My buddy Mike Lynch posted the video below of Larry Gonick, creator of the long-running Cartoon History of the World and Cartoon History of the Universe books, and it struck a chord with me for a few reasons.
One, the recent Library Journal review of WHTTWOT compared my book favorably with Mr. Gonick's work, and I commented that I was pleased to be in such company. Although I wasn't aiming to be as overtly humorous, we both mine that seam where comics intersect information (history, science) to convey it in a unique way. This video offers a glimpse at that. I particularly appreciated a look at his stacks of reference material; that's about how my desk looked, too.
Two, Mr. Gonick is an ink-and-paper cartoonist, which is an increasingly rare breed. Watching an artist lay down confident black lines with a brush is a pleasure. I liked the quick shot of him running his bristles over an ink-stained scrap of paper to work them into the point he wanted. I've got a scrap just like that on my desk.
Three, he says something at the end that perfectly captures a thought I've struggled to put into words: "Our brains represent things in some stripped-down, abstracted way. We don't remember things as photographs or movies. We remember them as cartoons." I think that's right, and I think it's a keen insight into what makes comics "work"--how squiggles of ink and sparse lines of dialog become stories and characters we care about. I recall Art Spiegelman saying something similar.
Mr. Gonick's insight comes at a good time for me, since I'm currently pulling together some ideas and images for a talk I'm giving at the opening of the LitGraphic exhibition at the Toledo Museum of Art on October 2. This is a point I planned to make in discussing comics as an artistic/literary medium and why museums should care about it, and Mr. Gonick (and Mr. Lynch) just gave me the perfect words with which to do it.
And, one cartoonist to another, Mr. Gonick draws a real fine elephant butt.