Maré Odomo Interview
Study Group: When did you start reading comics? Did you come to comics from manga, American cape comics, the sunday funnies, or what?
Maré Odomo: As a kid, most of my friends read Calvin & Hobbes, Garfield, Foxtrot. My exposure to superheroes came mostly from shows like Batman: The Animated Series, X-Men, and Spider-Man. Comic book shops freaked me out when I was younger.
But I started getting more into comics when I was in high school. I would stop by the Barnes & Noble on my walks home. I loved that most trade paperbacks could be finished in one sitting. That’s where I first read stuff like Blankets, Black Hole, Ghost World, Optic Nerve, Jimmy Corrigan, the bigger standalone superhero titles like Dark Knight Returns, and then post-manga whatever-you-want-to-call-it stuff which is pretty much just Sharknife and Scott Pilgrim.
And at home, I would read Achewood, Scary-Go-Round, Diesel Sweeties, Wigu, Exploding Dog, Penny Arcade, Derek Kirk Kim, Hellen Jo, Vera Brosgol, Kazu Kibuishi, Enrico Casarosa, Ronnie Del Carmen. It was pretty evenly split between the Dumbrella webcomics crew and the contributors to Flight. I’m probably forgetting a bunch of people.
Study Group: At what point did you actually decide you wanted to make them?
At some point, I got into James Kochalka’s American Elf and started making daily comics, almost immediately. I made dailies for six years, on-and-off. There’s probably only about three years’ worth of content in those sketchbooks.
Study Group: Can you talk about your influences? I see the obvious stamp of video games and manga, but your comics are often quite poetic regardless of subject matter, bringing to mind the work of someone like Dave Kiersh or John Porcellino. Do you read much poetry? Do you even think about your work like that?
Maré Odomo: When I was in high school, I was really into this writer named Kevin Fanning. He wrote really simple, sweet stories about ghosts and secret doors, or reviews of beverages. I think this was before people decided to call any kind internet writing a “blog”. It was, as far as I know, a personal passion. There were no editors or audiences to please. It seemed so pure. He made me want to write.
Kevin still writes (kevinfanning.com), and I really love his mythological interpretations of the Internet. He gets it, man. It’s like Das Racist, it’s like Sword & Sworcery. It’s just really smart stuff. Post-ironic, self-aware, and genuine. I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but you know what I mean.
I love John P, but I only got into him a few years ago, when King-Cat Classix came out. And I’ve only read a little Dave Kiersh, but I can tell that I like him.
But no, I don’t read much poetry and don’t know much about that world. The internet is poetry, though. Twitter is poetry. But I do think of my comic scripts as poems. I’ve been trying to come up with some gimmicky name to call them, like POMICS or COEMS, but those both sound really stupid.
Study Group: You teach children- is that a comics class specifically, or just a general art class? How has that affected the way you make art?
Maré Odomo: It’s specifically a comics class, but I’m still figuring out what to teach them and what they’re willing to learn. It’s only an hour long, and we only meet once a week, so it’s not a lot of time to spend together.
Kids treat drawing as a form of play, and they’re so positive and wonderful about it. I love drawing with these kids, and I try to hold onto that feeling, but it’s difficult. I come home, and I’m hungry and tired, and can’t be productive.
Study Group: I came across your work via the internet, and like many young artists today, you have a strong presence on the web – you are on flickr, twitter, tumblr, and probably some other websites I don’t even know about. How do you feel about art and the internet? I’ve been having a personal struggle with what I love about sites like Tumblr, in that I’m exposed to so much new art and information every day, but I feel like the constant feed of art and imagery as RAW DATA can devalue the actual work in question. You see this a lot on Tumblr in particular, where a thousand people might reblog something without ever crediting or researching who actually made an image. This might just be completely off topic, so you can ignore me if you want, but I guess I was curious if you had any opinions on this.
Maré Odomo: If someone wanted to figure out the source, they could easily do a reverse image search, but most people don’t know that that’s a thing. Google Images can do it, and there’s also tineye.com. Tumblr is relatively new, and I hope all this crediting stuff will sort itself out eventually.
Removing watermarks/signatures or plagiarizing is different, though. That shit is awful.
Study Group: Video games are a re-ocurring motif in your work, and I’m wondering how much time you actually spend playing them, and how you manage to get any work done. I recently got Skyrim, and I am trying very hard not to get to immersed in it. Do you just manage your time really well, or have you had to put aside your DS?
Maré Odomo: The only current gen console I have is a 3DS (it was a very generous gift), and the only game I have is Mario Kart 7. Oh, but I’ve also been spending a decent amount of time playing iOS games. Most of my favorite video games are the ones I played as a teenager, though.
I’m terrible at managing my time. I get lost in Parks & Rec marathons and spend hours just to catch up with the internet. I’m actually trying to play *more* video games. That’s how bad I am at managing my time. I go through phases of trying out different productivity apps and reading old lifehacker posts.
Study Group: What kind of tools do you use when you’re drawing? Lots of pencil, but what else?
Maré Odomo: I really like brush pen, but I can’t control it very well. I’m trying to get better with ink washes and watercolors. And I like playing with color pencils, but they just scan so horribly. And gouache is fun! I’m experimenting with all these supplies I have leftover from art school, but I like pencil right now.
And everything gets scanned and edited in Photoshop. My originals are never dark enough.
Study Group: You seem to do a lot of design work, and much of it in collaboration with Cory Schmitz. How is the work you do for hire different than your webcomics or zine work? What is it like collaborating on work like this?
Maré Odomo: Cory and I went to the same school, and we have the same degree, but we’re different people and focus on different things. Working together adds depth. He does things that I can’t.
A lot of my illustration work feels flat to me. I’m still figuring out how to make backgrounds. In comics, it’s more about the story and I can get away with really sparse panels.
Study Group: You gained a lot of fans for your Pokemon comics. I still sell copies of that mini at Floating World all the time. Do you feel pigeon-holed as “the Pokemon Guy”?
Maré Odomo: There’s no other game that I have such a strong emotional connection to, but I don’t think that Pokémon defines me as much as it defines other people. After I made those comics, a few of my friends said they had never seen that side of me. I think most people know that I keep up with the games, but I’m not the kind of person who tries to catch every single Pokémon or build the perfect team. I log about 40 hours per game.
Study Group: It seems like you’ve mostly moved on from that style of drawing, what brought that on?
Maré Odomo: Part of why I moved away from that style was because drawing with a tablet was ruining my shoulder. I used to get these jolts of pain, right at the joint. Sometimes it happened while I was drawing, sometimes I would just be sitting or trying to sleep. It wasn’t ideal.
And I didn’t want to depend on my computer and tablet to draw something. I didn’t want people to *expect* that style from me. That was killing my shoulder too. Carrying all that stuff, everywhere I went. It’s so much easier to just have a sketchbook and a pen or pencil.
Around that time, I had read “Young Lions” by Blaise Larmee, which looks like it was done completely in pencil(?) and has this really romantic, fleeting feeling throughout the whole thing. And I found Aidan Koch’s work somewhere, probably through Blaise, and it had that same vibe. I had always felt like I had lost something in my inking, so it made sense to go straight to pencil.
I’m still figuring things out, and I’m really conscious of ripping off my influences (like Blaise and Aidan and John P), but I’m finding my voice and whatever.