Interview: Graham Annable Pt. 2 [of 4]

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Comics have never exactly been a primary focus for Graham Annable. The cartoonist began his professional life as a 2D animator, eventually transitioning into the world of video games. Annable’s career has since swung back around to animation, with the artist joining the staff at Laika Entertainment to storyboard 2009’s stunning Coraline.

Annable’s comics work arose, in a sense, out of his dayjob. Once hand animation became antiquated, he began to draw his own strips in his downtime, work that would eventually evolve into his best known series, Grickle. In 2003, Annable and fellow LucasArts employees released the first issue of the humor anthology, Hickee on Alternative Comics.

In wake of Alternative Comics’ indefinite publishing hiatus, much of Annable’s comics work has gone out of print. Thankfully, Dark Horse has seen fit to collect some of his best strips in the terrifically compiled The Book of Grickle.

[Part One]

Are you still working in games in any capacity?

No. I’m actually completely out of games. I am working Laika Entertainment, which does feature films. I came up here specifically to work on Coraline. And now I’m still at Laika, working on the next batch of products. I’m doing storyboard work over there.

You’re not involved in the animation side of things any more?

No, at this point I don’t do anything with the animation, other than show the animators the storyboards [laughs].

How actively are you drawing comics, these days?

Uh, it really goes in fits and spurts, depending on what kind of freelance opportunities show up. It really goes up and down for me. I was pretty regularly contributing Spongebob comics to Nickelodeon. That was fun stuff to do. But, of course Nickelodeon has stopped that magazine, so I haven’t been doing much of that lately. I’ve been doing stuff for the Flight anthologies, off and on. I contributed to the last three volumes of it.

I’ve been working on a full-on graphic novel. I’ve been chipping away at it. I’ve been chipping at that for—well, I don’t want to say how long [laughs]. But it still needs a lot before I start shopping it around and showing it to people. So, I’ve been doing that on the side and just been doing short stories for anthologies, when it crops up. I’ve been experimenting with different techniques and trying different things. I’ve also been doing a lot more spot illustration work for galleries and stuff.

Does Hickee still exist in any form?

Um, currently…Hickee is kind of stalled out for the moment, because I get the impression that Alternative Comics hasn’t published anything for quite some time.

That Thor Jensen book was the last thing I remember them doing.

Yeah, it’s been quite a while. That was the main venue for Hickee, when we published it. I’ve talked with all of the guys, and it think they’re all interested in continuing it. We could probably find a new home for it. Of all of the things I have cooking, that’s one I haven’t really gotten to. But we’re all still interested. We did—it’s already about a year-and-a-half ago—an art show in Montreal. I got a studio interested in showing our work. I’d love to continue doing art shows, and just kind of keeping the whole thing alive for all of us, because it’s been an awesome ride, and I’d love it to continue.

You were the ostensible ringleader for that, right?

Yeah, I guess it’s fair to say that. I worked with all of those guys quite a while ago. We were all pretty much either at Lucas Learning or LucasArts. And a couple of those guys I had gone to college with and made a bunch of connections. But the main connection was that I just recognized such a similar sense of humor amongst all of us. And all of those guys, I thought, were just phenomenal cartoonists. We would just hang out at cafes around San Francisco on the weekends, just drawing and cracking each other up.

And when the Grickle stuff started happening for me, and I got that published, I thought, ‘man, I would love to get this stuff to people.’ It was just so much fun to create for us that I thought other people would get into it, as well. I grew up on Mad Magazine and Cracked and all of that other stuff. It just felt like it was a fun opportunity for us to do kind of a similar thing. And it just clicked. I love the fact that now, years later, after we have all spread out to different cities and different companies, it’s one of the things that keeps us connected still. It’s just been an awesome thing.

As someone whose work relies on anthologies, in a sense, do you think there are enough venues out there now, in print comics?

Uh, gosh, I’m probably the wrong person to ask. I mean, I feel like I’m aware of a lot of the stuff going on in comics, but I’m not connected enough to know what, trend-wise, makes sense for the industry. I just keep going in there and pulling things that appeal to me. For most of the anthology stuff, people approached me. I’ve been lucky enough that the Grickle book got out there. Folks got a sense of what I do and who I am. Most of the anthology stuff has come to me. I haven’t really thought out that and asked to be a part of it. So I’m not really aware of how many anthologies there are out there. I know for a time there did seem to be a few, and I feel like there are less of them now.

It seems like Webcomics would be a pretty natural space for you.

Well, I do a Webcomic. Before I came up to Laika to work on Coraline, I left LucasArts, and spent a little over a year working at Telltale Games. I worked there as the creative director for a year, helping a bunch of guys that I loved working with who left Lucas and formed a company. They formed a company and asked me to come along. I spent a year helping them begin to built that place. That was an exciting experience. And I learned a lot, going from this big corporation to this little place that was just trying to assert itself in the world.

That’s a real uphill battle, but those guys have done really well. They’re doing great and I’ve always maintained a connection with them. And one of the things that I’ve been doing for the last four or five years now is a little Webcomic. Originally it was called “Dank,” and it was about a little caveman who was supposed to be an inventor. I think I’ve really strayed from that theme. It’s sort of evolved. I hit a point where I thought it would be fun to flip this thing, and Dank would be this caveman character, and then we jump into the lives of Dunk, who creates this strip.

And so you’ve got this sort split dynamic, where it bounces back and forth between the Dank caveman strip, and then you switch out of it and you’re in Dunk’s world, with his buddies and stuff. It’s been a really fun thing for me to explore, and I do it once a week on the TellTale Games site. It’s been a fun project for me to evolve over time, and it’s such a different mindset, doing a three or four panel strip. I have a lot more respect now for people who do those newspaper strips.

[Continued in Part Three]

–Brian Heater

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