Friday, 13 August 2010

Heeby Jeeby Comix Interview Part 3

For those just joining us, the good news is that this week the blog has been dedicated to the amazing  Heeby Jeeby Comix; the bad news is that today is the last entry in our three-part interviews with the four super-animate minds behind it: Bob Flynn, Dan Moynihan, Chris Houghton and David DeGrand. Fear not,  fashionable latecomers, as here are links to part one and part two of this fun and insightful discussion.

Following the collective voice of frustration regarding the “all ages” label on Wednesday, we thought we’d end the interview on a high note, getting down to the fun stuff and discussing the direct influences behind the comic. As could be expected of a group with such diverse styles, a lot of names pop up and everyone from Roald Dhal to SpongeBob Squarepants is mentioned. Read on for those, their thoughts on Bill Watterson’s evergreen Calvin & Hobbes, and what to expect next from them. Also, we conclude on one of the most important questions of all time. 
Dan Moynihan's self portrait for the issue.

What do you consider the influences behind your work in Heeby Jeeby Comix to be?

Dan Moynihan: I grew up loving newspaper comics like Calvin & HobbesThe Far SideBloom CountyGarfieldB.C.Beetle BaileyRobotman, etc. as well as the old cartoons that were shown on TV like Bugs Bunny and Droopy. These things were not necessarily made for kids, but are certainly enjoyable to kids. That's where my sense of all-ages entertainment comes from. 

Chris Houghton: I think first and foremost I'm influenced by a lot of the old MAD Magazine artists and/or writers like Sergio Aragones, Harvey Kurtzman,  Jack Davis, Will Elder, Paul Coker Jr., the list goes on and on! I also love shows like Ren and Stimpy and The Simpsons but who doesn't?

Bob Flynn: All over the map for cartoonists; too many to name. Authors from my childhood come to mind—people like Maurice Sendak, Roald Dahl, and Shel Silverstein. More recently, Dr. Seuss, who is adored by millions, in spite of (and because of) his fairly grotesque illustrations and completely nonsensical stories. I'd also include Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes, and SpongeBob, no doubt.

David DeGrand: I think Bob and I have a lot of the same influences (big surprise!). A few of my favorite cartoonists that have influenced my Heeby Jeeby work are Gene Deitch, Sergio Aragones, Don Martin, Harvey Kurtzman, and Dr. Seuss. I'm also a huge fan of vintage animation, so the cartoons of the Fleischer Bros., Ub Iwerks, and Tex Avery are a huge influence as well.

Chris Houghton's self portrait.

What's the greatest "all ages" comic of all time?

DeGrand: For me it's a tie between Peanuts and Calvin and Hobbes. I've never been able to pick a favorite amongst those two.

Moynihan: For me, it's Calvin & Hobbes, but I'd also like to mention Little Nemo in Slumberland, the fantastically imaginative ancestor to Calvin's flights of fancy.

Houghton: There are just too many great comics, it's impossible to pick a "best." I have my favorites but even those change depending on the day of the week.

Flynn: Everyone is right about Calvin & Hobbes, Peanuts and Little Nemo. Though, these were simply called "comics" in their day. Hergé's Tintin deserves to be in there, though I didn't read it as a kid. Of the bunch, I really only read Calvin &Hobbes.

Seriously, Bob Flynn does not look like this. I should know, I've seen his Facebook.

It's interesting that almost all of you have referenced Calvin & Hobbes. I would argue that part of what makes Watterson's (and Schultz') work so great (and so massively popular) is the unpatronising, empathetic way childhood is explored. How much does your own childhood influence the way you create your material? Is your inner-child secretly pulling your strings?

Flynn: The simple answer is you imagine what your former 9-year-old self would've liked. There's no way of knowing (yet), but that's one way to think of it. Anyone who loves stories, comics and cartoons is still very much in touch with their youth. 

Houghton: Definitely! I had a great childhood growing up in the farmlands of Mid-Michigan. I spent my winters building snow forts and my summers building tree forts. I had a great and adventurous childhood which definitely plays a big role in my artwork.

DeGrand:  Great question! I agree with your assessment of Watterson's and Schultz's work; those comics are brilliant in the way they present childhood feelings and experiences as completely genuine. And yes, I'll probably remain a perpetual 10 year old until I die, I just can't help it. I'm always referring to the types of things that I was wild about as a kid in my comics (I was and still am a huge monster nut!) I would completely agree that my inner child is pulling my strings, since I still feel I am that child!

Moynihan: I think I remember more about my childhood self and experiences than most people do, or maybe I just allow myself to think about that stuff more. When I'm making comics, I'm not consciously thinking back to it, but I'm sure my childhood is exerting its influence.

If David DeGrand's Facebook is to be believed, he's currently a tree stump with pink brain sap. I just don't know what to believe anymore.

What can readers expect to see next from you guys?

DeGrand: There's no telling really, but we can probably all guarantee plenty of weird creatures and bizarre goings on!

Houghton: More silly comics!

Moynihan: I just finished drawing an epic 192-page all-ages comic, which I hope to do something with soon.

Flynn: There are definitely plans for a second book, once we amass enough comics. Just check by the Heeby Jeeby Comix blog—we put'em up as we finish them.

Finally, a question I often struggle with myself. Which are coolest: monsters or robots?

Flynn: I think David is our authority on this one—though Dan sports a mean robot in this issue. I'm a monster guy myself.

Houghton: Monsters! They live under your bed!

DeGrand: Monsters hands down, no question.

Moynihan: Robots are created by humans, but monsters are mysterious - what are they and where do they come from???


So, to conclude, the list of people who should buy Heeby Jeeby Comix are as follows: adults, children, teenagers, tweens, robots, monsters and you, specifically you. It seems important to state that the comic doesn’t so much challenge the preconceptions of what “all ages” comics can be, as it does throw them out of the window entirely. This is a truly a comic book for everyone, utilising and upholding the great traditions of cartoon comedy for young and older readers alike.

Much gratitude goes out to the idiosyncratic talents behind the book for giving us their time. It really was a blast, and we hope to invite them for another talk at some point in the future. Until then: Monsters 4, Robots 0.


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