If only I had diversified my retirement portfolio and bought 100 copies of Marbles in My Underpants by Renee French in 2001. Today scarce copies sell for $100 or more. I’ve never met Renee French (Kutztown ’86, BFA, Fine Arts, Drawing). I’ve learned her fans are passionate about her work, and her graphic novels and comics are extremely collectible. One fan, KU Prof. Emeritus Dr. Tom Schantz, calls French “one of the most delightfully crazy and talented people with whom I have squeezed tube cheese.”
In July, I was at Copacetic Comics in Pittsburgh (PA’s best comics shop) and found a copy of The Soap Woman. This book was inspired by a very peculiar, yet real, body on display at Philadelphia’s Mutter Museum of Medical Curiosities. I didn’t buy it, my mistake. I did pick up the hip comic anthology, Mome, with French’s graphic story about a Snake Island that eats little children who swim alone. — great beach reading.
Then when I was at Evil Prints‘ Bootcamp in St. Louis, I told my fellow camper, Tessa Shackelford her art reminded me of Renee French’s. “I worship Renee French,” Tessa shrieked, “that’s what I’m going for!” At that moment, I realized the Kutztown grad was a cult figure.
I emailed Renee French to ask how she felt about the skyrocketing value of her books. “it feels silly” she wrote back, “i wish i could do something about it. i’d like for those books to be available and affordable for everybody, but you know, things go out of print and get harder to find and then that happens. Top Shelf is reprinting THE TICKING so that shouldn’t happen with that book for quite a while, and doing a second edition of THE SOAP LADY next year, i think. MARBLES is the tough one. not sure Top Shelf is gonna want to touch that one. we’ll see.”
I asked about her next book, H Day, to be released by Picturebox on Halloween; is that pub day a coincidence? or a clue to what’s inside?
Renee replied; “total coincidence. it’s actually going to debut at APE (the alternative press expo) in San Francisco, oct 16& 17… a couple weeks before halloween.” and inside? ..”swarms of insects, a huge disaster, hanging sacs, straw dogs, whirlpools, tall buildings, one survivor, and a giant ship.”
Asked for advice for aspiring illustrators, she said, “always be drawing or painting. get in as much time working on what you do, as you can. and seriously, if you don’t absolutely LOVE doing it, then don’t do it. it’s too much work for too little payoff if you don’t absolutely love it.”
Renee has added a new image daily for over two years to her blog, without missing a single day. (I aim for one entry a week.) I’d say she is dedicated to her art; she calls it “a serious compulsion.”
I’ve been thinking lately that I really need Photoshop CS5, the new turbocharged Mac Pro, and a Cintiq tablet to get started on my 8 page zine, so I asked Renee what sort of technology she used to create the haunting images for her 200 page book H Day? Renee: “just a .3mm mechanical pencil with 2b lead. That’s all.” she wrote. — Yow!
Update 9/1/10: Great review H Day at Confessions of a Pop Fan.