AN INTERVIEW WITH CHRIS HOWARD
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
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
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.
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
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.