Simon Hanselmann was once some annoying Australian comics bumpkin and an online nuisance, but now he's the best guy making alternative comics in addition to still being an online nuisance. You may recall his comic series Megg, Mogg and Owl from this website before he outgrew us and became a globetrotting international comics superstar. His work about mentally unstable, drug-addicted, chaos-finding creeps channel the comedic joke overload experience of watching The Simpsons better than The Simpsons comics ever did. His 12-paneled pages maintain a solid pace that results in an immersive comic experience that is impossible to avoid. A cartoonist douchebag I know wrote Simon off recently as some guy who just makes stoner animal comics, but that's like saying that the Beatles were just making stoner submarine songs when they wrote "Yellow Submarine."
Megg, Mogg and Owl is great as a funny comic. It's also great as a simple but beautiful thing to absorb visually, with its simplistic drawing style and gentle watercolours. And it's great at how it talks about LGBTQ issues in a way that is engaging and accessible, and how it also talks about mental health and addiction in alternatively humorous and horrific ways that people who have dealt with these things can relate to. Simon's third hardcover book from Fantagraphics is out now, and it's called One More Year. It completes the trilogy that also includes the earlier books, Megahex and Amsterdam. I wanted to check in with the guy who used to shit-talk me online who I now care so deeply for and ask him about his new book and projects so that I could learn these things and then you could learn about them, too. Here's this thing I just said it was.
VICE: Are other comics people starting to resent your success?
Simon Hanselmann: I fucking hope so. Thirteen languages. Multiple New York Times best-sellers (before they fucking scuttled it). Numerous Eisner, Ignatz, and Angouleme nominations. Upcoming gallery show at Galerie Martel in Paris (google it, nerds). Animation people all up in my fries (and I couldn't give a shit). I did all this from the bottom of the earth, high as fuck, sad as hell. Maybe any hypothetical bitter people should attempt making some funny and relatable work that caters outside of their small demographic? Worked for me!
Why's the new book called One More Year? You had Megg say that in her high school flashback and you had her say it again when she's dealing with Mogg's bullshit.
I couldn't think of a better title. Mostly it means, "Please put up with this old shit for one more year, and then you'll get your fucking Megg's Coven." Also it's just about change, trying to change. It's one more year until Werewolf Jones has his overdose. He don't change. Maybe Megg can?
This new book makes for a really nice little trio of hardcover books. How long do you see yourself releasing MMO books in this format?
I think I'm gonna change it up for Megg's Coven. Currently I'm envisioning a nice, big, Euro-style hardback series that will eventually be housed in a slipcase. I'm going to be aiming for like 120 pages a year. Probably like four or five volumes. It's exciting for me to be doing it this way, with forward momentum. It was a real dick move of me to put out Megahex and say, "Continued in Megg's Coven," and then put out two odds-and-ends collections afterwards. I fucked up. I am the George R.R. Martin of comics.
Is Megg eager to separate from Mogg?
Perhaps. I wouldn't say eager, but it's not all lollipops and sunshine between them. She clearly desires something more. They'll be apart for a lot of Megg's Coven, so she'll have a chance to figure out how she feels about everything.
Do you see yourself continuing with these characters like Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez do with theirs, having them age in real time? Are we going to eventually be witnessing the exploits of Jaxon and Diesel grown up?
Totally. I've been saying for years that I want to Love and Rockets this shit. Megg and Mogg is the new Doonesbury. I actually just finished a new zine where we get a glimpse at a 19-year-old Jaxon. I've thought about what happens to the boys after Werewolf Jones's death quite a lot. They'll definitely be around.
How much of the new book appeared on the VICE site?
I think roughly a quarter. In addition to last year's VICE run, there's the stuff from an out-of-print book called Life Zone and a colored version of my 2015 book, Worst Behavior. After the publisher, Alvin Buenaventura, of Worst Behavior died, I was told that the large chunk of remaining copies would most likely be pulped, so I figured I'd color it, in a depressing memorial way, and include it in this book. Unfortunately, his parents actually went on to sell them all over town and flooded the market. (If you guys are reading this, I WANT MY FUCKING ROYALTIES. That was Alvin and I's book, not yours.) There's also 52 pages of new stuff I made for the book. It has my finest dick joke yet.
Are you ever coming back to VICE? I miss your weekly comics.
Probably not. My next big thing I'm working on is Megg's Coven, which will be a series of new original books with material that won't have appeared anywhere else. I don't want to serialise this shit. I want to work on it with no time constraints, no weekly pressures. I pretty much just came back to VICE last year because Alvin owed me ten grand when he killed himself. I really liked some of the longer stories I did for VICE last year, but some of the shorter ones were weak. I gotta push this whole thing forward. But yeah, I wish I could keep doing VICE, it's a good venue for cartoonists. I don't think you get enough credit for what you do there, Nick. You brought us Anna Haifisch, Lauren Monger, and Anya Davidson, weird Euro shit, weird Australian shit. I've seen people shit-talking VICE comics, and I think that's bullshit. It's not overly dude-heavy, and it's great exposure for us. I remember thinking you were a dickhead like five years ago, and I regret that very much.
You weren't wrong about me being a dickhead. Everybody's a dickhead sometimes. I'm sure you're a dickhead in certain circumstances, and nobody goes into comics because they have good personalities. Nobody doing anything of any value is questioning whether or not they're a dickhead.
I enjoy hanging out with crazy, unstable, questionable assholes. I really liked what Rich Smith wrote about Megg and Mogg last year: "Hanselmann's abrasive way of opening up channels of empathy seems just as valid as those who want to control and reduce various forms of oppression by creating safe spaces and taking care not to offend people. Art that reveals addicts, murderers, and the severely mentally ill as human beings offers others a way to figure out how much and what to trust in those kinds of people, which is valuable work in a society that seems to prefer incarceration to rehabilitation."
Would you like to mention how important Alvin Buenaventura is to comics, or are you done memorialising him? I thought he was a really smart/cool guy.
I memorialise him every day. I miss him so much. I don't even know if I really believe the suicide thing. He'd hired an office space for Pigeon Press two days before he died. He LOVED his drugs, so it might have just been an overdose. I don't fucking know, I wasn't there in his house when it happened. But yeah, he put out so many beautiful books and really gave a shit about this stuff and us oddball cartoonists. A lot of people warned me about working with him, but he was always so generous—he did so much for me, made me so much money, became a true friend that I could talk to about anything. The only way he fucked me over was by fucking dying. He broke my heart.
When's your animated TV show happening?
I don't fucking know. I turned down a series a few times. Might do a one-off special—me and HTMLflowers have written something for somebody. I'm real lazy with it, though. I just like making comics, and I can pay my rent off of it. With the new book out, I've been getting another wave of talent agencies and producers hitting me up. But yeah, I'm wary. I'm not selling out easy. I don't want to become Alex Schubert, ha ha ha. I just want to make better comics. I want Megg's Coven to be, like, fucking unimpeachably awesome. I like working alone and having full control.
You and Alex Schubert sure razz each other a lot online.
I assume it's fake. It is, isn't it? It's certainly fake on my end. I think Alex is great. I miss his comics. I don't blame him for becoming a TV healthcare cunt, though. Comics is a fucking racket. But yeah, Truth Zone is fucking dicy. I play around with some really loaded shit in that last TZ book and insult a lot of people. I really need to stop doing it, but I can't help myself. The comics internet is going crazy right now, and I can't help but try to turn that into zine form. I love that lots of Russian teenagers are buying these things, and it must make, like, fucking zero sense. It's so inside baseball.
"Maybe any hypothetical bitter people should attempt making some funny and relatable work that caters outside of their small demographic?"
What's with the erotic anime statue collection?
I was traveling to a lot of mainstream cons, and I bought one, and then I got addicted. I haven't bought one for a while, though. Hopefully it was a passing fancy. I have to hide them when my wife's dad visits. Charles Burns came over once to see my studio, and I felt somewhat embarrassed by them.
Watch VICE art editor Nick Gazin tell you the objectively best ten comic books of all time:
Are you turned on by them, or do you just find them aesthetically pleasing?
I find them both aesthetically pleasing and erotic. I enjoy erotic art.
How about making some sexy anime body pillows with Megg on one side and Owl on the other?
That is a fabulous idea. I should do that. Everybody likes pillows.
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One More Year by Simon Hanselmann is available in bookstores and online from Fantagraphics.