“As I started working on Monica, everyone around me started dying in succession, and that drastically changed the course of this book.”
With MONICA (Fantagraphics), legendary cartoonist Daniel Clowes has pushed the limits of his storytelling and art to make one of the great graphic novels of the decade. We sat down during CXC weekend to talk about this amazing, haunting, hilarious book and how it grew out of his attempts at trying to figure out his childhood, the ways in which MONICA is haunted by the deaths of cartoonists Richard Sala and Gary Leib (oh, and those of Daniel’s brother and mom), what art, community and mortality have come to mean to him, and how certain panels took him 5 years to draw. We get into what he’s learned from using multiple genres within a single book, the artists who influenced him and the ones he had to escape, the 7-year gap from his previous book, PATIENCE, and what’s changed, and his late-stage depression at finishing MONICA. We also discuss how he was always awaiting the shift from pamphlet-comics to hardcover original books, how thankful he was to not be good enough to get work at Marvel or DC in his youth, what it’s like writing and drawing his books without any editorial input, his only takeaway from writing for movies, the Americanness of his comics, why he prefers drawing over writing even though A) he’s a really good writer and B) would never draw from someone else’s script, the only advice he would ever give young artists, and a lot more. Give it a listen! And go read MONICA!
“I’m a non-spiritual person in every way, except somehow the art has a spiritual quality to it.”
“It feels like time is compressed and I’m going through the same process. After I finish each book, I feel like I’ve done something very new and different and really expanded my horizons, and then I always I’ve done the same book over and over.”
“All I ever wanted in my life was stability & normalcy.”
“When I write comics, I’m writing only because I want to be able to draw something. The writing is no fun; I just have to do it and get it to the point where I’m comfortable with it.”
About our Guest
Daniel Clowes is a Harvey, Eisner, Ignatz, and PEN America Literary Award Winner whose comics and graphic novels have been translated into over 20 languages worldwide. He is also an Academy Award nominated screenwriter (for Ghost World), and retrospectives of his work have appeared at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, the Oakland Museum, and the Wexner Center in Columbus, OH. He lives in Oakland, CA, with his wife and child.
Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at the Hotel LeVeque on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom PodTrak P4 digital recorder & interface. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Zoom PodTrak P4. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photos of Dan by me. It’s on my instagram.