Interview: Bob Fingerman Pt. 1 [of 3]

Categories:  Interviews

In 2003, Fantagraphics released Beg the Question. The 240 page hardcover book collected the entire run of Bob Fingerman’s mid-90s series, Minimum Wage—which, to this day, remains the author’s best known work. The mini-series follows the story of cartoonist and part-time pornography enabler, Rob, and his girlfriend Sylvia. While the book’s thinly-veiled autobiographical aspects shed a good deal of light on both the artist’s early career and, perhaps, a healthy dose of neurosis, Minimum Wage is hardly typical Fingerman fare.

From his first graphic novel, the science fiction satire White Like She to the recent short Dark Horse book, Recess Pieces, an elementary school-based zombie splatter fest, Fingerman’s work is largely concerned with the social and comedic implications of juxtaposing the fantastic with the mundane, a formula that has played out in both his first prose novel, Bottomfeeder, centering around a neurotic vampire, and his year-long run on The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in the early 90s.

Published in late 2006, Bottomfeeder was Fingerman’s last major release. The artist is gearing up for another big year in 2009, however, with releases from both Fantagraphics and IDW. We caught up with the Fingerman just before the Christmas holiday.

You’re sort of in-between releases at the moment.

I’m not really plugging anything at the moment. Basically, after having released nothing since Bottomfeeder, which actually came out at the end of December, 2006, it’s looking like 2009 is going to be sort of the big comeback. I’m gonna have tons of stuff out. That will be nice.

Do you do any illustration work on the side?

Barely. I barely do any. I’ve mainly just been writing novels I’ve yet to sell. It’s a really rough market, and all I’ve been hearing recently, with the economic downturn, is, every single publishing house is just firing people, left and right. They’re not really looking at new projects. So, of course that makes it even more difficult.

So you’re actually sitting on a couple of novels, right now?

Yeah. I’ve got a couple. I’ve written four novels, but only one has been published, thus far. What can you do?

What kind of Web presence would you say you have, at this point?

Oh, not much. I mean, I have a Website and a Myspace and a Facebook. I’ve got a blog that’s one of those Blogspot things. That’s the one I keep up with the most. That’s the art one.

Have you considered the Web as an avenue for getting some of that unpublished work out there?

Yeah. A friend of mine serialized all of his novels online first, and then he ended up with publishing deals for all of them. It’s such a weird phenomenon for me, but that seems to be the way things are now—people put stuff up for free and then you get people to pay for it later. Very odd.

Did you have trouble pitching Bottomfeeder, too, or is this just symptomatic of the recession?

No, Bottomfeeder was really tough. You know, I have an agent working on selling the prose stuff. The comics I handle on my own. Prose is such a different business, and really, you need an agent just to get your manuscripts looked at.

As a comic artist, is it difficult to get “real” publishers to take you seriously?

Well, yeah, it’s to get them to take you seriously, regardless. They released Bottomfeeder not as “Bob Fingerman,” but as “B.H. Fingerman.” They did that specifically because they wanted to create a little buffer between my comics identity and this newly-minted author identity to kind of avoid confusion with the retailers. I think it confused the readers more.

I imagine it’s changed a lot in the past year or so, but it’s got to be tough pitching a vampire book. You’ve got the classic books, the Anne Rice books, and now you’ve got these Twilight books.

I know, and mine doesn’t fit into any of these categories. That’s the weird thing. I have this very strange motivating force in me, and it’s really been there, ever since I started, where I’ve kind of got to do books that are sort of an ‘eff you’ to their genre, and Bottomfeeder, to me, was kind of an ‘eff you’ to the vampire genre, even though I really like the vampire mythology. So much vampire stuff is so lame. I can’t stand all of that gothy and romantic stuff. So it’s really rough, when you’re doing a book that plays with some of the genre conventions.

It’s pretty self-defeating.

Yeah. It’s a strange way to approach things. One of the things I’ve got coming out next year, From the Ashes, from IDW—

It’s a comic, I assume.

Yeah, it’s gonna be a six issue thing. It’s sort of my ‘fuck you’ to memoir comics, so we’ll see how that goes. I mean, it isn’t really, I’m calling it a ‘speculative memoir.’ It stars my wife and I, but it’s in post-apocalyptic New York. I figure, if you’re going to do a memoir, let’s make it an interesting story. Who said that memoirs have to have already happened?

[Continued in Part Two]

–Brian Heater

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