Last year, in partnership with the Lakes International Comic Art Festival, downthetubes brought you a number of interviews with creators attending the event – and we’re delighted to be able to run a series in the run up to their eagerly anticipated 2015 event in October, continuing the series with an interview with acclaimed Canadian artist and designer Michael DeForge.
Described by one ardent fan as “the greatest cartoonist ever“, Michael DeForge was born in Toronto, Ontario. He has drawn the graphic novels Ant Colony and First Year Healthy and the short story collections A Body Beneath and Very Casual – a collection of stories variously published in places like Best American Comics 2011, The Believer, and Study Group Magazine. It won the 2013 Ignatz Award for Outstanding Anthology or Collection as well as the award for Outstanding Artist.
According to DeForge, he has “always been drawing cartoons” and learned to read and draw from his parents’ comic strip collections such as Bloom County, Far Side, Peanuts and Calvin and Hobbes. He has described Peanuts as his all-time favourite cartoon strip. He read and tried to draw in the style of superhero comics until junior high and high school. He has described his early comics as “just these dinky revenge cartoons” in response to having been “picked on a lot growing up”.
In high school he realized that drawing could be a vocation and started drawing gig posters, initially in exchange for free entrance to concerts until he started charging for his work. He became interested in the work of Marc Bell (which he saw for first time in Exclaim!) and Matt Brinkman and has described Chester Brown’s I Never Liked You as his “introduction to alternative comics”. He also cites Chloe Lum and Yannick Desranleau’s Seripop work as strongly affecting how he wanted to draw for some time. Artists that he cites as having been important during formative points in his life include Hideshi Hino, Jack Kirby, Derek Jarman, Eduardo Muñoz Bachs, Prince, Mary Blair, Saul Steinberg and Mark Newgarden.
DeForge works as a designer for Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time. He has modestly described his work as a “props and effects designer” with “odd bits of storyboard work, character design and concept art” and “the best day job I could have ever asked for”.
downthetubes: What are you working on, comics-wise, right now, and when will it be published?
Michael DeForge: I’m currently working on a story for an issue of the Youth in Decline series, Frontier – and a short serial for Brandon Graham’s anthology series Island, as well as putting the finishing touches on a graphic novel called Big Kids, coming out in 2016.
downthetubes: Which comic project you’ve worked on are you most proud of and where can people see it or buy it?
Michael: I’m always happiest with my newest material, and Dressing is a collection of short stories out from Koyama Press this fall.
downthetubes: How do you plan your day as a creator? (Do you plan your day?)
Michael: I try to spend the first half of the day on commercial work, and the second half of the day working on comics.
downthetubes: What’s the best thing about being a comics creator?
Michael: Creative freedom.
downthetubes: And the worst?
Michael: Lack of financial security.
downthetubes: What most distracts you from getting your work done?
downthetubes: Do you think it’s easier or harder for young comic creators to get published today?
Michael: I think it might be easier than it’s ever been to get published or find an audience. There are many fantastic micropublishers out there with very diverse and interesting tastes, and the barriers to self-publishing (either in print or online) are very low. However, “getting published” doesn’t really translate into an income, career or financial return in any way.
downthetubes: Have you ever been to the Lake District before and if so what did you think of it? If you haven’t, what are you expecting?
Michael: I haven’t, so I’m coming in blind! I’m looking forward to being surprised.
downthetubes: Which one comic creator would you most like to meet, and why?
Michael: Patrick Kyle.
downthetubes: How do Festivals and other comics events help creators most, do you think?
Michael: It’s good to actually get to meet readers, especially since cartooning can be such a solitary vocation. It’s nice to see proof that your “audience” isn’t just hypothetical – they are real people who breathe real air and are usually very, very nice.
downthetubes: What one piece of advice do you offer people looking to work in the comics industry?
Michael: To start out self-publishing – either in zines or online.
downthetubes: What’s your favourite comic right now and where can people get it?
Michael: Lala Albert is one of my favourite current artists, and her book Janus last year was fantastic.
downthetubes: Michael, thank you very much for your time and enjoy the Festival.
Michael DeForge can be found online here: www.michael-deforge.com (for starters!)
Events at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival featuring Michael DeForge
King Trash: Michael DeForge
Sunday 18th October 1.00-2.00 pm Shakespeare Centre Tickets £8
FIND OUT MORE AND BOOK TICKETS