gg: Could you tell me how you got involved in Hi-Horse and what your involvement exactly was? And where you were living at the time?
aa: I was living here, in San Francisco. I was considering moving to New York at the time. Actually, when Hi-Horse started I was semi-living in New York first. I was just there for two and a half months one summer, subletting for a friend. I was trying to decide if I wanted to move there. But when I came back here, inertia kind of set in and I never moved to New York. I asked two of the people — Howard [John Arey] and Bishakh [Som] — who were in the magazine Strip! with me in college. And then Joan, I went to high school with her.
gg: That’ll be Joan Reilly?
aa: Yeah. I just liked the way she drew. I felt she had a really natural ease, and she hadn’t really done comics before so I asked her to be in it. And then we had some meetings and put out the first issue.
gg: And what gave you the confidence to actually publish a comic? Did you distribute this in the comic stores and go through the whole distribution system?
aa: Yeah, yeah. Well, we went to APE in 2001 and the comic came out right in time for that and then kind of hooked up with Last Gasp there, and Cold Cut right afterwards. We did a lot of footwork going to stores ourselves, selling books.
gg: Hand-selling, yeah… Are you the one who found the printer and put it together? Were you the central organizing force?
aa: Yeah. I did all the production and I found the printer through a friend of mine, Kim Cooper, who does the ‘zine Scram. It was a pretty good deal. But I’ll be happy if I don’t have to self-publish ever again.
gg: [Laughter.] It wasn’t an enjoyable experience?
aa: Well, it was fine, but it’s just so much time and so much work and you have to be on top of everything. You can’t get lazy, like with the past few issues I kind of slacked off in terms of selling to stores and things like that. And you can’t really do that if you’re doing it all yourself.
gg: You put out four issues of Hi- Horse?
aa: Yeah. And then Alternative Comics published the Hi-Horse Omnibus.
gg: And was that experience a little easier for you than self-publishing?
aa: Yeah, definitely, because he’s a pretty good promoter. He’s really enthusiastic. That’s not one of my strong points, especially when I’m trying to promote my own work.
gg: Virtually all the stories I’ve read by you are actually adaptations of earlier and often ancient stories. Let me ask you why you focus on adaptations of early works. Was the three-part story that ran in Hi-Horse an adaptation?
aa: No, that’s not.
gg: It’s drawn in what I take to be a 19th-century illustration style. So it gave me the impression it was an adaptation but it isn’t.
aa: It was supposed to be more 18th century. You know, around the American Revolution. It was inspired by political cartoons that I saw from that time. I thought there was something really funny about them. Mostly that the language and the way that the — it sounds like a small thing but I’m kind of obsessed with it — the way that the word balloons come out of people’s mouths. I’m not sure I really captured that that well but it looks a string is being pulled out of someone’s body or something.
gg: Right, right, and you tried to duplicate the lettering as well.
aa: Yeah, yeah. The Ss that look like Fs, that was another thing that really made me say I have to do something like this.
gg: Three of the four stories you’ve done for Mome are adaptations from Japanese sources, and the story you contributed to Scheherazade is from the 1001 Nights. Do you have a special affinity for what looks like Japanese fables?
aa: Yeah, and I think that came partly from — my mom had these little rice-paper books that her parents had brought back from Japan that I used to look at a lot when I was little. And I forgot about those until recently, but I think that that was a big influence on me subconsciously for a while. But you’ll probably notice that a lot of them have to do with the sea and being under the sea and I think that that partly came from when I was in fifth grade. I was living with my older sister, and she was doing graduate studies in Marine Biology and I spent a lot of time in her lab and I did a lot of drawings of marine life in tanks there, and I think that that kind of got into my brain permanently. My photography in college was inspired by that a lot too. I’m sure there are other reasons I’m fascinated with the sea too, but that’s the one that I can pinpoint.
gg: And they almost all involve serpents of some sort.
gg: As do many of your paintings.
aa: Yeah, I like being able to do new things with animals and creatures, so I think something like a dragon or a serpent is more open to interpretation than a rabbit or a goat or something. Although I try to do new interpretations of those too. It’s fun, you know?