Tomine Interview December 2004
Adrian Tomine makes a comic book called The Optic Nerve. His writing style is often compared to Raymond Carver. His stories are often little slices of life & character driven. He started Optic Nerve using a photocopier, so I like to think he's a lot like me....
QRD Optic Nerve started as a mini-comic with a lot in common to the personal narrative zines that were popular at the time. Were you involved with or aware of zines at the time or just mini-comics?
Adrian It seemed like the two worlds overlapped a lot back then. I was probably in touch with just as many zine people as mini-comic people.
QRD You started Optic Nerve at a time interest in the underground press & independent comics were at a peak. Do you think people can make it into comics the same way today, or theyd need a different route?
Adrian I don't know if interest in independent comics was at a peak when I started. If anything, I'd say there's even greater interest today. But to answer you question, I don't think there's quite as much of a network and market for self-publishing anymore, for whatever reason. So if someone wanted to self-publish their comic, it might be a little tougher now. But I still think that making your own mini-comic is a great way to just get your work out there, even if it's just to send a few copies out to the cartoonists and publishers you admire.
QRD The early mini-comics used a lot of black, did you have a problem with this reproducing well & is that why you changed to a less ink heavy style?
Adrian Yes, I did have problems with that, especially when I was using Xerox machines to reproduce the art. But I never made a conscious decision to be "less ink heavy." I think the stuff I'm working on right now is pretty inky.
QRD What kind of pens do you use?
Adrian Well, I don't use pens that much, but when I do (like for panel borders or lettering), I use Rapidographs. I do most of my inking with a Winsor & Newton series 7 brush.
QRD Do you make a living off of your comics or do you do work as a graphic designer or something?
Adrian I spend most of my time working on my comic, but I also make a little extra money doing illustration work.
QRD You openly call a lot of your work veiled autobiographies. Has this caused any problems between you & those vaguely featured?
Adrian Not that I'm aware of. But maybe it has and I just don't know.
QRD Your current storyline is about a long distance relationship, what are the big benefits & deficits of such a relationship to you?
Adrian I wouldn't say that this story is really about a long distance relationship. But in general, I'd have to say that they're pretty tough to maintain.
QRD Your current storyline is supposed to last three issues, do you already have them completed?
Adrian I have them all written, but not drawn. I'm working on the second chapter right now.
QRD Why was there such a gap in time between issues?
Adrian Mostly it was just because I knew I wanted to try to write something longer, and I wanted to have the whole thing figured out before I started drawing it. So basically, I wrote three issues instead of just one.
QRD What do you think is the benefit of having individual issues instead of just waiting for enough material for a trade paperback?
Adrian It helps to keep me motivated, and I think it helps to keep my name out there. If I just worked on the complete book, I'd be pretty much detached from the public for three or four years, and I might also fall way behind schedule. I also like the comics because they can serve as sort of a first draft of the bigger work...I'll probably look over the issues with a fresh eye when they're all done, and then make some corrections for the book.
QRD Which would be cooler to see, an Optic Nerve movie, tv show, or cartoon?
Adrian It certainly wouldn't be the cartoon. I've never been an animation fan, and I don't think it would be a good way to adapt my work.
QRD Do you work your scripts before drawing them or work in unison?
Adrian I get them pretty well worked out in advance, but also leave plenty of room for last minute improvisation.
QRD What groups of readers do you think would most like Optic Nerve that are unaware of it?
Adrian I have no idea. Maybe just normal book readers who don't go to comic stores?
QRD Do you think youll ever do a superhero book?
Adrian Doubtful. I think Dan Clowes just did one of the best takes on superheroes, so I don't know where I'd go with it.
QRD Are you embarrassed to tell people you meet that you work on comic books?
Adrian It depends on who they are.
QRD Once you know what youre going to do, about how long does it take you to complete a page?
Adrian If I can work uninterrupted (like, with no illustration jobs), about four or five days.
QRD Would you rather write comics for others to draw or draw from other peoples stories?
Adrian I'm not really interested in either, but if I had to choose, I guess it would be the latter.
QRD Do you read any mainstream comics?
Adrian No. I hardly read any comics these days because there's not much that appeals to me.
QRD What would have to happen in your life for you to stop doing comics?
Adrian I think I'll always be drawing comics in some form, even if it's just for my own amusement in my sketchbook. It's a life-long hobby.
QRD Anything else?
Adrian You mean that horrible Woody Allen