In anticipation of "INKFISH (documenting trauma)," OWH presents two of the workshop's mentors, Lysley Tenorio and Michael Heimos. Tenorio is the author of the award-winning short story collection, Monstress. Heimos is an academic and creative writer whose work includes the graphic novel series Fever Ridge: A Tale of MacArthur’s Jungle War. Here, they discuss the importance of the relationship between image and text.
Why do you think the comic is an appealing art form?
Lysley: The combination of image and text is an immediate appeal; it fleshes out the narrative world for the reader, while at the same time leaving enough room for the imagination. Layout, panels, and sequence add to the experience as well, interacting with the white space on the page. All these elements, and so many others, make for an utterly unique reading experience.
...an utterly unique reading experience...
Michael: I think comics, aka sequential art, draw one in by being the middle between, or combining the power of, the ‘moving pictures’ that we know from the 20th & 21st centuries, and the still image that we know from earlier pictures, such as cave art and canvas paintings and photographs. We are pulled into the movement of the pictures/story in part because we too are beings living in motility; but we also are contemplative, abstracting beings, who can discern emotion, layers of thought, textures, and ‘motion’ even in an image that, though part of a sequence, is itself absolutely, perfectly still.
Did you read comics growing up?
Lysley: Yes. I read DC Comics mostly, some Marvel here and there. I was particularly drawn to team titles - Justice League, the Avengers - so it's been particularly exciting to see these heroes coming together on the screen.
Michael: Yes! Firstly, I had a good-sized box of comics my dad had saved from the '60s and early '70s, mainly those emanating from Disney movies and Looney Toons' "Saturday morning" characters. Then of the "fresh" ones from when I was a lad in the early '70s, I really liked the Batman and Planet of the Apes issues. And I still read comics of course; I’m still growing up ☺
How much truth is there in the old saying that a picture tells a thousand words?
Lysley: At least a thousand truths.
What themes make for the best visual stories?
Michael: Ah this is extremely hard to answer. Who knows? Just when I want to say, "it should be thematically elegant", someone does a wonderful presentation of several complex themes that are interwoven! Just when you think someone can’t do a comic about say, a librarian, James Turner does Rex Libris, which is just a blast and nigh perfection in fun, snarky, thoughtful story telling with snappy art.
Do you think the comic’s attraction is timeless?
Lysley: I've read that the number of comic book readers is in decline, and that fewer young people are reading comics these days. But as long as the storytelling stays fresh and relevant, I believe there will always be an audience.
Michael: It probably is. Look at, for example, the imagery in the Chauvet Cave, some which has a sequential progression and seems very comic-ey. That c. 30,000- year old art, to my eye, is as beautiful and sophisticated as anything created by humans since, and can one doubt that it was a wonder to contemporaries as well? And then look at modern comics and their progeny in films, art galleries… so I think the question is answered by just turning a page of History. Some have feared for the disappearance of printed comics because of the digital conveyances, but that I think has been overstated; most comics people I know still want that tangible book…
...most comics people I know still want that tangible book…
Lysley Tenorio is the author of Monstress. His stories have appeared in "The Atlantic", "Zoetrope: All-Story", "Ploughshares", and The Best New American Voices and Pushcart Prize anthologies. A former Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, he is the winner of the Rome Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the Whiting Writer's Award, and has received fellowships from the University of Wisconsin, Yaddo, The MacDowell Colony, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Born in the Philippines, Tenorio currently lives in San Francisco and is a professor at Saint Mary’s College of California.
Originally a lawyer from Denver, Michael Heimos is the author of four academic monographs and a number of journal and online articles, as well as being a creative writer of prose, drama and comics, especially historical fictions and period pieces. Of particular note, he is the author of an original and widely successful multi-volume graphic novel, Fever Ridge: A Tale of MacArthur’s Jungle War (IDW 2013). From 2014 he was at the University of St Andrews (MLitt Reformation Studies, 2015) and is now a DPhil candidate in History at Oxford. He is an enthusiastic and aspiring teacher, and is involved in a number of ongoing fiction and comics projects to which he will return on the completion of his academic studies.