On Thursday, March 27, Bowers Writers House held “An Evening of Animation with artist Dash Shaw.” Shaw is an award-winning animator and cartoonist who lives in New York, N.Y.
He is well-known for his graphic novel’s “New School,” “Bodyworld” and “Bottomless Belly Button.” Shaw is also recognized for his animated works, such as the Sigur Ros video “Seraph,” “Wheel of Fortune” and the IFC series “The Unclothed Man in the 35th Century AD.”
One of the first things that Shaw showed at this presentation was his short animation known as “Wheel of Fortune.” In this animation video, Shaw took a real episode of Wheel of Fortune that he saw on television and drew a new screen on an 8.5 by 11 inch piece of computer paper.
Each screen that he drew was animated and acted out the “Wheel of Fortune” show. Shaw displayed these screens in a slideshow by showing each image for three seconds at a time with the original audio track of the “Wheel of Fortune” episode playing.
The next animation that Shaw showed during this presentation was the Sigur Ros video “Seraph.” This animation shows a seven-minute emotional journey. “Seraph” displays the story of a young boy who is shown to be gay and who struggles with his anger and temptations.
This young boy is restrained by his religion and is made to feel distraught about his body and aspirations. He grows up with the impression that the worst sin would be to endorse a love that is uncommon to the rest of the world.
Shaw then showed some not-yet-released comics. He first showed “Cosplayers,” a pamphlet series. This 32-page pamphlet comic follows two cosplayers that make videos for YouTube with some fantasy role-playing acting performance.
Shaw appreciates this comic because he thought it would be cool to take things that are outside of the pamphlet comic culture and put it back in pamphlet comic form. He did this so it would be shelved next to Batman and Superman. When readers open it, they see Batman and Superman, but it would be people cosplaying as Batman and Superman. Shaw tried to make “Cosplayers” look more like a mainstream comic.
“I always liked comics. I started drawing them immediately. I kept drawing them, never took any breaks from making them, and now I’m older, and I feel like I am now into like the comics that I didn’t necessarily know I was going to be drawing,” Shaw said.
The next comic strip that Shaw showed, also not-yet-released, was “Doctors.” This comic is about doctors who enter people ‘s afterlife in order to bring them back from the dead. Shaw described the doctors in this comic strip to be “super doctors.”
Shaw went on to show a clip from his graphic novel “New School.” He claimed that this graphic novel exploits the fact that you can have a lot of things on the screen at once.
“New School” tells the story of a boy moving to an exotic country and his passion with an unfamiliar culture that quickly changes to disappointment. Since the boy is different from the rest of this exotic country, he becomes lonely and blames the place for his isolation.
Shaw got the idea for “New School” from a personal experience that he had when he was 16 years old. He went to a remote part of Japan to teach English to people the same age as he was.
Shaw remembers existential feelings from this experience in Japan, which were really strong for him. Shaw created “New School” to show the hardships of a young boy in an unfamiliar country to share the type of experience he had when he was 16 in Japan.
“Now I feel like I just sit there and the comics kind of tell me what to do and I just listen to them and it’s a very intuitive process. When I was younger I remember I had all these ideas about the different kind of comics I wanted to make, how I wanted them to be like this or that, not like these peoples and more like this and I would try to smush all of my ideas into these comic books. But now it’s almost like [the comics] tell me what they want, they tell me to draw themselves smaller or do a book about cosplayers, and I say OK and just do it,” Shaw said.