Abandoned Cars HC by Tim Lane
Abandoned Cars is Tim Lane's first collection of graphic short stories, noir-ish narratives that are united by their exploration of the great American mythological drama by way of the desperate and haunted characters that populate its pages. Lane's characters exist on the margins of society-alienated, floating in the void between hope and despair, confused but introspective. Some of them are experiencing the aftermath of an existential car crash-those surreal moments after a car accident, when time slows down and you're trying to determine what just happened and how badly you're hurt. Others have gone off the deep end, or were never anywhere but the deep end. Some are ridiculous, others dignified in their efforts to struggle to make sense of, and cope with, the absurdities, outrages, ghosts, and poisons in their lives. The writing is straightforward, the stories mainstream but told in a pulpy idiom with an existential edge, often in the first person, reminiscent of David Goodis's or Jim Thompson's prose or of films like Pick-Up on South Street or Out of the Past. Visually, Lane's drawing is in a realistic mode, reminiscent of Charles Burns, that heightens the tension in stories that veer between naturalism on the one hand and the comical, nightmarish, and hallucinatory on the other. Here, American culture is a thrift store and the characters are thrift store junkies living among the clutter. It's an America depicted as a subdued and haunted Coney Island, made up of lost characters-boozing, brawling, haplessly shooting themselves in the face, and hopping freight trains in search of Elvis. Abandoned Cars is an impressive debut of a major young American cartoonist.
Pages: 168, 7x10, B&W, $22.99
Visit Tim hereLee: Another, this just strikes me as interesting. I like many of the books that Fantagraphics publishes because they have a knack for finding great artists. Visiting Lane’s website and just looking at the cover, I can easily see the influence of Charles Burns. I’m in.
Jim: Okay I have not visited the website and Lee maybe (MAYBE) correct, but in reading the premise it sounds like it is on the artsy-fartsy pretentious BS side. It has so much angst and lost souls in it that I can feel myself tearing up even now. Of course it could be the next great America comic book also.
One of the reasons I love the indie picks is Jim and I rarely agree on anything. And because we can't agree it stretches both of us to not only try new things but learn about them too. In this case, I thought Jim was missing the boat so I went ahead and contacted Tim Lane. What better way to change a persons mind then to hear from the creator himself! Now Tim is one awesome dude because I just asked how he was and got the following…
Lee: Hi Tim, I was wondering who are your influences? Based upon the cover, it would seem like Charles Burns is a big influence. Any others?
Tim: Thanks very much for your interest and support! I really appreciate it. You guessed right that Charles Burns is an influence, although not as much as it might seem. You aren't the first to reference the connection, though, and it has me a little concerned that maybe that's not such a good thing. Probably the biggest comic influences on me, in terms of visual style, is Will Eisner's The Spirit. When I was a kid, Kitchen Sink Press was reprinting all of those Eisner serials from the 1940's, and I couldn't get enough of them. Although I'm not as big a fan of his graphic novels (although I like them - it's just that, to me, nothing compared to The Spirit), I can always go back to those Spirit comics and find something new. The way Eisner set up his splash pages, the inventiveness of his panel arrangements, the great perspectives and, maybe best of all, that noir lighting sensibility he developed in the later 40's was, and still is, some of my favorite stuff in comics.
Lee: Let me interrupt here... I LOVE THIS MAN! Seriously, it is an amazing breath of fresh air to see a creator who respects Eisner as much as this. Don't get me wrong, everyone respects Eisner but it's obvious that he has really looked at The Spirit and he gets it. But Tim was just getting started.
Tim: I'm also a really big fan of pre-comics code EC comics: Artists like Johnny Craig - the Crime and Shock Suspenstories. Also Jack Cole's crime comics work. Dick Tracy is a big influence, too. I've just always really loved those old comics from the 40's and 50's. But David Mazzuchelli was a big influence, too - as a kid, I loved Frank Miller's Batman Year One, and Mazzuchelli was the illustrator. Mazzuchelli also illustrated the graphic adaptation of Paul Auster's City of Glass, which was another early influence.
Lee: Please note, more classic influences yet tempered with some modern creators. As an art fan this sold me right here. Knowledge of those who came before is so sexy.
Tim: Since then, I guess the usual suspects are pretty influential: Daniel Clowes, Kim Dietch, Charles Burns, Chris Ware, Joe Sacco, Adriane Tomine. I like all of their work. But I've been influenced by film noir movies more than comics, probably. Or just movies, in general, come to think of it. Also the short stories of Raymond Carver and Denis Johnson were pretty influential. And the music of Tom Waits. It's hard to name everything.
Lee: So that was quite the response for art influences. I was very impressed. Then I asked a second question. And, the ridiculously hard question... what can I expect from this book? The hype is 40 sentences of everything under the map, any chance you can summarize or let me know what you were trying to achieve. Now I give Tim credit because this is such a loaded question. He's worked months if not years on this and I want 40 words or less. Here's what Tim had to say.
Tim: Abandoned Cars is a book of loosely related graphic short stories. All of the characters have in common the fact that they live on the underbelly of the American Dream. I kind of think of it as a Coney Island America. Abandoned Cars is the first book of what I'd like to become a trilogy of similar books of stories - in which new characters will be introduced, and certain characters will occasionally return at different points in their lives, kind of like Hemingway's Nick Adams stories. But, through the work, I'm trying to understand something about American mythology. That description is painting with a pretty broad brush, I know, but it's really hard for me to sum up the contents of Abandoned Cars without getting the feeling that I'm talking too much.
Lee: Let me interrupt here... WOW. A reference to Hemingway. He's well read too. The plus's of this book are adding up by the minute. Back to Tim.
Tim: Probably the BIG catalyst for Abandoned Cars is an album by Bruce Springsteen called Nebraska. Nebraska is this stripped down acoustic album, and works for me like a book of short stories. I was really moved by that album, and it sort of pointed a direction out for me. I can't really explain it. But up until then it just never dawned on me to try writing/illustrating short stories in comic book form. Then, after that little realization, all the other stuff - the old EC comics, the Spirit, etc, influences - sort of fell into place. It made sense to me that, not only could you tell engaging American stories through comics, but maybe comics were one of the best possible vehicles to tell those stories - like rock or folk music is. What I really admire about both Springsteen and Tom Waits is the way they've both so vividly created nuanced worlds that are partly real and partly fictional. For those who do like their point of view, you become a life-long spectator.
Lee: He had me at I listened to Dead Kennedys while writing this. Oh poop he didn't say that at all. Ok, our taste in music is slightly different but for what Tim is trying to achieve is Springsteen's Nebraska is probably better than "Kill the Landlord" by the DK's. Oh well can't win them all.
Well, somehow this turned into a mini interview with Tim. But with great answers to two simple questions he completely sold me on this. Hopefully I convinced Jim and you too.
Jim: Okay I was close to saying yes until Springsteen was mentioned. I lived in NJ for six years and grew sick of him. Still this book actually sounds like it could be one of the better books coming out this year. Count me as sold.