Saturday, December 19, 2009

Patricia Highsmith, comic book writer

I'm pretty sure the NY Times has now published three reviews of Joan Schenkar's new biography of Patricia Highsmith. This must be quite a book. The latest review, by Jeanette Winterson, makes fleeting note of Highsmith's days as a comic book writer.

"Highsmith had a kind of archive- attachment disorder; she adored lists. She chronicled, mapped, numbered and cross-referenced everything in her life, and even rated her lovers, but she wiped out what didn’t suit her and only vaguely acknowledged, when pressed by the more ferrety kind of interviewer, having conjured up a few story lines for Superman and Batman.

"In fact her job was much less glamorous than plotting for those superheroes, but the comic strip formula of threat/pursuit/fantasy life/alter ego/secret identity was the formula she used in all her work. The four-color, six-panel comic strip shaped Patricia Highsmith the crime writer like nothing else — however much she cared to cite Dostoyevsky and Henry James."

For the rest go here:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/20/books/review/Winterson-t.html?ref=books

I got curious about her connection to comic books and looked around on the web to see what I could find. Here's from Wikpedia:

"In 1942 Highsmith graduated from Barnard College, where she had studied English composition, playwriting and the short story. Living in New York City and Mexico between 1942 and 1948, she wrote for comic book publishers. Answering an ad for "reporter/rewrite," she arrived at the office of comic book publisher Ned Pines and landed a job working in a bullpen with four artists and three other writers. Initially scripting two comic book stories a day for $55-a-week paychecks, she soon realized she could make more money by writing freelance for comics, a situation which enabled her to find time to work on her own short stories and also live for a period in Mexico. The comic book scriptwriter job was the only long-term job she ever held.[3]

7 comments:

Mike Rea said...

I would reccomen checking out this month's issue of Alter Ego. There is an article about Miss Highsmith's time at Timely\Atlas\Marvel comics. The article has an interview with a co-worker from the time.

Charlieopera said...

I have the bio and can't wait to start it. The Ripley series was BRILLIANT.

Paul D. Brazill said...

I knew nothing about this. great stuff!

Martin Edwards said...

Highsmith as comic book writer! My mind is still boggling....

Deb said...

I just finished Andrew Wilson's earlier bio of Highsmith, Beautiful Shadow. There is some mention of her work in comic books there.

BTW, I suspect Highsmith had Asperger's Syndrome (functioning autism). A member of my family has it and the traits are strikingly similar to Highsmith's characteristics.

Jill Dearman said...

About ten years ago I saw a small, academic-style documentary about Highsmith about the Museum of Modern Art in NYC. It was the first time I ever heard of her comic book connection. They said that she wrote "scenarios" for comics. The new bio is delish!
--Jill Dearman
www.bangthekeys.com

Bill Chance said...

I am returning to Patricia Highsmith after rediscovering a short story she wrote about giant man-eating snails.

I'll have to look for that biography, she seems as interesting as any of her characters.

http://billchance.org/2012/06/02/the-quest-for-the-blank-claveringi/