[Art by Dave Sheril]
We wrap up our interview with the Ink Studs host by discussing stateside coverage of Canadian comics, the importance of preparation, and preaching to the comics choir.
I’ve run into this a bit with my own site—it seems like most of the people who take the time to read or listen to interviews with cartoonists is either a cartoonist, works in the industry, or writes about comics themselves.
[Laughs] Yep. That’s how it is. Comics are pretty incestuous.
Are they supposed to be the mainstream now? Isn’t that what we’ve been hearing for two decades?
You notice how we haven’t said “graphic novel” until now either, eh? Um, yeah. But because I’m on radio—I’m actually on, I think, half a dozen stations throughout Canada—I have, just by proxy of people listening to the station, people listening throughout Canada. And there are a lot of folks—it’s a lot of cartoonists, but a lot of other people listen to it, too.
The one thing about doing a podcast or audio format—and I don’t know if it’s the same with your podcast—you kind of work in a vacuum. I’m not necessarily engaged with the listening audience. I get a lot of nice e-mails from folks, which means a lot, and people send me comics, but I’m not necessarily as engaged as when, say, there’s a post up at Comics Comics, and they have 90 comments with this whole multi-directional dialog happening.
Because it’s a podcast, you don’t have that same conversation. I’m sure someone listening says, “oh, that’s interesting,” ten minutes in. Twenty minutes in, “that’s interesting.” They don’t necessarily have one thing that they want to respond to. Whereas, when you read an interview online, you can engage and do a direct quote.
So the show is always pre-recorded?
It started out almost all live. It’s just within the last year that I’ve really got more pre-recorded, just by sheer usage of time. I work evenings, so it makes sense for me to do the interviews before work. I’ve kind of got a thing set up at home, which I think works okay—people haven’t complained too much. It gives me a lot more freedom.
One of the problems with doing interviews live is that I have better sound quality pre-recorded, and the other is that my guests get nervous. I’m held off at an hour. Once that hour is over, the interview is over. I don’t know if you listened to the Al Columbia interview, but that thing’s two hours, and there’s no way I would have stopped that interview at any fucking point. I love letting the person go and talk and we can go in a million different directions and I don’t have to have as much of a purpose.
When I have an hour long interview, each interview has specific talking points that I want to cover in that hour. But now I can be a lot more open and flowing and keep it going.
Has you become more meticulous in your preparation over the years?
More. Definitely more. Because I’m able to be more meticulous, I’m taking on more interviews that I wouldn’t have before, because I knew I just couldn’t do it. One interview I’m prepping for is with Lorenzo Mattotti. He’s an amazing Italian cartoonist who has been doing work for almost 30 years. There are only a handful of books in English.
Getting the interview set up is almost as much work as doing the interview itself. We have to talk beforehand to see how his English is. His English is great, we’re going to do the interview. Tracking down the books, Fantagraphics just did Stigmata. There’s a handful of stuff that Pantheon and Penguin put out. Okay. Go and get the RAW books, and go and get a stack of books from Amazon.fr—sorry, I ordered from Amazon, everyone [laughs].
I can set up this interview and I can put in the time for him. I’m done with school now, so there’s no other research stuff that’s going to interfere with me putting in the time for this, so hopefully, when it all goes down next week and we sit down on the phone in the middle of the night, my time, hopefully we’ll be able to have a good discussion and I’ll be able to cover a lot of his work and get a larger idea of who Lorenzo is. [I have since done the interview, and Lorenzo was wonderful to talk to -RM]
As I was saying before, we don’t have a lot of interviews with a lot of these guys—we’re not really documenting it. There’s a million and one interviews with Robert Crumb. I would love to interview Robert Crumb, but he’s not a priority. If I got the chance, I wouldn’t say “no”… But I would rather make sure that I get a great English interview with Moebius.
There’s almost an embarrassment of riches with cartoonists living here in North American. You try to cover as many bases as you can, but it’s just not possible to talk to everyone.
Exactly. I do have priority with Canadian cartoonists. If a Canadian cartoonist has a good new work coming out, I will be interviewing them, ASAP. But my image of comics is international and it goes throughout time. One interview I’m setting up now is with Kenneth Smith, who did stuff in the 70s and early 80s and hasn’t really been a presence in comics at all, in the last 20 or 30 years, but I’m still interested in talking to him, because I think he has a lot to add.
Do you think there’s sufficient coverage of Canadian artists in the States?
I think they do get good coverage. Peggy Burns at Drawn and Quarterly is a marketing wizard and has been getting some amazing write ups for their stable of folks. I know that being a Canadian cartoonist is not a selling point, but I think there’s American respect for Canadian cartooning. And I think Kate [Beaton] is one of the best examples, because she’s so idiosyncratically Canadian, but internationally loved.
We’re proud of her.