We wrap up our three-part conversation with the Set to Sea author by discussing food co-ops, Web serials, and why being a cartoonist doesn’t have to mean being a shut-in.
Have you attempted to do “thrust yourself into adventure?”
I’m trying. The cartooning life is a very sedentary one. Eleanor [Davis], my wife, is a cartoonist. She’s always trying to push me into things. She’s made the decision to pull out of cartooning a bit, in order to live a more rounded and full life.
What does that entail?
She works at this organic grocery store—this co-op. We both live there. We’re in Athens, GA. There’s this massive interlaced community. It’s not just cartoonists sitting at their drawing boards, they’re going to these dwellings/art spaces/galleries/studios. There’s Orange Twin, which is Elf Power’s label and farm house. We’re kind involved with those people.
Does working at a food co-op qualify as “living your life?”
It’s being more engaged in the community. I’m not trying to pat ourselves on the back, but we were really shut-in cartoonists types when we were living in Savanna. We were starting to extend our tentacles.
There are certain cartooning-types, like Chris Ware, who really revel in the idea that the idea that the cartooning life is misery and you’ve got to chain yourself to the drawing board. They love that quote, ‘comics will break your heart,’ by Schulz.
The idea is not just living your life—it’s eventually use that experience as source material. Do you feel like any of these things will serve as source material for something that you’re working on?
Possibly. I should probably think about that more…
Would you consider something directly related to your experiences at a food co-op?
I imagine there are stories to tell.
Yeah, probably. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. It’s not so much an artistic philosophy as maybe it comes across.
It keeps you sane, though.
Yeah, it’s about keeping yourself sane.
Are you working on more material for the Web?
The next thing I do is a big project. I’ll probably serialize online first. It feels like we’ve reached a point where it doesn’t hurt to do that. Considering how much stuff gets dumped on the Web anyway, you might as well do it yourself and build a readership.
Do you get feedback that affects the story, as you’re posting it?
A little bit. It’s nice to get feedback, in terms of moral support—so I’m not just tossing this into the void. I’ve gotten feedback from people who say, ‘this, this, and this should be different.’ I try to take it into consideration, but I wouldn’t let someone’s feedback change what I thought was important, but if something isn’t communicating.
It seems like people really discovered [Set to Sea] after it became a print book.
I guess, yeah. What’s funny is, I’ve got Google Alerts for my name, so if somebody says it on the Internet, I show up like Beetlejuice. I click on it, like, “ooh, this guy just dissed me.” I feel like I’ve got a pretty good idea of who said what, where. But the physical comic has gone out into the world, and it’s like, is it doing well? Is it doing badly? Who knows?
You don’t have a sense of that?
No, not at all.
You get some real world feedback at shows.
Yeah, people will say, “I saw this at the store. It totally sold out.” “Whoa, really?”
That’s a good sign.
Well, who knows—maybe they only got two copies.
Do you feel like you had to pay extra attention to the physical product because it was free?
I would have done it anyway, just because I’ve made a ton of mini-comics in my day and paid extra attention to the packaging and such.
Yeah, I’ve been doing silkscreen.
Do you and Eleanor have a craft studio at home?
It’s our house. The silkscreens come out and everything gets covered with drying newsprint. The whole house gets wrecked for a day or two.