Dan Clowes, Creator of Ghost World, Talks the Benefits of Drawing vs. Speaking
The inimitable Miami Book Fair is just around the corner. For those who say that Miami is a cultural wasteland, we say, "phooey!" For an intellectual vortex, we sure get lucky hosting the best, brightest, and biggest names in the literary world every year.
And that is why the coolest, edgiest, and hippest graphic novelists will be lurking about the 305 November 13 through 20. There's Denis Kitchen and his notorious Chipboard Sketchbook, Ben Katchor of The Cardboard Valise fame, and Michael Kupperman, whose graphic novel, Mark Twain's Autobiography, recounts a "life" of Mark Twain in which the beloved American author is still alive, hangs out with the Six Million Dollar Man, stars in porno films, and has an affair with Mamie Eisenhower.
We got lucky and were able to snag an interview with another graphic novel darling, Dan Clowes, creator of cult favorite Ghost World. (Yes, it was a graphic novel before it was a movie, you illiterate swine).
His latest endeavor, The Death Ray, has all the trappings of a superhero story -- costume, weapon, and sidekick -- but deconstructs such trite tales by using characters and a story line that is anything but commonplace.
We spoke to Clowes about his visit to Miami, how drawing pictures beats actually having to talk to people, and his tormented inner life.
New Times: What got you into creating graphic novels in the first place? Why did you choose that as a medium?
Dan Clowes: I"ve been drawing comics since before I could read, so I never really felt like I had a choice. The medium is endlessly and impossibly challenging, like an unsolvable algebra problem, which is probably why I never seem to get tired of it.
A lot of your stories and characters have a low-key realism to them. What inspires these stories?
I'm trying to create characters and situations that I myself would find interesting as a reader and that have some mysterious resonance to my own tormented inner life. The key to drawing comics for a living is to make sure you're never bored with your own stories.
How would you describe your illustrative style?
I wouldn't. The main reason I draw pictures is so I don't have to explain things verbally.
Do you also read comics and graphic novels? If so, name two or three favorites?
Anything by Robert Crumb, Chris Ware, or Chester Brown, among many other favorites.
Even been to Miami before? Anything you looking forward to doing when you're here?
I was once in the Miami airport when I was about 11. I'm definitely interested in seeing the actual city this time.
Dan Cowles will appear at the Miami Book Fair International on Saturday, November 19 at 1:30 p.m. as part of Drawn & Quarterly Presents: Seth on The Great Northern Brotherhood of Canadian Cartoonists, Adrian Tomine on Scenes From an Impending Marriage, Dan Clowes on The Death Ray. Visit miamibookfair.com.
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