Let’s Not Talk About Comics: Evan Dorkin
I first encountered the work of Evan Dorkin in Deadline, where strips like Milk and Cheese and The Murder Family crackled with rare intensity, combining violence and humour in a way that I had never really seen before. It was something else, let me tell you. Of course, after that I kept my eyes open.
But let’s be frank – there’s just not enough Evan Dorkin comics. Aside from the obvious delights of Milk and Cheese, which remains his most famous creation, there’s his early work on Hectic Planet, a sci-fi love letter running at a thousand miles an hour. There’s his Bill and Ted books, which pull the movies inside out and in other directions you’d never expect. There’s also, possibly most wonderfully, his sporadically released title Dork, an anthology title of rare brilliance. The most recent issue, eleven, featured more jokes in one place than I think I’ve ever seen.
His comics are fuelled in equal parts by a deep and lasting love of popular culture and an acute awareness of its innate ridiculousness. They are crammed with jokes that tear apart the very thing that they celebrate. It’s this tension that, for me, is key to Dorkin’s comics – it’s almost like he is interrogating culture in order to discover why we keep coming back to it. Only with more chuckles.
That’s his comics though… I caught up with him for a very brief chat about other things.
So, seen any good films lately?
My friend shows martial arts flicks every Friday and last week was the five-year anniversary of the our getting together for that. For the occasion he showed two Shaw Brothers releases, Liu Chia Liang‘s “Cat vs. Rat” from 1982, and King Hu‘s “The Valiant Ones” from 1975. The latter features a very young Sammo Hung and a cameo from an even younger Yuen Biao. They were both enjoyable, I really like most of King Hu’s films (Dragon Inn and A Touch of Zen, especially), but it’s hard to blanket recommend kung-fu flicks.
I’ve actually seen very few films in the past few months, the few I’ve seen have generally been old Hollywoodfilms on TCM, or whatever kung-fu films I can find the time to watch at my friend’s house. Work has been a factor, but it’s mostly owing to having a three-yr old daughter in the house who we try to keep away from the television as much as possible. We don’t disallow her TV time, we just limit it. She’ll have plenty of time to zone out in front of it when she’s older.
What books do you have on the go at the moment?
I’m finishing up The Library of America collection of Philip K. Dick novels, which I borrowed from the library. I finished The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldrich, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and Ubik and am in the middle of The Man in the High Castle. I’ve read the latter before, ditto Androids, but this was about two decades ago and I barely remember them. I read Dick‘s Lies Inc. before this, so, of course, I’m walking around paranoid as hell about everything. Not to mention confused. I’ve also got American Movie Critics on the toilet tank, which is a collection of film criticism dating back to the silent era. I cracked open the new Dick Tracy and Walt and Skeezix collections, but haven’t made much headway on them.
What about music? Heard anything good lately?
In the daytime we tend to listen to music that Emily, our daughter, can also listen to. She likes a lot of what we were listening to before she was born, Puffy Ami Yumi, The Electric Six, The Aquabats, old big band music, electronic stuff, ska, punk, novelty records, whatever. We don’t shove our tastes down her throat, but she’s responded to a lot of “our” music, and we play her songs from some shows she likes, mostly Yo Gabba Gabba. We make sure we cut out music with curse words, Sarah’s made up playlists for her ipod that are all for Emily.
When I’m working I mostly listen to WFMU.org, a free-form station that plays just about everything. I hear a lot of great new bands there, and a lot of great old stuff I’ve never heard before, obscure punk, old r&b when r&b wasn’t dull music, glam rock, new-wave, no-wave, post-punk, blah blah blah. I also like to listen to old time radio when I’m drawing to zone out to, and sometimes I put on the local classical stations. I’m no classical music expert, half the time I hear a piece I like I can’t get to a pen and paper fast enough to write down the name of the piece. Two things I really have enjoyed recently are the Aladdin suite by Carl Nielsen and the music for Peer Gynt by Edvard Grieg. I probably have that information wrong. I should stick to the Ramones.
What’re you having for tea tonight?
Carrot Stew, a fish, carrot, mushroom and herb soup Sarah makes. It’s based on the carrot stew the rabbits make in The Tawny Scrawny Lion, one of Emily’s favorite Little Golden Book. We also had dinner rolls baked in the style of muffins.
Oh, go on then: what comics are you working on?I have no comics projects going at the moment worth mentioning. Everything I’m working on is either a pitch, a proposal, or up in the air for reasons beyond my control.
You can find Evan’s website at The House of Fun, where you can check out what he’s up to via his journal, Big Mouth Types Again, and look at the lovely original art on sale. Most of his comics come out from Slave Labor Graphics – go and buy!