Saturday, November 20, 2010

Questions 15: Dylan Williams

From the last Rom Exhibit
Dylan Williams started out self-publishing comics and zines in the 1980s. He went on to found Sparkplug Comic Books an indie publishing house in Portland, Oregon. Dylan is very involved in the small press community events and even an instructor as part IPRC's New Certificate program.

Check out Dylan's blog and watch the great titles coming from Sparkplug.

Doug Dorr: What projects are you working on currently?
I'm always working on my series Reporter. Issue #7 is the current issue. I started it, got about 11 pages in and then decided to redraw those pages. I'm also working on a story about Jack Benny for a TV themed anthology by Pat Lewis. I just wrote a story on Fred Rutherford, from Leave it to Beaver, for that same anthology. David King will be drawing that Rutherford story. I've got a story in anthology called the Big Feminist But that is in the works. I've been doing a bunch of short stories for Stumptown Underground ( which will most likely go in the next Reporter short story anthology someday. I'm trying to update a regular blog We'll see how that goes. I seem have a hard time with putting ideas on the internet.

DD: What is your artistic Process?
I'm pretty focused on not having a set process or one that is too complex. I work on scripts in my head for years. I write ideas on post-its, scraps of paper and in a series of note-books. I try to keep story writing to thumb-nail form. I don't like to write scripts. I pencil and ink, old timey-comics style. If I don't like the way a page turns out, I redraw it. I like using whiteout. I like the act of making comic book pages so I don't mind redrawing stuff, in some ways it makes the work better for me.

DD: When you are story illustrator, how involved are you in the writing?
It has been almost a decade since I drew a story somebody else wrote. I have a bunch of friends that write stuff but it is pretty hard for me to think about drawing somebody else's story. Comics come to me as a complete package in my head.

DD: What Comic/ Trade would you recommend?
Oh man, where can I begin. I'm such a comics nerd that this question makes my mind reel. I'd say that three of my favorite working cartoonists are Zak Sally (Recidivist), John Hanckiewicz (Athma), and Emon Espey (Wormdye). They've all had an intense influence on my comics in different ways. I can't stop reading Carrie McNinch (You Don't Get There From Here), Tessa Brunton (In the Tall Grass), Blaise Larmee (Young Lions), Nicole Georges (Invincible Summer), Maria Sputnik (Monster Treasure), Greig Means (Clutch), and the list goes on. I think we are living in a kind of golden age of amazing comix right now, so chances are there is something for everyone in a good comic store.

DD: What Comic/ Trade would you recommend to someone new to comics?
I'd say Clutch #19 (which is book size) by Greig Means or You Don't Get There From Here (a long series) by Carrie McNinch. But the truth is, I think the secret to getting people who haven't read comics to like comics is getting them to read good solid personal/expressive comics. Some people like adventure or action but what I've seen work better than anything is introducing people to the sheer variety of comics and not just focus on a good Vertigo graphic novel that reads like a movie or a "thoughtful" action comics. Those are great for people who watch a lot of sci-fi or enjoy zombie-culture but we need to work at getting other people into comics.

DD: What skill would you like to learn?
I'm most interested in reading/understanding Spanish. I don't know if I'll ever have time in my life for it but Spanish is the language in which the most art I enjoy is done. It would be the most personally rewarding language to learn. I wish I was a better accountant also. Seriously.

DD: What's the most important thing you've learned?
As far as art goes, I'd say my favorite thing I've learned is an Alex Toth thing that he got from Noel Sickles "Think More, Draw Less". Like most sayings this is kind of vague but for me it has come to mean, that thinking art is more important than doing physical art. If I spend a year working on a comic, I spend four years thinking about it. I try to solve problems in my head before I get to the paper.

DD: Do you have a collection? If so, what is one of the items you're most proud of?
I do have a collection (sometimes too much of one). I don't know what I'd say my favorite thing in it but I'm most proud of my publishing company Sparkplug. I love publishing other peoples work. A friend of mine, Tim, describes comics publishing as like a book so much you want to have thousands of copies of it. One of my favorite comics of all time in my old comics collection is Legion of Charlies by Tom Veitch and Greg Irons.

DD: What is your favorite genre of Comics?
I'm not much of a specific genre person. I'd say I prefer personal, self-published or underground comics to those published by Time/Warner or Disney for money. I collect every single genre of comics from modern arty comics to comics from the 1800s and everything in between. I'm even a regular buyer of anything Guy Davis or Paul Grist does. Those guys are geniuses.

DD: Do you have an Ipad? If so what do use it for the most.
I love old fashioned lap tops. No Ipad yet. I've drawn on computers for years but it is nothing like drawing in the real world.

DD: What is your favorite TV show/ movie?
Oh man, again, such a nerd that this question is dangerous. Off hand, my favorite TV show is Danger Man/Secret Agent and my favorite movie is Out of the Past by Jacques Tourneur. My current favorite directors are Luis Bunuel, Ken Loach, David Croenenberg, Mario Bava, Chantalle Ackerman, Jacques Tourneur, Kenji Mizoguchi, Robert Bresson, Michellangelo Antonioni, Shane Meadows, Carl Dreyer, Jane Campion, Kinji Fukusaku and so on.

DD: How does the Portland comics culture shapes your work
I contribute as regularly as I can to Stumptown Underground and love the IPRC but as a rule, I'm sort of lost in my own head. I love the Northwest, and it totally affects my art but mostly the weather, architecture, people and geography. Sort of intangible broader aspects of the region. Trees make me make better art for sure.

DD: What was your first comic convention?
It was in Hayward, California in what must have been 1979. I wish I could remember the name of it. It influenced me for the rest of my life. I think that sort of obsessive old school comics culture made me who I am today. I grew up in the epicenter of the direct market.

DD: What is your favorite part of comic conventions?
Finding new comics by people who are new to comics. I love seeing what people come up with who aren't schooled in the regimented rules of making comics. I'm also a big fan of good workshops/panels and meeting people who read comics. I love people who love comics.

DD: If you weren’t doing comics what would you do?
I was on my way to being a religious psychologist till an art teacher helped me see that doing comics would be possible. It was in senior year of high school and I actually changed what schools I was applying to. I would go back to that if I ever stopped being a cartoonist. I love research, religion and psychology so much. They actually all go into every page of Reporter.

DD: Do you have a favorite restaurant that you would recommend?
It is always different but right now I'd say Bete-Lukas ( on 50th and Division. I also love Papa G's deli.

DD: How long have you lived in Portland, what made you choose Portland?
I've lived here about 12 years. I'd always wanted to live in Portland, from back in high-school. I love trees, I love rain. I think it has a sort of mythic idea creating power.

DD: What is your favorite part of Portland?
Geographically it'd be Mt. Tabor. I'm a big fan of the variety of vegan food here too. And the Independent Publishing Resource Center ( would have to be my favorite space in town. Floating World is a close second.

DD: Where in Portland/ Oregon would you most like to visit?
Crater Lake. I've never been there and always wanted to. In Portland it would be the Grotto. I've been meaning to go but never have.

DD: Would you like to write/Illustrate for another media? or conversely, how would you feel about writing a comic of a character from a different media, for example, Dr. Who, James Bond? What would you explore?
I love doing art in other media. I'm a pastel artist. I doodle constantly. I think about making a film. I can't think of a character besides Jack Benny that I'd be into doing a comic about at the moment. Most of the good ones like Emma Goldman already have comics about them. I started a comic about Hank Williams about 16 years ago but I realized that I'd rather read other people writing about him than do it myself. I read a lot of history and biography but I'm learning that the comics I want to make are fiction.

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