MOME Interview 4: Jonathan Bennett

gg: Do you design the page and lay it out and have the figures placed and then write it, or do you write it —

jb: Yeah, I usually write the actual thoughts and things being said, those are usually written as they’re being lettered, because I can’t really think that far ahead, because each panel — I don’t know, sometimes I’ll only have a panel and I don’t know exactly what’s going to be in the next panel, I’ll just know that on this page, a certain thing will happen by the end of the page, and try and write my way up to that event, and then move on to the next thing and then get past it. I don’t really have a method yet, I haven’t really figured out why I do things the way that I’m doing them or exactly what I’m doing.

{mosimage}Sometimes I try and just allow the character to write the story for me. They’re not really autobiographical stories, I’m not retelling what actually happened in my day, they’re sort of things that happen to everyone and have happened to me, so I do have my real-life experience to work off of. But, it would be really boring if I told it as it happened. So instead I’m using circumstances as a springboard. Like, then what could happen, or sometimes I just find it writing itself and not trying to pick what would happen, but instead would feel something else coming. I don’t think it happens unconsciously, a lot of the ideas, and then I’ll have to sit down and actually write out things.

gg: It sounds very intuitive.

jb: I think so. I don’t know if that’s a good idea or not, and it’s hard to count on that, to sit down at the drawing board and hope that something just feels right, or — [Groth laughs]. I wish I had it written out, and I wish I could just sit down and then tell the story that I knew I wanted to tell, but it hasn’t happened that way yet.

gg: Well, as long as it works. I don’t think there’s a ‘right’ way or a ‘wrong’ way.

jb: I guess so, yeah, but I don’t even know if it’s working [Groth laughs], I’m having a hard time evaluating my own work and trying to move ahead and try different things. It’s been a difficult, weird process, and it’s all because of the page lengths, because I’m just not used to knowing that something is going to be 10 pages. I’m getting more used to it, but it’s still really weird that it has to keep going and going and going. [Groth laughs.] I can’t just stop when I feel like something has happened successfully. OK, now I’m on page three. So that’s how those stream of consciousness stories emerged, I think.

gg: When you construct a story, you don’t necessarily have beginning, middle, and end, it continues page by page until it ends?{mosimage}

jb: Sometimes. Sometimes all I will have is the ending. Like with the story in this issue, I had that whole idea of creeping into the mattresses and emerging from them at the end. So I knew that would happen. But all that happens in the last two pages. So, getting up to that point was the tough part. I just knew I didn’t want to open up with that happening. So yeah, sometimes the one section of the story that got me started on an idea doesn’t necessarily have to be the beginning, middle or end, and all those parts are never there when I’ve gotten started on a story. It’s either knowing that I’m going to work my way up to something and trying to fill in the blanks, or starting off with an idea, using it up, or trying to preserve some part of that idea so that it can also tie into the ending somehow.

gg: All the characters in the first four stories could be the same character; with the fourth one being the same character maybe 20 years later.

jb: I feel like that was a huge mistake. I don’t know why I made that someone who wasn’t myself, or not the same character I’ve been using, whoever that person is; I don’t know if it even feels like it is me or not. It was a weird — I wanted a change visually. I wanted to try something different. So I thought I would try and put it all on someone else’s physical body. I don’t know if that worked or not, but we’ll see.

gg: In the first three stories, does the main character look like you? Because I don’t even know what you look like.

jb: Yeah, yeah, I think so. It’s a caricature. I’ve been told by people, “You look just like you draw yourself in your comics.” And I’ve also been told by people, “You look nothing like you draw yourself in your comics.” [Groth laughs.] So I don’t know who’s right. But yeah, it’s definitely based on myself, it’s just a little cartoony version of me.