“If someone makes a good comic, don’t assume there’s going to be more. Each one of these is an amazing gift.”
With his graphic novel, BLOOD OF THE VIRGIN (Pantheon), Sammy Harkham tells a story of personal and professional disintegration, against the backdrop of exploitation movies and the Iraqi Jewish diaspora in ’70s L.A. We get into the obsessions and family lore that drove him to make the book, why it took him 14 years to complete it, what it means to focus on the ‘novel’ part of ‘graphic novel’, and how craft is always trying to catch up to ambition. We talk about the need to get past the cliches of the ‘inside Hollywood’ story, what he learned about his process over the course of making this book, why he didn’t read the earlier chapters until he finished the story, and the John Steinbeck advice that got him over the finish line. We also discuss his comics upbringing, his religious upbringing, his thoughts on the late Joe Matt, the Jim Woodring panels that have haunted him for decades, the joyful anxiety of not knowing what his next project will be, and a lot more. Give it a listen! And go read Blood Of The Virgin!
“It feels like this city’s already ended, in some ways, like we’re living in a post-apocalyptic place. It’s over, nothing’s moving.”
“Part of why it took so long to do this comic is because I was learning how to do this sort of comic. I don’t think I ever drew a car or a desk in a comic before.”
“Being [religiously] observant is all dependent on where you want to be.”
“All the things that made Joe Matt a supreme pain in the ass were also the things that made him such a great cartoonist.”
About our Guest
Sammy Harkham is an award-winning cartoonist and editor, born and raised in Los Angeles. He studied at the California Institute of the Arts and the Mayanot Institute in Jerusalem, where he created the highly regarded comics anthology Kramers Ergot. His ongoing comic series, Crickets, started in 2006. His first collection of short comics stories, Everything Together, won the 2012 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Best Graphic Novel. His work has been published in various magazines, comic books, and zines. His graphic novel, Blood Of The Virgin, was released in 2023.
Follow Sammy on Instagram.
Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Sammy’s home 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 Sammy by me. It’s on my instagram.