In this third and final part of our conversation, we discuss Chris Ware, the importance of good lettering, and the appeal of drawing “huge beer bottles and giant dicks.”
[To Tanner] You’re working more within a fantasy world.
Jamie Tanner: Very much so. I’m very unconcerned with reality.
You don’t have to abide by any laws, in the way that [Enrico] does.
Robin Enrico: Naw. My stuff is like rock and roll fantasy camp. It’s set in the present and reality, but I’ve found that, the more and more work I do, the more and more ridiculous and abstract I go, the more people go, “yeah, that makes sense.”
Are you making it more and more ridiculous within the confines of one book? Or are you starting each new book from a more ridiculous place than its predecessor?
RE: I did the two Jam in the Band graphic novels, which were kind of more melancholy and serious. I needed a sabbatical from that, so I started doing the short Life of Vice series, which is about a debauched sex blogger. There’s a big Hunter S. Thompson influence. It’s kind of like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. I was kind of like, whatever. It’s got huge beer bottles and huge, giant dicks. I don’t care…
JT: That’s quite a blurb, by the way.
I heard a panelist—I think it was Kyle Baker—say, “you end up drawing what you want to draw.” You populate your worlds with something that you’d like to end up drawing over and over again.
JT: I feel like this is actually a huge part of comics that’s actually really difficult to talk about. Part of an artist’s individual voice is just what they are inclined to draw.
What you’re going to spend 12 hours a day drawing.
JT: Exactly, it’s not invalid to say, “I love drawing monsters, so I’m going to draw a monster book. I think Robin’s work is a good example of that. It’s funny, I was just thinking—the first SPX I ever went to, I was randomly paired up at a table with Robin and MK [Reed]. So I have seen your comics drastically improve. It gets clearer and clearer, and you know what your stylistic limitations might be, and you know the subject matter you want to do, and you just keep doing a clearer and clearer version of it. Honing what your nature inclinations would be.
RE: It’s funny, my natural inclinations, the gal I’m seeing now, she didn’t know if I was pursuing her or not, and then I gave her one of my books, and she said, “you’re totally girl crazy.” Yeah, no shit.
You would assume that those inclinations would be more apparent early on, when you’re trying to figure out what you want to do with your work. But you feel that, as you move forward in your career, it tends more toward those things?
JT: I think those things emerge as you go on. If you like period piece movies, you start doing the research, and either you love drawing the architecture and the costumes, or it just becomes a headache and you figure out something else you want to do.
Would you describe your work as “Victorian?”
JT: I’ve heard that adjective before, but truthfully I’m not knowledgeable enough to place anything in an accurate period.
But it certainly is of another time.
JT: Yeah, and that’s not something I ever intended. I never read that stuff growing up, and I never intended to go into some weird, ornate, old fashioned look. That’s just what I started getting interested in when I started this stuff, and I just followed where it led.
You’re a big Chris Ware fan?
JT: I am. I would think that would be obvious. It’s kind of an inexapable influence, I would think.
His influence is sort of intimidating though, right? It’s a tough thing to dive into.
JT: Yeah, he’s doing so many different things on such a high level. But you can look at a particular element of what he’s doing and just be influenced by that.
RE: I’m ambivalent toward him, but I like his designy elements. Other than that, I can take or leave it. But it’s nice to see someone do something you’re interested in, at such a high level.
JT: But even more broadly, just his attention to type as a thing—if you’re a cartoonist and you’re doing everything yourself, it always baffles me when people think of the letter as something separate. You’re drawing everything on the page. It’s all marks on paper. You should give them the same attention you give everything else.