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Filmmaker Letter

Filmmaker Letter

My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea

by writer/director Dash Shaw

When I was a high school student, in the nineties, there were two main schools of comic books: autobio comics on one end and adventure comics on the other. I liked both of them. The idea behind this short story was to combine these two opposing schools; so I had a character named Dash, and it was based on real feelings and experiences, but it was thrown into a boy's adventure-style action comic. Whatever's true in it has been warped to favor the main character's perspective, which is often how autobio stories are. It's also a joke about how most stories are; like how we know Indiana Jones is George Lucas' fantasy, and it's based on his real interest in archaeology and history, but it'd be sort of sad and pathetic if he just named the character "George Lucas."

Also, in the nineties, there was the explosion of Japanese comics and animation in the States, which was extremely exciting to me. Lots of manga were about schools in danger, usually monsters attacking the school, like Sailor MoonThe Drifting Classroom, and even Urotsukidoji. That inspired designing the comic in tall, expressive, Shojou-manga inspired layouts. Then, there is something about those dramatic layouts and high emotional levels of teenagers that reminded me of abstract expressionism. That kind of extreme existential drama of Rothko made sense to pair with a teenager's emotions, and seemed like a funny and odd thing to do. I like trying to make comparisons or juxtapositions like that. Oh, and also, Titanic came out when I was in high school. So lots of connections resulted in this short comic, which was originally published in the Fantagraphics anthology "Mome."

I did this comic in late 2008 to early 2009. My mind kept going back to it. It felt like a sketch for something more interesting and involved. I wrote a script based on it in 2010, which then finally became the animated movie that's coming out now.

Download a PDF of an original mini-comic by Dash Shaw!