For those of you who haven’t seen First Second’s series of comics adaptations of classic children’s literature, you’re missing out on unique collections. There’s Fairy Tale Comics, Nursery Rhyme Comics, and thanks to Chris Duffy and a bunch of talented artists and writers, we have Fable Comics.
For this blog tour, Gina from First Second asked a variety of bloggers to interview a contributor from this collection. I was asked to interview Mark Newgarden for his contribution ‘Man and Wart,’ which unlike a lot of the fables in this collection is one penned by Ambrose Bierce, famous for stories such as Chickamauga.
Let’s jump into this interview, shall we?
1) Hi Mark! Could you share with our readers a bit more about yourself and some of the works that you have produced?
MN: I’ve done all sorts of crazy things over the course of my career. I’ve worked on comics, magazines, movies, animated cartoons, ads, toys, gadgets and off-Broadway comedies. I co-created Garbage Pail Kids. I wrote a book about the history of fake vomit and sneezing powder. I designed merch for Pee-Wee Herman. I worked on Microsoft Word. I’ve written columns, essays, criticism, histories and scripts. I’ve also written fortune cookies, bubble gum wrappers and Snapple bottle caps. I had my own syndicated weekly comic strip. I had my own Cartoon Network show. I’ve been employed as an illustrator, editor, art director, creative director, director of animation, creative consultant, designer, muralist, curator, teacher and executive producer – but basically, I’m a cartoonist. Lately, I’ve been half of the team (with Megan Montague Cash) behind the award-winning series of Bow-Wow wordless kid’s comics from Harcourt and Roaring Brook Press. And I’m also half of the team (with Paul Karasik) behind the long-awaited How to Read Nancy- The Elements of Comics in Three Easy Panels coming soon from Fantagraphics Books.
2) What influenced your art style?
MN: Twentieth century cartooning, mostly. Man and Wart has a joke-like structure and I wanted it to read like someone was taking you aside and spinning a funny little story, one-on-one at the kitchen table. Since I was aiming for an informal and free-flowing visual feel, I opted for 99 cent store materials like ruled yellow legal pads and colored pencils instead of the usual art supplies. And I tried to keep my finished drawings simple, loose and spontaneous (never as easy as it should be.)
3) Why did you select Man and Wart by Ambrose Bierce as your fable for this project?
MN: A) Bierce was a wonderfully dark, satiric writer who sadly isn’t read much these days- so I’m pleased to pass along a small slice from someone I greatly admire.
B) It was a story about big noses and I like to draw big noses.
4) Two part question! Where does your inspiration come from when penning your own comics?
MN: An empty page and a deadline.
How does it feel to adapt someone else’s story?
MN: I felt responsibility to the story (and to Bierce) to get it right. Comics are all about elimination- condensing information to the essence- and since Man and Wart was already a very concise text to begin with, it seemed ideal. So it mostly came down to working with Bierce’s over-the-top dialogue and finding a panel rhythm and page rhythm to serve it up it most effectively.
5) What prompted you to use the color red so boldly in Man and Wart? Was there symbolism behind this choice or was it something to draw the reader’s eye in?
MN: I mostly used red as a graphic device to emphasize certain words in the conman’s spiel (and obviously also to connect both characters by the big red warts on their big fat noses.)
MN: Whatever Ambrose Bierce had in mind in writing it.
7) Why did you feel it was important to contribute to a work like Fable Comics?
MN: Fable Comics editor Chris Duffy is a colleague from Nickelodeon Magazine days (and an old friend before that.) He’s been doing such a good job with this series of nursery rhyme, fairy tale (and now fables) comics adaptations, that I’m just pleased to be a part of the mix. We need more quality projects like these!
8) Do you have anything else to share with our readers?
MN: I am currently getting up a National Order of the Man and Wart with an exclusive membership, solely limited to intelligent and altruistic enthusiasts of this venerable and historically significant text, regardless of age, sex and proboscidean endowment. If every Fable Comics reader can send me $5.00…
I want to extend a huge thank to Mark, Gina and First Second for providing me with an ARC of Fable Comics, as well as their time and patience in setting up and contributing to this interview! If you want to see more stops along the blog tour, check them out below! You can also check out our review here.