CARTOONIST Michael Kupperman, also known as P. Revess, has had his work appear in The New Yorker, The New York Times, LA Weekly, The Wall Street Journal, Fortune, The Believer, and Heavy Metal. Harper Collins published his book Snake ‘n Bacon’s Cartoon Cabaret in 2000. Last year, he started a comic book series called Tales Designed To Thrizzle, published by Fantagraphics.
Michael’s characters include Underpants-On-His-Head Man, a costumed crime-fighter who (DUH!) wears underpants on his head. And then there’s Hercules, the Public Domain Superhero, who often smashes things.
Michael and I will both be autographing out books, he Thrizzle, and me, Modern Arf, at the NY Comic-Con, at the MidTown Comic booth #317, on Suday from 2:00 to 2:45 pm, so I thought I’d get to know him a little first. Michael Kupperman, give me five!
1. Do you have any mainstream comics that are a guilty pleasure?
I think it’s pretty obvious from my work that I love the old mainstream comics, especially the ones that look like they were drawn overnight by fifteen-year-olds. It’s been a while since I’ve read any current mainstream stuff, though. In art school I had a roommate who read them all, and I got into some of them for a while… my favorites were Swamp Thing (the Moore/Bissette/Veitch/Totleben era), and Nexus (terrific writing, and Steve Rude is an incredibly skillful artist/designer).
2. What do women want, anyway?
Well, we have to remember that we do still live in an unequal society; women have to struggle harder than men to make something of themselves. A nice general answer to that question would be that women want to be respected, listened to, and understood on their own terms. But I’m in a successful relationship now – I’m engaged – and I think it took all of my unsuccessful relationships, and learning from them, to make this one work. When I was younger I didn’t have a clue!
3. Are you a cartoonist that moonlights as an illustrator or an illustrator that moonlights as a cartoonist?
A cartoonist that moonlights as an illustrator. Frankly, I hate most of the illustration work that I’m forced to do… and the conditions for an illustration career keep getting worse and worse, in terms of money, time given for assignments, etc. (not that comics is great for money either).
I’ve done a lot of work for the New Yorker that I’m quite proud of – they take their illustrations quite seriously – and in the last two years, a lot for McSweeney’s that’s been quite rewarding – but I’d be happy to ditch most of my current illustration workload, if I could. I need the money, unfortunately, and have no other skills.
4. I read that as a kid you liked political cartoons, has that early fascination translated into any of your current work? Who? What? How? When? Why?
I do think old political cartoons are fascinating – unfortunately, the one-panel political cartoons feels as good as dead to me now. What’s been lost is the symbology – the visual language of the top-hatted plutocrat, the octopus on top of the globe, Mr. H-Bomb, etc.; as well as a certain amount of sophistication that the cartoonists were able to expect from their audience. I think that does get reflected in my comics… in a deconstructive way…. the further back you go with political cartoons, the less sense they make. I have some old bound volumes of 19th-century Punch, with Tenniel cartoons that are beautiful and usually incomprehensible… sometimes just symbolic figures shaking hands with each other, commemorating some more or less forgotten event.
5. What for you would be the ingredients of the ultimate Dagwood sandwich?
Ooh. Tough question… I’m just going to go with the reuben… that’s my favorite, next to tuna with lettuce. I don’t think I’ve ever actually had a “Dagwood”, at least the way I visualize it. But I’m always worried about gaining weight… it happens so easily when your job involves a lot of sitting combined with tension!
— C. Yoe (in the funny papers)