Rod &Cone Interviews Sam Szabo

Sam Szabo’s(aka BrainBooger) comic, PermanAnt, is featured in My Pace 02, debuting at TCAF as we speak! Playful, funny and perceptive, Sam’s comics are always a joy to read–check ‘im out! 

1. We love the immediacy & spark in your comics. Do you do a lot of writing and plotting before you sit down to draw? Do you do much editing? What is your process like?

I don’t know if I really have a single answer to this question. I try to diversify the kinds of stories that I tell, and each approach comes with its own process. A lot of my work is written stream of consciousness, with no penciling or writing whatsoever done beforehand - just straight up free-styling. That’s how I worked for my first couple of years as a cartoonist, and even in my current output, that’s probably where my “sparkiest” comics come from. Sometimes I’ll look back at that stuff and it’ll feel like it came from some other universe.

Nowadays, though, if I have an idea of the kind of story I want to tell, I put a lot of thought and labor into the writing. Typically, I’ll let the idea germinate in the back of my head for a few days. Then, when it feels right, I’ll scribble out a completely incomprehensible draft as quickly as I can. After that, I’ll leave it to rot in my room for a few weeks (or months) until I have enough distance that I can bear to look at it again. Then I spend a really long time staring at my draft and overanalyzing every sentence I wrote. Then I corner a more talented artist and get them to explain basic concepts like shading and perspective to me. Then I pencil and ink it as fast as I possibly can. Then I’m done.

2. What sort of comics community do you have access to?

I tend to be a pretty solitary worker, but I’ve been lucky enough to have access to comix folk from day one. I started drawing in college - a few friends and I took a class on comics together, got really charged up, and wound up starting a collective, the Oberlin Comics Collective. After that, a bunch of cool artists came out of the woodwork - most of us were new to comics and self-publishing, but we were all really earnest and supportive. We put out a bunch of anthologies and collaborations, and there was a lot of skill sharing going on - I learned how to edit on photoshop, how to operate a risograph, how to write legibly, etc. The OCC is still functional, as far as I know, and putting out incredible work.

After I graduated, I moved out to Portland, OR because it had a reputation as a Cool Comics City and because I had friends there who said I could crash on their couch. It took me a little while to find the scene, but sure enough, this place has a really supportive, diverse community of cartoonists (not to mention other zinesters and visual artists). I’ve made a lot of awesome friends. I’m in a sick-ass drawing group - shout out to the Wreckin Cru. I print all my zines at the Independent Publishing Resource Center, a nonprofit that exists to provide accessible printing resources to the public. The employees, volunteers, and patrons of the IPRC have been great to me and bestowed me with a lot of practical artist know-how. Lots to do in Portland, lots of opportunities to interact with your peers. The cartoonists in this city work unbelievably hard to keep the scene lively - there’s festivals, performances, galleries, and book releases all the time. I feel lucky. Every time I go to a thing, I have to work really hard to play it cool and not freak out over how good everybody is at comics.

3. You’ve written auto-bio, gags, short stories and epic operas - is there a story length /form that comes most naturally to you? 

I think the most natural mode for me is that stream-of-consciousness style that I talked about earlier. For me, the most natural way to draw comics is to draw four panels on a page and just fill ‘em in without giving any thought to what came before and what came next. They’re usually gag comics, in some sense, whether they’re abstract or literal or autobiographical. I like to start the page with a weird premise, then follow it where it goes and see if I can organically land on a punchline (or a non-punchline) by the last panel. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but that’s the easiest groove for me to slip into.

In terms of my more premeditated writing, I tend to gravitate towards one-one dialogues. Long, talky scenes. Usually awkward, mumblecore-y conversations between people who have their guard up. I like it when nobody really says what they’re thinking. In terms of story length… As I get more competent at making comics, my story structures have been getting longer and more complex. Sometimes they collapse under their own weight, and I get exasperated and give up. Usually, a story line winds up being twice as long on the page as it is in my head. Right now, I’m finishing up the last chapter of a graphic novel that I started a year ago called “A Fresh Start On A New World.” I wanted it to be twenty pages and it looks like it’s going to be a hundred. Yikes.

I’ll tell you one thing, though. Four panels. Four panels, in a messy grid. That, to me, is the most perfect, most natural, most creatively fulfilling comics page that anyone can draw. Nobody can tell me otherwise.

4. Who are some of your comics contemporaries whose work you are most interested in?

Hmm. Feels weird to call anybody my contemporaries. Here’s some people have been blowing my mind lately:
Andy Burkholder is doing some amazing stuff with deconstruction, repetition, animals wearing sunglasses, etc. Sometimes I’ll draw something weird, and I’ll be really proud of myself, and then I’ll realize that Burkholder already did it in a cooler way.  Patrick Kyle is very next level. Olivier Schrauwen, Simon Hanselmann, Matt Thurber, Julia Gfrörer, all amazing. Noah Van Sciver truly is some kinda old school craftsman and he’s been one of my primary sad-boy role models for a while now. Edie Fake is awesome, taking some deep exploratory dives into the architectures of the soul and the body. I met this one dude, Miles Wintner, at Portland Zine Symposium last year, and his zines made me laugh harder than just about anything. Daria Tessler is one of Portland’s superstars. Her work is just visually bonkers every time. I think she may be some sort of wizard. She just put out a book with my friend Matt’s risograph distro, Perfectly Acceptable. I’m extremely psyched for that one. In addition to being an ace printer, Matt Davis is one of the most inspiring artists I know. I wish he would draw more comics. MJ Robinson, too. Do yourself a flavor and check out MJ’s work. Matt and MJ are two of the college friends that I was talking about earlier - we all started doing comics around the same time. I’ve learned so much from them.

5. Other than comics, what are some of your passions/interests?

I’m obsessed with professional wrestling. The culture surrounding it is really complicated and fascinating. I really wish there was more academic discourse on the subject. It’s cool to see the comics community finding its foothold in academia, but I’d much rather see more people writing papers on the ontology of wrasslin’. My pipe dream is to quit comics and go back to school to get accredited as a wrestling announcer, or maybe a referee.
I enjoy the hip hop music. I like stand up comedy, and I get up at open mics whenever Im feeling an excess of self-confidence. I have a morbid fascination with early American history. I’m very passionate about my pet toad, Dave Matthews Toad. I have strong feelings, mostly positive, about 7/11 tacquitos. Other than that, comics. Just comics.

Sam Szabo is a decent kid from coastal Massachusetts. He moved to Portland, Oregon in 2013 to pursue a career in the janitorial arts.
Swedish woman world's first to give birth after womb transplant| Reuters

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A swedish woman has become the world’s first to give birth after having a womb transplant. Though this was accomplished with a ciswoman who received IVF using her own eggs, this is definitely a leap forward in the possibility of one day making it possible for trans* women to give birth. 


I love this edit. Me and some friends where at cobra dogs when they where filming some of this so its cool to see it in an edit.
With U.S. Ebola fear running high, African immigrants face ostracism

(Note: Please be advised that the second paragraph contains language that may be offensive to some readers.)

(Reuters) - When Zuru Pewu picked up her 4-year-old son, Micah, from kindergarten at a Staten Island, New York, public school recently, a woman pointed at her in front of about 30 parents and their children, and started shouting. 

“She kept screaming, ‘These African bitches brought Ebola into our country and are making everybody sick!’” said Pewu, 29, who emigrated from Liberia in 2005. “Then she told her son, 'You know the country that’s called Liberia that they show on the TV? That’s where these bitches are from.’”

Pewu’s experience points to an alarming trend. While many Americans have reached out to help, African communities in the United States are reporting an increasing number of incidents of ostracism.

Thursday’s news that a physician who had treated Ebola patients in West Africa has tested positive for the disease in New York heightened anxieties even further.

Some Liberians, whose home country has been hardest hit by the worst outbreak of the virus on record, say they are being shunned by friends and co-workers and fear losing their jobs.

In California, doctors refused to examine a child believed to have been in contact with someone who traveled to West Africa but turned out to have no risk of Ebola, a nurses’ association said. In Rhode Island, two women said they were disinvited to a baby shower for a co-worker.

And in South Carolina, a high school student was sent home for 14 days because the student’s parent had visited Senegal, a country that has had one non-fatal case of Ebola and was declared Ebola-free last week, according to a school spokesman.

At least two speeches by Liberians have been canceled by U.S. universities, and a college in Texas refused admission to Nigerian students over worries about the virus even though that country has had few cases.

Oretha Bestman-Yates, a healthcare worker in New York, said she was barred from returning to her job after a trip to Liberia - despite 21 days of quarantine and no signs of illness.

“People are looking at Liberians as if we have Ebola in our DNA,” said Ezekiel Solee, 55, a pastor in Rhode Island at a meeting in Providence on Tuesday to discuss the stigma. “Even when you hang your jacket, no one else wants to hang his jacket near you because they are afraid.”

This week, President Barack Obama’s administration issued new guidelines for hospitals treating suspected Ebola cases and ordered all travelers from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea - the West African countries most affected by the disease - to be funneled for screening through five selected airports.

Four people in the United States have been diagnosed with Ebola, which as of Wednesday had infected 9,911 people in Africa and killed 4,868 since the outbreak began earlier this year, the World Health Organization said.

Many Republicans, joined by some Democrats, have called for a travel ban to the region. Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh linked the case of Thomas Duncan, a Liberian who died of Ebola in Dallas, to illegal immigration, saying there was a “huge Liberian community of illegal immigrants in Dallas.”

Sociologist Barry Glassner, author of the book “The Culture of Fear,” said the combination of Ebola fear and racial prejudice makes xenophobic reactions to dark-skinned people from West Africa even more likely.

“One has to wonder: If these were Swedes, would we be seeing the same response?” he asked.

Alexander Kollie, 43, president of the Liberian Ministerial Fellowship of Rhode Island, said he feels increasingly ostracized.

“Because we are from Africa and our skin color identifies us as being from Africa, we are being treated differently,” he said. “People avoid us, and they are afraid of us.”

But fear of Ebola also runs deep among West Africans. Several Liberian community associations in the United States have asked members to voluntarily quarantine themselves if they have traveled to the affected countries.

In Staten Island’s Little Liberia, where Pewu lives, streets bustle with men and women in bright traditional attire, loudly greeting each other in their native languages.

But some here have begun limiting their greetings to verbal salutes.

Tamba Aghailas, 42, a human resources specialist who recently traveled to Liberia, said so many people in the community were uncomfortable touching him when he returned that he stopped greeting acquaintances with a handshake.

Experts like Dr. Mark Rupp, an infectious disease specialist at the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, which treated Ebola-infected cameraman Ashoka Mukpo, urged the public to resist irrational fear of Ebola, which is spread through contact with body fluids of someone who is showing symptoms.

"We even have some examples here in our own community – children of parents who are working in our biocontainment unit being shunned,” he said. “That level of paranoia is just not helpful, and it’s just not appropriate.”

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Video of the Day, April 15, 2014 // Skiers: Jason Arens, Jake Doan, Nicky Keefer, Earl, Colter Brehmer, Sam Hurst, Will Wesson, Torin Yater-Wallace, Pete Arneson, John Kutcher, Noah Curry, and Khai Krepela // Credit: Garrett Jurach