Imitating Order – An Interview with Claire Napier

Hello and welcome back to another installment of Imitating Order. I’ve got a really special guest today, someone whose work and opinions I pretty strongly admire. She’s a critic and editor extraordinaire, regularly turning her singularly discerning eye to the realms of comics, fashion, TV, and much more.  I don’t want to waste time building it up, so, with that, it pleases me immensely to welcome the inimitable Claire Napier.

Matt: We’ve certainly seen some of the absolute best and worst comics have to offer in the last few years. It’s easier now than ever before to create a comic and (attempt to) put it out in front of the world. But the question stands: is that a good thing? Just because a person can, does that mean they should?

Claire: Yeah. Survival of the fittest, man. And “fittest” can mean “made by someone who just wants to make comics”; I don’t especially worry about economics because it’s not something over which I have any element of control. If you wanna do it, definitely do it. Getting people to look at it is hard but I think that’s a separate question. Having the wide array of options being produced means that people whose calling is curation or marketing have the pick of what to big up.

M: Where once in the 90’s we saw what seemed to be a grand homogenizing of artistic styles, these days we’re seeing a huge diversification of them. What are some books/artists/writers/creative teams that are really pushing the boundaries of the craft, in your opinion?

C: This is a hard question. I feel like the boundaries don’t really exist. The boundaries of the panel exist, and someone like Max Sarin is making terrific work of pushing those—any Giant Days sequence in which someone’s dealing with an altered perspective (drunk, tired, etc) is going to be a fantastically goopy page of aesthetic immersion. Warwick Johnson Cadwell’s drawing really “feels like drawing,” he’s like a sort of “what if Quentin Blake was extremely cool” kind of artist if you see what I mean. Naomi Franquiz has a solidity to her figures that’s wildly compelling and her grasp of wardrobe and grooming as vessels of character information is top drawer; she’s got a much more understated style than Babs Tarr or Jen Bartel but I think she packs maximum down to earth personal info into her character designs. I love the deconstructionist, energetic style of Mickey Zacchilli, in line and in narrative layout. There are similar approaches from a lot of the cartoonists working with Peow!—Diigii Daguna’s MAMI has a more careful application of marks but a very similar vibrancy in the delivery, Patrick Crotty’s pixelated lines in Internal Affairs (3) just delight me. These comics are totally stoked to tell you what happens next, pound it into your brain, and I find it extremely energy-delivering. It’s not a reduction of nuance, it’s just a reduction of fuss. “Comics without paperwork,” is an expressive way to put it if you can get around the fact that they come on paper.

M: You care deeply about storytelling, I think that’s fair to say. I’m not sure a person could be a critic and an editor, otherwise. Where does that come from? Can anything tell a story? Not just comics and shows and such. Is the function of all creative endeavors to tell a story? How and why is Highlander: the Series one of god’s most perfect creations?

C: Where does it come from? I don’t know! I yams what I yam. Stories are the easiest way for me to think, and as far back as I remember this was also the case. I don’t think it’s the function of all creative endeavors to tell an observable narrative; it’s very relaxing to f’rex listen to some Mahler and be like “this is not telling me anything definite at all, but I feel something ineffable.” I need that sometimes, something defiantly non-literal, to stop me from getting too bullshitty about fiction and too much in that fandom mindset. If you fixate too extensively on the equations of a story, you will go bonkers and start acting weird. People won’t like you.

Highlander the series is one of God’s most perfect creations because it expresses the fallibility of even God, as well as exemplifying the implicit answer (“nobody”) to the question that Queen asked in Highlander the movie: who wants to live forever? Look what happens when you do! I absolutely cannot understand why it lasted a whole season, let alone six—it makes so many massive, obvious, unnecessary mistakes. But the premise promise of that first season, the undeniable adorability of Adrian Paul, and the obviousness of how it shoulda, coulda, woulda been so good if… kept it all fascinating.

M: Randomly; you’re on a mystical deserted island. You’ve no hope of rescue for a week, but, it’s a mystical deserted island in some fabulous tropical archipelago and all your needs are taken care of. There’s food and plumbing. Shelter. But for a week you’ve got to keep yourself busy. You get three things magically transported to the island to occupy their time. What are they? And how do you spend the intervening week before you get to go back home?

C: Well, nothing. A week of definitely not dying and with nothing to do? That’s absolutely fine. That’s basically ideal. I’ll just climb things and lie down and think.

M: So, thank you so much for indulging me and my questions. Last but certainly not least, I’d like to give you a little platform to endorse yourself and any projects you’re currently pushing. Anything out or coming up we need to know about?

C: Please get your wallet ready to back BUN&TEA, the story comics magazine, Kickstarting this spring! A magazine containing interesting written features, as well as twelve different comics stories. Every issue you get one chapter of each of those twelve stories; each chapter is between one and six pages long, all optimised for their length instead of being split randomly into chunks. We’ve prepared these stories to last six months, and that first season period is what the KS will be supporting.

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