Category Archives: books

Inside Out and Subconscious Comics

Pete Docter's "Inside Out"

We just saw Pete Docter’s brilliant and sweet Inside Out, which I highly recommend to anyone with a functioning heart and brain. As a sometime student of human emotion, and a fan of Paul Ekman’s work, I was impressed with how well tuned the five main characters were to the real mechanics of emotions. There wasn’t a moment in that film that didn’t ring true. If you haven’t seen it yet, go already!

Subconscious Comics

For those who liked the “who’s driving this thing?” angle of the movie, I want to point out another body of work that I’ve admired for years: Tim Eagan’s Subconscious Comics, which ran in a Santa Cruz newspaper from 1981-2000, and appeared in book form as The Collected Subconscious. It’s a more adult and irreverent take on the same subject, where instead of the five cardinal emotions at the controls, it’s a hairless chimpanzee in tighty-whities known only as “The Boss”, surrounded by an entourage of anthropomorphized neuroses. Definitely not for kids, but lots of fun for grown-ups. Enjoy!

Interview in LAB 04

LAB magazine issue 4After a long hiatus, Joseph Robertson’s excellent LAB magazine is back, and it features an interesting three-way interview he conducted with me and graphic designer Ian Lynam (author/editor of Parallel Strokes) over five years ago. It’s a fun meander through many of my favorite alphabet-related topics. The rest of the magazine is gorgeous and stimulating, as always. You can download the whole thing as a PDF for free, or buy a hard copy via print-on-demand. (I already have two earlier issues, and they’re handsomely bound and printed, well worth the cover price.) Or, just go straight to our interview. Enjoy!

(Previously: Folk Typography essay in LAB 01)


What’s eating Marv Pushkin?

A bear, that’s what! Yes, folks, Mykle Hansen’s new novel is finally out in print! You can buy a copy online from the publisher–or if you’re in Portland, Oregon, you can swing by Powell’s Books on Thursday, March 20th, to hear a real live bear* read a chapter from the book in Mykle’s own voice! It’s part of a bigger small publishers’ event from 5-10pm. Mykle and friends will go on around 9pm.

*Disclaimer: if real bear is not available, reading may be provided by man in bear suit.

Help! A Bear is Eating Me!


Imagine a novel called “Help! A bear is eating me!”

Are you imagining it?

No, seriously, try it now. How would it start? Main character. Being eaten. By a bear. For real. For a whole novel.

Are you getting anything yet? No? Not even a first line?

Well, if you’re having trouble imagining this novel, fear not, because my dear and astonishing friend Mykle Hansen has imagined it for you! Not just imagined it, but written it down in so many words! In chronological order! And as if that weren’t enough, he’s actually started to read them out loud and record them digitally for your digital word-listening enjoyment! I assure you, this is no bait-and-switch. No false bears here. No men in bear suits. No bears-as-metaphors-for-falling-stock-markets. The main character really* is being eaten, by a real* bear. I kid you not.

Anyway, you gotta hear this stuff. It’s really good. Pick your favorite flavor:

feedburner RSS feed
subscribe via iTunes
just download the mp3s

The book itself is due out in print this fall, via Afterbirth Books. And if you like what you’re hearing, may I also recommend Mykle’s first book of short stories (self-published, in the literal sense of xeroxing and cutting and gluing and binding), Eyeheart Everything.

Update: How do I know about this book, you may wonder? Well, Mykle sends out these incredibly entertaining emails every time he publishes another chapter. These used to be only for a select elite (“people whose email address Mykle happens to have”) but now they’re available to the world on his blog! Check the conveniently named!

*Disclaimer: by “real”, I mean “fictional”. But you get the point.

Folk Typography essay in LAB zine


The internets are a wonderful thing. In April 2005, during my Flickr honeymoon, I started a group called Folk Typography: a place to collect all the weird typographical innovations stumbled upon by people whose job is anything but typography. Two years and four hundred photos later, the group’s become a nice little compendium of quirks, and has attracted some remarkable folks.

One of those folks is Joseph Robertson, a guy of such astonishing gumption that, in order to teach himself graphic design, he created an entire magazine from scratch: LAB magazine. The first issue was a knockout: beautiful, sleek, and stuffed with more fascinating articles than any ten magazines in my local newsstand. So when Joseph asked me to contribute to an article about Folk Type for the next issue, I couldn’t say no!

That issue is now online for your enjoyment, in its entirety, for free: LAB magazine issue 01. Or you can jump right to the article itself. But if you’re a reader who likes colorful things, I highly recommend getting your hands on a handsomely printed hard copy. Have at it!

Scott McCloud is my hero

Making Comics by Scott McCloud

Scott McCloud is at it again. His new book, Making Comics, is a brilliant thing. It’s as insightful as the first book in the series, but tempered with a kind of wisdom and reflection that matches his updated avatar’s greying temples. As a CG animator, I don’t make comics, and I don’t even draw very well. But there are so many parallels between comics and movies that it’s impossible not to learn from this book.

I love the little moments of self-effacing humor, like the two panels above. His geek is showing, and he’s not ashamed. And why should he be? Diagrams freaking rock!

My favorite part so far is the section on facial expressions. This is material that any working animator should know already, and it’s all been covered quite deeply by Gary Faigin and Paul Ekman. But McCloud has found a way to explain these ideas that’s so vivid and concise that you’ll come away more enlightened even if you’ve already read those other books.

(A related note: a Flash hacker named Pete Charlton has whipped up a really fun visualization that compares McCloud’s beautiful two-emotion combo faces against the relatively unnatural expressions that happen when you try to paste the eyes of one expression onto the mouth of another. We had some really fun discussions about all this after I read about his applet on BoingBoing.)