MOME Interview 3: Kurt Wolfgang

gg: So you believe in art for art’s sake.

kw: Certainly. One of the questions that I can never really satisfactorily answer when I ask myself or when people ask me is, “If you don’t care what anyone thinks, and if you’re doing this for you, then why do you even put it out there?” And I don’t know if I could ever really come up with a good answer for that, except what I said earlier about trying to figure things out, like trying to figure out what it all means, or what it means to be alive or whatever. We all do these things, and we all bounce our attitudes off of other people’s efforts.

gg: Well, yeah, even if you don’t care about the reader per se, all art has to be based on experience, and experience is communicable.

kw: And when I say I don’t care, I mean, don’t get me wrong, I have an ego like anybody else, I’m not some kind of monk up here just sending pages out. I read reviews, [Groth laughs], I like it when they say good things, I don’t like it as much when they say bad things. I certainly do like when people connect with something I do, that’s obviously pretty neat, because I know how I feel when something touches me on any number of levels. Obviously, I like that, but if you start doing that, if you start worrying about what works, what doesn’t, what they like, what they didn’t, and you start tailoring your work to that, I don’t want to do that, I don’t want to do that any more.


gg: You’re like Bush, you don’t read the polls. [Wolfgang laughs.] You’re your own man [sarcastically].

In a story like Where Hats Go, to me, the important thing is not so much the story as it is the telling.

kw: Yeah, it’s the classic journey. It’s little subtle things in there, that I just learned about myself and about relationships and how I deal with them without getting too heavy-handed here.

gg: And you learned that because you had to work through it in order to finish the story, in order to…

kw: Exactly, and when you’re doing things wordless, to tell the story actually because you’re forced to, how am I going to get this across? It’s really easy to do a wordless story about making a sandwich and you get a bellyache from it, and it’s real easy to do just do a rollicking… Well, not easy, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t say that, a rousing physical-based adventure. It’s a lot easier to come up with devices to get certain things across when it’s a guy running around, let’s say. To convey emotions is a little more difficult. It forces you to examine every aspect, more aspects that you were considering before, because suddenly you don’t have this tool. I don’t have time to do formalist exercises and things like that. Most of the drawing I do is for a finished page. Although at one point, I started doing wordless stuff as an exercise to teach myself something, I never thought I was going to learn the things that I did, I don’t know, it sounds silly, I’m sorry. [Laughs.]

gg: No, no, it doesn’t.

I have two versions of Where Hats Go, and I noticed that you redrew a lot of it from the 1st to the 2nd version.

kw: One of the minicomics.

gg: Yeah. And the reason you did that is because you were dissatisfied with the pen-and-ink version? I ask because you completely changed the compositions and drawings and the sequence.

kw: Yeah, there were some things done that I think needed to be elaborated, and that’s one thing where it’s great to have somebody else looking at it, in that case Jordan [Crane] was editing this thing, which was incredibly helpful, and sometimes frustrating. When you draw an entire page, it’s one panel, and it doesn’t work, I think just naturally your brain is telling you, “No no, it’s fine, it’s fine.” [Groth laughs.] We’re all our harshest critics when it comes down to [it], but I think sometimes it takes that person to point out that thing you wouldn’t even allow yourself to think about. And when the drawing looks very very pretty, well then obviously it should be there. Look at that thing. I think that sways you. And there were a lot of full-page drawings, you know. So when Jordan calls me up and says, “I can’t even tell what’s going on. What’s he holding? What is that? This just makes no sense.” Well, Jordan’s a guy who reads comics, and if he’s not going to understand it, chances are the average guy at Barnes and Noble certainly isn’t going to understand it.

It’s good to have someone just for that. It’s almost, you’re proofreading rather than just simply editing, just checking for flow where I think if you know the story and you’re that close to it, you know these characters, you know everything about them, you’re likely to miss certain gaps in the narrative. So yeah, there were a number of reasons to redraw. Some where it needed to match up better, with the change in drawing styles. Sometimes things were redrawn because they were originally just bad [laughs], just lousy. Sometimes there was simply a better way to tell it.