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Fanbase Press Interviews Cecil Castellucci on Launching a Kickstarter Campaign for the Groundbreaking Performance Art Installation, ‘I Am the Comic Book’

The following is an interview with award-winning author and comic book writer Cecil Castellucci regarding the launch of her Kickstarter campaign for the sequential art / performance art project, I Am the Comic Book. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Castellucci about the genesis behind this groundbreaking endeavor, the all-star lineup of artists involved with the project, and more!

Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: You recently launched an incredibly groundbreaking Kickstarter campaign for a new sequential art project. For those who may be unfamiliar, what can you tell us about the project’s premise?

Cecil Castellucci: I Am the Comic Book is a performance promenade comics surrealist story game comics conceptual art piece! It’s going to be instigated by me and has a slew of incredible artists who are signed on to collaborate with me. Mads Skovbakke, Mari Naomi, Diana Tamblyn, Scott Koblish, Pia Guerra, Nate Powell, Victoria Ying, Chris Wisnia, Sanya Anwar, Jose Pimienta, Nicole Goux, Hope Larson, Dan Santat, Sina Grace, Faith Erin Hicks, Jenny Soep, Allison Conway, Dean Haspiel, Thit Bitsch, Leuyen Pham, Alison Sampson, Rachael Smith, Thien Pham, Steenz! and Lisa Brown.

Basically, I am going to be in collaboration and artistic conversation with those artists in an exquisite corpse game where I give a prompt and they do a three-panel sequence that I will make into a temporary tattoo and wear it on my arm. After the tattoo fades, I move on to the next chapter (Issue? Episode? Page?). So, in essence, I am the book, walking in the world, as the character Maxi walks in their world.

I am interested in hybrid forms and mashing comics together. I’ve been doing that with my comic book operas and some hybrid books I’ve written – Odd Duck with Nate Powell, Odd Duck with Sara Varon – and so I wanted to play with the idea of what is a comic book? How can we play with the form? Also, it’s a great chance to play with friends!

BD: I feel that it’s necessary and important to discuss the impetus behind this project. What can you share with us about your decision to launch this endeavor, and what, if anything, do you hope that the project inspires?

CC: Last year when I was at the Stockholm Comics Festival at the Kulturhuset, I was talking over beers with a bunch of creators at the con party, and we were fretting about AI and how it feels like it’s just everywhere and threatening artists’ livelihoods. Earlier in the day, I saw the Laurie Anderson exhibit at the Moderna Museet and so while we were talking, I was trying to think of a conceptual art piece that I could do with comics. I thought about how conceptual art projects always delight me and surprise me and about how ephemeral and fleeting art projects that are in the physical world, that are momentary, is something that AI can’t really do. That’s when I thought it could be cool to do a comic as a temporary tattoo anthology that I would wear on my arm for a year as an endurance performance art project. I put a note in my reminders in my phone and so for the past year I kept getting reminded that I wanted to do this. The nice thing is that when I start the project at TCAF (Toronto Comics Arts Festival), it will actually be almost a year since I birthed the idea to do it.

I Am the Comic Book Interior

BD: How would you describe your shared creative process in working with the 24 artists involved with this comic book project to bring the story to life?

CC: This past fall I was out with Mads Skovobakke, a great artist, who is also one of my former students as the Graphic Storytelling Program at TAW in Viborg, Denmark, where I teach. I was talking about this dream project, and he really lit up and was like, “Yes. Do it. I’m in,” and that really gave me the wind I needed. Actually, I have to say that every artist I’ve asked to participate in the project has been so enthusiastic and game and excited about how what a unique and fun an idea it is. That has really helped me to truly commit to making this happen even when I feel a bit overwhelmed at the prospect of it.

Anyway, I asked Mads if he would design a character, Maxi, who could be the uniform character for the project and to do the first sequence to start the whole journey off. I gave him a prompt to start Maxi on their journey and he replied to the prompt with a sequential piece that I made into a temporary tattoo. Then, inspired by the end of his sequence, I wrote a prompt to give to the next artist, and so on, and so on. So, it’s like an exquisite corpse game, where you just see the part before you and add on and everyone is in conversation with the piece itself. The artists are inspired by my prompt and the sequence before them and then they inspire me to move Maxi’s journey forward and give to the next artist. So far, I have four pieces ready to go by Mads, Alison Conway, Nate Powell and Chris Wisnia. So, I don’t have a set story except that Maxi is exploring an alien world.

BD: At Fanbase Press, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that Maxi’s story may connect with and impact readers?

CC: I think the impact of all conceptual art is to make people think about things and reflect on big questions. My hope is that people will think about the value of engaging with living working human artists. I am hoping to ask questions like: What is a comic book? What does it mean to play with form? How can we collaborate in something that is fleeting? What is a story? What does it mean to be a person out and about in the world? What does taking a walk mean?

I hope that when people cross paths with me and Maxi, they will have feeling of art having the capacity to be something beautiful and rare. That while art is often a thing that everyone can engage with it can be just as profound when it something that is fleeting and intimate and makes you think. As artists it sometimes feel as though we are always hustling for our careers and we rarely get a chance to play, so I dream that artists will take a pause and try to consider making the kinds of things that spark joy in making Art for Art’s sake. That is what this is ultimately a call for, to have fun and be odd!

BD: In light of the campaign, are there any special backer rewards that you would like to highlight for readers?

CC: Two of the rewards that I like are the walk with me option for a group walk, so it’s like you’re a part of the project. I travel a lot so there’s opportunities for that all over, I think. I also like the blank comics template temporary tattoo so that you can be your own art piece.

BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell fans who want to learn more about the year-long comic book anthology and your other work?

CC: If you want to follow along as I document the whole thing, there’s an Instagram and I’m working on getting a website up: My ultimate dream at the end of all of this is to have a gallery exhibit of elements of the piece in conjunction with a con and maybe even have people walk around a convention as pieces of the book. Wouldn’t that be cool?

Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief




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