Interview: Jesse Reklaw

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Wake up in the morning with a dream you vaguely remember. Sit down at the breakfast table and open up the comics page to see your dream illustrated by Jesse Reklaw. Ha! You’re still dreaming. Maybe. Pinch yourself, and then get to the computer and type that illustrious vision into and push Submit Dream. Your chances of reading that dream in the paper have just improved, if only slightly. Jesse Reklaw is on the other end of the channel, receiving some 30 odd submissions a week. He might be too tired still to draw yours.

“I wish I could every morning, but often I am just too sleepy,” Jesse admits. “But the days when I can wake up and go straight to the drawing board are best. Drawing comics cheers me up, and I often forget that.”

Slow Wave was one of the earliest Webcomics, and after twelve years, it’s likely the longest running. The weekly strip can be read online or in weekly alternative papers . When you’re at Jesse’s Qebsite, check for the departure in style as he documents his book tour.

“I’ve been doing comics readings while I’m on tour with my new Slow Wave collection. Comics projected onto the big screen for a whole crowd to watch is pretty lucid. I’ll be doing a couple of events like this next month, most notably the Cartoon Art Museum reading Saturday November 1st (first night of APE), with Keith Knight, Trevor Alixopulos, Julia Wertz, David King, Hellen Jo, and Olga V.”

Dark Horse Comics published a hard cover edition of Slow Wave. But, it’s not the first; Shambala Publications published Dreamtoons in 2000, collecting the best of the strip’s first three years.

“I don’t think different planes of reality can be accessed in a comic, but I have had epiphanies from comics, just as from film and literature. Jim Woodring, Daniel Clowes, and Gilbert Hernandez have all changed my mind about reality through their comics.”

If you dip into the Shambala Publications catalog, you may learn of extraordinary experiences of the human body’s energetic double that travels away from the body to an astral realm while dreaming. Jesse exclaims, “Maybe that explains why sometimes I feel so energized after drawing!”

In November, Jesse Reklaw will tour with another visionary of independent comics, Theo Ellsworth. “I’ve been putting some cartoonists in my tour diary. It would be cool if those cartoonists did diary comics that had me in them too.”

“In my diary comics I’ve been trying to put my hopes and fears into each day, so that the later comics will connect to them, showing what did or didn’t happen. I don’t know if that will all read well later though. In Slow Wave, where I draw other people’s dreams, I sometimes have to make up details about room furnishings and the way people look. It’s uncanny sometimes when people say I drew things exactly as they are.”

Jesse portends, “Am I clairvoyant? Or just lucky sometimes? Like all creative people, sometimes I make a comic that suggests more to me than what I intended. It’s pretty great when that happens.”

“Comics are a way of communicating through icons and essentials,” Jesse explINA. “Sometimes I find myself drawing things and not quite realizing why they work–but they do. I must be semi-consciously, intuitively using the language of comics.” And the Slow Wave dream is alive in the world much as something in a dream you were holding, and kept holding onto when you awoke.

–Arthur Smid

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