MOME Interview 4: Jonathan Bennett

gg: Now the characters are all microscopically obsessed. They’re all pretty insular, and in all the four stories, there’re only two other characters.

jb: Yeah. It’s the guy who’s picking up junk or whatever?

gg: Yes, and the other is a girl who has a cameo for one page and then disappears. The stories are primarily one character, either wandering around or reflecting.

{mosimage}jb: That’s true, that’s my problem. [Laughter.]

gg: Or your strength.

jb: Yeah, I don’t know.

gg: So why, you don’t write stories where characters interact with other human beings?

jb: I don’t know if it’s because I just can’t do it or I’m afraid to attempt it or what. I think I also spend a lot of time just wandering around alone. That’s where I do all my deep thinking. [Laughs.]

Who knows; I don’t know. I don’t want to transcribe conversations in my comics. I hate the idea of that. Eventually I will try my best to do that, to bring in different characters who are interacting, but I have a fear of that, I don’t always like that when it’s happening in comics. If you don’t really have a solid storyline, then it’s hard to improve that sort of stuff…for me.

I feel like I’m still learning how to do comics, still trying to learn how to do the basics of it, of writing. I feel like I would need an actual story written down, not necessarily a script, but at least a thumbnail and an idea with a beginning, middle, and end to incorporate other characters like that. I don’t know why that is, but the only other characters that I can handle at this point seem to be these people who are on this periphery, edge of things.

gg: In a way, it seems to me what you’re doing is very difficult to do, especially in comics, which is that you are creating a narrative out of the interior of these characters’ lives. Basically, it’s them thinking to themselves or making connections through observation.{mosimage}

jb: I think that it allows me to do things visually though, or at least it’s made me try and consider the visual side of comics and storytelling instead of just having 12 frames of a talking head or having someone sitting somewhere. It’s made me try and keep it a little more interesting, have something else happening visually. So I don’t get bored, and so that I feel like there’s something worthwhile going on. Whether it’s something like a pigeon sideline story that’s happening in #2, or flashbacks. I don’t know, just having things happening in the environment around me.

gg: Well, they’re interacting with the world, but just not with people in the world.

jb: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, I can’t explain what it is, I think I’m just embarrassed to say that I’m not an experienced enough writer to have taken the plunge. I’m self-obsessed, egotistical, I don’t know what the word is. [Groth laughs.] I don’t know what my problem is, but I definitely want to get away from it, and I tried really hard to begin to break away from it with issue four by making it not myself. But that didn’t work, because it became me anyway.

gg: Your characters almost always start reflecting back to childhood.

jb: Yeah. I tried to avoid that. It even happened in #4 again. I do not use the same device that I’ve used in the past, those little like, rip off Sugiura-style manga children. I think it’s in the first two stories. I couldn’t help but make those connections with the world and how I was interact it with those stories. Those were the things where I see it happening and that’s how the writing process happens. That’s the connection drawn, and I doodle down the next square, and that’s just what it becomes. I just try to let it write itself. I definitely try to avoid doing that though, for a little while. I didn’t want to do that in #3 or in #4, because I felt like I was doing the same exact thing twice.

gg: Do you yourself do that? Reflect upon your childhood and relate it to your current life?

jb: I don’t know.

gg: Is that connection important to you?

jb: It must be. Definitely, because all those things happen regularly, it’s very much my normal train of thought, all those things always pop up, things are always reminding me. I don’t know if that’s any different for anyone. It seems very natural, I don’t feel I’m obsessed with my childhood, or trying to get back to it. I have fond memories of childhood, lots of funny stories that always seem to pop up. So I don’t know why that is. I don’t feel like there’s a particularly interesting reason for it.