• Art by Paul Pope

In addition to getting props for his latest Serenity fan webcomic, local film writer/cartoonist Mike Russell has a great interview with Paul Pope up at Ain't It Cool News. Pope's one of the fancy-pants special guests at this weekend's Stumptown Comics Fest, and as I've noted before, this is a big goddamn deal. Here's a bit of the interview, with Pope talking about his upcoming project Battling Boy:

RUSSELL: You've said you're throwing three-act structure out the window on this and drawing 40-page fight scenes.

POPE: Yeah. There are a few of them. They go on forever. That's from manga. One of my favorite books is Egawa Tatsuya's Tokyo University Story—and he would have long sequences where basically nothing would be happening except a guy in a bicycle riding along, or two guys playing ping pong. And that's just so cool to me—not because it's jerking off on paper, but because it feels real. It's that fugue state you get into when you're doing something—when you're playing chess or drinking coffee in the morning trying to wake up.... To me, the magic of comics—and art—is trying to say something real about life in an artificial medium. To re-create life, or to sub-create it, to use Tolkien's term.

And more, about peoples' perception of comics and cartooning:

RUSSELL: You've said you want to challenge notions of what a cartoonist can be—more than a guy in a basement or a bullpen. And you've done that by expanding your comics career in offbeat-for-America directions, including fashion. How did America arrive at this limiting definition of what a cartoonist is allowed to do?

POPE: Probably because the money component wasn't there. I remember maybe ten years ago, I hated talking about what I do for a living. Once they whittled the answer out of you—"I'm a cartoonist"—they would go, "How are you supposed to make a living at that?" It's such an insult. People just don't have any conception of what that really means. It doesn't sound like it's a real job. "Oh, like children's drawings on paper with crayons—is that kind of what you do?

RUSSELL: The joke I always tell is that comics is the easiest form of reading and the hardest form of writing—and because of that, people will never understand how difficult it is.

POPE: [laughs] That's a good one. Yeah, try writing a Beatles track. You've got to live a long time to write those three chords.

RUSSELL: Yeah, it's a very deliberate process to arrive at the three chords. That's what people don't understand.

POPE: Yeah. But right now, comics are really enjoying a socially respectable level of acceptance. And that's probably because of our relationship with Hollywood. Once you put Robert Downey, Jr. in the role of Iron Man.... I mean, Iron Man's a B-level comics character, but he's a great movie character. My theory with the films is that they work when they're science fiction. X-Men is science fiction. Iron Man is science fiction. Batman is science fiction.

Reading the whole thing before Stumptown this weekend: definitely recommended.