The singular experience of reading a comic can provide a range of emotions. Diving into the art of a piece and allowing it to affect you emotionally is probably why we connect so much with this medium. The art and words of S.J. (Stuart) McCune‘s Monologue are something that has stayed with me long after reading the three issues. A creepy and existential analysis of what makes us an individual, coupled with its tense mystery, made for a spine tingling reading experience.
Monologue is a colour format three issue mini series that has been a smash hit on Kickstarter. I rarely back projects any more, but this one and this creator are something I will always make the exception for when I see something new. Comics that will artistically take your breath away and get you thinking are rare these days. Monologue delves deep into our brains and every page could be a piece of art on your wall.
So I reached out to this creator and asked him some questions. Stuart is as gracefully thoughtful in his answers as he is in his comics work.
He is also a creator you need to watch. A storyteller who speaks volumes in a single image. His comics are insightful , imaginative, intelligent and breathtakingly beautiful. Monologue is my favourite so far for a creator who goes from strength to strength.
Hope you enjoy.
downthetubes: Monologue is now finished. What did you want to accomplish going in and what changed by the time the finished product was in your hands?
SJ McCune: I think once a creation is released into the wild you can no longer focus on it. It’s in the hands of the audience, because they are responsible for giving it life now and keeping it going. The thing that changed and the the thing I’m most thankful for is that the audience were there to catch it instead of Monologue just running off the top of the building.
downthetubes: Can you talk a bit to the themes in the series?
SJM – There are very definite themes of memory, perception, and the point of perception – by which I mean both the moment and the actual coordinates. In the back matter for issue three I say a little about Monologue‘s themes – “There are many ways of perceiving and translating reality so that it makes sense for us and the most obvious element of this that we all experience in different ways is time. Our generational perception of time convinces us it has a linear nature when in fact this is just the easiest way for us to quantify it. Some moments in our lives loom large on our minds and help or hinder our definition, our sense of self. Monologue is a comic about this concept.”
downthetubes: You use space and time in original ways. How did you find the pacing affected your storytelling approach?
SJM: The pace follows a very traditional three act structure where you have the fast and loose opener, the tense movement towards the “all is lost” moment, and then the third act resolution. Many comics lose their way because they have to constantly continue on whereas I knew going in I had the luxury to end Monologue in the same way it began.
downthetubes: Are the voices in our heads the real us or do we become a person only within the context of our surroundings?
SJM: I don’t think we ever become people. I think we are like fire – we are real and we can be witnessed but we constantly alter from state to state. Our perception, time, makes this alteration appear slow. Pompous dullards think existence is important and that they somehow have an influence over it.
This linear deception and the need for praise and success is not what makes us people. Our internal voices are never shared, never heard, and yet the tone we give our thoughts is who most of us believe we truly are. That internal voice is an illusion too – it can never be replicated or recorded – that’s why I think we don’t ever become people and neither are we defined by surroundings as they can be changed in an instant and are simply there to be enjoyed.
downthetubes: This is a comic that really stays with the reader. Haunting, creepy and introspective. How did you want the reader to experience this book?
SJM: What I want has no real relevance to the reader. The manipulation of their private experience can only be achieved up to a point, like in issue two I know what cards I’m holding and when I’m going to play them. It just depends how good a player you are. For many, Monologue is taking a chair at that first big table and if you hit it you hit it but for most it’s simply enjoying the experience.
downthetubes: The art uses space and eerie reflections. Can you speak a little about your process?
SJM – The manipulation of the eye is an old concept. Go into any major Art Museum in any city and you’ll see old and modern works that draw your eye to certain parts of the picture. I use colour and negative space a lot to achieve this because it suits the comic layout and I prefer it to a heavy black mass. It’s also the same with the lettering. Most pages start top left and end bottom right to pull a reader across and through the book.
Monologue by its nature is overly wordy so I had to come up with techniques that counteracted that.
As for reflections… my Tumblr subtitle says it best – “I can’t remember which side I’m on”.
downthetubes: What is next?
SJM – I have a new story, Epilogue, on Kickstarter in November. It’s a ghost story at its heart but there’s Poe, Conrad, and Fitzgerald in equal measure. I also have a 120 page graphic novel called When We Go South finished and five new scripts from which I’ll pick one in January to get the new year going.
(Editor’s Note – Find more about this great new project at the Kickstarter page here)
downthetubes: Where can we buy your work and learn more about your process?
SJM: You can buy digital work and prints on millicentbarnescomics.bigcartel.com and there’s 30 older books on Comixology. People can also sign up for the weekly Reading List which has reviews, news, and exclusive artwork each Sunday morning. You can catch the link on Twitter around 1100 GMT and sign up there.
downthetubes: A bit of a fun question, I hope… You get to write and draw a character from Marvel, DC or Valiant. Who do you choose and why?
SJM: I love Bloodshot, Harada is equally compelling, but a darker, more modern take on the Eternal Warrior I could do. From DC I’m still coming to terms with Mr Biscuits’ demise, so that leaves Nightforce if it could be a team book or Swamp Thing or Deadman if it’s a solo title. I love drawing Swamp Thing but I could write and draw Deadman better. The idea of going into different people is perfect.
Lastly, from Marvel I love reading Namor but the temporal sword of Magick takes in Stephen, Emma, and Piotr too so there’s more of what interests me as a writer in Illyanna.
Many thanks for reading.
Antony Esmond is a comic reviewer and writer – his hips don’t lie.