Alex Dueben interviews Ho Che Anderson (Part Two of Two)

Posted by on March 26th, 2010 at 12:01 AM

Previously: PART ONE

Scream Queen was originally this shorter book, and with the exception of King, much of your work has been shorter stories — Young Hoods in Love and I Want to Be Your Dog are interconnected stories, the one-shot Temple Duncan, Pop Life, the series you did with Wilfred Santiago — do you prefer to work in the short form, was it just easier to sell the ideas you had for short stories, or what?

My first comic, I Want To Be Your Dog, was 130 pages long and it was one big story, so I’d have to count that among the longer works. Wise Son, a four-issue miniseries I did early in my career clocked in 88 pages, which was a fairly standard at the time. I guess I’m saying I think there’s a balance between the shorter and longer works. Young Hoods was a collection of short stories I’d done for various publishers when I was first starting out and eager to take anything I could get. I like working in a shorter form just fine, but I’m actually drawn naturally more toward the epic, and I would have loved to have told longer stories throughout my run as a cartoonist, but almost without exception, when I pitch something it is rejected so I’ve rarely had the opportunity.

You’ve talked in interviews before about another comic project called Godhead and on your website you have some artwork and designs, but it sounds as if you’ve given up on the project.

Speaking of rejected pitches. I have sadly completely given up on a comic-book version of Godhead. I’ve been a major sci-fi fan since I was a kid; in fact I’ve often credited Star Wars as the catalyst for my wanting to be a visual storyteller, and it occurred to me around 2001 that after, at that time 10 or 11 years as a cartoonist I had never tackled a science-fiction story. So I came up with this concept and made the mistake of pouring many of my passions into it. So the story was about water lore and robots and future cities and architecture and my fascination with the military and the corporate world and mythology and wrapped it all up in an action-adventure framework. I say I made the “mistake” of infusing it with my passions because if you pour your heart and soul into a project and then are unable to realize it, it is devastating to the psyche. I looked around at all the other crap that had found publishers and figured my crap would be a slam dunk but instead I had to endure publisher after publisher tell me to go away. The problem is it’s too ambitious a project for me to take on without the support of a publisher. It would have been almost 300 pages and the way I wanted to do it, in a kind of movie production art/1980s Bill Sienkiewicz-inspired painted style, would have been very laborious and required a lot of time and you can’t survive doing something like that without a publisher’s money coming in. So Godhead is dead. It’s too bad because I still think it’s the best comics script I ever wrote. It would have made a kick-ass book if I could have made a publisher see my vision. But I couldn’t.

I know that in recent years you’ve been working in film, directing a short film The Salesman. Have you been interested in film for a while? Is this something you want to focus on more to the exclusion of comics?

Yes. Today when I hit the drawing board I’m going to be finishing off the last page I’m likely to draw for quite some time. Right now I’m doing an omnibus book that will collect a bunch of my stuff from hither and yon over the years, and I’m taking the opportunity to complete Miles From Home, a sequel to I Want To Be Your Dog that I started literally 20 years ago, published some of in Pop Life in the ’90s, but never got a chance to finish. But once that page is done and the rest of the book is assembled, I’m focusing on this other thing to the exclusion of all else. I was ready to step away before I did Sand and Fury, but a unique set of circumstances resulted in that comic, a confluence of events that are unlikely to be repeated in my lifetime.

The thing is, I’ve been a frustrated filmmaker since I was a teenager. I chose comics because I loved them passionately but also because I could never see a way into the movies. It always seemed like an impossible dream until a few years ago. Then I figured out a way that it was possible to do, to start out small and build from there. Now, what I want to do is still impossible because I want to make flicks that’ll play at the multiplex and no one gets to do that. I’ll bet if 10 thousand people take a run at the director’s chair, maybe one of them winds up sitting in it. Maybe one. So it’s effectively impossible. But I have to try. To that extent I’ve applied to film school and am waiting to hear if I got accepted; hopefully I’ll know this month. Whether I am or not, now that The Salesman is nearly completed the next step is to try to get it into festivals and to use it to raise money for something a little more ambitious. If the highest I can rise is to direct one or two low-budget straight-to-video thrillers than I’ll do my damnedest to make the best schlock on the shelves, because for me it’s about using the tools. I want to be able to tell a story using a camera and actors and sets and editing and music and movement. After years of trying to do little movies on the page I’m thrilled to be doing it for real, if only on a tiny scale. I’ll always love comics and I’m not saying I’d never do another one if someone were to make me an offer…but given that I haven’t had an offer to do a comic since 1993, I don’t foresee that happening while I walk this Earth. I’ve had fun as a cartoonist but I’ve done it, and now it’s time, at long last, to try this other thing.

You haven’t had an offer to do a comic since 1993? That just amazes me. Is the shift to film partly an issue of, if it’s going to be hard and a struggle regardless, might as well go for the gold ring, and try for your first passion?

That’s pretty much it. Wise Son was the last time someone asked me to write and draw a comic. That was 1993. Yeah, that book was crap but a lot of guys have done shitty comics and gotten further offers or had their pitches accepted. Ah, c’est la vie. No one owes me a career. I think I would have gotten to this point even if I’d been a successful cartoonist because the desire to make flicks has been overwhelming for many, many-a-year. But for whatever reason no one’s buying what I’m selling in the comic-book world. Thus it doesn’t make sense to continue with it year after year, hoping things will change. To continue would be the very definition of insanity.

You mentioned the book you’re working on, Miles From Home. What’s going to be in this omnibus and why has it taken so long to complete this one story in it?

I was an enormous fan of Love and Rockets during its first run and always wanted to do something like it, a comic about everyday life comprised of alternating long and short stories. Right after Dog I was gonna do something called Penelope Zeitgeist—I was 20 so you’ll have to forgive the name—of which Miles From Home was going to be one of several ongoing stories. Miles From Home is a kind of Dog sequel in that it focuses on one of that comic’s secondary characters. Anyway, Penelope Zeitgeist grew into Pop Life. I started doing Miles From Home there as a serial. I got about 35 pages into it before Pop Life got cancelled. At that point the story was already nine or 10 years old. It’s not that it was a major story I was super-passionate about, but I had started it and it felt like unfinished business. It seems to be the way of things for me, where I start a story, then have to abandon it only to complete it years later. Inevitably what happens is your intentions for the thing change over time, so that what you end up with isn’t what you started out with. I rewrote the story several months ago based on what I’d already drawn and with a mind to wrapping it up as succinctly as possible and as a result wound up dumping about 60% of what I’d previously written.  Anyway, after Pop Life bit the dust Wilfred and I had planned to collect the comic’s rare good moments into a new book that would also include some new material. Even though our partnership similarly bit the dust the idea of doing a book like that has continued to hold some appeal and that’s what this next publication is going to be. It’s gonna have the completed Miles From Home, illustrations and short comics from various sources, a large collection of my Godhead material, and a couple other goodies I’m looking forward to seeing in print.

All images ©2010 Ho Che Anderson

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One Response to “Alex Dueben interviews Ho Che Anderson (Part Two of Two)”

  1. […] Note: Alex Dueben, who writes articles for Comic Book Resources, The Comics Journal and Suicide Girls, shared with us the following guide to other things you can do in New York City […]