Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Interview with Wowee Zonk

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Interview with Wowee Zonk

Way back at the beginning of May I visited a great local Toronto comic book launch of some young, new Canadian creators here in the city. I was so impressed with their work, along with the massive amount of their work, that I thought it would be interesting to hear a bit about them, what drives them, and how they got into Canadian comics.

Generally I'm under the opinion that one shouldn't be interviewed until they're well into their career with much experience under their belt. It is theoretically only at that more senior point in one's creative life that their words & ideas might hold the most value to readers, younger creatives, and humanity in general. In the case of the Wowee Zonk crew, they are all very young and very new, but I felt it was an excellent opportunity to find out what makes new artists like themselves tick, as well as showcase an extremely talented group of (relative) newbies to comics. Hopefully their words, and already massive piles of work, will inspire other Canadian comic makers to get off their collective asses and do some work! I know they've lit a bit of a fire under my butt.

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Wowee Zonk is a core group made up of Chris Kuzma, Patrick Kyle, and Ginette LaPalme, and here is what these genuinely pleasant folks had to say:

CTON:

How long have you all been collaborating together?

WZ:

We’ve been hanging out for approximately three years, but we’ve been officially Wowee Zonkin’ it for about two.

CTON:

How was Wowee Zonk first born?

WZ:

As corny as it sounds, we actually gravitated towards each other. While in school, we really had an appreciation for each other’s artwork and it was only a matter of time before we started drawing together. Once we started making comics together, it all started to make (non)sense, and we’ve ballooned from there. The name might have come from one of Patrick’s sketchbooks; it sounded ridiculous enough, so we went with it.

CTON:

Describe each of your styles & work, relating to comics, and to each other.

WZ:

Chris: I think I’m the most nit-picky of the three of us when it comes to drawing and painting. It’s probably because of my traditional art training (life drawing and stuff). Patrick and Ginette are both so inspiring in that their artwork never seems forced and it always seems fresh and spontaneous. They both have helped me loosen up and to just let the drawing form itself. Because of this, I’ve lately been drawing weird stream-of-consciousness stories without dialogue that usually border on the pornographic! I like to make drawings that make people squirm. Thanks a lot, jerks.

Patrick: I draw with a brush and Ink In a stark black and white fashion. I try not to edit myself in any of my drawings or comic books; whatever I've drawn, I've drawn. I don't really like going back in and erasing or whiting anything out. (Although I do sometimes) To me it sort of removes the sincerity and spontaneity from the work. Ginette is a champion of sincere and spontaneous drawing, and like he said, Chris is a champion of precision and accuracy. I think I have both of their approaches in the back of my mind at and am working on some kind of middle ground.

Ginette: It's sort of funny to me that Chris thinks that I have an easier time when I always thought the opposite. I often feel like my drawings are too forced and that Patrick and Chris seem a lot more free when drawing, or at least when we're doodling together it seems they have a quicker and more successful time at it. It seems that we all believe we're the worst of the three, which seems like a bad thing but in this sense no egos get in the way. We all look up to one another (at least I know I do) and We're all pretty supportive of one another although we're maybe all a tad bit too self-scrutinizing.

CTON:

Where are you all from & what pushed you first into art/comics?

WZ:

Chris: I’m originally from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. I’ve been drawing as far back as I can remember, so I don’t know that anything or anyone in particular really pushed me into it. As for comics, I used to love ‘Calvin and Hobbes’ and my Great Uncle’s ‘Pogo’ books. Also, my Dad was really into comics too. He bought them all, but I called it ‘our’ collection.

Patrick: I was born in Toronto, but My Parents are from Northern Ireland. Every week when I was a kid, my Granny used to send over the newspaper and some other magazines that we couldn’t get here. She would include a copy of ‘The Beano’, a weekly British comic book, for me. I probably have well over 500 issues. This is definitely what first got me interested in comics. When I was in grade 4 I realized I could draw better than everyone else in my class and decided that I was going to be a comic book artist. I haven’t had a second thought about it since.

Ginette: I'm from Sudbury, Ontario - and am there now actually as I'm answering this Q&A by email, and have also always been into art. It was just part of my childhood. I remember waking up extra early most weekends to watch Saturday-morning cartoons all the while tinkering with all of my arts & crafts junk. It's really only my first two years at OCAD that I got into comics. Actually, these two dudes totally pushed me into it. We were really lucky to all receive table space at TCAF 07, and that's when I was finally forced to create my first zine.

CTON:

What & who inspires your comics and artwork?

WZ:

Chris: Everything.

Patrick: Black Metal and Magic the Gathering.

Ginette: these two guys, other artists i've met online and in real life, cats, old cartoons, magicians, sci fi books, childhood and so much more stuff.

CTON:

Do any Canadian comics & comic creators inspire you these days?

WZ:

Chris: Michael Deforge is way too good. Also, Jesjit Gill, who puts out Free Drawings. Fiona Smyth, Marc Bell, Zach Worton…

Patrick: Marc Bell, Keith Jones, Mark Connery; all those ‘Nog A Dod’ guys are really good. I also like Chester Brown’s old comics a lot.

Ginette: all of the above.

CTON:

What are your creative processes each like when doing your comics or artwork?

WZ:

Chris: For comics, I always need some general idea or character, then I just kind of let it form as I go. Patrick says my comics are always about some guy walking around looking for something. I guess that’s true. For my paintings, I like to depict ridiculous, stupid things that make me laugh.

Patrick: I just make it up as I go.

Ginette: My problem is that I don't feel like I have much of a process for comics. I feel like I am mostly just creating a sequence of illustrations rather than a well thought out narrative, but it's been working for me so far. As for artwork, I usually end up drawing something out with pen in my sketchbook and then decide whether to do something with it or not, be it a painting or silkscreen print.

CTON:

What was the last comic each of you read?

WZ:

Chris: The first 30 pages of ‘Powr Mastrs’ by C.F. I’m not done yet, but it’s crazy!

Patrick: I was looking through issues of ‘Yummy Fur’ the other night, reading the ‘Ed’ strips that don’t appear in the collection.

Ginette: I practically doubled my comic collection this May, some from trades but mostly from spending too much money at Picture Box when they came up for TCAF. The last one I read from that bundle was Paper Rad's BJ & Da Dogs.

CTON:

Are there any recently read/bought comic books that you highly recommend? Canadian specific ones?

WZ:

Chris: Grab any copy of Free Drawings that you can get your hands on. They’re great. The new Seth book, ‘George Sprott’, is pretty amazing. ‘The Wilding’, put together by Fiona Smyth. Those Trio-Magnus guys are pretty cool (wink). As for non-Canadians, Mike Diana is great, but his books are way too hard to find.

Patrick: I enjoy the work by a group from Baltimore called “Closed Caption Comics.” They make a lot of great mini-comics and zines. I can’t think of anyone from Canada Chris didn’t mention. Free Drawings is great.

CTON:

What are the future plans of Wowee Zonk, and for each of you?

WZ:

We have a show coming up in August at Board of Director's Gallery on Queen Street (subsidiary of Katharine Mulherin Art Projects). I guess we’ll start on WZ3 soon. Besides that, we’ll all just keep drawing and trying to get illustration work.

CTON:

What are your day jobs? (This assumes that you don't make all your rent money off the comics...if you do, then awesome!)

WZ:

Chris: I need a day job. Any leads?

Patrick:I work at Starbucks. It’s O.K. I got 10 dollars in tips today.

Ginette: I'm still not sure of my day job yet either...

CTON:

Do you have any funny comic-related stories to share?

WZ:

Chris: I’m always amused by the different interpretations people come up with trying to say Wowee Zonk. Wowee Zowee, Zurpy Dink, Sloopy Zop, etc.

Patrick: When Chris and I went to MOCCA in New York to try and Promote the first Wowee Zonk, Chris had developed some sort of cramp in his leg from the bus ride and could barely walk, and I was totally exhausted from the heat, sun burnt, hung-over and probably dehydrated. I'm sure we made an excellent impression.

Ginette: I only ever get hit on at comic conventions. It's getting weird.

CTON:

If you each had one choice for a guest celebrity comic artist for Wowee Zonk, who would it be?

WZ:

Chris: Mike Diana.

Patrick: Cripsen Glover’s Character in the Movie “River’s Edge”

Ginette: i think all three of us feel like, even if we could get guest celebrity artists to commit to wowee zonk, we wouldn't want to go down that path, at least not yet and instead keep printing people who don't get seen otherwise, but hypothetically speaking I'd probably like to get Ben Jones or Jessica Ciocci or both.

CTON:

How do you see the future of Canadian comics & small publishers?

WZ:

Chris: If we make them, they will come.

Patrick: There is a big surge of graphic novels being published these days, and I’m sure it will continue on for a while. Although I like a lot of the material being published, I think it’s a shame that Comic artists and publishers are abandoning single issue comics. I feel like graphic novels are a way to shake the juvenile connotations of a “Comic Book” and gain validation from the general public. This is a good step for comics in North America and it's certainly broadening our audience, but also we shouldn’t be ashamed of what we do. There’s a certain charm in single-issue comics that can never be replicated in a graphic novel.

CTON:

What is your Canadian 'power animal', and why?

WZ:

Chris: My cat, Loki.

Patrick: I've always liked Grizzly Bears. They're pretty astounding and regal animals, and they reflect my personality in no way. I'm more of a Badger, or something equally pathetic.

Ginette: chris stole my answer!

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For more info on Wowee Zonk and it's creators, check out www.woweezonk.com

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Clayton Hanmer

Clayton Hanmer (aka CTON) is a Toronto-based illustrator, author and graphic artist. He is the creator of CTON's Corner, a popular feature in OWL Magazine, as well as the author/illustrator of CTON's Super A-Maze-ing Year of Crazy Comics.

Go to Clayton Hanmer’s Author Page