Originally I was going to try to break this interview down into only two posts. Time, family and holiday obligations have prevented me from doing so, unfortunately, so I’m going to have to do this in three parts. Rather than make you all wait another two weeks, however, I’ll simply post part three tomorrow.
Q: You have very broad tastes. Do you feel that gives you a unique perspective? What’s the benefit of having such catholic tastes and is there any drawback?
A: I can think a possible drawback would be you go a little bit toward everything. There’s a risk that you might not know about these things and badly misinterpret things that someone who’s more deeply into these sort of genres or areas of comics would be. You can be very broad and very shallow. That’s very much a risk I think.
The stuff I cover on my site, like I said before, I feel like it’s an expression of my own reading habits. I guess it just developed like that. I just like a lot of different kinds of things, and I think it’s forced me to be very studious. To really look into the histories of these books. It’s a good thing I have the Internet because I can cross-reference a lot of these things besides reading old magazines and flipping through issues of the Comics Journal, which is a valuable pursuit in and of itself.
I can go back and look up these artists and what people have been saying about them beforehand and where they came from. I think it’s created this desire in me to when I experience something new to understand where it came from. I think that’s really a symptom of my liking things broadly and not wanting to be too shallow.
Q: Focusing in a little more on your reading habits, is there any thread that runs through all of them? Do you feel as though there’s anything similar that, even though you have such broad tastes – a particular kind of style or genre that draws you in more than, oh I don’t know, the works of Judd Winick?
A: It’s interesting that you say that because I recall writing a movie review of Warner Herzog’s Grizzly Man and I’m writing about how much I liked its questions about identity and performance and I got a comment from someone saying “Well yeah, this is good. I feel like this movie really responded to your own obsessions” and I’m like, “Oh man, I have obsessions?” (laughter)
I’ve just recently become aware of how much stuff I’ve written and it’s kind of a lot. It’s hard to think of a line through it all but I do respond well to certain themes. I’m obviously attracted to neat uses of the form in comics, playing around with it’s properties on the page and stuff. I’m attracted to certain themes like identity. I don’t know if anything could build into a coherent theory through all of my writing, but there are certain things that push my fascination buttons. I’d need someone to do that for me, analyze the waves crashing through my writing.
Q: You talked about how the whole horror blog milieu informed your writing, but in general, and leading up to today, how does your interest in other art forms, like cinema or video games, inform your comics reading and critical thinking? If it does.
A: I think it does. Far and away comics has been the thing I’ve focused the most on, at least in terms of criticism. That’s ahead by a country mile.
Definitely I think my writing about comics, putting my thoughts about them in written form, has changed how I view everything else. If I was always inclined towards thinking in an analytical way, now I’m inclined towards immediately processing my own thoughts into a coherent form, which is certainly not coming through with this interview. (laughter)
Q: You’re more articulate than I usually am.
A: Thank you.
Yeah, I guess there’s more immediate appreciation for different qualities of pieces of art now. They just congeal more quickly rather than floating around in the ether. I think there was more of a critical thinking surrounding things like horror movies that shaped my criticism. In the one post I did for the Savage Critic, the Tony Wong post, was just a line of head exploding down the page. That aesthetic is pretty clearly born of my interest in horror and exploitation movies.
I’ve never been raised to think that depictions of violence can’t have an aesthetic beauty. I recall in second grade there was this nun who taught us in Catholic school and she had this amazing picture of Christ under the glass on her desk. It’s right after the scourging and pieces of flesh are hanging off him and he’s dripping [blood] and frowning like, “This is kind of uncomfortable.” I’ve never really thought that there isn’t an aesthetic value to that sort of thing. Jesus, we’re really off topic now. I’m sorry.
Q: Actually I was going to take us even more off topic and ask you how being raised Catholic has influenced your interest in horror and to whatever degree comics.
A: I think there’s probably something there. Going to mass and interpreting Biblical verse, I think there’s an appreciation of dense symbolism and impenetrable metaphor. The stock line is that Catholics never read the Bible anyway. They just listen to words at church and watch people swing incense at them.
I think there’s an analytical aspect to Catholicism, which I’m sure if anyone’s deep enough into any religion they’ll find some of that there too, but there’s an appreciation of pomp and pageantry ever week and I do think interest in the literary, aesthetic qualities of violence like suffering, redemption, really, really Earthy things like stories of the saints, those things can get pretty crazy sometimes.
Q: That St. Catherine knew how to have a good time.
A: Yeah, whoo boy. That stuff is clearly deep into my head. I’m sure it’s had an effect on my appreciation of art, which at heart are the things that shape us all — the culture we live in. The things we appreciate later in life. I’m going to try and be as self-aware as I could be I’d say there was that effect.
Q: Getting back to the blog, if you can, take me through how you work and write. Is there a process you go through? Do you have to wear a special hat or shoes?
A: No, though I am wrapped in Saran Wrap at all times.
This is another thing that’s constantly in flux, because I used to be a student, I was in law school when I started this blog. I was 22 and the Earth was young. I had more free time to work on the blog then. I’d be sitting around, doing a lot of things, my main site was updated much more frequently. Then, it eventually came about that I graduated and this really shocked me, but would you believe that you have to get a job in order to keep a roof over your head? That’s insane!
After I got over the shock of that, I found out “Uh-oh, I have to work 45 hours a week and I don’t have so much free time in general [anymore] so for awhile I managed to beat myself into a routine where I’d get up at 5 a.m., do calisthenics in the direction of Mt. Fuji, and I’d work on my site until I had to go to work at sevenish and that was how I ran my site for awhile. I kept myself a pretty tight regimin. The night before I’d take notes on stuff I wanted to write about.
That got knocked off for awhile even before I hooked up with the Savage Critic because I think I was just getting tired of waking up all the time like that. Getting up that early and going to sleep that early as well. But then I started this column at the Savage Critic, which I hadn’t thought would be so work-intensive at first, (laughter). It turned out to be pretty work-intensive and that completely knocked out my schedule because there’s just no way I can do this in three two and a half hours, even working on it the night before.
As it stands now, I basically do this usually after work, usually pretty late at night. I kind of redeveloped my expectations regarding the site because obviously I can’t run my site and do things on the Savage Critic every day anymore. My aim is to do two nicely formed reviews on my site and two or three posts on the Savage Critic, hopefully one of which is an installment of my column. That’s in addition to the posts I always do about books that are coming out that week. That strikes me as a fairly good output it’s just that I don’t have a schedule anymore so some days I’ll think “Ah, this is what I want to write on my site” and another time I’ll go “I can write about these things on the Savage Critic” And it will be different the next week. Some weeks I write everything on the Savage Critic. Some weeks I’ve written no reviews on my site.
I actually think it’s pretty helpful because I used to be really, really intense about getting one thing done every single day on my site which would occasionally lead to ridiculouslness where I’d be short on time or even though I’d wake up in the morning I wouldn’t have enough time to write a really good review and I not going to post anything that’s not good, so I’d post a three-line thing that’d say “Outta time! Gotta rush! Hope the potholes don’t eat me! Hot cha cha!” and that’d be my post for the day.
I’m not so restricted now. I think I’m more inclined towards putting stuff up when it’s time. I have different modes I get into like on my site I’ll review more or less contemporary comics, graphic novels, things I think I should write about for more than a couple hundred words. Whereas on the Savage Critic, my column is dramatic essays about mostly old, sometimes not so old, comics and shortish reviews on stuff that came out this week. So I’ve got one mode for my site and one mode for the Savage Critic. It sounds like someone’s plugging in an old computer punch card and making the robots go around in the maze but it’s actually been kind of freeing for me. I feel like my stuff is forming much better to be honest.
Q: Tell me a little bit about how your Choked on Comics column developed. What was the idea for that?
A: Well when Brian Hibbs asked me to contribute to his site, he didn’t really give me a plan as in “You have to do this.” I know he’s said this in the past but I should reiterate myself that I don’t have to use things like the official Savage Critic ratings scale. I don’t use it in my column. I do use it with the shorter reviews because I thought it would be interesting believe it or not to try using a ratings scale because that was something I had never done before.
Anyway, I didn’t want my stuff on the Savage Critic to be an annex of the stuff on my site. I wanted it to have its own character. So I thought “Oh my gosh, this is a great way to rationalize all of these old comics I have.” I thought I should do a column about these things that honestly on my site I felt didn’t quite fit in because when you’re doing a blog it’s sort of affected by what’s going on around you. You’re inclined to talk about contemporary things because that’s what other people are talking about. And honestly, if you’re buying comics weekly, you feel you want to talk about things that are closer to you. I think a lot of blogs are inclined towards talking about newer stuff.
I’d like to be able to talk about older stuff too. That’s definitely a regular part of my reading. I always kind of get the feeling that talking about older comics seemed a little out of place on my site. I always did it because it was something I wanted to do, but I felt it was kind of jarring. So I thought the Savage Critic would be a good place where I could put this in place. Cause there’s hundreds of things I want to write about. I thought the column would give me the impetus to write about a lot of the things I’ve been meaning to write about – the comics that don’t fit in to the weekly onrush of comics flooding comic stores every week. That’s a strange sentence. (laughter)
And so it worked nicely that way. I just never got the energy before because I’d fall into something else – “This has taken my spirit,” and I’d write about that. I think it’s been a really good forum for that.
Q: It really does make me happy to see that column because – and I include myself in the problem – think that most online critics don’t talk about older comics at all. We don’t revisit the past.
A: Some of that may be just a lack of interest. I’m sure some reviewers just aren’t interested in that. But I do think it’s part of the system of distribution first of all because, let’s face it an awful lot of comics blogging is about new pamphlet format comics that come out every week. It works well for blogs because it sustains conversation. You can talk about one issue of, say, Countdown to Final Crisis, and then the next one’s out the next week. And there’s going to be other books relating to that bolstering it up. Week after week there’s always something different coming out. I think that affects the way blogs operate, but there’s a lot of focus on newness everywhere in the media at large. I think comic sites have a particular inclination towards that. Through the distribution channels, the way comics get to us.
Tomorrow: Jog lists some of his favorite books of 2007!