Showing posts with label economics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label economics. Show all posts

Interview with Dan E. Burr, Artist of Economix

A few weeks ago, I had an opportunity to interview Michael Goodwin, author of Economix.  In this follow up interview, we get to hear from the artist of Economix, Dan E. Burr.

Lance:  How did you get into comics and what are some of your favorite past projects?

Book cover for Economix by Dan E. Burr and Michael Goodwin
Dan:  I was exposed to both comic strips and comic books from a very early age. As a small child I lived with an uncle who was older than me (but still a kid) and I looked at all the comics he bought and brought into the house. He also liked to draw (as did many of the members of my family) so I was very naturally following the example I saw.

I'd have to say I've enjoyed (almost) all the past projects I've been involved in. Some of those include:  Kings in Disguise (graphic novel), a story for Graphic Classics:  Ambrose Bierce, stories for Grateful Dead Comix #3, 4, 7, & Vol 2, #2, and stories for DC's The Big Book of Series, including Freaks, Thugs, Losers; Martyrs, Bad; Weird Wild West; and The 70's.

Lance:  What are some of the comics that you read and who has been major influences in your style and approach to comics?

Dan:  Like the music that I listen to and the movies I watch, I'm mostly interested in the older stuff, primarily Golden and Silver age titles.  Comic book artists: a lot of guys whose last names begin with the letter "K" - Kurtzman, Kirby, Krigstein, Kubert, and Krenkel,  also Wood, Williamson, Eisner, Elder, Engels, Drucker, Davis, Ditko, Cole, Crandall, Barks and many more.  Many comic strips (and their creators) have also been a huge influence such as Peanuts, Prince Valiant, Pogo, Li'l Abner, Flash Gordon, and Alley Oop.

Lance:  So what were your first thoughts when you were contacted about making a comic about economics?

Dan:  It sounded unique, very interesting and very timely.

Excerpt from Economix by Dan E. Burr and Michael GoodwinLance:  What compelled you to work with Michael (I'm presuming a pay-check is certainly always a piece of that, but anything else about the nature of the project come to mind?)

Dan:  A mutual agent brought us together.

Lance:  How did you and Michael determine the balance of word density with smoothness of reading?

Dan:  Mike had a good handle on that balance. Occasionally I did feel crowded by words and let him know and he would make adjustments.

Lance: Did this graphic novel challenge you differently from previous projects?

Dan:  Yes, but I think I'll just leave it at that.

Lance:  Was the choice to use black and white your decision, Michael’s, or the publisher’s?

Dan:  As I wasn't there during the initial discussions about the project I can only speculate on the decision and I'm assuming that, at least in part, it had to do with financial considerations. Regardless of the reason, I think the decision was the right one.

Lance:  How did that choice improve and/or hinder certain parts of the book?

Dan:  I really can't see this book being in color and I think to have produced it that way would have created an unnecessary distraction. Full color can drastically change the mood and feel of a (graphic) reading experience.

Lance:  What styles and sources influenced your particular artistic style in this endeavor?

Dan:  Chiefly I just wanted things kept simple and funny.

Lance:  Were you reasonably familiar with economics prior to this and if not, did you feel you needed to be in order capture Michael's ideas?

Dan:  I certainly know more about economics now than I did before I started the book, but I really don't think having a knowledge of economics was necessary to do my part, which is mainly to support the script with appropriate and entertaining graphics.

Lance:  What challenges did you find with the layout and design of the book as a whole?  Did you find yourself having to scrap certain approaches and styles?

Dan:  Since the important thing to me was for it to be easy to understand and follow (keeping in mind that much of the audience for the book very likely would not be comic book readers), again, I believe it had to be kept for the most part, simple. So what I tried to do was communicate Mike's ideas as clearly as possible throughout.

Lance:  Were there challenges with representing historical figures in terms of how serious or caricatured to represent them?  Did you find there were certain historical figures you could easily caricature and yet others, you wanted to get a closer depiction?

Dan:  For me, caricature goes where it will go. Some faces accommodate severe distortion more readily than others, but recognizability is still the most important component of caricaturing. I do really enjoy the evolving process of "finding" an impression of someone.

Lance:  How much nonfiction work or conceptual/content-heavy work have you done with comics and what challenges do you find with that?

Dan:  Most of the comics I've worked on have been historically based. I guess at this point I've come to think of it as my specialty.  Those challenges that do exist I enjoy.

Lance:  What was the biggest surprise in the whole experience of creating and publishing the graphic novel?

Dan:  The biggest "unexpected" was that the book grew by about sixty pages in length during the course of its creation.

Lance:  What would you change or revise in hindsight about the book in terms of art, style, etc?

Dan:  I have had some thoughts about this but, as I'm still evaluating, I would rather keep them to myself for the time being.

Lance:  Current and future projects?

Dan:  The sequel to the Great Depression era drama KINGS IN DISGUISE, titled ON THE ROPES (also set during the Great Depression,) will be published in March.

As with the first book the sequel was written by my long-time working partner, James Vance, and we're both quite proud of the end result. Those who've only seen my work on ECONOMIX may be surprised at the stylistic shift in approach to art and storytelling.

For more about Dan and his activities, check out his author bio.  To find out more about Economix, check out their website and blog.

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Economies and Superheroes: Or Why Spider-Man Might Be a Socialist

This entry from Christopher Robichaud at Big Questions Online represents some of the major discussions that academics and others have when considering what superhero narratives have to give us. Spider-Man, like other characters, is prime material for philosophical debate and indeed, colleagues of mine, Rob Weiner and Alec Hosterman have postulated characters such as these exist in a hyper-realistic state.
Cover of Spider-Man #50

Robichaud contemplates what is the best choice for Peter Parker to make. Imbued with super-human powers, Parker must decide what will affect the greatest amount of "good" for society: to be Spider-Man or to be himself, student/scientist/dorky boyfriend to Mary Jane. It's a circular conversation the character has had with himself time and again over the years and really, a central element to his character.

For those unfamiliar, Spider-Man is really formed in the center of the moral quandary so many of us face at some point: Use my potential or waste it. Shortly after Parker gains his spider-like abilities, he enters into wrestling; he wins a match but the manager stiffs him on the pay. When the money is stolen by a criminal, Peter Parker does nothing. The same criminal during his escape goes on to kill his Uncle Ben (the man who delivers the classic line to Peter Parker, "With great power, comes great responsibility"). And with Ben's murder, Peter Parker beomes Spider-Man.

There are other means of looking at Parker's quandary as well. Parker becoming a wrestler could be seen as him acting as a self-interested capitalist. He's specialized in something particular and seeks to use that to his economic advantage. When the money is stolen, and he doesn't act, it is in part, revenge on the manager, but it's also a clear act of non-motivation; the "not my problem" syndrome. That is, to some degree, Parker up to this point, is a mercenary, pimping out his powers for his direct benefit. But Ben's death turns him into an altruist; risking his life and limb (and others) to protect humankind without evident gain. He's not directly gaining from his efforts and continually negatively affected by it through his lost of loved ones (Gwen Stacy) and the repeated threats towards his family. In fact, he's putting his energy and resources into something that has no direct benefit, but rather benefits society at large. He protects strangers he and provides an overall sense of safety in New York. That’s right; that red he wears pegs Spider-Man as a socialist!

When we talk about characters like Spider-Man and others, who have been writ large across our cultural landscape, we realize that they tap into a great deal of our cultural discussion. We consumer them in a many great different forms: comics, video games, movies, cartoons, as cereal (literal consumption), on underwear and a myriad other ways. They provide a means of representing inner-battles in larger-than-life ways.

By contrast, we have the Tony Stark/Iron Man dialogue. In this discussion, Stark as capitalist continues to benefit financially from the technology he develops for his Iron Man suit. In this serpentine loop, Iron Man is Stark's body guard; so Stark pays Iron Man (himself) in essence with money gained by the technology, which Stark also uses upon himself (as Iron Man). Thus, Iron Man becomes more improved and so does Stark’s business interests. He becomes the embodiment of perpetuated self-interest. Every win as Iron Man brings Stark profits by proxy since it continues to show off the technology.


What other super-heroes offer insights into this discussion? There’s much to be said about superheroes and their explicit ideology; but what about their implicit ideology? By their approach to being superheroes what kind of dialogues about the nature, use, and abuse of power do we see represented?

Did you enjoy this read? Let me know your thoughts down below or feel free to browse around and check out some of my other posts!. You might also want to keep up to date with my blog by signing up for them via email. 

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.