In this final part of our interview with the Love is a Peculiar Kind of Thing artist, we discuss craft-honing, dream projects, and the ups and down of Internet feedback.
Do you find that a lot of people reading you online and giving you feedback are themselves cartoonists?
Mostly, especially when I first started. It started on LiveJournal and most of the people who were reading it, I could see what they were working on at the same time. It was mostly cartoonists who were where I was also. That was helpful. On the Internet, everyone’s going to give you feedback and everyone on earth is a critic, so I definitely appreciate it when I get some feedback from cartoonists whose work I respect—not Joe Asshole, or whoever.
Is there a lot of negative stuff going on in those circles?
Uh, nothing really between creators. Anything that’s on the Internet—if you ever go and look at YouTube comments—
That’s the worst of the worst.
Yeah, but if you look at the most innocuous YouTube video, like some kid just videotaping himself, there’s a whole host of people giving negative feedback. When you first start, it can be really painful. I remember getting negative feedback when I first started out. It was heartbreaking. “I’m just some guy doing this. Why are you judging me so harshly?” you have to kind of get over it.
But in some sense that’s why you’re putting it out there—for people to judge.
Yeah, definitely. You’re leaving yourself open for that kind of stuff.
Was working up to print something you’d been planning on doing all along?
Yeah. It’s so weird the way things have changed over the last few years, but that was always the goal. Even as a kid, I wanted to make a book. I really appreciate the actual artifact of a book. I really would enjoy reading everyone’s comic in a book, rather than online, but it’s just accessibility. It’s different now too, because you can be really successful as a Webcomic. You don’t need print.
You’re not subsisting on comic money yet, but at what point did this turn from a hobby to something else? Or do you feel like it hasn’t really crossed that line yet?
No, I think I crossed that line mentally a long time before I should have [laughs]. I thought it was the ultimate thing. Maybe last year or two years ago, I was working for a housing insurance company in New Jersey, and I was putting all of my attention into comics. I was just screwing up at work. Then there was this whole battle in my head where I wanted to take comics seriously, but what’s really important? You have to come to grips with whatever, and I guess I just chose the fantasy life, because I enjoy it more [laughs].
I think people take you as seriously as you take it. I’m not making enough money doing comics to not work. But I’m supplementing my income—I’m definitely semi-professional in that sense. And it’s still a career in that, you know, things are going to progress. You’re putting stuff out, and I’m doing better this year than I was last year. One day I hopefully won’t have a day job, but whatever.
Do you foresee a point when you break from these short, largely semi-autobiographical comics that you’ve been doing all along?
You know, I think I’d ultimately like to do a graphic novel and maybe stretch these shorter stories to the point where I can tell one long cohesive story. But that’s always been really difficult for me. When I was writing a lot in college and post-college, the idea of writing a novel seemed impossible to me. I really don’t have the attention span for it, or something. It seems really challenging, but interesting. I think that would be the ultimate goal. It would be really hard, but I think that, if I were to do it, it would be really satisfying. Something I’m interested in doing is an actual biography of someone else, like Louis Riel or something. Or the Elijah Brubaker book, Reich. I really like history and science—something along those lines would be great, but for the foreseeable future, I’ll probably stick to autobio.
Do you still feel like you’re still at a point where you’re honing your craft.
Yeah, yeah. I’d hate to look back on the stuff that I’m doing now in a year and not have changed. I don’t want to remain stagnant. I hope to get better every day.
Is it clear what areas still need work?
Drawing classes are always going to be helpful. I just try to work on everything I can. Drawing was definitely my weakest skill going into this, which is kind of absurd, because I was doing a comic.
Though there seem to be a lot of people who can make really good comics, but can’t really draw all that well.
Right—but you know, they can, but at some point it becomes style. I remember when I first read American Elf, it was like, “I could do that, come on.” It’s exceedingly simple. You look at stuff, even stuff like Ivan Brunetti’s—if you read his older stuff, he’s making photo-realistic drawings. You look at his newer stuff and it’s a lot more simple, but still incredible. It’s not worse drawing. It’s just simple. Not that I’m up there with those guys.