Ear­li­er this week, Liana Finck let us peek behind the cur­tain at her source mate­r­i­al for him com­ic based on A Bin­tel Brief. She showed us the first two pages and the sec­ond sto­ry. She has been blog­ging here all week for Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and MyJew­ish­Learn­ing

I keep a col­lec­tion in my head of the names of sto­ries, movies, pic­tures that seem per­fect to me. They all have a cer­tain feel to them.

The Artist of the Beau­ti­ful,” a sto­ry by Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Black Monk,” a sto­ry by Anton Chekhov
Charu­la­ta, a movie by by Satya­jit Ray
The Rules of the Game, a movie by Jean Renoir
The Deleuge at Norderny, a sto­ry by Isak Dine­sen
The Tem­pest, a play by William Shake­speare
The Enchant­ed Cas­tle, a nov­el for chil­dren by Edith Nes­bit
Alice in Won­der­land, by Lewis Car­roll
Ponyo, an ani­mat­ed movie by Hayao Miyaza­ki
Aladdin and oth­er sto­ries from the Ara­bi­an Nights
A lot of Japan­ese prints, Chi­nese scrolls, Islam­ic pictures

What do these things have in com­mon? A cer­tain mag­ic. I think it’s that they are all minia­tures, sto­ries glimpsed through a key­hole. I think comics are minia­tures, too.

For this sto­ry about Nasye Frug, I bor­rowed the but­ter­fly (not intro­duced in this page) fromThe Artist of the Beau­ti­ful, aspects of the gar­den from The Black Monk, the mar­riage from Charu­la­ta, the obser­vant girl char­ac­ter from Alice in Won­der­land.

I think Nasye was the most ambi­tious of the sto­ries I made for this project. I’ve had to do it over a few times to sim­pli­fy it. I do my first drafts painstak­ing­ly, with a lot of dif­fer­ent types of pens and white-out. Then I scan the pic­tures into the com­put­er and change them around a lot in pho­to­shop. I make lat­er drafts by print­ing out the first draft draw­ings, and trac­ing them quick­ly on a light table. These lat­er drafts are a lot of fun because I know what I’m doing and am con­fi­dent enough to impro­vise. The first drafts are stress­ful.
This is a page from the tenth and last sto­ry. A girl, much like Nasye, is wrestling with the angel of death, a car­toon, after hav­ing lost her fiance in the Tri­an­gle Shirt­waist Fire. This sto­ry was influ­enced by a com­ic I looked at but didn’t read by Rache­li Rot­tner called The Oth­er Side of the World. I like when more or less real­is­tic char­ac­ters inter­act with imag­i­nary ones. I think comics are the best medi­um for treat­ing fan­ta­sy as real­i­ty. Because they’re so sim­ple, and draw­ing in dif­fer­ent styles on one page is like hav­ing a con­ver­sa­tion in your head with imag­i­nary friends, dif­fer­ent ver­sions of yourself.


Peo­ple I’ve spo­ken to about the Bin­tel Brief agree that Abra­ham Cahan wrote some of the let­ters him­self. The con­nec­tive tis­sue of my com­ic, the part of the book I’m still work­ing on, will revolve around this mys­tery. It will be very loose and light and I’m ner­vous about mak­ing it come out just right, which is why I’ve saved this part of the book for last. I hope it will leav­en the sto­ries some­how. Any­way, fun fact about this nar­ra­tive: when­ev­er any char­ac­ter sets out to do some­thing (Abra­ham Cahan sets out to help the woman whose watch was stolen, I set out to learn about my cul­ture and her­itage) he or she will wake up, dis­ori­ent­ed, in his or her bed.

Liana Finck­’s Bin­tel Brief com­ic is being made with help from the Six Points Fel­low­ship for emerg­ing Jew­ish artists, a part­ner­ship between Avo­da Arts, JDub Records, and the Foun­da­tion for Jew­ish Cul­ture. The com­ic is being seri­al­ized inThe For­ward News­aper.

Liana Finck is the author of Pass­ing for Human and Excuse Me and a reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tor to The New York­er. She is a recip­i­ent of a Ful­bright Fel­low­ship, a New York Foun­da­tion for the Arts Fel­low­ship, and a Six Points Fel­low­ship for Emerg­ing Jew­ish Artists. She has had artist res­i­den­cies with Mac­Dow­ell, Yad­do, the Low­er Man­hat­tan Cul­tur­al Coun­cil, Head­lands Cen­ter for the Arts, and Willa­pa Bay.