The Graphic Novel Adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, Coming Out This Year

Since its publication just over half a century ago, Slaughterhouse-Five has seen bans and burnings, gone through various adaptations, and all the while held its place in the American literary canon. Something about Kurt Vonnegut's story of the involuntarily time-traveling optometrist Billy Pilgrim, who like his creator survived the firebombing of Dresden in the Second World War, continues to resonate with readers even as that war (and so very many novels about it) pass out of living memory. Vonnegut himself loved George Roy Hill's 1972 film of the novel, but alas, having died in 2007, he didn't stick around long enough to see Slaughterhouse-Five — or, to use its full title, Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children's Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death — turned into a graphic novel.

"Indie graphic novel house BOOM! Studios announced plans to publish a graphic version of Kurt Vonnegut’s classic sci-fi/antiwar novel," reports Publishers Weekly's Calvin Reid, naming the adaptors as writer Ryan North, artist Albert Monteys, and colorist Ricard Zaplana. Nerdist's Matthew Hart writes that it's "unclear at this point what’s been included and what’s been dropped for BOOM!’s Slaughterhouse-Five graphic novel adaptation, it seems like the story is in good hands."

The images released so far "showcase a world painted with appropriately muted colors, and populated by some of the most iconic moments from the novel. The graphic novel’s interpretation of Billy Pilgrim will possibly ignite some disagreement amongst readers, however, as his face can be juxtaposed with Vonnegut’s."

For a novel considered a "classic" longer than readers who discover it today have been alive, Slaughterhouse-Five has its own unconventional way with reality. Not only does Vonnegut make its protagonist "unstuck in time," he also works into its cast real characters from his own life. Take Bernard O'Hare, shown here in panels from the graphic novel. As Vonnegut's officially designated "buddy" in the the 106th Infantry Division, O'Hare was taken prisoner along with him in Dresden and held captive in a meatpacking plant known as Schlachthof Fuenf. When Vonnegut completed the manuscript he let O'Hare and his wife Mary read it, and the latter urged the author to write about how "all the men who fought in the Second World War were just babies." Hence the novel's subtitle, which befits the plainspoken sensibility of Kurt Vonnegut, a man who believed in calling things what they were — and thus would surely have rejected the label "graphic novel" in favor of "comic book."

via Publishers Weekly

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #26 Discusses Alan Moore’s Watchmen Comic and the HBO Show with Cornell Psychology Professor David Pizarro

Perhaps the most lauded graphic novel has been sequelized for HBO, and amazingly, it turned out pretty darn well (with a 96% Rotten Tomatoes rating!).

Your hosts Mark Linsenmayer, Erica Spyres, and Brian Hirt are joined by the Cornell's David Pizarro, host of the popular Very Bad Wizards podcast. We consider Alan Moore’s 1986 graphic novel, the 2009 Zack Snyder film, and of course mostly the recently completed (we hope) show by Damon Lindelof, the creator of Lost and The Leftovers.

How does Moore’s idiosyncratic writing style translate to the screen? Did the show make best use of its nine hours? Are there other stories in this alternate history that should still be told, perhaps to reflect on other recurrent social ills or crises of whatever moment might be depicted? Was Lindelof really the guy to tell this story about race, and does making the show about racism (which is bad!) undermine Moore’s rejection of (morally) black-and-white heroes and villains?

Some of the articles we used to warm up for this discussion included:

You might want to also check out HBO’s Watchmen page, which includes extra essays and the official podcast with Damon Lindelof commenting on the episodes.

Follow Dave @peezHear him on The Partially Examined Life, undoubtedly the apex of his professional career.

This episode includes bonus discussion that you can only hear by supporting the podcast at This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts or start with the first episode.

A Map of the Disney Entertainment Empire Reveals the Deep Connections Between Its Movies, Its Merchandise, Disneyland & More (1967)

We all remember the first Disney movie we ever saw. In most of our childhoods, one Disney movie led to another, which stoked in us the desire for Disney toys, Disney games, Disney comics, Disney music, and so on. If we were lucky, we might also take a trip to Disneyland or one of its descendants elsewhere in the world. Many of us spent the bulk of our youngest years as happy residents of the Disney entertainment empire; some of us, into adulthood or even old age, remain there still.

Die-hard Disney fans appreciate that the world of Disney — comprising not just films and theme parks but television shows, printed matter, attractions on the internet, and merchandise of nearly every kind — is too vast ever to comprehend, let alone fully explore.

It was already big half a century ago, but not too big to grasp. You can see the whole of the operation laid out in this organizational synergy diagram created by Walt Disney Productions in 1967. Depicting "the many and varied synergistic relationships between the divisions of Walt Disney Productions," the information graphic reveals the links between each division.

Along the arrowheaded lines indicating the flows of manpower, material, and intellectual property, "short textual descriptions show what each division supplies and contributes to the others." The motion picture division "feeds tunes and talent" to the music division, for example, which "promotes premiums for tie-ins" to the merchandise licensing department, which "feeds ideas for retail items" to WED Enterprises (the holding company founded by Walt Disney in 1950), which produces "audio-animatronics" for Disneyland.

Some of the nexuses on the diagram will be as familiar as Mickey Mouse, Goofy, Tinkerbell, and the characters cavorting here and there around it. Others will be less so: the 16-millimeter films division, for instance, which would eventually be replaced by a colossal home-video division (itself surely being eaten into, now, by streaming). The Celebrity Sports Center, an indoor entertainment complex outside Denver, closed in 1994. MAPO refers to a theme-park animatronics unit formed in the 1960s with the profits of Mary Poppins (hence its name) and dissolved in 2012. And as for Mineral King, a proposed ski resort in California's Sequoia National Park, it was never even built.

"The ski resort was one of several ambitious projects that Walt Disney spearheaded in the years before his death in 1966," writes Nathan Masters at Gizmodo. But as the size of the Mineral King plans grew, wilderness-activist opposition intensified. After years of opposition by the Sierra Club, as well as the passage of the National Environmental Policy Act 1970 and the National Parks and Recreation Act of 1978, corporate interest in the project finally fizzled out. Though that would no doubt have come as a disappointment to Walt Disney himself, he might also have known to keep the failure in perspective. As he once said of the empire bearing his name, "I only hope that we never lose sight of one thing — that it was all started by a mouse."

h/t Eli and via Howard Lowery

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

How Cartoons Saved R. Crumb’s Life, and How R. Crumb Turned Cartoons into an Art Form (NSFW)

Robert Crumb, the iconic, founding figure of the underground and alternative comix scene, began his career as the ultimate outsider. “I was so alienated when I was young that drawing was like my only connection to society,” he says in the video interview above from the Louisiana Channel, “the only thing I could see that was gonna save me from a really dismal fate of god knows what.” He had no social skills and no other abilities to speak of. He was debilitated by self-doubt yet inflated by the buoyant ego of the lone artist determined to “make [his] mark on the world.”

What Crumb calls his “two sides” have never been reconciled, although he has left behind certain racial caricatures in more recent work and he claims, in a recent interview with Nadja Sayej, that he is “no longer a slave to a raging libido.” But his shameless indulgence in exaggerated stereotypes was always a blunt instrument that both pulled readers in and pushed them away from the more subtle satire and pathos in his comics. As an editor at a London gallery put it, “there’s something irreconcilable at the heart of the work that doesn’t resolve towards a single vision of beauty.”

Crumb’s comics are “about seduction and repulsion. You are drawn into the work and you are judging yourself as you look at it.” We are also judging the artist. Crumb has been called racist, misogynist, a bitter, hateful loner with a nihilistic streak five miles wide. These descriptions happen to apply to a significant number of convicted and potential terrorist killers these days, the very people we seek to marginalize from public discourse with hate speech laws and public shaming and shunning.

As you might expect, Crumb has no tolerance for such things as fall under the heading “political correctness.” Suppressing art that offends “can even lead to censorial policies in the government,” he says, defending the rights of the artist to say whatever they deem necessary. His work, he says, even at its most extreme, was necessary. It saved his life. “The artwork I did that used those images and expressed those kinds of feelings, I stand by it…. I still think that’s something that needed to be said and needed to be done…. It probably hurts some people’s feelings to see those images, but still, I had to put it out there.”

Some of Crumb's imagery is hard to defend, such as his use of blackface imagery from the 1920s and 30s, and his sometimes violent objectification of women, from the point of view of characters nearly impossible to separate from their creator. But why, if his art is confessional, should he not confess? In so doing, he reveals not only his own teeming desires. Crumb illustrated the male hippie unconscious as well as his own.

After starting a relative mass movement in underground comix in the 60s (and becoming a reluctant legend for “Keep on Truckin’”), he says, “I decided I don’t want to be America’s best-loved hippie cartoonist. I don’t want that role. So I’ll just be honest about who I am, and the weirdness, and take my chances.” Crumb’s candor happened to lay bare many of the attitudes he observed not only in himself but in the denizens of the San Francisco scene, as he told Jacques Hyzagi in a very revealing Observer interview (which prompted a very bitter feud between the two).

The hippie culture of Haight-Ashbury, where it all started for me, was full of men doing nothing all day and expecting women to bring them food. The ‘chick’ had to provide a home for them, cook meals for them, even pay the rent. It was still very much ingrained from the earlier patriarchal mentality of our fathers, except that our fathers, generally, were providers. Free love meant free sex and food for men. Sure, women enjoyed it, too, and had a lot of sex, but then they served men. Even among left-wing political groups, women were always relegated to secretarial, menial jobs. We were all on LSD, so it took a few years for the smoke to dissipate and for women to realize what a raw deal they were getting with the ne’er-do-well hippie male. 

Do we see in Crumb’s work, in which burly, huge-calved women dominate weak-willed men, a celebration or a condemnation of these attitudes? We can say, “it’s complicated,” which sounds like a cop out, or we can go back to the source. Hear Crumb himself explain his work, as a product of two warring selves and a need to draw himself into the world without holding anything back. He showed other artists and writers who were also "born weird," as he says, that they could tell their stories entirely their own way too.

Related Content:  

R. Crumb Illustrates Genesis: A Faithful, Idiosyncratic Illustration of All 50 Chapters

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The Confessions of Robert Crumb: A Portrait Scripted by the Underground Comics Legend Himself (1987)

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Meditation for Artists: Learn Moebius’ Meditative Technique Called “Automatic Drawing”

Meditation and art have an ancient, intertwined history in China, where the beginnings of Chan Buddhism are inseparable from landscape painting. In Japan, Zen art has constituted “a practice in appreciating simplicity,” of disappearing into the creative act, cultivating degrees of egolessness that allow an artist’s movements to become spontaneous and unhampered by second guesses. The “first Japanese artists to work in [ink],” notes the Metropolitan Museum of Art, “were Zen monks who painted in a quick and evocative manner.” They passed their techniques, and their wisdom, on to their students.

Perhaps the closest analogue to this tradition in the west is comic art. Artist Ted Gula has worked with comics legends Frank Frazetta and Moebius and drawn for Disney, Marvel, and DC. As a child, he watched Jack Kirby work. “He wouldn’t speak,” says Gula. “He’d be in a trance…. The pencil would hit the paper and it wouldn’t stop until the page was complete, like it poured out.” How is that possible? Gula asked himself, astonished. Kirby had disappeared into the work. There were no preliminary sketches or rough indicators. He would draw an entire book like that, Gula says in the video above from Proko.

Say what you will about the content of Kirby’s work—superhero comics aren’t to everyone’s liking. But no distaste for the nature of his storytelling diminishes Kirby’s attainment of a purely extemporaneous method he seems never to have explained to Gula in words. Later, however, while working with Moebius, Gula says, he learned the technique of “automatic drawing.” Demonstrating it for us above, Gula describes a way of drawing that shares much in common with other meditative visual art traditions.

“It’s all doing very organic shapes,” he says, showing us how to “draw your mind’s eye. This takes your mind, and your mind’s eye, to a place that normally is unexplored, and it can’t help but enhance your whole view of your ability.” The ego must step aside, executive functioning isn’t needed here. “I have no idea,” Gula says, “it’s all just happening on its own.” Moebius explained it as “just letting my mind relax” and Gula has observed similar practices among all the artists he’s worked with.

Gula describes automatic drawing as a natural process for the artist’s mind and hands. The interviewer, artist and teacher Sam Prokopenko, also mentions Korean artist Kim Jung Gi in their interview, who does “amazingly accurate drawings from his memory without any construction lines,” as Prokopenko says above, in a video from his “12 Days of Proko” series, which interviews well-known artists about their techniques. What’s Kim Jung Gi’s secret? Is he possessed of a superhuman, photographic memory? No, he tells Prokopenko.

The secret to becoming fully immersed in the work—one that surely goes for so many pursuits, both creative and athletic—is just to do it: over and over and over and over and over again. (To many people’s disappointment, this also seems to be the secret of meditation.) In Kim Jung Gi’s case, “of course, some part of it is a talent he was born with, but we can’t overlook how much that talent was developed.” We need no expert talent, either innate or developed, to get started. Automatic drawing seems to require a beginner’s mind.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Lynda Barry’s New Book Offers a Master Class in Making Comics

In the same way you don’t have to like the way your liver looks for it to be able to function, you don’t have to like the way your drawings look for them to start to work.  —Lynda Barry

Want to feel more alive in the world?

Get back in touch with your inner four-year-old artist, using methods put forward by artist, educator, and g*ddamn national treasure Lynda Barry.

Making Comics, the latest book from the University of Wisconsin associate professor, MacArthur Genius, and Omega Institute faculty member, bypasses standardized professional skills such as inking, storyboarding, and lettering, in order to foment a deeper emotional connection between cartoonist and comic.

First things first, you can draw. Stop saying you can’t. You can.

Stop saying your drawings look like they were made by a four-year-old.

In Barry’s experience, the unfettered drawings of four-year-old artists are something to aim for.

As author and comics historian Chris Gavaler notes in his Pop Matters review:

Making Comics is a love letter to every child who ever picked up a crayon and started making marks with unselfconscious intensity. Those children include her college students. Like her readers, some arrive at class with artistic training and some arrive with none at all. The latter arrive having long forgotten the uninhibited style of image-making they understood instinctively as children. Finding each of those children is Barry's mission, and she is very very good at it.

Barry, who is childless, is keenly attuned to the sort of playful assignments that hold immediate appeal for children of all ages.

And she doles out instructions on a need to know basis, disarming the self-doubt and excuse-making that plague adult students who are presented with the big picture too early in the process.

In Making Comics, exercises include drawing with eyes closed, drawing with the non-dominant hand, two-handed drawing, simultaneous partner drawing, Exquisite Corpse, and transforming scribbles and coffee stains by teasing out whatever image they may suggest.

Barry also conveys precise instructions with regard to speed and materials, knowing that those can close as many windows as they open.

She’s battling the stifling impulse toward perfection, the impossible standards that cause so many to turn away from making pictures and stories as they mature.

Don’t sweat it! More rock, less talk! Unleash the monsters of your id! Invite unforeseen ghosts into the frame!

As Barry says:

….there are two working languages in human life. One is sort of top of the mind, what we’re conscious of. The other is this unconscious stuff that we might not know about or have access to. The way we access it is usually through this thing we call ‘the arts.’ Unfortunately, that has gotten removed from the regular daily experience of human life. What I’m trying to do is to show that there is a way that they can come together, and that you can make things in a way that makes you actually feel alive and present.

Read an excerpt of Lynda Barry’s Making Comics. Or purchase your own copy of Making Comics here.

Video at the top of the page courtesy of Art Book Walk-throughs & Reviews.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, December 9 when her monthly book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain celebrates Dennison’s Christmas Book (1921). Follow her @AyunHalliday.

The Velvet Underground as Peanuts Characters: Snoopy Morphs Into Lou Reed, Charlie Brown Into Andy Warhol

peanut underground

The fun cartoon above was apparently found in a "Guide to the Velvet Underground and Andy Warhol's Factory" published by the French magazine, Les Inrockuptibles in 1990. It came around the same time the Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain (located in Paris) held an exhibition dedicated to Andy Warhol. Of course, Warhol famously took a break from painting in the mid-1960s and, among other things, threw his influence behind the up-and-coming NYC band, The Velvet Underground. Serving as the band's manager, he "produced" VU's first album, which meant designing the album cover and giving the band members -- Lou Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison, Maureen Tucker and Nico -- the freedom to make whatever album they pleased, up to a certain point. Above, you can see these same musicians reimagined as Peanuts characters.

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Related Content:

The Velvet Underground Captured in Color Concert Footage by Andy Warhol (1967)

Andy Warhol Explains Why He Decided to Give Up Painting & Manage the Velvet Underground Instead (1966)

A Symphony of Sound (1966): Velvet Underground Improvises, Warhol Films It, Until the Cops Turn Up

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