Interview: Tom Neely Pt. 4 [of 4]

Categories:  Interviews


We finally wrap up our interview with The Wolf author by discussing self-publishing, going to the post office, and making enemies of Glenn Danzig.

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

This desire of having control over a property – does that extend to not putting a book out with a publisher?

That’s definitely part of it, yeah. Like most cartoonists, I started off self-publishing because nobody wanted to publish me. And then I worked toward a publisher, and at the time I had that, The Blot was going to be published by someone else, and then I ended up pulling out of that because I just didn’t agree with the feedback I was getting and the changes. They wanted something that wasn’t what I had in mind.

I know that there are probably publishers that will let you do that, but so far, my experience has been that if I want it to be exactly what I want it to be, then I do it myself. Because otherwise, every person who gets attached to it can wind up muddling it. But I’m not completely opposed to working with others—it just depends on the product. I do it every day with my Disney work. But I have the means and ability to do it myself.

But who knows, down the road we might have kids or something, and I won’t have as much time or energy to be a self-publisher and self-promoter, and I might have to find someone to do it for me. But I really enjoy it so far.

You have pictures of palates of books on your blog. The whole thing seems overwhelming…

Yeah [laughs].

That’s got to be a part of the process that you wouldn’t mind handing off—the shipping.

Yeah, I don’t know. It’s one of those things—even dealing with galleries in the past to do an art show—there’s all sorts of things you think they’re gonna do, and then they end up not doing it, and then you have to do it yourself anyway. Everything from promotions to getting postcards made, to hanging the work. I ended up doing everything myself anyway. Sometimes it’s very hard to find the right person to rely on for certain things, but yeah, it would be nice to find someone to ship and store my books for me.

I think the job I hate the most—well, I’m starting to enjoy it more—I really procrastinate going to the post office. So, if I can get an intern to do that, it would be great—to ship the books. It was more intimidating with The Blot because I had the same number of palates come in. But I managed to move most of those books over the past couple of years, so I had room for those boxes. It worked out. As long as I can get rid of all of these boxes before the next book is done, then I’ll do the next one.

You had a good measure of success surrounding The Blot, even though it was your first book and self-published. You won an Ignatz.


And ended up on a lot of “best of” lists. With all the acclaim that came with that book, did you feel the need to do something larger and more ambitious the second time around?

No, not necessarily—not as a result of success or anything. Just more my own personal drive to do something more than what I just finished. I always want to push myself to do more, and it doesn’t really have anything to do with external influence. But it definitely makes it easier, knowing that I had one pretty successful book and had some success with the smaller ones.

It definitely makes it easier, knowing that I’ve been building an audience over the years. It definitely makes it easier making that leap toward publishing the next giant book. But I was going to do it regardless.

With The Blot, I printed 3,000 copies and 3,000 copies of The Wolf. I didn’t up it to 5,000 this time. I tried to stay within my means.

Were you surprised by the reaction?

I don’t know [laughs].

Did you go into the book thinking that this would be something a lot of people would get really excited about?

I thought I was going to be the next Dan Clowes. The week the book came out, I was like, ‘Oh yeah, I’ll be invited to Dan Clowes’s house next month.’ I thought all that when The Blot came out. And then I went into a deep depression, because I didn’t hear anything for the first couple of months. And then I was like, ‘Oh, I fucked up.’ And then some good reviews started trickling in, and I started doing shows and getting feedback.

I started to realized that the stuff I imagined before—that didn’t happen—that’s probably never gonna happen, but I’ve got this other group of fans that are picking up on me. It wasn’t what I expected at all, but I think it ended up way better than I expected.

A lot of people never want to look at something again when they’re done with it. It sounds like you have a very intense sense of pride in your work once it comes out.

Oh yeah. Almost everything I do, I tend to like it. I look back at The Blot, and I see tons of things wrong with it. But they are things that only I see, so I don’t worry about it. I think it was the best thing I could do at the time, so I don’t think there’s any reason to look down on it now. Same thing with The Wolf. A year or two from now, I’ll probably realize that I can do better, but it’s the best I can do now. I put the best effort forth on it in every way. There’s no reason not to be proud of it.

But I’ve been through that. In the past—I think just depends on where you’re at. Before The Blot, I used to feel that way about everything I put out. But I look back on that work now and realize that I was still learning. I didn’t know what I was doing. I was still grasping for stories to tell and how to tell them. The only stuff that I look back on with shame is what I can look back on and see that I didn’t know what I was doing at the time.

Had to end on this—I know you did a poster based on Danzig’s reaction to the Glenn and Henry book. What are your thoughts on the fallout?

The reaction from Henry and Glenn?

Henry’s was just sort of lukewarm, but Glenn’s was amazing.

Those were weird. Both reactions were not what we expected—they were even better than we expected [laughs]. My friend Jay—the guy who tried to give the book to Glenn—he told me about it, and we were really bummed out, because we both love Danzig, but we had ruined his day together [laughs]. It’s kind of sad, but at the same time, it’s kind of the best possible reaction that I can imagine [laughs]. So I kind of had to make a comic strip of it.

Knowing what you know about Danzig as a person, did you really expect him to be excited about that book?

No, no. I didn’t know what to expect. When Jay was on his way to interview him, we were speculating. He’s either really gonna be pissed or he won’t give a shit. But it was something weird and in-between. He was like, ‘I don’t give a shit,’ and he wouldn’t even look at it, and then he went on this weird rant, calling us “stupid Internet hipsters.”

He basically called you “trolls.”

Yeah. It wasn’t what I expected, but in a lot of ways, it was a lot better than I could have expected. I would have been more disappointed and cursed me, like I’ve heard he’s cursed other people.

–Brian Heater

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