More about Rosalie

Dearest friends,

I've been wanting to write but not sure what to write, then I realized all I've been doing the past two days is playing her lovely voice in her head. So I thought I would share some stories. In no particular order.

She never loved Richard Scarry until we brought a little story book with 3 stories in it, all staring Huckle and Lowly Worm. "Read Huckle!" she'd ask, and we'd read the story of the cat who gets in a bike accident while returning from purchasing a cuckoo clock for his mom. The bike bell is broken as a result and so is the clock. Rosalie loved to say "cuckoo! cuckoo!" and also "dring dring!" for the bike bell.

Biking. We biked constantly in the last couple months here in Gainesville. Every morning and evening to preschool at the very least, and while my bike bell was working, I'd ring it and she'd say "Dring dring!" from behind. We'd bike past the duckpond and she'd says Duck Pond! and then list Big Tuddle, Little Tuddle... and I'd usually think she wanted to stop and I'd fib a bit and say we'll stop later or tomorrow. Usually we only stopped at the duck pond every few days. We'd feed the geese and the ducks and turtles. Rosalie loved this, would get cranky if we had to stop.

Biking was heavenly. We'd bike past the supermarket chain, Publix, and she'd announce, "Rodzy Mop!  [Rosalie Milk!] Mommy Mop! Daddy Wine!" Just about every time. She loved shopping. And shopping at the locally owned supermarket, Wards was so wonderful I can't even write about it here.

We moved here partially for us, partially for her. Our friend Faruk-who as far as I know, is the only person not to know that she's gone- owns Madina Pakistani food in Brooklyn on Coney Island Avenue. The three of us loved Faruk, and dropped by often, sometimes just to talk. His restaurant was near her daycare, and a lot of times we walked in just to wave hello and be friendly. Faruk loved Rosalie and asked to hold her early in her life- no other shop keeper of any kind was so forward, and we were surprised, but glad to let him. Faruk is a good spirit. When we told him we were leaving NYC for Florida, he instantly understood and he in fact let out his secret that he hated it in New York. Too stressful, etc. And he was so glad Rosalie was going to have a more peaceful life. He was really happy for her. He gave her a samosa.

She drew in most of her books. She loved Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland. We had a reverse-cover book with both on them. We'd get a few pages into Peter Pan and she'd say "Read Adice" and we'd flip to Alice, then back to "Peetu Pan." These were lovely old books. I was so glad to share them with her, even though I think Alice is a bit too long. We also read Heidi. She loved characters. Heidi, Alice, Louis by Metaphrog.

I decided to find some Looney Tunes at the library and the only one they had in stock was a set of extremely old Porky Pig cartoons. She loved these. "Eea watch Pinky Pig!" Watching her try to get syllables right was gorgeous. She got to "Eea watch Poky Poke" once, and then almost "Pinky Poke." Then she was gone.

She drew in most of her books. When we'd read the books, if she spotted her own scribbles, she'd stop it all and announce "Oh! Rodzy draw!"

Our house is full of boxes: Rodzy pillows, Rodzy toys, Rodzy blankets, Rodzy clothes. So much life she had.



Tom and Leela and Rosalie, 1 month later

My dearest friends,

I want to thank everyone for your love and generous generous words and support. We're in a new country, Leela and I. A new state of being that frankly isn't welcome but we understand we have no choice but to enter it and to stay. It's the country without Rosalie running around our house, wanting to blow bubbles and to do watercolor to visit the big turtle and to watch Ponyo, all while asking "Dop?" - ("what's that?") and also "where'd the big moon go?"

Which of course is our question too: Where'd the light in the sky go? Where'd the big moon go? Where did Rodzy go? Leela and I spent a week having some sort of weird mythic time in New Mexico, which we are both writing about in our own way, and will discuss later.

We've been haunting Gainesville for a week and are heading away for another week to spread our daughter's ashes into the ocean. I can't tell you how incredibly weird this all is. It has gone from shock and horror to grief and sorrow to grief and sorrow and weird. I wake in the morning not knowing how my life switched from one track to another so quickly and effortlessly. Didn't I have a daughter? Didn't I adore her? Wasn't that just 5 weeks ago? Where am I?

 For a short while after, Rosalie's picture was a thing we kept hidden, it was too powerful and destructive to our sad mortal selves- it hurt us to look at it. But we've taken it out and now we see it when we go to bed and when we wake and she's slowly becoming a spirit embedded in an image. A story, a saint or an icon. Something we are glad to have a connection to, something to remind us of our human story and of cosmic joy and laughter, but no longer a part of our flesh and blood family. It's harrowing, incredibly sad, and well... weird.

For lack of a better idea, I'm writing a lot about it, composing a comic book (a terrible term, still, if you ask me) about it, and will be happy if you read it someday. (This is NOT "Daddy Lightning" which I have to finish and will still ship from Retrofit in the spring.)

Leela will be picking her radio show up again this Monday December the 19th, two hours devoted to songs we were listening to in our deepest grieving. I'll be there in the studio. It will probably be a sad couple of hours but I bet you're strong enough. Find the link here, look for Ecstasy to Frenzy: http://growradio.org/ You can listen live or look for the podcast later. (Two weeks later we'll have guest DJ Brendan Burford there with us...)

A potential student gave me a set of hand-thrown cups today. I'm drinking coffee from one, warming my hands. Another student wrote "I don't pray so I drew 100 roses", and she sent them to us. Ignatz threw a brick at Krazy.

It's a new country, a world whose meaning we create.



Rosalie Lightning

Dear friends, as many people know, my wife Leela and I lost our most precious life force, our most generative, beautiful, gorgeous daughter, Rosalie, this past month.

Her passing was shocking, ripped a hole in our hearts, "My heart is a blast site" Leela said. A friend offered, "Rosalie opened a capacious space in your hearts" - capacious, capacity. I get it.

We had just moved from New York City to Gainesville, Florida, in search of a simpler, less stressful life. Rosalie loved, absolutely loved it here. I will tell more of this story some other day.

Leela and I will be spending time traveling, first to the Golden Willow Retreat in New Mexico, for people grieving and suffering from loss. Leela first heard about this on the radio show Snap Judgment, when the founder of the retreat told his story of losing his wife, then his mother and children all successively. That show was broadcast on my birthday earlier this year.

After a return to Gainesville, which we too, love and are committed to staying and working in, we're going to spend a week in Hawaii, where we've been offered a small free artist's cottage in Makawao, Maui, at the Hui No`eau Visual Arts Center. This is a place we taught at when Leela was pregnant in 2009, and it is where we were happiest during those first 9 months. It also gave us the kick we believed to move to a more beautiful place and to start a school and center dedicated to making art.

In Maui, we'll scatter Rosalie's ashes there in the ocean. I always said she was a water spirit. I still believe it.

We've had an outpouring of generosity and love from you all. We have cards and emails and postings of all kinds still to open and read; the deluge of support and love from you all has been our greatest strength.

We certainly didn't wish it would take a tragedy to remind us that we are loved among our friends, and even strangers, but reminded we have been. We thank you so deeply for your words, contributions, prayers. All that was sent our way helped bolster us, strengthen us in this time when we were so deeply deeply in pain.

Leela and I have been together on a long path. Suddenly diverted, shocking, terrible, but the path out is still forward. In the darkest times, your support meant everything.

We are feeling a lot of bruised and conflicting emotions throughout all of this, but one thing has remained consistent: our gratitude towards the people who reached out to us. We honestly could not, and can not, make it through without you.

Love each other, and thanks.

If you ever met Rosalie Lightning, keep her in your hearts, and send us your fond stories or reflections. She was special. We miss her immensely.

Tom Hart


New Suspect Device Page

Josh Bayer's Suspect Device is gearing up for issue 2, this issue featuring Garfield beginnings and Nancy endings. These are endless fun for me, and are completely in keeping with my HTSE ideals: it's about finding stories you didn't know were in you.

For instance, here's a grotesque ode to eating excrement. Who knew?


Dennis Goes Down, a story

See more Hutch Owen samples (the better drawn stuff!) here

Hutch Owen's 3rd book, Let's Get Furious is slated to come out from Top Shelf in March 2012. I thought I'd show some samples here now and there, including how some of these things relate to the How To Say Everything concepts of idea/image, character, storyclock, poetry and linefield.

This long story is the longest in Let's Get Furious, and is the most concrete storyarc, narrative arc, the mythic cycle, that thing that relates to something I call the Storyclock. This story was the first to center on the antagonist of the Hutch Owen world, CEO Dennis Worner. Dennis is a bad dude, he’d sell his dying mother to his children if he could make her somehow look hip enough. This story focused on him confronting some of the limits of his perception.

What follows is a very small subsection showcasing none of the subplots involved. Click any image to read more in depth. The entire story can be read here and in Let's Get Furious by Top Shelf in March 2012. More Hutch Samples can be seen from the Hutch main page, here

Above, here’s that surprise, that 1:00 incident that upsets the character. Dennis sees that his usual theatrics aren’t appreciated by the masses of poor people and consumers. His routine has been interrupted.

He begins his trek into “the other world”, above. To put the world back in order, he decides he has to get the POOR back on track. A typically deluded and wrong-headed action for this character. He hasn’t crossed over into the “other world” yet, but it’s an important moment, a moment of acceptance. He’s accepted his fate.

Above, the world is new to him. As he crosses the threshold into the new world, he's sees things he doesn't understand (but Dennis being Dennis will never admit to not understanding)

Next, above, a typical scene in the other world (“act 2” - we’re sort of 4 or 5:00 here) where the main character confronts constant new oppositions (in this story’s case, most of these are psychological.) In this instance, Dennis’s lackey, Fristoe confronts him with ideas so frustrating that he banishes him. Note too, that this moment serves as the inciting 1:00 incident for the lackey’s character’s subplot. This is his expulsion into the new world, his first upsetting event. Fristoe undergoes a complete, though less elaborate narrative arc in this piece as well.

Here, above, Dennis tries to contemplate this new world, and tries to use the language of that world to wrestle his way out of it. But he doesn't get it quite yet...

Above, Dennis’s low point in this whole experience is confronting, face-to-face a series of real poor people. None of whom do anything to change his opinion of them. In fact, his impressions of them worsen, hastening his return to his own sheltered world. (This also coincided with Hurricane Katrina in real time when I was creating it, as you can gather.)

Above, this is the CRISIS, the 6 o clock, the furthest moment from our “ordinary world”, but working in a strip format I chose not to push him too far into dangerous dramatic territory. I want to keep the character mostly in his familiar state of mind.

In this comic strip format, even his worst moments are pretty manageable. Also, I poked fun at the idea of his knowing where he was in his own storyline. Dennis being a smart ad man and marketer, would know these terms.

Above, now reunited with Fristoe, he tells of his adventure and begs to go home. He’s on the cusp of leaving the new world, 7 or 8 o clock. He’s got access to his old employees and his language here is understood.

Ah home, life is once again in balance. I chose to reuse an image of the front door I used in one of the earliest pages of the character on the way out into the “other world.”

Here, Dennis has returned wiser, smarter, even more ready with the brilliant lines. He’s on top of his game (this final line was one my favorites that I had in my store at the ready.) His reward for having gone through the underworld is a rejuvinated sense of purpose.


Comic from two Nancy panels for Josh Bayer's anthology

Josh Bayer is heading up an anthology of comics created from two Nancy panels. Here's mine.

I had a lot of fun aping Bushmiller, especially in the last panels. He draws schmutz and filth better than I had seen previously.

I was trying to channel my best ROM-era Josh Bayer here, but failed. Realized that I was still who I was, and I should just try bettering my own vocab than to ape someone else's.

Same lessons, always.

Still like this strip very much. Thanks to Josh for prompting it.


She's Not Into Poetry

I've put together a collection of my entire 1990s mini-comics called She's Not Into Poetry and it's available now at Lulu, here:

People have been asking for this book for 15 years. I always poo-poo-ed it. But it wasn't until I reread these recently 20 years later and with 10 years teaching experience that I realized how weird and fresh most of them are. They're funny and surprising. Read what Tom Spurgeon says:

Angry Crimnal and The Most Powerful Gate are wonderful Tom Hart mini-comics from his prolific early- to mid-1990s phase, as good a sustained output in minis for anyone not named John Porcellino.

The Angry Criminal by Tom Hart. Tom Hart is a multi-talented threat in today's alternative comics scene. As smart and engaging a person as works with comic art, Hart makes graphic novels, produces web comics, and teaches cartooning classes in New York City. In the early to mid 1990s, Tom Hart was one of the most dedicated mini-comics makers around. His minis are very simply designed, and Hart uses a vibrant art style that borders on crudity. But the stories are offbeat and funny, and anyone who reads them will be reminded of the first time you saw an independent film or heard a non-major-label rock and roll record. Hart's unique voice is in all of his mini-comics, and although my favorite is the out of print Love Looks Left, the pages of The Angry Criminal should open any doubting eyes.

Complete Contents:
--Some 2011 rambling
--Woodabe Comics
--The Angry Criminal --Love Looks Left
--Prince Fredrick's Feet
--The Most Powerful Gate
--The Ditch, The River, The Sea, The Snake
--Manana, Heike, (This is an all-prose diary about a road trip to Mexico. It fits perfectly here.)
--New Hat
--Some more 2011 rambling and lists.

I had a blast putting these together. I used as much old school technology as I could in conceiving the package, including crappy photocopiers and press-type, but mostly what I did was scan or type things out in Photoshop, flatten and then never edit except using cut-and-paste.

There's some recent ramblings too, an intro and an epilogue, including a list of my favorite art and artists then and now, and a list entitled "Everything I Knew When I Was 20 Was Right." See for yourself.

272 pages.
Pics at Flickr here.
Buy at Lulu here.

My undying thanks to Stephanie Mannheim for helping out this together.


Oblique Strategies for 4 panel comic strips.

Digging around through some old boxes of notes, instructions, ideas, images. Presenting these "oblique strategies" specific to 4-panel comic strips (and as such slightly literal sometimes):

  • no difference between panel 3 and 4
  • panel 3: a new character walks in.
  • one box is all words peanuts: "hey what're you doing with those pliers?"
  • 4th panel: report back to a new family member
  • reality wins out in panel 4
  • ask permission to do something already done
  • absurd answer to unsolvable problem calvin and hobbes: how to get quarter out of snow field? melt it with a drier
  • try to write as someone who doesn't love coffee
  • all empty panels
  • get what you want in panel 4 but work for it
  • use a famous folk tale but keep it under wraps
  • the way something feels
  • 1 panel or 2
  • something you saw on a meta-Garfield site
  • more Japanese: less joke, more (development) movement
  • compare 2 wildly different things Peanuts: school and prison (Sally: I'm still thinking!)
  • panel 4 is much much later
  • what is the silent gesticulating person talking about?
  • panel 4 disproves panel 3
  • the difference between panel 2 and 4
  • the (character's) physical limitations make for a bizarre finale
  • traditional character tries something traditional with nontraditional materials example: charlie brown kicking a hose (?)
  • Compare AND contrast
  • silent visual metaphor
  • someone else's visual POV
  • action described
  • something weird, later contextualized
  • everything is off panel
  • switch a role
  • stretch a character's strength (or weakness) and call him/her on it
  • keep characters not on the same page
  • funny picture for negative emotion
  • beg (or get cocky) for something you don't get in panel 4.
  • announce the climax early on
  • what can you censor? example: lauren's locker room (****) for bag of crap


Brian Eno on foiling the critic

I managed to get through 70some drafts of How To Say Everything before quoting Brian Eno, but it was bound to happen.

From a terrific 1980 interview with Charles Amirkhanian (found here. Thanks, Matt Madden.):


Lyric writing is an embarrassing thing to do because there’s a kind of exposure in writing lyrics that is really more critical than any other kind of exposure I can think of.

Words have such distinct meanings that they pin you down in a sense. So to start writing lyrics is hard. To start writing lyrics when you don’t know quite what to say is even more difficult.

So I began inventing systems the intention of which was to foil the critic in me and to encourage the child in me. I tend to think that one’s mind is mediated by two characters: one is a critical one and the other is playful and childish one. And we’re inclined to let the critic have a bit too much sway in that balance.

And so quite a lot of the procedures I use are intended to catch him off guard for a little while so that the playful person can come out.

And more:

When I was young the most overpowering emotions were induced in me by music. Not only emotions but also a sense of wonder and a sense of "I must find out what that is or how it was done or where it came from."

I suppose a lot of my early knowledge if you like was the result of a self-education in culture, particularly in music.

Now, once you become more culturally aware, you tend to know where things come from and upon hearing them you already have a category in which to place them. And so by that means you lose that sense of mystery that some of them have. One of the points in writing music is exactly that, to produce music that has that same effect on you. As music first did. To produce things that are as strange and mysterious to you as the first music you first heard. And I guess that's the thrill for me: to do something that is actually outside of the territory of things I can defend, I'm just moved by it and I'm not sure of the reasons why I'm moved by it.


Classes with Tom Hart in the Spring

Comics Classes with Tom Hart in the Spring

I'm teaching two classes for adults at SVA this spring. These are the last non-summer classes I'll teach before moving away to start my own school!

First is Sequential Art: Expanding Your Vision, which is a fancy way of saying Comics/Graphic Novel intensive.

We'll do exercises for the first 5-6 weeks, expanding our ideas about composition, transitions, page design, etc. We'll work on our own projects intensively for the remaining weeks. It's always a good class, and very flexible. When students come needing more exercises and help, I'll offer that. If they just need good sounding boards for their ideas and execution, I create an atmosphere for that too. I'll show a dozen or so slideshows giving historical, technical and thematic context for our work.

Monday evenings from 6:30-9:30. Register here.

Next class is Independent Projects Seminar: Comics. I teach this with Matt Madden and I'll let his description suffice:

Independent Projects Seminar: Comics is a great opportunity to get occasional feedback on a project you are working at on your own: graphic novel, short story, webcomic, whatever. We meet three times throughout the semester for full-day Saturday critique sessions which always generate thoughtful feedback and enlightening discussions from the whole group. We've had multiple repeat students in this class as it is well suited to artists who are basically working on their own but want to come in from the cold occasionally.

Three Saturdays plus time for email or a short personal conference. Register here.

There will be an open house/info session next Tuesday, January 11, where you can learn more about these and other classes. I'll be there as will a bunch of other teachers. Details below.

If a quick, 6 week class downtown is more your speed, I'm teaching at the 92Y Tribeca, as well. Take a look here: http://www.92y.org/shop/92Tri_class_detail.asp?productid=MD3AF19


Comix Manifesto

For various reasons, I've been reading a lot of manifestos lately. I've been working on How To Say Everything- the book, a sort of manifesto- for 2 years and thought I would dash off a quick alternative to keep spry.

Here it is:

The spirit world is where.

The spirit world is larger than you think.

Art and story let you see it, and make a guess at its boundaries, but much like humanity's limited ability to see all of our universe, our own inner life is too broad to be understood or contained.

Constant art making gets you closer to it.

Careful art making makes you understood. Craft helps other people understand what the hell you are talking about.

Diary comics can get you there, but only if you are flagrantly self-centered and your spirit world IS the people around you. (This is not a bad thing.)

Seeing the themes of your life enables you to live more fully.

Characters and stories direct you to the themes of your life.

The characters and stories which appear when you are barely paying attention are your first cloudy glimpses of what is there.

Your attentive exploration gives you a better sense of the scope and boundaries of it.

It is boundless.

Looking at other work you are reading maps and log books and hearing yarns.

Go into culture and histories asking to be haunted.

The spirit world breathes themes.