gg: Again, that makes perfect sense, I’m just not sure I would’ve connected the dots, as it were. I wanted to ask you what a few references meant, because I literally hadn’t the slightest idea. For example, in “Meet the Dropouts,” which is in the previous Mome. On page two, panel two, one of the band members is saying, “I wonder if Patsy likes me. She sat next to me in shop class and asked me why there was a thumb in the thresher.”
gg: [Bemused laugh.] “Thumb in the thresher.” What does that mean?
th: Well, I thought that if they were in shop class, there’d be a lot of machinery, and there’d be an industrial accident. So I thought that basically Patsy was trying to make conversation with him, and he’s trying to interpret it in whichever way. And she’s saying like, “Oh, how come there’s a thumb…” It’s just a way to chat him up, I guess. But it seemed like something that could happen in a shop class. Somebody could lose their thumb. I don’t know if there would be a thresher, I mean, I didn’t look up… there are sometimes where I look things up and try to make things logical, and sometimes it just sounds right. I don’t know if there would actually be a thresher in a shop class, in wood shop, or metal, or whatever.
gg: Is your intent in “Walter Gropius” to do a parody of not only teen comics, but the whole aspect of celebrityhood?
th: Well, to a certain degree it’s autobiographical. I grew up in an entertainment industry family. The suicidal women come from my sister’s suicide attempts when I was young. Some of it’s that, I guess. And yeah, examining certain things in teenager comics that I think are funny. Like the very first story in there is like this Archie story, “A Share of Happening.” I don’t know if you’re familiar with that one, it’s basically Archie talking about all the different things that Archie Enterprises are responsible for, like drinking glasses and gold records. And, at the end, he wakes up, and it turns out it’s a dream, but then in the final panel, underneath, it says, “No, it’s not a dream, there really is a Jughead restaurant in Joliet, Illinois.” That story I remember making a big impression on me when I was a kid, so I thought it would be funny to do something like that, with a character that’s not famous at all, yet depicted as if he is, maybe making light of a dilemma that I was often confronted with.
gg: You did a great strip for one of The Comics Journal Specials. The subject was “The Shock of Recognition.” And you did a parody of hardboiled film noir. Or at least, that’s my interpretation. What prompted you to go in that direction?
th: I think it was mainly just the words “Shock of Recognition,” it sounded like something that would be in an old —
gg: Right, like Shock Corridor.
th: Yeah, like Shock Corridor, or Shock SuspenseStories. When I heard “Shock of Recognition,” I thought, “Oh, somebody’s in an electric chair.” The story sort of built from there, just looking at old Dick Tracys.
gg: I was going to ask you if Dick Tracy was an inspiration, because it looked very Gouldish.
th: Yeah. I love Dick Tracy. Dick Tracy is great.
gg: That’s one of the few influences I could actually detect.
th: Oh, OK, yeah. I definitely did read a lot of that, even reading it in the newspaper when he was finishing up his run in the ’70s. That, and I think the other thing I was looking at when I was trying to figure out how to draw that stuff, was some of the early Hirschfeld cartoons. I did put some of that in my sketchbook, trying to figure out how some of the characters —
gg: Huh. You mean like his Drawings for the Masses? Early stuff, ’30s?
th: There’s like a certain period of his work, and I can’t be as specific as that, where he was incorporating his drawings — he was doing theater drawings, and he was doing his caricatures, but they were in an environment, usually the stage background. I guess that’s my favorite period of his drawings, because he’s actually really great at perspective. And you think of them being caricatures, but that particular period of his drawing, I really liked the perspective drawing. It’s inspiring to me to try to put cartoon characters in an elaborate kind of environment like that.