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ORIGINALLY FEATURED IN 1996- by Andrew Goletz

I had the pleasure of meeting Chris Howard and his partner in crime, Jeff Wasson at the Montreal Spirits of Nation Unity stop last Spring. Chris and Jeff not only granted us an interview, but helped to design two of Gray Havenís covers.

AG: Why did you choose this un-glorified way of life that is self-publishing?
CH: Iím gonna bow to Will Eisner here. He said something to the effect of not being able to make it as a writer or an artist solely, so combine the two. Thatís basically my take. Iíve always enjoyed telling stories and always enjoyed making pictures. This is a wonderful way to do both.


AG: What comics are you a fan of?
CH: I try and read a lot of stuff. I like seeing whatís being done. Off the top of my head: Cerebus, Bacchus and most of the self published folks in that group: Wandering Star, Hepcats, A Distant Soil. And I love the stuff that some of the local people are doing like Thieves and Kings, The Copybook Tales, Galaxion, Xenoís Arrow.


AG: Would you recommend self publishing?
CH: Anybody can print up a mini-comic. Believe me, Iíve seen them: good and bad. If youíre good, sure, send me a copy. If youíve got nothing to contribute, no. Sorry, Iím still in bitter mode. I think weíve made it into too much of an issue. Yeah, do what you gotta do to get your work out. Itís a great way to learn the entire process, so as a learning experience, sure. As a way of life, I canít recommend or not recommend it any different than I could recommend Buddhism. Whatever gets you through the night, you know?


AG: You created Dressed for Success with Jeff, and Chrispy Bacon which is a more autobiographical work. Is one more gratifying than the other?
CH: I wouldnít say more gratifying. There is a gratification in doing everything yourself, especially when people respond to it so strongly.


AG: How did Dressed for Success come about?
CH: Jeff and I were basically drawing over at his house one day and did these pictures of us in strange clothes. We picked names out of the phone book and started coming up with stories for these two guys. Then we largely forgot about the idea for a few years. When we decided we wanted to do a small press comic, we went back and resurrected Alex and Walter.


AG: And Chrispy Bacon?

CH: CB is as true to the events in my life as they happened, as I remember them. With of course, license taken for the sake of story telling.


AG: Why the Peanuts style art?
CH: I had been trying for awhile to simplify my drawing style, which up until then had been more realistic, and heavily drawn, way overdone. I wanted something simpler. One day I was writing and happened to stop, looked at a picture of Schroeder I had and drew a ĎPeanutsí me. It worked. I tried to do others and it just fell into place. I have nice characters drawn in a few minutes. It just came so easily.

CH CONT: Then I began to see the potential for telling a serious, adult story in a style that was so recognizable and came with so much iconic power. When you see Peanuts, your mind says: innocence, introspection, puppy love, light humor, safe. I wanted to get that impression and then smash it.  Thatís whatís going to happen. I get people relaxed into the Peanuts style and then I make the story uncomfortable.  Then the art style changes to the Archie comics style and people have to get comfortable again. And then, bam, the story takes a twist and the art style changes to Doonsbury. Each style is a visual metaphor for the state of being I was at during the events being recounted.


AG: What do you think about the current state of the industry?
CH: Oppressive. Itís gone to hell and we all know it, which is really a shame because things were just starting to look up. We had so much potentially great work being done, new things being tried, and now a few bad kids have spoiled it for the whole class.

AG: Why stay in?
CH: Weíve come this farÖand Iíve put five years into it. And Iíve learned how much I truly like drawing those little boxes with pictures in them. I donít know how else to get that high.

Copyright©2000 Andrew Goletz