with Kris Lachowski
Name: Kris Lachowski
Comics: The Mean Goat, Euni the Unicorn
QRD – How old were you when you first realized you wanted to be a cartoonist?
Kris – I enjoyed drawing from a very young age. There was a long period of time that I drew elaborate insect wars with ants, bees, & wasps all fighting each other & stealing picnic food. I then entered an “alien dragons battling humans for galactic domination phase” that I never really grew out of. The first drawings of mine that I would call “comics” escaped my pencil when I was about 7 or 8. They ranged in content from a Garfield rip-off called Buzzy to Garfield “fan strips”. Buzzy featured a sassy rat named Buzzy & his stupid drooling sidekick mouse named Dippy. Buzzy was vanilla rebellious mediocrity at its finest & probably could have fit right in with the average newspaper strip of the time. I think I recognized this at age 8, which made me think I could be a cartoonist for real & I’ve entertained this delusion ever since.
QRD – What are a few highlights of your cartooning career?
Kris – The highlights from my career are generally personal ones: completed comics, particularly successful (or horrible) jam comics with friends, islands of affirmation when a reader really gets or enjoys a comic of mine... things like that. As far as favorite comics of mine, the one I just completed is usually my favorite (until someone points out all the typos), but a few that continue to hold up for me are: New Venus, Cheetah Story: A 24hr Comic, & Naked Thoughts. Readers tend to enjoy Euni the Unicorn the most.
QRD – At what age did you decide you wanted to become a father?
Kris – I don’t really remember ever not wanting to be a father, although early on I intended to have clones. As time went on my narcissism waned & I concluded that creating progeny by sharing genes with someone else wasn’t half bad. That & the cloning of large mammals seems to have mostly stalled since Dolly, except in China apparently.
QRD – What are some positive & negative impacts your family has had on your career?
Kris – I feel like the positives & the negatives are kind of intermingled. Essentially it comes down to time & energy being finite. Before I had kids I wasted a lot of time that could have been used furthering my artistic endeavors. I had all sorts of excuses for this. Most if not all of them related to the notions that I just didn’t have enough time, or I was too tired. Now that I have kids I truly recognize what it means to not have enough time (& what it means to be really tired!), but somehow I still get about as much art done as before I had kids. Partially I think this stems from a new focus the kids have given me. A “shit or get off the pot” kind of focus. I think it also comes from a new appreciation about how valuable time for myself is. When I was younger I had no idea the value of the wealth I squandered. So while I have less time & energy to devote to making comics, I appreciate that time far more. Kids have also informed my writing. I see things in ways that I wasn’t emotionally capable of before. Among other things I often get urges to make comics reflecting on my kids or family of The Family Circus variety - whether that is a positive or negative is hard to say.
QRD – What are some positive & negative impacts your career has had on your family?
Kris – Fortunately or unfortunately I don’t think I’ve let cartooning & related interests become a serious enough endeavor to negatively effect my family too much. I only table at 2 or 3 cons per year & during those times my wife graciously takes the added burden of the kids upon herself. This is something for which I am immensely appreciative of, but we’re a team & allow each other such luxuries. I’d say the one time I really stretched my luck in this regard was in 2014 when I spent 3 days a week for 6 weeks completing an internship at The Billy Ireland. The most common negative impact is probably stress induced yelling when I try to get some drawing done while home alone watching the kids. I’ve yet to find a very balanced way of accomplishing anything comics-wise in this situation, but occasionally I try anyway.
My kids are currently 4, 4, & 3 so it is hard to say if having a cartoonist dad has changed the course of their life in any sort of meaningful/positive way. I hope so, but it is a bit early to tell. They certainly seem to like when I draw pictures for them. I’m pretty bad-ass at sidewalk chalk drawings of Elmo.
QRD – Have your children effected the comics you make &/or read?
Kris – As mentioned earlier, having children has expanded my emotional depths & this new perspective has informed a number of comics that I have written/am currently writing. I’m not sure that much of this new emotional depth has made it into comics that I’ve completed since their births, but many comics I have in the pipeline would have been much different or entirely nonexistent if I had no children. Regarding comics reading habits, I would say that it hasn’t really changed the comics that I read very much. I’ve always been quite interested in reading comics across all age ranges. Some of the best cartooning happens in comics aimed at children. I will say that I’ve enjoyed experiencing children’s comics through my kids’ eyes. For instance, I’m sure I would have read Little Mouse Gets Ready once or twice, I mean, it is Jeff Smith of course I would have! The comic would have likely elicited admiration for the drawings & smiles for the humor, but nothing that compares to the pure joy felt hearing my son laugh & exclaim, “Mice Don’t Wear Pants!” It is also very fun to share comics I read growing up with them, like Calvin & Hobbes.
QRD – Have you had problems with the lack of steady money from an artistic career providing the security you feel necessary in your household?
Kris – No & yes... “No” because I haven’t let it be a problem. My full time job is not cartooning. I in fact make no money worth speaking of from cartooning (which is the “Yes” part). I have desires, imaginings, & plans to someday make cartooning lucrative enough to justify me quitting my day job & begin comic-ing full time. I like to think that I’m at least moving toward that goal, but the harsh reality is that time is finite, my kids are more important to me than lines on paper & I would need to make very close to the amount from cartooning that I am making at my current job to make that transition. I’m certainly not saying it is impossible, but it is far more problematic to contemplate with kids than it was before kids.
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?
Kris – Possibly. I think what I would have certainly done more of earlier in life is hone my craft & produce comics.
QRD – Do you think being a father or a cartoonist has a greater impact on your community?
Kris – I work with the public 40 hours a week, so I tend to retreat a bit from the community at large during my own time. For me, cartooning is largely a solitary endeavor. I hermit myself away for a time & then emerge from a hole & share what I’ve produced with those kind enough to be interested. I’ve done the occasional volunteer cartooning with the youth thing & it is rewarding in its way, but at least for the time being I feel my cartooning time is better spent on my own projects. As my kids grow & develop as people & members of the community we’ll see what kind of impact they have. So far they are far more charming in the community than I am.
QRD – Would you rather see your children eventually become cartoonists or parents?
Kris – I’ll give the clichéd response, I just want them to be happy. I certainly get warm fuzzy feelings when one of them shows artistic interest/talent & believe me I intend to do my best to foster those interests & talents in my children, but each one is different. I would never want to coerce them into having my interests for vanities sake. I feel the same way regarding having grandchildren. While I would really like to have grandchildren someday, I don’t regard the path I’ve taken as the only valid one for my children.
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?
Kris – It is frankly very difficult. I don’t feel especially successful at attaining a balance, & I am curious to read how your other interviewees respond to this question. Hopefully I can pick up a few pointers! It is unfair of me to think this, but often my kids feel l like barnacles that impede artistic momentum. For the most part I try to work on comics when the kids are in bed. On days when I’m home alone watching the kids & I have some sort of looming deadline or I really just want to get some drawing done; I try to spend a few solid hours doing something really fun with the kids first. Maybe doing this just makes me feel less guilty, but I like to think it helps my kids feel loved & fulfilled while also allowing me time to get comics accomplished.
QRD – What do your kids think of your comics?
Kris – They seem pretty impressed that I draw comics & sometimes they enjoy when I read my comics with them, but like most readers they often spend less than 5 minutes reading/viewing something it took me months to create. One recent exception to this occurred when my son happened upon a copy of Timmothy’s Head. Timm’s Head is an out-of-control/experimental jam comic that I made with long time collaborator & friend Justin Lynch. While flipping through this comic my son said, “I want to watch the cartoon of this!” He was incredulous when I told him that there wasn’t one... yet.
QRD – Do you think you could ever do a comic project with your children?
Kris – If their interests & talents align with mine in that way, I’d love to. I have an inkling that at least one of them is artistically inclined, but we’ll see how that goes. I wouldn’t want to count any of them out & maybe one or more of them will be a writer in need of an artist. Sometimes I print out some of my line art & let them color it with crayons for fun. I could imagine utilizing this in a comic that called for childlike crayon coloring. That could be interesting.
QRD – Any words of advice to young people?
Kris – Stop wasting time. I’m not saying you shouldn’t have fun with friends, watch movies, play video games, & relax; but don’t let yourself be bored. If there is something you want to accomplish “someday”, make “someday” now. There will never be a better time to start.