At only 24 years old, cartoonist Noah Vansciver is well on his way to
making a name for himself in the comics world. Coming from a background
in painting before graduating to cartooning, Vansciver gained a wide
audience in Denver for his regular comic strip, Four Questions, in the weekly alternative paper, Westword.
The strip chronicles the Denver music scene through farcical interviews
with musicians, all drawn with Van Sciver's manic, but always appealing
style. But beyond Four Questions, the young up-and-comer self-publishes his own comic book, Blammo.
With three issues out, and forth hitting soon, the comics inside are both hilarious and tender,
combining gags about Denver's notoriously sketchy street, Colfax, with
empathetic stories of inner struggle. The fresh style of Blammo
has gained Vansciver both a devoted cult following and notice by some
of independent comics' biggest publications. His strips are featured in
both The Comics Journal and Mineshaft, alongside legends like
Robert Crumb and Jay Lynch. I spoke with Van Sciver just after being
accepted to Fantagraphics' prestigious anthology, MOME, about what's next for him and how to get revenge through comic strips.
Newsarama: What made you jump from painting to comics?
Noah Vansciver: My older brother, Ethan [Vansciver, DC Green Lantern: Rebirth, Flash Rebirth
artist]. He was a comic artist already and he kinda convinced me that I
could make more money drawing comics than I could painting pictures.
And I have, but only by a little bit.
NRAMA: Your brother draws super hero comics. Why did you gravitate towards independent comics?
NVS: Because there's no way that I possibly could have drawn
super hero comics as well as he could, and I didn't want to be compared
to him that much. They're also more interesting than super hero comics,
but super hero comics actually pay money. I was more interested in
cartoons anyway than super heroes. I would have ended up killing myself
if I was drawing super hero comics.
NRAMA: Do you think that having such a successful brother helps you or hurts you?
Maybe a little of both. It helps me because people recognize the name,
definitely, but it hurts me because people recognize the name [Laughs.]
It's hard for me to start up at ground zero and draw the things that I
want to draw because people expect superheroes to come with that last
name. And it doesn't.
NRAMA: What was the first underground comic you ever read?
NVS: Probably The Complete Crumb #6.
NRAMA: What inspired you to buy it?
NVS: Harvey Pekar's American Splendor book that came out
right after the movie. It had some Robert Crumb stories in there and
something about his style I connected to. I really liked it a lot. It
made me go and seek out some of his other books.
NRAMA: Robert Crumb was kind of associated with the hippie
movement even though he didn't really fit into it. Do you think you'll
be associated with any specific trend or movement in the future?
NVS: I hope not. Just comics. I want to be associated with the movement of good comics.
NRAMA: How do you see the recession affecting the comics scene?
NVS: It'll affect the book industry, and probably affect overall
comics, but hopefully people will gravitate towards it because it's
cheaper entertainment. We'll see. It depends, because some people just
don't want to read.
NRAMA: What would you say to those people?
NVS: [Laughs.] Reading is fundamental.
NRAMA: Aside from cartooning, what else do you do?
NVS: I work very part time at a bakery. It's a real early in the
morning kinda job, and I'm up before most people in America. I think
it's important to have another job away from my desk. It helps keep my
sanity. Plus, i get a lot of inspiration from the hatred that forms in
my head from working a job like that.
NRAMA: Do your coworkers know about your other life?
NVS: Not really. They've seen my comics in the local papers but
I don't think that they really think much about it. It just passes
through their heads so easily. One time a friend of mine came into my
work wearing a Noah Van Sciver t-shirt that he had made and that kinda
freaked everybody out. It was nice of him.
NRAMA: Have you ever drawn comics about your job and included any of these real people? Has it gotten you into trouble?
NVS: Yeah. I enjoy my revenge. I sometimes have to work with
people who are just tough guy jerks. They pick on me, and because of my
wimpy stature I take it. Until I get home and can draw them out in my
comics. I can do whatever I want! I'm guilty of doing that passive
aggressive kind of stuff. One time I drew a story about this guy Vance
that I worked with and I published it in a mini comic. Then MaximumRockNRoll magazine reviewed it and said it was nothing special, so, I guess taking out anger on people in comic form is nothing new.
NRAMA: A lot of your comic are angry or self deprecating. Are those the emotions that inspire you the most?
NVS: I just have low self esteem, so when I draw comics about myself that's just kind of how it comes out.
NRAMA: Do you think that people who are well adjusted can be cartoonists?
No. They can, but they'll be boring cartoonists. Nobody wants to read
about anybody who's well adjusted because barely anybody is
well-adjusted now, and they can't relate to that.
NRAMA: You're very prolific and put out a lot of art consistently. Where does your drive come from?
NVS: It's just wanting to be recognized and wanting to feel like
I'm not invisible. Every time I see my name in print somewhere it's a
reassurance that I actually do exist. I feel like I'm not really a part
of the population. I never did. I don't know why, though.
NRAMA: I heard that you were just accepted into MOME. What's your next goal?
NVS: Just to have them keep publishing my stories. I'd like to
find some more anthologies similar to that to get published in. And
just to eventually go to a comic book convention and have people there
recognize me. That's what I want.
NRAMA: What would be your dream life?
NVS: To sit at home and draw comics, and go out and read books
in bookstores, and then come home and draw comics. And to have it
continually be fun to draw.
NRAMA: What would you want written in your obituary?
NVS: Just that I was a great artist. I was their favorite
cartoonist. It could say "Noah Van Sciver was a favorite cartoonist.
One of the greats."
To see more Noah Van Sciver, visit his website, www.noahvansciver.com, as well as his video interview on jobing.com.