Brandon Graham is a Comic Book Genius But A Retard In Other Respects
Like many of the best working cartoonists, Brandon Graham was/is part of the Meathaus group. We've run a lot of comics and interviews with Meathausers: Farel Dalrymple, Angry Jim, Tom Herpich, Chris McD. Brandon dropped out of school at a young age and taught himself how to do slick drawings using sharpies and cheap printer paper. Well, enjoy this conversation we had about how went from massive failure to massive success.
Vice: You draw some of the roundest butts in comics. When did you first start loving butts and why are so many cartoonists ass-obsessed? You, Crumb, Clowes...
Brandon Graham: I imagine with cartoonists it might be part of being anti-social and fetishizing aspects of women to avoid real intimacy. But it's important to know what lines you'll be on when the tit-men and ass-men of the world go to war. I hear I've been falling off since the porn comics are out of my system.
You used to draw some pretty rad porn comics. Tell me about your porn comics.
I lived off of those for a couple years. It was a weird life, I got really desensitized to porn. I remember being on the subway looking though an issue of Buttman magazine and being glared at by an old lady and not realizing why until hours later. Another time it was Christmas Eve and I was staying in my pal Filthy Rich's place up in the Bronx with a porn comic deadline. Rich was in the other room having loud sex and I was listening to the Lord of the Rings audio book. Every time I'd hear a groan I would turn the tape up a notch.I remember putting my head on the desk and thinking, "This is the lowest moment of my life."
But there was some fun times too. I got to draw whatever I wanted (as long as there was sex in it) and pay my rent off it. I did one called Perverts of the Unknown, about a team of scientists going on an expedition to the Arctic with a world-famous pervert and a porn star to investigate an ancient Cthulu-style sex castle. I also did one called Pillow Fight that was an arty jaunt into an all-girls school. It's horrible stuff full of dildo puns. And I did a bunch of shorter comics. One of them was about a Russian girl in the future who sews a wolf's dick onto her boyfriend for his birthday, but I managed to turn it into a longer non-porn comic that I've been working on called Multiple Warheads.
I remember Filthy Rich when he bartended at Siberia. That place was a fucking pit. What's Rich up to now?
Yeah, I worked the door at Siberia. It was a pretty awful place. Rich lives in Hell's kitchen with a fancy design job and a genius scientist girlfriend. Last time I talked to him he was planning a trip to Easter Island. A far cry from his days of being a bartender and getting handjobs from a girl with missing fingers. He was telling me about how his lady goes out on these trips into the deep ocean and they lower things underwater to test the effects of deep sea pressure on them. If you do that with anything styrofoam it shrinks it perfectly, because of the equal pressure on all sides. So he made these styrofoam zombie heads that are now tiny but with all the details intact. As for me, I moved from NYC to Seattle and then to Canada. I got cancer, had a testacle removed, and got a dumb elephant tattoo on my neck. Met my misses and drew a lot of comics. It's been a busy time.
You and your brother forewent art school and to make comics using sharpies and other cheap pens while somehow producing super slick work. Tell me about that.
I avoided all school past my first year of high school. My brother did go to school to learn printmaking. I feel like especially with doing comics, there's not a lot of money in doing your own work, so it seems like a rough way to start by getting yourself into debt. All the information is out there to learn without paying for it.
You're another awesome Meathaus member. I think I am honorary Meathaus since I was in Go For The Gold 2. What does Meathaus mean to you?
I love Meathaus, being able to become friends with some amazing artists. Guys like Chris McD, Farel Darymple, Tomer Hanuka, and Tom Herpich. I've learned so much from the guys and ladies in Meathaus. Tomer taught me my first steps in photoshop. Becky Cloonan got me gigs to get out of porn comics. I think community is a big part of comics for me--not just the lame industry but making your own community with like minded dudes.
It seems like you're pretty famous in the comics world. Are you making a living at comics?
I don't have a real job, but I can't live off of just the comics yet. I do a lot of side work. It's a weird hustle buying the time to work on what's important.
INTERVIEW BY NICHOLAS GAZIN