Blood, Sweat & Twitter: One Woman Paul Pope fandom? Bitches, please

Good friend of the blog and semi-committal comics reader Camden had the, what, dumb luck?, no, unique opportunity to see Paul Pope talk about his craft during spring break. So of course we thought it would be a perfect opportunity to have her share with our readers here something of her experience. What her piece here seems to get at it is how Paul Pope has a certain something, a bit of the rock star, almost, about him that sets him apart from other comics artists. What she doesn't mention is how she had to be talked into ditching her dad's girlfriend's middle school musical to go see Paul Pope. She also doesn't mention the octopus drawing she commissioned for me. -d

I had the absolute privilege of seeing Paul Pope speak at the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco, which is where I live in real life. San Francisco Bay Area, not the Cartoon Art Museum, although the Cartoon Art Museum is a real treat and I do wish I had been less starstruck by His Popeliness to wander around a bit more, as they had some really cool stuff on display.

Now, you must understand where I come, pulphopefully speaking. I have been a fan of Paul Pope for about a year. David gave me a copy of Heavy Liquid to read on a plane. I think I finished it before my plane even left the airport. It was a magical moment for me. Later after I expressed my enjoyment of Heavy Liquid in several exclamation-laced sentences, David handed me 100% which I of course adored with the passion of a thousand burning suns and thus my love for Paul Pope was solidified for all eternity. I love the man and his work and though I have no background whatsoever in illustration or comics, I think his storytelling is phenomenal.

So like any good fangirl after her first fannish epiphany, I googled him, put his blogspot on my Google reader, added him on Flickr and called it a day. Later realizing that his blogspot is one of the least informative sources on all things Pulphope, at least in terms of his actual Goings On, I set up a Google alert which sent me emails every day containing extensive articles about Pope John Paul II and the occasional article casually using Paul Pope’s name in reference to something that invariably had very little to do with him. One time an actual interview with him came up! That was real exciting. Another time MTV referenced his twitter! So I added him to my Twitter feed and promptly forgot about it. Then I cut the alert email, because it was annoying.

This entire process took about thirty minutes, not counting the time I took, one day, to go back, starry-eyed, through his flickr. I merely wanted to make sure I got up-to-date information on whatever he happened to be putting out or where he might be going and signing stuff or what have you, since he is not a man who seems to make many formal appearances and who does not rapidly produce work, at least new comics. I also wanted a peek inside that magnificent brain of his, having so very little knowledge of him. I’m an English major prone to close-reading and obsessive analyzing and the only thing I have ever learned is that too much information is never enough. Twitter, Flickr, and a blog? That’s me not even trying.

Anyway, I received an email from The Cartoon Art Museum the day before the event telling me that the actual Paul Pope would be in MY STATE talking about HIS COMICS and I flipped.

I was disappointed in the talk, sort of. Forty-five minutes of talking (split between Pope and Dr Michael B Johnson talking and an audience Q&A) was never going to be enough for me, and certainly did not satisfy my desire to know more. Nevertheless, I was pleased with what I got. Johnson obviously knows Pope well and had me scrawling down illegible notes in one of my school books regarding Pope’s answers. They covered a fair bit of the artist's history, which I do feel most people could have gotten had they spent more than thirty minutes on the internet looking for tidbits of his life. I was content to learn about this part of his life though, given I’ve heard all of one interview with him. It was an interesting interview to bear witness to, and I enjoyed it, honest. It just wasn’t long enough.

However, they opened the talk with a brief poll of the audience. Who here is involved with the creation of comics (writing, drawing, etc)? At least half the audience. Who here is involved with projects around comics (apparently this means movies)? The other half of the audience. Even the surly-looking bro in the front row was an artist. I sat in my corner of the room, clutching my stupid books and thinking great, here we go, an entire talk about the industry, something I care very little about except in the context of how the industry affects the art which in Paul Pope’s case, as I learned that evening, is very little for everything between THB and Batman Year 100, and then again after the publication of Batman 100. (At this point in his career, the man is basically unstoppable. And he knows it.) But maybe there’ll be something of interest?

No. Take a crowd of mostly young and hip artists and comics dudes who are precisely the age group to which the iPhone is marketed and the first Q&A is a question about what brushes Pope uses. Um, what? He’s answered that question like a million times on twitter, dude. Or at least once and I’m sure that question has come up before. He suffered a few other questions about his art – do you thumbnail, what kind of paper do you use, what kind of ink do you use, what would you change about your art if you could start from the beginning – before I finally managed to steel myself.

I raised my hand in a sea of seemingly informed Paul Pope fans and I inquired politely as to what the fuck Shakedown actually is and what is he doing there and oh my god Paul Pope and burlesque how perfect etc, and a man sitting near me asked, “what burlesque are you talking about?”


Apparently the rest of the crowd looked fairly mystified as well and a quick explanation was in order. It is not, Paul the Illustrious said, him doing burlesque. (“Oh damn,” said half the crowd sadly, including me.) It is a show that he helped to organize with his girlfriend who is a burlesque artist. I was moved to tears, he said, at a burlesque show I went to, and I wanted to give back to this community that inspired me.

YOU’RE SO GREAT OH MY GOD I said in my head. The Q&A session moved on while I hung back, shocked – shocked! – at the ignorance of these young hip comics peeps around me. Dude next to me had a website for his comics. This other guy used ebay to buy Pulphope swag. Clearly an internet savvy crowd, as anyone over the age of two is wont to be. And yet they’d never heard of the Shakedown shows? Were they stupid? Did they just not pay attention? Was everyone here a pretender and I alone was the only true Paul Pope fangirl? Was I, in fact, the only Paul Pope stalker in the room?

Impossible. I’ve never even read all of THB. I read like half an issue once and got distracted by pasta. But Shakedown is all over his blog and his twitter and check out sheer amount of scans and photos of his art for Shakedown on his flickr. His enthusiasm for Shakedown, whatever it may be, is impossible to miss even if you visit his blog a mere once a month.

So what gives, dudes? A twenty-one year old with no independent interest in comics outside of Kate Beaton should not be more informed than you, actual comics creators with decades of knowledge, on the goings-and-comings of Paul Pope. Everyone who attended the event – and there were quite a few, standing room only – was clearly a fan. So what’s with the ignorance? Is it willful? That stupid misled fan desire to keep the creative separate from the man? But Paul Pope himself talked about “skingrafting [his] identity” onto the character of Batman in Batman Year 100 and anyone with eyes knows that it is utterly impossible to get away from Paul Pope in Paul Pope’s work. Furthermore, Paul Pope produces too little work that is so immediately difficult to get hold of that it strikes me as utterly stupid not to devote a little time and energy into keeping up with him. Particularly in something that is so obviously important and interesting and exciting to him.

Plus, it’s burlesque. Paul Pope and burlesque.

So come on, motherfuckers, get it together.


stefan autsa said...

You can get a little bit more insight into the man if you get his art book, Pulphope: plenty of essays about his childhood and opinions on art in general for any casual fan or obsessive stalker girl. If you can find it cheap anymore, that is. But as a stalker, price is no object right?

Matthew said...

Thank you A.R.A.S.C.B.R. for spreading the Pulphope love, and much thanks to Camden for expressing your obsession so colorfully!

I thought I was turning back time to my obsessive first helpings of Frank Miller, Allred & Mignola (the Legend days...) when I began immersing myself in Pope's works. I found "100%" in a half-off bin at Comic Con based on a recommend. And holy shit I couldn't stop re-reading it and blabbing about him to my wife and friends, and just what the hell else has this guy done? And so I (obsessively) hunted down as much as I could find and was close to ponying up the cash to find all the THB books on eBay when I heard the news of a COMPLETE THB HARDCOVER in the works!!! Egad! Wait for it, I must...

Anyhoo...uh, yeah... So, I'm glad to read of somebody else that can appreciate (obsess over) Paul's work as much as I have. I try to keep it in check and pretend that he's just "an influence in my own work" but I'm a fanboy dammit. Through and through. I check his Flikr daily to see newly posted goodies and get inspired to work on my own material after I get home from the day-job and just plain admire his work and his vibe.

The only thing I can tell other people that sums up my feelings about his work is that he captures energy on the page. But no, that isn't quite right either. Energy & Grace.

Energy + Grace + Comics = Pulphope

camden said...

@autsa -- Been there, done that, David4serious showed me the vagina woodcuts in class. A special day in my life, to be sure. But of course my main issue is not with my own ignorance but with everyone else's. It's not hard to find artist-controlled outlets of information and I'm uncomfortable with the idea that I, a lazy, lowly 1yo fan, am the only one paying attention. Paul Pope & burlesque. Why isn't anyone else excited by this? (Save Pope himself, of course.)

@Matthew -- THB trade was David's first question and I don't remember too clearly but I don't think anyone brought it up. They talked a lot about the history of THB though. I don't know much about comics as a fandom so I can't rant about people owning their fannishness. BUT I will say that for a dude as beloved as is Paul Pope, I am SHOCKED AND APPALLED that people are not more psyched about stuff that he is doing that he is obviously excited about, even if these projects fall outside the traditional realm of comics. Blah. But yeah, grace and energy is right. He's a rockstar.

david e. ford, jr said...

autsa- yeah, pulphope is this kinda book that if just about anyone else published it would be this completely self-indulgent self-promoting hack job . . . but of course it's paul pope so like there is hardly a page in it that doesn't have something new or informative or almost brilliant. this guy has so much to say about so many things and what he has to say is new and informative and interesting. it would piss you off if it weren't so damned good.

matthew- if you've been a reader here for any length of time you've probably picked up on the fact that i'm not a life-long comics reader and probably more than anyone else it was the work of paul pope that convinced me of the potential of the medium. i sometimes lament that we don't write about pope's work more but to be honest in some ways it's kinda intimidating. it's like writing about shakespeare or dickens or something; what can i say that will even do the material justice. i'm beginning to gush now but i think you and camden are onto something that puzzles me a little . . . i mean, paul pope is no secret or anything, comics readers know his work and he is respected, but not in proportion to its significance. not even close, right? like brandon wrote up his EXCELLENT 'Escapo,' which is like this out-of-continuity THB book that is obscure but shouldn't be . . . why isn't this stuff on the map? there's no faux-intellectual impenetrability that you get with a lot of 'smart' comics, just really great, pure storytelling and vividly alive illustrations.


samuel rules said...

i think it's sorta cool that people aren't these internet stalkers, that's just me. i think the thing is like Pope is all over the fucking place, he's an artist, an "ok" DJ, a comics maker, etc. and for whatever reason people only care about one or two of these things and not all of them at once. comics nerds, as a whole, don't really like Pope either, a lot of people hate Year 100 and have never heard of 100%, i guess what i'm saying is all comics nerds are infuriating and uninformed about the creators, and care much more about the characters and stories, even with Pope they only really give a shit about how someone so weird got popular.

Matthew said...

I think it has more to do with the fact that the guy does whatever he feels like doing. He services his own interests and not some corporate quota. I mean, how long has he been talking about Battling Boy (and he just now teased of 100 pages being completed) and the complete THB and a few other projects? But then he does Wednesday Comics and short stories and covers all over the place. I'm guessing he is fortunate enough to be able to pick and choose from a (most likely amazingly long) list of projects that he "feels like" doing.

No, I don't think the problem is that comic nerds aren't aware of him as much as it is that he shows up too briefly, so they just forget. Like how Steve Buscemi always shows up in those small roles and you'd always say to yourself "Oh yeah-- it's THAT GUY! I LOVE THAT GUY!". Meanwhile, other creators are doing everything they can to shove multiple titles in our faces while Paul is dabbling in his other interests.

As aware as I am of his other ventures, I'm just not that much of a "night on the town" kind of dude so I'm going to be missing out on a lot of his other hipster things. I'm a parent and a home-owner so I think I'll stay content with his printed work (as amazingly cool as his BURLESQUE collaboration is!). However, I did hunt down his DKNY clothing line like a mad-man until I found the hoodie I wanted and I was lucky enough to see him at a free party in San Diego last Comicon (too afraid to talk to him! I'm such a damn coward! Maybe next year?).

So I guess it really doesn't matter what kind of nerd (or "enthusiast") you are, you're bound to run into Pope's work at some junction in the road. If you've been hip to him all along, then when he does something even cooler than his last cool, you get bonus points!

samuel rules said...


There are just different kinds of comics nerds, and the kinds that like Pope aren't the kind that really buy comics, but wait to buy the trades at Barnes and Noble, not even being a hater, but it's true. His fans are more on an art trip than a comics trip. And like if dude was just picking and choosing he would've spent more time on this:

cause that thing is bogus. He finances his artwork with all the random stuff he does, which is awesome.

stefan autsa said...

@camden - you know, there's plenty of torrentz for the old THB stuff floating around.

I was lucky to get five issues of THB for under ten quid last year, which I consider very fortunate considering how rarely they come up for sale. I was prepared to pay more but thankfully they were cheaper.

My major appreciation for Popey comes from the fact that he is in service to comics, not himself: the man can draw a robot shattering from laser fire, reflected in the eyes of a butterfly. But for 100%, he drew people sitting at tables, eating dinner and drinking sake, because that was what was required. It probably wasn't fun to draw either but he did it anyway, because of the story requiring it. Now THAT'S a comic maker.

camden said...

@matthew and sammy -- PP mentioned hitting a glass ceiling in terms of independent comics and how that was a huge part of his motivation in doing Year 100. That blew my mind because I'm dumb and don't understand comics industry, but I don't know. I think it is great that he is able to finance himself by more mainstream stuff.

@autsa -- I have no background so I should probably stfu but the "boring" stuff in 100% is what sets him apart from most everything else I've read, and what makes him, to my mind, a storyteller above all else. I love it. So basically I agree, hurrah.

brandon said...

Camden! Awesome piece.

Not even being a hater, but this cover you posted sucks more because Marvel (and every big company) has a status quo and so, they gotta like airbrushed, soft-focus-y shit coloring/digital inking aesthetic than because the actual pencils are bad or poor.

Look at his Haunted Tank cover from a year or two ago for the way some mainstream comics coloring can just ruin a totally awesome picture.

As for his fans waiting for the trade, that's a good point, but more because his fans are indie comix people for the most part. Also, it hasn't been since the mid-2000s that he even had a monthly mini-series and so, I'm not sure the validity of that point.

And when he does have a mini series, the trade of that mini series isn't all that easily available anyways.

Monique R. said...

Hey Camden,
This rules!

I was in SF the same time you were there seeing PulPope...wish I would have known!