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Interview with Jonathan Case

Who are your main influences as an artist?

My family, friends, and community are the biggest influences. They feed whatever it is in me that wants to create. When I think of other artists, I think of Bill Watterson, Rodin, Caspar David Friedrich, Darwyn Cooke, Winsor McCay... My art doesn't look like theirs, but I love and respect their work. Movies and prose-wise, I love Alfred Hitchcock, Federico Fellini, Jean-Pierre Melville, Pedro Almodovar, Mark Twain, Larry McMurtry, Woody Allen. Lots of others. I take a little from everywhere.

Can you tell us something about ''The New Deal"?

The New Deal is a quick-moving look at Depression-era New York City and the clash of high and low society in the Waldorf Astoria hotel. It follows two members of the hotel staff, an Irish-American bellhop and a black maid who get into some trouble with a series of thefts. They also form an alliance with a powerful guest, a forward-thinking socialite named Nina who throws these parties for the old money crowds, but resents them all the while. Everyone's pushing and struggling to survive in their own way, but it's really played for breezy fun. The unlikely friendships are the core of the book, so you have opportunities to see class, gender, and race conflict play out in a way the pop-media from the '30s wouldn't really show.

What aspect of visual storytelling do you like best?

The writing and layout phase. It's the most frightening (blank pages), but also the most rewarding. The execution of the story with polished images can be very enjoyable, but it doesn't engage my brain in the same way. Maybe I'd feel differently if making images went as quickly as conceiving them, but drawing comics is a real marathon. A single-minded, labor-intensive process.

What is the difference between comics and graphic novels?

None, really. 'Graphic novel' is a marketing term engineered to get book publishers and retailers to consider comics. Hard to say if we'd be better off or not if we'd just stuck to calling them 'comics' and let them grow into broad cultural acceptance in the way of, say, video games. Just writing that makes me cringe a little, not because I lack respect for video games, but because they, like movies, have succeeded with cultural saturation in the US, and although both those mediums contain works of art, they're less common than in prose books, poetry, paintings, and comics, where one artist can realize a distinct vision. People in the States don't understand that, in general. They pick up a comic book and say, "Oh, this is just like a movie!" Some of them are, I guess, but the very best comics, the ones that make the most of their distinct medium, would require a lot of reverse-engineering to work as movies.

What contemporary artists should get more attention?

If they're making art, all of them! If they're making a thing that's like an already-created thing mixed with another already-created thing, then not many. More original stories that come from passionate places!

Voor een andere historische strip, naast 'The New Deal' zie: Altijd-ergens-oorlog

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