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gg: Did discovering, or rediscovering
comics, inspire you to start doing
your own more seriously at that
th: A bit of both, I guess. A bit of
neither. I was still drawing comics
on the side, and I think that was
another thing that was a connection
with Dan, he was doing those
Duplex Planet one-pagers. David
Greenberger asked me, again as a
songwriting assignment, he was
doing these albums that were
Ernest Noyes Brookings, one of
the poets from Duplex Planet, with
people setting his words to music.
So I ended up doing those albums,
and from that, I did the comics in
the Duplex Planet Illustrated [No More Shaves] that
Fantagraphics put out. That was
the first real thing I had published.
gg: I see. Now, in 1989, you were 23?
What did you do immediately after
college, how did you start earning a
th: I was working temp jobs, but
I was still living at home. I didn't
move out of my parents' house till
I was like, 29 and 7/8. And that was
the main thing that helped making
the records, because I was putting
them out myself. So I was working
these temp jobs. I remember working
in a bank and putting bank
statements in envelopes all day to
send out. Just really boring.
gg: [Laughs.] Wondering why you
went to college?
th: Yeah. No. Eventually I needed
to move out. That happened later
[laughs]. The job that I ended
up getting was that I worked as a
closed-captioning editor for 10
gg: Closed-captioning editor? In
th: This was for broadcast television,
though I eventually ended up
in the home video department.
gg: What does a closed-captioning
editor exactly do?
th: Well, you'd go into work and
get a tape — well, back then you'd
get a tape — and you basically
play it and play it, and sort of type
along with it. And, all the tapes
are striped with time code, and
then you assign time codes to the
captions that appear. You listen to
people. When I found out I was
being interviewed, the first thing
I was thinking was, "Who's going
to transcribe this?" [Groth laughs.]
"How does it work with these interviews?"
[Groth laughs.] Because
it's not too far from what I was
gg: Tim, you could transcribe it!
th: Oh, boy. Yeah, no, I mean, I'd
have to put on my wrist braces and
gg: So you literally transcribed the
tapes, and then synchronized them
th: Yeah. If you've ever watched
the news, you see all kinds of weird
mistakes, that's more like being a
court reporter. This is stuff that's
done in advance, pretty much.
Sometimes the turnaround is
pretty short. I remember one time
Citizen Kane came in as a rush job,
it was going to be on television or
gg: Well, if it's any movie you want
to rush, it's Citizen Kane.
th: Yeah, yeah. It was weird. It was
a cool job, because you'd get totally
different things from day to
day, you'd never be able to predict.
You'd do a week of Blaxploitation
movies then you'd be working on
Strawberry Shortcake or Walker,
gg: How long did you do this?
th: I did that up until January of
this year .
gg: Jesus. [Laughs.] And you were
you drawing on the side, basically.
th: Yeah. And I had started keeping
a sketchbook while I was there, because in the closed captioning
job, you're locked into this cubicle,
not locked, actually, it's not locked,
but it's a cubicle with a door. And
the thing that I used to do, at the
end of the day or as I was working,
I would notate the time code
of a particular image that I liked
on what I was working on, then I
would draw it. So, I was doing that
for a while and ended up putting
together a 'zine called Ticket Stub.
I did about eight or nine issues of
that. Towards the end, I got even
more complicated, where I would
make it into comics by choosing
frames from different things.
Cover of Ticket Stub No. 9
gg: So that's where Ticket Stub
th: Yeah. Ticket Stub was drawn
entirely on the job. [Laughs.] I
would finish my assignment and
have maybe an hour or two left because
I was pretty fast, so I would
just draw the image and write my
impressions of whatever it was I
had worked on that day.
gg: I see. Well, Ticket Stub does
seem to be the first indication of your
evolving approach to comics.
th: Yeah. I think in a way the experience
of that job really improved
my comics, because it's almost like
captioning is comics but they're
upside down, because you're sort of
taking an image and you're putting
a balloon underneath, and you have
to position it. So you're constantly,
over the course of 10 years, making
these immediate decisions like, you
find a shot change in a movie, and
you have to say, OK, this person's
on the left, or this person's walking
through a crowd of people, how do
I make sure that you can assign the
words to the person.
I think it intuitively made me think
more about how the eye moves
through an image in time and