When we read—as no doubt many of you did—in Boing Boing a couple of weeks ago, that Ivan Brunetti, one of alternative comics’ most talented degenerates was a contender for a spot as a replacement artist for Ernie Bushmiller’s long-running and much-loved strip, Nancy, we couldn’t help but attempt to get the back story from the artist, himself.
Sure Brunetti has demonstrated an ability to shift styles with an ease and precision matched only by a small handful of greats like Crumb and Clowes. And yes, he has, on occasion, demonstrated an affinity for the sentimentality of classic strips, with stories like “Wither Shermy?” penned shortly after the death of Charles Schulz, but the artist’s flagship title, Schizo, is more often than not a bastion of self-loathing and anti-everything rants.
We sent a message to Brunetti, asking, in a word: whaaaaa? The artist’s incredibly in-depth, and characteristically excruciating response is reprinted, after the jump.
Oh, and if you have a second, please some encouraging comments. Thanks.
I’ve always liked Nancy, and I was a big fan of those thematic Kitchen Sink collections. I often found myself looking for drawing “references” in Nancy strips; Bushmiller had a way of perfectly reducing an object into iconic form. I had harbored no intention, however, of drawing another artist’s strip, before I was invited to submit samples of my version of Nancy to the syndicate. At that time, I had already drawn several years’ worth of my own college strip (the less said of which, the better), plus I’d edited three issues of an anthology of comics, featuring my own work (i.e., with my own characters and stories).
I’d also drawn more than half of what became Schizo #1 by that point.
I was finishing up Schizo #1 at the same time I was drawing the Nancy
sample strips, as well as working a full-time job. So that was a pretty busy time. The portion of Schizo 1 that I was working on during that time ended up being the first 20 pages of the issue. So it might be interesting to compare those drawings with the Nancy submissions; I’m sure there was a cross-influence at times.
I sent Schizo #1 to the publisher in late December 1994, and it was promptly lost by UPS (I neglected to make any copies of the artwork, so the package contained the originals for all 48 pages plus the covers). A few days after Antarctic Press called me to ask, “Hey, did you ever mail us the issue?”, UPS was luckily able to track the package down.
Just after that, I finished the last couple of weeks of Nancy samples, and those were sent off towards the end of January 1995, just about the time I got a copy of the freshly printed Schizo #1 in the mail, which I arrogantly and foolishly mailed to all my favorite artists, something I would never do now. Amazingly, it got a
pretty good response, which threw me for a loop (again, the less said, the better). By the time United Media sent me a rejection letter in May 1995, I had already given up the idea of drawing Nancy. I knew I could never draw a daily strip for a living, as I was neither qualified for the job nor temperamentally suited for it.
Which is pretty much exactly where I am today. I have never been an artist full-time, not with my own work, or work for hire. I’m just a regular Joe, a full-time office worker, and always have been. Occasionally, I am inexplicably compelled to force myself to draw some emotionally wrenching and painful comics. Once every great while I am also asked to produce a commercial illustration (less personal and gut-wrenching, but just as nerve-wracking in a different way).
Sometimes I also manage to work on some other projects (editing an anthology, putting together an exhibit, writing a book on cartooning, and teaching—all of which I do in addition to my 40-hour a week job). There’s also the extra obstacle of suffering from a chronic, debilitating depression most of the time, which means essentially I do all this work with absolutely no joy or happiness of any kind. And then there are other (not related to depression) health problems, which
are chronic and irreversible, that complicate my life. Here’s the other great thing: everything is my own fauly, so I have to stare at my own failure every waking moment. Sometimes I feel guilty just for existing.
The last few months, but the last few weeks especially, I’ve been seriously considering folding up my drawing table and packing my art supplies into a box, just to get them out of my sight, since they have just been sitting there, mocking my very existence. I can hear the blank bristol board laughing at me. The blue pencils chortle then quickly look away. The pen nibs titter. (Note to all comics reviewers: I have never inked with a brush, only pens; I’m not sure why everyone gets that wrong, even after I tell them). I’m just exhausted, and sick of struggling, and all for what? I’m so paralyzed, all I can draw is geometric shapes, my desperate attempt to insert order into my life, and to stop trembling. The candlelight of sanity is at the ontological mercy of one short breath or an inadvertant breeze.
What was your question?