Dan Clowes: He-Man Comic Artist

On His Life

m: So how would you describe yourself as a kid? What were you like?

d: Oh, I was like an introverted loner like all cartoonists.

m: [laughs]

d: You'd never find a cartoonist who was an extroverted jock or something because when would they have had time to learn how to draw cartoons. It takes hours and hours and hours of solitary isolation, you know, playing out what you can't do in real life in weird little scenarios on paper.

m: So it's like an escape for you, you think?

d: Oh it's not so much an escape as a therapy. I mean, you're creating these characters to work out these inadequacies in your own life. . . . That's what superhero fantasies are all about. It's power fantasies for people who have no power.

m: Right, kind of the Dan Pussey motif.

d: Right, that's what that's all about.

m: So did you have any dreams of what you wanted to be, realistic ones? Did you want to be a fireman or something like that?

d: Oh no, I always wanted to draw. I mean, that was the only thing that I knew I had any skill at at all.

m: You grew up in Chicago right?

d: Uh-huh.

m: Maybe you could talk a little more about your high school and grade school days.

d: Oh, yeah I mean I was sort of in this weird neighborhood. It was like this college neighborhood in the middle of the worst ghetto. . . . So you're sort of in this little isolated pocket of intellectualism. It's just a kind of weird isolated existence. I never got a sense of Chicago so much, I just felt like I lived in this urban jungle surrounded on all sides by certain death.

m: [laughs]

d: I was a very fearful kid. I was always getting chased going to school. . . .

m: Did you get beat up a lot?

d: Oh yeah or just hassled, just sort of intimidated. I wasn't a, you know, imposing person in any way. I had my own little fantasy world at home to return to [laughs].

m: You moved to New York at one time is that right?

d: Yeah, when I was like 18, the minute I got out of high school.

m: Was that for college?

d: Yeah, I went to art school in Brooklyn in another horrible neighborhood.

m: [laughs] You've hit em all, huh?

d: Yeah, it's not till like two years ago that I've lived in a place where I could go out after dark without getting killed.

m: That's kind of a nice thing, a nice perk. You left [Chicago] right away you said, were you fleeing?