Thursday, June 02, 2011

Reprint: Interview With Charles Burns, 1995

I conducted this interview with cartoonist Charles Burns in 1995 for Hypno Magazine. He had just started serializing his acclaimed graphic novel Black Hole, a project which would take a decade to complete, and that work is the focus of the interview. We spoke of the differences between Black Hole and his earlier work, his desire to do something totally self-indulgent after a prolonged period of concentrating on commercial illustrations (cartoonists need to eat, too), his working methods and the movies and comics which influenced him as a youth.

If you've never read his comics, I strongly suggest you do so, especially Black Hole, one of the most remarkable allegories of teenaged angst and fear ever published. His latest open-ended project, X'ed Out, is a beautiful melange of Tintin and... well, I'm not sure. William Burroughs? It's a stunning work, more abstract than Black Hole but as captivating as Dick Tracy at its most grotesque.

Over the years, Burns' skill as a draftsman just gets better and better. He eschews shading, preferring flat colors and crisp blacks and whites. There are rarely (if ever) any halftones in his work; all shading is accomplished with a skilfully brushed, comb-like "feathering" technique which makes other cartoonists blanch (I recall Mary Fleener openly admitting her jealousy to me, saying something like, "I don't know how he does it. It's like he's not human.").

Click on the following pages for big, legible scans:


samael7 said...

It's ironic to me that criticism of his style in the past had described it as "generic," because, it seems to me, he practically defined his own.

I wonder how long people have looked at his work (especially pre-Dogboy) without realizing that it was him.

Anonymous said...

Nice article. Burns is a freakout, totally amazing.