By Will Wellington
Lots of big comics news this week, but since good ole BK Munn covered the major stories (Dave Sim! FanExpo! Shuster Awards! Mr. Monster!) I figured I’d offer, in lieu of the weekly C-List, this short, sweet interview I did with weirdo-comix wunderkind Michael DeForge.
This is a big year for DeForge. He started it strong with First Year Healthy, has two new Koyama titles coming in the fall, and meanwhile continues to release his best stories yet through his Patreon page. And next year promises to be another big one, what with the release of his first nonserialized long-form tale, Big Kids. But to say that any one year is a big year for DeForge is to ignore the fact that this guy is always cooking up something interesting and finding a cool outlet for it.
I interviewed DeForge over email earlier this summer. Sadly, I never got the chance to follow up with him about Big Kids, the new Creep Highway record, Sticks Angelica, Dressing, or Lose #7. Nevertheless, DeForge is an eloquent, generous subject and I think this interview demonstrates that. Enjoy.
WW: You don’t like looking back on your older work and often put down the stories you no longer admire, even excluding Lose #1, the comic that put you on the map, from A Body Beneath. What are the works you think of as your best? Are there any older pieces that still excite you?
You mentioned Black Hole in an interview somewhere–how the images stuck with you, and how it showed that comics could be horrifying without the jump scares of cinema. What do you think of Burns’ new trilogy–X’ed Out, The Hive, and Sugar Skull? Did you get a chance to meet him at TCAF this year?
I’m a big fan of Adventure Time and I try to keep an eye out for any designs that look like they might be yours–the horrific grinning spiders Ed and Barb from Season 4’s “Web Weirdos,” for instance. Are those your handiwork? What should fans of yours watch out for when watching the show?
I didn’t draw those spiders – I think they must have been Andy Ristaino’s designs, but it’s been a while since I worked on that episode, so I actually forget. I’m the props and effects guy, so I mostly draw mugs of coffee.
How did you come to work on the show?
I wasn’t trained in animation, so I wasn’t seeking it out – I never expected it would be a field I could work in. I was very lucky in that a few people who worked on the show were fans of my comics, and they asked me to audition for a design position. I already loved the show, so I did, and they hired me.
You drew a terrific little promotional comic for the new Speedy Ortiz record and you’ve done a bunch of t-shirt and poster designs for them–they thank you in the liner notes on Foil Deer. Do you have a special affinity with the band and is that why you work together so often? How did you get to know them? How do you like the new record?
Yeah, they’re friends. Sadie got at me a few years ago to draw some posters for the band with a link to their Bandcamp, and I ended up really loving their music. The new album is tremendous. Sadie’s songwriting is so odd and funny and specific and personal. Additionally, they are beasts at karaoke.
Your Patreon venture seems to be paying off. Has it made making a living off your work a little easier?
I like working with that subscription model, and knowing not all of them will see print has made it a nice format to experiment in. I don’t really make money off of my zines or mini-comics anymore, so this has helped offset the costs of those.
I think the stories you’re sending out to subscribers are just extraordinary. I notice the boy-bird is on the cover of Lose #7–are all of these stories going to be collected?
Thank you! I’m playing it by ear. Some will be collected, some will stay digital. It depends on what feels right for each project. There are a few included in both the new Lose issue and a short story collection called Dressing coming out in the fall, and Breakdown Press is collecting two of them as risographed comics later this month.
Your stylistic repertoire becomes more and more expansive with each month. Are you pushing yourself more these days? Do you get bored with certain aspects of your style? I love the colour palettes you’re using. I also think you’re pushing your narrative technique into new territory–like the sustained dramatic irony of “Regarding Quicksand” or the storybook style of First Year Healthy and “High As A House.” Does this all come from playing around at the drawing board or do you look to other places for inspiration?
I notice you’ve done a couple things with Spider-Man. Are you a Spider-Man fan? Have you ever thought about doing a mainstream superhero series, making the leap like Jeff Lemire?
I read a lot of superhero comics growing up, but I don’t really follow them anymore. I sometimes catch up with a few artists or writers I like – usually at book signings or on tours, when I’m spending a lot of time in comic stores. I doubt I’ll ever be offered a mainstream series, and it’s not something I can imagine myself being interested in pursuing.
I like the working sketches for MallNation. They’re so loose and organic, like they’re already animated on the page–I find your comics feel more like tableaux, still and precisely arranged. I would love to see you do more in TV–do you have any such plans?
I have some ideas for some small-scale film or animation projects that will hopefully see the light of day in one way or another. But no concrete plans yet.
Will Wellington lives in Guelph.