Aussie Ninja kicks some more arse with his first Q&A article
Tue, 21 February 2006
by: Australian Ninja
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Recently I took the time to do a Q&A with Jesse Reklaw, the creator of the website www.slowwave.com and the Slow Wave comic/web-strip. If you've never been to the site, then you owe it to yourself to check out one of the best comic strips you can find on the Internet. Go ahead, and hey, be sure to read this amazingly stupendous Q&A article as well, okay?
[Ninja's note: The Slow Wave comic strip is loosely based on people's real life dreams. There is a submission form at the website where anyone can write in their dream and Jesse Reklaw regularly chooses one each week or so and creates a four panel comic-strip out of it.] But enough of the explaining, on with the Q&A super-spectacular-extraordinaire!
Q. Jesse, what inspired you to create an online comic strip [Slow Wave] about people's real life dreams?
A. I started a personal website in 1995, and late in that year I invented Slow Wave to supply fresh, weekly content. I also made a web form so people could submit their own dreams for me to illustrate. I was really into that idea of Internet collaboration and interactivity, which I guess was fairly new at the time.
Q. As a kid, did you read any comic strips or comic books? Did any of those influence you in your artistic works today?
A. I read the daily comic strips until I was about fifteen. Garfield was one of my favorites. I had all the books. Then they got really boring and predictable to me. It actually made me angry. I think I felt betrayed, disillusioned by what I had previously enjoyed, or maybe by the realization that I was no longer the kid who had the capacity to enjoy them. I'm surprised that I'm creating a comic strip today.
I also had an addiction to Marvel and DC superhero comics, starting from when I was eight. In the end stage, I'd spend nearly all my teenage allowance ($50 a month in the mid-eighties) on them, and then catalog each issue in a database. The allowance was supposed to buy clothes and school lunches and entertainment, but I wore the same pants for years, and always brought food from home.
Q. As an adult, do you have any favorite comic strips or comic books / graphic novels?
A. This question is always hard to answer, since exciting new comics make me forget how much I liked older stuff. But here are a few of my all-time favorite cartoonists: Lynda Barry, Chester Brown, Ivan Brunetti, Dan Clowes, Julie Doucet, Gilbert Hernandez, Jaime Hernandez, Kevin Huizenga, Ben Katchor, R. Sikoryak, Art Spiegelman, Chris Ware, & Jim Woodring. I like pretty much everything they've done.
Q. What would be your advice to someone who was interested in publishing her or his own comics' material on the Internet?
A. It can be an economical way to get a lot of exposure to a variety of people, to receive feedback, and to develop industry relationships. If you're self-motivated, and you're willing and able to create and maintain your own website,
|This is one of Jesse's pictures |
I recommend doing it all yourself; that way you can focus and develop your own web presence, to suit what you're doing. But if you don't want to do it all yourself, it can be worthwhile to get your comics into other sites. In any case, try to regularly update what you're putting online; don't let it stagnate.
Q. Slowwave.com is obviously a popular site. In what ways did you promote the site after you created the Slow Wave strip? Has it been more your own efforts, or word of mouth that got your strip noticed by potential readers?
A. I used to solicit dream submissions (and indirectly advertise my site) on newsgroups (a precursor to blogs), and in print ads, but it's all been word of mouth for a long time. Well, I guess my strip is read by potentially hundreds of thousands of people in newspapers, and that has my web address on it, so there's that.
Q. What are your aims in creating the Slow Wave strip? Humour is an obvious focus, as many of the strips are laugh out loud funny, and the drawings have evolved and become more refined since the early strips.
A. When I started out I was being a lot more experimental; I wanted to play with the format of the comic strip, like having the byline change every week with the name of the dreamer (something that I still do). I also wanted the content to be kind of weird and oblique, something you'd have to think about, not just a throwaway gag. I didn't want people to know it was a dream at first, but to be interested enough to try and figure out what it was. I probably wasn't too successful at all that, and after a while I got less interested in the idea of the dream as a psychic artifact. So I started trying to make the strip humorous. I was, after all, being paid to entertain people with a comic strip. I hope I've maintained some of the weirdness and thoughtfulness though.
Q. Are there any (non-comics) artists from other fields that you admire? For example: music, painting etc.
A. I think I admire too many people to name. I'm always comparing my life to the lives of famous dead people, to see if I measure up, or to see how I can follow their success. It can be a bummer though to learn a lot about someone whose art you like, and then find out they were a real asshole.
Q. Tell us some of you interests and hobbies outside of your work at slowwave.com?
A. I'm trying to focus on comic work right now, and I have a number of different stories I'm working on. I've also been painting a lot lately, in watercolor and acrylic.
Plus I make music and little videos for fun with a friend. If I have any free time I like to watch movies, read, and play board-games and cards.
Q. Have you ever visited any comic related art exhibits?
A. I've seen a lot of pop culture art shows that are inspired by comics, but usually shows of actual comic art on the wall is pretty uninspiring. It can be informative to see original comic art, with the erased pencil lines, and white-out--it helps to understand the mechanical process and the craft--but as art it isn't so interesting. There was an exhibit at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco about two years ago that had art by a lot of my
favorite cartoonists. That was educational.
Q. Why do you think it is that when somebody such as Charles Schultz [the creator of the "Peanuts" strip/ Charlie Brown] dies his work is seen as art by the mainstream media? But when a comics artist is alive their art is not usually taken seriously outside the medium of comics?
A. Considering how most people feel about fine art from the past century, I don't think comics are doing too badly. But yeah, death can be a real boost for your career.
Q. Bill Watterson [creator of the Calvin and Hobbes newspaper strip] decided to retire his creation while it was still going strong. Similar to what happened with the American television show "Seinfeld." Do you have any plans for how long you will keep going with your slow wave strip?
A. For a while I've been planning to quit after 15 years, in 2010. But I just celebrated my ten-year anniversary, and now I can imagine doing Slow Wave for another ten years. It's tough to keep motivated, but I usually find ways to make the strip new and challenging for myself.
Q. [Note: Before I was involved with Buttonhole I received some small mini comics in the post from Jesse Reklaw, he sent them to me from the USA to Australia for free and even decorated the envelope with some crazy fish stamps. I've never met him, but we exchanged a couple of emails, and I enjoyed the mini-comics immensely.] In regards to the mini-comics, have you sent any of those to other people? And what motivates a guy to do such a nice thing for someone - sending them free mini-comics?
A. I used to be involved with some mail art and zine/mini-comic trading circles, where that kind of generosity and sharing was normal. I enjoyed getting cool stuff in the mail, so I wanted to spread that feeling around. Lately I don't have much time to do free stuff though.
Q. There is a collection of Slow Wave strips for sale at www.hobocomics.com Can you tell us what the Hobocomics site is about and how did your work end up there?
A. Global Hobo is a distributor of mini-comics that was started by me and some cartoonist friends in the San Francisco Bay Area. Hobocomics is the website where we sell the stuff directly, but we also go to trade shows, and distribute to stores. It helps to pool our resources for all this, because it can be really draining for one person to do it all.
Q. I notice some of your comics are hand made. Who makes them and how are they made?
A. I, like most cartoonists, make my own mini-comics. Photocopies got really affordable in the 1990s and that revolutionized the minicomics medium. In the last five years or so, people have gotten really into book arts and silkscreening or using other printmaking techniques for their covers too. I'm not sure what's inspired that--perhaps that the internet has made paper publishing that much more precious--but minicomics are looking better and better each year.
Q. Can you tell us about some of your other comics: "Concave Up" and "Couch Tag" for example? [Note: In addition to creating the ongoing Slow Wave web strip, Jesse has created various comic books that are available through www.hobocomics.com]
A. I self-published Concave Up from 1995-1998; it was a glossy comic book distributed through comic book stores and a few newsstands. In it I drew dreams as 1-8 page comics. Slow Wave grew out of that, but ended up being more successful. I think people had a hard time keeping interested in long dreams. It's best to keep them short and funny I think.
Couch Tag is my new minicomic series that's all autobiographical. The story in #2 will be printed by Houghton-Mifflin's Best American Comics of 2005. I'm currently working on issue #3.
Q. In regards to cats, do you have any pets of your own? [Cats feature in some of Jesse's comic-book works.]
A. I haven't lived in a place that's allowed pets for a while. But I'm currently looking to buy a house with my girlfriend, so hopefully soon we'll have some cats.
Q. There has been a real explosion of comic-related movies in recent years, both in terms of the number of films being made and the overall higher quality of those films compared to previous comic related work. Do you watch these kinds of movies? Any favorites? Would you like to have something of your own turned into a film? I'm thinking more like the film version of Daniel Clowes' Ghostworld than say X-Men 2.
A. I like movies a lot, but I also like comic books as they are. Getting your book made into a movie can be attractive, since it's a much more lucrative industry. But if money weren't an issue, I wouldn't see the need for an adaptation. It would be interestingly creepy to see what someone else did with your vision, but mostly it would probably be disappointing and frustrating. I liked Ghost World a lot more as a comic book, and Dan Clowes even got to write the screenplay for that. Those superhero movies are kind of fun, since I read all the comics when I was a kid, but they're all pretty much the same.
Q. Do you get time to look at e-comics yourself? Can you recommend any good e-comics and/or websites to the readers of Buttonhole?
A. Achewood is rad. I don't read much comics online. I forget sometimes that Slow Wave is a webcomic too. That medium has grown tremendously in the last five years or so. A friend told me I may have the longest-running webcomic, but I don't know if Slow Wave really counts since it's also in print. [Ninja's Note: The Achewood strip can be seen at www.achewood.com - Check out the archive and gallery while you are there]
Q. What do you feel is unique about comics as an art form? Why should we read comics at all rather than say a book, film or television?
A. I'm a very visual person, and that may be why I've always loved comics as a storytelling medium (as opposed to prose literature, which I often find a little boring). Movies are great too, but comics have more potential for depth and authorial vision. They're also more portable and intimate, as well as a lot cheaper for one person to make than movies. It's amazing to me what an immediate, natural medium it is, that anyone can sit down with some paper and a pencil and make a comic.
|And here is another. What a beauty. |
Q. Is there anything you wish to add, or elaborate on?
I guess I never answered why I was drawing dreams in particular for Slow Wave. There was a point when I was into dream analysis a little, and the metaphysical aura of dreams as a different state of consciousness. But that interest kind of faded. What's endured is my appreciation for the incredible range of creative freedom. In a dream, it's normal for anything to happen. That's a great landscape for humor and cool things to draw.
Thanks for your time Jesse! I wish you continued success with the website and your unique art.
by: Australian Ninja
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