CHICKENHEAD PAST: JIM MAHFOOD
interview by debbie

DURING OUR FIRST YEAR, FROM SEPTEMBER 1999 TO AUGUST 2000, WE WERE KNOWN UNDER THE MONIKER CHICKENHEAD. DURING THAT FIRST YEAR, WE INTERVIEWED A LOT OF PEOPLE. NOT ALL OF THEM WERE GREAT INTERVIEWS. YOU CAN TELL THAT WE WERE JUST STARTING TO FIGURE OUT OUR STYLE. BUT WE'VE PICKED TWELVE INTERVIEWS OUT FROM THAT FIRST YEAR THAT EPITOMIZED WHAT WE WERE TRYING TO DO. DURING JUNE, JULY, AND AUGUST WE WILL BE PLACING THESE OLD INTERVIEWS ONLINE FOR YOUR READING PLEASURE. THERE WILL BE FOUR NEW INTERVIEWS EACH MONTH. ENJOY THIS BLAST FROM TASTES LIKE CHICKEN'S PAST!

INTERVIEW: JIM MAHFOOD

ORIGINAL PRINT DATE: FEBRUARY 2000


THINK COMIC BOOKS ARE FOR KIDS? THINK THEY'RE NOTHING MORE THAN TESTOSTERONE-FUELED WET DREAMS, STARRING HIGH-FLYING, LEOTARD-WEARING, SUPER-POWERED MUSCLE HEADS? THINK AGAIN. GRRL SCOUTS CREATOR AND PEN-WIELDING BADASS JIM MAHFOOD BRINGS YOUTH POWER, UNDERGROUND CULTURE, AND GRAFFITI-HEAVY GRAPHICS TO A MEDIUM FOOLISHLY MISUNDERSTOOD IN THESE UNITED STATES. CHICKENHEAD'S DEADLINE-IGNORANT DEBBIE TRANSCRIBES THE COMIC SUPERSTAR'S THOUGHTS FOR PRINT.

Debbie: How did you get involved in this crazy world of illustration?

Jim: I've been drawing since I was a little kid. Cartoons, comics, and all that stuff were always a part of my life; ever since I was little. I was immediately attracted to all that kind of stuff. In high school, I started getting freelance work in St. Louis, doing inking and background work for local comic book publishers-- just guys that were putting out black and white, crappy comics. Stuff that nobody saw. I really started to pursue it seriously, and I wound up getting a scholarship to the Kansas City Art Institute. I left home at 18, went to the Art Institute, and that's where I really started to develop my skills, and see the world of comics in a different light. That's when I really got into all the independent, underground, black and white shit. Before that, I was pretty much a superhero guy. I discovered Crumb and Love and Rockets in high school. Then I decided to kinda pursue that route. I wound up hooking up with a couple of guys in art school that really became mentors to me. We were all self-publishing our own comics-- printing them out of the school on an offset press. I really learned how to do it all-- design, printing, writing, drawing-- and being able to put out my own product and say, "This is all me. I did this whole thing, and this represents where I'm coming from and what I'm about." It just kinda went from there. The self-published comics are the things that got me the attention from some of the big boys, so I finally landed some bigger gigs. I think they were impressed that I took the initiative to do it myself.

D: There are a ton of musical references in your work that range from jazz and hip-hop to punk and reggae. How did you develop such a varied taste in music?

J: I've really been into music, too, since I was a little kid. I was raised in a house where music was a pretty big thing. My mom is huge into music, so she really introduced me to a lot of the jazz and funk guys like Coltrane, James Brown, and Curtis Mayfield. Then, growing up as a teenager, I went through different phases of hip-hop, punk, and ska. Then, when I got to art school, I met all these amazing people from all these different backgrounds-- we were just exchanging albums and CDs. I think if you're open-minded and have good taste, you'll seek out good music. There's a lot of good shit out there. You've just gotta weed through all the crap.

D: What do you think the comic industry is doing right, and what do you think it is doing wrong?

J: I think the biggest problem with comics is it's just become a self-sustaining industry. We're not seeking outside readers anymore. It seems that the outside world doesn't care about our industry either, and that frustrates the shit outta me. When I go to shows-- people get weirded out when I say this on panels-- but for me, I'm trying to get fans and people from everywhere but the comic industry. I'm trying to reach out and go, "Hey. You're a 21-year-old college student. Why don't you check out this comic. It's not superheros. It's these three chicks who have to do what they gotta do to get by. One of them writes graffiti. They talk shit and do stuff that 21-year-old American kids do." I want to grab people who have never even read a comic before in their life. If I can turn them on to this weird black and white stuff that Oni Press, Fantagraphics, or Slave Labor Graphics is printing, and let them know that there's some really exciting stuff going on in comics, through the art form, hopefully we can convert some new people. The other problem I have with comics is it seems like a lot of people that buy comics and support them are just the old school fanboys that are still determined to buy the six Batman titles every month. That's fine, but, in a way, I wish some of them would grow up and check out some of the new, exciting, and innovative shit. There's so much other stuff out there besides superheros. Superheros are cool, and they work-- sometimes. I just get frustrated when people aren't that open-minded when it comes to their taste in comics. I just feel like we have a lot of work to do to educate the general public in what's going on in this art form. A lot of artists get negative and say, "We're working in a dying industry. Comics are a dead art form." I'm like, "Yo! Don't say that, man! We've got the ability to get out of this bullshit. It's just a matter of letting people know." How do you let them know? Well, you do an interview with Chickenhead. You let people know that you're a comic book artist, and you're putting out new stuff. Man, I never decline an interview, because we need as much help as we can get. I'm not trying to sound like a media whore, but any time I can plug comics, black and white comics, and the art form in general, I'm gonna do it.

D: Tell us about your work, outside of comics.

J: I do a lot of flyer work in Arizona. There's a huge rave and dance music scene out here, which is pretty cool for me because these rave kids have a shitload of money to throw parties. They can afford to pay me pretty well just for images for flyers. I also do a monthly comic strip for a magazine out here called Java. It's a free, monthly, black and white, magazine-styled paper. I do something called Stupid Comics for that. I also do these weird, fucked-up porno comics for this porno mag out here in Arizona called Playtime. These guys approached me and they pay me phat. They let me do two pages a month in the magazine, and I get to write and draw what I want. It's not just silly sex comics. It's naked girls and shit, mixed in with political jokes and social commentary. It's not just cheesy comics of people getting each other off. I don't think I could do that. It is a fun opportunity to draw naked girls and do some silly shit. Whenever I get a chance, I perform live with the Bombshelter DJs. They're a DJ crew out here in Arizona. It's three guys on six turntables. I'll be making art in the background, doing murals graffiti-style while they're spinning their records at different clubs around town. It's a whole different way of making art. You're actually doing it with an audience watching you. Plus, I'm passionate about the music. That just adds to it.

D: Name five albums in your music collection that you couldn't live without.

J: The Superfly soundtrack by Curtis Mayfield; Run DMC's Raising Hell; the Ramones' The Anthology; my Coltrane boxed set; Fishbone's Truth and Soul.

D: On Scooby Doo, who do you think was hotter: Velma, Daphne, or Fred?

J: Daphne was definitely one of the hottest. Actually, one of the reasons for Daphne in Grrl Scouts was Daphne from Scooby Doo.

D: Holy shit!

J: I kinda had a secret crush on her as a kid. Velma was just too weird for me. I always knew she was a lesbian or something. Who's your favorite?

D: Daphne was definitely the hot one. I felt sorry for Velma; she wanted Daphne, but Fred had her.

J: No shit!

D: She should've just gone and hung out in the Mystery Machine with Scooby and Shaggy.

J: Yeah,.. and gotten high! Dude, Fred was just such a square. I could never get into him. He was just too clean.

D: He wasn't clean. I bet he was a cross-dressing S&M freak.

J: Yeah. I bet Fred got beat as a child by his parents, don't you think? He's got all this suppressed rage and shit.

D: What did you want to be, besides an artist, when you were a kid?

J: Definitely a musician. A rock star. Honestly, that's still how I feel. I'm obsessed and fascinated by music. It's a really important part of my life. Anybody that can play an instrument or express themselves in that way-- I'm totally blown away by that.

D: Okay, last question. Are you down with O.P.P.?

J: Yeah. I'm definitely down with O.P.P.

VISIT JIM HERE.

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