Old Movies and Talking Animals

10/07/2009 4:00 AM |

In her review of Low Moon, The L’s Becky Ferriera described the graphic novel this way: “Each line and frame could mean nothing or could mean everything in this quiet, gripping book.” Ferriera recently interviewed the book’s creator, Jason (pictured at left, in a portrait by Jason Lutes), to ask-among other things-why his frames often lack dialogue, why he incorporates historical figures, and whether he feels particularly Norwegian or not.

The L: Low Moon is a collection of five short stories featuring very diverse characters, settings and tones. However, all five share similar narrative and thematic elements, and when read all in one sitting, each story seems to shed light on the others. Was each story developed separately, or had you always intended for these five to be in the same collection?

J: Low Moon, the story, wasn’t long enough for a book of its own, so I had to include some other stories to fill it out. They were just ideas for shorter stories I had lying around. There wasn’t meant to be any thematic unity. Death, I guess, is a repeating theme. People die a lot. At least two of the stories are influenced by film noir. There are also some narrative elements that are repeated. The fact that they’re all genre stories, science fiction, western, crime, also gives them a sort of unity. So I might have had that idea in my head when I was working on the stories, that they should fit together in a collection.

The L: Low Moon‘s first story “Emily Says Hello” is the grimmest in the collection, whereas the final one, “You Are Here” is the most touching. Was it a conscious decision to bookend Low Moon with different tones? How important was the order of the stories to you, and how did you decide it?

J: It was a conscious decision to open with “Emily Says Hello” and end with “You Are Here”, for the reasons you mention. I hoped “Emily” would be like a punch in the stomach of the reader. I don’t know if I achieved quite what I was hoping for with “You Are Here”, but emotionally it’s the richest story, so it fit at the end. It has hopefully a lot of room for the readers own interpretation. “Low Moon”, since it had been in The New York Times, I wanted early in the book. “Proto Film Noir” is the weakest story so I put that towards the end, and “&” fit in the middle.

The L: Your stories are tightly constructed and intricate; they have several graphic, verbal and narrative punchlines along the way, which then build to larger punchlines at the climax. What is your usual method of developing a story? Do you begin with sketches or with plot outlines? When is dialog introduced? Do you go through multiple drafts?

J: There’s no one method in making the stories. It depends. It’s often improvised. Sometimes I know how it’s going to end, but not always. I never write a full script. I usually work on about eight to ten pages at the same time. Sometimes I do small sketches first; sometimes I draw directly on the original. Sometimes I have a dialog written down, sometimes the images come first and I have to come up with the text as I’m drawing.