Wayno Interview

WaynoVision is another comic that was announced on the GoComics GoComics editor’s blog when it first started running there. The artwork caught my eye, and the gag followed. That was “Peter Parker’s Dirty Little Secret,” (mentioned below) and I’ve been a fan ever since. The artwork is extremely clean, the set-up and delivery are often dead-on, and the humor can range from the gentle to the sublime. The fact that Wayno also replies to comments to his strip makes it easier for readers to relate to him, and to the process behind the making of these panels. It helps, too, that he has good taste in music. WaynoVision currently runs Mondays and Wednesdays.

BC: Who are you, Wayno?
W: I’m from Pittsburgh, PA, and have lived here all my life, except for the first few weeks. Because of some work assignment, my parents temporarily lived in Tennessee, where I was born.

BC: Then, where are you from?..
W: I’ve always been interested in art and cartooning, and have drawn for as long as I can remember. Throughout my childhood and adolescence, my parents and nearly all of my teachers pushed me to pursue a more practical path, and discouraged art as anything more than a diversion, which led me to get an engineering degree. I was never a great student, but showed some verbal and mathematical aptitude, so those more conventionally valued skills were strongly encouraged by most adults I encountered.

W: A formative experience was when my elementary art teacher selected students for a weekly Saturday morning drawing workshop at the Carnegie Museum. I knew I was one of the best artists in the class, but I was passed over for this opportunity. When I asked the teacher why I wasn’t chosen, she told me that I didn’t need it. “You’re going to draw anyway.”
At that moment, a cynic was born.

BC: Did you ever go to Carnegie Museum on your own afterward? Just to show ’em up?
W: I have a hazy memory of sitting in the balcony observing the art class I missed out on, but I don’t recall why I was there. In retrospect, it was probably not all that great. I think there were many dozens of kids in auditorium seats with clipboards on their laps.

W: Aside from the art classes, I’ve visited the museum many times over the years. They have an excellent art collection, and the Natural History section has a terrific selection of dinosaurs. The museum also houses the archives of Charles “Teenie” Harris, a wonderful photographer from Pittsburgh’s past.

BC: Do you consider yourself a cartoonist, an illustrator, an artist, or something else?
W: I consider myself primarily a cartoonist, which requires one to be a writer, editor, illustrator, artist and businessperson.

(First page of The Rock, a story by Dennis Eichhorn and Wayno.)

BC: How did you get your start then?
W: My start was as a self-published minicomix cartoonist. Dale Luciano’s Newave Comix Survey, serialized in four issues of The Comics Journal in 1985, profiled dozens of self-published artists who were producing their own Xeroxed minis, and trading and selling them by mail. That led me to other sources of info on the minicomix network, such as Factsheet Five, Small Press Comics Explosion, and Clay Geerdes’ Comix World.

W: After ordering dozens of minis to study them I self-published for a few years, experimenting with single panel gags, longer narratives, free-form jams with other artists, collage, pure art, and Dada-style cutups. With minimal printing costs and no editorial constraints, minicomix proved to be a great training program for cartooning. I met many artists who are friends to this day, including Mary Fleener, Dennis Worden, Mark Martin, Roy Tompkins, JR Williams (still my favorite minicomix artist), Steve Willis, Jim Blanchard, and many others.

W: Around 1986, Joe Sacco (Palestine) was editing Centrifugal Bumble-Puppy, a black & white anthology comic for Fantagraphics. Sacco had seen some of my minis, and wrote to suggest I try submitting work for CB-P. To my surprise, he accepted some work, and I was emboldened to submit to other anthology titles around at the time. I had work published in Kitchen Sink’s Snarf, Robert Crumb’s Weirdo (under Peter Bagge’s editorship), Rip Off Comix, and Cat-Head’s Buzzard.

W: During that period, I also came into contact with the late Jay Kennedy, who wrote and edited The Official Underground and Newave Comix Price Guide. Jay was an artist, editor, and writer, and a champion of cartoonists. In 1988 he became deputy cartoon editor for King Features Syndicate, and approached me to put together a syndication submission package, which he reviewed and critiqued purely to help me get better at cartooning. He also published a few of my gags in The New Breed, a feature he launched to showcase new artists. Jay bought copies of all of my minicomix, and did the same for many, many other artists. After his untimely death, Jay’s collection was donated to the Billy Ireland Cartoon Museum and Library at Ohio State University.

(Tapas, from WaynoVision.)

W: In the early 1990s, Kevin Eastman (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) founded Tundra Publishing, based in Northampton, MA. I contributed many pages to Tundra’s anthology title, Hyena, and completed three issues of Beer Nutz, a solo comic with continuing characters and longer-form stories. By the time I was working on the fourth issue, Tundra had been sold to another publisher, and almost all of its titles, including Beer Nutz, were canceled. Art directors who saw my comics work began calling me for illustration assignments, and I found that I enjoyed the fast turnaround (and better pay rate), so I went into the illustration world as the alternative comics boom was cooling off.

BC: Ever tempted to restart Beer Nutz?
W: I still have an eight- or nine-page unpublished Beer Nutz story that was intended for the fourth issue, but I never had the itch to restart it. There are certain advantages to having recurring characters, but I don’t like that material as much as I did 20 years ago. It looks crude and unsubtle to me today, and nearly all of the characters are rather unlikable.

W: As an illustrator, I continued to use the vocabulary of cartoons, and didn’t substantially change my drawing style. I produced quite a few single panel gags and full page cartoon stories for Nickelodeon Magazine and National Geographic Kids, so I never really left cartooning. I did illustration work for clients including The New Yorker, The Guardian, Entertainment Weekly, Rhino Records, The New York Times, and Highlights.

W: That’s a rather long-winded answer to the question…
BC: That’s ok. I don’t pay by the word.


(A collage of early work)

W: 800 Legal Notices, 8 pages, 1989, sketchbook drawings. Edition of 75 copies.

Festive Desperation (No Way Comix #7), 8 pages, 1987, Experimenting with a specific drawing style.

Mondo Howie #2 (No Way Comix #12), 8 pages, 1987, Various artists drawing their interpretations of my character, Howie Patterson. Artists in this issue: Wayno (cover), Andy Nukes, Ted Bolman, Mark Marek, Mary Fleener, R.K. Sloane, T. K. Atherton.

Recombinant Timmy (No Way Secret Publication #4), 8 pages, 1989
Dada cutup experiment, made from a Dell Comics Timmy book. Limited edition, not advertised, given away with random mail orders. Probably made 50 copies.


BC: How long have you been at cartooning, and what do you think your biggest breaks were?
W: I’ve been seriously cartooning since 1987 or so.

W: My biggest break leading to WaynoVision was meeting and establishing a collaborative relationship with Dan Piraro. In 2009, Dan visited Pittsburgh to host an event sponsored by the ToonSeum, the cartoon art museum here in Pittsburgh. Bizarro was (and still is) one of my favorite daily cartoons. Dan had recently taken a week’s vacation, and brought in a guest cartoonist during his break. When we met, I told him that the next time he wanted to take a break, he could hire me to fill in. Despite the brashness of my proposal, Dan was very kind and suggested I submit some gag ideas. Shortly after his visit, I started sending him ideas, and he liked some of them enough to use. Although many newspaper cartoonists hire other writers or artists, almost none of them acknowledge the fact. Dan gave me a byline on his cartoons from the very beginning.

(Wayno’s idea, and Dan’s interpretation.)

W: Dan usually made changes to my ideas that resulted in much improved cartoons. Paying attention to the changes he made, and talking about them with him, provided an invaluable education. From 2011 to 2014, I assisted him as the colorist for the daily (Monday through Saturday) panels, after spending a few days working beside him to study and learn his painterly coloring technique. And, I did in fact fill in as guest cartoonist for Bizarro not once but twice.

W: [The panel above] was from my very first batch of submissions to Dan! I had to do some digging, but I found the submission art. In
that first package, I sent Dan finished single panel gags that I’d been
working on for a year or so. They were done in an attempt at the New
style, with a typeset caption under the drawing.

(Hillary Price’s interpretation and Wayno’s suggestion.)

W: Working with Dan also led to a wonderfully satisfying ongoing collaboration with Hilary Price. I still write gags for her comic, Rhymes With Orange, and did a week-long guest spot there too.

BC: What led up to your starting WaynoVision?
W: I started WaynoVision after John Glynn at Universal/GoComics asked me if I’d like to create a new feature which they’d host on the GoComics site. Their only real suggestion was that I somehow incorporate my name into the title, since I’d spent so many years establishing my identity as a brand. WaynoVision was what I came up with, and we launched the feature on December 1, 2014.

BC: Which of your works are you most proud of?
W: One of my favorite assignments of all time was contributing to Rhino’s Weird Tales of the Ramones CD set. The CDs were packaged inside a hardcover comic book featuring 25 cartoonists. I did three pages for the book, along with art for the CD labels. As a long-time Ramones fan, I was thrilled to contribute to a tiny part of the band’s history. When the set was released in September 2005, nearly all of the contributing cartoonists appeared at a signing in Los Angeles.

W: I’m pretty happy with WaynoVision so far, too. My deal with Universal is for one comic per week, but since October of 2015, I’ve been doing two or more per week.

(from WaynoVision.)

W: My favorite individual panels change all the time, but I’m still partial to the very first one (“Peter Parker’s Dirty Little Secret,” December 1, 2014).
BC: This is the panel that drew me into your strip.

W: I was also proud of the April 6, 2015 cartoon, which ran on Merle Haggard’s birthday, and was retweeted by Merle’s son. When I reposted the cartoon on Merle’s birthday in 2016, it was kind of a shock to hear that he died later that day, hopefully not from seeing the comic.

W: Generally, when I look at my cartoons, I only notice things I want to change, or a spot I forgot to color. Two recent gags that garnered a lot of online sharing were the May 11, 2016 cartoon featuring a Russian nesting doll, and a rather silly one from August 22, 2016 (Cro, Micro, Macro).

BC: Do you have any collections on the market yet?
W: No, I don’t have a collection available yet, but it’s on my long-term wish list. I’d like to make it more than simply a compilation of cartoon panels, and would want to include commentary and sketches for some or most of the selected cartoons, similar to the process posts I often do on my blog.

BC: How do you approach that blank sheet of white paper?
W: By the time I approach the blank sheet, I’ve already got a solid idea about what will go onto it. That’s the final part, the manual labor. I’m constantly writing, rewriting, and juggling ideas long before they make it to the “good” drawing paper and ink stage. I carry a sketchbook just about everywhere I go, and jot down ideas, sketches, or just words or phrases that may have potential as cartoons. I’ll settle on a few ideas to pursue for that week’s batch (I try to do enough to keep getting further ahead of deadline as much as I possibly can).

W: My process then includes a number of preliminary roughs drawn in the pages of my current sketchbook. When I arrive at a semi-final version, I’ll scan the sketch, and then lay out the panel in Photoshop, adjusting the size and placement of the art elements, and temporarily setting the text. I’ll then adjust the color so the art is a very pale blue, and will use that as a guide for a tighter sketch. Then I scan the tight sketch, make some final tweaks to the art (size and placement again), and try to settle on the final text. When I print this out, I’ll put it on my light box, pencil the art on Bristol paper with a non-photo blue pencil, ink the text with Micron pens or other permanent markers, and do the final inking with a brush and FW ink. I like to do most of my cleanup on the physical art using white acrylic paint before scanning the art for digital coloring. Quite often, I change the art and/or text as late as the day before the cartoon is actually published.

BC: If your strip had a soundtrack, what would it be?
W: Great question. The answer could change from day to day. Music has always been a huge inspiration to me. I don’t usually listen to music when writing, because I find it distracting in that situation, but for every other aspect, I always have music playing. Jazz, punk rock, Hawaiian, 1940s R&B, soul, garage rock, Italian soundtrack music, etc. Here’s a selection of items from my record collection.

W: If I had to imagine a soundtrack for my comic, I think it would have to be something like a mixture of Nino Rota, Ennio Morricone and Juan Garcia Esquivel.
BC: Ennio gets my vote.

BC: Who are your favorite artists/writers?
W: My favorite cartoonist of all time is Virgil Partch. He was recently the subject of a very fine biography and collection by Jonathan Barli. I’ve managed to collect quite a few of Partch’s books over the years and a few pieces of his original art.

W: I’ve been lucky enough to meet many of my favorite artists over the years, including Cal Schenkel, Gary Panter, Robert Crumb, Sergio Aragones, Mort Drucker, Don Martin, Bill Griffith, and many others.

W: There were a few key revelations in my appreciation of comic art. The first occurred when I was maybe ten or eleven years old. I was collecting MAD paperback books, and I eventually found my way to the Ballantine reprints of the early Harvey Kurtzman MADs. Though the art was poorly reproduced and almost too small to read, I could see they were wildly different from the MAD Magazine I was used to reading. The early comics, particularly Bill Elder’s stuff, made a deep impression on me. They had a feeling of earthiness and anarchy I hadn’t encountered before. Reading Elder’s “Starchie” (a wicked parody of Archie comics) was one of the first things to give me the thrill of knowing I was looking at something my parents would never approve.

W: This is the age when I was getting bored with superhero comics too, which partly explains my glee in making fun of superheroes. In 1967, ads for the album “We’re Only In It For the Money” by The Mothers of Invention began appearing in Marvel comic books. The ad was designed by Cal Schenkel and led to a lifelong appreciation of Frank Zappa’s music.

W: Since I spent a lot of time in record stores, I was naturally exposed to underground comix. Record shops were often the only local outlets for UGs. Again, when I read undergrounds, I knew these were things I wasn’t supposed to have, which made them even more attractive.

BC: What can you tell us about the Mad guys?
W: I only met Don Martin once, but it was a lovely experience. At the 1993 San Diego Comic Con, I shared a booth with my pals Mary Fleener, Dennis Worden, Roy Tompkins, and J.R. Williams. Splitting the cost five ways was the only way we could afford an exhibit booth, which we called Sin Alley. Don Martin and his wife Norma were walking around the convention floor and happened to come to our spot. We all grew up with MAD, and were fans of Don’s. We were thrilled to meet him. We all wanted to talk about how much we loved his work, but he and Norma wanted us to talk about what we were doing, and they insisted on paying for everyone’s books, despite our attempts to give them to him. On top of that he did little drawings for each of us. We talked about that meeting all weekend.

W: Coincidentally, 1993 was the year I first met Sergio Aragones, at the Dallas Fantasy Fair. Sergio is sort of a goodwill ambassador for cartoonists. He’s friendly and outgoing, unlike the typical sheltered cartoonist. We were introduced on the exhibit floor, and I think he remembered my oddball name. The next morning I was grabbing breakfast at the convention hotel, and heard a distinctive voice calling “Good morning, Wayno, my friend!” Sergio is the kind of guy who remembers your name and makes you feel like a million bucks just by saying hello to you. Earlier this year, he gave a hilarious and fascinating talk at the National Cartoonists Society annual Reubens weekend. He’s a beloved member of NCS, and he’s led a crazy life. He’s truly the Most Interesting Man in the World.

BC: Do you follow any other comic strips right now?
W: I read quite a few comic strips regularly, including:
Bizarro, Rhymes with Orange: Because they’re both so great at single panel gags. I read them for pleasure and to study and learn.

W: The Fusco Brothers, Lug Nuts: Two dailies (two!!!) by J.C. Duffy, who also appears regularly in the New Yorker. The guy is incredibly prolific. I really enjoy Lug Nuts, which is sort of an unfiltered look into Duffy’s brain. Sometimes it’s a straight up gag, but it’s often a weird collage or a crazy sketchbook image.

W: Speed Bump, Loose Parts, Half Full, Off the Mark: All very good gag cartoons, which happen to be done by friends. I have to read them carefully to make sure I haven’t accidentally stolen from one of them!

W: Dustin, The Pajama Diaries: Not obvious choices, perhaps. Terri Libenson’s writing is thoughtful, insightful and funny. Plus I like to see her pushing what subject matter she can get away with in a daily comic. I often look closely at Dustin to admire Jeff Parker’s expressive art. He makes it look easy.

W: Mutts, Mother Goose & Grimm: Two cartoonists that I love, taking different looks at animals.

W: Zippy the Pinhead: Because we all need a daily dose of absurdity, and I’ve been following Zippy since before he made the daily papers. Bill Griffith is one of the best artists on the comics page.

W: Editorial cartoonists: Darrin Bell, Matt Bors, Mike Peters, Rob Rogers, Jen Sorensen. Because it’s less painful than reading straight news.

W: I also read the New Yorker every week (not just the cartoons, either). For laughs and to put my brain to the test.

BC: What do you look for when you read someone else’s strips?
W: I do read for pure enjoyment, but also to study other cartoonists’ technique and how they stage a gag. So I look at them with one technical eye and one fanboy eye.

(from WaynoVision.)

BC: What do you think makes for a good comic?
W: The best comics are ones that make the reader laugh by revealing a truth or commenting on the world with a point of view. Of course jokes can just be jokes, and that’s fine, but it’s more satisfying when there’s depth to a gag.

BC: Do you use Patreon or Kickstarter?
W: I haven’t used either (yet). Though I have backed some crowdfunded comics projects, including Vince Dorse’s Untold Tales of Bigfoot, Hunt Emerson’s Hot Jazz, and the Comics Rowhouse Residency project here in Pittsburgh. Kickstarter and other funding sites have certainly put more power into the hands of self-publishers. This process enables creators to pre-sell their books (or records or other projects), so they can avoid risking a big expense that might not pay off.

W: I’m less familiar with Patreon, but I’m intrigued by it. It has the potential for web cartoonists to get support directly from a relatively small but dedicated audience. I’ve heard Keith Knight talk about it, and he’s got a good handle on how it could work.

W: Everyone should go to GoComics.com/WaynoVision and click on every cartoon in the archive. Each click from a unique user adds a micropayment to my account.

BC: Do you have any projects coming up?
W: I just uploaded the last WaynoVision panels for 2016, so I’ll get started on next year’s cartoons. I’m trying to concentrate as much as I can on the comic, and to get better at it, although I do have a few semi-regular illustration gigs that I enjoy as a change of pace.

W: Every year I do a silkscreen print and t-shirt for “Hell With The Lid Off,” a barleywine festival in March that takes place at Kelly’s, a beloved Pittsburgh bar. I’m currently working on that for next spring’s festival.

W: I’m kicking around an idea for a non-comics feature that I’d like to place in a monthly forum somewhere. I’ve also got a relatively new musical project going, called the Red Beans & Rice Combo. It’s a fun trio with fellow cartoonist Dave Klug on drums and Tom Roberts on piano. I’m the vocalist, and play harmonica and ukulele.

BC: Are the Red Beans & Rice Combo musicians better musicians than they are cartoonists?
W: Tom Roberts is the real deal; he’s our ringer. Tom’s resume is a mile long, and includes appearances on the Tonight Show and A Prairie Home Companion. He arranged and performed the music for Scorcese’s The Aviator, and was Leon Redbone’s pianist and musical director for six years. Tom may not be a cartoonist, but he does have a wacky (sometimes corny) sense of humor, and is in some ways a living cartoon. Dave Klug, our drummer, is very modest about his abilities, but he’s a rock solid player. He’s maddeningly excellent as both a musician and a cartoonist. I’m definitely a better cartoonist than musician. I’m lucky to be playing with these guys. They make me stretch and try things that are a little beyond my reach all the time. The music is a varied gumbo of New Orleans R&B, obscure rock & roll nuggets, barroom ballads, and a jazzy dash of Tin Pan Alley. I need to come up with a briefer description.

BC: Should visitors wanting to get more of your work go to wayno.com or http://waynocartoons.blogspot.jp/? Which is the better (more active) of the two sites?
W: waynocartoons.blogspot.com is more active than my traditional website, but the best places to see what’s new are Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. My handle on all three platforms is WaynoCartoons.

BC: What does one have to do to join the The Bushmiller Society (unconfirmed or otherwise)
W: The Bushmiller Society is extremely secretive, and may or may not actually exist. Nobody knows who belongs, not even the Society’s members. And you didn’t hear any of this from me.

(All artwork here has been reproduced with the permission of the artist. Copyright Wayno © 2016.)
(This interview is the copyright © Curtis H. Hoffmann 2016. It may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the permission of the author.)

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