Peripherally, I’ve been aware of Noah and his Blammo series since ’09 when I started seeing his comic reviewed on small press sites like Optical Sloth and Midnight Fiction.
Then at SPX, Nic Breutzman, another fantastic cartoonist, tabled near Noah and gave him a copy of Yearbooks (a comic I coloured and published). Apparently he enjoyed it enough to mention in Blammo #4, which I purchased at Stumptown last year.
Through sheer coincidence I met Noah Van Sciver last year at MIX when he and an awesome gaggle of amazing cartoonists crashed at my place. We’ve been emailing and occasionally talking over the phone the last few months, but it’s been only recently that I’ve started to compose this interview.
I feel that I should mention, maybe as a disclaimer (!?--hah), that we are publishing a book with Noah late next month or early April. It’s called The Death of Elijah Lovejoy. I’d be happy to blab about it more over at the 2D Cloud shop...
Enough of that, to the interview:
Raighne Hogan: One thing that struck me immediately when I finally stumbled upon BLAMMO were the similarities to the single issue comix (floppies) D & Q and Fantagraphics used to publish back in the day; Hate, Eightball, Dirty Plotte, Yummy Fur, etc. These comix were following a tradition paved by the likes of Justin Green, Art Spiegelman, R. Crumb. BLAMMO is the latest comic to follow in these footsteps. Were you actively looking at these creators and some of those books for direction/inspiration? What are some other works, creators that fed your creative itch?
Noah Van Sciver: Every one of those artists influenced me, as well as one you've forgotten Optic Nerve. And also Palookaville. When I started trying to draw my own comics, those were the things that I was reading. I didn't realize until much later that all of those creators had decided to quit drawing their comic books.
I used to send issues of Blammo to all of the publishers to see if they'd publish me. Oh lord the rejections I've gotten.... Yummy Fur really had a lot to do with Blammo. Chester did whatever the hell he wanted to, and his style didn't intimidate me like maybe Clowes' did. I really love Chester's line work as well. Beautiful!
RH: In my mind Blammo is a direct descendent of Yummy Fur, from tales of the embarrassingly personal, weird religious complexes, historical accounts, formal experiments in structure, etc. It’s all there. You have even managed to include letters! I am sorry to gush about these things, but I recently discovered how very much I LOVE the single issue format of these-- I don’t know, 2nd generation underground comic books?-- a friend of mine sold me a ton of these for dirt cheap a number of years ago and I only last year and in ’09 began to read them. Eightball, Zap, Peepshow, Hate, Dirty Plotte, Yummy Fur, et al-- they are wonderful. I guess what I am trying to get at (besides these comics blowing my fucking mind)-- I am nostalgic for the format and saddened to see many of them go. I understand it is an economic reality for many of these comics publishers. This makes it all the more ballsy for you and Kilgore to publish BLAMMO in such a format. My (finally right?) question is, what is your take on this? --The dearth of quality underground floppies in the standard american format?
NVS: Well, there are still great comic books being made. Joseph Remnant's Blindspot, or Deforge's Lose, or Harkham's Crickets... Also 1-800- MICE by Matthew Thurber. Alternative comics are out there. You have to dig a bit more to find them. And of course, single issues of King Cat comics will always be around. What generation of underground comics am I? 3rd Generation? Maybe 4th? That's an interesting tittle.
RH: Ahh, that's embarrassing.
I guess your’e right, now that I think more about it. I hadn't realized that there were so many underground comix still put out in that format. I've seen some of these, and have recently ordered Crickets #3. Thanks for the correction, I think I need to go to Big Brain soon to look these up.
NVS: I like that shop.
RH: With the economic down turn, the disappearing of the direct market (comic shops), floppies, especially those of the underground persuasion, are a very rare sight. What inspired you to something crazy like self-publish in the form of floppies and how did you hook up with Kilgore (a rare and used books store and now occasional comix publisher!?)?
NVS: With Blammo I just wanted to have my own comic book series that would sell alongside all of the greats someday. It's pretty horrible that those comics are gone. I think I was born just a bit too late.
I'm not done working in the medium of the "comic pamphlet." There is SO MUCH more that I want to do, but I'm constantly made to hear a clock ticking in my ear about it.This is real agony for me. I stress about it all of the time. I think that there is still a good use for it, and I'm proud to have the chance to work in that medium, considering what a huge impact comic books have had in my life and in our culture. Who knows, maybe Blammo will end up being the very last Alternative comic book series....
Kilgore Books & Comics is a bookstore that specializes in some of the best rare books, and comics. It's run by two guys, Luke Janes and Dan Stafford. They have nearly every underground comic book from the 1960s in PERFECT condition. It blows my mind to see Air Pirates in perfect condition! One day a few years ago I wandered in there with Blammo #1 asking if they would sell it there. They said they'd "take one copy." That one copy sold and so they got more, and before we knew it Blammo was selling very, very well in there, issue after issue. When I had finished drawing Blammo #6 They offered to publish it, and I agreed. It has been a very good working relationship.
And Blammo #7 will have the Kilgore trout logo on it as well.
RH: The cover to the fourth issue, the way the cover was painted put me in mind of Van Gogh (the blotchy swirls coming out of the dudes mouth). Maybe that’s a strange observation, but I work at an art museum and get to look at paintings pretty regularly, so that was the thought that sprung to mind when I saw the cover of the fourth issue of BLAMMO. Do you have direct influences when it comes to your paintings?
NVS: That Van Gogh swirl was an inside joke. Myself being another artist with a dutch name, another "Van," and also another "tragic artist." The grey head in the corner of that cover is, or was supposed to be the Denver Spider man. From a story within that issue. I'm not a very consistent artist unfortunately. And I'm a terrible painter. That's no joke.
RH: I actually REALLY like what I've seen of your paintings (either cover's to BLAMMO or some of your blog posts). It'd be very interesting to see more of your painting/colouring in comix form.
NVS: You are nice, but honestly I barely have the patience for painting anymore.
RH: I unfortunately missed out on Blammo #5...
NVS: You should find a copy of that. It's my full color issue. I always recommend that one and issue #4 to people. Well, I guess #4 to #7 are what I consider my best issues. Anything before that is hard for me to look at, now. The first three are just "I hate myself" comics.
RH: When is that spine'd collection supposed to be coming out? Do you have an interest in doing more with painting/colour in future books?
NVS: I'm putting out a "best of" Blammo book maybe next spring. I think I'll do some new stories for that book as well. I love doing color comics, but I'm rarely given an opportunity to do them.
Tune in to Itchy Keen next week for parts 2 and 3!