Interview: Chip Zdarsky on the Harsh Realities of Illustrating Comics
The Toronto Comics Anthology has always been an ongoing platform to showcase veteran as well as up-and-coming creators. In addition to featuring work from unpublished writers and artists in our fourth volume, Yonge At Heart, we conducted a series of short interviews to share helpful tips and insights with new creators.
1. What was the first comic you ever wrote (or drew)?
There were a bunch of unfinished comics from when I was a kid, because that’s what kids do, get SUPER excited about making a comic and then realize how much work it is. I mean, it’s the same thing as an adult but people judge you harshly AND don’t pay you when you don’t finish it.
So, my first COMPLETE comic was THE COLLECTED PRISON FUNNIES, which was a bunch of my university strips thrown together with a new short story. Hired the printer, dealt with the distributor, made at least $30. It was a hell of a lot of fun selling that at shows.
2. What about Toronto inspires/excites you, or shapes your art/writing?
It sounds sappy as hell but the comics community here is pretty fantastic and supportive. Almost every comic shop carried my first books on consignment, and the pros were always there for advice if you got them drunk. Now that I’m doing comics full-time I’d love to be that kind of pro for young comic artists but I hate youth more than anything so I guess not.
3. What's one thing you wish you'd known at the start of your career?
Hm. I can’t really think of anything. I had so much inside info and support from friends in comics that I already kind of knew what would be in store if I made the attempt to get into the industry. Plus, I didn’t really get fully INTO comics until I was 38 as It was kind of an accidental thing in a lot of ways. I always just kind of did my thing on the side for fun, and SEX CRIMINALS was the same. I never thought it would be a career, which is probably how it became a career, y’know? My aspirations were to make things I enjoyed reading.
4. Who are you reading right now?
Um, MY work. I just TOLD YOU THAT.
5. What was the hardest thing about getting into comics? Or the hardest thing about sustaining work in comics?
Before I got into comics I did a bunch of different art jobs, and illustrating comics is by far the hardest of them. It combines everything: storytelling, anatomy, fashion, design, cars, architecture, etc. It’s relentless in what it asks of you as an artist. And you have to do it faster than any other artistic discipline. I think a lot people really like the idea of being a comic artist, but once confronted with the workload and what it entails, they realize that they just wanted the idea of it, not the reality.