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Interviews and Articles | DARK CHAOS Interview - Summer 1990 - questions by Ed Stastny

DC: Let's hop right into it, shall we?

MM: .......

Okay, how many hours a day do you draw?

It varies. Sometimes from the moment I get up to the moment I go to bed (18 hrs...?). Sometimes not at all.

How did you get into animation?

I watched a lot when I was a kid. Specifically the Japanese shows - Kimba the White Lion, Astro Boy, Gigantor, Speed Racer. They were great - really inspiring. The animation wasn't always the best but the look of it, the graphics, the editing ... stuff that I was aware of only on a subliminal level ... It set them apart visually from the other cartoon shit. The stories were very weird too: emotional tension, violence, characters dying. I remember one episode of Astro Boy with this vampire erupting out of the ground with lightning flashes and thunder ... I think I was five or six years old at the time ... it was very eerie ....

Then during the 1970's, there wasn't as much Japanese animation on tv. I started reading comix, getting into different graphic artists and painters. For a long time, I wanted to be a writer - write novels and do illustrations for them, cover paintings. I didn't start getting obsessed with with actually doing film/animation until I got into high school. It seemed to encompass everything I was interested in plus stuff that I had no concept of. Nobody could answer any of my questions about it. I had to start from zero.

When I got to the Museum School, I fell in with a group of artists/animators who were all crazy. We all worked on each others films and soundtracks at school. Later on, we moved into a basement loft space which we named the Hole on account of the lack of light and generally disgusting condition we found it in. Every year, we'd have a Valentine's Day art show with films, animation, bands, and paintings. Finally, the last original Hole-dweller, David Stoff, gave up the lease on the space. There's still some guys down there - mostly musicians now. I hear it's a lot cleaner. No more junk, rats, etc. People still call it the Hole though ...

What films have you done?

I made a lot of short 16mm films while I was at the Museum School. "City Limits", "Up + Back", "Table Top Action". Most were black and white. Some were weird and dark, others were just extended gags. The ones I thought worked best were combinations of live-action and animation. I created my own musical soundtracks on a Roland synthesizer.

That's what I'm into right now - live music with film and animation. My band the Mud Sirens did a show at the Kingston Gallery in Chinatown where we set up a triple projection system (16mm and Super 8). It was about 120 minutes animation, live action, and manipulated video footage ... all stuff that Lyn (our bass player) and I created or stole.

I also do commercial stuff to pay the rent. Shunsuke Yamaguchi (one of the original Hole dwellers) and I animated the opening sequence for Rock Blocks on MTV. That's about the only commercial thing I've done that I'm still happy with as a whole. I had a short film "Evolution" in the last Animation Celebration (do you get those in Nebraska?).

I find it too difficult to reconcile my commercial animation work with the rest of what I'm doing. The content is too silly, there's too much hype ...

What about your comix, specifically your minis? When did you get started?

My first self-publishing project Z/XERO was started in the beginning of of 1987. Three friends of mine, two of whom were animators, were getting restless between film projects, as was I. We wanted to do a group graphics thing so we all contributed work and I put it together. UKIYO X and my erotic card series grew out of the experience I gained working on Z/XERO.

Why do you go on?

I'm obsessed with my subject matter. Also, graphics can be a refuge from the animation process - i.e. a couple of months to produce a book as opposed to a year or more to do a film. The gratification is more immediate.

The eroticism is "Ukiyo X" is intense. Too intense for a lot of people who've seen my copy.

That doesn't surprise me.

They disregard it as "sicko-trash".

They must be really exciting people.

Do you get many reactions like this?

Most people I've gotten reactions from have been positive or at least interested in a respectful way. The couple of negative reactions I've gotten haven't been to my face and have have come from people who's personal lives make mine look sane and healthy by comparision.

Why do you do such eroticism?

As I said before, I am obsessed ... I am in love ... with sex, with communication (of which sex is a basic form), with images ... I know things and have seen things which I am driven to share.

And what about those hermaphroditic dudes?

I tend to think of the human race as being basically hermaphroditic, dude.

What about music? Does that influence your art much?

More than I can adequately communicate. I listen to music constantly when I work. Many of the images I created for Z/XERO were inspired by music I was listening to at the time. RED TIME OVERLOAD (my continuing strip) was inspired initially by Chrome's Chronicles double LP and Helios Creed and Damon Edge's solo stuff. There's no way I could listen to that shit without getting incredibly worked up. It had to come out in the form of something. The images I would get from it were way too intense to ignore.

I like to take aural concepts and try to plug them into visual imagery ... whether it's very literal or totally open-ended. For me, it's communicating on a much more intuitive level. Some people look at it and go "what the fuck?" and others go "hey - I've HEARD this". That's exciting!

Any other groups?

Ummm ... Mark Stewart + Mafia, The Fall, Spacemen 3, Wipers, Stooges, Loop, Pussy Galore ... Chrome ranks at the top, I guess. Helios Creed (Chrome's ex-guitarist/vocalist) is still producing amazing mind-fucking albums and doing great live shows ... for 14 years now. It boggles the mind. The guy just won't quit.

How have you progressed over the years? How much better are you than you were five years ago?

I'm five times as good.

Are you still improving?


What about drugs?

What have you got?

Ever had any run-ins with fundamentalist churchies?

Mainly my parents ... and they've gotten considerably more relaxed over the years.

Ever been paid for your art?


What's the most you've made on such things and do you feel justified/comfortable with charging people for your art?

The most I've made has been on my animation/graphics jobs which pay my rent, feed me, and help finance my personal projects. Since I'm lucky if I break even on these projects (which almost never happens), I have no qualms about charging people for my work.

Do you have any strong opinions on today's mainstream comix/animation?


What methods do you use to draw your comix? Do you plan them out on scratch paper first? Or do you write the dialog first?

If it's a page/section of a larger narrative, I normally do thumbnail drawings in a sketch book where I'll construct the panels and get the flow of the action worked out. Sometimes, in the case of some of my larger single images or illustrations, an idea will just spontaneously generate onto the finished board. For my comix pages, I use non-photo blue pencils for rough indications and do most of the drawing/detailing in the inking stage.

Dialog also varies depending on the project. Sometime everything is very thought out. Sometimes I only have a rough idea of what's being said and I'm just drawing the characters from different angles and then fitting the dialog into the flow of action. RED TIME OVERLOAD began as a series of images that I would add a stream of consciousness narrative to, interspersed with sequences of dialog in comix panels that I would throw in as a linking device to form a story. As the strip progressed, I began to deal with these long conversations between Gehenna (the central character) and just about everyone he'd meet. At that point, it became much less spontaneous. I had to treat it like I was doing a story board for a live-action film with shots and camera angles. There weren't any car chases or gun fights. It was mostly people talking.

Then there's something like the SWITCH/BORED strip in UKIYO X #1 which I did one panel after another from start to finish with no preconceived ideas except that one of the first panels would be two women kissing and that one of them would turn out to be a man.

What zines have you been published in?

News About Noise, Factsheet Five, Quimby Quarterly, Sleep Chamber, Counter Culture. Not very many. During the time that I was doing Z/XERO, UKIYO X, etc. I found it difficult to generate as much stuff as I wanted to for other people's projects and keep my own coming out at a satisfying rate. I'm really happy with most of the work that I did for the publications above. I had to think differently and someone else was handling the printing stage of the process which was something of a relief.

What zines/underground comix are your favorites?

I like John Bergin's work in BRAINDEAD and his solo stuff - TRUST/OBEY, HE'S UGLY AND HE DOESN'T HAVE ANY FRIENDS, SHADOW MAN. Lyn and I saw a display of his publications at the Brooklyn Small Press Convention last year. It was this monolithic wooden cross thing in the center of the gallery with his books nailed to it (John claims that he has no idea who set up that display). We were completely blown away and I'm somewhat ashamed to admit that we walked off with the only remaining copy of SHADOW MAN. John's images are so minimal, yet so totally powerful. He takes black and white comix and just pushes and pushes it to the limit. It's too much! He has a new book ASHES that Calibre's putting out. It's a good place to start with his work.

Matt Howarth's self-published work - COMIX OF TWO CITIES, ROCK HORROR, W.R.A.B., THIS IS HEAT -is all excellent. His Vortex (THOSE ANNOYING POST BROS.) and Fantagraphics (SAVAGE HENRY) books are great too. He's done more books than I can name. His stuff kills me. When I first saw his strip CHANGES in Heavy Metal in 1981, I hated it. By the final installment, I was convinced he was god.

Other underground artists I like: Spain, Robert Williams, Guido Crepax, Magnus, Victor Moscoso, Mark Bishop. I really used to like Richard Corben - like when I was 10 years old and found a copy of SKULL at a yard sale in New Hampshire. It freaked me out so much that my father took it away from me and burned it (after he read it, of course). Corben's strips had this crude versus polished thing that I found really fascinating and sexy. Lately though, he's been re-publishing his old strips and drawing underwear on the naked characters. It kind of makes me embarrassed to admit that I ever enjoyed his work in the first place.

How long do you spend on a mini?

Any where from three to six months. The subject matter of the artwork and the availability of a photocopier are big determining factors.

What are some recent projects that you've worked on/are working on?

Well - the MUD SIRENS is ongoing. I'm working on some new film/animation for that - getting ready to record, setting up a new gig. We did a couple of rehearsal sessions with a vocalist Amy and that seems to be working out. Bob, our auto-violinist/guitarist just found this huge old smoke machine at a place where he was doing demolition work, so we're going to give that the once over when he gets back.

I'm working on some t-shirt designs and a film for one of Helios Creed's tunes "Mystery Room". EXIT magazine will have a piece I did for issue #5 that's a sort of erotic Egyptian Book of the Dead/psychedelic/blow-out thing. That should be out by Halloween. I have a script that Matt Howarth sent me that I'm doing character designs for. I'm also putting together some strips for BONESAW, an anthology that's being edited by John Bergin and Jim O'Barr who created THE CROW. I'll also have some work in the next issue of FRIGHTEN THE HORSES a San Francisco sex-zine. And hopefully I'll get some publications of my own out if I can only get ahold of a pile of cash and an alternate personality with four arms.

Okay, any closing comments/anything I didn't mention?


Thanks a lot, Mike - Can't wait to see more of your comix and other stuff out and about!

You're welcome!

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