When I look back at my comics, even the ones I think of as weirder than the rest, I see a high level of autobiography. Whatever I’d read, or seen, was exactly what went into the comics. It’s kind of surprising.
Comics are commentary on society, so I’m basically doing what comics are constructed for. Editorial comics comment on politics, and regular-comics can pretty much do as they please. I love the broadness of topics you can cover with comics – you can even decide whether you want to go in depth or stay skimming the surface of a particular idea. Looking back, though, I always concentrated more on getting surreal moments into the comics than references to the book I was reading at the time.
Surrealism is something I’ve always enjoyed. In high school I loved the paintings of Dali and Magritte and the poems of ee cummings. I loved that they were so full of ideas, and that they could juxtapose them at will. Bob Dylan, too, with his albums Blonde on Blonde and Highway 61 Revisited. Those albums fascinated me. There was structure, but it was not a well-worn narrative. I did a lot of strange drawings in high school.
Adapting Surrealism into a four-panel comic strip is not as hard as it sounds, although going all the way would give you a comic less like mine and more like Zippy. I find that, if I stick to my characters, and make sure there is a joke at the end of the road (and hopefully a few funny lines along the way), I can sneak in a few moments of the surreal.
Some time-honored comics traditions are already pretty surreal. The changing landscape of Krazy Kat made Coconino County as animated as the characters themselves. Whenever you see a character in motion, with arms and legs flailing every which way, that’s pretty surreal. Same with the eyes. When you see a character turning quickly so his eyes appear to have multiplied, that’s pretty surreal. You’re accustomed to looking at those pictures as movement; but take a second and look at it as a static drawing (which is what they are after all). It wouldn’t be out of place in a Dali.
To get away from all conscious meaning is really something. I enjoy it for its own sake; but then, I’m entertained by things that are puzzling to others. To take that ethic and turn it into a four panel joke, well, that would be a pretty neat trick.