[Above: a cowardly Kanary Kid fleeing from a band of bees set to sting. Alliteration never looked so good.]
Did Tim Sievert caucus last month? Whom would he vote for? Are you his favorite cartoonist? What is his relationship with the sea? And who is the Kanary Kid? Learn all these things and more in the final installment of my interview with the recently published Timothy J. Sievert!
We also discuss his new book That Salty Air, if that kind of thing interests you.
Name some cartoonists you admire nowadays.
Do you read comics?
Not as much as I’d like to. Well, Vincent Stall is probably number one. I gotta say, after that, Brett VonSchlosser. Local legend. He is indeed my number two cartoonist of all-time. He makes me laugh so fuckin’ bad.
In his comics?
Yah. In real life he’s a total fucking bore. [laughter] No, he’s really funny. The thing is, I’m really ashamed of this: I’m really not as well-read in comics as I’d like to be.
Are you well-read in any other areas?
No! The thing is, the only thing I’m well-read in is comics and I’m not even well-read in that.
If comics were free would it be another matter?
If comics were free? No. Maybe. Let’s see…who do I like, who do I like? Now I’m just forgetting names. Lewis Trondheim I like a lot. You know, all those guys. Jason. I like him a lot. He’s a very nice guy.
You met him?
He came to MCAD once. He’s super nice and super quiet. He’s like his dudes.
Like an animal?
No. He’s definitely a dude.
Does he wear shoes?
He did when I saw him.
That’s great. What did he say to your class? Was he very inspiring? Did he inspire you to make some partially wordless comics like The Kanary Kid?
He might have. No, he came in and he didn’t talk too much. Maybe he’s not very confident in his English. He’s just very very quiet. He was there when they did that play. A local theater company did a play of one of his comics, I don’t remember which one, but somehow he came to MCAD and talked with us. He was a very nice guy. But, there are more cartoonists I like…I want to remember their names…
Just shout it out when you remember.
Yah. Can we come back to it?
Back to The Kanary Kid. Up ‘til now, that was the only comic of yours that I’ve read. It was 4-8 pages in a much longer set of minis and it read like a snapshot of a larger story. In this particular issue I own, I think he was running through the forest. So what are your plans for that comic?
I don’t really think I have plans for it.
Oh, but you’ve made plushie toys for it and everything!
Well, the first Kanary Kid I made – wait, which one do you have?
Red, I think.
Ooh! Halloween Special. No, the first one I did at MCAD I did in a screen printing class because I wanted to screen print a comic. I don’t remember exactly where it came from. Just kind of a yellow guy running from things, but I liked it. Other people seemed to like it. Then in the one you have, the red one, dialog is introduced for the first time. He just kind of developed into this silent, bumbling, cowardly character who gets himself into trouble and kind of gets his ass kicked for it.
Do you feel like you identify with that kind of character at all?
No, I’m really a tough mother. Nobody mess with me. No, I mean, I guess I do. I guess I don’t. For me, making Kanary Kid comics has been more of a thoughtless process. I’m just going to relax and do something.
Are you working on anything else right now?
I have another one about to go into the oven. Uh, it’s still in the planning stages, but I’m excited to get working on it because I know it’s going to take a long time to get done.
So have you written it? Or scripted it?
No. It’s all short little segments that I have in my head. None of it’s down on paper yet, which is a shame. I’ve gotta do that.
So are you prepared to talk about it yet or is it Top Secret?
I don’t know. If I talk about it, that means I actually have to do it. If I don’t…I’d say it’s really too early to say anything.
So what is your new book [That Salty Air] all about?
It’s about a young man and his young wife, and…man, now’s when I get to sound really dumb. [laughter] ‘It’s about this guy…’ I guess, more generally speaking, it’s about change in your life and when change is thrust upon you rather than chosen and how you can react to those kind of things. And also, what can happen if you don’t react in the correct way.
You wrote this story in college. What inspired you at that time to write a story like this?
My mom passed away very suddenly one night. The main character in That Salty Air is informed that his mother has passed away and it’s about how he reacts to that in the context of where he lives and what he does. In October 2004, I got a call from my dad and he said I’d better come home. So I went home for a week or two, and when I came back…things were tough. At that point, I was trying to get ready for my last semester of school, when I would have to do my senior project. It just kind of came together at the last minute.
Did you write a story like this, coming out of those events, because you felt like there was something you could have done for your mom? Like, if something could have happened differently, maybe things could have changed for her?
Well, the story is more about reaction. In the story, his mom dies and he reacts in a way that just makes the situation worse rather than try to move forward from it.
What is your relationship with the sea?
Because you grew up in the Midwest, without oceans, and it seems as though most of the experiences that shaped you (as far as I know) were pretty regional. So what’s the draw then to the sea? Did you spend any time there when you were younger? How did you feel comfortable using this kind of setting when it’s not really a part of your present?
I don’t think that I do really feel that comfortable talking about that kind of setting. No, that was a big struggle I had the whole time. You know, I’m drawing a dude on a boat and I don’t’ really know what a boat looks like. He’s a fisherman and he does all these fisherman things, but I don’t really know what a fisherman does! I don’t know how it works, but to me the ocean has always been the only thing (other than outer space) that I am just afraid of. I am scared of water. Not, like, water water, but…Deep. Dark. Water. Early into college I started reading books about giant squid and other mysterious things about the ocean. Originally, before my mom died, I was trying to work on this story and get it to somewhere I knew it would be good. It had a lot of the same characters in it doing a lot of different things. It had more to do with this dude and a giant squid and a weird relationship between them. And that’s what That Salty Air is, definitely, but it certainly got a push now. I’d been working on that kind of stuff for awhile but it just kind of came together. But, definitely the sea is something I’m afraid of. It’s very mysterious.
How do you feel about lakes?
See, lakes are kind of the same thing to me! Like, big lakes. Even if you can see the other side of a lake, you can’t see the bottom. I don’t like that. [laughter] I mean, I do like that, but it’s weird. My family always goes on vacation to this lake in Michigan and when I was a kid I was never a very strong swimmer, so I would never go out deep or anything. Then I turned about 13 or 14 and I was like, ‘Pff, I’m swimming out into the middle of the lake! I’m not afraid of anything!’ I’d go in and not think anything of it. Now though, whenever I go into a lake, the minute I can’t touch the bottom I start to panic. I don’t like it at all. It scares me.
Does that describe how you live your life in other areas? You have to have your feet on the bottom? Or do you take many risks.
Oh, man…I think I’m willing to take risks. And if I have to swim into the middle of a lake I will, it’s just not something I comfortably enjoy doing.
What was the last thing you bought from a vending machine?
Probably a Dr. Pepper.
Are you going to sew any plushie things for this book like you did for The Kanary Kid?
No, I don’t think so. No merchandise.
Do you hope to stay with the same publisher for your future books?
When I started getting into alternative and indie comics, I just liked Top Shelf’s the best.
When did you start reading them?
What was out then that you enjoyed?
There was that Bug House book. I liked that book. To me, I like Top Shelf a lot. I’ve met those guys and I really like what they’re trying to do and what they’ve done. I would definitely like to work with them a lot more.
It sounds like they were kind of your dream publisher to begin with.
Yah, I mean, when Blankets came out they were hitting on something really great. That book, for me, changed a lot. After that point the name Top Shelf was something you recognized.
Are you a pet owner?
Whose dog is that? [There is a dog running around Puny Entertainment, where Tim works]
That’s somebody else’s dog.
Is it distracting?
It kind of annoys me just how people treat the dog. They’re always locking it to things and not letting it do what a dog does, or when it is running around they just try making it go crazy. So it gets really annoying and loud.
Is this your best job ever?
Gonna stick around?
For awhile, yah.
Are you thinking that you’re a Minneapolis lifer?
I don’t know. I could definitely say yah. I could definitely be here forever. It’s a nice place. But I don’t know.
Where would you go?
I have no idea.
Would you go to a community that seems to attract a lot of other cartoonists like Portland or New York or Chicago?
Well, I’m out of meaty questions, so I’m just drawing out time hoping you’ll remember that person from awhile back, whose comics you really liked.
Well, there’s plenty of people I could say. –Kevin Cannon! Who is in my opinion the most talented and most hard-working motherfucker on the planet. All the guys that everybody likes, I like those guys too. Charles Burns, Dan Clowes, Craig Thompson…
Do you think you’ve found your style?
No. I think I lost it.
Ha! Really? Ain’t got no style?
I definitely don’t. That Salty Air is done in a style that I could find it again, but the way I’ve been drawing lately [since the re-draw] is not like that at all.
So the first version was different from the second version, which is even different from what you’re doing right now. How does that feel?
It doesn’t feel very good. I’m glad I’ve moved away from the first version. The second version is a lot like the first version only better. Smoother, cleaner, more refined. Necks aren’t as long as they were in the first version. There were some loooonnnnggg necks. But it might be just the drawing materials I’m using now.
What are you using right now?
I’m drawing with a flare pen and a brush pen and a rotring.
Do you work at all on your hand-lettering?
I try to write as much as possible. So, I think I’m working on hand lettering every day. To me, hand lettering is just the way I write. So, I can’t imagine trying to get it somewhere that it’s not. But I can definitely see it getting better than it is right now. –I almost had it.
Yah, he does Kane and he did Jack Staff.
Do you want to look it up before I leave?
No, I want to remember it. –Paul Grist! Kane is a wonderful book that I like very much. Who else do I like? Let’s see. Let’s get this right…
Are you excited about the next Presidential election? Are you really pumped up about it?
Did you caucus?
Yes I did!
Who did you vote for?
That’s none of your business.
I didn’t get to caucus.
Well, did you want to?
It’s really boring. We got to hear a bunch of old ladies argue about the rules for about an hour. Somebody made a motion to do this thing, then we all said “No!” or “Nay!” to do that thing. Actually, this lady made this motion to do this thing, so we argued about it for 25 minutes, then when we voted on it, the lady who made the motion was the only one against it.
It was not funny. I almost threw a chair at her. [laughter]