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gg: Now, are these contributions by
you so embarrassing you don't want
people to see them?
aa: Pretty much. [Groth laughs.]
For the most part, although the
turnip story that I did in Hi-Horse
#2 - 4 was an expansion of this one
page strip that I did in that book
that was called Colonial Comics. It's
still embarrassing, but not as much
so as some of the other ones.
gg: After you discovered RAW,
where'd you proceed from there? Did you start buying other comics, did
you start immersing yourself in this
aa: I never really immersed myself
until later. I think it was off and on.
I think, pretty shortly after that, I
discovered Dan Clowes and Chris
Ware, and of course was pretty
amazed by their stuff. But then
also in high school I got really into
Lynda Barry and Matt Groening
and Zippy the Pinhead. So I guess
I was reading some art comics before
gg: What was your cultural diet like
in like high school and college? What
were you into and what were you
aa: Well, let's see. It was somewhat
eclectic. A lot of the music I listened
to in high school I probably don't
want to admit to, like Pink Floyd
and Cat Stevens. I liked some punk
rock and in 10th grade for a while I
went through sort of a weird metal
phase where I was really into Dio
[Groth laughs] and then I was really
into the Cure in high school
but that's kind of a random selection.
I liked a lot of stuff that was
just called "alternative" back then,
when it actually was alternative,
and now that word has a completely
different meaning, at least for
music. Elvis Costello was my favorite
pretty consistently through high
school. And then, let's see. I'm trying
to remember what I was reading
that I liked.
Ever since college, one of my favorite
authors has been Edith Wharton.
I've just been thinking about that
lately, trying to figure out what it is
about her that I like so much, but
I guess I have to go back and read
those books and figure it out. But I
think, partly it's just her use of language
gg: Maybe it's her mirth. [Laughter.]
So, did you have an impulse to actually
tell stories? Did you come at it
more from the visual side, the side of
making images or did you primarily
want to tell stories?
aa: Well, I think now I definitely
approach it more from the visual
side. I guess that was always true,
although when I was in high school
and college I tried to write, stories
and poetry, things like that, which
are just so incredibly awkward and
embarrassing. And that was one of
the things that I discovered about
doing comics, that it was a lot easier
to just do something that was more
spontaneous in a way, even though
it ends up being more work — and
less awkward. So, I think that I'm
just more of a visual thinker. I've
been wanting, for a while, to try
to learn more about writing, try to
learn as much as I can on my own,
but I feel like I need some classes.
[Laughter.] I'm definitely a classtaker.
You know —
gg: Are you?
aa: Yeah, a lot of people in comics
tend to be self-taught and maybe
that's partly because there's not
a lot of good alternative comics
education in this country. But I
try to take classes and fit them to
my needs. That's what I did with
the academy. I took the illustration
classes and I learned a lot about
doing actual illustration, but I was
also trying to use it for my own
creative development. And I think
the fact that I was a little bit older
when I was taking those classes was
the best thing — I knew what I
wanted out of it more.
gg: Do you think you're an analytical
thinker? Do you break things
aa: Not really.
gg: Did you always sort of drift to
alternative and non-mainstream
modes of culture?
aa: Yeah, yeah, I think so.
gg: Was this because of your family
environment, because of your mother's
aa: Yeah, I think so. And my dad
too. My family is definitely not
gg: Ah, now we're getting somewhere.
aa: Well, you know, just in terms
gg: Do you have any siblings?
aa: Yeah, I have two older half-sisters
who were 15 and 18 when I
was born so it was more like having
extra adults in my family. And
then I have another half-sister
who's 15 years younger than me, so
growing up it was basically like being
an only child. Sometimes even
more so when all the focus is on
you, when there's all these adults
around you. My sisters were like