Koren Shadmi Dissects Treasured Icons with 'All Tomorrow's Parties'
The comic creator returns with another excellent deep-dive biographical graphic novel.
Welcome to our Creator Corner, our new reoccurring interview series, where we chat with the coolest and most thought-provoking creators in the comics industry. In this entry, we're conversing with Koren Shadmi about All Tomorrow's Parties. Listen to the unedited audio HERE.
This week, Koren Shadmi returns with another biographical graphic novel, All Tomorrow's Parties. You may recall his last Comic Book Couples Counseling appearance, discussing his Lugosi comic. He's created a nifty market for himself, but each new book is a tonally unique experience.
Whether you know everything about The Velvet Underground or not a thing, All Tomorrow's Parties is a compelling rise-and-fall examination. Shadmi begins his story with Andy Warhol's death, the pop culture icon who spotlighted the band and deserves tremendous credit for giving them their due. His light, however, became a festering resentment from some in the band. *Cough Cough* Lou Reed.
All Tomorrow's Parties probes this wound. Did The Velvet Underground truly need Andy Warhol? Would they have found the same, just some or no recognition without the artist's adoration? Does answering those questions really matter?
Well, we put them to Koren Shadmi and had a delightful back-and-forth conversation. We also consider the challenges of depicting music on the printed page and how he unlocked sound in his imagination. Of course, you could also pop on a Velvet Underground album while you read the book. That certainly puts you in a suitable space.
CLICK HERE to check out our previous chat with Koren Shadmi. CLICK HERE to read his comic strip, "The Prompt Artist." All Tomorrow's Parties is now available from Humanoids. Be sure to pick it up at your local comic books store. CLICK HERE to find the nearest one to you.
Koren Shadmi on All Tomorrow's Parties, The Velvet Underground and Andy Warhol.
Brad: You talk a little bit about your introduction to The Velvet Underground in the afterward of the book. How strong was that relationship with them before diving into the creation of this graphic novel versus where it is now?
Koren: They were always one of my favorite bands, but they weren't ... I tend not to be that obsessive with anything. So I have my favorite subject matters, I have my favorite music or whatever, but I kind of keep listening to other things and I go through phases. And I had a Lou Reed period where I loved listening to stuff, but that was kind of a long time ago. And then now I just have a deeper understanding and a deeper knowledge of their story, and plus the music. There's a lot behind the music, and once you kind of dive deeper, there's a lot of meaning and a lot of extra layers to everything, including the way they sound. There's a specific way that they sound that has to do with the place where John Cale came from, which was experimental music and classical music.
And then there's a specific thing about the literary inspiration that inspired Lou Reed to write about junkies and about transvestites and all these things that no one was writing about, well people were writing about, but no one was making music about it. So just a lot of things that are super ahead of the curve. And during the research, I discovered that they're considered the godfathers of punk, and then I was like, "Oh, this totally makes sense." But I didn't know that before I started working on the book, so I had kind of a superficial knowledge. And you pick up a subject and you become an expert about it. And then about a year after you're done, you forget most of it.
Brad: And then you have to promote the book.
Koren: Yeah, yeah. It's still in my head now, but if you ask me ... Someone just asked in an interview about Lugosi and I had a couple stumbles there.
Brad: One of the fascinating things again in the afterward is you are very open about how you had some preconceived notions about certain characters before researching and creating the graphic novel. Then in the process, those preconceived notions change and evolve. And one of them is Andy Warhol and the space, especially in comics and with cartoonists, the space that Andy Warhol occupies. You mentioned that you have a little bit of an antagonistic point of view on him going into the research phase, but then in the research phase, that evolved into something a little less antagonistic. Can you explore that with me a little bit more?
Koren: Yeah, for sure. I think there's always some sort of antagonistic relation between cartoonists and fine artists that goes back a long way. They're the ones who get the big bucks. They're the ones who get their artwork purchased by very wealthy people, but also displayed in museums and revered. And until 15 years ago or so, comics was still considered a lesser art form. Comic books were always something that was printed on cheap newsprint and just was associated with cheapness and with a lower art form. And in other places like France, you see that it is from a longer time considered another art form just as revered as fine art or painting, but there's always been a ... "I'm just as good as this guy. Why am I getting paid bupkes for my page rate? And then this guy just does one painting and it sells for hundreds of thousands of dollars."
And then you also have someone like Roy Lichtenstein who blatantly stole from cartoonists and then couldn't draw as well. If you look at the original and you look at the ones he copied, projected, he didn't even draw them. He projected them and enlarged them, couldn't really draw.
Brad: It's infuriating.
Koren: And so Warhol kind of was in the same movement as Lichtenstein. He was all pop art, but he was into cheap entertainment, mass entertainment. He loved comics, I think, and that's something he did, enlarged comics and framed around the same time. Those paintings are not as famous, but he did that. But I think Warhol is different because he started up as an illustrator for magazines, so he wasn't that different than cartoonists in terms of doing work for hire for magazines. And then later he kind of transformed into a fine artist. And then the other thing is that he was a really hard worker. When you read about him, you realize he was working all the time, and he did, at least before he was shot, he did a lot of the work himself.
He had assistants, but he did a lot of work himself. And it's only later in his career where he had this kind of more of a factory mentality where he would just tell people what to do and sit there. And that kind of stuff I think is what is less impressive and less inspiring. And also, he's such a crazy character. He's so funny and strange and has such a great story that it's hard not to start liking him the more you read about him.
Brad: Before reading your comic, I really had only a passing relation with The Velvet Underground, but in that casual understanding, Andy Warhol occupied so much of that understanding. They felt so linked together. One of the interesting things about your book is how it explores that relationship that they had with Andy Warhol, but also the possibility of them becoming The Velvet Underground without Andy Warhol. They didn't need him necessarily.
Koren: No one knows. That's one of the mysteries. And again, they never really made it. I think the Banana album sold like 30,000 copies, which is okay, but it was definitely not a chart-topper. And so he gave them a platform and helped them with their notoriety, but at the end of the day, as far as contributing to the music, he didn't really do anything. You see in the book too, that he comes into the studio and he just sits there and chews gum and says, "Wow, that's great." That's his feedback because he was a big fan of just letting things happen and just bringing the right people together. So he did do something, but it was kind of passive. It wasn't very actively done.