Tooks, Lance 1962-

views updated

TOOKS, Lance 1962-

PERSONAL: Born September 15, 1962, in Brooklyn, New York; son of Lawrence Edward (an artist and composer) and Hazel (a homemaker; maiden name, Fields) Tooks. Ethnicity: African American. Education: Attended the High School of Art and Design, New York, NY. Politics: Independent. Religion: "Atheist." Hobbies and other interests: Films, books, music.

ADDRESSES: Home—Madrid, Spain. Agent—Tanya McKinnon, Mary Evans, Inc., 242 East 5th St., New York, NY 10003. E-mail—[email protected]; [email protected].

CAREER: Graphic Artist, animator, writer, publisher. Marvel Comics, New York, NY, 1979-82, became assistant editor; worked in video stores; Broadcast Arts, New York, animator, storyboardist, character designer, inker, painter, 1987-93; Music Television (MTV), New York, inker (Daria, Hate, Spygroove), 1998-2000; Nickelodeon, New York, digital character designer, 1999-2000; freelancer.

AWARDS, HONORS: Art excellence award, cartooning, High School of Art and Design, 1980; Narcissa was named one of the ten best books of 2002 by Publishers Weekly.


(Illustrator) Herb Boyd, Black Panthers for Beginners, Writers & Readers Publishing, 1996.

Narcissa (graphic novel), edited by Deborah Cowell, Doubleday (New York, NY), 2002.

Created comic book Danger Funnies, Cry for Dawn Press, 1993; self-published as DangerHouse comics Divided by Infinity, 1994, and Muthafucka, 1998; contributor to comics, books, and anthologies, including Spike Lee's Floaters (five-part miniseries), Dark Horse Comics, 1994-95; adaptation of Mark Twain's A Dog's Tale, Eureka Press, 2003; and Art and Soul, 2003; contributor to periodicals, including ZuZu, Shade, Vibe, Girltalk (fantagraphics), World War 3 Illustrated, Lupo Alberto (Italy), and Pure Friction.

WORK IN PROGRESS: Adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's The Bottle Imp, for Eureka Press; four original graphic novels for N. B. M. Publishing, titled Lucifer's Garden of Verses; Danger High, a young adult illustrated novel; research on Nathaniel Hawthorne for an adaptation of "Rappaccini's Daughter."

SIDELIGHTS: Lance Tooks's Narcissa was published by Doubleday, by invitation, and is the first graphic novel the company has produced. It was subsequently named one of the best graphic novels of 2002 by Publishers Weekly.

Tooks began his art career at a very young age. As a child, he was influenced by his talented father, who involved his family in recording and singing, having them take parts in his theater productions and perform in his musicals. Tooks told Denise Sudell of Sequential Tart online that his father had so many interests that he switched gears frequently. Tooks chose to concentrate on comics as a way to express himself. He said that his father taught him to read when he was two, and by the time he was three, he was reading everything, including The Hulk and The Invisible Man. As a teen, he began drawing his own characters, and he attended New York's High School of Art and Design. Tooks was interning with Marvel at the age of sixteen, and the comics giant named him an assistant editor when he was eighteen, a position he held for three years.

After leaving Marvel, Tooks spent several years working in video stores, thinking that by studying the films, he could get into filmmaking. He told Sudell that he has collected about ten thousand movies over the years. He then went to work for Broadcast Arts, producers of Peewee's Playhouse, and this began his nearly fifteen years of working in animation. At the same time, he wrote, drew, and published his own black-and-white comic books. Tooks then became a freelancer and worked on a number of projects

Tooks's graphic novel is about a young, black, female, independent filmmaker whose project focuses on a black activist theater group in Brooklyn's Fort Greene neighborhood. She is signed to write and direct the feature-length indie film after a production company is impressed by one of her shorts. Her white, male producer wants the protagonist to be a white, inner-city schoolteacher and also plans to change the title to something that rated high with a test market. He resists using black production workers in his black films and incorporates as many negative black stereotypes as possible. The stressed Narcissa is told that she may have only a few days to live, and she seeks escape by taking the next flight leaving from the airport—the destination of which is Madrid. What she finds in Spain is an elderly woman who opens her eyes to her possibilities and a romance with a handsome Spaniard.

Booklist's Gordon Flagg commented that "Tooks's distinctively dynamic visual style features boldly simple drawings that flow across the pages." A Publishers Weekly reviewer wrote that Tooks "has written an affecting book that skewers the movie business while offering a black heroine driven by both work and the possibilities of love." A reviewer at On the Shelves online remarked that "Narcissa is like no other heroine in contemporary black fiction; she has no support of 'sistas' to fall back on, her relationship with her parents is strained at best, and religion plays absolutely no role in her life."

Robert Ryan Langer of Fiction Addiction online added that "in Narcissa, the graphics are more than illustrations that merely show a photographic representation of a given scene; drawn in thick black lines, these spare pictures eloquently and powerfully depict how Narcissa sees her world. The occasional photographic background accents the surreal nature of Narcissa's journey into the heart of her own personal darkness. This graphic novel it truly a work of art."

Tooks told CA: "My primary motivation for writing has always been my own enjoyment in telling stories. Comics are usually dismissed by critics (American only) as being a degraded medium and the type I generally write, which I consider 'romance' comics, even more so. For me, comics are every bit as artistically valid as film, music, and prose fiction. I feel they combine the rhythmic storytelling present in music with film's ability to show the exterior elements of a character's life and prose fiction's strength at displaying his interior life. Another motivation for my writing is my growing discomfort with the direction my country of origin (United States) is taking in the world. I've always included a political element in the work I do, but I feel a sense of urgency as I see things going from bad to worse.

"My primary influence is my late father, Ed Tooks, who was a painter, photographer, singer, playwright, and composer (in collaboration with my uncle, George Tooks). He taught me by example that art is art, regardless of the chosen media. His works were always pro-peace, pro-love, pro-intellect—in other words pro-life. There's no shortage of creators willing to create works of the other kind. An artist's work should represent what he stands for.

"I'm also influenced by my love of film and music. Filmmakers like Welles, Bunuel, and Cassavettes are as much an influence as Prince, the Beatles, and Stevie Wonder. Many comic artists have influenced me, and not wanting to emulate someone can be considered an influence too. Artists like Marie Severin, Steve Ditko, and Jim Steranko have been a positive influence in my formative years.

"My writing process begins with a period of research and design, creating the basic look of characters and charting the basic story arc for starters. Then there is an organic process during which key moments and scenes are illustrated with dialogue and narration, like building a skeleton. I jump from the end to the beginning to the middle, and so forth, throwing out entire scenes and pages of the artwork and text if they aren't absolutely essential to the story. I lay dozens of pages out on the floor and always design pages in pairs. I fill in the expository stuff, and if I'm satisfied, it's finished.

"I write love stories because that's what matters to me. There hasn't been a market for romance comics for years, so that's not a factor. I also have a yearning to see certain types of stories featuring black protagonists, so I create to fulfill that need in myself. Finally, politics affect every aspect of our lives. I feel it's an artist's duty to say where he stands on things, perhaps so that like-minded readers won't feel so alone."



Booklist, October 15, 2002, Gordon Flagg, review of Narcissa, p. 376.

Publishers Weekly, September 23, 2002, review of Narcissa, p. 52.


Fiction Addiction, (March 20, 2004), review of Narcissa.

Lance Tooks Home Page, (September 2, 2003).

On the Shelves, (March 20, 2004), review of Narcissa.

Sequential Tart, (July, 2003), Denise Sudell, "Giant Dog, Single Mothers, and Groucho Bronte: Lance Tooks Draws Like Himself" (interview).