Memories

September 21, 2017

Memory 001

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You can purchase this new volume right here!   

Thanks!

-Noah

I have a new book out! The further adventures of the romantically “struggling, passionate, alcoholic” writer Fante Bukowski. Here’s a link to the Fantagraphics page where you can buy your own copy (it’s always better to support Fantagraphics directly over going to amazon of course) http://www.fantagraphics.com/fantebukowski2/

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WRITING FANTE BUKOWSKI TWO

It’s 2015, and there I am, on a train traveling from Boston to a small Vermont town called White River Junction. At the end of a book tour for my most popular book yet: Fante Bukowski. Everything seems to be going well. I have momentum in the small alternative comics industry at last and as I sit watching the view become increasingly more forested outside my train window,  I begin thinking about my new character, Fante Bukowski, and how I’ve left him sitting in the dirt, surrounded by tall trees and seeing the stars outside of the city for the first time. A sudden way to end the novella. I began to sketch out different ideas in a notebook for what could’ve happened to my character afterwards. Where did he go? Is he still writing?  I was curious, not necessarily to construct a new book, but just to amuse myself about what his future was as the view in the window sped by.

I arrived in White River Junction’s tiny train station with my suitcase of clothing and backpack of bristol pads and pens, prepared to spend my year working on a book I’d signed a contract to draw. An examination of the real life American frontier wanderer John Chapman (Johnny Appleseed) written by scholar Paul Buhle. Given the “10 Year Anniversary Fellowship” at the Center For Cartoon Studies (including about 5 thousand dollars to live on and a studio to work in), I was prepared to focus deep and learn to draw nature properly. The town was a quiet, forgotten railroad hub, at the meeting of the Connecticut and White River. Basically one Main street, with small homes tucked into wooded hillsides surrounding it. The giant Hotel Coolidge being the main landmark and my new home.

As the summer months turned into autumn and winter, I had settled into the doldrums of working from somebody else’s script and trying to meet my deadline. Eventually shunning the studio the school had provided in favor of the dresser desk in my hotel room. By this point I was thinking about Fante Bukowski a lot more. Messages came into my tumblr page and email occasionally from confused readers wondering if I liked the character or hated him. Nobody was sure why I would make such an obnoxious person the focus of a book. I didn’t hate him a bit. In fact, I kind of was him. And many of the feelings of paranoia and anxiety about becoming a published author came from my own experiences on the way to where I was. I had amplified the struggle for humor, maybe, but I knew that character well. And I knew I had more to write about for him.

In January 2016 I sent off the file for Johnny Appleseed to the editor at Alternative comics (the story of this book is its own rambling blog post) and I found myself once again free to draw my own comics. I went back to the notebook I had carried with me during my last book tour and sifted through the story notes for a new volume of Fante Bukowski. My vague plot idea would have my character arrive in a new city where he could have a fresh chance to establish himself as an up and coming writer. I got to work right away.

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Spring came with artistic frustrations and not much progress on my new book, summer found me moving to Columbus, Ohio to belong to the affordable new comics mecca but tugging along those same frustrations. At some point I had realized that I couldn’t just do the same thing I had done before; more or less a series of 70 gag strips about a wannabe Charles Bukowski. This time I’d have to challenge myself to go deeper with the character that everyone hated as a person the first time around. In a conversation with Leslie Stein about the plot she said something that stuck with me and freed me up a bit: “You can do whatever you want with the character. You’ve already established who he is in the first book. Now you can get weird.” Great, inspiring advice!

Another thing that had been stuck in my head was something my Belgian publisher wrote while requesting a few edits on the first book: “Fante is on every page.”

It was true, I hadn’t really given the reader a lot of breathing room in the first Fante Bukowski. Every page was it’s own set up gag because I had posted a new page everyday on Tumblr and Facebook and the book was really just a collection of those strips. It was short and quick but every page had the guy’s goofy face on it. Opening up his world a bit and exploring the other characters was a really good idea. On top of that, learning to write a story with multiple characters who all have their own story arcs was something I had never really tried before, but was something I needed to tackle.

I added some pages about Audrey, the romantic interest of Fante Bukowski from the first story, a writer who’s first book had come out to zero acclaim and was struggling with the contractual obligation of her second book. This time we would find her in the beginning of a big change in her career. Her second book is a surprise hit and now she’s about to go on her first big book tour. Suddenly I felt I had stumbled onto something interesting. How Fante deals with the lack of success and how audrey deals with her sudden success.

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Audrey Catron isn’t a performer. She’s a serious writer and a homebody. Suddenly being in the spotlight makes her uncomfortable and nostalgic for when she felt like an outcast.When she could be left alone. She’s begins feeling nostalgic for her time with Fante Bukowski. And she tries to seek him out. That became the engine of my story. Two people reconnecting. Audrey’s story arc was her becoming comfortable with her new role and to gain the closure she needed from the past to move onward into her future.

Fante becomes his own publisher and learns what it is to have to take care of yourself in a new city. He unknowingly plants the seeds for a future story in Columbus. The 3rd and final Fante Bukowski book.

So I’m very proud of this book. It’s in a lot of ways the most complicated story I’ve written so far and the challenges and late nights of anxiety all proved to be worth it in the end. I hope you will like it.

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ONE DIRTY TREE

January 17, 2017

Over the past month and a half I’ve been steadily serializing my own graphic memoir called “One Dirty Tree” about growing up in a poor, unsteady Mormon family and its affects 20 years later in my life trying to hold together a relationship of my own and while making a name for myself in alternative comics. I update the story nearly everyday barring bouts of depression and self -doubt over here on my patreon

Excerpt:

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Writing my comics is always very personal for me since everything I’ve ever done has been woven out of my own experiences or from people I’ve known personally. I draw an annual comic book called Blammo which is comprised of short stories that are all mashed up pieces of me and my life. And if a story is too big for Blammo then it becomes it’s own book, like Saint Cole or even The Hypo.

Recently, a collection of my short stories has been published by Fantagraphics called Disquiet. As an example of how I write I’ll use one of the stories at the end of the book called Night Shift. The story is pretty simple; a 4 page comic about a young woman who lives in her sister’s closet because she can’t afford a place of her own in the gentrifying city she’s in. She get’s an overnight bakery job so that she can save money to move some place cheap.

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I know that I have to create a character that wants something and for short stories the earliest I let you know what they want the better. She wants to get out of town. She wants to find somewhere cheap.

One thing I always have around is a notebook to write in. I write little notes or phrases down that I can use as springboards whenever I want to draw a comic. This particular comic came from a pocket composition notebook I carried around with me in 2013. Here’s how it started:

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At the time I was working at Panera Bread bakery early in the mornings. It was brutal waking up everyday so early, especially in the winter, but what would’ve been worse would’ve been to be the overnight baker that was clocking out while I was clocking in. I started imagining what their lives were like. The backwards aspect of living your life at night. The alienation of it. On my lunch breaks I would scribble down little ideas and speculations about how that life would feel.

Living in Denver was getting difficult for me as the rents increased every year while I still made the same money. The fantasy of moving away was becoming more and more appealing to me, and as I continued messing around with this “night shift” idea the main character took on that same desire. Suddenly, my story had an engine. I had forward momentum. The desire to move with the means being that night shift job at the bakery. Story001

At this point in the notebook the main character wants to go to Seattle, which is where everyone seemed to be moving to from Denver. Also notice the talking bird questioning her in the corner, a quirky idea I abandoned.

The next phase is to take all of the loose scribbled notes and turn them into loose thumbnail sketches of a comic.

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Whenever I’m working from thumbnails like this I’m never strict about anything. I believe that even when it comes down to drawing the final page there’s always room for improvisation. I’ve noticed that if I’m standing around thinking up details for a comic character it’s almost impossible, but as soon as my pen is on the paper it becomes a direct line to my subconscious and suddenly the characters reveal themselves to me in ways that are surprising. I am always working on a gut feeling about details. Very often when I’m writing I’ll have a character with a specific trait, or a small detail which magically winds up solving a problem for me later on in my story. Some things I can’t plan. Many times I will finish a comic without even knowing what it’s about until much later. Then after I’ve had some distance from it I can see it with fresh eyes. “Oh, wow, that’s about the way I felt while living with that woman and she would come home really late” or something like that.

By the time I got around to drawing the Night Shift comic for print, the character’s destination had changed from Seattle to Columbus, Ohio, which made more sense to me since Columbus is still a very cheap city to live and it was where I was planning on moving to.

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Our main character is sleep deprived in this comic and often feels like she’s sleepwalking. To express that surreal feeling I chose a basic color palette with colored pencils.

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This comic is anticlimactic. There is no big reveal or loud ending. Night Shift is very simply the story of a young woman who wants to get out of town and she finds the means to do it. The End.  It’s exactly what I wanted to do. My goal was to write and draw something that’s actual. Like maybe this girl is real and this is how she got out of living in her sister’s closet. It’s mundane enough to hopefully be more universal. Because universality is a powerful storytelling tool.

 

 

Patreon for new comics

April 18, 2016

Hey everyone!

I’m serializing the new Fante Bukowski book as well as a new diary comic here on my Patreon. Check it out!

https://www.patreon.com/NoahVanSciver?ty=h

Pages for sale here:

February 19, 2016

Dan Stafford (Kilgore books) is selling pages for me over here: http://www.kilgorebooks.com/original-art/

Check it out!

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Fante Bukowski Walks At Night

November 10, 2015

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Saint Francis

November 5, 2015

As some of you know, I am currently hard at work on a graphic novel about John Chapman, the real life Johnny Appleseed with esteemed writer pal Paul Buhle. We decided to remove this chunk of the book while editing. These pages were in the very beginning of the book and it  seems like we needed to introduce Jonny a bit more before we talked about anyone else. Maybe these pages will find their way into the back of the book if it works out and feels okay. But for now here they are. I hope you like the work!

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