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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
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
gg: Hand-selling, yeah... Are you
the one who found the printer and
put it together? Were you the central
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
gg: [Laughter.] It wasn't an enjoyable
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
gg: You put out four issues of Hi-
aa: Yeah. And then Alternative
Comics published the Hi-Horse
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
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
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
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?