The Oakland Museum of California is featuring an exhibit of Daniel Clowes’ comic art, which if I lived in the Golden State, I would definitely check out. However, those of us who cannot attend get the benefit of all of Clowes’ recent interviews with the media promoting the exhibit.
I was lucky enough in the fall of last year to catch Clowes do a Q&A with Canadian comic book artist Seth (author of It’s A Good Life if You Don’t Weaken and Clyde’s Fans) at Harbourfront’s International Festival of Authors. Both were funny, erudite artists and the talk was a blast.
If you aren’t familiar with Clowes’ work, I highly recommend that you check out all of his stuff. Most people recommend Ghost World for newcomers, but I think you can do just as well starting with the high melodrama and depravity of David Boring or the Lynch-ian Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron. All of his collections of shorter pieces are great too (Caricature particularly). Retro fans will likely particularly enjoy his Lloyd Llewellyn stories, featuring his 1950/60s detective / lounge lizard Llewellyn.
On to the interviews:
While talking about his early days as a cartoonist, Mr. Clowes mentioned having “a lifetime of resentment to pour out.” When asked why he appears so easygoing, he guffawed. “I get a lot of it out in comics, you know?” he said.
Onion’s A.V. Club:
I had an older brother who bequeathed me his stack of comics when he moved on to Playboy and Zap and all that stuff. So I was very much obsessed with that. I had like a two-foot stack of old Marvel and DC and Archie Comics and Mad magazine, stuff like that. It was this very finite group of comics. Ones that I just read over and over and over and studied. I remember I read them before I could actually read, and trying to figure out the stories just based on the pictures, and that’s a really great thing for kids to have to do. To try and learn that language. I feel like I understood the language of comics. I had a real fluidity with that medium at a very early age.
When you’re talking about a fictional book, what are you going to say? “Well, I did this book. It’s all in there. Everything I have to say is within that book. Read the book. I have no explanations.” Anything I would say is just going to obfuscate things or throw you off track. I’m only going to give non-committal answers for that reason. Whenever I hear fiction authors on NPR talking to Michael Krasny, explaining their book, I always think, How can you… don’t do that! Don’t talk about your characters like that. It’s so embarrassing.
One thing that really shocked me was to go through some of the fan mail I used to get in the pre-Internet days. Lots of people — like a truly surprising number of complete strangers — would write me 10- or 15-page letters, telling me all about the most mundane details of their twitterless existence. Pretty much inconceivable nowadays.
Of course, a post on Clowes should include some artwork. I’ll include his recent cover to the June 4 & 11 issue of the New Yorker (the science fiction issue as it turns out).