In this week’s issue of New York, Dan Kois talks to Adrian Tomine about his new graphic novel, Shortcomings. In this excerpt from their conversation, cut from the magazine for space, Tomine talks about how he feels he falls short of the example set by the comics artist whose work he most admires.
While you were working on Shortcomings, you also edited two books of legendary manga artist Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s stories. His work seems really different to me than yours. He has a much greater interest in extremes of storytelling, with rapes or murders or betrayals in almost every story.
Oh, yeah, he goes big. He’s a lot braver than me. He’ll take huge risks. One of the great things about how productive he was — these two books are just scraping the surface of the thousands of pages he’s produced over the years — is that it takes a little heat off each individual piece. Tatsumi’s not going, “Okay, these six pages for the whole month have got to be perfect.”
He didn’t put out, say, one book in five years.
Yeah. Plus he benefited from the fact that he worked below the radar for a lot of years.
Did you feel pressure in creating your first longer work?
It’s one of the real downsides to publishing at the pace that I do: It heightens the scrutiny on each thing that I publish. There’s a certain small audience that is watching what I do and, more often than not, praying for my missteps.
You really think that’s true?
I’ve seen it played out in print and on the Internet. It’s not some paranoid thing that haunts me while I’m trying to work, but it’s one of the downsides to being unfairly praised at an early age. I started publishing my work prematurely, and a lot was made of my age, and the nature of — no offense — journalism and criticism is that there’s not a lot of market for an article that’s like … “Here’s this young cartoonist, and he might show some promise one day, but he’s kind of working it out, and I wouldn’t completely recommend his work …”
Exclusive excerpt: Shortcomings, by Adrian Tomine