Don’t worry about a style. It will creep up on you and eventually you will have to undo it in order to go further. Be like a river and accept everything.
A beautiful strip like Pogo would be impossible to read at today’s sizes. Adventure strips are dead. Comics have been deprived of much of their ability to entertain. Now we have a lot of talking heads and gags that could be read with equal effect on the radio.
Nicholas Mahler applied to the art school when he was like twenty-five, and he also showed some comics and the professor said, “These are interesting drawings… but you are working in a genre… hmm, you use narrative sequences…” and Nicholas said, “you can call it comics” and then he said, “I didn’t want to offend you.”
I have no interest in turning my characters into commodities. If I’d wanted to sell plush garbage, I’d have gone to work as a carny.
To save space, newsprint, and money, newspapers have been reducing the size of comics for years. It has gotten to the point now, where cartoons can no longer do what they do best. Comic strips are words and pictures, but there is little room for either any more.
New cartoonists don’t have to reinvent the wheel. They can build on others’ accomplishments. Books allow cartoons to live longer and that’s a real service.
Autobiographical work is inherently fairly self-centered, but hearing that it helped someone get through something alleviates the guilt, which is also a self-centered thing to say, but it’s true.
What I do is form, whereas the comic strip is not formed in the sense I’m using the word; the comics have shapes but there has been no effort to make them intensely unified. The purpose is different: one intends to depict, and I intend to unify.
I’m convinced that licensing would sell out the soul of Calvin and Hobbes. The world of a comic strip is much more fragile than most people realize. Once you’ve given up its integrity, that’s it. I want to make sure that never happens. Instead of asking what’s wrong with rampant commercialism, we ought to be asking, “What justifies it?”. Popular art does not have to pander to the lowest level of intelligence and taste.
Doing one’s work and eschewing more financially beneficial options might seem groundbreaking to people who are used to consuming mass marketed things, but in the world of indie comics, it’s incredibly common. Comics, for the most part, are weird and nonsensical and have no place in a commodified culture.
Style is a funny word — we all think we know what it means because we look at a cartoonist’s work and we see the evidence of it there. It is right on the surface. However, the funny thing about style is that it is a misleading concept. Many young artists have the mistaken idea that you pick a style and draw in that style. Some people manage to do it this way. However, in my own experience it seems more likely that the style picks you.
Style is a capitalist invention. It’s a trademark. It’s very useful in the world of commerce to have a good trademark, but it wasn’t my first concern. I got restless…
All of my characters take on a life of their own, and I have notions as to what happens to each of them. Enid and Rebecca talk occasionally, but it’s kind of awkward, perhaps they exchange birthday cards; David Boring died of starvation after resorting to cannibalism, etc.
Either you remember your dreams and write them down or you make your dreams and see what they were after you’ve drawn and written them.
I don’t remember who said this, but the more simplistic a drawing, the easier it is for readers to project themselves into it. When the art is overly complicated, it might look pleasing, but it isolates the reader, making them feel as though they’re reading a story that is completely someone else’s.
You have to make peace with your limitations, with what you can do. Then think about what you’d really like to do, which is the hard part. You have to think, I can do anything and be anywhere, so where do I want to be?
The “words & pictures” that make up the comics language are often described as prose and illustration combined. A bad metaphor: poetry and graphic design seems more apt.
Tintin was fundamentally too sexless to really catch on in America. There are hardly any girls in Hergé’s stories, and there’s also a peculiar sense of responsibility and respect in Tintin that is antithetical to the American character, or at least that of the budding individualist nine-year-old boy who just wants to set things on fire and has been weaned on much more outrageous stories.
Comics can have a pleasing stillness and quietness. It irritates me when comics try to attach themselves to a music scene, like “punk” or “noise” or “rock n’ roll” comics. Those things are about sounds, and comics are about still, silent sequences of images.
Cartoonists are all paid more poorly than a prose author would ever be, and this isn’t even factoring in all of this extra work. How many prose authors have to set their own type, do their own covers and learn production for offset printing so that the ink traps properly?
If you ask someone who works in comedy what is the most difficult part of being professionally funny, many, if not most of them, will tell you it’s the depression. I’m not saying all funny people are depressed, but having spent a lot of time with cartoonists, comedians and comedy writers over the past decade, I can assure you that the percentage of those struggling with depression is higher than average.
My theory is that since the best comedy often springs from tragedy, cynicism, sarcasm and misanthropy, those who excel in comedy usually come from a background comprised of those events and character defects.
If I’m happy and healthy, does it have a negative effect on my comedic work? And the answer is that I don’t know. And I don’t particularly care. If being a good comedy writer means I have to be depressed, then fuck it, I quit. The world doesn’t need any more fart jokes anyways.
Comics has a bad relationship with hip hop, I always say that it’s a one way relationship. Hip hop loves comics more than the comics community as a whole is willing to let in real black culture. It’s still a white dude club on the whole, and that needs to change.
I wake up every morning at 7:30 and read the paper and drink chocolate milk, then take my daughter to school. I run errands during the day, and tend to get to work at nighttime, going steadily till three in the morning on different things. I put my paintbrush down, and pick up my guitar ten feet away and try out my new flanger pedal for an hour, then I paint for an hour, and then I make something out of chopsticks and flexi-straws, and then I might write a short story. I don’t find that hard to do, it’s just the way I do it. I notice inspiration when it comes by. I don’t sit down at my desk and try to write; rather, I work at something else and then I’ll get an idea for a story and make a note. That’s how I jump from medium to medium. If you keep pushing paint when you’re tired of it, you lose sensitivity. I can only focus on painting for a few hours, so I’ll stop and work on something quite different. Making art, I try to just gently persist, instead of having freak-outs where I’m like, Oh, my god, I’ll never draw again. You are going to draw again, so you might as well relax.
The visual attraction of the comics is largely a thing of the past. Until something is done to restore the size of comics, they will only continue to get more insipid, and have less pull on their audiences. To save a few inches of space, newspapers are killing the appeal of comics. Unfortunately, the syndicates and cartoonists are afraid newspapers would drop strips rather than add space if cartoons were printed larger, so few are willing to take a stand on this issue. Nobody wants to lose his strip over a few little picas.
Peanuts is long overdue for a serious reappraisal. Its ubiquitous licensing program unfortunately obscures what a well-crafted, beautifully written and drawn strip it is. Peanuts is one of the very rare strips with true heart. The sophistication and subtlety of the work is unbelievable. Comics don’t come better than this.
Art in comics should always be intertwined with the narrative so that neither can function on their own. If the art only compliments or shows what the narrative is, it’s pointless. If a story can exist without the visual or the word bubbles in the visual, you might as well just write a novel.