(Art) The Converse Comics of Samplerman

As an author and art-lover who has no talent for the visual arts, I’m fascinated by art that tells a story. I’m convinced there are pathways in our neuroanatomy that link our narrative interpretations of both prose and visual art.

These connections don’t have to be direct or linear. They can be oblique to one another, or even opposites. For example, I’ve often said that a novel is a painting whose canvas is stretched in time rather than in space. As such, the tools necessary to create artful prose are different than those for painting or illustration, but the two mediums share that relation.

Yvan Guillo, better known by the DJ-inspired name Samplerman, doesn’t tell stories with art, at least not the way we usually think about it. He does the converse. He “remixes” cast-off images from Golden and Silver Age comics, adopting the form of visual storytelling to create… something else.

I am a 46-year-old cartoonist. I’ve been writing and drawing comics for more than 25 years, without any popular success, I have to admit—perhaps because of a lack of self-confidence, not harassing publishers enough, taking no answer for a “no thanks,” and no longer posting my pages (lots of improvised and unfinished stories) on my obscure blogs.

I have always chosen the DIY way to make my fanzines and minicomics: it is affordable and it mostly requires commitment and time. Due to lack of feedback, I’ve felt discouraged from time to time. Sometimes I can’t believe that I’ve kept doing this for so long instead of finding a real job…

At the start, “Samplerman” was a side project. The first attempts sat on my hard drive for months before I posted them. These were very simple panels, in low resolution, that displayed samples of web-downloaded scans of “Superman” or “Fantastic Four” that I had duplicated and symmetrically joined: the most basic manipulation. The abstract visuals resulting from this treatment didn’t corrupt the seduction of the original drawings and colors, which were visually familiar though modified, like comics seen through a distorted mirror

I make only the most minimal changes to the color. I may change the colors from parts of my samples for special effects, but I try to stay within the four-color spectrum of the letterpress printing technique that dominated comic books until the 1990s. It’s possible that I’ll break this rule in the future, and take the license to make more extreme adjustments.

Read the full interview with Yvan in The Comics Journal.

Click below for a larger image.

Final image drawn by Léo Quievreux with colors by Samplerman.

Find more work by the artist here.