Has Photoshop, will rebel
Kevin Slattery to read from his new graphic magazine Feb. 27
NORTHFIELD (January 22, 2014) — Kevin Slattery's new book, "Frankenstein Meets Sister Mary Shelly" marks the beginning of an interest in telling autobiographical stories in a graphic form influenced by the style and conventions of comic books and Mad Magazine. Recorder/Trish Crapo
Graphic artist Kevin Slattery knows better than to work in some of the time-consuming, “crazy” ways he worked when he was putting together his newest graphic magazine, “Frankenstein Meets Sister Mary Shelley.” The Northfield artist, who started as an illustrator at Channing Bete in Deerfield in 1981 and is now an associate artistic director there, knows Photoshop inside and out.
“I know the tricks, I know how to get things done fast,” Slattery says. But working on his own books brings out the rebel in him. Slattery often begins a drawing not in front of the computer in the upstairs studio of his Northfield home but rather, “Downstairs in a comfortable chair by the fire, scratching it out.”
Later, after he’s scanned his drawings and imported them into Photoshop, he’ll find himself using the smudge tool as a paintbrush or applying multiple “bizarre” effects to create the look he wants.
“Seriously, if I was to do this at work, I’d be fired because I just wasted so much time,” Slattery said of his process. “I’ve worked in graphic design for 32 years, I should know — I do know — the whole layout process better than to work in some of the chaotic ways I do. But the funny thing is, when I do my own things, I purposely almost throw that stuff out the window.”
When he was creating his two earlier books, “Ain’t gonna hang no pixel,” and “Emily Comes to My House,” Slattery wrote and drew his way through the first drafts toward the completed work.
For his new book, he decided to nail the lyrics down first then illustrate them. With the 12-bar blues rhythm of the song “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream” ringing in his head, Slattery composed a rhyming, fictionalized account of a run-in he experienced in the late 1960s at his Catholic high school in Easthampton, when an unflattering drawing he made of one of the nuns resulted in what the book’s cover describes as “monstrous results.”
In the book’s crucial turning point, Slattery, portrayed as a guilt-stricken Peter Lorre, is discovered holding an incriminating drawing that shows Sister Mary Shelley being gleefully stabbed and strangled by Frankenstein. Slattery’s punishment — to be banned from art class for two years — seems both harsh and well chosen.
Earlier drafts of the two-page spread included “basketballs raining from the heavens,” Slattery said. In the final version, he narrowed it down to one ball, poised menacingly in Sister Mary Shelley’s other hand, and chose to focus more on, “that whole comic book, exaggerated crazy thing — that huge hand coming across.”
Because Slatterly loves to invoke the popular culture that his characters would have been immersed in, a line drawing of actors Ali McGraw and Steve McQueen and a tableau of famous personages similar to the one on The Beatles’ “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album stand in for Slattery’s peers, observing his humiliating moment.
Though he draws the fictional Sister Mary Shelley (named for Frankenstein’s original creator) at times as Colonel Klink from the 1960s television show “Hogan’s Heroes,” or, in this spread, as The Wicked Witch of the West from the 1939 movie version of L. Frank Baum’s “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” Slattery says that his book is not meant to be “anti-religious.”
“This was my education,” he says. “These teachers were these teachers. And in the story I’m the bad guy, let’s face it. I drew the picture of her.”
Though his drawing style and layout take inspiration from the world of comics, Slattery says, “I was never a comic book fan. I’ve never really bought that whole ‘man-in-tights, super hero flying through the air’ kind of thing.’”
A longtime Mad Magazine fan, Slattery is interested in using the style and conventions of comics to tell stories of his own.
“The direction I’m headed in is autobiographical,” Slattery says. His next book, “Saint Ringo,” will tell what happened when the teenaged Slattery, a drummer at the time, now a bass player, “had to come up with a confirmation name and there was no Saint Ringo. There wasn’t even a Saint Richard.”
A die-hard Beatles fan, Slattery’s next character will wrestle with this dilemma in 1966, the year that John Lennon declared the Beatles were “more popular than Jesus.”
We won’t even ask what Sister Mary Shelley thought of that.
Slattery will be the featured reader at the Northfield Coffee and Poetry series at Northfield Coffee and Books, 105 Main Street, Northfield, 7:30 p.m., Thursday, February 27. A half-hour open mic follows at 8:00 p.m. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or 413 498-0095.
Slattery’s show, “The Making of Frankenstein,” including preliminary drawings and alternative layouts, will be on display at Dickinson Memorial Library, 115 Main Street, Northfield, March 15 through April 30. Contact: email@example.com or 413-498-2455.
Coming up sooner, two drawings of Slattery’s are featured in the third annual “Triple S: Sensual, Sexual, Smut” exhibit at Nina Nook’s, 125A, Avenue A, Turners Falls, on exhibit through March 31.
To find out more about Slattery and to see more of his work, check out his blog: http://www.kslatts.com
Trish Crapo is a writer and photographer who lives in Leyden. She always looking for Franklin County poets with recent publications or interesting projects to interview for her column. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.