Interview: Al Columbia Pt. 4 [of 4]

Categories:  Interviews


In this final part of our conversation with the Pim & Francie author, we discuss reader interpretation, the importance of message board gossip, and whether or not Al Columbia is looking forward to the rerelease of Eddie Campbell’s Alec, a book featuring a young, faceless, and less-than-flattering version of Columbia himself.

[Part One][Part Two][Part Three]

Now that you’ve had the proper distance from Pim & Francie, are you discovering things in the book that you didn’t initially intend to be in there?

No. I’ve had these pages so long and I’ve seen them so many times that I just look at the book and see printing errors. It’s definitely going to take a long time before I can pick it up and enjoy it on any level. I’m just looking at all of the technical aspects of the production at this point. I haven’t really been able to ingest it at all, at this point. It’s impossible.

Do you think the things that others have read into it will ultimately affect your own feelings about the characters?

Um, no. probably not. I don’t know, actually. It’s hard to say. Maybe. Maybe on reflecting on a certain theme or adding to it, they’ll give me a really good idea or something. You never know. That’s what’s interesting. They could help sharpen an idea that was already there that I didn’t see that clearly. It’s possible. It depends on how much attention I pay to all that. There is a big story I’ve written for the characters, over the years, and I supposed there are details—or subtleties that can be sharpened up. I don’t know.

Has the girfriend—or maybe ex-girlfriend—who inspired the Francie character seen the book?

Oh yeah. Yeah. We’re no longer a couple, but we’re still really good friends—we have a child together. She loves it. She thinks it’s great. And she was, in a lot of ways, a big part of it. Her spirit really does run through it really strongly. The one thing I did notice, looking through it, is that the Pim character is always following her. She’s always the one marching forward. That was the one thing I noticed that I never noticed actually doing the book.

What’s next for you?

Right now I’m working on all kinds of stuff. I’m doing short films and building sound for those right now. I am working on a Pim and Francie, but I just get a panel done every few days. It’s a short process of drawing, but it seems to be getting done, slowly but surely, which is a novel idea. Just keeping the pace with that. We’ll see what happens. It’ll be a good winter, I know that. it seems like we’re heading into a good winter, in terms of working and drawing and stuff.

Are you past the point where you feel able to collaborate with people on work?

No. I collaborate all the time with people. I’m constantly working on something with somebody in different ways.

Are there certain projects that you just can’t hand over to other people?

In terms of publishing?

In terms of, say, an unfinished Pim and Francie strip.

Oh, probably not with the Pim and Francie stuff. I couldn’t imagine somebody else drawing them. I guess there is a lot I couldn’t let out of my sight, yeah. Right now, anyway. I’m working on a few stories. I find these stories that I’ve written that might fit a certain cartoonist’s style. It’s not something I would ever draw, but it’s something I want to see done, so I’m working with a few cartoonists on what’s almost a picture book. Strange little children’s stuff. But I guess the Pim and Francie stuff is nearer and dearer to my heart. I can’t imagine letting someone else do that. it would feel too weird.

Who are you working with on those picture books?

Jeremy Smith, he’s a cartoonist who lives in Texas. And I’m working with Jonathan Adams of City Cyclops. I believe he and I will finish a project at some point.

He posted a really interesting interaction on his blog.

Oh yeah, that was fun. It was like three years ago, we mentioned that we were doing this thing.

Was that a play on this idea that you have trouble finishing works?

Sure, yeah. And he knows me pretty well. Yeah, I guess it’s truer than I’d like it to be, maybe [laughs].

People no doubt piece information together about you based on what they find online. Do you think anyone took that seriously?

That’s the funniest thing, that anyone would think it wasn’t a joke. It’s all a mystery. People are funny, I guess.

Do you enjoy having something of an enigmatic presence?

Well, you know, from day to day, I don’t feel very enigmatic. Everyone who know me knows pretty well. I don’t really walk around being Mr. Mysterious. Just the opposite, actually. I’d prefer a little more mystery in my life. I guess I can’t get deep enough underground, at some points. I want to dig a hole under my house. Just get a real basement going, and chill out under there. I don’t know if I enjoy it or not—it doesn’t really manifest itself for me. I hear about it, and just get kind of annoyed about it.

So you don’t follow the message board stuff?

Not religiously, but it is something that you dip your head into, every now and again. You just kind of see where it goes. Sometimes it can be kind of weirdly infuriating. It can be weird and strange. “How dare they?” But in other cases you just learn to laugh about it. But if it’s there and it’s about you, it can be hard not to look. But actually there’s a lot of stuff good and bad that I just don’t pay attention to.

What are your thoughts on the rerelease of Eddie Campbell’s [Alec]?

Oh, I don’t really care. It’s Eddie Campbell, you know? It’s his book. It’s his thing. I don’t really think about it much.

Did it affect you when it first came out?

No, not really. I don’t really care. I mean, it doesn’t really affect my every day life. It’s not like, “oh my god, Eddie Campbell put me in his book.” I don’t care—it’s Eddie Campbell. What do I care? It might affect me if I actually knew the guy. I might be offended. But it’s kind of hilarious.

Did you read it? Did you like it as a book?

Yeah, it’s good. I don’t know. I mean, in some ways it was funny. I liked it about as much as I like anything. I’m really terrible at watching movies and reading books—I don’t pay too much attention to anything. I just don’t have the attention span.

Is music still a big part of your life?

Yeah, in a very unpredictable way. You never know when you’re going to record something. You just do it, and if it seems cool, you play it for people. But it’s this part of my life that I’ve been doing. I’ve been doing it forever. I kind of can’t not do it.

–Brian Heater