Comic Creator Interview
with Jeff Guarino & Dean Westerfield
Our names: Jeff Guarino & Dean Westerfield
City: Long Beach, CA
Comics: Moses & (currently working on) Amboy
Websites: www.westerinocomix.com, www.Facebook.com/westerino.comix
Jeff – Thanks for your interest, man. Here’s the skinny: Dean & I are a two-man team. We’ve been making comics individually for about twenty years, & have been making them as a “dynamic duo” for about a dozen years.
QRD – How old were you when you first got into comics & did you always stick with them or did you come back to them?
J&D – Dean read newspaper comix when he was a kid, never really read comic books or graphic novels til his early 20s when he started picking up Yummy Fur, Love & Rockets, Eightball, etc. in the late 80s/early 90s.
Jeff is obsessed & has been reading comic books since he was around ten, really got seriously addicted around age 13 & has been completely over-the-top ridiculous for 30 years. He currently owns about 80 long boxes of comix & four-&-a-half huge bookshelves of proper graphic novels. Please shoot him in the head & put him out of everyone’s misery.
QRD – What was the first comic book you ever bought?
J&D – Dean’s first comic books were from a 25 cent sale at The Land of Oohs & Aahs & he walked out with huge runs of Yummy Fur by Chester Brown, Peepshow by Joe Matt, Jizz, Love & Rockets, Stickboy, etc.
Jeff’s first comic books were from 1977 when he was ten years old & included an issue of Action Comics, an issue of Detective Comics, & issue 52 of Marv Wolfman & Gene Colan’s amazing Tomb of Dracula from Marvel. That last one fucked up his little tiny brain reeeeeal good.
QRD – Why comics instead of just writing or drawing?
J&D – Dean came at comix from a desire & failed efforts at shooting films on Super-8. He found filmmaking very difficult in terms of corralling actors & crew, controlling sets & light, etc. Dean always drew, & decided to tell stories visually through comix & in that way he could control every aspect of the process on his own.
Jeff has been writing prose since he was a kid, has three little novels under his belt & a bunch of short stories, but all that has been secondary to his real goal: being a cartoonist who, unfortunately, lacks the drawing skills that job requires.
QRD – Do you see mini-comics & indie comics as paths to mainstream comics or as their own unique media?
J&D – Jeff has a big love for mainstream comics & superheroes, but both of us see indie publishing & especially graphic novels as very much an end unto themselves.
QRD – How many books do you produce a year & how many would you like to?
J&D – The first few projects that we collaborated on together were anywhere from 24 to 60 page xeroxed mini-comix. One featured a cool 40-grit sandpaper cover. We put out approximately four little books over a four year period. It took us eight years to complete our first big work, Moses, a 567-page graphic novel. This is available currently for free on our web page, westerinocomix.com. We’re currently 100 pages into our next graphic novel entitled Amboy.
QRD – Do you think stories should be serialized or delivered as complete works?
J&D – We both think that the future of comix publishing is very much grounded in the book format. We prefer longer works because of their complexity, the invitation to reread & rediscover, etc. Hence, our attempt at the monolithic project Moses.
QRD – What do you do better with your comics now than when you first started?
J&D – Write & draw. Seriously.
QRD – Do you do thumbnails?
J&D – Dean does very extensive thumbnails he calls “quickdraws” so he can see what the hell he’s doing.
QRD – At what size do you draw?
J&D – The size has varied on different projects over the years, but, for Moses, Dean used 14 x 17 90lb. paper. He chose a larger size than previously because he felt he could include more detail in the backgrounds & create a larger world that’s believable & real since the Old Testament setting is so alien to readers.
QRD – What kind of pens do you use?
J&D – For Moses, Microns. For Amboy, the current project, Dean is using refillable Rapidographs.
QRD – What does your workstation look like?
J&D – A coffee shop. For the last eight years, the bulk of our book Moses was done either at Jeff’s kitchen table at home or, predominantly, at local coffee shops in Long Beach called The Library, Berlin, & The Royal Cup. We tip well.
QRD – At what point in the artistic process do you work digitally?
J&D – We are goddamn old school. We eschew the digital world except for scanning purposes. That’s how we roll.
QRD – Do you prefer working in color or black & white?
J&D – Black & white. We’re both open to color, even possibly for Moses, but black & white has a clean, powerful look. There’s no hierarchy.
QRD – How many different people should work on a comic & what should their jobs be?
J&D – The process that we have arrived at is very fluid, organic, & allows both creators to augment & edit & contribute in different ways. Jeff will write full-scripts, panel-to-panel breakdowns with dialogue & scene descriptions. Dean will then “quickdraw,” adding panels, subtracting panels, sometimes even adding or subtracting pages, then moving dialogue around on the page, & creating those “beats” that are at the heart of comix storytelling. Once Dean pencils out a large ten or fifteen page sequence, Jeff will then prune his often verbose scripts, condense things, then improvise new revised dialogue & narrative when he pencils the letters from Dean’s more intuitive visual storytelling. Since Jeff does all the lettering, he will often revise even further when he’s inking the letters. The end result on the page is often three or four steps removed from the initial script Jeff writes.
QRD – What comic book person would you be most flattered to be compared to?
J&D – Our shared heroes in cartooning are the usual suspects: Art Spiegelman, Chester Brown, Dan Clowes, Chris Ware, Joe Matt, Robert Crumb, Kim Deitch, Seth, Los Bros. Hernandez, Jim Woodring, Alan Moore, Eddie Campbell, Dave Sim, Joe Sacco, David Mazzucchelli, Carol Tyler, & even old timers like George Herriman, Lynd Ward, & Windsor McCay.
QRD – What comic characters other than your own would you like to work with?
J&D – Both of us have toyed with the idea of Dave Sim’s open invitation to play with the universe of characters from his Cerebus. Jeff is still very much a fanboy of superhero comics, especially of the DC multiverse, & he’s patiently waiting for an invitation to write iconic characters like Superman, Batman, etc.
QRD – Ideally would you self-publish?
J&D – Ideally, no. We’re tired.
QRD – What conventions do you try to attend & why?
J&D – We have been going to APE for years. We recently attended the Long Beach Comic-Con. We’re considering Stumptown in Portland.
QRD – What do you do to promote your books?
J&D – We have a Facebook account for westerinocomix. We have a webpage previously mentioned. We occasionally get tables at conventions. We’re beginning to send out copies of Moses for review to major publishers & critics.
QRD – What other medium would you like to see some of your comics made into (television, film, games, action figures, etc.)?
J&D – We’re hoping to be picked up by John Cassavetes or Federico Fellini. If that doesn’t work out, Michael Bay will work in a pinch.
QRD – Do you consider yourself a comic collector or a comic reader or both?
J&D – Both.
QRD – What do you see as the most viable mediums for comics distribution 10 years from now?
J&D – We are both print guys & think print will always be the medium of choice for readers as well as collectors.
QRD – What would you like to see more people doing with comics?
J&D – Literate, complex, adult stories that invite rereading.
QRD – Anything else?
J&D – Thanks again for your time. All the best!