American Splendor is just an ongoing journal. It's an ongoing autobiography. I started it when I was in my early 30s, and I just keep going.
I concentrate, more than I think virtually any comic book artist has in the past, on the so-called mundane details of every day life - quotidian life. What happens to a person during a working day, marital relations, and stuff like that.
I decided I was going to tell these stories. I went around and met Crumb. He was the cartoonist. I started realizing comics weren't just kid stuff.
Of course I don't think I have it made by any means. I'm too insecure, obsessive and paranoid for that.
Sometimes I want to convey something complex philosophically, and sometimes I just want to portray myself in a situation that I think other people have been in many times, but it hasn't been written about much.
I wake up every morning in a cold sweat, regardless of how well things went the day before. And put that I said that in a somewhat but not completely tongue-in-cheek way.
It's real easy for me to write a lot of stories. I just go and I live through something, and I go home and write about it. It's that quick.
I'm always shook up and nervous and I've got the hospital record to prove it.
I don't understand how an adult can write those last two sentences and not want to kill themselves for being so despicable.
I try and write the way things happen. I don't try and fulfill people's wishes.
I'd been familiar with comics, and I'd collected 'em when I was a kid, but after I got into junior high school, there wasn't much I was interested in.
I called up my grandparents who I hadn't spoken to for over three years. I called my mother, who I had recently told to stop calling lest I contact the police. I sat with them all and it was normal and fun and good. I'm even ready - maybe - to speak to my father. Superman doesn't get upset at the people who shoot bullets at him. I get why, now.
I kept my poker face on and listened to him with an air of interest and respect (I thought of what it says in one of Rand's novels, how the winner can afford to be generous).
As a matter of fact, I deliberately look for the mundane, because I feel these stories are ignored. The most influential things that happen to virtually all of us are the things that happen on a daily basis. Not the traumas.
I'm pretty aggressive, and maybe obnoxious, about trying to get work.
There hasn't been enough change in comics to suit me. I don't know why exactly.
I write scripts in storyboard fashion using stick figures, and thought balloons and word balloons and captions. Then I'll write descriptions of what scenes should look like and turn it over to the artist.
I always wanted praise, and I always wanted attention; I won't lie to you. I was a jazz critic, and that wasn't good enough for me. I wanted people to write about me, not me about them. So I thought, 'What could I do? I can't sing, I can't dance, I can't act or anything like that. OK, I can write.'
People who are readers of fiction aren't particularly interested in comic books.
I was 16 years old, and I was just flailing around, looking for an interest. I heard, you know, these jazz records. They were modern records, at the time in the '50s, and I realized that I didn't fully get what was going on. But I liked a lot of what I heard.
I've probably had my day in the sun. I think I've influenced a lot of comic book writers.
People writing about me have said that I've influenced a lot of people, and there are some artists who have credited me with influencing them.
It seemed to me you could do anything in comics. So I started doing my thing, which is mainly influenced by novelists, stand-up comedians, that sort of thing.
The way I write is, I listen to things in my head, and then I copy them down. I memorize conversations and things like that; I seem to be able to do that pretty well. I suppose in that respect there's some improvisation, although I work over the stuff after I've got it down on paper.
I've gotten more and more cut off from the regular comic-book world, from straight comics and stuff like that. Once in a while, I'll take a look at something.
A respectable-sized audience hasn't really been able to follow developments in jazz since the free jazz movement in the '60s. Some of them can't even get with John Coltrane. Audiences are diminishing more and more rapidly. Some of the top young musicians with something new to say can't get record companies to put out their stuff.
I think you can do anything with comics that you could do in just about any art form.
I looked at her when she was saying this and I realized that there is absolutely nothing you can say to a person who would feel comfortable suggesting something like that, let alone a direct accusation.
I don't mind if I show myself being cheap or unreasonable sometimes.
I kept on buying records and listening to them. Finally, I was able to hear the relationship between the jazz improvisers' solos and the underlying structure that it's based on, the chord progression. That was pretty easy to do in the swing era, y'know, when jazz was, like, pop music, you know. It had made the charts and everything like that.
I'm kind of concerned about 'Ego & Hubris' because I'm thinking that people will read it and maybe even be entertained by it, but at the end of it, you know, they'll wonder, 'Why did this guy write this? What was the point of it?'
He wasn't a man, but a tape recorder, repeating catch phrases and old slogans without any thought to the concepts behind them, a dog stuck in the training of his youth and faithfully executing his tasks long after his master had moved on.
What kind of a day was it? A day like all others, that alters and illuminates our times. And you were there.
I guess I wanted to show people, among other things, that you don't have to be a hero to get through cancer. You can be a craven coward and get through. You have to stay on your medication and take your treatments, that's all.
I can't write in a whole lot of different styles, trying to please the highbrows one time and the lowbrows the next. I pretty much have a basic style I employ.
I'm just tired of people saying I'm a self-hating Jew because I'm critical of Israel or make fun of old Jewish ladies. I do not hate myself. And Jews who criticize Israel aren't necessarily mentally ill.
The film's success so far involves winning a couple of prizes at Cannes and Sundance, and getting some very nice reviews in newspapers and magazines. That hasn't had a big impact on my life yet.
I'm from the beatnik generation, where everybody wanted to be a poet or writer or something. And at that time, I was a jazz critic, and I was always thinking, theorizing about what makes great art or what's important in art.
It dawned on me that comics were not an intrinsically limited medium. There was a tremendous amount of things you could do in comics that you couldn't do in other art forms - but no one was doing it. I figured if I'd make a try at it, I'd at least be a footnote in history.
Things improved a little bit in the '80s; there was kind of a revival of alternative comics, but then they went downhill in the '90s.
Israel's creation was politically amazing and caused by a number of unusual events. And I understand. For centuries, Jews endured horrible suffering, and like other people, deserve the right to self-determination, but the way Israel is going now frightens me. Jews make awkward colonial overlords.
I think you can find all the elements that you can find in great literature in mundane experiences.
I think the people who would be the least interested in my work would be people who read lots of comic books.
If there is something to worry about, my mind has a tendency to worry about it. That can cut two ways. It can really keep you on the ball, but if you worry about every little thing, it's not a good use of time and energy.
When I was a kid, back in the '40s, I was a voracious comic book reader. And at that time, there was a lot of patriotism in the comics. They were called things like 'All-American Comics' or 'Star-Spangled Comics' or things like that. I decided to do a logo that was a parody of those comics, with 'American' as the first word.
I don't write about certain arguments I have with my wife. I'd get my head torn off if wrote about certain things.
I came up with American Splendor. Some people think it's American Squalor.