Interview with Seann McCollum
1/In Were We Wireless, you employ mimicked gestures and repeated imagery–a flower stem stands in place of a cigarette, a vase becomes a dim lantern, three separate people read possibly the same book at different times. Was your intention merely to mirror settings or are these orbits insinuations that we all participate in the same existence, therefore making the vase identical to the lantern?
The language of comix is usually used to tell stories, but I’m more interested in using it to make poems. One way to do this is to substitute linear narrative with a series of associative images to try and create some sort of emotional/intellectual rhythm the way a good poem does. Hopefully the mesh of physical and conceptual connections makes something interesting.
2/In the final panel, you’ve rendered a madman holding a book that lists words synonymous with “thread.” He appears in the third panel as well and the way you’ve rendered him adds ambiguity to his role in the sphere of the story. Is he a representation of the balance you strike between using words or images when creating a narrative? Is the figure at the end a creator or a reader?
He’s my attempt to conflate the creator and the reader into one character. And you’re right, he’s also emblematic of the attempt to combine words and pictures, which usually ends up pretty messy–at least in my hands it does; the way we read and the way we see are two such different processes, they don’t really want to cooperate most of the time. I’m always impressed by anyone who can meld them together successfully.
3/As an illustrator, you pair your metaphors with literal images. The lines “I am the doorknob and you are the tooth / A single thread connects us” reverberate throughout the poem in the recurring presence of teeth. The string, too, reappears in the aforementioned synonyms, but the doorknob, a universal symbol of exiting, is visually absent. When you’re deciding which sections to include as visuals, how do you decide what to cull?
I work pretty intuitively, often starting with a single image that leads to another, then to another, etc. Once I have a couple of threads going, I try to weave them together in a more intentional way. The trick is not to make things too clear; I’m not interested in illustration, nor in making any concrete statements. I think it somehow seemed too obvious to draw the doorknob–it’s a little more mysterious and ominous if you don’t actually see the blunt object. Doorknobs are so benignly sinister. And they’re really fun (and easy) to draw, so it really took some willpower not to put one in there. I’d draw doorknobs on everything if I could get away with it, but to be honest I’ve got enough problems without being known as “that doorknob guy.”
4/Sum up your work in apt in five words: go!
Leftovers nestled within tinfoil vultures.
Seann McCollum’s poem/comic “Were We Wireless” appeared in the first print issue of apt, which can be purchased here.