Glenn Head is both an awesome cartoonist and editor. Both of his immense talents culminate in his anthology, Hotwire Comics, published by Fantagraphics. I was anxious to interview Glenn about, y’know, the usual: his new book, his influences and what comics he has to masturbated to…
Above photo by Kate Head, age 6, used with her kind permission.
1. What is your first comic reading memory?
My first comic reading memory is of those Peanuts books that were out in the mid-sixties.
The first time I ever tried drawing a cartoon character was Charlie Brown. Of course it was impossible… trying to get that round head just right, and the nose and eyes in place; couldn’t do it! Whenever I saw a Mad magazine parody I noticed this too. People who try to mimic Schulz always get it wrong somehow. The one exception being Bob Sikoryak.
I know Peanuts has been deconstructed to death, Craig, but I still think the reason it resonates is its suicidal despair. None of the characters are happy. Even Snoopy is a maladjusted dreamer. And Charlie Brown’s FAILING to kick the football every timeâ€”oh man, how grim is that? Of course it turns out now that Schulz wasn’t really the highly sensitive, poet-cartoonist of his persona, but a viciously competitive cold fish who knew how to use loserdom to his advantage! Schulz was a he-man after all; a tough guy looking to cut the throats of other cartoonists who might get in his way… a real bad-ass! Don’t mess with him! (you can’t, he’s dead…)
2. Why are you attracted to crime comics?
Because they’re disreputable! Until the arrival of underground comics, the only comics that really had the look of trouble on them were crime comics. There’s no way these comics were going to do you any good! (all time favorite crime comic book cover: Johnny Craig’s Crime SuspenseStories #16 illustration that shows a razor-wielding maniac slashing YOU, the reader!)…. the characters were greasy, ugly, their avarice and corruption right on the surface. To read these comics was to accept that everyone has in them some nasty little character prodding them on, saying, “C’mon don’t be a chicken–DO IT!! Show some guts! The world’s unfair! Do what you gotta do! Fast!! Get away with it!”
The pornographic ugliness of those comics was definitely more abrasive than the other comics of that era, because they were about the human condition–there were no vampires or witches to turn these comics into fairy tales, so the brutality of them was far more realistic. What I want from a comic book is a world that a cartoonist has constructed that I feel is true, convincing, that I can walk around in. If that world is dangerous, unwholesome, risky, unsafe, and smells bad, well, so much the better!”these gravel roads–they’re rough on tires” “yeah but there’s nothin’ like ‘em for ERASING FACES!”
Crime as a subject matter really works for me because it’s Good ol’ American capitalism meets the raging id. Any time we see a good crime comic (or book, or movie) we think, “Yes! that’s how to succeed in lifeâ€”shaft the other guy, before he shafts you! THAT’s how you get ahead!” So there’s the vicarious kick, watching the low-life blast the cops, screw the molls, flaunt the wealth and then pay for it…. gloriously! Dying in a hail of bullets for the sins i didn’t commit, but man i wish i did because the world’s an unfair place and man “YOU GOTTA DO WHAT YOU GOTTA DO!!” i mean, somebody does…. but you can’t draw crime comics (or even read ‘em probably) in prison…so…
3. Who are your favorite old-skool cartoonists?
My favorite old-skool cartoonists are probably Basil Wolverton and Boody Rogers.
Above: The great Boody Rogers. (BTW, there is a drawing Boody did for the Arf books when I was first planning them in Arf Forum).
There was a kind of meat-and-potatoes quality about the art they did, and yet the design of the characters and stories was really off the wall, insane. You could tell by looking at their work that these guys just hacked it out every day, and yet they both had unique sensibilities. Sometimes Wolverton’s figure drawing was kind of “off”, but there was a real solidity to his characters, they felt real, weighty, even the goofy cartoon characters he did. That spaghetti-and-meatballs inking technique really gave his art an organic feel that was 3-dimensional, fleshy, sexual even….. in an odd way these cartoonists from the 40′s and 50′s looked like straight, average-joe, insurance salesmen….and yet their work was less tethered to reality than a lot of what’s come since. no one could draw wimmen like Boody Rogers…..especially sexy mutant babes with two heads, and insect bodies!
4. Tell us about the new issue of HOTWIRE, Glenn.
The new issue of HOTWIRE totally kicks ass. 146 pages of mind bending, terrifying cartoon thrills. Seriously, the second issue came out great. Fantagraphics really delivered on the production. It’s a beautiful mix of different comic-art styles… Everybody in here is really good at what they do. There’s a potent element of psychedelia to a lot of the work. It’s there in Mary Fleener’s strip about having a bad PCP experience, and in my telling of the Wilhelm Reich story (inventor of the orgone box)… it’s also there in some of the single page drawings of David Paleo, Mark Dean Veca, and your back cover…
There’s also a gritty reality to HOTWIRE 2, especially in Tim Lane’s great work. His front cover harks back to the great pulp covers of the 40′s, and the crime comics of the 50′s. It’s killer! His comics take place in a world of seedy bars, lowlifes, and losers–these people are real, though. They’ve been spending too much time in the wrong places, and they pay the price.
HOTWIRE‘s intention is to take you somewhere… from one page to the next each artist has his (or her) own world to walk you around in, whether you’re ready or not. It’s crazy, it’s nuts, it’s beautiful!
For a fascinating preview of Hotwire Comics #2 to see the contributors Glenn has already mentioned, Danny Hellman, Johnny Ryan, Mark Newgarden, R. Sikoryak, Sam Henderson, Ivan Brunetti and many more go to hotwirecomics.com.
5. Have you ever pleasured yourself while reading a comicbook?
Well yeah, but I wasn’t exactly reading itâ€”just kind of “looking” if you get my meaning… looking intensely, staring, sweating,…. losing my mind! Oh man, I’m out of control!! Uh, uh, hold on a minute I gotta calm down whew…. man. jeezis. this whole sex thing…. and then you bring comics into the mix. It’s too much, my head’s exploding….FUCK!
Okay, alright…. I was like 14 when I first got ahold of Snatch comix, and Zap #4. This was before the days of Hustler magazine (Deep Throat was getting busted at the time), pornography was totally not mainstream…. and somehow i got my hands on these pervy lil’ funnybooks. Well, when you’re an adolescent boy what else are you gonna with these comics? Write some kinda intellectual essay on ‘em for The Comics Journal? No no, no…. that’s the kinda thing I’d do now–since I’ve grown up!
In fact, I think it’s kind of a shame that sex is “off the table” as subject matter these days for most cartoonists. They don’t want to delve around in there and explore there psyches and risk embarrassment….it’s not a good career move! Obviously there’s a lot of talent out there in comics, but basically comics is an “R”-rated world now, not “X”. I don’t think many really good cartoonists are as willing to “let it all hang out” (man)…. they’d rather work out their little literary statements, don’t you know, elevate things to the appropriate novelistic graphical level or some shit….
Can you imagine a sex comic by Charles Burns? if he just LOST it, went crazy–put out whatever his wildest sex fantasies might be, and yet captured it all in his tightly controlled brush style? (all that tension!) That’s something I’d pay to see!
Order Hotwire now!
Click here to order Hotwire Comix and Capers.
Click here to order Hotwire Comics #2.
Thanks, Glenn! Glenn and the many NYC area Hotwire cartoonists will be gathering soon for a signing at the Rocketship comic store, not to be missed!
and, of course, Glenn Head
…and MOI! (Bring your Arf books and Clean Cartoonists’ Dirty Drawings to be signed, if you’d like).
Feb 22nd fri 8:00–10:00
208 smith street
A word to the wise: be sure and tuck the phone number of your bail bondsman in your shoe when you come!
— C. Yoe (in the funny papers)