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QRD #28, January 2005
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Adrian 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 they’d 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 you’ll 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 you’re 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 people’s 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 movie?