As mentioned before, Basket Case supports the artists at Comics Sherpa as they ply their trade on their way up the ranks. Today, I’m happy to introduce Isaac Wooten, creator of The Magic Forest. Isaac, the floor is yours.
IW: Drawing comics is something I knew I wanted to pursue from a very young age – My introduction to making them came from a young man I knew at the age of six or seven named Michael Ledingham. He worked as a volunteer at a makeshift daycare center that was run out of a large house belonging to a neighborhood mom. He drew a weekly strip based on the daily goings on of the actual house full of kids. Every kid and adult involved in the center was represented in crude caricature as greatly exaggerated versions of themselves. Michael told me that making comics was easy – all you had to do was draw a sequence of squares or lines to represent or divide panels, make words, and draw pictures.
IW: Obviously it was a very a simple explanation of a very sophisticated medium. Comics are of course not only an art form, but in many ways, the form they take becomes a language. Anything can be communicated through comics, from rudimentary instructions about setting a table or donning a life jacket, to great long stories that require effective communication of ideas, emotions, thoughts and conflict. I was taught this over the course of my adolescence by Bill Watterson’s classic strip, Calvin and Hobbes. Comics never meant superheroes and spandex to me as a child. Comics meant Calvin and Hobbes, Dilbert, Baby Blues, Zits, and short 1 x 3 rectangles stacked near each other. Newspaper comics were read daily in my household.
IW: My mother bought me most of the comics I read at that age. Rather then investing in Super Hero comics and material she deemed too violent, she instead picked out several titles that you might find in the “Alternative” section of a comic store. These included Spiegleman’s Pulitzer prize-winning “Maus,” Peter Kuper‘s adaptation of Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis,” and a few anthologies containing work by Alison Bechdel, Roz Chast, Ivan Brunetti, Gilbert Hernandez, and Peter Bagge. While these books weren’t always violent, (they often were, not to the knowledge of my oblivious mother) they did carry very adult themes. Here I was at 10 or 11 years old reading stories about rape survival, the holocaust, Lust, Greed, Sin, drug use, watching your parents slowly decay and die, and a million other things.
IW: I love comics. They’re such a huge part of my childhood, my adolescence and newly found adulthood. Their blend of word and image allow them to carry all the mysterious beauty of poetry and written narrative and the brilliance, detail, and imagination of a great drawing. They take two of the most respected forms of expression and fuse them into one form capable of articulating just about anything. There’s really nothing like them.
IW: Comics are incredible and possibly one of the greatest art forms there are, with oceans of potential and tragically unrecognized talent.
IW: And all of mine are incredibly silly and arguably stupid.
IW: I’ve always loved making people laugh in any way I can, and I’ve always been in love with gag cartoons and newspaper comics. My strip is called “The Magic Forest” and is currently run online via Universal Uclick’s Comics Sherpa service. Maybe I’ll start a Tumblr or blog where I’ll post them later, but for now they’re up right next to a whole lot of other comics drawn by similar people with similar aspirations.
IW: “The Magic Forest” gets its name from a spot in the woods in northern Seattle’s Maple Leaf neighborhood. If you go down 106th street you’ll find a spot where a trail begins and leads through tough brambles and branches into a little clearing with a creek and pretty scenery. The neighborhood high schoolers would often gather here to smoke pot, take hallucinogenics, drink stolen beers, and act cooler than they really were. They spray painted “The Magic Forest” on tree branches and while they did their fair share of littering and destruction of property, they always loved the forest and treated it as a sanctuary where they could live out their vices.
IW: Working with characters that happen to be animals allows me to make jokes and exercise humor about very real and controversial human topics. I did a story in the comic once that offered thinly veiled opinions on the gun control debate, a strip about the death penalty, the current election season, and I’ve done more than a few jokes about alcoholism, drugs, divorce, and addiction. Someday, I hope to tackle race relations, the war on terror, and police brutality. I’ve always believed that there is nothing at all that can’t be laughed at, and ESPECIALLY nothing that shouldn’t be laughed at. The more serious a subject is, the more a subject makes us scream, and the more a subject makes us cry out and feel mad, sad, or hopeless, the more we need to be able to laugh at it. Humor helps us process things logically and in a lot of cases can even help us find solutions.
IW: My characters are extremely flawed individuals. Their logic is always wrong, their decision making skills never seem to work, and they’re never aware that they’re making things worse. They’re set in their ways, they never mature, they never change, they never learn, and because of this, the humor and jokes are never ending.
(All artwork here has been reproduced with the permission of the artist. Copyright Isaac Wooten © 2016.)
(This interview is the copyright © of Curtis H. Hoffmann 2016. It may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the permission of the author.)
Poll: Have you ever been to the Seattle Magic Forest?