Lately, I can't shake the feeling that I've been living a dream for the last 10 years or so; I can't account for most of my 20s, and I have to continually remind myself that certain people are dead now and many of my friends have children.
The thing I don't understand is why so often one hears discussion of the fruits of human labor as if it's all the creation of some alien race.
As I've gotten older I've occasionally found myself nostalgic for earlier periods of solitude, though I realize that's also likely a false nostalgia, as I know there was nothing I wanted more during those periods than to not be alone, whatever that means.
Comics, at least in periodical form, exist almost entirely free of any pretense; the critical world of art hardly touches them, and they're 100% personal.
No one blames themselves if they don't understand a cartoon, as they might with a painting or 'real' art; they simply think it's a bad cartoon.
There seems to be such a laziness in - and I hate to use this phrase - the modern world. Everything is pumped out so quickly so that you can read it while passing by, like billboards or those flashcards before movie shows.
I don't think of myself as an illustrator. I think of myself as a cartoonist. I write the story with pictures - I don't illustrate the story with the pictures.
I think it has most to do with the way in which a story is told, whether it feels real either via the music of the telling or the 'honesty' of the story.
During my Austin years, I was drawing a regular strip for the University Of Texas newspaper, going to school, delivering blood, and trying to change my approach and 'style' as much as I could, since I knew that I'd calcify as I got older.
I wanted to make comics that get at feelings that connect to the deepest moments of our lives, reading Tolstoy, Flaubert, Flannery O'Connor, Herman Melville, William Faulkner, Vladimir Nabokov and Carver to help gain the confidence to figure it out. I knew, however, the most doomed approach would be to simply create stories that felt 'literary.'
The first thing I do when I get up is I look out the window. I've been looking at the same image for six years. It's imprinted in my mind like an afterimage template.
When I was 11 years old, I thought, 'All I really wanna be able to do is my own comic book,' and I'm doing it. I don't have any other real ambitions. I have nothing to conquer at all.
I don't think there's any independent cartoonist whose stuff I don't like or respect in at least some way or another. We're all marginal laborers - we're practically medical oddities - so I don't see why we can't all be nice to each other.
As children, as we learn what things are, we are slowly learning to dismiss them visually. As adults, entirely submerged in words and concepts, we spend almost all of our time thinking and worrying about the past and the future, hardly ever looking at or engaging with the world visually.
I guess I just don't like being physically in front of people I don't know very well, because I expect to be 'seen through,' or, even worse, instantly hated.
I prefer to imagine that my wife, a few friends, and occasionally my mom are the only ones who read what I do, though I realize that this is somewhat unrealistic.
I still can't get over the idea that respectable adults now go to see superhero movies and that such films get reviewed in the 'New Yorker.' Clearly, I am seriously out of step with the times.
I can definitely say that of all my friends who I consider to be really great cartoonists, we're all trying to aim at basically the same thing, which is an ever closer representation of what it feels like to be alive.
My wife has joked that if anything ever happened to me, she'd gladly live out her life without anyone else around. I think it bugs her I'm home all the time; such is the life cycle of the cartoonist, however.
Mostly, I was only interested in television as a kid, and the majority of reading material I collected was an adjunct to that central concern, comic books and magazines included.