Joe Ollmann is one of my favourite cartoonists. His scratchy angular angry big steaming slice-of-life comics are beautiful and bittersweet mini-masterpieces. The Montreal-based cartoonist has several book collections of his graphic short stories out, the last one, This Will All End In Tears, won the Doug Wright Award for Best Book in 2008.
Ollmann’s latest opus, a mostly-autobiographical graphic memoir entitled Mid-Life, has just been picked up by Drawn and Quarterly and will be published in 2011. Of the book, Ollmann has said with typical self-deprecation, “until now, I’ve been the un-marketable entity that made short story comics when the slavering masses are drooling for ‘GRAPHIC NOVELS.’ With this book, in which I appear in my underpants on what seems to be 90% of the pages, I am sure to be catapulted into some kind of hot-property-like-comicy-stardom.”
Sequential caught up with Ollmann via email just as he was about to plunge into a pair of new projects and asked him about the process of bringing the book to print.
“I finished the book last summer, but then spent a long time, scanning, editing, redrawing, fixing lettering etc. Sam Haywood at Transatlantic is my agent, she wanted a good, clean version of the book before we shipped it around. I have an agent since the last book won the Doug Wright Award and thought the cred from that could help get the book placed with a bigger publisher. I sent the book to D&Q unofficially as we live in the same city and I see Chris and Tom and Peggy at barbecues and kid parties, so there was that, then Sam sent the manuscript officially as a submission and they sent us an offer and we accepted it. Well, I was a lot more excited than that. I’ve followed D&Q since the first issue of the comic back in the day and I have massive amounts of respect for Chris and the company, so it’s a dream come true to be published by them. The book is scheduled to come out in winter 2011, which seems like a hundred years when the book was done last summer, but that’s part of being published by a bigger company, they move slower and make sure everything is done correctly.”
Was he at all tempted to self-publish under his own Wag Press imprint?
“I self-published in the 80’s and I’d rather be shot in the face than do that again, I’ve got the business acumen of a turd.”
Is he having a mid-life crisis?
“The book is called Mid-Life and it is partially based on real events, of having turned 40, having a kid with my younger second wife after turning 40 and also having two adult kids from my previous marriage. But there are a bunch of other story lines in there that are fictional or semi-fictional. Not sure how much I will get into discussing what’s real and what’s fake yet. But shit, yeah, I’m still having a mid-life crisis. Getting old is traumatic.”
Joe Ollmann talks a bit about the the creative process:
“The creative process is the same old story for any cartoonist, at the end of the day, go down the stairs, sit at the drawing table and work for as long as you can, eventually you’ll have something at the end of it. Just, dumb old slogging really. When the script was done, I sent it to all the people who have fictitious counterparts in the story and then got down to drawing it.”
What’s next for Joe Ollmann?
“I’m writing 2 new books right now, one is three long, short-stories of the depressing kind that appeared in my previous books, the other is a long biography of the 1930’s adventure/travel writer William Seabrook. He was an alcoholic bondage enthusiast, and a one-time cannibal. he brought the word zombie into the English language, was one of the highest paid writers of his day, and he’s virtually unknown today. So, that one is requiring a lot of research and buying expensive old books and trying not to make it read like bad old classic comics: ‘World war Two happened, then he fell in love. He caught TB’ all in one panel, you know?”
Joe Ollman bibliography:
Chewing On Tinfoil, Insomniac Press (2002)
The Big Book Of Wag, Conundrum Press (2005)
This Will All End in Tears, Insomniac Press (2006)
Ollmann will be appearing at TCAF, May 8-9.
(images from Mid-Life, copyright Joe Ollman)