifically requesting a graphic novelist this time around. And thank you to all my amazing new friends in Jordan for their generosity and inspiration. Keep making comics!
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In other news, thank you, Blog-readers for the birthday wishes. And thank you to those I met at the National Book Festival in Washington DC, the official end-cap to touring. Special congratulations to Mike who proposed and Becky who accepted while waiting in line for the signing. The engagement ring was embedded in a carved out copy of BLANKETS!
air jordan September 4th, 2012

It’s been a full year of touring with HABIBI, and this week takes me to what feels like a pinnacle – the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. While there, I’ll be conducting comics workshops with deaf children at the Holy Land Institute in Salt city,  youth at the Princess Basma Youth Resource Center in Amman, and an elite group of Jordanian graphic novelists. This promises to be a life-changing experience; and I’ll be sure to bring home drawings/stories for the blog.

A couple of days after my return, I’ll be at the National Book Festival hosted by the Library of Congress in Washington DC.
My presentation & signing is from noon – 2:30 on Sunday, September 23rd.

Enticing invites keep pouring in from all over the world; but I’m feeling growing pressure and obligation to get home to the drawing board and start producing new comics pages! My plan is to travel nowhere for October – my first month of not flying since this time last year.

flood fund-raiser August 10th, 2012

Hello, Blog-Readers, and thanks as always for your patience. As you certainly can relate, the summer months are chaos.

First off, it was a treat to see many of you at San Diego Comic-con, and thanks to the comic industry for awarding HABIBI an Eisner for Best Writer/Artist. Here’s a con photo with a great group of fans from the Philippines.

The Philippines have recently been hit hard by monsoon season flooding, and members of the comics community have started a fundraiser for aid, relief, and medical assistance for the hundreds of thousands of displaced people. As part of this, the original cover artwork for the new edition of BLANKETS has been donated. Details HERE.

As all of you know, I never sell original artwork, so this a rare exception that any piece is available. 14′x17″ India ink on Bristol board. If I have a chance, I’ll personalize a note on the back to the donor. Please, look into bidding to help raise funds for this crucial cause. Thanks!

stormtroopers, flomgart & gluten-free beer July 9th, 2012

Thanks for the reminder, Jordi! The all-ages book is progressing, but still in its secret stages. What I can reveal is that I got last minute tickets to attend San Diego Comic-con this week. At 10:30 am on Friday, July 13th, I’ll be signing at the Top Shelf booth (#1721). That night, I’ll certainly be attending the Eisner Awards. And on Saturday the 14th, from 10am – noon, I’ll be presenting a writers’ workshop on ‘World-Building’ at TR!CKSTER (795 J Street, San Diego, CA). My plan is to hang around TR!CKSTER quite a bit, where they’ll be selling a super-limited-edition HABIBI screenprint – handpulled by Portland printmaking superstar Pete McCracken.

Speaking of Portland superstars, cartoonist buddy & psychedelic visionary Theo Ellsworth (above) is leaving town; so we got together for one last drawing day, and crafted an afternoon jam comic (below). FLOMGART’S DEPARTURE is inspired by Chicago’s Trubble Club sessions. For other surreal, half-baked jams on this blog, revisit those with Aaron Renier, Fabio Moon, and my brother Phil.