Wednesday afternoon Kim Deitch came to class to talk about his work. He started with a brief but entertaining overview of his career. He left no doubt that he and his peers were very aware of the importance of what they were doing in the 60s. He seemed genuinely annoyed that people dwelled on the sexual content of UG comics to the detriment of the leap forward they represented for our medium. He also says none of this would have happened—at least not to the degree it did—if it weren’t for the influence and example of Robert Crumb.
Kim brought along a big portfolio full of all kinds of documentation of his creative process for a particular work, “No Midgets in Midgetville.” He read about Midgetville in the New York Times years ago and saved the clipping. Eventually he went to the town in New Jersey and took some polaroids. Slowly a story developed featuring Waldo the Cat. The biggest non sequitur of the day came when Kim revealed that he got the idea to make it a romance after seeing the movie Shakespeare in Love (he said he’s into Shakespeare and love but he hated the movie).
He also told us about a interesting and unusual creative habit he has: he’ll often pencil entire one-page comics about a character or and idea he’s developing. These are unplanned, improvised vignettes (though as you can see they achieve a significant level of polish) which help him understand his characters and expand the creative universe they live in. Usually these stories don’t even end up in the final work, though he often comes up with panels or new characters which he later incorporates:
Kim was eager to see what everyone was working on and graciously took the time to read almost everyone’s comics and give them thoughtful—and frank—feedback. At least twice I heard him remarking (kindly) something to the effect of “yeah, do a 100 more pages like this and you might turn out pretty good!”
This is just a sampling of what he talked about (see my Twitter feed for a few more tidbits). He’s got a ton of great ideas and observations to share and his passion for the medium impressed the class (and me, once again) deeply.