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gg: You have an elliptical narrative
technique, where things are implied
more than they're stated. Actions
almost speak louder than words.
Were you influenced by anything in
particular, or did you just come upon
that as your natural way of...
ph: I don't know, I think I've been
realizing more and more that that
was actually really heavily influenced
by Edward Gorey, because he
really does that in his books a lot.
I've just been reading all the books
that I have of his. I was actually
reading some interviews with him
and realizing "Huh, this was something
that was massively important
to him," that he said was influenced
more by Japanese sort of storytelling.
To me, what was interesting
was not showing, and what you
didn't show speaking volumes
more than loud, obvious reality...
Because most of life is just interpretation
and assumption and extrapolation
from things where we don't
necessarily know what was going
on. I think that's always been something
that's been more intriguing to
me and a natural way to tell a story,
because you don't walk into a room
where people turn and say flatly,
"Oh, well, this is what is happening
in my innermost mental life." And
you don't say, "Ah, well, that makes
me angry that you say that," and
you know, [laughs] what you really
get is one facial expression, and
then the person reaches for their
glass and their hand shakes a little
bit, and then you have to go to the
bathroom because you had
Mexican, but they don't know that,
they think you're mad. [Laughs.]
What an idiotic scenario that was,
but you get the point. You're never
getting all the facts handed to you.
That's how things work, I guess.
That's always seemed like the best
way to tell things for me. And it
keeps it fun for me writing it.
Page from a sketchbook showing thumbnails
gg: What cartoonists in your peer
group do you have the most kinship
ph: Well, direct kinship is obviously
Jeff Brown, I hang out with him
all the time. As far as people's work
I just absolutely love, I think John
Pham is one of the most ingenius
people working in comics today.
Unfortunately, If I go on listing
names, it's going to sound like I'm
trying to sell MOME.
Jeff obviously is a huge influence
on me because we are constantly
trying to kick each other in the ass
as far as, "You need to concentrate
on this," to which the other replies
"Well, what about this? Why don't
you try this?"
I feel that most of the people I'm
friends with,we all have this, I don't
know what it is exactly, it's this
need to push comics forward
somehow. We're all doing it in very
different ways, but I think there's
some sort of feeling that "OK, we
know what's already been done,
let's really try to do something a little
bit different," but at the same
time, really incorporating a lot of
the things that have come before.
gg: You think you're conscious of trying
to do something fresh and —
ph: I think so. I think at the same
time we're all trying to figure out,
"How do we really make this the
most honest means of personal
expression that we can?"
I do think the one thing that I've
certainly noticed is pulling, and I
think actually it was either John
Pham or Sammy Harkham that
was talking about this, really
pulling influences from just everywhere;
from film; from music;
obviously other cartoonists, but
modern illustrators, painters,
things like that. Me and Jeff, for
instance, I know he's more influenced
by German Expressionism
and things like that. I find myself
really influenced by British animation
from the '60s and stuff like
that, so it's all over the place.
Image from sketchbook
gg: What were your influences, outside
ph: I really love old animation, not
exceptionally old animation
though there's a lot of great stuff
there, but a lot of the animation
that was happening in the '60s,
'70s, stuff like that.
gg: God, what would that be?
ph: Well, no not particularly.
gg: Sixties and '70s.
ph: Well, some of the stuff is even
later than that. A lot of the stuff
that Jay Ward worked on, like Rocky
and Bullwinkle. Rocky and
Bullwinkle just, oh my God, half the
stuff I draw is either a Muppet or
Rocky and Bullwinkle rip off.
gg: Well, Jay Ward was great.
ph: Oh yeah, absolutely. Actually,
something I've been realizing more
and more had a huge influence on
me was a lot of stuff that [Jules]
Rankin and [Arthur] Bass [Jr.] did,
sort of the weird stop-motion
model animation, like Rudolph the
Red-Nosed Reindeer and stuff like
that. Richard Williams' The Thief
and the Cobbler, though of course I
only have the butchered version.
But one thing that just absolutely
destroyed my mind at a young age
was Heinz Edelmann's designs in
The Yellow Submarine animation. I
don't know why they aired that
thing. It aired several times, too,
and we didn't have cable, but we
would go to our grandmother's
house, and I remember that thing
being on a couple times and it did
not do good things to my head.
Yeah, I think that's something that's