Saturday, July 4, 2009

The John Kerschbaum Interview

[Please note: This interview originally appeared in The Comics Journal #295.]

In a perfect and just world, John Kerschbaum would be one of its most famous cartoonists. In the world of comics, he instead carries the status of cult favorite, a cartoonist’s cartoonist. One reason his work is treasured among the discerning few is that there’s a surface blandness to his drawings that belie their content. His work becomes all the more jarring when he suddenly injects violent and viscerally powerful scenes depicted in that same cozy, cartoony style. Kerschbaum’s work demands full engagement from his readers, often crafting punchlines that are not immediately obvious unless one follows the verbal and visual clues he provides very closely. He is a gag craftsman of the first order, a total master of panel and page composition as well as the integration of word and image. Above all else, Kerschbaum trades in deception, luring the reader in with one set of expectations and then brutally subverting those expectations repeatedly.

Kerschbaum began his career trying to become a syndicated cartoonist with a number of false starts. He did freelance cartoons for any number of national publications in the early 90s and even had a collection of strips published (IF NEW YORK CITY WAS THE WORLD). In 1996, he received a Xeric grant for his one-man humor anthology, THE WIGGLY READER. Attendees of shows like SPX or MoCCA will recall a stream of hilarious, attractively-designed minis he crafted for those shows. TIMBERDOODLE was nominated for an Ignatz award and may be one of the most memorable minicomics of the last decade, all about a young boy named Wally Timberdoodle who happened to be born with an enormous wooden cock. His most recent creations, Petey and Pussy, were finally published in the format they deserve by Fantagraphics. The book is anchored by his longest sustained comics narrative, a dense collection of brutal gags that leads up to a final, sublime punchline.


CLOUGH: Where are you from originally? Did you grow up drawing? Were you encouraged in this pursuit by your family?

KERSCHBAUM: Farmingdale, Long Island. I drew a lot as a kid. My mom had been an art teacher. I recall getting a lot of encouragement both at home and in school.

CLOUGH: Did you grow up reading comics? What sort of things had the biggest impact on you as a child? Am I correct in assuming that MAD magazine, and Will Elder in particular, were influences?

KERSCHBAUM: I didn't read a lot of superhero comics. I was into Spider-Man for a few years; they sold it at a local drugstore. I always looked forward to getting the next issue. But at some point, I think Marvel started to weave the story line from the one comic into several other titles and in order to follow the story, you had to buy all of them. That annoyed me and I sorta gave it up.

I loved MAD - my favorite was Don Martin. I'd say he's probably my greatest influence. But I enjoyed the whole magazine - the fold- in, the movie and television parodies - Jack Davis and Mort Drucker wowed me. In my early teens, I started reading National Lampoon and Heavy Metal. I really loved the cartoonists in National Lampoon – Gahan Wilson, S. Gross, Bobby London, and Shary Flenniken. While looking in the humor section of the local bookstore for an S. Gross collection, I found one of B. Kliban's paperbacks and spent years tracking the rest of those down. Somewhere in there I stumbled upon Edward Gorey, too. I also enjoyed reading the comics in the newspaper.

CLOUGH: What sort of schooling or training did you receive in art?

KERSCHBAUM: I studied illustration at Parsons School of Design.

CLOUGH: Was the training you received there useful to you as an artist?

KERSCHBAUM: I learned a lot of stuff and met a lot of people who affected my career later. It was definitely a positive experience for me. I also met my future wife there, and it doesn’t get much better than that. She was also in the illustration program.

CLOUGH: What other cultural influences played a part in shaping you as an artist?

KERSCHBAUM: Do movies and television count as culture? I loved Monty Python. Saturday Night Live introduced me to the stand-up of Steve Martin (comedically, he was a big influence). Get Smart was a favorite. I'd stay up late to watch The Twilight Zone. That was awesome to me. I would guess that's where my affinity for twisty surprise endings came from. I really enjoyed cartoons like Looney Tunes, Rocky & Bullwinkle Show, and Pink Panther. As a kid I really wanted to be an animator. I studied those shows and tried to draw like them.

CLOUGH: When did you first start cartooning seriously?

KERSCHBAUM: In the late eighties, I tried pretty hard to be a cartoonist in The New Yorker. I was very serious about it for a while.

CLOUGH: How much drawing are you able to do on a daily basis that isn't directly related to your comics or illustration work? Does the physical act of drawing bring you pleasure?

KERSCHBAUM: I doodle occasionally but I rarely draw for the sake of drawing anymore. If I have some free time it's more likely I'll try to write.

CLOUGH: Do you consider yourself an artist that writes, a writer that draws, or neither?

KERSCHBAUM: I have a lot more experience in drawing than writing. I feel like I’m still learning what I’m doing as a writer, and so it’s more of a challenge. It can be fun. Writing for me is about trying to create a spark of an idea, or stepping away from an idea and coming back to it with a fresh eye.

Professional Work

CLOUGH: The earliest dated strips I've seen from you come from 1992 and were reprinted in If New York City Was the World (Citadel Press). What kind of comics or illustration work did you do prior to this time? Were you making a living as an illustrator before you started selling your comic strips, or did you do something else for a living?

KERSCHBAUM: During the nineties, I worked as a staff artist at United Media. I did the corrections on the syndicated comic strips (United Features & NEA). Back before all the art was digital, the artists would mail their originals to UM where the editors would have a go at them. I then made any corrections on the original art before it was sent to production.
Around the same time, I did a lot of freelance illustration for the Village Voice and Associated Press, among a few others. The AP relationship led to a lot of work for the short-lived sports daily, The National. They were fun to work for and paid well too!I was also actively submitting gag cartoons to various magazines like SPY, The New Yorker, and National Lampoon where, by that time, S. Gross was the cartoon editor. I freaked out the day I got home and found a message on my answering machine from him. It was hysterical. He sounded just like I imagined he would. I'm pretty sure I still have the tape from the answering machine the message he left for me.

CLOUGH: You've made a number of attempts at becoming a syndicated artist. Can you describe what went into making strips like Cartoon Boy (a superhero parody), the original Petey & Pussy strips, and Well Whatta You Know?

KERSCHBAUM: I did Cartoon Boy when I was still working at United Media. I wanted to create a good continuity/adventure strip that was also a gag a day. But I also included every current comic strip taboo. So there's smoking, sexual innuendo, and naughty puns… but all G- rated, really. It began as a joke but I kind of grew to like it. I submitted it to all the big syndicates - no takers. I'm actually considering giving it another shot. Well Whatta You Know? was just an attempt to do a fun and educational strip for kids, something, I felt, the comics pages lacked. Well, what do I know? The magazine I initially did Petey & Pussy for folded before it was launched. So I tried to self-syndicate the original strips to alternative weeklies. Creative Loafing ran it for a few weeks but I think readers complained.

CLOUGH: You've gone back and forth in your career from doing comics & illustration work for children and then doing incredibly visceral, profane, violent humor. Yet, a similar voice can be heard in each set of strips. How do you approach these two different worlds when you're given a particular assignment vs. your own work?

KERSCHBAUM: I enjoy doing both. They're kind of the same but different. They both pose a problem or a set of problems to be solved. With an illustration assignment, my main objective is to make the editor or art director happy - I'm a hired gun. So basically, you do what they tell you. And there's usually a deadline.

I have no real deadlines with my own work so I can shelve something indefinitely when I can't figure it out. And I get to be more self-indulgent. I get to do what I want. Otherwise, the basic approach to each is the same. And when you're doing work for kids you just leave out the cursing… and tits - no tits.

CLOUGH: Something that's remarkable about your style, both in terms of art and writing, is that it seems to have arrived fully-formed in those early-90s strips. The dense cross-hatching, the layers of jokes, the interplay between verbal and visual humor, the slack- jawed character design--it's all there. What went into developing your own personal style and voice? How long did it take you to reach that point? How long did it take before you became fully comfortable with your final, published output on the page?

KERSCHBAUM: This a tough question because I've never really consciously tried to draw with a certain look or style. I just keep drawing until it looks done. By nature, I'm a bit of a nitpicker and for good or bad, I think that's reflected in the art (and the writing, I guess). Just recently, I had a couple of experiences where someone commented on some aspect of the way I draw like, "Oh, yeah, I know your stuff, you draw everybody with big overbites!" And I had to think for a second before realizing, "Oh yeah! I guess I do!"

CLOUGH: Do you ever revisit old works?

KERSCHBAUM: I rarely revisit past projects. I have to re-read the mini-comics whenever I make a new batch (y'know, to check the page order). There are a few things that them make me smile but mostly, I find it difficult to look at old stuff. It usually takes me so long to finish a comic, I've already looked at it and read it dozens of times. So once it's done - I'm done. I must admit I'm enjoying flipping through the new Petey & Pussy book. I think Jacob Covey did a great job with the design – it's a fun little package.

CLOUGH: Dissecting what makes something funny is sort of like killing the goose that laid the golden egg, but here goes: How do you decide to layer the jokes in your strips? Some of your strips provide information that leads up to an ultimate punchline, while others deliver smaller punchlines in each panel. Others, like Timberdoodle, do both.

KERSCHBAUM: I'm not sure I have an answer for this either. There's no science to it that I'm aware of. I mean, there might be… but I don't give it much thought. I just write and rewrite stuff until it makes sense. The jokes kind of write themselves. My immediate goals when I write are, 1. Make it funny; Pack in as many gags as I can. This is probably due to that part of my personality that makes me crosshatch the hell out of everything. And, 2. Challenge the reader; force them to pay attention and maybe turn back a couple pages to check and see if they really saw what they think they saw. I like a punchline or ending that changes all of the previous jokes, sheds new light on them and makes them funny again only in a new way. It's also why I hope people can re-read my comics and laugh at a joke they missed the first time.

CLOUGH: There's often a tension in your strips between subtle and over- the-top. A strip with a lot of violence will often carry a punchline that needs to be carefully deciphered by the observant reader. Do you worry that some of your punchlines will go over inobservant readers' heads?

KERSCHBAUM: Yeah, I worry sometimes, but what can you do? Some people won't get it, some will get it and not like it. It's not everyone's cup of tea.


CLOUGH: Have you always used that intense cross-hatched style? How long does it take you to finish the average comics page?

KERSCHBAUM: I think it's grown more intense over the years but that wasn't a conscious decision. I just draw until it looks done. It's hard to say how long an "average comics page" takes. I don't generally work on one page start to finish. I've always followed a basic routine with comics. I begin with my penciling, and I roughly layout the whole book. I then go back and ink all the lettering and word balloons. I go through the whole book and tighten up the rough pencil drawings. I use a lot of tracing paper to draw and re-draw stuff and place it in the panel exactly where I want it. If there's a lot going on in a panel, I'll often draw all of the elements separately on tracing paper and then transfer each one to the panel. It's sort of like setting a stage, if that makes sense. After that I do the majority of the inking – all the major stuff. Then I erase any pencil peeking through, go back to the beginning again and do all the crosshatching and fill in the solid blacks if there are any. Lastly, I do all the whiting out and correcting. I use a lot of white-out. It's a time-consuming process that I increasingly feel the need to streamline and simplify. I'm having trouble doing that though.

CLOUGH: What do you draw with, in terms of pencils, pens, brushes, etc?

KERSCHBAUM: All sorts of stuff, rapidographs, brushes, etc. but I do most of the inking with a regular old Pigma Micron. I go through them quickly because I have a tendency to break the points coaxing a slight thick and thin out of the line.

I use a quality watercolor brush (size 0 or 1) to do my whiting out. My white-out of choice is Pelikan graphic white, which I always have a hard time finding. It's not great for inking over but that's not such an issue for me (large mistakes I usually patch over and redraw). I use the white-out to draw with. This particular one flows nicely off the brush (when mixed to the right consistency) and is really opaque even when it's thinned down.

CLOUGH: I've always liked your use of color--there's a dense, saturated quality to your hues. How long have you been working with color, and how did you develop your palette?

KERSCHBAUM: Thanks. Funny, this is something I feel I've always struggled with – seems like my color palette is all over the place. Most of my coloring is done in Photoshop these days. I used to use watercolors to paint, but since I never really learned the proper techniques it always was a bit of a crap shoot.

CLOUGH: In your illustration program in college, did you learn other art techniques? Print-making, photography, sculpture, etc? What impact did learning these other techniques have on your aesthetic and career as an artist?

KERSCHBAUM: I took intros to photography and printmaking. I didn't take to either really – too much process. Too many rules and ways to screw up. In printmaking, I was a few shy of the required finished assignments so I actually made a mini-comic as a sort of make-up assignment. I passed the class – barely. I think the teacher would have preferred I had silkscreened it rather than run it off on a Xerox machine…

The Works Themselves

CLOUGH: Building on that last question, can you go into how you developed the ultimate punchlines for your minicomic "Dumb Cluck" and your story from the Wind anthology (Bries)? The former forces the reader to very carefully examine what is being said and how you subvert their immediate expectations, while the latter relies on a subtle but prominent visual cue to explain the ultimate punchline.

KERSCHBAUM: I'm afraid it's hard for me to recall exactly the origins of either of these stories. But I remember for the Wind anthology, I wanted to do a story that wasn't obviously about the wind. Maybe even make the casual reader wonder, "How's that about the wind?!?" But it is - it's all about the wind.

With Dumb Cluck, I set out to create something for kids because they always come up to your table at a convention and most of what I had was inappropriate. So I just set out to do a little riff on a typical kids story. The only other thing I can recall about it is that it came to me very quickly. I wrote, paced, and drew it very quickly without any rewriting, something quite unusual for me. One other interesting thing about Dumb Cluck – at least to me – is that kids always seem to get it right away and adults do not.

CLOUGH: You've done a lot of commercial work over the years. How much do you enjoy working for Nickelodeon, DC Comics, Dolphin Log Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, etc? These strips seem very much "you", even if it was for another entity.

KERSCHBAUM: I've been fortunate to have some fun clients. Nick Magazine, Klutz Books, and DC are great to work with - the assignments are always rewarding and challenging. Most clients want the stuff to be "you". Hopefully, that's why they hired you. But again, ultimately, you do whatever the client asks you to do.

CLOUGH: Your "Shock of Recognition" strip for the Comics Journal Special edition has one of your best punchlines and best uses of subverting expectations. Have you always enjoyed drawing/reading violent humor? What do you like to give your comics such a sense of viscerality? Is it your intent to shock while provoking laughter?

KERSCHBAUM: This strip isn't even that old and I can't remember how I came to it. I know I struggled with the assignment initially because I wasn't sure I'd ever experienced a "shock of recognition." I generally shy away from writing about myself. I'm pretty sure the ending just came to me and then I worked out the pacing and set-up. Even though it's obviously a fictional story, it ended up being a fair dramatization of my "a-ha" moment.

I think I've always found that type of humor funny. I strongly suspect there is a close connection between fear and laughter in the brain. I remember seeing An American Werewolf in London and thinking how cool it was. It had me laughing one second and cringing the next, then it would have you doing both at the same time. The funny bits in that movie made the scary bits scarier and vice versa.

CLOUGH: Another thing I've noticed in your work is that you love to contrast word and image, with one undermining the other for comedic effect. Your "Cartoonist Anonymous" strip is one long series of self-deprecatory jokes merged with blowhard text, while "Little Billy Blumpkin" matches up fairy tale-text about a snail speeding away with panel after panel of a snail barely moving. What is it about subverting reader expectations that appeals to you as a humorist?

KERSCHBAUM: Yeah, this is just a gimmick, I suppose. I think there's something funny about saying or implying one thing and then blatantly doing or showing another. The contradiction creates a tension that, hopefully, you can generate some laughs out of.

CLOUGH: I've always looked forward to seeing your Christmas-themed comics. "Snowballs" shows us what a snowman looks like naked, "The Snowman" tells us why a snowman needs a scarf, and the snowman evolution panel you did was brilliant in its simplicity of design. Do you enjoy doing holiday-specific jokes?

KERSCHBAUM: I enjoy sending homemade cards or mini-comics to friends for the holidays. Most of my friends and family don't see a lot of the work I do, so the feedback I get from them is always interesting. I've even had some ask me to stop sending them.The evolution of a snowman card is one of those things that came to me in a flash. I was convinced that I must have seen it somewhere, forgot about it, and then remembered it as if I thought it up. So I spent a lot of time looking for it and asking friends if they'd seen it before (thus ruining the gag for them when they got it in the mail).

CLOUGH: For whom did you do IF NEW YORK CITY WAS THE WORLD? Was it a syndicated strip first, or did you pitch it as a book?

KERSCHBAUM: As I mentioned earlier, they ran in a very small Manhattan weekly called the Chelsea Clinton News (named after the NYC neighborhoods, not the ex-president's daughter.) I don't know how that came about, but I recall that all the editors there hated it and weren't shy about letting me know when I dropped off the strip. At the time, I had done illustration work for Carol Publishing. I think I had met the art director there, Steven Brower, at United Media. He liked my work and offered to pitch it at the next editorial meeting. That was a huge break!

CLOUGH: You’ve mentioned a few times about editors, friends or readers complaining about your work? What kind of effect does this have on you? Does it make you glad that you at least get some kind of reaction?

KERSCHBAUM: It’s not really a big deal. With the editors at the Chelsea Clinton News, they were old-timers who didn’t like the way my strip was soiling their newspaper. When introduced to one editor for the first time, I reached out to shake his hand and he just said, “Oh, it’s you.” I’m still friends with the guy I sent the dirty Christmas comic to. Still, it is nice that my comics always get some kind of reaction!

The Wiggly Reader

CLOUGH: You were an early Xeric grant recipient. What kind of impact did this have on you in terms of encouraging you to keep making comics?

KERSCHBAUM: Although I was doing well with my illustration, I was having trouble finding anyone interested in my comics or cartooning. The few magazines that would run my gags had either ceased publication or changed editors. I couldn't find a publisher for my longer comics, either. Kitchen Sink Press tried to publish a trade paperback of a comic I did about a family reunion, but as luck would have it, it was solicited at the same time DC killed Superman and they couldn't sell it. A friend and previous Xeric recipient, Stephen Blue, suggested I give it a shot. All in all, it was a great experience, and I seriously doubt I'd be doing comics today if not for it.

CLOUGH: What inspired the astoundingly demented and detailed Abraham Lincoln cover on TWR #2? Do you enjoy creating these finely-detailed scenes with all sorts of "eye-pops" in them?

KERSCHBAUM: Again, the original inspiration for this escapes me. I have always enjoyed working on large, crowded scenes. When I was in elementary school I used to tape 18 x 24 pieces of drawing paper together and draw these huge panoramic scenes. One time, I did a prehistoric landscape filled with dinosaurs and cavemen in little scenes with jokes and gags and I also remember doing a cut-away of the Starship Enterprise showing all the decks and inner workings with the crew running about.

CLOUGH: You really seem to enjoy the humor of cruelty. City Guy/Country Guy, where the title characters are killed off early in the story but are further humiliated even in death, seems to be an example of the way you use cruelty as a form of commentary. That's also true of the story about the dancing robots who get separated, torn into bits and then almost reunited the in most banal way possible. How often do you see yourself as a commentator on our culture and society? What sort of issues do you think humor is best equipped to take on?

KERSCHBAUM: My humor can be cruel. I hate to blame it on my ancestry, but I'm of German descent and I think it may just be innate. That schadenfreude thing.

I'm not trying to comment on culture or society, at least not intentionally. There may be some other psychological reason for that particular bent, but I'm not all that concerned with it. Sometimes a poke in the eye is just a poke in the eye. In fact, I'd generally say that I shy away from making political statements or such in my work. Believe it or not, I'm not looking to offend people or stir up controversy – I prefer my cruelty to be more generic, more random… which is not to say that humor can't be used to address societal ills or whatever. As far as I'm concerned, in the right time and place, nothing is really taboo.

CLOUGH: Your humor matches absurdism with horror on occasion. For example, the strip about the woman finding 2 exact copies of her husband making love, only to find that one is a gigantic lawn beetle masquerading as her husband, is perhaps the single-most disturbing and hilarious series of images I've ever seen. What was your thought process in creating that strip? Were you out to horrify as much (or even more) as you were to amuse?

KERSCHBAUM: This goes back to what I said about American Werewolf in London – that close relationship between scary and funny. When I wrote that strip, I was intentionally trying to be silly and absurd one minute and unnerving or gross the next. But it's all just silliness.

CLOUGH: Your characters often have what Sammy Harkham describes as a "falsely wholesome" appearance to them. They're cartoony and easy to look at, but you rarely rely on "funny drawings" to create laughs. Why is this?

KERSCHBAUM: Well I actually do try and draw "funny" some times, you're probably just not noticing it! But you're right, I don't do it often. I can tell you that when I do have occasion to review old work, it's those "funny" drawings that make me cringe the most. I don't think I'm very successful at it; I avoid it and try to mine the humor elsewhere.

In general, it’s hard for me to track back to how and why I thought something was a funny idea. It’s not something I really think about as part of my creative process. Also, the process or inspiration doesn’t work the same way every time.

Petey and Pussy

CLOUGH: This cat and dog pair seems to have really captured your imagination over the past few years. What inspired their design, with balding human heads on top of very-anatomically accurate bodies?

KERSCHBAUM: In the late 90s, a friend got me an interview with an editor who was in charge of re-launching some major cartoon monthly – like MAD or Cracked – I can't recall the name. Anyway, I met with the editor and he liked my stuff and offered me two bits of advice. First, he said it would be in my own best interest to do recurring characters as all the work would be creator-owned (I assume he meant that if you got lucky and the characters caught on, you'd have a chance to cash in.) Second, he said, "No people with animal heads, I HATE that shit!" or something along those lines. So I went home and sorta cheekily did the opposite. He ended up liking it, but the magazine never happened.

With regard to their "anatomically-correct bodies," it just makes me laugh. People see real dog and cat asses every day and no one thinks twice. Show them a drawing of one and they're repulsed, or giggle, or both.

CLOUGH: The long strip in your new Petey & Pussy book is your longest sustained narrative to date. How did you balance the demands of a longer story with the demands of being a gag cartoonist? Did you feel this story was a sort of summing-up or combination of everything you've done before in terms of gag-style and techniques?

KERSCHBAUM: I wrote that story in bits and pieces over the course of several years. I then peppered it with little jokes and gags that I'd also collected over the years in notes and sketchbooks. Then I rewrote it making sure it flowed and there was a strong story arc and point to it all. When I was done, it was nearly twice as long as it ended up in the final book. At the time, I knew I would never be able to finish something that long - I didn't have the time or the energy. So I edited it to the bare bones. As it ends up, it still took almost four years to draw and ink.

CLOUGH: How long had you been working on this longer story? When did Fantagraphics pick it up?

KERSCHBAUM: When it was almost done, I sent it to some publishers. Surprisingly, a few were interested. It took me a long time to figure out what to do. In fact, I shelved it, finished, for nearly another year before going with Fantagraphics.

Other Projects

CLOUGH: You've been somewhat absent from the comics scene for the past few years after steadily putting out a new mini-comic every year. Has it been difficult to balance your life as a commercial illustrator with your own work?

KERSCHBAUM: It has of late. But generally, it's not hard. Illustration work tends, for me anyway, to come in spurts, so there's always a little down time.

CLOUGH: Can you talk about the project you've been working on for the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the past four years? Do you see that as a culmination of sorts for your hyper-detailed style of illustration, with every corner packed with small visual or verbal puns, that you've done for others over the years?

KERSCHBAUM: A while back I did an illustration for a puzzle in Nick Magazine. It was the interior of an art museum that was actually a maze. I asked the Met if they would be interested in doing something similar. They were planning to redo their kids/family map and wanted to know what I had in mind. So I proposed, basically, a "Where's Waldo" type picture search using the Museum. So I've spent the past four years researching and photographing the Museum and a making a poster of it. I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into. The Museum is just an amazing place - it's alive. Not only do they move, rotate and change the art around, I would visit and swear that the walls had moved too! Although the drawing is dense, when I look at it I just think of all the really cool stuff I didn't have room for or missed entirely. But I did the best I could. The way I look at it, it needs to hold up to repeated viewings. If the Met wants to use this for years and years – and I want them to – people have to be able to spot something they didn't see the last time they looked; just like a visit to the Museum itself. I'm very close to being done – the Museum has been very patient but they want it for the upcoming holiday season and I'm very anxious to see what the response will be. I'm also a little nervous. I've been working on it for so long now that I'm not sure what I'm going to do when it's finished.

CLOUGH: What are you reading these days?

KERSCHBAUM: Funny. I think I read more comics now than I did as a kid.

I start every day by reading the newspaper strip Monty online. Jim Meddick is a good friend, but it's the funniest damn strip. In fact, he won a Reuben for it this year. I've recently started following Richard Thompson's strip, Cul De Sac, too.

I'm reading the old Peanuts reprints. I'm a few volumes behind but they're nice books. I love how mean the strips can be!

I recently enjoyed Mike Dawson's Freddie & Me. There's a brief section about how he remembers things that I thought was revealing and insightful. But it's all good and beautifully drawn.

Alex Robinson's latest, Too Cool To Be Forgotten, was a great read. I think it's his best book to date and that's saying something.

I got the complete Don Martin last Christmas and haven't finished it yet. There's so much of his early work I was unfamiliar with - I had no idea! And, oddly, the stuff that I'd seen before seems different to me now after not having seen it in so long… but I can't really describe how.

Kevin Huizenga's work is fascinating - I get everything he puts out. I also enjoy the Leon Beyond feature he does with Dan Zettwoch.

I've only read one issue of Dungeon by Lewis Trondheim. But I plan to get more of those. Great story. Great art. Very funny.

And I'm a big fan of Bob Fingerman's work. It is so well-crafted and beautifully drawn. I always wanted to be able to draw like him.

I don't get to the comics store that often, but when I do I like to pick up anything new by T. Millionaire, J. Ryan, M. Kupperman, Kaz, Tony Consiglio and Steve Weissman. They're always guaranteed to be quality, funny books.

CLOUGH: What impact have shows like SPX and MOCCA had on your career? Do you feel like part of a community when you attend these shows?

KERSCHBAUM: I enjoy these shows. They can be a bit exhausting even though you're mainly just sitting there. Over the years, I've met some fantastic people there and made some great friends. It's an opportunity to talk shop with talented folks.