To create the onscreen comic book whose melancholy images underscore the weighty emotion of “Rabbit Hole,” artist Dash Shaw got into the character of the script’s troubled teen cartoonist — not as thespian but as technician.
Shaw, whose graphic novel, “The Bottomless Belly Button,” was published in 2008, typically works with pen and ink, drawing flat panels intended for printing. For the film’s book, he switched to kids’ glitter glue, highlighters, silver Sharpies, paint markers and other craft supplies, implements easily obtained by a high-schooler.
“Since Jason (the movie’s 15-year-old cartoonist) is not making something to be printed, there could be actual texture,” Shaw says. “I tried to have gooey, messy, paint-y stuff in there.”
Shaw drew “as Jason” again by lending his steady hand to each close-up of the character’s active drawing.
“It was really strange to have to draw with a camera over you and get it right,” Shaw says. “It’s very hard. … There’s a lot of pressure.”
“Rabbit Hole” director John Cameron Mitchell hired Shaw after seeing his online comic “BodyWorld” and “The Unclothed Man in the 35th Century A.D.,” an IFC series. Together, Mitchell and Shaw dreamed up a humanistic, sci-fi comic brimming with tiny faces, the same family inhabiting endless realities.
“With John, it was really important that the little faces have a psychology,” Shaw explains. “It sounds silly, because they’re simple, dumb-looking faces, but just having the eyebrow a little bit different (made a difference). Each face conveys a specific feeling.”
Shaw is currently in production on an animated feature that he has written and is directing, “The Ruined Cast,” with Mitchell producing.