MOME Interview 2: Gabrielle Bell


gg: At one point the girl is asked, “Are you a filmmaker, too?” And she says, “No. I’m just his girlfriend.”

gb: Yeah. I’m kind of laying it on thick there. But the thing is that I have this other story where there’s a hole in the bathroom wall and this couple are always fighting about it because the girl — well, it’s me — never gets around to getting the hole fixed. And the boyfriend is always nagging at her to get it fixed. And then they get closer and closer to the hole and the man gets sucked into the hole and gets swallowed up by the hole in the bathroom. And then eventually the girl gets swallowed into the hole as well. But that was actually my boyfriend’s idea. It was this flight of fancy that came from this conversation we had. Because we were arguing about the hole. And he said, “What if it just swallowed us up?”

gg: Has this appeared yet?

gb: It’s in the Alternative Comics Presents Free Comic Book Day 2005 anthology. I did it quite a long time ago but I feel like that and those chairs are the major examples of my fantasy comics. And I find that it usually comes from other people. They come from conversations with other people. I myself… I’m much more into the psychology and the cause and effect of normal every day things. I would just like to have a good solid story… things that really could happen.

gg: You never had any ambition to just draw your average, entertaining, mass-market comic book, it sounds like…

{mosimage}{mosimage}gb: But I do.

gg: You do?

gb: Ultimately, I…

gg: Do you want to draw a Catwoman or something?

gb: What I want is to draw a story that people are interested in and they want to know what’s going to happen next. Which I think is sort of the same thing. So I guess I don’t want to draw mainstream comics, if that’s what you mean. But I think mainstream comics and alternative comics… Their goal is to tell a story. If it’s about fighting crime or if it’s about inner demons it’s kind of… That’s just the subject matter in a way.

gg: True, they can have that in common, but it’s how the story is being told that differentiates the two, between literary work and mass-market crap, between a Philip Roth and a Tom Clancy, say. And you always seemed to have the ambition for the one rather than the other. Is that true?

gb: True, but I think I would… I mean, it’s true but… The most important thing is to tell a compelling and engaging story. And if it’s really obscure and like some kind of art film or very difficult art film, I mean… I’m just sort of in the middle in a way. Ultimately I think the point of doing comics and of telling stories is to — I don’t want to say entertain — but it is kind of entertainment. It’s to tell a story, which Tom Clancy is doing as well as [Marcel] Proust. They’re all telling a story, it’s just how much meaning or… But ultimately I’m into the plot and character change and character development, that kind of thing.

gg: You’re more traditional as distinct from the experimental?

gb: It’s all experimental for me because I didn’t study it formally. So everything I do is an experiment. But the main goal is not just to be experimental but to learn how to tell a good story. I mean, I want to write things that people will like and enjoy reading.

gg: No artist would admit to wanting to do something that people don’t want to read.

gb: Yeah, but some artists are more interested in, I guess, experimenting with the form or something.

gg: Which you are not?

gb: Well, I guess I’m not. I’m more into the story itself rather than the panels or the way that the story is told.

gg: In a way, most underground comics were very traditional: [Robert] Crumb or [Gilbert] Shelton or Spain or… [Art] Spiegelman wasn’t. But most of the underground cartoonists were actually conservative storytellers. The story was the main goal. Most of them didn’t really play with the form as radically as a lot of artists in the last 10 years or so have.

gb: Then why are they playing with the form now? I mean, not that it’s wrong, but why? I guess it’s because these comics are growing more and there’s more room for experimentation.

gg: I think there’s always that natural evolution. I mean, you saw it in the novel. I guess you saw it as far back as Laurence Stern. But then you had [James] Joyce and [Alain] Robbe-Grillet, and so many novelists wanting to push the definition of what a novel could be. And you’re always going to have that sort of R and D…

gb: What do you mean R and D?

gg: Research and development…

gb: Oh, OK.

gg: …aspect of an artform where certain artists are moving in that direction and playing with just how far you can push the boundaries of a particular art.

gb: Yeah. In the ’80s there was a lot of that experimentation in RAW, it seems to me. I really enjoyed RAW. I think I liked reading RAW a lot. But I think I’m more interested in the storytelling itself.

More books featuring Gabrielle Bell (click covers for complete product details)

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All books featuring Gabrielle Bell