Logan Kaufman: Almost the boxers or briefs
question, but, Tony Millionaire: not your real
Tony Millionaire: It's FRENCH!
I once had a girlfriend who was talking to some
people and one of them said "Tony Millionaire,
what kind of name is that?" And she said,
"It's French." And the guy said, "Oh,
sorry, I thought it was some sort of performance
art clown name."
Logan: But if I were to call your wife,
and ask for Scott...
Tony Millionaire: Uh, yeah. Maybe she'd
think the bank was calling or some far away uncle.
Logan: So, pen name?
Tony Millionaire: Let's say its been my
name for a very long time, long before I could
use a pen. It is my legal name, and it's been
around a lot longer than I've been a cartoonist.
Logan: Along those lines, how much of
Tony Millionaire is a character? I've never been
sure of about how much to believe, some interviews
with you are pretty interesting...
Tony Millionaire: I'll tell you that most
of the stories that are in interviews are true,
in fact all of them. I don't really make up adventures
and stuff for myself. But what I did, when I was
younger, I thought to myself, someday I'm going
to need some great adventures to tell people.
I didn't know that I'd be doing cartoons or comics
or what I'd be doing, but I thought "I've
got to have something in my life now, that I can
remember and tell people." So I did a lot
of crazy things.
Like running into a bombed out building screaming,
"My wife is dancing in there!" and having
the cops pull me out of there, just yelling and
screaming, "Oh my god, my wife, my poor wife."
And then ending up on the front page of the Berliner
Morgenpost, like the New York Times
in Berlin, because I was the only guy that they
had that was dramatic enough for a good photo
for the bombed out LaBelle Discotech. Which, I
found out later, that a couple people died in
that. At the time, I didn't know that, I just
wanted to get inside so I could get some photographs
of the place.
But I got on the front page of the paper. And
then, the thing is, two days later my father called
me yelling at me, "You didn't tell us you
Logan: That was the one thing he was concerned
Tony Millionaire: Right. I was involved
in a bombing, he was more pissed off that I had
got married and not told him.
Logan: Being raised in a family of artists,
were you pretty much destined to go into that
Tony Millionaire: Yeah, I really was.
I picked up a pen when I was very young and just
started drawing like crazy. My daughter, both
of them, are doing the same thing. They draw faces,
they draw animals and things like I did very early
in my development. And my parents, they didn't
give me direct lessons but they just gave me constant...My
mother said, "Plenty of praise, and plenty
of art supplies."
So that when I came to a certain age, like when
I was a teenager, my grandfather started teaching
me tricks. Like when you're drawing a house, don't
just fill in the window black, take a razor blade
and scratch it off so it looks like there is some
kind of reflection in there. And so now I use
razorblades all the time in drawings as an eraser
sort of - to give it sort of a crumbly grayish
area, you can just scratch the paper with a razor.
He was very physical with the paper in his pen
and inks. He did a lot of beautiful drawings of
boats in Boston on the seashore. He did a lot
of boats and he also illustrated for adventure
magazines in the 30's. He did a lot cowboys, mountain
scenes and things like that.
Logan: Do you still have much of his art?
Tony Millionaire: Oh, I've got a big drawer
full of it. My grandmother was probably even better.
She did watercolor portraits which are very difficult
to do, because once you put the watercolor down,
it's there. You can't really erase it or go back
or cover it up like you can in oil paints. So
she had to get it right the first time. And they
are beautiful paintings, not just really good
likenesses, but really beautiful, beautifully
They also did a lot of seascapes. That's why
I really love putting those in my comics.
Logan: Were you the only of your siblings
that went into the field?
Tony Millionaire: My brother started,
and then he became a sculptor. And now he designs
displays for trade shows and works on sculpture
on the side. My sisters and other brother didn't
really do anything with art.
Logan: Were you always heading towards
illustration, or did you mess around with sculpture
and painting at all?
Tony Millionaire: My brother was doing
the sculpture, and I was doing drawings so well,
at one point my brother said, "Look I'll
be the sculpture guy and you do the drawing."
What happened with the illustration was that
I said to my mother, "I'm going to be a commercial
illustrator like my dad when I grow up."
And she said, "What? You want to do those
drawings of pork chops you see on the sides of
cardboard boxes?" And I said, "Uh, no."
Don't think about being a commercial artist, think
about being a real artist. So, I went to school
and studied fine art. And then, from there I went
into illustration and cartooning. Which I think
is a better way to go because you don't learn
technique first, you learn the spirit of it, the
spirit of fine art and how to capture feelings
and moods through landscapes and drawings, rather
than trying to paint the glistening beads of cold
sweat on the side of a Coca-Cola bottle.
Logan: So, Massachusetts College of Art
is specifically a fine arts college?
Tony Millionaire: They have a huge design
department and I wasn't industrious enough to
get my portfolio slick enough to get into the
design department, which I actually tried to do,
to get into the illustration department. And then,
that's when both my mother and a teacher told
me, you don't want to do that. Get into the fine
arts department. So I majored in painting. I did
mostly oil paintings for years.
Logan: Do you still do them?
Tony Millionaire: I don't do them anymore,
because when I moved to New York and Berlin, I
didn't really have access to a big studio, I just
had small places to live. Pen and ink became,
I mean, a piece of paper and a pen and you're
all set. Sit in a chair and do it; you don't have
to have an easel and all that. So, under those
circumstances, I turned to pen and ink. Which
I always loved too, because my grandfather taught
Plus, I loved comics so much, that I started
doing comics with pen and ink. I always loved
comics, I just never thought I'd be doing them
until ten years ago.
Logan: After you got out of college, did
you try to make a living as a painter with the
Tony Millionaire: Fortunately, I never
had to go through the gallery scene. I've had
a few shows in galleries, and I know I would not
have been successful getting up into the higher
levels of gallery showing because by the end of
the show, I would be drunk atop of the table,
swinging around, pulling my pants down and yelling.
Because I've always been the loudest, drunkest,
tallest guy in every room.
So, you have to put on a certain persona, stand
right and have got to be able to answer questions
Logan: Definitely selling yourself...
Tony Millionaire: Yeah. And not only that,
you've got to have a really deep understanding
of modern art, more than I do. And so when I first
got out of college I was knocking on doors and
drawing houses for a living. I'd get a hundred
bucks to draw somebody's house, do that two or
three times a week and I'd be all set. So no matter
where I went, I always had just enough to get
by. Except in the winter time, which was kind
When I went to Berlin, I just put cards in people's
mailboxes. I couldn't speak German, so I put cards
in people's mailboxes with a picture of a house
on it. I pretty much lived on that for twenty
Logan: Really? Just doing houses?
Tony Millionaire: Pretty much. Just houses
and then any other little illustration jobs I
could pick up. I always had enough money to get
drunk and not get evicted. Well, not always enough,
since I did get evicted. But I always had enough
to get by that way.
Logan: Did you basically just leap straight
from doing houses to Maakies?
Tony Millionaire: I did. I went from houses
to drawing Maakies. I was drawing houses one winter,
and it was so cold, and it was snowy out, and
then it snowed again. And then it was March, and
it snowed a huge snowstorm and my girlfriend said,
"I don't think you're going to be able to
pay the rent. You didn't pay it last month and
now I'm going to be paying it because it's too
snowy out for you to draw your houses, so why
don't you just move out?" So, I did. And
I was pretty much homeless. I was sleeping on
a friend's couch, wondering which was the next
couch I was going to be able to sleep on, and
I went into a local bar and started drawing Drinky
Crow on a napkin. And the bartender said, "Draw
me a little comic strip about this guy Drinky
Crow, and for every one you do I'll give you a
free beer." And I thought, that's BEER! Free
beer. That's all I need! So I would go down there
and draw these little comic strips and he collected
them into a little photocopied newsletter for
the bar. And that's how Drinky Crow got started.
Other people would come in and they'd draw little
Drinky Crow comics, so they would collect them
all together. It was like a group effort.
And then, somebody saw them. Somebody at the
New York Press saw that and said, "Why don't
you do a strip for us?" And that was my salvation.
The New York Press pulled me out of the doldrums.
It didn't pay very much, but it was a certain
amount of discipline that I needed to get a strip
done every week. And then, from there, now that
I'm in the paper, that's when I started getting
calls for illustrations in magazines.
Logan: How were those early strips taking
form? Just one panel jokes on napkins, or were
you doing a true-to-form three-panel, four-panel
Tony Millionaire: The first Drinky Crow
I ever did was on a napkin. It was just a drawing
of this crow blowing his brains out. But after
that, I started doing little four panel ones stacked
on top of each other. And then, when I got into
the New York Press, I did the long form, where
it's a long strip form, with an extra little strip
at the bottom. Because I know that back in the
20's they used to do that a lot, they would have
an extra little joke thrown in at the bottom.
That's how Krazy Kat was born. Krazy Kat was the
bottom joke for a strip called "The Family Upstairs"
by George Herriman, the grandfather of American
So, I started doing that. So now I have to have
an extra little joke at the bottom, which sometimes
drives me crazy because now every week I have
to come up with two good jokes.
Logan: Maybe one not quite as good?
Tony Millionaire: Yeah, you know, the
not-quite-as-good joke, sometimes you can get
away with by doing some really nice drawings around
it. That's why often, the bottom joke is funnier.
The joke has to stand by itself.
Logan: When you were offered the job,
did you try and flesh out all the characters at
that time, or have they just slowly evolved?
Tony Millionaire: I fleshed them out as
best I could at the time, knowing that they'd
grow over time. That's why I didn't call the strip
Drinky Crow. I called it Maakies because I didn't
know who would become the most important characters
as I went along.
Logan: Did the houses come to a complete
Tony Millionaire: Yeah, as soon I started
actually making money doing magazine illustration.
And now, I'm not even doing much magazine illustration.
Fortunately, the Sock Monkey comic book came because
of the Maakies comic strip - Dark Horse hired
me for those comics. And now I just did a graphic
novel called Billy Hazelnuts which is for Fantagraphics.
And collections of Maakies strips for Fantagraphics,
so I'm pretty much working around the clock on
comics, which is any cartoonist's dream. Finally
getting to the point where all you do all day
long is draw comics.
Logan: That's great, because there are
a good number of other well-known comic artists
that can't say the same thing.
Tony Millionaire: It's true. Just up to
about four years ago. Well, I still do a little
bit of illustration on the side. I draw for The
Believer magazine and I do a cover for a book
now and then. But I'm at the point where if it
is a job I don't like, or it doesn't pay enough,
I don't have to take it. Where, just five years
ago I had to take everything I could get my hands
on. It's not an easy way to make a living, but
fortunately, it looks like I'll have a TV show
on Adult Swim, and if that thing gets on the air,
then I won't have to worry about it anymore. Just
getting enough people to see your work.
Logan: You might have to raise your prices
on your originals...
Tony Millionaire: *Laughs* I like to sell
my originals cheap. I sell them on my website
pretty cheap, because I know that other people
are going to take better care of them than I do.
For me, they're in a drawer all mixed up. I can
never find the right one, and if a spider walks
on it, it's going to make a little mark and then
I've got to figure out a way to get the spider
marks off it. If somebody else buys it, they're
going to frame it and put it up on their wall
and it's going to scatter across the world. And
Logan: So no house fire can destroy ALL
Tony Millionaire: No. Each house fire
destroys one. That's right, spread it all out
so some of them will survive. But the thing is,
once I started collecting them into books, I don't
get that precious about the originals anymore.
Logan: Some of your freelance illustration
has been fairly high profile, like the work with
They Might Be Giants.
Tony Millionaire: Yeah. I got They Might
Be Giants to do the theme song for The Drinky
Logan: That's awesome. Were they fans
or your work, did they come to you for the work
you've done with them?
Tony Millionaire: I've known them actually
before I started doing comics, years ago when
I lived in Brooklyn. I was friends with Brian
Dewan and he was roomates with Jon Linnell. We'd
go to parties and those guys would be hanging
around, and then before you knew it, boom, they
were famous. So they knew my comics and they asked
me to do an album cover for them, which is called
Then: The Early Years.
Logan: Sock Monkey was born around that
time? From your love of old Victorian children's
Tony Millionaire: Yeah. Exactly. Maakies
is just so dark and sort of violent, and scary
that I really wanted to do something different.
And then Dark Horse came to me and asked me if
I wanted to do a book. And I said, yeah, I always
had this idea of doing something that would take
me back into those back stairways and closets
of my grandmother's old victorian house. The memories
of that are so rich, and that's where the Sock
Monkey comes from. I try to use real houses and
go photograph the insides of them. The way they
would build those houses was so different than
what they do now, with these crazy little turns
and stairways that you wouldn't expect.
Logan: Not engineered for maximum efficiency?
Tony Millionaire: No. A lot of them, especially
the Queen Annes, they're really whimsical and
nutty. Why would they spend all this extra effort
to make this thing so much fun, like a kid designed
it? But, I'm just so glad they did because they're
gorgeous. I wonder what will happen when those
houses all eventually crumble away and all we've
got left is glass and steel. I don't know, maybe
somebody will come up with something else, nuttier
than that, but I doubt it.
That was a great time in architecture, right
around the 1800's to early 1900's. It's like a
house that's earlier than, say, 1812, I'm just
not interested in. But anything from 1812 to 1912,
those things are just amazing. Especially the
end of that century, the 1880's and 1890's. They
really went all out building those things.
Logan: Which happens to coincide with
a lot of the writing you like as an influence...
Tony Millionaire: Yeah. I started to read
Patrick O'Brian because I wanted to get some of
the nautical terms down for the nautical language
in Maakies, because Maakies takes place at sea.
The comic strip sort of has a 1920's feel to it,
of the 1920's comic strips. Patrick O'Brian writes
these seafaring novels, and then from that, I
started getting all the old-fashioned talk, and
sort of reading Jane Austen and Herman Melville
and all these other old books. I rediscovered
Mark Twain and started reading all those things.
I pick and choose little pieces from them and
try to sort of copy the style without getting
it wrong. If you get it wrong, it really sounds
stupid, so I've got to be really careful.
Logan: But you have that sort of flexible
reality in Maakies, where metal detectors and
pirate ships appear in the same comic.
Tony Millionaire: True. When we're working
on the show, The Drinky Crow Show, they'll say
we're going to need to have a computer in this
scene, and I'll say sure, just put some rivets
on the side of it and a giant incandescent light
bulb on the top of it and you've got an old-fashioned
computer. And make sure the keys are from an old
typewriter. If it looks old-fashioned, it's fine.
So I'll put a car in at the same time, but it's
got to be a Model T or something. If it looks
old-timey, it's fine.
Logan: Billy Hazelnuts was kind of born
out of the spirit of Sock Monkey storytelling,
Tony Millionaire: Billy Hazelnuts came
from that I had been doing Sock Monkey and Drinky
Crow for such a long time, that Fantagraphics
approached me and said "Do you want to do
a Drinky Crow graphic novel?" I said sure,
and then I started thinking about it, and thought
to myself, I'm already doing Drinky Crow and Uncle
Gabby with the strip. And I'm afraid
that if I started writing the story, on those
days when I'm stuck for an idea, I'm going to
start stealing from this book. So, I better not
do that. So then I thought, why don't I just start
a whole new thing, a whole new character? And
I had this idea a long time ago for a children's
book which was about a guy named Billy Hazelnuts
who was like a little soft, stuffed toy with a
little crown who would run around and get into
adventures, sort of like Sock Monkey, but more
I actually tried to sell that as a children's
book and people said "Billy Hazelnuts? I
don't know about that name. The nuts, sounds a
little bit like Hazel-Balls." So, I couldn't
sell it that way, so then I said, well I'll just
make him more of a tough guy character.
It's a story of a little creature made out of
garbage, made by mice to fight off the cat in
the house. He's very ferocious, and the little
girl that lives in the house grabs ahold of him
and pulls the flies out of his eyes and puts hazelnuts
in there, so that he, instead of being the protector
of the mice, he's the protector of her. So now
she's got this very tough, small monster made
out of garbage that protects her. So they run
around and get into adventures.
Logan: I'm a big fan of the literary references
in Hazelnuts; you can tell you're a fan of Alice
in Wonderland and other books from that era.
Tony Millionaire: Sure. I've actually
stolen lines from that book. I've stolen phrases
from Herman Melville, Shakespeare, and Mark Twain.
But of course, I've credited them all in the front.
But I won't tell you exactly where they are. If
you hunt through the book and find the quotes
from all of those, I'll give you a free tip-of-the-raccoon-cap.
Logan: Are stories like Billy Hazelnuts
something you're going to do even more of in the
future? A move towards children's books?
Tony Millionaire: Not really. I put a
couple of children's books out with Dark Horse.
The thing is, now that I have kids and I'm reading
to them all the time, I'm realizing what you've
got to do to do children's books. You've got to
really get to their level and talk to them, straight
I'm working on one now for Hyperion called The
Small Things League. It's about bugs in the back
yard that form a sort of crime-fighting league.
They don't really fight crime because they're
bugs, and they don't really have much power. The
ant's power is that he can talk to people. The
worm's power is that he can listen, but he can't
really understand what you're talking about. So
they don't have great powers. But for bugs, these
are amazing powers. The toad's power is that he
doesn't eat the bugs, which is amazing for a toad,
but they really can't get much done. The adventure
goes on with that.
The thing is, I really love getting into rougher-edged,
harder storytelling than that. You've got to keep
it really sweet when you're going to do stuff
for kids, although they do have a dark side, and
I do like to write stories for them.
I just pray that the mommies of the world and
the librarians don't discover the harder stuff
while they're trying to find something for their
Logan: Do you then test the stories out
on your kids?
Tony Millionaire: Sure. Yeah, they love
them. The one I'm working on now, every page I
do I show it to the kids. They're very happy with
Logan: What do they think of the flies
in Billy Hazelnuts' eyes?
Tony Millionaire: They love that kind
of stuff. Little kids...kids do love it. It's
not really the kids you've got to worry about.
My kids love all my stuff I do. Some of the obscene
stuff in Maakies I don't read to them, but stuff
like Billy Hazelnuts, that is for kids. And adults.
The problem is getting past their mothers. Their
mothers are going to look at it and go, "Gasp,
oh don't show that to Junior!" And you know,
they're the ones buying the books.
Logan: I've read in reviews of your work
that "It's like a Victorian children's book
with a dark edge." I would always assume
that they've not read any of those old books.
Tony Millionaire: Yeah. I read The Little
Mermaid the other day, not to my daughter, but
I read it to myself first because I thought I
don't want her to watch the Disney movie before
she reads the original. So I read it, and it's
horrifying. Have you ever read The Little Mermaid?
Logan: I'm not sure if I've read the original.
Tony Millionaire: A knife slices her fin
all the way up to her cunt, she describes it as
feeling like a red hot knife is slicing her so
that her legs get formed. But it feels like she's
walking on needles and knives the whole time.
She gets her tongue actually cut out. She doesn't
lose her voice. She gets her tongue cut out with
a knife. It's very violent. And the end of it
is really fucking tragic, too. So I said, "Great,
go ahead and watch the movie, you're not going
to read this book."
Those Victorian books were hard; life was hard
Logan: The Drinky Crow Show coming to
Adult Swim! Is that something you were actively
seeking out, or did they come to you?
Tony Millionaire: They came to me. I was
reluctant to do it because I had sat down through
so many pitch meetings and Hollywood meetings
about my comics and nothing ever happened. The
guys said, "No no no, we really want to do
it or we wouldn't be here." I said all right,
let's go through the motions. And of course, it's
been a year-and-a-half since that meeting, but
it looks like it is actually happening this time.
The contracts are all signed, the pilot is under
way, we're working on it now, writing and drawing
and getting all the scenes done.
There's a production company, an animation company
in Romania that is actually doing the heavy work.
They're doing it with CGI, but they're making
it look like the comics.
Logan: So, a Flash animation type CGI?
Tony Millionaire: No. They're using Toon
Shader, but they're putting textures on the characters.
So it looks like a three-dimensional version of
Uncle Gabby. He's walking around in 3-D, but you
can see the little lines and stuff on his tail
and on his arms.
Logan: So, it will look like the Tony
Millionaire style of drawing?
Tony Millionaire: Yeah, it looks like
my drawings in three dimensions. Like my drawings
come to life. It looks great, it looks really
good - I'm surprised at how well it is working
You've got to be a really good artist to know
how to use CGI, or you've got to reinvent it like
we're doing. Simplify it down. Simplify it down
to the level of Bullwinkle, but it's three-dimensional.
So it looks good.
And the good thing is, I've got Eric Kaplan working
on it. He's a Futurama writer and he wrote for
Malcolm in the Middle, and he's writing the scripts
Logan: You're co-writing?
Tony Millionaire: I don't know how to
write for TV, and he does. But I do know how to
write funny, and fortunately he does too. So,
it's working out well.
I got Tom Kinney, who is the voice of Spongebob.
I got him to do the voice of Drinky Crow. I know
him from Mr. Show because my wife was on Mr. Show
in the final season. I met Tom through her, and
he loves my comics, and I love his work so much,
it's great to work with him. The funniest voice-over
guy I can think of.
My wife is also a very funny voice-over artist,
she did a lot of stuff on the Oblongs. So she's
going to be doing the voice of the captain's daughter.
A lot of very talented, skilled people on there,
so hopefully we'll be able to put out a good show.
Logan: Any other voice actors lined up?
Tony Millionaire: We've got Dave Herman.
Dave Herman was a voice on King of the Hill, and
he was on Mad TV and a couple other movies. Really
funny. He did a voice of Uncle Gabby I didn't
expect. It wasn't at all what I thought he'd come
up with, but he did it, and it was so funny, I
thought it had to be Uncle Gabby's voice. It's
a lot faster and more maniacal than I imagined
it, but it's a lot funnier than I imagined it
Logan: Will you be taking material from
the strips, or are you trying to keep it totally
Tony Millionaire: We'll definitely be
using stuff from the jokes, jokes that have been
published, but it's mostly all new stuff.
Logan: Will the pilot actually be aired,
or is it just shown to executives?
Tony Millionaire: I don't think Adult
Swim has got enough money that they can make a
pilot that they won't air. They'll call that Episode
Logan: Do they then see how the ratings
go and decide from there?
Tony Millionaire: Well, what happens is
that we do the pilot, and then if they decide
that it's funny and they like it then they give
us an order for probably twenty more episodes.
Do them, and them put them on the air. If the
audience doesn't like them, they put them on more
until they do. Because when they spend that much
money on a TV show, they can ruin the whole season.
It's not like NBC where they can pull a show after
two episodes because they're not getting enough
ratings. There's not a huge budget over there.
Logan: Ratings can't tell you anything
Tony Millionaire: No, they can't. And
I think the people at Adult Swim are smart enough
to realize that. The ratings have more to do with
what's on the other channel, or putting it on
on Friday night when everyone's going out to dinner.
Case in point, the movie Iron Giant. Such a great
movie. A great animation movie. And it bombed
because somebody thought this kind of cartoon
isn't going to do well, and some executive thought
we should be doing something different, so they
just didn't put any advertising money into it
at all. So it didn't get into any theatres, and
nobody saw it, and that was that. And then it
became a cult classic, just from the DVDs. Anyway,
hopefully ratings aren't all the people at Adult
Swim are paying attention to.
They are getting good ratings though, that's
good news. Adult Swim is beating out even Jon
Stewart for, like, its ten o'clock spot.
Logan: So, assuming the pilot gets picked
up, do you already have episodes lined up?
Tony Millionaire: We have ideas, but you
can't work too much on something unless you know
you're going to get paid for eventually. But we've
been jotting down ideas and taking notes.
I really want to do this one episode about when
Drinky Crow started to fornicate with a hole in
the back yard, and he impregnates the earth, so
that the earth gets this big giant belly, and
they have to abort the Earth with a coat-hanger.
A big egg pops out of the earth, this giant egg,
and it flies across space and smashes the moon
in the face.
Logan: Not too much network pressure on
you then, huh?
Tony Millionaire: I don't know. It's funny,
with all the stuff on Comedy Central with South
Park and all that, they don't want to tone it
down, they want to tone it up.
Logan: Do they have a time set for when
the pilot will air?
Tony Millionaire: No idea. It moves in
Hollywood time, which means wait, wait, wait,