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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Sam Alden On Sad Tumblr Teen Comics And Portland's Seething Rage

We talk to comic artist Sam Alden about letting go of a huge, ambitious 200-page graphic novel that took him four years, working on Adventure Time , and the strange day jobs artists take.

Sam Alden

If you asked me about my favorite new comic artists, my entire face would probably split open, and a goblin's claw would worm out of my face-hole to dangle a placard that says READ SAM ALDEN.

When I first approached Eighth Grade , I wasn't a charitable reader of graphic novels about suburban teens. But he totally won me over. Like the best TV and short story writers, Sam has an uncanny ability to orchestrate morally embarrassing situations. A closeted boy watches with longing as his friend abandons him for a girl. An athletic bully dates a frumpy girl to spite his ex, and the whole school churns like blood in shark-infested waters. Everyone gets to plead their humanity in this ensemble cast, and there's a sort of Winesburg, Ohio scale to the town: You glimpse a community of worried parents behind the kids too. You never get the sense, though, of a lofty narrator pissing on miserable ants below, or a grunge god grinding axes through a Mary Sue. Sam gets you to love even his most ruthless characters.

He's since written an Adventure Time episode, released a slew of short stories, won an Ignatz Award, and been selected for the Best American Comics anthology. He also announced that he's not working on Eighth Grade anymore. I've been a big fan of his newer comics too, but wanted to bother him, anyway, about what it's like to begin — and let go of — a project that he's worked so hard on for more than four years.

Sam Alden

Sam Alden

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