Christopher Forgues has a couple things going for him. One his toasty-brow marshmallow campfire folk vs gravel-burn harsh solo noise project Kites is more often than not pretty good, and two, his comics, which are dark doors into the stunningly fantastic. Probably best known for his graphic novel serial Powr Mastrs, for which two issues have been released so far (and we've read them both over and over again), Christopher's comics involves complicated characters who mutate form accroding to emotional compostition as they navigate the strange and beautiful realm of New China. Now that we've buttered him up, let's put him on the griddle…
Vice: Why go by your initials? Does it have anything to do with C = 3 and F = 9, which is pretty cool, numerologically speaking?
Christopher Forgues: Nothing like that, although those number things exist regardless of my knowledge or intention. Mostly I wanted to divorce my name from the everyday world so that when I was done drawing I wouldn't have to connect it with banks, schools, all the places that only keep your name around in case they want to use or control you. Initials are connected with something more inscrutable, unusable. Like a library catalog call number: unimportant in itself, but also powerful. I didn't want to disrespect my family, so I simply shortened my legal name, deleting my middle initial, to keep it simple. I also like the play on words of "initials" as "beginnings." Initials are still new and untouchable even if you print them over and over, the name is protected in a strange way. More noticeable and less noticeable at the same time.
Wait, you shortened your name so you won't disrespect your family? What're you doing that's so disrespectful?
Nothing, I just mean I didn't change my name to "Puke Miserable," like use another name entirely, delete the family. That's all I mean. My family likes me and backs me up.
Oh, OK. That thing you did in the new Kramers Ergot is real heavy on the Crowley theory. The Sub-Men look a lot like Zoroastrian symbols. The cover of Powr Mastrs refers to‚Ä¶fuck, I forget‚Ä¶that occult book‚Ä¶it’s escaped my mind (help me out?). You talk about transmuting a hell of a lot. I notice references to a lot of sigils, the law of returns, blah blah blah. How much of your comics is actually magick?
All creativity is magic. Comics are a good medium to work in because they are disposable but very important. Stupid but sharp, everywhere and in one place. Moving and still. Art but worthless. Comics are magic, because they are escaping everything, very powerful.
Why do all your Powr Mastrs characters wear gloves?
Gloves communicate separation and protection for the hands, which are tools of work, but also intimate communicators. You wear gloves when you do a job that is very difficult or very fine. Construction workers wear gloves, and Jackie O wore gloves. It means you are occupied, you are dignified, and you won't quite be touching the person you shake hands with. The characters in my books are all engaged in spiritual pursuits of one kind or another, and gloves hermetically focus their energy for the difficult tasks.
The "male" characters in Powr Mastrs seem to get their power by communing with the darkness inside themelves. The females get theirs by communing with nature, shape-shifting in rainbows, giving life, etc. What are you trying to say?
There's no law of genders in my comic. There are trends, though. It is all happening naturally. Everyone is choosing their own way.
You personally look like the character Cool George Herc, from the neck up at least (dunno ’bout the neck down, but shit I hope not). What’s up with that? Any of your characters based on real people?
I don't look like him anymore, I shaved. And I drew him before I grew a beard for the first time so I was just as surprised as you. Many of my characters are like this, resemble people I know. There's nothing I can do about it, it's not intentional. I guess it's just that I'm seeing my friend's bodies, and my own face all the time. It can be a bit embarrassing sometimes… I don't want my friends to see themselves in something and read into it as if that's what I think of them. Many of my characters don't resemble anyone I know, thankfully.
Why’s it so hard to stalk you on the internet? Do you make an effort to stay away from technological forms of intelligence?
Hmm, I don't know. It's just always seemed unimportant to me. I don't feel so eager to be available to everyone, for everyone to find out all about me. At the same time obviously I want to communicate my ideas to people. The books I think are doing that, among other things. Why cloud it up? People seem to like the idea of me being a recluse but I think maybe I'm only doing what is natural to me. I might have a web site too someday—I don't have anything against it. In fact I am extremely interested in the internet. I think about it a lot. It seems to me if someone really wanted to get in touch with me it wouldn't be quite so hard.
I think you’re swell but you’re known in the noise world as kind of a prick. Why do you think that is?
That's a tough question: "Why do people think you're an asshole?" I don't know why. I guess that means I really am a jerk. It seems to me a lot of the time when people are mad it's because they think you don't respect them. Of course I don't respect everyone, why hide it, who cares what I think? I think people also misunderstand each other a lot, or are extra sensitive to one another. This is hard on tour, when you never have privacy. When people question you, you have to answer. It's like being in the police station. This is one of the worst things about tour. If you don't feel like talking to a stranger at that moment, they think you're an arrogant asshole. What's funny is mostly I like talking to new people, and sometimes I wonder if I've somehow scared everyone off…
Also if people know a lot about what you do, then they already sort of feel like they know you when you meet them. This is a really unfair position for to be in. It can be very easy in this moment to hurt the other person, especially if they have hung some hopes on it. If they're disappointed it's their responsibility, not mine. Still feels bad if they are though, generally speaking.
On the other hand, maybe people think I'm an asshole because I broke something or was rude or hit someone. It's not like I've never done those things. Sometimes I'm bad.
You actually started the thing that Paper Rodeo kind of took and turned into, right? How’d that happen? And it was called Paper Radio, yes? What happened to it?
Well, Ben Jones [of Paper Rad --ed] and I started Paper Radio, which was a weekly free Xeroxed drawing magazine we made in fucking Boston. I thought of the title, Ben and I were trying to, like, enjoy life a little more. Then our "friends" (more like "role models") in Rhode Island wanted to start doing a free comics newspaper. Originally it was going to have no name, but then they couldn't get advertisers for it because no one believed it existed, so they called me and said, "We're going to name our paper Paper Rodeo. You have two weeks to tell us not to." Of course I was happy to be connected to people I held in such high esteem, so there you go. I've since learned all those guys are assholes. They never talk to anyone when they're on tour with their super-cool bands.
Actually, I was being sarcastic about those guys.