Sunday, November 05, 2006

Elmer Correspondence/ Elmer in the US!

Elmer Official Site
Lesley Lim

Update on the Availability of Elmer in the US!

Those in the US, specifically California, can get their copies from the following locations. Thanks to Sandy, who dropped off 25 copies of Elmer #2 for each location.

Comic Odyssey
3400 E. 8th St., Suite #106
National City, CA
owner: Gerry Sansolis

Comic Odyssey
319 S. Arroyo Parkway, Suite #3
Pasadena, CA
owner: Kenny So

Thanks to Lesley Lim (Antart on DeviantArt) for this painting. It's only a spot detail of a much larger painting which I will expect to use on a back cover, probably on #3. My payment for this painting will come by way of a talk I'll be giving at UST for an org Lesley is a member of. Oh maaaaan. I really don't like giving talks because I suck BIG TIME at it. It was like... it's either I talk or I don't get the painting. Ha! ha! Oh well, I might as well do it, and hope that they don't kick me out of the building.

Looks like I will also be giving another talk, this time in Bicol sometime early next year. What is *wrong* with me? It's like I got this big stone and dropped it on my head. But it did seem interesting to me and to travel to Bicol is something I haven't done since 1983.

I may have found a solution to this talk business though... I wonder why I didn't think of it before. More on this later.


This is an interesting email from Jim Arroyo of Quezon City, and his analysis of Elmer #1 and #2. I put it here unedited. I had already replied to Jim directly. What follows after the letter is a reworded and expanded reply I had sent to him.

Dear Gerry,

One of my biggest regrets as a comic book collector is that I didn't get to pick up Wasted when it first came out. When I saw "Elmer" at one of my regular comic haunts a few years ago, I seized the chance to get what is some of your most beautiful artwork so far.

I love the premise; it has a Kafkaesque appeal to it. What if you woke up one morning as a giant cockroach? What if you woke up one morning and chickens were suddenly as smart as humans? Such hypotheticals are the stuff of great absurdist fiction.

I have a problem, however, with the execution of this premise. It seems that rather than embrace the absurd, you seem unduly preoccupied with trying to achieve some sense of verisimilitude, creating what Warren Ellis would call a "white event" to explain how the chickens populating this world came to be this way, and playing the "racism" angle to the hilt. I mean, maybe you should be a little less like Rising Stars and a little more like The Metamorphosis. Some people say that Stuart Little, as a story, lost a bit of its charm when, in the movie, the writers went to great pains to show that he was adopted by the littles, whereas the book basically just introduced him as, well, a Little, no questions asked. I honestly think you may have been better served by this kind of approach. This notwithstanding, I'm still curious as to how you'll wrap up the talking chickens' origin story.

Another problem I have with this book is how thoroughly unlikable a character I find Jake, your lead, to be. Whether it's his annoyingly adolescent dialogue or his rather irritating self-righteousness, I find myself feeling very little sympathy for him. Your Wasted lead was a lot easier to relate to. THAT guy was like the Michael Douglas character from Falling Down on steroids, and his indignation was palpable, because people could understand where it came from.

The discrimination taking place against chickens is clearly meant as a nod to racial discrimination in one form or another, but the lead character is such a freaking hypocrite that it tends to blunt any real resonance the device is meant to have. I mean, look, Jake has a problem with his sister marrying a human because they used to eat chickens, but he whacks off to the image of a human bold star? What if she ate chickens too? Furthermore, he despises people for once having eaten his species, but reminisces on how much he loves to eat his mother's duck? Shouldn't a member of a formerly oppressed species be a little more sensitive to other species still being gobbled up?

You see, in an absurdist, or maybe even comical milieu, Jake wouldn't come across as such a jerk. It would actually be funny that chickens eat duck. The problem is that this story seems to take itself a little too seriously. Maybe I just don't get what you're trying to say here, but on the other hand maybe you're trying too hard to justify your premise of talking chickens, which is causing you to make all sorts of character inconsistencies.

Storytelling flaws aside, I have to, I meant just HAVE to heap praises on your art. In all honesty, Gerry, I think you are better at rendering than just about anyone else in the comics industry as a whole, even Travis Charest. The quality of your artwork, specifically its consistently original look in an industry where people are either ripping off images from Manga or from Jim Lee comic books, just stands out on each and every page, and Elmer is a visual treat unlike anything else in the market right now. I intend to follow this story until its conclusion, and so I hope you take this as encouragement to finish issues #3 and 4 as soon as humanly possible!

Jim Arroyo
Quezon City

Hello Jim!

Thanks for your reply and the thoughtful analysis of Elmer! I do have to admit, I haven't seen Stuart Little, The Metamorphosis or read Rising Stars, and I don't know what is meant by "Kafkaesque". A friend of mine, Mark Gatela, also made reference to this Kafka fella with regards to Elmer so I'm now officially curious as to what this is all about. Looks like I'll have to Wiki it. I only mention it to let you know that I most likely won't get the reference.

I actually tried to avoid watching talking animal movies, specially those involving chickens so my head will be clear of anything that others have done.

Jake is a pretty complicated character. He's pretty absurd himself, and full of inconsistences. One of the things I tried very hard to do with all aspects of Elmer is to not fall into cliches, tricks that other people have done, and present characters we have seen many times before. As such, I tried to create characters that don't fall easily into categories or labels. To do that wasn't too difficult. All I had to do was look at people. And myself. Many people have tried to pigeonhole me into certain categories and labels, but none of them really applied to me because I'm a huge grey area. And I believe everyone is a huge grey area, full of inconsistencies and yes, I believe we all are hypocrites to varying degrees. Some more than others and some less than others.

Consider foreign dictators saying they hate America and yet they have a library full of Hollywood DVD movies, or priests and preachers teaching the word of God by day and be pedophiles by night. I have no doubt that someone who openly embraces other races would harbor slight but deep seated and deeply buried prejudices of his or her own.

Deep down inside I really think everyone has certain degrees of inconsistency and hypocrisy in themselves that they will be rather caught dead than admit. It really is hard to like and sympathize with someone like Jake because maybe, just maybe, he reflects a truth about ourselves we try to suppress and ignore.

It may be too quick to consider these inconsistencies "flaws", but I do understand your concerns. Whatever flaws that may be seemingly apparent and obvious, it is only a reflection of the flaws I have observed in people, and they are things I fully intend to tackle in future issues.

For instance, chickens and ducks.

Yes indeed, why would chickens eat ducks like there was nothing wrong with it? The first issue contains several references to ducks being eaten, and I intentionally made a point to emphasize it. Rest assured there is an explanation for that, which I would rather say in the telling of the story rather than here.

Taking the story very seriously is actually an objective I'm trying to achieve. I wanted to postulate a truly absurd notion, and yet treat it as realistically and as seriously as I can... and see what happens.

Does it work or not? I really can't say. It really depends on who is reading it and what their opinion about it is. As for me, as seriously as I may be taking it, I'm actually having lots of fun. I really have just begun to tell the story, and I'm just beginning to expound on my ideas about this world. Come back again after it's all done and let me know what you think. Although I know how the story goes, it still surprises me just what happens when I finally draw it. I really can't say how it will ultimately read when it's all done myself.

As for me beating the crap out of Travis Charest in the art department, now that's the one thing completely absurd about your email. Now I'm sure you must be on drugs of some sort. Bonamine perhaps? I jest, and although I don't believe that of myself, I appreciate the compliment. I still have a long way to go as an artist, and I still have lots to learn. I don't think I'll ever be satisfied with my work, and looking at Elmer #1 and #2, although I know I did my best, I know I can do much better. Hopefully, I will always be unsatisfied, because I know it's the only way I'll never be complacent.