So, this is a drawing I did of the young Jean Pierre Leaud from Truffaut’s 400 Blows. The chapter title Children of Marx and Lady Gaga is a reference to the Godard film Masculin Feminin, which Leaud was also in. There are a lot of things going on in the comics I’ve been doing and the comics that are coming up that tie in to 60′s French New Wave films, and 60′s culture in general.
As the comics coming up talk more about money and capitalism and the relationship between those things and art, it’s hard to not think about Occupy, and the obvious parallels between the dissatisfaction people have now and the protests going on, and things that were going on in the 60′s, and things like the student protests in France. There’s more 60′s stuff in my comics going back a while now, with the references to Bob Dylan and R. Crumb, who became associated with that era even though he didn’t like it. I think using some iconic things from 50 years ago to talk about what’s happening now appeals to me because it shows the circularity of these things, how they come around again, like the fly life cycle drawings in Morbid Obsession were meant to.
The best we can do is try to break out of the cycle if it’s destructive, and move forward. Hopefully every generation is moving forward a little bit. The world that young people in the 60′s were hoping for didn’t quite come to pass, but the world definitely became better than it was before then. As the zeitgeist tries to have a forward momentum again, there’s always the reaction from the other side to pull us backwards, which is what the Republican party represents today.
I try not to talk about these things in magical terms, but I find it kind of fascinating the way these ideas float around in the collective unconscious. That’s part of why I like to specifically call out in my work some of the influences that I’m thinking about at the time. In Masculin Feminin, you see French young people in the 60′s talking about Bob Dylan, fascinated with the ideas that are going around across the ocean. In turn, Bob Dylan is fascinated with the French poet Rimbaud, and kind of completing that circle is this picture of Leaud which has him in a pose and outfit looking very much like that famous portrait of Rimbaud that I drew in one of my comics a while back.
A couple weeks ago I was walking to a comics store in the Mission District of San Francisco, and I noticed some trailers parked along the street. A little further along the street, I come across Woody Allen filming scenes for his new movie, and I stopped to watch him for a while. I wondered what he would think knowing that a comics shop down the street was selling my book, in which I drew my rabbit making the joke Woody Allen made at the beginning of Annie Hall. That joke, of course, was a Groucho Marx joke, which Woody mentions in the movie. He’s talking about the wisdom you can find in jokes, and by deliberately mentioning a hero of his, he’s placing his work in the lineage of ideas that fascinate him. Part of the reason I liked Marx and Lady Gaga as a title was that you could take “Marx” to be about Karl, or it could be about Groucho, who I had just mentioned in my book. Some of the comics now are concerned with capitalism, but I didn’t want to seem like I was abandoning the themes about love and relationships and so on that I’ve been interested in, so it amused me that using that name could refer to either.
That’s what’s fascinating to be about art in general, you’re sending these ideas out into the universe, and you’re never quite sure exactly what ripples they’ll create. Some people read my comics to have meaning extremely close to what I was thinking about when I wrote them, but other people with their own life experiences bring something to the comics that leads them to come up with interpretations I never would have thought of, which I love. I think that’s amazing.
Woody Allen directed his first movie, Take the Money and Run, in San Francisco in 1969, and now he’s returned to film in San Francisco for the first time since then, and when I saw him it was actually a few blocks from a spot where he had filmed portions of his 1969 film. When I was watching him, there was a lady standing next to us that I think had lived here that long, talking about how the neighborhood had changed since the last time Woody was filming it. I somehow doubt it crossed his mind when he was starting his movie career in the 60′s that decades later when he came back, across the street from where he was filming there would be a comic shop selling some comics that have sex involving twinks and cartoon rabbits in them, and also jokes made in homage to films from Woody Allen’s career.