I dunno. That’s tough. I guess each comic is derived from whatever place I’m coming from at the time. Most of them are very personal, even if they don’t appear to directly be about me. I’ve definitely tried to get away from straight personal narrative comics as much as possible, but I think that’s translated into using metaphor as a stand-in for my personal life. Usually the process of making work is a way for me to find catharsis, so my comics almost always come from something that I’m experiencing at the time. I guess I try to balance that out by being visually creative. Over the past few years I’ve been moving more and more into dream-like, psychedelic and abstract imagery.
Tell us about Trubble Club….
Well, Trubble Club started about a year and a half ago in August ’08.
Some of us were beginning to get together to draw and a few impromptu jam-comics were coming out of that, and then it was suggested that it might be fun to meet in a larger group and see what happened. Right away it seemed like a very natural process and it was a lot of fun for everyone involved. We just started meeting every Sunday after that and never stopped. As far as making a jam-comic, basically someone starts by drawing the first panel and then it gets passed around the group until it’s finished. We usually have a dozen or so comics going at once. Most of them are a single page in length with a six panel grid, but occasionally they deviate in structure or go longer, depending on what feels right. There’s a lot of intuition involved. Pretty much anything goes, with the understanding that each contribution should propel the story along in some way, and that there is an internal logic to each comic that should be acknowledged if you’re going to work on it. The general consensus within the comics community seems to be that jam-comics, while fun to work on, usually don’t turn out very well. I think the only reason our jam-comics are readable is because we’re treating them with the same respect that we instill upon our own work. The group, for the most part, is usually on the same page. That doesn’t mean that we don’t surprise each other. I definitely think that everyone wants to draw a panel that makes the rest of the group laugh or that grosses everyone out. Almost everyone in Trubble Club has said that by being in the group they’ve made choices they wouldn’t normally make as an artist and that it’s influenced the way they make their own work. It’s also brought us closer together as friends.
I regularly correspond with my grandmother on my mother’s side, so like, a week ago.
What was the last movie soundtrack you bought?
Man, the soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas has been on major heavy rotation in my room ever since the holidays. Vince Guaraldi is amazing. The music is just so familiar that it’s kind of soothing. It’s really good background music, too, if I’m drawing or writing. I don’t even really associate it with Christmas anymore. Weird.
Garfield or Heathcliff?
Garfield, hands down. No contest. Although Heathcliff did have a wicked snaggle tooth and a way better theme song, Garfield is iconic. Say what you will about his tepid non-humor, but the design of the characters is amazing in its simplicity. Such pleasing round shapes. So easy on the eye. Although have you read Garfield lately? It’s not looking as good. I think since Jim Davis gave up most of the hands-on work to his draw squad Paws Inc. it’s gotten really sloppy. Most of the humor now is based on weird visual gags, where Jon’s face will be contorting from panel to panel as he fumes over something Garfield did. And there are a lot of Photoshop gradients involved. The character design has gone bonkers. They’re all rubbery now, and the humor is less wry. Now it’s more akin to Tex Avery (who was great, but still). On a side note, however, there’s something to be said about this recent wave of Garfield-deconstructionist work (Garfield Minus Garfield, Lasagna Cat, etc). It’s almost as though the world had to endure decades of Jim Davis’ banal musings just to get to the actually hilarious work that it inspired. It’s probably the best thing to ever happen to Garfield.
Do clothes make the man?
Well, I’ve been wearing the same clothes for over a week. A grey hoodie over a wrinkled t-shirt that looks like it got hit with buckshot, and my pant legs are all uneven, because I tried to trim them without taking them off. I’ve actually been giving some thought to this question lately, given my current uniform. Didn’t Einstein wear the same thing every day and he’s touted as history’s original GZA. He did it so that he wouldn’t have to expend any unnecessary brain power on making what he considered trivial decisions, and be able to fully concentrate on his work. I’m definitely no Einstein, but I do kind of feel like I do the same thing with day-to-day decisions like what clothes I should wear and what food I should eat. I’ve let a lot of things fall by the wayside, while I focused on making comics, and that worked for awhile, I’ve been very productive, but I just turned 30 recently and I kind of feel like maybe I should try concentrating more on the small stuff for awhile and improve my quality of life. I mean, I don’t regret being a slob in order to draw every chance I got. I have friends who are amazing artists, but who hardly ever make work because they have their lives in such spectacular order. Being responsible has eaten up all their time. There’s no right way, I guess, just whatever works for the moment.
The only thing I don’t like about Chicago is the winter. I’ve lived here for eleven years and I can’t think of anywhere else that I’d rather be. Although San Francisco does have amazing food.
When did you start doing comics?
Oh, I think I started doing comics when I was really young. Like third or fourth grade. But all my early characters either looked a lot like Bart Simpson or I was literally appropriating pre-existing characters like Ren and Stimpy for my own comics. I was obsessed with the Far Side, which I would cut out of the newspaper and tape into a lined notebook. And there’s a very early comic I did called Garfield vs Snoopy, where they were pitted against each other in a boxing ring. Garfield, who was drawn morbidly obese, started wailing on Snoopy, until the tables turned when ‘The Snoops’ pulled out a hockey stick and beat the living daylights out of him. Things go too far when Garfield gets jabbed in the belly with the hockey stick and he vomits everywhere. Snoopy drowns in the wave of filth and is seen being carted away on a gurney, while Garfield, who is now incredibly skinny, laments his ruined reputation. So both of them lost the match, I guess. Um, after that stuff I started putting out comic-zines in high school and doing a regular strip for my college newspaper and eventually submitting comics to anthologies and self-publishing books. Top Shelf just put out my new book Comic Diorama last fall, which was a pretty nice 30th birthday present for me.
Sandwich or Burrito?
Burrito. Especially if I’m drunk.