Kevin Huizenga is a difficult artist to pin down, and the cartoonist, it seems, wouldn’t have it any other way. At any one moment, Huizenga is in the middle of a handful of a series for a handful of publishers. The combination of artist’s talent and seemingly endless output have made him one of the most visible indie cartoonists working today.
His creative restlessness, however, has assured that, while he’s got any number of on-going projects serialized at the same time, there’s little conceptual overlap from one to the next, even when—as is often the case—they star Huizenga’s empty vessel protagonist, Glenn Ganges.
In this second and final part of our interview with Huizenga, we discuss the magic of zines, writing about religion, and why you can’t please all the people, all the time.
When I was waiting to talk to you, some guy approached you with an [Will] Eisner quote—something about the importance of knowing ever yfacet of the book industry. You weighed in on the other side of that. You’re just interested in creating art and eating.
Yeah, well, it depends on what you need. I think if you’re someone who comes out of poverty and you come out of a background where you really need to fight your way up to the middle-class, then I can understand that attitude of hustling, where you’ve gotta know and work the deal and so forth. But I live relatively cheaply, and I’m lucky in that. I don’t have to worry about money too much, so, for me it’s like, if you start letting those worries about whether things will sell enough, if you start letting that enter into the process whereby you’re trying to be open to your personal inspiration and your personal muses—if you start letting the economic considerations into that process, it’s going to mess everything up.
Is there still that desire to appeal to as many people as possible?
You know, there used to be. I think, when I was starting out, I wanted to have a wide variety of readers who could understand and enjoy my work. And that makes sense. When you’re starting out, you’re always asking whether you’re doing stuff right. But in the last couple of years it’s changed so that I have enough confidence in myself now that I can just enjoy what I’m doing. I’m not as concerned that everyone likes each project. I’m just concerned that I like each project. I know that each project will have its own audience. Some people don’t like my Fight or Run strips, because they just don’t get it. Other people don’t like my wordy strips. Other people like my stuff that’s more abstract. So, I’m happy to just please myself. I can’t control what people like or dislike.
You pulled out a handful of minis earlier. Are you still actively producing those?
Yeah, for [SPX] I went to the copy shop and made two new zines. I still like that a lot, making my own zine. When I was in high school and came across that whole world of making your own comics and minis and zines, that saved my life. For me, it still has that excitement. I hope to keep doing that.
You’ve a few books for Drawn & Quarterly, but it seems like you bounce around a lot between different publishers.
It’s boring stuff. It’s not like there’s a grand scheme or plan. It’s just like someone happens to mention that they’d like to publish a certain thing, so I’m like, “yeah, okay.” There’s no scheme to have publishers answer to me, rather than me answer to them or something. Something comes up and it sounds like good idea and I go for it.
Are you producing the books first, or are the publishers approaching you to write a book for them?
At this point it still the case that the projects are suggested and then I fill the container. I’m not at the point yet where I’m driving everything. I like the idea of doing a series and having issue 6, 7, 8, and 9. I really like that idea. I just happen to have several series happening at the same time. But I like that, because I don’t think that the audience that like my sermon zines, I shouldn’t put it all Or Else. I try to keep it all separated into conceptual containers that make sense.
Was it ever hard to broach a topic so loaded as religion? Were you second-guessing yourself a lot?
Second-guessing, for me there’s always second-guessing—18, 20 guesses on every project. For me, the way I was raised, I’m not very confrontational at all, so I’m very much not out to cause any big splash or upset anybody, or anything like that—to a fault, probably. My attitude, a lot of times, is, ‘I would like to see that stuff published by someone else that I like.’ It’s kind of like a golden rule situation. I’d like to see other people’s sketchbooks and notes to themselves and stuff like that, so I feel okay to publish it myself.
In terms of putting roughs out there?
Yeah, roughs and sketchbook stuff and kind of unfinished stuff and the sermon doodles and stuff like that. I like that kind of stuff when I see it from other cartoonists, so that’s how I justify it.
What’s next on the schedule?
Well, I drove out here by myself, hoping that I would mediate on Ganges #3 and that didn’t happen on the ride out here. Maybe it’ll happen on the ride back. I’m working on writing that, and Or Else 6 is about half done, so I’ll put that to bed. That should be out pretty soon.
Does stuff come easier when you’re not forcing it?
There’s no hard and fast rule. Sometimes you have to force it and sometimes it just comes. It’s a mystery.