Interview: Michael Kupperman Pt. 2 [of 3]

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In this second part of our interview with the Tales Designed to Thrizzle artist, we discuss the premier of the first (and possibly last) episode of his Cartoon Network series, Snake ‘n’ Bacon, get some details on a new series he’s working on for an undisclosed network, and figure out how the hell a cartoonist can support a family in early 21st century New York.

[Part One]

Did you gather people together to watch [Snake ‘n’ Bacon] when it premiered?

No, I did that a year ago when it was finished. This was purely a conceptual event. It just was on Twitter.

So it must have been a bit anti-climactic.

Not exactly. Thanks to Twitter and other places on the Internet, there was a feeling of an event, which is important, in and of itself. I was actually quite happy with the way things went that night.

Snake ‘n’ Bacon doesn’t really seem like the ideal choice from your work to translate into a TV show.

I actually agree. It’s been odd with Snake ‘n’ Bacon, because the joke is that they’re non-characters. They don’t do anything. There’s not much there. And it’s been a weird progression because I started doing them in comics way back when. And then the editor at Avon, later Harper Collins who did Snake ‘n’ Bacon said, “you know, we’ve got to call it ‘Snake ‘n’ Bacon.’ He was really enthusiastic. And it was the same thing with the show. It’s always been someone else’s decision to thrust those two out front.

Are you opposed to the idea of creating a single character that you can really sort of hang your hat on? For lack of a better term, a ‘marketable’ character?

Yeah, I must be, right? I haven’t exactly been doing it. Lately I’ve been doing a lot of Twain and Einstein, and they’re not really marketable, either, even though they’re much more fulfilling as characters. They’ve been flowing out. They’ve kind of taken over for a bit. A lot of the latest Thrizzle was them and there’s been more material since them. Marketing—I guess essentially I’m an artist, so it’s very hard for me to look at things in a marketing light. I guess in a way I’m like a lot of artists who wish they had someone to sell them the right way.

Is the new TV series that you’re attempting to option more Snake ‘n’ Bacon?

No, it’s something completely different. It’s time travel humor.

Is it stuff from Thrizzle or is it completely new?

Yep, completely new idea—new everything.

Is it tough to compartmentalize these divergent projects?

It’s a challenge because I have to keep so many things going all of the time to make any money. On top of the comics, which, as I’m sure you suspect, make absolutely no money. It gets  a schizophrenic. Today I just signed up to do some more comics from Marvel. I just signed up to do a piece called Marv-X The Robot Man. And also I’m doing an illustration for The New York Times. So yeah, it can get a little confusing.

Is magazine illustration your primary source of income?

Illustration has kind of withered. It’s difficult because I don’t feel like it’s there any more, and I don’t feel like pursuing it because I don’t enjoy most illustration anymore. It’s not in good shape. The illustration industry is in bad shape, and I don’t feel like it’s going to get any better. My main source of income, oddly enough, is comics. Not my comics, though—comics for other people. I’m doing comics for the Lemony Snicket books in their paperback form, but I don’t think they’ll ever be printed.

Is the illustration work you do outside of your comics easily recognizable for those familiar with your stuff?

I don’t know—I think not, because Graham Linehan, who I’ve been friendly with for years now—he’s been very supportive. He gave me a lovely blurb for the back of my book, and has been very enthusiastic about my comics—I did the illustration for his avatar for Twitter and his Website. He did actually reproduce an illustration that I did for The New Yorker for a Jack Handy piece and didn’t realize that it was me.

How long did it take to develop the style for Thrizzle?

Years of suffering.

Are you still trying to figure out where to go with it?

I don’t feel like I’ve arrived where I’m going, yet, and I feel like it’s really difficult these days, because essentially you have to build your own thing and define yourself. There just aren’t the structures in place that there were, like 20 or 30 years ago to try to present yourself as an artist.

In terms of the venues?

Yeah, and I think print just doesn’t have the relevance that it did, years ago. And there are more aritists every day. I’m competing against artists that I idolized when I was 10-years-old. And also the way people perceive who you are and what you’re doing—that’s become as important as the work itself.

If living in New York and supporting a family weren’t an issue, what would you be spending your time working on?

I’d be doing much more elborate comics, probably. That’s the terrible irony. The stuff that people love the most that I do is my comics, and they’re the ones I really have to use my own time to do, and I don’t know if I’ll ever really make money from comics, directly. It’s really frustrating, because sometimes I really don’t have the time to do the work that people really like of mine. I’m doing other things to pay the bills, because I have to.

Are you interested in doing longer comic pieces?

Yeah, definitely. I’ve been thinking of doing a graphic novel, for want of a better term—doing something sustained. I would love nothing more than to sit and draw and do the best work that I’m capable of. So that’s my ideal and that’s what I’m struggling towards.

It seems, perhaps, like it could be born out of the series that you’re doing, because you often return to the same characters.

Sure, yeah, or the same ideas and themes.

Would a longer work be similar, in terms of themes?

No. I’m sure there would be some new aspects at that point. There would have to be to make any sense. Otherwise it’s just Shaggy Dog—it can be entertaining, but it doesn’t really hold together. I like challenges, and I like new things, so it does appeal to me.

But definitely something in the comedic vein?

I mean, I think it would have to be, right?

You can always do the turn for the serious book.

Yeah…that doesn’t really appeal to me. I think what’s important for me when I do comics is doing something that I feel is springing out of the comic form. There’s a lot of this graphic novel stuff lately that gets attention because it’s dealing with themes that people are concerned with, but it’s not necessarily comics that needed to be comics. I think the artist I feel closest with is Tony Millionaire, because he really lives in those comics. He could never be anything else.

And your work reflects a certain sense of appreciation for the pulpy stuff, as well.

And that stuff has its own built in goofiness, and I think I respond to that.

[Concluded in Part Three]

–Brian Heater

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2 Comments to “Interview: Michael Kupperman Pt. 2 [of 3]”

  1. Journalista - the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » May 26, 2009: Goin’ off the rails on a gravy train
  2. The Daily Cross Hatch » Interview: Michael Kupperman Pt. 3 [of 3]