An interview with me by Sam Maiden of Vantage comics.
Tell us a bit about yourself, who are you, what makes you ‘you’ and what do you do with yourself?
Geez, I’m not very good at this….I can’t stand in lines too long, I always start feeling really claustrophobic and then run away. I’ve gone without many things because of my fear of lines. That’s probably not very illuminating though.
I’m primarily a freelance cartoonist. I share a bunker with my fat grey cat. I draw a piece meal comic called DAYGLOAYHOLE and the Gospel of Tug Benson. I’m also in a collective that produces a radical newspaper out of New Orleans called The Raging Pelican.
When did you first start drawing and what got you into it?
guess like most kids I always liked to doodle. I always really liked drawing comics though. I drew little spaceman stories on the edges of my papers in school and made little mini-comics on copy paper at home. The first issue of spawn was big for me when I as 12. I guess because it was the atmosphere was sinister and unapologetically violent , which were pretty important to 12 year old Ben. On top of that the main character was black and the wasn’t a pimp or a super cool brotha type.
I’m a bit embarrassed to admit being struck such a goofy comic, if it’s any consolation I like better stuff now.
Did it take years of refining or did you know instantly you could draw with a unique style?
I went to art school in Georgia when I was 21, before that I liked to draw but I hadn’t considered doing it professionally. It was the first time I had been around tons other artists and I realized that I was pretty bad, which was good for me. I got real serious and locked myself in this rat hole like apartment and drew endlessly for two years, only taking time for class, coffee, and trips to this chinese food place around the corner from my place. I read a lot of other people’s work and figured out what I liked about them and tried to apply that to my own work. I had a script writing teacher that told his students that you had to make a ton of crap before you could get to the good stuff, so I figured it was a numbers game. I gave myself lot’s of projects outside of school. I did a weekly strip for the student paper, another monthly for a regional one, and I started two radical zones with a bunch of other weird anarchist types. It took about four years for me to feel like I was making something really worth looking at.
Tell us a bit about Reboot comic, the world and dystopian world which is frequent in your works.
I was thinking that I had a flexible and distinct visual style that I liked but I wanted to play with an equally individual approach to story telling like Chris Ware or Kevin H. (Glenn Ganges) or George Harriman. On top of that I wanted to work on an approach to color and place that felt like it was my own. On top of that I was living in New Orleans and running with a pack of punks and radicals, and getting into trouble doing student strikes and street actions, and messing with gentrifiers and cops, I wanted to write about that stuff. The thing is that I hate autobiography, I mean I really like some autobiography, but I can’t really get around this idea that I’m being totally narcissistic when I try to do it. So I made this world called DAYGLOAYHOLE, a warped facetious version of our own reality. On top of that I try and cram in lot’s of panels and use a frantic timing and compositions so that the story feels frenetic.
SO, you wrote REBOOT, which is thankfully not about me or my friends. With REBOOT I’ve been experimenting with the same approach to visual story telling, but also showing time in ways that isn’t just plonking “five hours later” in the top right of the panel.
Whats your ultimate goal, would you like to build a career with your art?
Right now I can eek out a living with my comics and really that’s more than I could hope for. I’ve sort of always wanted to write and draw Conan comics! I’ve got a graphic novel that’s been in the works for about 4 years that’s turned into my graphic whipping boy, so it’d be nice to finish that. I’m going to come out with a new DAYGLOAYHOLE comic in December. I just finished a 3 issue mini-series with writer Rory MCConville called The Sadness Solution, and we’re looking for a publisher. I guess like most comic types I’d like to wrest power from the state and institute mandatory clog dancing on smashed cop cars. No no, in the end I just wanna make better and better comics.