with Gabriel Dunston creator of Purgatory Pub
Name: Gabriel Dunston
Comics: Funny Thing Happened Today, Off Panel Hero, Purgatory Pub
Websites: FireLightsMedia.com, GabeDunston.tumblr.com
QRD – How old were you when you first realized you wanted to be a cartoonist?
Gabriel – It became a real desire when I was 16.
QRD – What are a few highlights of your cartooning career?
Gabriel – I had a kid find my table at a comic con & he wanted to blow all of his own money on one of my books. I told him to go around the convention & see everyone first. He did & I figured I would never see him again. He came back at the end of the day determined to buy my book. His mom told me, “He looked at every single table & he still liked yours the best.”
A big time comic collector bought one of my books on a lark. It was a touching & sad story about my childhood dog. He came back after having read it waiting in line somewhere at the con. He was still wiping tears away. He gave me a big handshake & told me it was one of the best comics he’d ever read.
I have some more, but those stick out the most so far.
QRD – At what age did you decide you wanted to become a father?
Gabriel – It was something I always knew. I’ve heard lots of guys say, “I became a father because I figured that’s just what you do.” I hate that. Know yourself, know what you want, & don’t get anyone else involved in your life until you do jackass. I always wanted to be a father. It was just a matter of when. My wife made that decision for me.
QRD – What are some positive & negative impacts your family has had on your career?
Gabriel – I was the stay at home dad & I often bemoaned not having enough time to make the art or track down the clients. This was a mistake. If I wanted more time it was up to me to make it. The negative thing that happens with so many artists is losing sight of what’s actually important & blaming other people & other things for the perceived shortcomings of your career. What’s actually important is your family, because no one needs you more than they do & we do not live for ourselves.
Also, it’s YOUR art career. If it’s coming up short, that is YOUR fault & YOUR problem. No one else’s. Once you start playing the blame game, everyone loses.
QRD – What are some positive & negative impacts your career has had on your family?
Gabriel – I briefly played the blame game & depression set in. My personal depression rested like a heavy cloud on my wife & daughter alike & it wasn’t their fault, but I made it their problem.
Another thing is that when I have genuine reason to be heartbroken over aspects of my art career, I have let myself wallow longer than was healthy & that affects the family negatively as well. We may not live for ourselves, but we must take care of ourselves.
Lastly, I work on art & client work instead of cleaning the house or doing the dishes. My wife has some patience for that, but I abused the patience she had. I cook for her though, so that gets me some points back.
QRD – Has your daughter effected the comics you make &/or read?
Gabriel – My first comic was a journal comic, so yes. She became a new character & a new focus of that book. Outside of that not really. Not on the material I put out.
QRD – Have you had problems with the lack of steady money from an artistic career providing the security you feel necessary in your household?
Gabriel – Yes. Tremendously. At the time of this typing I am working the first 9-5 day job I have had ever. The last time I worked for someone else outside of my home was 5 or 6 years ago. My freelancing was feast or famine, but we were making it. I had 3 clients in a row fold before the project could finish. Then a famine set in. My wife is a pretty anxious person in general & the volatility of being an artist doesn’t sit well with her blood pressure. Me having a steady 9-5 job has made her a new woman.
QRD – Given the limitations having a family has on going on the convention circuit, would you have showed more earlier in life if you’d known?
Gabriel – I was married before I put out my own comics & my daughter was born one year into my art career, so I have been conventioning since her birth. Being a father hasn’t really put on a damper there that I can tell.
QRD – Do you think being a father or a cartoonist has a greater impact on your community?
Gabriel – Being a father. Everyone deals with my daughter, & they all love her. Nobody reads my comics, & they don’t care.
On a more serious note, I also believe on a deep spiritual level in the power of art, but I know on this same level that the power of family, & the power of fatherhood/motherhood, is much stronger, deeper, & more lasting.
Jack Kirby wasn’t The King because he made The Fantastic Four & The Avengers & The New Gods. He was The King because he did all those things WHILE being a loyal husband & a devoted father. He’s The King because he knew what business to take care of first, & he did it.
QRD – Would you rather see your daughter eventually become a cartoonist or parent?
Gabriel – I’d be happy just seeing her grow up healthy & well adjusted. That other stuff is her life & her business. She can do whatever the hell she wants to with it.
QRD – Both family & comics seem like things that will take up as much of your time as you’re willing to put in. How do you end up dividing your time?
Gabriel – First I see what time & how much of it my daughter reasonably needs. I say reasonably, because children are highly unreasonable & it’s part of our job as parents to know what she actually needs.
After I have a handle on what she needs from me, I start budgeting out the gaps of time that I can take for myself & that’s where the comics fit in.
Time for my marriage is much more fluid & malleable. Long sessions spent hanging out while drawing have been a lot of fun for us.
QRD – What does your daughter think of your comics?
Gabriel – She’s 5, so she officially doesn’t give a damn. Comics are something that daddy just does. Like cooking. Or pooping.
QRD – Do you think you could ever do a comic project with your daughter?
Gabriel – Dear God, wouldn’t that be the shit! I would love that. Word is that R. Crumb & his daughter work together. Of course, I’d like to think I was a much more well adjusted & less shitty/myopic person.
QRD – Any words of advice to young people?
Gabriel – Know yourself & own yourself.
Know what you like & cherish it.
Know what you don’t like & avoid it.
Know that you are aloud to like & dislike anything you want.
Knowing yourself comes from a series of decisions that you make. Make the decisions & don’t be a coward.
Know the things about yourself that you simply can’t change & make peace with them.
Know the things you don’t like about yourself that you CAN change & change them.
All the things listed above are how you love yourself. When you know how to love yourself, you’ll know better how to love others, & that is the key to both life & art.
All the things listed above are not switches turned off & on. They are a series of struggles. It’s going to be hard. It’s okay that it’s hard. Enlightenment is in the struggle, not the success. To love is to struggle.
If you fall short of everything listed above, that’s okay just as long as you are still struggling, & you are doing your best.
Humanity could achieve Utopia not if everyone is enlightened, but if everyone was actually just trying their best.