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Comic Relief

Thursday, December 26th, 2013

Images courtesy of Daniel Clowes

Spite, vengeance, hopelessness, despair, sexual perversion, existential dread, adolescent ennui, crushing loneliness...not the usual stuff that cartoons are made of. But Daniel Clowes isn’t the usual cartoonist. Organized by the Oakland Museum of California, Modern Cartoonist: The Art of Daniel Clowes is the first touring survey of his work. Surrounded by 130 original editions of his work—from the late-’80s origins of his genre-defining Eightball and the acclaimed graphic novel Ghost World to his latest The Death-Ray—we caught up with the storyteller at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago in his hometown to find out what keeps him putting ink to paper. 

DB: Your visual style has evolved throughout your career. Was there a point where you felt you had arrived at the look you’d always wanted to achieve?
Daniel Clowes: I certainly feel at this point a sort of confidence that I can do what I want, but in the early work I was desperately struggling to get this look that I wasn’t capable of, and that in retrospect makes the work interesting because you can see how, like, my hand was clenched. I was desperately trying to get it...

DB: Tears on the paper?
DC: Yeah, literally, it looks like that, like I was trying to get it, and now I can do that thing much more effortlessly. I realized when my son was little that he was really obsessed with trains, and I have no interest in trains, but I had to learn how to draw very specific different kinds of trains. And I thought, “If I can do that, I can draw anything.” That was sort of the moment I knew I could do this. But in the early stuff, you can really just imagine the clenched anus that I had while I was drawing it.

DB: Have the stories you’ve wanted to tell evolved as your own life has changed?
DC: I can’t really answer that. I’m just trying to keep myself interested always; that’s my only focus. If you’re working on something that’s not interesting to you, it’s very hard to find your way to the drawing board. I really have to feel like I want to sit there and work on this. 

For more, pick up our November/December issue in good old-fashioned print. 

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