Miriam and I have been working together on Disgraced Comics’ THE ADVENTURES OF MAX QUARTERHORSE and I couldn’t have asked for a better fit at the image crank for a title so bizarre. During Miriam's tenure with MAX, she's gone from New York City to Halifax, Nova Scotia and more of her work can be seen as part of the illustrating collective, Tapir Tooth.
To celebrate the completion (!!!) of our first issue, Miriam and I sat down (in front of our computers ... that's how we roll) and had a little chat.
What follows is what we decided to chat about: The Incredible Hulk, pot-bellied pigs, ghosts and much more.
Robert: I grew up reading superheroes. That’s my comic pedigree. How about you? What stuff did you read early on...?
Miriam: To go way, way, way back I started with children's books and just kind of never quit. I love picture books, especially the sinister ones, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, any kind of ghost stories, illustrators like Maurice Sendak who are at the same time captivating and creepy
In middle school, I became aware of X-men and it was all over. And when Manga started becoming big in the states, I gobbled up that too.
R: Let’s say Marvel calls tomorrow and offers you an opportunity to draw The Hulk. What do you say? I'm sorry ... Disney calls about The Hulk now, right?
M: Of course, I'd say yes. But I would be immediately fired because it would just end up looking like my version of the Hulk, which I think would be amazing. I like a solid 2 dimensional image and I think Marvel expects a liberal effort on the artist's part to give the Hulk adequate detail. This rule has been broken though.
Oh, and I suppose he would have to have Mickey Ears now, too
R: I also think your version of the Hulk would be amazing. I'm trying to picture it. Help me...
M: Well, his head would be bigger, his body skinnier, and exude an air on nonchalance, and have a past even more tragic than the one he has now. Apparently, he would just be Max Quarterhorse. Also there would be ghosts.
R: Ghosts of anyone in particular?
M: Good question. All of the X-Men maybe? Or, maybe, ghosts of the Marvel imprints that never made it.
R: You talked about your "version of the Hulk." You have an obvious style to your drawing. How do you characterize it? If you had to, you know, pitch your aesthetic...
M: It's kind of a weird combination of manga, children's illustration, and a little Japanese line work. As far as "fine art" is concerned I am very much influenced by Japanese art, and its offspring, art Noveau. I'm a sucker for great linework and composition. I like to have a style that can be dark and brooding for adults, and at the same time can be suited to a younger audience.
I also love to spend embarrassing amounts of time on character design.
R: A lot of people have mentioned how well suited your style is to the Max Quarterhorse world. How much did you tailor what you do to fit the story you were given ... our conversations ... the preceding play ... and how much did we just get really lucky we ended up as collaborators on this?
M: Well, I don't usually go around with Noir aesthetic in mind. There was a lot to think about on that end as far as making the play into a comic. Trying to think of what you can do in the medium of comics that you can't do in a play. [In comics you can have] as many sets as you want! The back and forth as far as creating the characters was an interesting process. In a play you can only go so far with how a character looks and how they are received. In a comic there might be too many choices, you have to narrow the choice down to match the concept of what both the writer and the artist have in their heads. Luckily, you had a surreal Noir, and I love drawing crazy stuff.
R: Let's play a quick illustrator game.
M: Nothing’s quick in illustration.
R: I give you an animal and you tell me what occupation the anthropomorphized version of that animal would have.
M: Go for it
R: Pot-bellied pig
M: Shoe salesman, because he would forever having to be bending down to fit shoes on people and his rotund belly would make that difficult. Also, he has hooves, not feet.
M: Construction worker. But only building giant statues, then resting on them.
M: For some reason, I want to say priest? Not because I don’t like priests. Just the first thing that popped into my head. Also, he could do the cross thing with all his arms
R: A pot-bellied pig, a pigeon and a roach-priest try to save something from something else...
Ladies and gentlemen, our next series.
M: It needs ghosts.
R: I think that can be arranged. Are you reading anything good right now. Comic? Illustrated whatever? Anything we should be checking out, but probably aren’t?
M: There is a comic I'm looking forward to reading, Sweet Tooth by Jeff Lemire, About a weird boy with antlers who lives in the woods.
R: I was having a conversation the other day and decided that I really want to write a good superhero comic at some point. What is it for you? What type of thing do you aim for?
M: I always like reading about superheroes from the inside, of which Watchmen is a great example. We always know what they're thinking and how hey find fault with themselves. Though I do like to focus on one person, instead of an ensemble cast. I am also a fan of the regular/downtrodden Joe becoming a hero. I would also like to see a girl become a low-key superhero with amazing powers, etc, but keeping a low profile. Very cool costumes, for costumes sake, [but] also something a normal person would be comfortable wearing. And maybe an external superhero type identifier that must be hidden from the rest of the world … dark past, ghosts, etc.
You can see I've put a lot of thought into this … [I’ve been thinking about this] since I was 5.