Strange Familiar Place returns

Stange Familiar Place - Comic Strip

After a very long hiatus, “Strange Familiar Place” will be back in print. Or at least it will be in a very limited capacity. More details on that later.

The creative non-fiction comic “Strange Familiar Place” first appeared in The Indie. Inspired by the works of Harvey Pekar, Jessica Abel, and Eddie Campbell, I wrote and illustrated “Strange Familiar Place.” Eventually I collaborated with illustrator and comic book artist James E. Lyle on six comic strips.

Comic Stroll, a publication of the local chapter of the National Cartoonist Society, will feature that collection of previously unpublished comic strips. Read the evolution of what started as a couple drawings and became a creative non-fiction comic:

  1. Comics and Narrative Non-Fiction
  2. Comics and Narrative Non-Fiction Continued
  3. Narrative Non-Fiction Comics: part 3
  4. Narrative Non-Fiction Comics: part 4
  5. Narrative Non-Fiction Comics: part 5
  6. Narrative Non-Fiction Comics: UPDATE
  7. Narrative Non-Fiction Comics: UPDATE
  8. Strange Familiar Place comic series

More details about Comic Stroll distribution will be made available later.

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Narrative Non-Fiction Comics: part 3

The first installment is done. I’m a little bit nervous about sending it to the editor.

A couple months ago I began exploring the idea of literary comics; more specifically creative non-fiction comics.

I began sketching a 14-panel demo story and showed the drawings to some other cartoonists at a monthly meeting. The narrative non-fiction comic strip was modestly received and they encouraged me on some drawing techniques.

Casually inspired by Harvey Pekar’s American Splendor, Jessica Abel’s Radio: An Illustrated Guide and Eddie Campbell’s Alec McGarry, I began work on a narrative non-fiction comic strip storyline in five parts. Each strip, four panels, needed to be enough of a story to encourage a reader to come back next week. This would make it ideal for a weekly publication. The long term goal is weekly syndication (hah, stop laughing–everyone has dreams). The short term goal is a self-contained 5-page story.

Bitter Black Coffee, Issue 6, Summer 2005

The editor and publisher of a zine, Bitter Black Coffee, requested I put together this 5-page comic for an upcoming issue. In fact, the 14-panel demo story featured our intial meeting. So, this is a bit of a test run to see if I can complete something I started. We’ve been discussing this for over two months.

My personal goal (not the editor’s) was to have all 20-panels drawn, lettered and inked by Thanksgiving. However, personal crisis, illness and a full time day job prevented me from meeting that deadline. So, I adapted and gave myself three more weeks. The week before Christmas all 20-panels (plus a few bonus ones) were completed and scanned and ready to send. Only one hitch (actually two)–I didn’t have a name for the strip. Then I upgraded my laptop to Tiger and somehow lost the files I needed to email the editor. The naming of the comic strip still didn’t come to me. The muse must be on vacation or holiday or something. Maybe she has the stomach flu like I had last week.

During the Christmas holiday I found myself flipping through a copy of Alec: How To Be An Artist and I thought of a working title. I told myself it was too simple and too silly, but I went with it. I haven’t thought of anything else ingenious so the strip will be submitted with a working title. Maybe that’s the whole Malcolm Gladwell thing about snap judgments and split-second decisions.

Last night I got the files ready to email. Tomorrow I submit the self-contained 5-page story to the editor and publisher of Bitter Black Coffee.

Previous posts on creative non-fiction comics: [1] [2]

Comics and Narrative Non-Fiction Continued

I had tea not long ago with the writer of a very nice article about Asheville blogs. I didn’t realize he was such a comics aficionado. Over tea, he presented me with the idea of illustrating non-fiction narratives and personal memoir. I illustrated a 14-panel story about our meeting. The drawings are quick suggestions of setting and characters. I didn’t want to get too realistic.

Brian commented: “Such an exercise cannot help but broaden and deepen your writing… This is really fascinating. Taking everyday situations, finding the drama, illustrating them – you’re developing a wealth of back-story. I could see one of these scenes popping up under a bigger story… I don’t think you’re wasting time on this project.”

I hope he’s right in regards to the exercise assisting my writing.

Narrative Non-Fiction Comics is not new. Harvey Pekar’s American Splendor was famously made into a movie. Jessica Abel’s journalistic comic Radio: An Illustrated Guide records the making of a This American Life show. Joe Sacco’s books “Safe Area Gorazde: The War in Eastern Bosnia 1992-95” and “Palestine: In The Gaza Strip” are journalistic graphic novels.

Eddie Campbell’s Alec McGarry stories offer extensive inspiration in the genre of autobiographical comics/graphic novels. Alec McGarry is Eddie Campbell’s stage name (or rather comic page name). That is like Samuel Clemens writing an autobiography in which Mark Twain was the main character.

I must confess I’m enamored by that idea, but not as a narcissist. In the arena of stories, the most compelling tales are true, personal accounts–narrative non-fiction. Also, persuasive arguments are often won by personal example/experience. That’s what makes Elie Wiesel’s book, Night, so riveting–he was there. He survived Auschwitz, Buna, Buchenwald and Gleiwitz. He has first hand experience.

I know, I know–I’ve just sprinkled a lot of names throughout this post like confetti. Mark Twain I am not. Nor have I the life experiences of Elie Wiesel. I don’t know if I really want to follow in Eddie Campbell’s footsteps, either (he reveals all areas of his life–i.e. no trouble drawing himself nude which unnerves me–but maybe that helps him gain perspective on his own life).

I have a sketch of an idea of where I want to go with narrative non-fiction comics. This is what they call in Corporate America the development stage. It’s what I call drawing 1000 black lines before presenting a finished drawing.

Previous post on creative non-fiction comics: [1]