Friday, 9 April 2010

Interview: Michael DeForge (Lose #1 & #2, 2010)

Micheal DeForge's Lose #1

The hardest thing about editing together an interview with Michael DeForge is that it's almost impossible to  pick a definitive selection of images to accompany it. Increasingly prolific, when looking through his blog, it becomes obvious immediately that he's some kind of unstoppable ultra-talented drawing machine.

With the second issue of his comic series Lose just released, the Canadian creator met with us over the internet-waves earlier this week for an interesting discussion about his work. Read on for his thoughts regarding his working process, The Flash, classic cartoon characters, faux-video game soundtracks, collecting children's books and more. Any interview that simultaneously includes both Roger Ramjet and Prince has got to be worth checking out, right?

What’s the most frustrating thing about being asked to introduce yourself in interviews?

Probably just trying to think of a way to make it more than just the one line - "I'm Michael and I live in Toronto."

On your blog, you describe Lose as your first “real” comic.  What was the impetus behind making the step from illustration work and short strips (like Cave Adventure) into full-length comic production?

I attended TCAF last year (which is where I incidentally met my publisher, Anne Koyama). I had been experimenting with short comics and strips for a while, but seeing all the work at that festival made me really want to bunker down and just finish one. So I took some ideas I had been toying with and committed to making it a series.

Lose #2

About the stories in Lose - do you have a fixed narrative in mind, or is it a more organic process, like doodles and sketches building together over time? 

I start with a skeleton outline. I'll know, "This has to happen by page 8, then this has to happen by page 12."  When I'm actually drawing it, I do it in sections. I make thumbnails (where I figure out the rhythm and dialogue and stuff like that) for the first 8 pages, draw them, and then move onto the next section. I can't thumbnail it all at once because I'll usually have to switch things around when I'm drawing. I'll realize one scene doesn't work, or that I should slow down or speed up the pacing of some things.

Lose #1 features parodies of Green Lantern and the JLA. Would you ever consider doing an official homage/ parody, similar to Marvel’s recent Strange Tales anthology?

Oh, sure! But the chances of any real company hiring me are pretty slim, I think. Although honestly, the idea of "playing it straight" sort of appeals to me. I find the idea of writing and drawing a straightforward superhero story really interesting, since it'd be a real challenge for me.

Are there any particular characters or groups you'd be interested in working on?

Plastic Man and the Flash are both characters I really like drawing. I used to really love the Flash.

DeForge's tribute to Plastic Man #40 as seen on Covered (March 18th, 2010)

Just to appease the geek in me: which Flash is your favourite?

Barry Allen, although it was Mark Waid's Wally West issues that got me started on the character. I lost interest when Geoff Johns started writing the title. Johns just made the comic weirdly dark. I mean, the appeal with the Flash is that he's sort of goofy, and all his villains have these neat science based powers. It's a wimpy comic, which is why I liked it. 

Lose #1 features a fantastic panel containing over twenty cartoon icons in hell. Did drawing them all so faithfully them come easily to you, or was it a laborious process? 

It was a pain in the ass. It took me longer than any other page in the comic, trying to redraw everything accurately. The only element I actually had to trace in that panel was Astro Boy's face - for some reason, I couldn't nail it. Shoe was fun to draw though. I could draw Shoe forever. 

Do you have a favourite cartoon strip?

My all-time favorite is Peanuts. My favorite currently running is Cul de Sac. I really love Bloom County, too. My dad had the collections, so I'd read a lot them as a kid.

A microscopic DeForge navigates his own subconsciousness in Lose #2... and meets Roger Ramjet.

A hugely important psychological question: why Roger Ramjet?

I just really like Roger Ramjet [laughs] I honestly don't have a better answer than that. 

It beat Adult Swim to the punch by whole decades!

Yeah, it was a really smart show! It's one I come back to a lot. 

Recently, you were nominated for a Doug Wright award for Best Emerging Talent. You must be pretty excited. Are you planning to focus your time more on comics (as opposed to illustration) in the future?

I'm very excited, and very honored to be nominated. I'm always trying to balance my personal work with commercial gigs. The commercial work basically supports all the other drawing I do that doesn't make any money.  I'm hoping to get a lot more comics done this summer, though. I feel like I have the time, and I have a bunch of short strips planned.

Will there be more Cave Adventure? Or all brand-new strips?

I'm planning on a Cave Adventure strip for a newsprint zine my friend Jesjit Gill publishes called Free Drawings. The other ones are all new.

Cave Adventure, as it appeared on Top Shelf 2.0

In the past, you’ve expressed a lack of interest in “autobiographical epics about ex-girlfriends and masturbation habits”. Do you have a wholesale dislike for autobio comics, or the issue more complicated than that?

Oh, I actually like a lot of autobio comics. I just would do a pretty bad job writing one straight. Peepshow, I Never Liked You and Uncle Bob's Mid-Life Crisis are some of my all time favorite comics.

If you could recommend three recent comics/ zines/ minis to us, which would you choose?

Orc Stain by James Stokoe, Department of Art by Dunja Jankovic and the Taffy Hips newsprint zine are all things I've enjoyed recently.

In my notes, I accidentally wrote "masturbation habits" as "masturbation bandits", which would probably make an awesome comic.

That sounds like a band name! 

I'll leave the logo up to you! I was first exposed to your work via your heavy metal Sunday funnies logos. Are you as passionate about typography as your work suggests?

I am! I do a lot of poster work and am influenced by a lot of poster designers, so that's probably what sparked my interest in lettering.

Collaboration with Nate Duval

I read that Legend of Zelda was an influence on your desire to draw cool monsters. How much influence generally have video games had on your comics and design?

The video game thing mostly translated into Cave Adventure. It's basically a side-scroller, and I even did a faux-video game soundtrack for it. I'm not sure if it factors as much into my other comics or drawings, though!

Did you ever make hard copies of the soundtrack? I'd love a real one.

I never did, although there might actually be one in the works. The idea is to do a zine with the soundtrack. Someone is "mastering" all the tracks, kind of. It's really early, so I probably shouldn't talk about it in case it falls through.

With James Kolchalka's Glorkian Warrior video game being made, do you hope that Cave Adventure might one day get a similar treatment?

Oh man, I'd be so stoked on that. That would be a dream come true.

Be sure to check out DeForge's awesome "The Fight for Tonsil Town" midis.

Judith will kill me if I don’t ask: are you still planning on making children’s books?

I collect a lot of children's books, so it's something I'd like to get to eventually. I'm not sure if I have the restraint to do one properly, really.

Do you have a favourite?

Sally Go Round the Sun. Edith Fowke gathered all these children's songs and Carlos Marchiori provided the illustrations for them. Marchiori is amazing, it's a really gorgeous book. I love it enough to own two copies of it, and a record of kids singing some selections from the book with Marchiori's art used as the LP cover. 

On an appropriately musical answer, I've saved the most important question for last: what is your all-time favourite Prince song?

Tie between When You Were Mine and Another Lonely Christmas.

Self portrait, 2008 (complete with an issue of "The Flash")

Many thanks go to Michael DeForge for giving up some of his time to talk to us. Be sure to check back with us next week for our detailed review of Lose 1 & 2. As we stated before, there are just too many great things on his blog and site to even start picking favourites from, so be sure to do yourself a serious favour and check out both in the mean-time, if you've never had the pleasure. 


1 comment:

  1. You guys are really hitting it out of the park with these recent interviews