A Car With No Tires On It: A Conversation with Daniel McCloskey

 

–Interview by Rachel Mennies

 

Rachel Mennies: We’ve talked a lot about you seeing yourself as both a visual artist and a writer—I was curious if you could talk a little bit about a “hybrid novel,” the term you use to describe A Film About Billy?

Daniel McCloskey: I call my book a hybrid novel because it’s a novel that has comics in it. The book has 250 pages and about 80 of those are comics pages, but that term could apply to a broad range of longish narratives that integrate non-traditional elements.

RM: Okay—so that’s one way to distinguish it from, say, a more traditional graphic novel?

DM: Yes. A Film About Billy is more of a true prose book that has chunks of comics in it. It’s a novel about a kid filming a documentary about his dead friend during an international suicide epidemic—so it was important for me to have this character show part of his documentary. [My original] screenplay format wasn’t working, so I decided the text needed comics to give that glimpse. Continue reading

[REVIEW] A Film About Billy, by Daniel McCloskey

Billy

Six Gallery Press (distributed by Birdcage Bottom Books; reprint distributed by Small Press Distribution)

248 pages, $12

 

Review by Rachel Mennies

 

Collin, the teenage protagonist in Daniel McCloskey’s comics-prose hybrid novel A Film About Billy, has a movie to make about his dead friend William, and a seven thousand dollar grant from the enigmatic Mint Foundation to complete it. Billy jumped in front of the train tracks near a military base in Canyon City, Pennsylvania, not far from Pittsburgh; his body takes the blow so hard that his friends find pieces of him for miles up and down the tracks—a piece of his long black hair, a discernable shard of his skull. McCloskey’s first book follows Collin, the narrator of the book’s prose sections and the creator of the documentary film represented in the book’s comics frames, through what first appears to be the ordinary process of mourning a sudden loss, and later manifests as a wildly dystopian tale of an international suicide epidemic and a government plot far more bizarre than anything Collin—or the world—could have imagined.

At the center of this book live teenagers: artists and filmmakers and gamers, agents of action, prey to depression and drugs and ennui and suicide, and—most emphatically—the book’s emotional and intellectual centers of integrity. Many of the enduring adults in A Film About Billy—warped scientists, corrupt military personnel, and absent (or present, sometimes for the worse) parents—perpetrate most of the book’s evil. Collin and his friends first unite in the wake of Billy’s death, only to splinter apart as suicide and unrest overtakes Pittsburgh. McCloskey renders these protagonists most thoroughly and tenderly as the book opens and the story of Billy’s suicide unfolds—as we “watch” the first few frames of Collin’s documentary, where Billy lives, as teenager, forever. Continue reading

From the Gutter

On the embodied poetics of making comics.

-by Jarod Roselló

01 - Of Varying Intensities02 - Of Varying Intensities03 - Of Varying Intensities04 - Of Varying Intensities

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Jarod Roselló is a Cuban-American teacher, cartoonist, and writer, from Miami, Florida. He is currently a doctoral student (A.B.D.) completing a comic-as-dissertation in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction at Pennsylvania State University. His comics, fiction, and research have been published in various journals and magazines. On nights and weekends he runs Bien Vestido Press, a small press for hand-made books, out of his living room. You can read more of Jarod’s work online at www.jarodrosello.com.