Amanda Divine: Which artists were you tracing
as a child?
Jonathan Adams: Do you mean literally
trace, or figuratively? Because I did once trace
a drawing of Captain America and pass it off as
my own. Even though it was clearly beyond the
capabilities of any 7-year-old and also on tracing
paper. I obviously wasn't too smart. But there
were a number of artists that I admired, some
of whom I regret liking. Todd McFarlane, for instance.
I loved John Byrne's work, and still think some
of it was great, though the stuff he's producing
now seems fairly crappy. I loved Ron Frenz when
he was working on Amazing Spider-Man of course.
June Brigman, who did Power Pack, was fantastic,
and I even got her to do a pin-up for the Truth
Serum book. Sandy Plunkett should have done more
work, but it seemed like I'd rarely see his stuff
around. Then there's Kevin Nowlan, though I was
into him in my later teen years, not so much my
Amanda: Why the Todd McFarlane regrets?
The fact that he's become a toy mogul or because
you realized that all the cross-hatching was carefully
crafted camouflage for bad art?
Jonathan Adams: The McFarlane regrets are just because,
you know, you don't want to be associated with
anybody that sucks. He didn't suck at the time,
or so I thought, but he certainly is a hack now.
And looking back at the stuff he was doing when
I liked him, it's just utterly bizarre artwork.
He throws lines all over the place and it makes
no sense. I mean, somebody like Bill Sienkewicz
may throw lines haphazardly, but there's something
behind it. And it's beautiful. With McFarlane's
art it just looks like somebody kept bumping his
elbow while he was trying to ink it.
Amanda: You seem to have a love-hate relationship
overall with the superhero comics of today…
Jonathan Adams: Yeah. I certainly do have a love-hate
relationship with the superhero comics of today.
I did an interview for my book with The Pulse
and went off on this rant about how short-sighted
superhero comics are. It never made it into the
interview. But, basically, my problem isn't with
the intrinsic nature of superheroes. As preposterous
an idea as it is for somebody to wear a skintight
costume and shoot energy beams out of various
body parts is, I recognize the validity of such
stories. But their dominance over the industry
and art form is so off-putting to anybody who
thinks they may be interested in comics. Most
people, who don't know anything about comics,
think that's all they're about. They're surprised
to find out that you can make a comic about anything,
the same way you would a book, movie or song.
But the bigger comic companies have very little
interest in doing anything different. They want
to stick to the one thing that's sorta been working,
even if it has no mass appeal, because they're
terrified to make any real changes. And you'd
think they may notice that books like Blankets
get written up in Entertainment Weekly while nobody
in the mainstream media gives a shit about the
latest issue of Green Lantern. I could really
go on about this, but I won't. So basically, you
know, I have a problem with one of the worst aspects
of the art form and am eager to make fun of how
absurd and myopic it is.
Amanda: So, do you think that the glut
of superheroes causes harm to independent artists?
Some comic fans are going to pick up your work,
or gravitate toward other quality material. Is
that offset by people afraid to pick up any sort
of graphic novel because of that underwear-on-the-outside
Jonathan Adams: The glut of superheroes harms the
industry and art form as a whole because it stifles
some truly amazing and groundbreaking artists.
It inhibits them in terms of being able to devote
more time to their work. Think of how much work
somebody like Al Columbia could do if he was making
as much money as Jim Lee. I mean, I have no idea
what Al Columbia does to make money, and he may
very well enjoy it. But I know he's not making
a real living doing comics. If the opportunity
for people like him was there, the industry would
be propelled into mainstream culture. But instead,
it's a stunted and unfulfilled art form.
Amanda: Are you interested in starting
something completely different with the release
of the Truth Serum collection, or is this a theme
you'd like to explore more?
Jonathan Adams: I'll be doing a lot
more Truth Serum work. There are a number of stories
I've written that, sadly, I have yet to draw.
There are a few more projects on my plate right
now, and when they're done in the coming months,
I'll begin work on the next Truth Serum book,
focusing completely on that. Hopefully. There
are other things I want to do, things that wouldn't
fit in with the Truth Serum stories, but I'm in
no hurry to do them.
Amanda: When you say you will completely
focus on Truth Serum, does that mean you will
be doing the comic full time?
Jonathan Adams: Oh, goodness no.
I wish. I wish I could afford to, but no. I just
mean that, aside from my day job, all I plan to
do is my comic. I keep getting sidetracked with
stuff. I did a bunch of art for my friend Ryan
Montbleau's new CD. And I'm going to do a large
window display for 826 Valencia here in San Francisco.
That'll be a huge project. And though all these
things are really fun, I just need to focus on
Truth Serum. I don't want it to be another three
years before I can put out a book.
Amanda: Are you happy with how the book
turned out? How has the feedback been?
Jonathan Adams: I'm super happy with the book. It's
rare that I'm so happy with my work, but I think
the book looks great. Being my first self-published
book, I was really nervous about how it would
come out. And until I had a copy in my hand and
I could see it, I was sure it would be riddled
with errors. And the reception has been great.
So far nothing but positive responses. Wizard
Magazine, of all places, gave me a great review
in their latest issue. A 2-page spread, and they
even stuck a small image of one of my characters
on their cover. Totally crazy that that happened.
Amanda: You do amazingly fine detail work
that looks like it must be fairly time-consuming.
In Crumb, he talks about how a lot of that detail
work is relaxing and therapeutic. Is that the
case for you, or is it just a form of self-torture?
Jonathan Adams: It's a little tortorous at times
because it takes me so long to draw, but there
is an aspect to it that's relaxing. It's great
fun to just sink into whatever I'm working on
and not be distracted by the outside world. It's
probably sort of meditative, in ways I'm not aware
of. But I think the writing is more therapeutic
than the art. My stories often come directly from
things in my life and work as a catharsis. But
the art, I'm not sure where that comes from. I
try not to think about it.
Amanda: And finally, who is doing the
best stuff right now that nobody else knows about?
Jonathan Adams: I don't think there's anything that
nobody knows about, but there are a few people
that aren't widely known. Anders Nilsen, who's
recently been picked up by Drawn & Quarterly,
is making some pretty amazing work. I first saw
his book Big Questions, which is a self-published
work a while ago. It's this surreal, but completely
engrossing book. I don't really know how to describe
it. At last year's Alternative Press Expo there
seemed to be an abundance of brilliant and innovative
works, mostly being done in mini comics. I wish
I'd had more time to look around at it all. I
plan to this year.