When all was said and done, it seemed that Jordan Crane had a good Comic-Con. He’d had his share of complaints about the show, of course—we all did. “[N]ow that it’s selling out,” he told me, as we spoke inside his booth on the final day of the show, “it’s people who have no interest in my work or they already know it. There doesn’t seem to be anything in between. There’s no new faces. It kind of takes an element of the fun out of it.”
Be that as it may, there’s no denying that the artist did brisk business, our interview interrupted several times as showgoers forked over cash. From the vantage point of the passerby, Crane’s artwork is unquestionably his strongest draw, with giant screen-printed posters of art pulled from Uptight hanging above him, alongside works by co-booth renters Johnny Ryan and Steven Weissman.
Speaking with the artist, however, it soon became clear that, in spite of possessing an unquestionable flair for graphic design, to Crane, all aspects of sequential art are secondary to his passion for the written word, a fact reflected in his recent decision to focus far more time and energy into comics making than his life as a work-for-hire cartoonist.
His passion is Uptight, one of the last few remaining serialized books in the indie comics scene. Fantagraphics released the third issue of the book earlier this year, just in time for Comic-Con. Until now, the production schedule has been sporadic at best, but Crane has promised that, with his new-found focus, we’ll be seeing a lot more of the book in the years to come.
Do you find that most of the people who stop by your booth are familiar with your work, or is it largely people who get stopped by the prints?
You know, it’s changing. Most of the people at San Diego before were people who came in off the street—not exactly super-fans. And now that it’s selling out, it’s people who have no interest in my work or they already know it. There doesn’t seem to be anything in between. There’s no new faces. It kind of takes an element of the fun out of it.
Are you promoting anything specific? You’ve got a new issue of the book out.
Yeah, yeah. I’m also working on the next issue. Should be out in December.
It’s been a fairly sporadic publishing schedule.
Well, I’m trying to make it less sporadic. I want to do it two times a year, solid. It’s been kind of a chaotic last couple of years. So now I’m focusing everything I can on it.
Work stuff? Home stuff?
Home and work. I’ve taken on a lot of jobs I shouldn’t have. And I had kids. So now everything’s kind of adjusting and I’m just not taking as much work.
So now you’re trying to be a full-time comics guy.
Yeah, I really am.
Is that possible for you, in terms of income, especially with kids?
I’m doing everything I can to make it not a hobby.
Was does that entail beyond publishing more regularly?
Well, more regular publication is pretty big. More regular screen printing as well, which isn’t comics, and I’m trying to veer toward comics and spend less time with everything else. The order of priority is kids, comics, prints. And there’s nothing else. That’s it.
Are prints really that time-consuming?
Um, yeah. If I’m working on a big print run, it sort of cuts the continuity of my work. And so there may be a week or so of continuity that I lose in there.
So it’s a week or two to do some screens?
Well, usually if I’m gonna go do it, I’m renting the space—a studio. There’s a lot of stuff that goes into it.
What’s the distribution for the prints?
On my Website and [at comic conventions]. It’s really pretty simple and it makes a decent amount of money. And then comics—the first part of the problem is, I need to be doing comics regularly. And the next part of the problem is figuring out how to make money.
Are you working on a longer piece right now, or are you focused primarily on these single issues?
Well, within the magazine, I’m doing longer stories.
Longer arcs over issues?
Yeah, yeah. This issue has the first part of a longer story. Hopefully I can do this more regularly. It would be great to do it three times I year, so I could move on to the next thing. The thing is, because there’s not really a specific market—it’s not like, “you do this, you’ll make money,” drawing for somebody else is something I have to do. I’m working on the stories that I think are really good stories and just letting the chips fall.
Are you more incline to do shorter stories?
I think shorter stories are satisfying because I can finish them. But then again, longer stories can be really reward, as well.
It seems like the independent market has moved almost entirely away from issues.
Yeah, yeah. There’s practically nobody, and I think it’s a shame. I think most people, myself included, shouldn’t be working on super-long stories. What if everybody’s first book was a novel? It’s hard to structure that, I think. You’re blathering on for 600 pages. If you trimmed it down to 100 pages, it would still be the same story.
You think the longer works aren’t as tight as they could be?
Yeah. I think there’s a lot of flab.
Do you ever look back on your older books and see that?
Oh yeah, yeah, absolutely.
You feel like they could be a bit shorter?
Yeah, definitely. It’s a learning process. You have to ask yourself what story you want to tell, and then make it simple.
Have you ever looked back on something and wished it were longer—that you had explored things a bit more in-depth?
No, not at all. It’s just a learning process. You can through more lessons faster with short stories, completing the story, seeing the thing, whether it’s good or bad, rather than just doing one big, long piece.
I’ve seen a lot of people compare the book to Eightball. I think a lot of that may come from how different one story is from the next. How much thought do you put into the pairing of the stories in the book?
I don’t really put one story in there over another one. I just happen to have fairly disparate interests.
Are the stories ever connected in some way?
No, I don’t think they’re connected, other than the fact I’m doing them. I don’t even think they’re particularly well-paired. It just happens to be my interest at the time. like if I was making a mix tape, I’d have a lot of things to chose from, but it’s like, ‘here’s the things I want to do at the time.’ It’s kind of like a snapshot of what I want to do at the time.
[Continued in Part Two.]