othelladub's Diaryland Diary


dan clowes interview excerpt

Following is an excerpt from a Dan Clowes interview from Salon -

so many excerpts lately. grrrr.


Clowes inherited his much older brother's bedroom along with a giant stack of comic books, long before he could read. Clowes remembers looking at them and trying to figure out what was going on in the stories and trying to decipher the coded message that his brother surely had left for him to unravel.

"I remember feeling like he was trying to tell me something -- as if by selecting these particular issues to buy, he was illustrating some psychological state. I was just picking this up intuitively. I always thought about it when I grew up. The comics all had these really specific images running through them that really haunted me."

When Clowes was 2 years old, his mother married a stock-car racer and opened an auto repair shop "in the worst neighborhood" on the South Side of Chicago. Not too much later, her new husband was killed in a race, and Clowes' mother sent him to live at his grandparents' house.

"I remember this big tumult as a kid. I had a long time during my childhood where I would spend each night at a different house, my dad's, my mom's and my grandparents'. It was really disjointed. It was a horrible childhood in that regard. It felt like I was in a suitcase. I remember a couple of times going to sleep at my dad's, and my mom would carry me to her house while I was asleep -- and I'd wake up at her house and be totally disoriented."

Clowes' grandfather, James Cate, was for three decades a professor of medieval history at the University of Chicago. His close friends included Robert Maynard Hutchins, Edward Levy, John Hope Franklin and Norman Maclean, and he was famous among students for his west Texas drawl and storytelling abilities. Clowes' grandmother was a "faculty wife" and the person to whom he was closest during his childhood. Clowes spent his summers at their house in Michigan, in a little cottage where there were no other people for two miles in any direction.

"That's where my imagination developed," he says, laughing. "I'd be playing with sticks and rocks, pretending they were my friends -- so if you want to turn your child into a cartoonist, lock him in a room with a bunch of sticks and rocks."

After graduating from high school, Clowes attended art school at Pratt Institute in New York. ("You've heard of it?" he asks, surprised.) He chose Pratt because "it was the only art school that had a dorm, and I couldn't afford an apartment in New York." Of his experience there he says, "I didn't learn anything, but my worst fears about art were confirmed -- that it was all about who you know and had a lot to do with having the gift of gab and being able to talk yourself into getting a gallery show and all that. I knew I didn't have that. So I trained myself to do what I wanted, which was to do comics."

His professors, many of whom he immortalized in the caustic and extremely funny "Art School Confidential" (which appeared in "Eightball" No. 7 and is the basis for the screenplay he is currently working on), were not supportive. "Every professor I had discouraged me and said, 'You'll never make a living from that; nobody cares, nobody will think of you as an artist.' And now I realize, when I look back on them, that they were absolute failures."

1:13 a.m. - 2002-06-28


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