Yesterday, I began the first of a two part interview with Rob Walton, creator of the recently completed graphic novel, Ragmop. Greg Smith, whose research interest extend from cognitive theory of emotion to the translation of The Maxx for television, conducted this interview. Smith is the author of a great forthcoming book on Ally McBeal and the aesthetics of serial television, which is coming out later this year. Yesterday, Smith and Walton took us deep into the political and economic theories behind the book. Today, they explore some of the influences — from Samuel Beckett to Jack Kirby — that shaped this idiosyncratic story.
Many of you, of course, live in areas where the comic book shops are sub par and don’t stock Walton’s Ragmop. I should note that the book is of course also available from Amazon and other online bookdealers.
Lest people think that Ragmop is an economic treatise, we should point out that it’s incredibly funny too. The rhythm of the jokes feels a lot like the jokes in classic animation. What did you learn about joke structure from animation?
Drawing storyboards for ten years definitely helped refine my comic timing as well as what I absorbed as a kid watching Monty Python, Bugs Bunny, the Marx Brothers, and reading MAD Magazine. Animation also taught me how to use “beats”. Those are moments of silence when a character suddenly clues into something, like when the Tetragrammaton realizes that there are dinosaurs in Heaven (page 241) or Alice’s spit-take on page 178 (you don’t see too many spit-takes in comics, do you?). Ragmop appropriates all of this material, which originates for our purposes with Vaudeville and Silent Film comedy. It was amazing to be able to distill eighty years of comedy culture in a comic like Ragmop. I don’t think it could have been done any other way. It was a cartoon comedy or nothing. I was dealing with such grand themes and extreme viewpoints that it never once occurred to me that this would be anything other than a comedy.
Aside from animation I did read up on the history of comedy going back to the Greeks. I was happy to learn that what I was doing in Ragmop was nothing more than what was done at the original festivals, where ancient comedians would parody and lampoon the figures of establishment in their day. That’s where comedy seemed to begin. It’s also why it has always been reviled and suppressed over the centuries by the various targets of its humor.