Interview: The Return of Joe Matt Pt. 2

Categories:  Interviews

Joe MattSome girls like the whole self-effacing thing—heck, it’s probably even possible to find a few out there who dig guys who draw funny cartoon books for a living. So, what exactly is it about Joe Matt that’s caused the artist to stay single for so long? Is it the whole masturbating 20 times a day, thing? Or maybe it’s the part about peeing into a jug to avoid contact with his fellow man? Or perhaps it’s the fact that he habitually catalogues such peculiar habits, for all the comic-reading public to see.

Whatever the case may be, Matt’s chronic dissatisfaction has proved an endless resource of comic fodder, through volumes of his tome, Peepshow, which countinues with the recent release of Spent, a collection of books from the aforementioned series. While we do honestly feel for the guy, there’s a definite sense that, were Joe Matt ever to become, you know, happy, his comics just wouldn’t be quite as good.

Does that make us bad people?

[Part One is here.]


How much of the new book do you have worked out?

I have the story worked out in my notes and in my head. It’s not solely focused around HBO. It’s more focused on one huge relationship that I’ve had out here, and a few smaller ones that preceded it.

Will you still be able to carry on with the introspection that you liked so much in [Spent]? Will that still translate?

Yeah, it will, but the focus will not be on porn addiction. It’ll be on other things, including more about money or TV—things other than porn.

Will there still be a lot you in a room?

Of course. The room is a constant. The room I had in Toronto was basically just transplanted in LA. As I’m speaking, I’m naked on the floor, with a small fan blowing on me, which could just as well be in Toronto. Another thing is, in Spent, even though I’m in my room all the time, I don’t draw myself naked, but I’m usually naked, all of the time. It’s not an appetizing thought, but I’m like a nudist. I like being naked. My life is basically my being in my room, naked, looking at books, all of the time.

Was Fair Weather a tough book to tackle, being so removed from this consistency of your adult life?

Yes. Fair Weather was just a weird exercise for me. I don’t know what I was doing. After I finished the Poor Bastard, I had no ideas. I had no relationships and nothing was going on in my life. I felt no suitable fodder for a book, and I was greatly influenced by Chester’s I Never Liked You, so I wanted to try to revisit my past, but it didn’t feel real to me. The picture of myself as a child just came out weird. It seemed like a mixture of Dennis the Menace and myself. Good God.

It’s an experiment that you’re not planning on repeating any time soon?

I plan on repeating it someday with a teenage version of myself, like high school and stuff. I do want to do that. I can only do one book about these things—a definitive childhood story and a definitive teenage story. I would like to capture my teenage years. It was a horrible period, and I’m scarred by it. Those memories very potent still.

Do you consider yourself a happier person now than you were back then?

Oh yeah, definitely. It’s weird, though “happier” is an odd phrase. What makes someone happy?

Are you less miserable? Is that more appropriate?

Well, what makes someone miserable? The reasons I was miserable in high school aren’t the same reasons I’m miserable now. Now we’re at a boom of comic strip and comic book reprints. You can buy every issue of the Fantastic Four in black and white, for next to nothing. You couldn’t do any of that in the comic shops when I was a teenager, in the late-70s. Now there’s so much more stuff out.

You can also do more now just because you’re an adult.

Exactly. I can buy all of the candy I want, and eat it [laughs].

I think most of us were miserable in our teen years. Do you feel like you were more unhappy than most?

I think everybody thinks that about themselves, but I’m sure were all just equally miserable, at least the more introspective, geeky types. Too often people just generalize other people. It’s like, “oh, those are the jocks and the geeks.” The whole hormonal, sexual thing was hard to endure. But I’m older now, so it’s not such a big deal.

Is there a universal aspect in all of your books? Do people pick them up because there’s something in each one that they can relate to?

Oh don’t know who picks up my books and why. I’m sure some of my readers relate to my character. I think a housewife in the middle of America can enjoy it for what it is. I try to adhere to a level of craft that makes it more universal, regardless of the content, but I don’t know if I’m succeeding…Sales indicate otherwise.

Can you point to something in Spent that a housewife in middle America can relate to?

Sure. I think any pleasurable addiction is universal. For a housewife, it’s drinking, while her husband is away, or overeating or something. Part of me is detached from my comics, as well. When I re-read that conversation with Chester and Seth, I still laugh. I’m my best audience. I find it funny. It’s almost like I’m removed from it. I recently had to do all of these proofreads and corrections for the new printing of The Poor Bastard, and while I read it, it was cracking my up. It was almost like I didn’t write it. Stuff in The Poor Bastard, like when I’m obsessed with this Asian girl, and she’s into Asyrian culture, and I read up on it, pretending to be knowledgable, it all happened, but reading it in the comic is like reading a scrapbook or photo album. It brings back the memories, and I laugh at myself.

–Brian Heater

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