MOME Interview 4: Jonathan Bennett

gg: I guess that had a good effect on you.

jb: Yeah, I’ve read that interview, some publicity thing that I guess Eric [Reynolds] has shared with a few interviews, where he said part of the reason that you guys wanted to put together MOME was so that you could get work that otherwise wouldn’t have been created out of some newer, under-published cartoonists. I think with me, that’s exactly what happened. I never would have written these stories, they weren’t kicking around in my head waiting to be written when I had the time or anything like that. These were things that I’ve had to come up with on the spot because I knew I had a deadline all of a sudden.

It’s been really great for me, because it made me work harder and it made me take it seriously on a new level. I was really trying hard, but it upped the ante to have you guys looking over my shoulder and knowing that you’d be reading it, and knowing you guys were committed to publishing whatever it was that we handed in, pretty much.

gg: Let me ask you how you construct a story. All your stories are around eight to 10 pages or so. You don’t write the entire story out first, I assume.

{mosimage}jb: No, no. I’ve never worked on anything longer than maybe three pages, or four pages, until I started working on MOME. I would do those stories that you saw in Esoteric Tales, that were maybe 10 pages long, but really they were on only two sheets of paper and I would chop up the squares and make them — I had these big Chris Ware rip-off style pages with 24 panels on a page, where I was really trying to make it look like one big solid old Sunday newspaper page or something, and then I would reconfigure them to fill up Esoteric Tales when a comics show was coming up. Just to fill up 16 pages.

This is the first time that I knew that I’d have to make full pages and make a 10-page story for real, so yeah, I used to write those stories. It’s easy to say “OK, this is what’s going to happen, it’s going to be this brief little anecdote,” and I would just make myself a chart. I got this very loose idea of what I would get started with as an opening sequence, and one thing that I would, like thumbnail it out and do a lot of the writing on the page as I get started and not really know where it’s going to end up. It’s been a weird experiment. Not very well planned at all. Sort of a surprise.

gg: There’s an organic quality to your stories that I wouldn’t necessarily think indicates that you have a blueprint before you started drawing. In fact, your stories almost seem like a narrative version of a train of thought — that connections the mind makes routinely becomes a narrative, one things leads to another that leads to another that leads to another.

jb: Yeah. That’s exactly what it is, just trying to think how something has to happen on this page, and trying to further a simple storyline that’s going underneath one story that may or may not have a goal or an ending. Trying to keep things interesting visually and not only to allow what’s happening to inspire the next panel, and lead to the next section of the story, but also to visually try and use certain points and jump off of them visually. It definitely is an organic sort of thing that grows on the page as each panel leads to the next.{mosimage}

gg: Right, right. It almost replicates the way you reflect on things when you’re driving or when you’re on the subway or when you’re not focusing on something in particular and your mind starts wandering.

jb: That’s pretty much what it is; I have to sit at the drawing table and let my mind wander in order to come up with another idea. I don’t know, it’s really weird to try to have that come across. It’s weird to me that that comes across reading my comic, because it’s not really a train of thought, because all that stuff happens moment to moment, and with the stories, they’re taking me weeks and weeks to finish everything. It will take me two weeks to finish one page sometimes, because I only get to work for maybe an hour and a half or three hours at a time each night or something like that. I’m pretty slow at working. But I guess I write the page fairly quickly and don’t necessarily commit to everything on the page, but have an idea of where it’s going to go.