December 5th, 2002


Why I hate my Comics Journal interview

The other day I cleaned out and collated our messy collection of press clippings in order to attempt to find some quotes I could use for the solicitation for the second Dork trade paperback It was a bit heady to go through our careers via the clippings, from the earliest punkzine raves/rants to the occasional mainstream press mention and a surprisingly decent number of positive Comics Journal reviews and hit list write-ups. I say surprisingly because although I've somehow been treated exceedingly well over the years by various Journal writers, the readers of the Journal don't seem to share any of those expressed opinions. To be fair, a good number of Journal staffers through the years have dismissed my work privately, if not in the pages of the magazine, so don't get the impression I'm beloved or anything. Anyway, a few folks made some comments about my swipe at my 1999 TCJ interview, so I figured, after flipping through it for the first time in a while, I'd explain why that piece haunts me (as does my earlier, shorter interview from 1992 or thereabouts).

Basically, I come off very poorly in interviews, something I'm painfully aware of. Anyone who has read these journal entries can only get a taste of my non-stop blathering, verbal asides, derailments and nonsensical digressions. I talk too much, I know I talk too much, I often talk (and type) faster than I think, and I have a terrible habit of over-explaining myself because I'm worried I'm not making myself clear. My work often suffers for the same reasons, I am in pursuit of brevity and clarity but unable to grab ahold of such enlightened qualities. I have an especially bad time of it in spoken interviews or on panels, partly from nervousness, partly from unnecessary performance anxiety and partly because I am the sort of Brooklynite who tends to talk with hands and gestures. I also speak much too quickly, and interrupt others even when I try not to, and combined with the length of my outbursts and the 90 degree angles my logic system often takes, I am somewhat of a transcriber's nightmare. The funny thing is, I enjoy doing interviews, as I enjoy talking about comics, but I dread them and always cringe at the way they turn out. With each new interview I pledge to change my ways, and it never works out. The interviews run long, and I sould like a barking dog. I usually end up discussing the medium and the industry and other people's work more than my own projects. And I always regret almost everything I've said, because in print, as I've said before, I come off as an energetic, enthusiastic imbecile.

A little background on that Journal interview: You have to understand that it was conducted in one insane 13 hour marathon session at my home. Tom Spurgeon, the interviewer, pushed back the actual interview several times for scheduling reasons and the deadline was looming and time was short. I think Tom had a decent time, because more than once during the discussion I asked him if he wanted to wrap it up as we'd been talking so long (or, more to the point, I'd been talking so much) -- but he kept on, even though we knew most of my yammering would have to be cut. Maybe he was dazed by my output or passing out from hunger. Neither of us ate during that bull session, and I was going through a very rough time emotionally as I was in the middle of Dork #7 and dredging up all that negative shit had really made me edgy. Which is why my low blood sugar didn't help my mouth out any, and why I veered off into my childhood so often, and why the first part of the interview is a bit of a downer.

Now, I take the blame for much of what I dislike about the interview -- I didn't stick to my game plan of speaking slowly, thinking my answers through, and keeping my answers relatively short. And keeping the foul language to a minimum, that plan never works. I went into full-on Dorkin rant mode, and shot off in a million directions, running roughshod over Tom and not allowing many words in edgewise. All to the detriment of the interview. I often get bummed out that when I'm interviewed because as a humor cartoonist I find my actual work and craft is never given much attention -- here was an opportunity to discuss whatI do and I went off ranting about comics shops and the industry. Which I'd already yammered about in interviews (indicating perhaps that even I don't find the craft of my books a subject worth discussing. Hmmmm...). I can't blame Spurgeon much for my running rampant and eating up columns of type with my convoluted responses. My mouth can be a force of natural disaster. Anyone who knows me can probably eke out much of what I said in print, visualizing my machine-gun patter, hand gestures and constant changes of subject. Others must have been left scratching their heads wondering what kind of speed I was on.

What I don't take responsibility for are a number of typos and mistakes in the interview which further gave the idea that English is my second language, and logic is my occasional hobby. In a couple of instances my answers were linked to the wrong questions. Typos abound, names of cartoonists and the like are mangled. There are a few transcription mistakes. I wasn't able to address many of these problems due to the deadline and the fact that the Journal was in the midst of an editorial changeover and the staff was asked to start getting the magazine out on a steady schedule (it had been shipping late at the time). So, while I'd been promised that I could read over and copy-edit the interview, I was only allowed to go over roughly the first half. If you read through it, there is a definite demarcation where the interview falls apart and my answers become more incoherent. That's where I stopped cleaning it up. We'd been sending the Journal art and we went over a batch of text files and got everything back to them on disc on their deadlines, but at some point we stopped hearing from them. When I finally got the editor on the phone to ask him where the rest of the interview was, he told me, rather sheepishly, that they'd put the issue to bed and hoped that I'd be able to find the situation funny after a while. I was pretty upset, because Spurgeon sent me a printed copy of the transcript and assured me I'd get my chance to fix things that I felt were confusing, incorrect, etc. When I bitched about being shut out of the process, Gary Groth basically told me to calm down and stop being a baby, and that, whatever the case may have been, the subjects weren't allowed to copy edit their interviews. He also took me to task for my use of the phrase "copy edit", because he's such a sweet individual. "Copy edit" was the phrase Spurgeonm had used on the phone and the printed transcript, so I repeated the phrase -- and it's no trade secret that people often go over their Journal interviews and change things. From what I'd been told at the time, some interviews were held up for long periods of time while people tinkered with them, and some interviews were heavily tinkered with before they saw print. Sometimes to the point of being rewritten. While I went over my interview, I took great pains to only clean things up and correct typos. I didn't excise anything, even if it made me look bad, or sounded idiotic, and I had no intention of excising any harsh comments I made in the second half of the interview about other professionals (Ron Goulart in particular) or various NYC comics shops (comments that resulted in the Journal and my own work being banned by the hard-working professionals at Village Comics -- who also threatened a lawsuit over my "slander". Yes, print. But that's another, very long, very insane story).

Anyway, there are sections where things get muddled even more than they already were, and none of this helped me come off any better. In the end, the fault lies mainly with myself. If I spoke more concisely and more plainly, and kept my head, they wouldn't have had to pick through so much blathering stored on so many hard to transcribe tapes. I realize at this stage in the game that some people enjoy hearing me talk about comics, because I am aware that I bring some kind of passion to the table, if not always coherence, and at times I can get a good observation or joke out there. In person, an audience can understand what I'm getting at through the fog of my presentation and the sheer verbal flood (my inability to shut up on panels is a related shortcoming). In print, I am an uncontrollable trainwreck.

Anyway, I'm glad to hear that some folks have gotten something out of that mess of a Journal interview. I'll admit it makes an interesting companion piece to Dork #7, but unfortunately, I feel it presents me as even more of a head case than the comic does.

Okay, that's enough procrastinating. I actually meant to post about other things, but as usual, I got sidetracked, Story of my life and career, really. I'd better get outside to shovel some snow before the sun sets. I find shovelling snow in the dark is incredibly depressing, the lonely scraping noise of the shoverl, the utter silence all around you. Shovelling snow in the daylight can actually be kind of nice, I come up with a lot of ideas for comics doing tasks like that. The only problem is I never got around to buying snow boots, I still wear my step-dads old Vietnam jungle army boots, the same ones I used to wear at Ramones and Fishbone shows, the same ones which have very little traction and often cause me to fall or do a sudden split that practically ruptures my groin. I don't want to shovel. I just finished up my DC limited series pitch and I have to get the Dork trade cover asap. So why the %@$!! am I still typing?!?!?