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Interviews and Articles | MASQUERADE interview 1997 - questions by Marti Hohmann

What stylistic and thematic differences do you see between CATHEXIS and that of later work like HYDROPHIDIAN and the SPIDER GARDEN?

When I look at stories like "Red Time Overload", "Stunner", and "Haze" now, they seem very immediate to me. At the time I drew them, I was emerging from a phase in my life when everyone around me seemed to be dying, sometimes violently. I became very concerned with trying to capture my feelings and experiences in the moment in my artwork. Most of the stories in CATHEXIS are an intentionally distorted mirror of my life at the time - living in industrial areas of the inner city, going to see bands, taking drugs, experimenting sexually. They helped me create a sense of self-preservation and, at the same time forced me to work fast and dirty and not worry about making mistakes.

THE SPIDER GARDEN and HYDROPHIDIAN grew out of aneed to create something bigger and more complicated once I had grown more confident as an artist. B+D / fetish imagery was still very attractive to me, but I wanted to take it out of a more conventional setting (such as "Circe's House", for example) and create an entire world with a society based on erotic interaction.

As a genre, what does science fiction enable writers and artists to do that others do not?

For me personally, it opens up a landscape of my stories to greater possibilities. SF implies a setting in which technology functions at a different level than our current one, often more advanced. By establishing another world with it's own culture and technology, some of my more baroque and abstract ideas (giant metal spiders, functioning hermaphrodites, latex mermaids, non-human beings such the Tengu) seem more believable and less absurd. At that point, I can create my own rules while commenting on the "real" world.

Your work is remarkable both in its fluidity of movement and its gender bending. Is there a connection between the two?

Yes, definitely. I'm always trying to achieve the perfect of form and motion on paper; that point where the flow of the line totally seduces the eye. In the same way, when I deal with gender-bending, I tend to streamline the body - to create a more graceful, androgynous look that combines the elements of male and female sexuality that I find most erotic. I see my transformed characters as complete beings. Sleek, elegant, and desirable. They're not freaks. If they inspire pity, I want it to be through empathy. In my world, they're in their element. Shaalis is Mastress of the Spider Garden because s/he is a hermaphrodite. Hir sexuality is fluid and plural by nature and makes Hir at one with Hir environment.

Some would identify you as an important contributor to the renaissance in contemporary erotic graphic novels. How do you account for this renaissance and how might you describe its long-term effects?

Based on the quality of the work being published, I cannot account for it. To me, a renaissance implies an aesthetic and intellectual step forward and most of the erotic comix I see embrace the same dumb cliches as mainstream porn without adding anything new or interesting.

There are more erotic comix available now than ever before, especially with all the Japanese and European work being reprinted here, but I think this has more to do with the graphic novel becoming a more marketable format in the US rather than there being a wealth of good material. People will always be interested in erotica and they'll buy whatever is out there, regardless of the quality. There just happens to be a glut of product right now.

What is the relation / function of narrative to illustration in the graphic novel? You seem to rely on narrative less often than some of your peers. Why?

Narrative is the second layer of meaning in what I see as being a primarily visually driven medium. Given the space, I prefer to have my characters' actions speak for them and build atmosphere with a look or gesture. Even an empty room can say a lot. The dialogue, the narrative, I treat as an embellishment, where I can work out the details of the larger story. I never want it to get too intrusive. Sometimes, as in "Circe's House" and "Haze" , I'll get directly inside the characters' heads and string together flashes of thought like telepathic background music. Sometimes, it gets more intricate. In the "Banquet of Silence" in THE SPIDER GARDEN, the narrative was meant to be an ironic counterpoint to the visuals: an android is telling an audience of human beings a cautionary tale about a princess who was raped by a male Tengu, while on stage, two women in Tengu drag are sodomizing a transformed male princess.

Which artists have been your major influences? How have they had an impact?

Early on, it was the Symbolists and the Pre-Raphaelites and their modern-day proponents such as P. Craig Russell and Barry Windsor Smith. They helped me to form some of my earliest ideas about theme and composition. Guido Crepax's erotic work taught me a lot about adapting film techniques such as cutting and montage to the comix page (he also left me with a major Louise Brooks fetish and an obsession with beautiful asses). Crepax, along with Matt Howarth and the Bros. Hernandez, really made me realize the power of black and white line work. Authors Fritz Lieber and Gene Wolfe...the band Chrome (whom I dedicated CATHEXIS to)...there are so many. A complete list would be ridiculously long.

Which story-line / character has proved most enjoyable to create? Why?

I'm sure you've figured out by now that it's the SPIDER GARDEN. Okami, Shaalis, Gion, Squamata, Verio - I love them all. Their world seems to present endless possibilities to me. I'm constantly learning new things about it and about them.

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