IN WHICH AN ARTIST DISCUSSES MAKING A PARTICULAR WORK
When they first appeared in the Village Voice, in 1956, Jules Feiffer’s cartoons didn’t look or read like anyone else’s, but the expressive looseness of his figures, the characters’ elaborate verbal humor, and Feiffer’s sardonic wit have shaped comics ever since. Feiffer has written movies, plays, musicals, novels, children’s books, and a memoir, in addition to illustrating numerous books, but his first great love has always been the comics he devoured as a child. He wrote about this passion in his acclaimed 1965 book of comics criticism, The Great Comic Book Heroes; his newest book, Kill My Mother, is a noir graphic novel that celebrates what inspired the cartoonist.
THE BELIEVER: You dedicated Kill My Mother to many of the people who defined noir, but the first name on the list is probably the least well-known. How did Milton Caniff and his comic strip Terry and the Pirates influence you?
JULES FEIFFER: One of the shocks to me—who grew up in the 1930s where Caniff was number one, and the most publicized and glamorized of all cartoonists working at the time—is that in subsequent years, to subsequent generations, even to young cartoonists, he seems to be unknown. He invented so many of the traditions that the form follows. Along with Will Eisner, I consider him the greatest of all the storytellers.
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