MOME Interview 2: Gabrielle Bell

gg: Visually your approach is very theatrical. There’s almost always this proscenium arch to your panel composition.

gb: Uh-huh.

gg: You don’t vary camera shots much.

gb: I was told in my earlier work that I varied them more.

gg: That’s true.

gb: I guess that comes from… Maybe it comes from my — not lack of interest — but my less than enthusiastic interest in comics and more interest in literature.

gg: But you’re also interested in film?

gb: Yeah, that’s true. But I don’t want to write a comic that looks like a film. My favorite filmmakers are very theatrical and very… The best films are often plays or done by playwrights. So I guess I’m more interested in the drama.

gg: What are the films or filmmakers who are also playwrights that you like?

gb: Well, David Mamet comes to mind. I just recently saw… What I was thinking of was this movie called You Can Count on Me. Have you seen this movie?{mosimage}

gg: Yeah. Great film.

gb: It was done by a playwright. And I was also thinking of the film Dogville.

gg: Of course. Lars Von Trier.

gb: Yes. Which is pretty much like a play.

gg: Yes. Very stagey.

gb: But it was so intense. It was like almost all done in the mind.

gg: Where you have to enhance upon the sets in your mind because there are so little of them.

gb: But what was interesting was the psychology of the characters and the drama of it.

gg: And you also like [Roman] Polanski, don’t you?

gb: Polanski? Yeah. Just because I did that comics movie adaptation? Yeah. I loved Repulsion.

gg: But oddly, the films don’t really affect your comics much. You’re more affected by prose?

gb: No, the films do affect my comics. I found that I’m influenced by certain filmmakers, not as far as camera shots but more as storytelling.

gg: One of the themes or at least facets of your stories that I noticed repeated throughout is the sense of ennui.

gb: Ennui? Yes.

gg: You know our friend ennui, right?

gb: Uh-huh. Can you define that word?

gg: People just sort of drifting, passively, consumed by disinterest. How much of your expression is conscious and deliberate do you think, and how much of it is just something that you’re not conscious of? I’m assuming you’re aware that your characters are somewhat alienated and…

gb: It could be because my characters are… Well, they’re not really interested in anything because that’s my problem. I pretty much spent my entire life trying to be a cartoonist, so I don’t really know anything except being a cartoonist and doing comics about doing comics or trying to be a cartoonist — self-referential. So I have these characters that are left hanging. They’re not even cartoonists. They’re just kind of drifting around at some point. Do you understand what I’m saying?

gg: I do. Do you think that’s a strength or a weakness or…

gb: I think it’s a weakness, but yeah… I mean, it’d be nice if I were into more things but I do think it has to do also with my upbringing and my isolation in a way, too.

gg: You once said that one of the qualities you most appreciate is empathy.

gb: I don’t remember saying that. I admire empathy. I do think it’s important in story because the reader has to empathize with the character.

gg: And presumably the artist has to empathize with his own characters.

gb: Yeah. I guess it’s sort of loving your characters in a way.