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gg: Tell me a little about your working
method: how do you sit down
and plan a strip? Do you write the
entire thing first?
th: Yeah, I write the entire thing
first. It goes back to my method
when I was songwriting. I make
it like an assignment. It's not like
something where I wait for inspiration
to arrive, I just sit there
and methodically try to put it together.
Once it's all written, I put it
into thumbnails, and then I letter
the whole thing, and then I jump
around, usually, in different parts
of it. Now, with Gropius, I wrote
out the entire story, 53 pages, so it's
already written, and I've also lettered
the whole thing, and I'm just
taking the pages down as I work on
it, just filling in the boxes.
gg: When you work on the composition
of each panel, do you work directly
on the board? Or do you play
with it on overlays, or — ?
th: Oh no, not at all. I have a real
simple thumbnail of what it is I'm
working on, and usually I try to...
Sometimes I draw the figures in
first or sometimes I plot the perspective
and put the figures in after.
A lot of times, there always seems
like things I need to refer to, like do
a Google image search of a dumpster,
I had to do that the other day.
Or something to root it in reality,
gg: You changed from art to being
an English major in college, so I assume
you're something of a reader.
Who are your favorite writers?
th: Whoo, boy.
gg: Or who are the writers you feel
most of an affinity for in terms of
style and language?
th: Gee, I don't know. That sort of
puts me on the spot, I don't know.
[Groth laughs.] My favorite books,
or something like that? In college,
Dickinson and Poe were favorites,
but nowadays I find myself reading
naturalists like Theodore Dreiser,
who's also from Indiana.
gg: Your own writing is as far away
from Theodore Dreiser as one can
th: Well, I mean, to be honest, I
think when you're asking about
the language stuff, I think it's that
my sister has a learning disability
— she could also be described as
borderline mentally retarded, although
that's not the terminology
in favor — and takes medication to
stop her from hearing voices. She'll
say words like "o-beast" instead of "obese" and doesn't know what
World War II is. I maybe could
have gone the route of becoming
an autobiographical cartoonist and
become a spokesperson/advocate
type, but I prefer to use my affinity
to simply drop people into a parallel
kind of confusion that is second
nature to me by now. And when
you're asking about my experiences
in school, I had a problem that I
didn't realize at that time. My attitude
towards learning, how words
are put together, things that are
considered irrational, was different.
Thumbnail of last page of Jillian Banks
gg: That makes sense. I think your
whole approach to language is inspired.
th: It's something that I feel that
the comics that I do, the language
part I feel more comfortable in
than I do the drawing. The drawing
is a real struggle for me. I feel
that the actual storytelling, the
panel-to-panel type stuff, I can get
OK, but the actual solving drawing
problems is where I really struggle.
How do you draw a curved staircase,
that kind of thing.
gg: Well, I have to say I think the
images and the your particular use
of language go together perfectly,
like they do in the best cartooning,
th: Oh, thank you. I think there are
other cartoonists who don't work
from a script. The thing is, like in
the Jillian story that I just turned
in, if you read through it, it's kind
of like a dialogue, and it was written
that way, and the thing I added
to it when I was drawing is all the
business with the hot dog and the
caviar. It wasn't something that I
put in a thumbnail. I hope as I'm
working on it that I can come up
with these kind of sight gags that I
can throw in. I'm hoping that that
will make it less dry. I think other
artists just start in with a piece of
paper, and I'm sort of the opposite