Tuesday, 15 June 2010

'Blammo', Abe Lincoln & Juggalos: an Interview with Noah Van Sciver

 Noah on Noah: Van Sciver's self-portrait for Avoid the Future

A secret: on the clandestine list of goals we have at ATF HQ, interviewing Noah Van Sciver has been listed pretty much since the blog began in January. With the latest issue of his one-man anthology Blammo hitting shelves and mailboxes currently, it seemed like the perfect time to sucker him in ask him to come talk to us. We grilled him on a couple of stories from the new issue as well as his upcoming graphic novel The Hypo, a partial biography of Abe Lincoln.

Read on for his thoughts on such varied individuals as Sarah Jessica Parker, Jim Rugg, a Juggalo and Honest Abe himself. Also, he commits to buying your new indie floppy. No, that wasn't a euphemism.

Without a doubt, my favourite story in Blammo #6 is “Abby’s Road”, a pretty impressive ten-page character study. What was the inspiration behind it?

Thanks a lot! The main character, Anthony, is based on the kinds of people that I would meet when I was a teenager growing up in Arizona. I realized at some point that these characters, weren't ever represented in comics, even though they exist everywhere in America. So, the thought of having this person as sort of an anti-hero was really appealing to me. I based him on a dish washer named Garret that I worked with a few years ago at a deli. He was always listening to ICP while washing dishes.

 Juggalo for life: Insane Clown love takes flight in the latest Blammo.

Your work often focuses on small, human moments or anxious self-reflection, which many people will be able to identify with. What motivates you as a creator?

I want to be great.

I have to one-up myself with every issue. I want to draw a comic book that my younger self would love. And when I do funny stuff, I want to be funnier, and more sarcastic than everyone else. I have to think; "what's the best way to write about how much I hate Sarah Jessica Parker? How can I best destroy her?" 

Which do you think is more cost effective? Cartooning or therapy?

I think Blammo is a bit like therapy. And now that I don't have to self-publish it anymore, it's the cheapest therapy I can hope for! Thank you, Kilgore books! 

I didn't want to be another interviewer mentioning your brother, but “As I Remember It.” was written by him, so there. Autobiographical, it concludes on a funny note with your younger self assuring him that you “draw other stuff” than him. Is this the secret origin story of Noah Van Sciver, alternative cartoonist?

Yes, it is! My brother is a fan of Blammo. Especially the autobiographical stuff in there, and he guest wrote that comic to show what things were like from his perspective.

Being published in pamphlet form, Blammo is a warm gooey reminder of 1990s indie comics, a time where a lot of people were discovering how good comics could really be. What led to your decision to produce Blammo in this format?

All of those great comic books from the 80's and 90's are gone. I want to look forward to new issues of comics like Eightball, Schizo or Optic Nerve. But, I don't think it's gonna happen anymore. When I came around, all of that stuff was pretty much done. I was reading comics that had come out years before, and I was really, really struck by them, and inspired to make my own comic books.

Most of the time I think I was born too late. I look backwards to find inspiration for my own comics, and I'm proud if Blammo reflects that. 

Of course, nowadays most indie publishers won’t touch the format with a shitty stick. Do you think that there’s still a place for ‘alternative’ floppies in 2010?

Of course I do! And I want other artist's to see the lack of Alternative comic books out there as an opening. A hole to fill with their own comic book. I'll buy one.   

A one-page lament from Blammo #6

Who are you favourite creators/ comics at the moment? 

I really like Joseph Remnant, Ed Piskor, Hawk Krall, Jim Rugg, Dustin Harbin... Too many to name right now. Far, far too many awesome comic artists. I just bought a couple of issues of Tales to Thrizzle, and I think it's pretty good.

In your interview with AV Club, you said rather than drawing comics for comic fans, you draw them “for regular people to read”. Does it frustrate you that, generally speaking, the vast majority of  people don’t read comics due to the medium’s wide-spread association with a single genre?

What I meant by that was that I draw comics concerning more regular people things than Superhero things. It is frustrating, definitely. But, I think that regular people are starting to read Graphic Novels thanks to big bookstores. Maybe some stroke of incredible luck will lead them to find Blammo. I can only hope. 

We are incredibly excited about your upcoming graphic novel The Hypo, and we demand that you tell us everything about it.

Well, the timeline for The Hypo are the years 1837-1842. The book's main character is Abraham Lincoln. I'm trying to write a story that focuses on his life in those few years while moving the politics in the background, when I can help it, so that it's more about his depression, his sorry excuse for a love life, dueling politicians,The Illinois panic of 1837, Mary Todd's migraines, Lord Byron's poetry and prostitutes.

You've revealed that Jonathan Cilley and William Grave's duel at Blandensburg Dueling Grounds will be re-told differently several times throughout. Is this a comment on historical inaccuracy or part of your humanisation of the characters? 

Actually, it's both! I wanted to have a little side story, and I liked this particular duel a lot.

Finally, how true-to-life is Blammo #6's “Convention”?

It's mostly true. All of the people in that comic are real. It's all about paying your dues!


If there's one thing we like thanking people for more than interviews, it's artwork, so a positively colossal message of appreciation goes out to Noah for giving us his time for both here. Blammo #6 is a funny-as-hell and absolutely necessary reminder that alternative comics are still able to stand side by side with the monthlies and don't have to always sulk away on a bookshelf to be taken seriously. We'll be giving it a full review in a couple of weeks time,  but already we'll tell you that we can't recommend it enough. Available now on the creator's official website (linked below), a it can be bought for a very worthy $3.95. Go!


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