Comics Stripped

Clicking through some old and recent work on Cobb 301’s large screen—coaxed to life after 15 minutes of fiddling—cartoonist artist Ivan Brunetti, AB’89, ran through his biography and philosophy in a Tuesday evening talk. Comics, he variously explained, are like calligraphy, Buddhist doctrine, music, life, math, and B-movie making.

“We’re working with the least dignified thing there is,” he said, comparing comic artists to 1940s horror-film producer Val Lewton—the subject of an upcoming strip— “and we’re just trying to give it some dignity.” Brunetti, who is teaching Writing the Graphic Novel this quarter, has also tackled strip bios of Kierkegaard, P. Mondrian, and Erik Satie, finding confluence between the artists’ often hermetic lives and his own. In fact, much of his work is autobiography. “My comics are about me,” he said. “Or people that I think are like me. Or animals that are basically me.”

Such autobiographical examples—published in his weekly Chicago Reader strip—include “Cartooning Will Destroy You” and “The Horror of Simply Being Alive,” exploring writer’s block and the dissolution of his marriage. His work, much of it dark humor, is about “putting people into my head and hoping they’ll understand it.”


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May 18, 2005