I like [Optic Nerve]. A lot. So when I was at the 1994 Puppy Toss show at the Barnes and Noble in Berkeley I went up to Adrian - who I had been seeing all over the place but never had the courage to actually talk to - and said "I want to interview you." That's it. Fortunately for our sakes he acquiesced, and so we arranged to meet the following week. I had the hardest time finding his house; he lives near a corner, and both intersecting streets were on the exact same numbering series, so of course I took the wrong one. Asking people on the (wrong) street where a certain house was, I got the strangest feeling, like I was imposing upon them by passing through their neighborhood. Well Fuck them, I thought, I want to interview Adrian Tomine and I'm not leaving until I do. Eventually I reconfigured the instructions, backtracked a bit, and found the residence in question. The following conversation is what I fought so desperately for.
To begin with, how did you begin your art?
Well, I've been always drawing since as far back as I can remember. I was kind of encouraged by my family to some degree as I was growing up. I'd always been reading comics, as long as I can remember, too; I was looking at them before I could even read, really. Just as I got older I tried to put the two together - I eventually made the decision that I wanted to try to make comics too, instead of just drawing single pictures on paper. It just kind of evolved from that; I got more serious in high school, kind of out of necessity - I had nothing better to do. I was kind of like the typical social misfit in high school, so I'd just spend a lot of my time at home, in my room. Just to keep myself occupied I started working harder on comics, and by that time I was really getting re-excited in the whole medium by some of the better stuff that was coming out at that time.
Like what in particular?
The main one which really blew my mind was [Love and Rockets]. It had been coming out for a while, but it was around when I was about 14 or so that I started picking it up, and I really hit a new level, as far as my interest in comics, I really saw what could be done with it. So then I just started making short comic strips in sketchbooks, just trying to see if I could depict little vignettes, or show action happening and make it make sense. Then about that time I saw some homemade mini-comics from Terry LaBan and Julie Doucet, and those two were really the ones that gave me the idea - that's when I got the idea that you don't have to wait around to get published, you can just take your stuff down to a Kinko's and put it out yourself.
What were some of the first things that you actually published?
The first one that I actually put out was [Optic Nerve] #1, and those were just really primitive....I think the whole issue mostly is drawn with a ball-point pen, and just xeroxed out of one of my sketchbooks. Pretty rough.
How many copies did you produce of that issue?
25. I think that was the first print run.
Did they go over well?
Well, with you know my mom...(laughter), and my brother, they liked it. I couldn't get any stores to carry it; I took it to all of the stores in Sacramento, most of them didn't want it. One store - they ended up being the first place to ever carry [Optic Nerve] - they took like 5, and he took a look at it and said, "We'll put it out on the shelf, but I'm going to tell you that you need a better cover." But he put them out, and I think he sold a few, and lost the rest or something. It wasn't a big, immediate success, no.
So you grew up in Sacramento?
I went to high school in Sacramento. I lived in Sacramento for about 4 years, and prior to that I lived in - going backwards chronologically - I lived in Europe for a year, and then before that Fresno, and before that Corvalis, Oregon.
What did you do in Europe?
My mom got a job teaching over there, for just one year, with Boston University, so I just basically dropped out of school and went with her. The English-speaking school was too full, so they couldn't get me in, so I just ended hanging out with my brother. My brother took a year off from college to come over, and while my mom was teaching we would have a rented car and just travel around Europe. For about the last 4 months of that year - maybe the last 3 months - I went to school, and tried to get caught up, and took all of these tests to show that I could still keep up and everything. Other than that, I just pretty much bummed around Europe and traveled around.
How was that?
Oh, it was a great experience. I was pretty young - I think I could appreciate it better now - I was probably about 13 or 14 when I did it. It was a lot of fun; at that time, just as I had left for Europe, that's when I was really getting re-interested...the year or two before that I kind of lost interest in comics, it was when all this stuff that was supposed to be "adult" and 'mature" comics started coming out. I was excited, but I'd buy it and I'd always be kind of disappointed. Dark Knight, The Shadow - Howard Chaykin kind of stuff - I was sort of dazzled by it but always in the end let down. So I was kind of losing interest in comics, and just before I left for Europe I got into [Neat Stuff], [Weirdo], [Love and Rockets] and Lloyd Llewellyn and all those kind of things. I was really excited, so while I was in Europe I was hunting down a lot of those American comics that I was into, but at the same time enjoying a lot of these European cartoonists that I had neither seen nor heard of before; I was trying to buy a lot of the European albums.
Like whom in particular?
The European guys? Well, I was really into Munoz and Sampayo, who were already kind of known in America, but there was a lot of stuff over there that I hadn't really seen before. I like the Tintin books a lot, which I guess were also in America, too, pretty popularly, but when you're in Europe it's like everywhere - the Peanuts of Europe - it makes you really notice it a lot more. I was buying just anything that looked mildly interesting, some of it I don't even really like that much anymore. I was picking up stuff by Moebius, Beral, and I really got into this guy - Serge Clerk - 50s style brushwork.
So then you came back, went to high school in Sacramento..
Yes, 4 years in Sacramento.
...and started to publish your work. After the first issue that was very small, what happened?
Nothing. I kind of just kept at it. I didn't get a lot of feedback or anything, but I was really doing it for my own pleasure at that point. So I just kept putting them out, trying to improve with each one; when I first saw the first one in xerox form it really made me reevaluate it. There's something really different about just seeing it in a little sketchbook, and then seeing it actually - even if it's just published on a xerox machine or something - it really makes you reevaluate the quality of everything. Even if it's just the dinkiest kind of publishing, it still makes you notice all of the mistakes and the flaws. It made me real eager to just continue on and keep putting them out, and trying to improve certain things with each issue. I started mailing them off to a lot of different people - a lot of other cartoonists - and with each issue I just started getting more and more response, encouraging feedback, and that really kind of kept me going. Especially the encouragement from professional cartoonists who would write me back these really encouraging letters, and that would really pump me up, kept me drawing.
Was the anyone in particular...?
Pretty much everyone who's stuff I like. The guys up in Canada were all really, really helpful. Chester Brown, Seth, Joe Matt...well, Terry Laban...who else? David Mazzuchelli was very encouraging. Basically I was just sending them out to everybody, even if I didn't like there stuff that much; I was trying to get it out there as much as possible, hoping that it would get seen.
And when did Tower [Pulse] come into this?
I guess that was in '92, winter maybe. It was around the time of the third or fourth issue of [Optic Nerve], and that came about just because the magazine is based out of Sacramento, and at the time there was pretty much only one store in Sacramento that really catered to the alternative stuff. So they were carrying [Optic Nerve], and one of the editors of Pulse is just a really, really big comics fan; he would go there every week, and see my stuff, and eventually he just called me up and offered me a job, basically. So that's how that started.
You stayed there for a couple of years....
Yeah, I worked for about 2 and 1/2 years.
...and then a couple of months ago you stopped. What was your reason?
There wasn't any real secret reasons or anything, it was just becoming... there were definite limitations on what I could do. First of all, I mean there was only a very limited amount of space that I could work with, and secondly - I don't think a lot of people noticed it - but the thing that the editors told me was that every strip had to be in some way vaguely connected to music. I tried to make it very subtle in some of them, just because I didn't want to always write stories about going to a concert or something like that. There's only so many ideas I could come up with, with those kind of limitations. And the deadlines were just becoming really hectic for me, because at the beginning of the month I'd have to fax them 3 complete strips - 3 roughed out ideas, completely written and sketched out - and they would pick one, then in two weeks I would have to send them the original art for that. So every two weeks it was a pretty nerve-wracking deadline. Between school and trying to work on my comic book it was kind of monopolizing my time too much.
What happened to the rejected strips?
Some of them I resubmitted and they took (laughter), later on, after they had forgotten about it or something. A lot of the other ones I just still have sitting in the sketchbook. Some of them really weren't that good, I got to the point where I knew what they wanted, and so I would do one that I thought was really good, that they would want to run, and two that I knew were just kind of throwaways.
Was there any particular point in the run of [Optic Nerve] that you thought to yourself "Now I'm doing a level of work that I think is good"?
No. I've never felt that. Every issue I just feel like it's horrible when I send it off to the printers. When I see it I feel disappointed with it, I see nothing but the big mistakes. I can sort of read the first two issues and be sort of surprised at the stories, and be a little bit more objective about the writing, but any ones after that I feel are really too recent and I can't read the stories objectively, I remember this line, and I remember when I didn't know what this character should say. So I can't read it objectively.
How long does it take for each issue?
Hopefully now it's going to take me six months for each issue, I'm going to try to do two a year. My pace has gotten slower and slower as I'm more aware of different things, and how I want to make it look better, better technique and everything. The first issue I think I might have drawn all of it in the same day basically, it would belike no penciling and just go straight with a ball-point pen. Now it takes me a week to do a page.
Are you going to stay with the current 24 pages?
Yeah. That's going to be the general format of it, but I think the first issue is going to be extra big, just because I feel like I have a lot of ideas and I want the first issue to be extra substantial. It might be like 28 or 32 pages.
And this is the first issue with Drawn and Quarterly?
How did that come about?
It was basically just a lesson in persistence. I would recommend it to anyone who's doing mini-comics, if they want to be published, is to keep sending stuff to the publisher you want to work for, no matter what. I sent them maybe the first three issues, and got absolutely no response - not even acknowledgement that they received it, nothing. By the forth or fifth issue I got a letter back that was just complete, brutal criticism, like "Here's all the things you did wrong. I don't like these stories but the other ones show potential". That was it. Around the sixth issue he wrote me back a letter that was pretty encouraging, it was like "It's getting there, and we might like to do something with you down the line. Keep sending us stuff". Then at some point last year he started seeing some of my stuff in some magazines, I think he saw some stuff from [Pulse!], and he saw a piece I did for [Details]. I guess that was enough for him, he called me up and said "I'm ready if you are." I said absolutely.
Has the press been largely positive to you? The more mainstream press.
Uh-huh. Absolutely. Basically all press has been - small press, mainstream press - everything has been very positive and very helpful for me. A lot of it might have to do with the fact that I was a "mini-comic", and so I think you get cut some more slack when your a mini-comic. I'm preparing for the onslaught of criticism when the real book comes out, because I think people can be a little more mercenary at that point.
Why exactly did you pick Drawn and Quarterly, as opposed to Fantagraphics or whomever else?
Well just because Fantagraphics never expressed any interest, I never have talked to anyone from Fantagraphics about publishing. They never contacted me in any way, so I just kind of got the hint that they really weren't interested in it. Basically, when it comes down to it, the best two publishers right now are Fantagraphics and Drawn and Quarterly. What I think differentiates them is that Drawn and Quarterly has a very select roster of all good titles, whereas Fantagraphics has a few of the best comics being put out, but they also have a huge, huge amount of some of the worst comics being put out, too.
What would you consider to be some of the worst comics?
Well...most of the Eros stuff, most of the Monster stuff, and a lot of the little black and white comics that come out for two or three issues or something and everybody forgets about them. And then I just think Drawn and Quarterly has a real high integrity, as far as what they publish, and I think they really have the best production values of any publisher I know.
So, as opposed to when you were doing issues on your own, how are the financing and publishing and this and that being handled?
When I was doing it myself all of the money was coming out of my pocket, and all the profits were coming right back in to my pocket. In this new set-up I don't have to put down any money, I just send them the artwork. I don't have to do any of the production work, or deal with any printers or distributors or anything like that, I just send them the artwork, and then they send me a check, a percentage of the cover prices.
Do you prefer that...
Absolutely. I was at the point, working on this last mini-comic issue, where I felt like if I don't hook up with a publisher by the next issue I don't know what I'm going to really do. When you"re doing a mini-comic and your xeroxing 3 pieces of paper on a regular xerox machine, and selling 25 of them, it's really easy to manage. But I was getting at a point where I had a print run of 6000, dealing with the printer in Canada, having to do color separations, getting all these orders on a daily basis, and so it was just eating up a lot of my time having to fill orders, stuff envelopes, cash checks, deal with distributors, and I feel like publishing - and I know a lot of mini-comics people are going to disagree with this - but I really think that publishing and producing comics are two separate jobs. You have to be either have to be an amazingly dedicated person with no other job or anything that's going to take up your time, to be able to really do both of those successfully. I mean I think that it can be done - Dave Sim and Jeff Smith have proved that - but I think for the average person it's really difficult. I think almost anyone would have an easier time if they were published by someone else.
What do you think in general of the mini-comic/zine scene, as opposed to the higher levels, and the increased attention that it's getting these days?
Well, I think it's all very positive, I think that it's a good thing. I certainly still enjoy reading a lot of mini-comics and zines that are coming out today, more than a lot of real - you know, so to speak - comics and magazines that are being put out. I think it's great that it's that easy and it's that accessible for people to just put stuff out into the world. I think at the same time, though, there's a lot of bad mini-comics, that people kind of have this attitude "Well, you know I'm just xeroxing this, and I don't care if it looks good or not". They just fart something out, it's like a waste of paper, basically. So I think there's both good and bad in it. Also, there's a lot of different opinions going on, there are a lot of people in mini-comics who think that that's the best way to stay, that you should always self-publish and you should always stay a xeroxed, little mini-comic, and that like the most honest or respectable way to go. And then there are people more like me who have always been aspiring to get a published book, that will be seen by a lot of people and that will look nice. There are a lot of people who can see both sides, but there are a lot of people in the mini-comic world who are extreme in their views, there's this opposition going on between those two viewpoints.
How in general would you describe your book?
It's hard to sum up because there's not like one continuing story or anything. The only limitations that I"ve put on myself is that when I'm sitting down to write I just want to write about some things that are interesting to me, that,if I was going to pick up a comic book I might find interesting. It ends up boiling down to being that each issue is basically a collection of a few little self-contained short stories, that kind of avoid the general, stereotypical trappings of mainstream comics, and focus more on the everyday dramas that most people experience, or can relate to.
Are you going in the direction generally of having more fictional stories or more autobiographical ones?
Fictional. It's a conscious decision, I've always felt...I mean my autobio stuff was really fun and easy to do, but I think for that reason that they're not the best work that I've done, because they're so easy. I started to realize that I was kind of using it as a crutch, like if I couldn't come up with a good story, I would just basically transcribe in visual form some minuscule event that had happened to me. It really doesn't necessarily make for a good story; you have to have really good subject matter or being a really amazing cartoonist to make that stuff work, and I was finding in my case that it was lacking in some way. Also, I had to realize that when I was doing this autobio stuff I was really censoring my stuff a lot more, because I was a lot more nervous about the kind of things that I could reveal or express. And so as a result they're very bland stories, they're not very dramatic or they don't reveal much about me. I found that by going in this fictional direction that it allows me leeway to make the stories better. I don't have to say that now this is exactly how it happened, I can start from a real event and then I can fictionalize it and make it into a good story, an interesting story. And at the same time with this veil of fiction I think....a lot of the fictional stuff I've been doing lately - like with the last two issues and this one I'm working on now - reveal a lot more, maybe secretly, but they reveal a lot more personal stuff about me than any of then straight autobio stuff I ever did.
So how do you approach the construction of your fictional work? Do you concentrate more on the artwork or on the actual plotting?
It's just a whole process. I keep a little notebook, and I just jot down real quick little ideas - any little snippet of an idea - and some of them go nowhere, some of them then may lead to stories, and I just think about that for a while. Then I move into writing it out long-hand, like a movie script basically, then taking it and breaking it down into a rough, stick-figure kind of thing where I can lay out what's going to happen in each panel, work out the dialogue. From there I start drawing on the real paper, and I'm sort of rewriting it as I'm working on it, and constantly re-thinking the dialogue or whatever. Eventually it evolves into the finished product.
Besides your [Optic Nerve] work, I've seen some of your work in [Details] or [Entertainment Weekly] or [Pulse!]. Are you going more in that direction, doing spot work?
No. I mean I'd like to, magazine work certainly pays much better than comic book work. It's good money, and the exposure never hurts, so I think my ideal would eventually be to be able to work on the comic and do some illustration work on the side, because I still enjoy doing it. I think if you could support yourself by doing that then that's really ideal.
So is that your goal, to be totally self-supporting?
Yeah, through art work.
Is that what you're studying in school now?
No. I'm an English major.
Why did you go into that?
Besides it being the default major for people.
Yeah, basically that's it. I don't know, I started with the intention of being an art major, and I took some of the beginning art classes, and I didn't enjoy them at all. I found that they were being kind of counterproductive to working on my comics, because I'd spend over 9 hours doing some kind of stupid abstract painting in a studio, and then I'd come home and not even want to work on comics. I'd watch TV or something. It wasn't fun for me at all, and I started taking some English classes and found that one, it was a lot more interesting to me, and two, that by keeping my two endeavors separate I could think more clearly with each one. It ended up being that it's not a completely unconnected thing, I think being forced to read all of these books and stuff and thinking critically about how great works of literature are constructed or in what way they accomplish certain things, even if just subliminally can help me out as a writer in some way.
So what do you consider your influences, either more in the literature realm or in comics?
In literature I don't know, I don't feel that I'm well-read enough to really saw which...I think it's really lofty to claim influences from the literature world. I haven't really made a conscious effort to do anything like that, to learn from just one specific writer. Certainly I'm more interested in short stories, maybe as a result of a shorter attention span or something (laughs), but I gravitate towards modern, fictional short stories - Raymond Carver in particular I really enjoy. Some people might make some kind of connection between what I do and his stuff. In terms of comics, I'm really influenced by just about every good alternative guy that's doing stuff right now, there's just a lot of good artists that all influence me in some ways, some larger than others. Some of the writing, some of the art, some just the general attitude and what not.
Since your artwork is inherently visual in its presentation of the story, do you pay attention to movies a lot, or television?
Yeah. Not so much television, but definately I think a lot of stuff from comics may be - if not consciously, maybe unwittingly - borrowed from film, in terms of how to depict certain things. I enjoy seeing movies, and a lot of times that's inspirational to me.
In today's marketplace, you go down to Comic Relief or something, and the majority of the shelves are filled with X-crap or whatever else. How you think that effects what you're doing, either in terms of it's acceptance or in terms of the general marketplace?
Well, that's tough. To look at it on a short-term basis, I think it's kind of necessary. As far as going to conventions I've learned we kind of need these Todd McFarlaines or whatever in order to make comic conventions possible, to make people come to San Diego or whatever, and we can sort of be - another cartoonist described this as being "barnacles on their ship", in a way - so I think in that way it's sort of necessary. But I think in the long-term it's a completely negative force against the kind of stuff that so-called alternative comics are trying to do. It perpetuates a lot of the negative myths about comics, and it's just a theory, but I kind of think it diverts a lot of money that could be coming into the alternative comics world. If you could imagine that there's a finite amount of people that are interested in comics as a medium, and the fact that 99.9% of all their money is going into stuff published by Marvel, D.C., Image or whatever, it just seems kind of unfair or something. I would just wish that in a way it could be more evenly distributed. It's like people always say that there's nothing wrong with superhero comics per se, it's just a genre within the medium, but it would be as if 99% of all movies were Westerns or something like that, it just doesn't make sense the way it's so disproportionate.
So would you rule out entirely moving to a more major publisher - Marvel, D.C.? For example, Evan Dorkin went from doing [Milk and Cheese] to [Bill and Ted's] for Marvel.
Well, in his case I don't see it as that much of a difference, the kind of stuff he was doing. I think fans of his can appreciate both, his Marvel stuff and his Slave Labor stuff - people can appreciate it in both ways. In that case, that's fine, and if you can make money that way more power to him, but it wouldn't really make sense for someone like Julie Doucet to be drawing Batman.
Even if say D.C. - their Vertigo line - approached you and said "we want to let you do what you do, for us. We'll distribute you very heavily, promote you, this and that...." Would you consider or accept it?
I wouldn't be opposed to it, as long as it's my book and everything. That's certainly not an aspiration of mine, I don't really have any interest in it.
So then where in general do you see your work going?
Well, right now I'm really excited about this new phase of [Optic Nerve], that's starting with the publisher. Right now, at least, I'm really interested in just trying to do the best work that I can within this framework of a twice-yearly comic book format with a collection of self-contained short stories. I feel that I have a lot of improvement that I can work on in that framework, and I want to push that for a while. Maybe in the long run I'll be interested in doing a longer book-length piece or something like that - to me those are the real achievements in the world of alternative comics, these big, satisfying book-like stories. I don't think I have it in me at this point, but that might be something to aspire to.
Since you've been around Berkeley, and since Dan Clowes has been around here, I've been seeing you two around, hanging out. How did you meet exactly?
Well, it's an interesting story, because I've a fan of his work since the Lloyd Llewellyn days, back when I was living in Fresno, and he was living in Chicago. I'd just been following his evolution and just being constantly inspired and awed by his development in his work, especially when he started doing [Eightball]. Then what happened....I moved to Berkeley probably around the same time he did, but I had never really had much contact with him, he sent me a postcard or something through the mail but it was very brief. When I came to Berkeley I was always wondering if I would run into him or something, but I wasn't quite sure what he looked like, and people were always like "Oh yeah! He was just here in the comic store, you just missed him," and I would think "Aww, man! Weird." I kind of had the same feelings about Clowes, I knew that Richard Sala lived in Berkeley and Lloyd Dangle - mainly those three guys. So I was living in one place near campus for my first year in town, and after that I moved into this house, just kind of randomly - some friends were moving out and they had an empty room, so I just moved into this place. Then I sent issue 6 of [Optic Nerve] to Dan, and I guess he had it just lying around his house, and his girlfriend - who is also a student at U.C. Berkeley - saw the cover with the photos on it and said "I think that guy is in one of my classes." Dan was like "I don't think so, I don't think he's that young" or something, but then his girlfriend approached me in one of the classes - we did have a class together, we were both English majors - and we started talking. Through her I met Dan, and it turns out that I live on the same street and within two blocks it's me, Dan Clowes, Richard Sala and maybe a few blocks further down it's Lloyd Dangle. Unwittingly I had moved into this kind of little cartoonist community.
Have you ever thought of doing some collaborative work with them?
Not really. I think we're all too self-obsessed (laughs), too self-motivated to work on our own projects. I mean we've done little jam mini-comics at a coffee shop or something - we'll all just sit down and work on these little things - but it's all just for our own amusement, nothing serious.
You mentioned going to conventions. Has that environment been supportive, at San Diego and so on?
Yeah. I've been to a handful of conventions, and I kind of have a love-hate relationship with them - it's fun for me to hang out with the other cartoonists and to meet people that are cartoonists who's work I really like, but generally it's real easy to get depressed. You can never count on how well you're going to do, sometimes there'll be a group of people who want to come up and buy stuff from you and talk to you, and sometimes you'll go a whole weekend with tumbleweeds rolling across your table. Pretty much no matter what you can count on watching a million people line up to meet some other cartoonist and give them thousands of dollars, and you can't help but always feel a little bit like "God, I wish that was happening to me!" It's a strange emotional experience, but I keep on going, either because I'm a glutton for punishment....I mean I do enjoy it, it's sort of fun in a very twisted way.
Also, would you consider doing collaboration in the sense that someone writes and then you draw, or vise versa?
I've been approached about it, and I think good work can be done in that way - Munoz and Sampayo are the best example of that. Right now I don't really feel that I'd be able to do it; it takes a lot of energy for me to draw a page, and unless it something that I wrote, and just part of an organic whole - a whole process that I'm trying to create, because to me the writing and drawing are really intertwined - unless I have that kind of feeling and motivation, I don't know if I'd be able to muster the energy to draw very well for someone else's story.
So would you say that the process is in general more important than the product - that you're constantly improving on it - or is there more satisfaction in the completed work?
Well, to me they're equal. I know some cartoonists who are only interested in the finished product, and whatever acclaim or money that might reward that, but for me the creative process is very enjoyable. I'm doing this by choice - I enjoy doing it - the process is as enjoyable as the results.
Where do you see yourself five years from now?
I think my real ideal would be to have a comic book that's successful to the point that I could live off of the money from it, where I can just work on a comic full-time, and be able to live a decent existence because of that. And to gain some amount of respect from my peers in the cartooning world.
So would that be a more important respect than from say a fan that wrote you a letter?
Well, I guess it really shouldn't be. I mean it's gratifying when I receive a letter from someone who just simply enjoys the stuff. But yeah, I guess it is to me, it is more important when another cartoonist who I really, really admire will complement it in a very honest - not just being courteous, but genuinely complementary - then that really means a lot to me.
So when is the first issue coming out?
I think March.
How's it going?
It's about halfway done. I'm experiencing a little bit of a set-back now, because I started doing this story that I'm working on now, and I did two complete pages and I realized that I'd done the lettering way too small; I forgot how much I was going to be reducing it. So when I reduced it down on the xerox machine it was really, really hard to read. I'm going back and redrawing those first pages with the new lettering - a little bit of a setback, but my pace is going faster than I expected, so I'm more than halfway done.
Would you consider eventually doing a collection of your smaller works?
Yeah, I think we might do that. Drawn and Quarterly is talking about maybe doing a book of all the mini-comics stuff, and then maybe some additional new stuff. In a thin paperback or something.
Besides seeing you around at Comic Relief, I see you at the record stores. What do you think of music today, what things are you into?
I don't know. I mean I'm not that up on music today, I'm sort of out of touch with it - I don't spend as much time thinking about music as I do about comics. But, to me it is an important part; whenever I'm drawing I do have some music playing on the stereo, it's definitely essential to the process.
So what are you listening to now?
I listening to this band called Cub, from Vancouver. The new Heavenly album...I don't know. I try to just keep it really diverse, just so I don't get bored with what I'm doing, especially if I doing some tedious element of the drawing process. I listen to the radio a lot, I'll have it on KALX, or I'll listen to the oldies station, or ridiculous talk radio - anything just to keep my mind occupied as I'm cutting zipatone or something like that.
How much time during the day on average do you spend...
I try to maintain the schedule where I work on comics at night. I go to school in the day, and maybe in the evening take care of homework or something like that, and I try to get to work about 10 each night, and I'll work until 3 or 3:30 in the morning. I try to end up with about 40 hours a week, working on comics.
How much time do you have for sleep?
I sleep, I get my 7 and a half hours of sleep every night. But, for me working on comics is the relaxing part - they're one and the same to me. That's my leisure time, I enjoy doing it.
Would you, in the face of the recent elections, what have you - the climate here - would you consider staying in California for a while, or going somewhere else?
Yeah, certainly the elections were completely disappointing and shocking to me....Yeah, I really like Berkeley as a town, It's probably my favorite place that I've lived in so far in my life. I really like a lot of stuff about this town, not only just as a town but also it's really the first time I've lived in a community where there's actually a lot of other cartoonists and people that are interested in comics. I've found that that's really been very, very helpful in a lot of ways; not only do you learn stuff from other cartoonists - get tips or encouragement - but there's also this emotional, kind of psychological aspect where it's just nice to be amongst people who appreciate the kind of stuff that you're working on. When I was living in Sacramento I felt like I might as well be drawing my stuff and throwing it straight into the trash can or something. So yeah, I really enjoy living here. My brother lives up in Seattle now, and I go up and visit him a lot, and it's kind of the same way; it's a fun town, and there's also this huge comics community, even more so up there in Seattle. That's a place I might consider too, although I don't know if I could handle the weather. Right now to me Berkeley's really ideal.
So what does your brother do?
Oh, he's just an advertising writer - a copywriter.
Would you consider that type...
No! (laughs). No way.
So I guess finally, is there anything, any message that you want to convey to your readers, or to potential readers?
Yeah, I guess to potential readers I would say - I assume a lot of people who right read your zine might not really be into comics themselves - and so I would just want to express that [Optic Nerve] is definately a comic that anyone can pick up and enjoy, and you don't have to have read 10 years of back story or anything like that. Everything is self-contained and it's the kind of stuff that I imagine most people would be either interested in or can relate to in some way. It's kind of a comic that hopefully has an universal appeal in some way. Other than that I would just hope that people pick out the next issue when it comes out in March.
How much is that issue going to be?
$2.95. I want to make it worth my publisher's while.
Are you concerned like say for example if they made your product into something really high-glossy, that it's out of the reach of certain readers?
I guess...I don't know, I imagine that it would have to be a really astronomical price for it to be out of reach for most readers. It seems like most people who buy comics have a good amount of disposable income, and if people can afford to go see a $7.50 movie then they can certainly afford a $2.00 comic book. Plus they get to have something, too.
Adrian Tomine can be contacted at P.O. Box 4025, Berkeley, CA 94704. For gosh sakes, support the kind fellow. The Drawn and Quarterly [Optic Nerve] is now on its third issue, which really is amazing. Plus, [32 Stories] - the mini-comic collection - is completed and out, in an attractive paperback package. Either makes for great reading.
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