Gary Panter in the National Post!

“Inside Gary Panter's daily creative spasms” / National Post / Vanessa Farquharson / May 25, 2005

Gary Panter had some pretty cool friends growing up. Before he started winning Emmys and receiving critical acclaim for his scratchy, punk comics in the early '80s, he was hanging out with Simpsons creator Matt Groening, Maus author/artist Art Spiegelman and graffiti artist George DiCaprio (father of Leonardo).

But it was another friend, Paul Reubens, who brought Panter fame. In an ironic twist, it was the neon-saturated, Prozac-happy aesthetic he designed for Reubens's television show, Pee-wee's Playhouse, that would eventually score the comic artist three Emmy Awards and the limelight required to push his dystopic sci-fi Jimbo comics into the mainstream.

Now, the Brooklyn artist, who lives with his wife, teenage daughter and a handful of cats, has mellowed out and his latest work, to be released by Drawn and Quarterly next month, reflects this. Satiroplastic is the first in a series of three unedited reproductions of Panter's sketchbooks, plucked from a mountainous pile that dates back to '69. In the publisher's words, it's "a visual diary that shows [his] everyday creative spasms." The book's title comes from a 17th-century Ben Jonson play, Satiromastix.

"I thought that was an interesting word," says Panter, "and I figure we live in a time of plastic. Plus I'm an old Frank Zappa fan."

Although there are no words in his book, Panter plans to speak about the illustrations -- including everything from a family holiday in Mexico to the 9/11 attacks -- at Toronto's Harbourfront tonight, as part of the regular reading series. While Satiroplastic appears to be lighter fare than most of his readers will expect, Panter believes they won't be let down.

"The fans I have are really interested in the variety of what I do," he says. "When I was young I was trying to do something really futuristic and it came out of my shaky, nervous hand. The older I've gotten, the more calm I've become ... Now I'm actually drawing old-timey, old-man comics."

After tonight's reading, Panter will stick around for the weekend-long Toronto Comic Arts Festival, transpiring in an array of tents behind Honest Ed's department store.

"You meet wonderful people at these things," he says. "I'm really excited to meet Chester Brown, who I've hardly ever spoken to, and Seth. The Drawn and Quarterly guys are a generation apart from the scary, underground hippie comics to the refined type of New Yorker-reading, novel-reading crowd ... I think it'll be very interesting."

When he gets back to Brooklyn, Panter will, of course, continue sketching and also keep working on other things such as his Custom Drawing Project -- for $150, three words with which to free-associate and the time it takes to visit his Web site and fire off an e-mail, anyone can commission Panter to create an original work of art.

"It's been this amazing thing," he says of his recent collaborations and success online. "Often, people will just write me and say, 'You rock!' and it makes my day."

© National Post 2005


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