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vol 3 - issue 07 (mar 2001) :: untapped
interview by debbie


debbie: What were you doing right before I called?

Farel: I was playing on the web. I was going to a site called makeoutclub.com. Have you ever seen that?

d: Uh, no. Never.

F: Itís pretty cool. I guess itís like a personals place for all these indie and hardcore kids. Me and my friends go in there and look at all the young people and see what theyíre doing.

d: To see whatís up with the ďinĒ crowd?

F: Yeah. All the young girls.

d: (laughs) So, you just got back from the Alternative Press Expo in San Francisco. How was it?

F: It was pretty good. We didnít make a lot of money. We didnít have the sales that we had at the one in Maryland, but I got a lot of good feedback. A lot of people were interested in what I was doing. I had some people coming up and they really liked Pop Gun War. One girl actually thanked me for making it.

d: Were other comic cats from the industry coming up to you as well?

F: Yeah. Some of the guys from Oni Press came over to the table and talked to me. I went over to their table and met Jim Mahfood and Scott Morse and a couple of the other guys who seemed interested in what I was doing. I was kind of excited about it.

d: Are you going to be doing any more appearances on the small press convention circuit?

F: Yeah. Iím going to go to the S.P.A.C.E. Con in Ohio. I think Iím going to put a lot more effort into a booth, because the spot I had at the Alternative Press Expo (A.P.E.) wasnít very good. Some of the other publishers go all out. They get these big banners and make it look all cool. Iíd like to put more time and money into making a booth. Not that Iím going to see a return on my investment, necessarily. I just want people to come over and see what weíre doing.

d: You could skip the whole booth thing and just get someone with a bullhorn to yell about your comics at these conventions.

F: (laughs) I guess the idea is to attract people and not turn them away.

d: Was there a definite point when you realized that comics were what you wanted to do?

F: I guess it was always sort of a childhood fantasy. As a little kid I always wanted to draw superheros. I read a lot of comics, so that was what I thought I would do. But then, when I got older, I got away from that. I was thinking of becoming a fine artist. Then, about halfway through art school I realized, ďWait! I really want to draw comic books.Ē I guess there was a turning point during my junior and senior years in college.

d: While you were pursuing becoming a fine artist, were you still working on comics in your spare time?

F: Sort of. I mean, when I was a teenager I would make comics in a spiral notebook. Iíd just fill the whole thing with an action adventure story. I stopped doing that and would just draw in my sketchbook a lot.

d: What was the first comic you ever read?

F: I donít remember specifically the first comic I ever read. I had some friends that were into comics. I ended up just reading their stuff. The first comics I remember actually buying were these Christian comics by this company called Spire. They had Bible stories told in different times. They had an Adam and Eve story that was supposed to be in space. I remember reading those because I was a church kid. Later on, I really got into collecting comics when G.I. Joe came out.

d: Do you have any favorite characters from the old Joe comics?

F: Roadblock was my favorite for a while. I just thought he was so tough, because he could lift a 50-caliber machine gun. But he was a cook, too, so he had a sensitive side. He always got really cool lines. I wasnít as much of a fan of the cartoon. The way they portrayed him in the cartoon was a lot more stereotypical. He had to rhyme everything. In the comics he was cooler. They always have to dumb things down for television. Thatís really sad when you have to dumb things down from comic books.

d: I donít know. Friends is pretty intellectual.

F: Yeah. They all live in huge apartments in Manhattan and work at coffee shops. Iím like, ďHowís that done?Ē

d: Speaking of mass media crap, most of the entertainment in the world is 10% plot, 90% glitz, and people just eat it up. Does that ever piss you off?

F: Yeah. It really does, actually. Probably too much, though. I donít really watch television much at home, but when I was at the A.P.E. we had cable TV in the hotel room. I got really irritated by MTV. But for some reason, I couldnít stop watching it. It irritates me that people are willing to pay money and worship these people. It just seems completely retarded.

d: Most underground cartoonists agree that even though superhero comics have their place, theyíre kind of played out. Whatís your opinion of them?

F: I donít read them anymore. Theyíre not interesting to me. I think itís just a matter of taste. Not that my taste is better. I think thereís a small place in my heart for them as something that I liked as a kid. But the ones they have now arenít really interesting to me at all. It probably was always just as bad as it is now. Itís just that I got older.

d: Plus, even if you go back and read any comics from your childhood, youíre kind of jaded because those books were a part of you growing up.

F: Right. Youíre nostalgic about it. Thatís probably the reason I like half the movies I like. Itís just because I watched them as a little kid. I think thereís no one that can make teen movies as well as John Hughes did. Thatís just my opinion. Maybe some of the movies today are just as good as the ones that he did. But I wonít like them as much, obviously, because they donít speak to me the way John Hughes did when I was at that age.

d: What do you think of Kevin Smith movies then? I mean, he was basically trying to make the ultimate John Hughes film with Mallrats.

F: I think of Kevin Smith as a guilty pleasure. The movies that Iíve seen of his are very entertaining to me. Hopefully this doesnít get back to him, but I donít necessarily think theyíre great art. Mallrats is really fun. I think heís really good at dialogue. But, as far as me holding it in the same regard as Sixteen Candles or Pretty In Pink, probably not.

d: When we spoke before, you mentioned that film has been a big influence on you.

F: Yeah. I guess thatís where I draw most of my creative ideas from-- watching movies. Orson Welles and David Lynch have really had a profound impact on me as a creator. Iím going back and watching movies I should have watched when I was young. I watched a lot of movies growing up, but Iím trying to limit it more now to watching the right kinds of movies. Every once and a while Iíll throw in one of those guilty pleasures.

d: Do you think film is advancing in ways that comics arenít?

F: I think youíre asking the wrong person. I donít know. Comics are more limited in what you can do with them. Just the very nature of them is a completely visual thing. You can just do more with movies. Thatís why they have more of a mass appeal. Comics are sort of becoming a dying medium.

d: Do you think anything will happen to stop the ďcomic death syndrome?Ē

F: Well my opinion of it for the last couple years is that itís just going to become a niche market.

d: No!

F: (laughs) It might not get any worse than it is now, but I think itíll change. I donít know if the superhero thing will be doing as well as it is proportionately. As bad as the business is right now, thereís a lot of really good creators coming up. A lot of people are doing comics knowing that theyíre not going to make any money at it. Theyíre just doing it for the love of comics, and I think thatís really cool. I think it will always survive to some degree. Itís nice to have something that you can hold in your hand thatís been made and crafted. Theyíre saying that the Internet is taking a lot of comic readers away. But I donít think theyíre taking away the right kind of readers. It might be becoming a smaller business, but that might be a good thing.

d: Whatís your opinion of the underground comic community? Do you see it as a family or as a den full of competition?

F: Everyone seems to get along pretty well. Here in New York thereís a huge comic community. I know a few of them peripherally. I donít really hang out with most of them. But itís kind of cool. You go to a party and see all these guys hanging out together whose work youíve seen. It seems like everyoneís really into helping each other out, promoting each otherís stuff, and hanging out. I donít know if I would say itís a family.

d: There are some very linear aspects in Pop Gun War and your short stories. But thereís also a ton of abstraction going on. Where in you does that come from?

F: It might be from movies that Iíve watched or books that Iíve read. I think David Lynch is good at that. Most of it just comes out of the way I work with my method of creating a comic book story. I usually get ideas for characters or specific scenes and write them down in my sketchbook. Later, I try to piece them together to form a cohesive plot. Then I just start drawing a comic from there. I put the dialogue in as Iím going. Iím not the kind of guy that sits down and says, ďIím gonna write a story.Ē Iíve never been good at that.

d: Since you donít have an editor or publisher to please, youíve got the ultimate creative freedom.

F: Well, yeah. I never went forward with it and thought, ďHow can I make this marketable?Ē or, ďI wonder if publishers will like this.Ē Iím self-publishing, so fuck them. I can do whatever I want.

d: Hell yeah!

F: Even if people do or donít buy it, I never did it with the intention of making money. It was more something like, ďHey, everyone. Look what I did. This is me. I put my heart and soul into this.Ē But, as it turns out, Pop Gun War is pretty marketable anyway. Iím not against making money.

d: Even though you self-print your book, are you at all interested in getting it published through another comic label?

F: I donít think I would have a problem with that. That actually seems like a good idea, because self-publishing is about time and energy. Itís not just about drawing and writing. Itís about trying to promote it and sending copies out to people and trying to get distributed and going to conventions. If someone wants to take over the publishing reigns of Pop Gun War, thatíd be pretty cool.

d: That would be cool. But if it doesnít get picked up, youíll still keep going with it?

F: Yeah. I plan on doing at least five issues. Then Iím going to approach another publisher with the completed work and try to get a full color version of it done. Thatís my goal.

d: Youíve mentioned directors that have influenced you. What are your main influences as far as writing goes?

F: Well, I read The Brothers Karamazov several months ago, and that changed my life. Dostoyevsky is amazing. Melville was a big influence. Iím not all the way through Moby Dick yet, but I read one of his first books called Typee. Thatís actually where I got the name Pop Gun War from. Childrenís books are a big influence. The Chronicles of Narnia was a big influence. J.R.R. Tolkien stuff was a big influence. On the plane ride back from A.P.E., I finished Ethan Coenís book, The Gates Of Eden. He and his brother are another pair of my favorite filmmakers.

d: In your masterful opinion, do dogs have lips?

F: Yeah, I think they do actually. When I think of a dogís face, I see a little lighter skinned area where the fur stops, before you get to the gums and the teeth. That, to me, is a lip.

d: Good answer. Now on a more serious note, do you think O.J. will ever find the real killers?

F: I think youíre asking the wrong man. I was annoyed the whole time that thing was going on. I know this was kind of messed up, but I just really didnít care about any of it. I donít watch the news very much, and I donít know if thatís a good thing or a bad thing. I donít keep up on current events. To me it seems very much like he got away with something.

d: So whatís next for Meat Haus and Pop Gun War?

F: Well, issue two of Pop Gun War should have been done by now. But it should be ready to hit the stands sometime this summer. Issue four of Meat Haus is coming back from the printer this week, so weíll have it at the S.P.A.C.E. Con in Ohio. Issue five is going to be amazing. Weíre going to change the format a little bit. Itíll be the same size, only thicker. Weíre going to add a lot more stuff in there. Not just comics, but writing and artwork as well.

d: Cool. Last Question: What are you going to do when you get off the phone with me?

F: Iím probably going to try to figure out how much money I have left so I can pay my rent this month. Iím gonna clean up my area, try to get organized, and start work on inking Pop Gun War #2. Iím shooting for a page a day, so itíll maybe take three weeks to get it finished, and probably a few weeks after that to get it printed. I have to figure out how Iím going to get money to have it printed. No more grant money on this one.


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