INTERVIEW: David Choe
Your one-stop shop for comics, blackmail, and Soft Serve. By Kevin Talbot.
If you haven't heard of David Choe yet, perhaps you'd best pull your head out of that dog-eared copy of FORCE WORKS #3 and pay attention. You can still be cooler than your friends if you read this first.
David Choe is one of comic's most exciting new voices. He has more street cred than Luke Cage. His graphic novel Slow Jams has blown the minds of damn near everyone that's read it, including some people in very interesting places.
Slow Jams is a bit of a rare find these days, as it's experienced the kind of demand most small press books would kill for. At it's heart, it's a classic tale. Boy meets girl. Boy fucks-up chances with girl. Boy narrates the world's greatest description of what men think about while masturbating ever. I mean ever. In any medium.
So join us now, as David Choe drops some science on our unworthy minds, gives us insight into his creative process, and gives us a glimpse of the future.
One of the reasons I found Slow Jams to be such a good read is the sense of truth found in the voice of your protagonist, Dixon Ticonderoga. How much of the voice is your own? What experiences from your own life most shaped Slow Jams?
I always get this question, and I always say half of Slow Jams is true to life. The other half is bullshit to move the story along. But I won't tell you which is which. But I'll say this much, you'd be surprised which half is true, and I'm sure Omar Shariff would too.
Your artistic background seems to owe more to small press zines than to traditional American comic books. How do you think that has influenced your work?
Well I love the immediacy of Xerox machines, as well as graffiti, and I been destroying public property and putting out shitty little zines for quite awhile now. And originally Slow Jams was a 20 page comic zine, with a color copy cover, sprayed with sample perfumes, and an original watercolor landscape painting in each one. I only had 200 hundred copies, and sold them for 2 bucks or gave em away. They went quick, and soon offers to reprint it in a higher quality format, in Jordan Crane's Non, AS WELL as winning the Xeric grant helped put it in a better format. But the originals are just tore up shits. White out spills, and spraypaint, I can't spell and don't got the patience to fix it so I just go with it, I try to draw the story as fast as I wrote it down. And just get it told. Quickness is key. Quickness is like god. And that all comes from hitting the streets, looking behind your back, and watching too much MTV. I mean there is something to be said about craft and taking your time. Which I do.
I'll compare it to my fashion sense. I buy one thing that's really expensive like my shoe's or shirt, and everything else will be from Target, but when you see the whole package you can't just dismiss it as shitty because there are some good parts, so for all the shitty drawings comparable to an ignorant toy graf kid or 5 year kid, there will be a painstakingly patient and highly rendered panel to ease your eyeballs. I think James Kolchalka said it the best when he said slow jams cascades between brilliant beautiful story and incoherent maimed ugly pictures, or something like that. Do I bullshit too much?
On the flipside, what influence have more traditional comics had on your
work? Which artists popped your cherry?
Comic guys like: Dan Clowes, Peter Kuper, Al Colombia, Bill Sienkiewicz, Dave Cooper, Todd McFarlane (Hulk and Spider-Man days), Rob Liefeld (New Mutants days), Frank Miller, the Preacher guys are rad, Alan Moore is rad. All the Highwater guys, Brian Ralph and Jordan Crane.
Graffiti guys like, KAWS ,TWIST, MEAR, ESKAE, DVS, HEX.
Painters and drawers like Barron Storey, Kent Williams, Egon Schile, Gustav Klimt.
Writers like John Fante, Charles Bukowski, and Kurt Vonnegut.
Pretty much all the same shit everyone else likes, but I guess there's a reason why everyone else likes it. Most those guys shaped how I look at art and writing, and set the bar for what to shoot for.
I think it's safe to say that most of our readers are familiar with the standard process of creating a comic; script + pencils + inks, etc... Describe for us the creative process used on Slow Jams.
Write, write, write. Short stories whatever. Read comics your whole life, and burning desire to finally do your own takes over. Go through all your writing; find one that looks like it will be fun to draw. And then just cut and paste the sentences and run on paragraphs onto the page and draw and paint, collage. Experiment with the Xerox machine, and see where the day takes you. Rework and repast the shit to make it flow as if you're conducting a symphony. I think that's the Marvel way, right?
What was the first thing that went through your mind when you were awarded the Xeric grant?
No fucking way.
I wrote my damn proposal on Notebook paper, and when they asked in the application: "How much money are you gonna need and why?"([The Xeric Grant] doesn't exceed $5000) I wrote down "I'll need all 5000 because I know I'll need it all." It was so unprofessional and retarded. And it was just so fucking cool. Because Xeric Is funded by Peter Laird of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fame, and Just thinking back to when I was little shit in 3rd grade reading only GI Joe comics at 7-11, and then some Persian guy Hootan bringing Donatello #1 to school, this hyperdetailed black and white comic about a stick twirling ninja turtle, blew my fucking mind. And to think this was the same guy that was gonna fund my comic, blew my fucking mind again. It gave me a mean boner, I'm sorry to say it. But it did.
Slow Jams is pretty hard to find. Is anybody going to be keeping it in print?
I'm talking with, Marvel, Fantagraphics, and Top Shelf right now. The book originally sold for 4 bucks; because I wasn't in to it for the cash, I just wanted to get it out. But I more than broke even, sold out over a year ago, sold a ton of original artwork and the jobs I've gotten from the book, have taken me to where Art is what I do for a living now. If I paint something in my room tonight, Anything, I can find someone in this country that will buy it tomorrow, and I thank God for that. Although it throws off the whole tortured art thing. I have an amazingly gorgeous and caring Girlfriend, I eat out 3 times a day which makes me 15 pounds overweight, SO my art these days are fueled on past angst, not present angst. I have to go through the old files [on] how the world did me wrong. Anyway I got like one box of 30 copies of slow jams left my personal stash, and I'm getting orders still every week in the mail. So I sell those bad boys for 30 bucks each, to separate the hardcore fans from the ones who just want to "check it out"
Brian Wood has been pushing your work like crack on a playground. Does he owe you money?
He has a few more payments to make till the end of the year. I already got the deed on his house, and I'm actually calling you from the car phone in his car. Listen If you have a chance to talk to him tell him to get his shit together, his family and friends are really worried about him, or at least keep the windows closed if he's gonna continue with that kind of behavior.
If you couldn't tell from Slow Jams, I'm a stalker and I hang outside your window at night with my zoom lens from Brookstone. Sometime last year I happened to get some very compromising flicks of Mr. Wood in Some very compromising positions with three of the Harlem Globetrotters. I've been blackmailing him since then, old school. A few more payments and He'll get the negatives. But in the meantime I got a show in Orlando, of glossy 11 x 17's of Mr. Wood, and they're selling quite well.
Some samples have begun to surface online of something new you're working on. As I understand it, Brian Wood is handling the words, while you rock the pictures. What can you tell us about this mystery project?
The X-Men New York Stories. It's gonna be out in August under Marvel Comics new Mature Line. Wood's writing, I'm rocking the covers, and my boys from 38th street and the Crabshack Project will be taking care of the guts with my help. It's taking place in New York, and Rogue, Gambit, and Jubilee are the key players, that's all you get for now.
You have Dr. Fredric Wertham (author of Seduction of the Innocent, and impetus for the Comic Code) tied to a chair. No one else is around for miles. What do you do?
Don't want to get into too much detail. But he's gonna be getting the Soft Serve, or Rocky Road (depends what I eat before) from the Choe poopchute down his gullet all night. Shit man you can't ask me questions like that. I get all fired up and shit.
Same question, only this time it's Omar Shariff.
You got it all wrong; me and Omar are homies. I'd untie him and go hit the peepshow.
A lot of talk has been going on about the future of comics. Where would you like to see comics go, creatively, and as an industry?
Stupid answer but, less shit, better shit, better art stories, and productions. In more outlets besides the comic book store. PREACHER and the AUTHORITY are the best shits out of Mainstream right now.
You've done your share of graffiti. Ever had any run-ins with the police?
I [spent a] week in an Oakland holding cell, with a senior citizen ex-con who loved milk but was lactose intolerant. Hell on Earth. But in general, I'm way too slick for most human eyes, but when I do get caught, good luck, this is the fastest yellow boy on feet you ever seen. I exercise by playing double bass pedals to Mexican speed metal on my drum set.
Brian Wood came up from the underground and began shouting the name David Choe from the rooftops. Now it's your turn. Who's doing the mind-blowing work we haven't heard of?
You will know John Pham, Joe To, Rob Sato, Rhoadie Montijo, and Ryohei Tanaka. Very soon.
Because we at PopImage are happy to assist in the art of shameless self-promotion, here's your opportunity to plug anything your heart desires.
There's these great asswipes to plug your ass up with from Huggies. They're made for babies. But I carry a packet with me most places I go. I skate, ride, and walk a lot all day, so it gets a little moist down there, and sometimes you don't really want to take a shower, but you want to get that feeling like you took a shower, that 's a good time to wipe down with moist towelettes' available at most stores, in all brands. I mean think of your lady going down on you after a hard day. Be nice. Be considerate.
And to All my homies still taking it up the ass in Oakland County, play on playas. That's all my plugs.
Thanks for taking the time for this interview. Any parting thoughts?
Men are stupid, women are crazy.
Kevin Talbot is a regular contributor to PopImage. Visit his website at http://www.kevintalbot.com.
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