MOME Interview 3: Kurt Wolfgang

gg: And try out different voices so that you could find your true voice, which I think you’re doing now.

kw: It may have been that, or it may have just been purging [laughs], all this wise-ass energy, and all these…

In all honesty, I look back at it, I still laugh at it, it was some of my earlier efforts to be a little more serious that are really cringe-inducing. I think what makes them so tough to look at now is, not only are they bad, but how good I thought they were for about 10 minutes. [Groth laughs.] You know what I’m saying? You think back, like, when I was in middle school, if you were 14 years old in 1984, you had some parachute pants. That’s all there is to it. And if you had some parachute pants, you thought they were pretty fucking cool. Then you look back a few years later [laughs], and it’s not only embarrassing that you wore these things, but you just remember how cool you felt in them. And I remember drawing some of this stuff when I first started moving away from humor [and thinking], “Wow, I’m really doing something good here.” Then you look back and it’s just so heavy-handed and it’s that much more embarrassing.


gg: Where Hats Go seems to be your first really major piece of work. I don’t know if you’d agree with that.

kw: Oh, most certainly. The last couple issues of No-Fie were, I believe, self-contained stories, wordless. And I started doing wordless comics almost as an exercise. I’d realized that the comics that I did for the most part were, as I described earlier, “clever, talking heads yelling things.” I described it at one point as a verbal Punch and Judy, just back and forth talking heads, there was no story, there wasn’t any meaning to it at all, and I really didn’t know how to cartoon. I knew how to draw some pictures, I knew how to write things, but the things I’d do weren’t necessary in comics form, they could have been some clever rant in a ‘zine or something, there was really no reason for them to be comics. So I really wanted to work on visual narrative, telling a story, so I just dropped all words. And I hate lettering, too, that was also a part of it.

gg: [Laughs.] Well, it solved that problem.

kw: Oh yeah. And I’m still terrible at lettering [laughs]. But yeah, the last couple issues of No-Fie, I had these stories. I was really happy with them, and actually I really started to dislike the drawings at that point. I looked at work I liked and I wanted to be at least [sighs], I wanted to look professional, you spend so much time thinking, “Oh, I want to make it, I want to make it, why aren’t I making it,” but then one day you look at your work and you’re like, shit, you’re not ready. I remember at one point, I said to my wife, “You know, if someone asked to publish me right now, I’d say no, because I’m not ready.” And she said, “Oh yeah, you’re right, you’re not.” And I said, “Oh, fuck,” I really wasn’t expecting that level of honesty to be dropped on me. But yeah, we were both absolutely right.

{mosimage}I started doing these wordless things and really started to work on drawing. I really liked the direction I was going and when you kind of teach yourself another language, I think it inspires you to create a different kind of work. It inspires different kinds of stories. If you suddenly pick up a banjo when you’ve been playing a sousaphone, you’re going to start writing a different kind of music. I think I learned a new aspect of the language, all these stories started coming to mind. When I first started doing Where Hats Go, it was going to be a 40-page story. It was going to be a minicomic, and Jordan Crane called me and asked me what I was working on. I’d met him a year or so before. I sent him some pages that I was working on, the first 10 pages. I’d told him about the story previously. That’s when he asked me if he could use it in Non. I said, “Well OK, it’s going to end up, I think, being 20, 25 pages,” and I think it ended up being a 150-something pages. And the 10 pages I’d showed him, we ended up cutting out of the book anyway. [Laughter.] What interested him initially, never actually made it into the book.

And I was still in this pretty heavy learning curve, hell, I still am, but you learn a lot when you double your output, your page-count output in one book. You’re going to learn a lot in that time, so I actually had to go back to the beginning and redraw tons of pages. Also, foolishly enough, I started using a brush halfway through the book, of course, so I had to dumb it down a lot. I was like, “Wow, this brush could do these amazing things that I could never do before.”