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A Conversation with Dame Darcy


meat-cake-bible-cover-1000pixI was really happy to see the The Portland Mercury's recent headline regarding Dame Darcy's new collection, the Meat Cake BibleUnder the title"Comics, Here is Your Queen", Suzette Smith remarks that "If You Ignore Dame Darcy's Meat Cake Bible, I Will Riot". I couldn't agree more. Dame Darcy's Meat Cake was one of the most culturally visible alternative comic book titles of the 1990's. The 17 issues of the series, published by Fantagraphics from 1993-2008 were well circulated and known in underground art and music scenes of the time. Dame Darcy was a known character herself, instantly recognizable in her impeccable Victorian outfits. During the decade when things that would later be labeled as grunge, or rave, or riot grrl were being created, and before the Graphic Novel elevated the visibility of alternative comics, copies of Meat Cake were lying around everywhere, mixed into piles of music mags & zines. The Meat Cake Bible collects almost 500 pages of her best works. It's an impressive chunk of cartooning by an important and uniquely individual feminine voice in comics. Nobody else is quite like Dame Darcy, and nothing else is quite like Meat Cake.

Rege: Let’s talk about the Meat Cake Bible! I want to congratulate you on this thing.

Darcy: Thank you, oh my god.

Rege: I have all the comics, but this is a really different thing, seeing it in this format.

Darcy: I know isn’t it? It’s like a treasure chest.

Rege: It is like a treasure chest. I like the way it’s being presented as a definitive collection, like a monograph.

Darcy: It looks like it will go down in history.

Rege: It's a book for the library. It's not called “The Complete Meat Cake”.  It's not a nostalgic collection.  It doesn't present itself as a collection of comic books put into a book. I never thought about that kind of stuff with these kinds of collections until I saw this. I don't know if that was your idea, but it's exciting to see it this way. 

Darcy: Well thank you, yeah. I was talking with Eric at Fantagraphics, who replaced Kim as my main person I work with. Eric said ‘describe this so we can think of a way to market it, what we’re gonna call it, you know’ I said: ‘Well it’s gonna be all of them together and I have bonus new stuff at the end that I just made this year, because I just wanna keep going with this series.’  I might just keep self-publishing a little bit until I compile enough for another one, you know… I think it shows past, present, future and all this stuff together. It’s a bible for my cult following. That’s why we decided to call it the Bible, because it just shows everything. You know what I mean?

Rege: Well, that’s what I wanted to ask you next. It is edited. It’s not just every issue in order is it?

Darcy: No, it’s all over the place.

Rege: OK. That's what I thought.

Darcy: I like it that way.

Rege: I like it that way too. This is a huge book, and it’s still not the entire series. That’s so much comics.

Darcy: [laughter] It’s almost 500 pages.

Rege: If it’s not everything, how much was left out? How did you decide what stories not to put in? 

Darcy: It’s not every little thing, no. I just think some of the extras and some of the fillers, like the front pages and end pages and inserts, just little dumb comics that weren’t like… were just amusing or whatever, didn’t make it in because we couldn’t have it be 800 pages, you know what I mean.

Rege: Mhmm

Darcy: But I think that’s good. Because then, if you’re really a die-hard archivist, you have to go find it. You know, then that way it’s like some hidden treasure still.

Rege: So it's mostly just little things that are left out. It's all of the most important works.

Darcy: Yeah, it’s like the main stuff. I feel like it’s really complete.

Rege: Yeah, me too. One thing that was amazing to me, from memory, when I think of Meat Cake, I mostly think of the Richard Dirt/Wax Wolf stories. The stories with the cast of characters are the ones that stuck in my mind. But looking at this book, there’s just so many stand alone short stories. I always knew they were scattered through the series, but looking at them all together, I'm kind of amazed.  There's just so many.meat-cake-bible-199-1000pix

Darcy: Oh thanks, yeah… I just have so many ideas in my brain, I just gotta keep going you know what I mean? [laughter]. It’s all the little short stuff. I really love the Grand Guignol. I really loved fairytales and I love short fiction, it’s my favorite thing ever. I’m also ADD. When I get a new idea, I switch over to it. I’m Gemini so it goes all over the place.

I’m working on my next epic tome. Voyage of The Temptress is my new one. I’m doing it kind of as a webcomic -  I just like being done with something. I’m like ‘okay I drew six pages, that story’s done.’

Rege: This is not a graphic novel by any means. You're a cartoonist from the pre-graphic novel era, which isn't that long ago.

Darcy: Yeah, and all the kids do this manga thing now. Everyone does anime and this anime style. It’s fine, especially in my genre, Gothic Lolita. It’s all this anime goth. I’m Gothic Lolita too, but I have nothing to do with anime. All the millennials are super into anime and they need to expand on that, you know. 

Rege: I think eventually they’ll absorb it and do it in their own style or something like that.

Darcy: I hope so because I’m kind of getting sick of it. You know, you’re drawing really great, but you’re drawing just like anime. Come up with your own thing guys! I’m going to do a skill share video series teaching how to self-publish and do your own comics, and coming up with your own style is the main part of it! [laughter]. You’re not learning anything if you do that. You gotta go into your soul and come up with your own look!

I taught sequential art at the School of Visual Arts, and I’ve done lectures with PNCA and SCAD and Columbia and stuff like that, and one off things at public schools. I’ll volunteer. I did a little comics course for kids in the inner city schools in LA. I did it here for summer camp in Savannah. I’m all about it. One of the first things I say is, ‘Okay what’s you’re spirit animal? What’s your favourite stuff? What’s your favourite colour? What’s your favourite food? Combine it all in to a character, that’s where you’re going to get your style!’

Rege: That’s cool.

Darcy: Yeah, they come up with the cutest, hilarious stuff. I just love teaching people how to tap into their pathos. That’s what it’s really about. Just inspiring people with your work to be themselves, and to tap into their pathos. Like, be yourself so brazenly!

I love how when Obama became president he was like ‘yeah, I know there’s never been a black president before, but my reality and my confidence is so strong that I changed reality. I made it so there was a black president even though there’d never been one. In my world there could be one, and so now there is.’ I love that! That’s the key to manifestation and magic. Just alter reality so that it becomes your reality!

Rege: Oh my god.

Darcy: Seriously. I wanna be as big as Snoopy or as mainstream as Hello Kitty or some shit. Really I do.

Rege: I just came across your one page manifestation story in here.

Darcy: That’s so funny.

Rege: It's like twenty years old, right.

Darcy: That’s so hilarious.

Rege: If I had seen this in the 90’s, nothing about it would have made sense to me. I might have flipped by it, but now I’m like ‘Oh look at this comic about manifestation that she did’. I want to ask you about auto bio in your comics. A lot of your fictional characters are also you.

Darcy: Yeah, that’s weird that you bring that up.

Rege: I think it's a really important part of your cartooning. I think it's been really influential. There are a lot of younger people that go between fantasy and reality in their comics in a way that they understand, maybe in part because of you. You have all these different characters, and so many of them look like you. They are all reflections of you.

Darcy: They’re wearing different costumes with wigs and stuff.

Rege: You never can tell when you’re reading it. It seems like half the characters are you. Some stories are complete fantasy, but others, with the cast of regular characters, seem like things that may have happened to you and your friends, that got turned into a comic. It sometimes even says so. There’s even a small amount of straight autobio. Your work goes in between all of this in a really fluid way.

Darcy: Oh thanks, yeah. When I’m teaching, I tell them how the key to writing is to never get writer’s block. Here’s how to never get writer’s block: just know that you have every right to your voice, to your vision, to your perspective, to the way that you talk, all of that is yours. You’re an artist. You have every right to just be who you are. Everybody’s got stories to tell. Everybody’s got a story about their life. Just write it down the way you would tell it to a friend. Don’t think about how you’re writing it, don’t think about anything else. Write it down. When you’re done writing it, you can look at it and tweak it and change it into what you want.

That’s what I like about Mark Twain. Mark Twain changed the way writing is. He changed English language. He just made up words, and put them in there. He told his story from the perspective of a Victorian, southern, little boy. It had it’s own thing. It’s almost like sitting in a lake. It has it’s own language, it’s own atmosphere, it’s own world. If you’re gonna be in it, you got to be in that world on those terms.

That’s the way my work is too. It’s very feminine-centric. You know I’m unapologetic about it. I refuse to be anything other than female-centric. My big issue with putting guns in women’s hands, as if now they’re carrying guns and so they’re feeling empowered? Women don’t care about that. We care about female-centric stuff. Women’s psychology is completely different. What little girls want to be, or fantasize about, or want to grow up to be, what women want is so different than what the patriarchy dictates to us through the media and through a constant barrage of commercials. What they really want and what they really respond to is biological. Nothing commercial and no amount of money in the patriarchy can change it. I finally think there’s a chance now, that what I do can go mainstream.

Rege: How is that part of being a cartoonist? In the twenty or so years that you've been publishing, there are many more women in alternative comics. There’s been a shift towards the feminine. I can see a lot of influence that you’ve had. You just did it the way that you wanted to. It's in the way that you draw. It’s different.

Darcy: It’s never going to go out of style. I did that on purpose. I did that because I didn’t know when my movie would get made, or when my big break was gonna happen. I needed to make it not look dated, you know what I mean. It will never go out of style.

Rege: When I look at Meat Cake, I feel like there's twenty five subcultures that owe you royalties from this style. It's kind of hard to explain. I feel like there’s fashions & stuff that I saw first in Meat Cake, before I saw them in the real world. Like… girls in Meat Cake wore striped stockings long before it was a real life 90s fashion trend. It's crazy to think of now.

Darcy: Well, Hot Topic is definitely gonna carry my stuff. I’m going to magnetize on that. I’m just tired of the shenanigans, it’s just annoying me now. You know, I came really close, multiple times to all of this stuff and now it’s just gonna happen because I can’t take it anymore. I just can’t take waiting anymore. I’m too old now and I just need it to happen [laughter]. It’s gonna happen, I’m okay with it. I’m ready.meat-cake-bible-51-1000pix

Rege: Alright. I want to ask you, how did you become a cartoonist? From knowing you personally, I understand why you play banjo easier than why are you a cartoonist. What comics did you read? I didn't know that you started Meat Cake when you were twenty one. Growing up, did you always want to draw comics, what made you want to make them? It’s a really specific thing to do and it's a bit harder than anything else.

Darcy: There’s one thing that’s harder, and that’s cell animation, which is what I started with. So because of that, comics were an easier thing for me [laughs].

Rege: So you were doing that first. 

Darcy: Okay well, Meat Cake is my number one thing. I did my analytics and found out that’s what I’m most known for. I’ve got these other books and I play the banjo and I’m from Idaho, but I’ve lived in New York City and all this stuff.

Rege: Well now there’s this book that shows it. You’ve got all this other stuff, and also work in all these other mediums, but this book is almost five hundred pages of comics!

Darcy: Well, I went to school for film, and I majored in animation. I was trained by my father, who is a sign painter. He taught me how to do fonts, and to draw and paint in Idaho, and to play the banjo.

Rege: Aha! I think that’s a lot of the answer!

Darcy: Yeah. All that’s in Highjacks and Hijinks, which is my next book. My ultimate goal is to make Meat Cake into a movie premiering at Comic-Con, and then the next year have Highjacks and Hijinks come out. It’s the making of what made Meat Cake, it’s about my life. So when people ask me, I can just say ‘watch the movie” [laughs], rather than explaining all of the multi-duplicitous things that are what my life is – it really takes a long time. I know a lot of weird people with really interesting, crazy life stories that have traveled all over the world, and lots of different things. That’s my thing. I’m not like most people, I can’t say where I’m from when people ask. I’m from Idaho, San Francisco, New York City, Los Angeles, and now Savannah. Those don’t have anything to fucking do with each other! [laughs] - I don’t know, I’d have to look this up but I think I’m the only fashion model who’s also a cartoonist. I feel like cartoonists aren’t fashion models.

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Rege: Well, fashion models make zines now I think. [laughs]

Darcy: They make what?

Rege: They make zines, because everyone makes zines.

Darcy: Oh yeah, well, zines are great. I mean, I teach a zine course too, but you know what I mean, the comics.

Rege: You’re very out in the world as yourself and as a person. Comics are kind of quiet and isolating. They involve a lot of solitary work and…

Darcy: Well, I spent a lot of time in isolation in Idaho. I really hated school. I knew that if I tried to take any of the tests I would fail. I would just cut to the chase and draw comics on the back of the tests [laughs]. If I knew I’d get a question wrong, I’d just draw some cute comic on the back that was like ‘hey teacher I knew I was going to fail so I drew this comic as a makeup art thing’ They thought it was funny and they just let me get by. They’d be like ‘okay well that was enough, that’s like a D+’ [laughs].

Rege: The thing about your work in general, from the earliest stuff I've seen, it’s all done in your particular style, right from the very start. You have the filigree around the borders of every single panel right from the beginning. You use exactly the same, perfect Dame Darcy lettering style from day one. The sign painting thing helps explain that, I guess.

Darcy: Well, I lived in Idaho on a horse ranch half the year, and then I lived in a Victorian house in a small town in Idaho. I also helped my dad. I was my dad’s sign-painting apprentice. I lived like I was in the 1800s a lot even though it was the 70s and 80s. My house was from 1902. The ranch that we lived on had been that way for 100 years. We had no running water and shit, but it was a really nice cabin, up in the mountains in Idaho. We had to light a fire under the bathtub that we’d fill with a pump. We put the hose in the creek and pumped it out of the creek into the bathtub and lit a fire under it. Now we have indoor plumbing and things, but we used to drive to the little bone stores in the middle of nowhere. It would be the only thing around for miles. For 10 cents I could call my mom once a week ‘cause she was in town, and I was in the mountains. I’d also get a blue Nehi pop. Is that named after a Mormon saint? I think it is?

Rege: Nehi? yeah, it’s spelled weird.

Darcy: I think it’s a Mormon thing. I think that pop is from Idaho. But anyways, I thought Little House on the Prairie was contemporary. I thought we had a truck, but they just didn’t have one yet. I just thought we had a one up on them.

Rege: That’s funny. Little House On The Prairie does make me think of the '80s, even though it’s not set in the '80s.

Darcy: Oh yeah, and in the 70s my mom was making me Little House style dresses with matching bonnets that looked like that.

Holly Hobbie fashion.

Holly Hobby fashion.

Rege: Mhmm like Holly Hobby fashion.

Darcy: Yeah yeah I had those, I loved them, they were my favorite, which is why I’m so super into Lolita now. I hung out in full Victorian dress on a ranch, and now I’m in Savannah with all the Victorian houses around, all the furnishings are antique. It’s just the way people live… it’s a timeless thing.

Rege: So did you go from Idaho to San Francisco to go to school?

Darcy: Yeah. I had bad grades in school, but I took newspaper and was developing a portfolio because everyone was saying ‘you’re going to be famous', you’re going to get a scholarship. We’re gonna make it happen, kid. We’re going to get you out of here’ My mother is from LA originally, and her mother works for the government, she works for the CIA. We weren’t allowed to know what grandma did for a living. I still don’t know. My mother’s dad was a psychiatrist. She was an only child, but she was also raised by a bunch of Catholics. Her mom did stuff in the 50’s that mothers didn’t usually do. She worked for the government, and only had one child, and was super careerist in the 50s. There weren’t afterschool programs and child care for working moms back then, so she took my mom to the catholic church and dumped her in with a catholic family, a litter of nine kids. So now my mom has nine god-siblings. My mother is a catholic, raised by an atheist who worked with the CIA. My mother is a really sweet, hardcore feminist catholic lady.

Rege: Ah, I understand that. They tend to like art. I was taught by nuns in High School.

Darcy: I lived in a place where I would sit on the bus next to a Mormon girl named Fawn or Misty, there would be three sisters named that. The three sisters would go on to have like 10 kids each. I would be sitting on the bus and would be like ‘So what do you want to do when you grow up?’ and like Fawn would be like ‘ oh I’ll have as many kids as the good lord gives me’ and I’d be like ‘are you kidding me? That’s just insane’ My mom was from LA and she knew a bigger world than that. She was like ‘We’re going to get you a scholarship and we’re going to help you’ I knew I was going to art school because my GPA wasn’t going to allow me to go to regular college.

Rege: Yeah I had a similar experience… when I discovered art school existed, I was like… that’s the only place I could possibly go.

Darcy: Yeah, I mean there wasn’t even an option for me. I wasn’t ever going to go to normal school. I was all about art class and building my portfolio and getting awards. I was in newspaper club. I was the cartoonist for the newspaper. I drew a comic called Tumor Humor. It started a lot of controversy because it was about the nuclear power plant in Idaho Falls blowing up, and everybody becoming radioactive zombies. A lot of the jokes were really sexy and scary and creepy and crazy like.

Rege: [BIG GASP] Right, too much. Too cool for school.

Darcy: They were in the school paper. They were like Meat Cake, but they were about the apocalypse and they were in the school paper.

Rege: Yeah, yeah, yeah in high school, yeah

Darcy: The teacher was really encouraging me. The kids were already like hating me, or loving me, or scared of me as it was. That shit just made it way worse. I did it for three years. I was 15, 16, and 17. Each year I kept winning at the regionals. There was a regional newspaper thing where everybody would get together from all over Idaho and Montana and Utah and wherever in the northwest. We’d stay in this huge, crazy hotel in Sun Valley that’s usually reserved for movie stars who want to go skiing. It was all the nerdy kids from newspaper classes from all over the place, and I kept winning. I won three years in a row. That really helped with my scholarship. I remember my grandpa saying he was really proud of me and I was like, ‘I don’t think you’ve read the comics though’ [laughs] He says he read them.

Rege: Alright, so here’s a question...

Darcy: There was one… wait let me just tell you what one of them was, because it’s funny! Just so you know what was in the school paper: There was a guy, and he’s glowing in the dark and his car is blown up and it’s just the axle, and all the town’s lights are off. There’s this girl sitting in this bombed out house that’s just made out of a shell of bricks and she’s glowing in the dark. They look like zombies, but they’re wearing like 60s teenybopper clothes because they were going to go out on a date. She’s a skeleton with a ponytail. He goes to pick her up and he pretends to open the door, but it’s invisible. She sits on the axle and they drive to makeout point, but there’s no light. When they make out, her tooth comes out in his mouth and he spits it out. Then, his boil pops and sprays all over her and she’s like: “That’s too much!! Take me home!”

Rege: [laughs] That’s… that is complicated for a high school comic. What have you been up to lately?

Darcy: I need regular income, so I’ve been working as a ghost host for three years. I also teach painting and art. It’s at this haunted house called ‘Escape Savannah’. It’s also my art studio. I got all my interns jobs working as ghost hosts too, so that they can get paid to work as ghost hosts, and also work for me. It’s all in the same unit.

Rege: Mhmm. That sounds like a Meat Cake comic, what you're describing to me.

Darcy: It looks like a Meat Cake comic. All the girls look like the characters of Meat Cake.

Rege: Good work.

Darcy: It’s a good job because I can just sit there with a lightbox in the dark and draw my comics, while getting paid an hourly wage, when I need to do my deadlines.

Rege: That’s awesome.

Darcy: So I don’t just use the advance up. I get paid, and then I can put the advance in savings. I’ve come very close to getting a licensing deal. That’s what I really want now. I’m manifesting that now, because a licensing deal would be really fun, to put my designs all over a bunch of stuff. Like, virtual paper dolls. A reality world where everything is all over virtual stuff, and it doesn’t create landfill. I'm always very environmentally conscious.

Rege: Ahhhh! [laughs] 

Darcy: I got a scholarship at San Francisco Art Institute for two years. I didn’t get a full ride, but I went for two years. I majored in film with a minor in animation, because all of my comics - I’ve always wanted to make them into feature films. I’ve written three or four feature films now, and I keep making them into comics and graphic novels, because it’s the cheap way to just do it all by your own self, without having to spend all the money to create the world, as a movie.

Rege: Right.

Darcy: So, I was all goth, you know. Nobody was yet, as you know. My boyfriend lived in LA, and I would go to LA to see him all the time. We were born on the same day. We met through a goth music magazine. I was like 15, 16, 17. I kept going back to LA. My friends were pretty cool too. We’d order stuff through the mail because there wasn’t the internet yet. I’d go to LA and get the fashion, the music, go to coffee shops and art things and hang out with my boyfriend. I saw that there was a zine culture, and an underground music scene. I saw that you could make zines. I started writing extra ideas from my comics for the newspaper, and started making them into zines.

Rege: You did? I don’t think I’ve ever seen a pre-Meat Cake, Dame Darcy zine. I’ve never heard of such a thing.

Darcy: Oh really? It was crazy. It’s really awesome when I do book signings and people come up to me with them.

Rege: I’d really like to see those.

Darcy: I was using the photocopier at my dad’s at my work, with my dad. He was a sign painter, so he had one. The school also had one they let me use, even though I was horrible and horrifying. I just terrorized everybody all the time at school. [laughs]

Rege: Mhmm did you….

Darcy: That’s why my autobio is called Hijacks and Hijinks, because all I wanted to do… all I thought about everyday was how to play pranks on everybody except my friends. You know, just fuck with everyone’s mind all the time.  But the principal loved me, and let me use the photocopier. They let me lay around in the nurses’ office when I wanted to.

Rege: Uh-huh yeah, yeah, yeah.

Darcy: [laughs] I hated it all. He thought it was funny or something, so he just let me do whatever I wanted. When I started school in San Francisco, I was in Caroliner Rainbow.

Rege: Your bio in the book list so many of the different things that you’ve done, but I noticed that being in Caroliner Rainbow didn’t make the list. The other things are more important & well known, but to me, Caroliner was something I was into back then.

Darcy: Yeah, well I hear about it a lot. He started to hate me once I started to get famous on my own, without his band. I was only 18, and I was already starting my own zines and stuff.

Rege: I feel like I may have gotten your 7-inches before I saw Meat Cake.

Darcy: That’s back when people knew me mostly as a musician.

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Rege: I love that will of the wisp octopus 7-inch. It’s super beautiful. The art, and the sound on it is so mysterious. I remember getting it, and trying to make the connection between the music and the art. You know, in the 90s… you could get art, as well as music, from the same person, in two different places, and not know that they were related, or even made by the same person…there was no way to look it up.

Darcy: I know… they didn’t have analytics in the 90s.

Rege: When did you become aware of underground comic books? Did you discover sixties underground stuff in San Francisco?

Darcy: Well, my dad had Zap Comix  and my uncle went to the San Francisco Art Institute. My dad and my uncle were formally trained in fine art.

Rege: Meat Cake is done much more in the format of a SF underground comic, as opposed to other 90’s alternative comics. It came out around the time that people started doing comics as 32 page episodes of a 200 page book.

Darcy: My dad had Playboy, and Heavy Metal, and Zap Comics. I saw that you could make comics that had sexy ladies in them, that weren’t just cute, weren’t just snoopy or whatever. I thought that could be a career.

Rege: There you go.

Darcy: I saw that you can make other kinds of things into comics. The sexist portrayal of women in comics hurt my feelings, even as a kid. It hurt my feelings, the way that they were being portrayed, it upset me. I wanted to make comics that were fairytales, where it’s all about girls.

Rege: During the 90s, if you went over to somebody’s house that you thought was cool, you would definitely want to look at all their stuff. It was the only way to find out about anything. Meat Cake was always around those places. You could pick it up and read a few short, self contained stories, and understand the universe of Dame Darcy. A lot of other comics at the time were chapters of longer stories.

Darcy: The zine scene was blowing up. I was touring with Lisa Carver, and doing illustrations for Rollerderby, her zine. When you are a freak and you put on a freak show, and it’s a crazy weird rock show with hot girls, then you sell your books afterwards. It was the best way of doing it yourself, to get started at that time. I will never regret the early part of my life in these big, scary cities, risking my life to live there.rollerderby

Now I’m old and I’ve been established forever. Even in the hardest, darkest days in my life, there has always been fans that are encouraging me to continue, because of what I established as a kid. That’s just got me through the whole time.

Rege: Your drawings were dispersed all over the place, in little bits, along the way. Now there is this one big, giant book, with them all together.

Darcy: I know, I’m so excited.

Rege: It’s on nice paper, you can read it.

Darcy: Yeah, well now I’m pitching it as a movie, of course, because that’s been my big goal all along. I can just throw it down on the table like, “Bitch, make it happen, here’s a bible.” If this doesn’t prove that it’s mainstream marketable, like Snoopy or some shit.

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Rege: It’s a real definitive thing.

Darcy: Thank you. I really feel like Kim is my guardian angel. I’m going to start crying and I can’t start crying. I feel like Kim Thompson is my guardian angel. He gave me my first break when I was in the 20, 21-years old. I was one of the youngest published female cartoonists at the time. I couldn’t go home to Idaho, I couldn’t live there again after all the work I’d done to get out, you know what I mean? Oh Kim Thompson! He’s totally my guardian angel, he gave me my first break. We were planning the Meat Cake Bible! It was so horribly shocking. I was so sad, I couldn’t believe it. So that’s why I dedicated Meat Cake Bible to Kim. I still feel like he’s watching over this project. You know, as a witch, I've done the rituals for Kim, just thanking him. These spells are like a telephone to the other world, where, you know, you can’t call people on the phone anymore but you can still tell them things. I feel like his spirit lives on in my work, and in the work that he helped produce with all these other amazing artists through the years. A little part of him is in all of our work.

Rege: That makes sense. Do you think that you’ll always draw comics?

Darcy: Oh yes.

Rege: Okay, so you’re a born cartoonist.

Darcy: Yeah. The question everybody had, all my teachers, all my friends, and everybody I ever knew in my life, was “how are you going to survive in the world doing this?”

Rege: [Laughs] Exactly, that’s the mysterious part. A lot of artists try comics, and then quit right away. Or they quit after a little while, and go on to do something else. Here's a super nerd question. What kind of pens do you use? What kind of paper do you use? Do you care? Has it changed over the years? It looks like you're comfortable with everything. Did you ever go through a period of only using, like really old quill pens or anything? Do you have a certain kind of ink that you love?

Darcy: I really love those old-fashioned dip pens with archival ink. But, they’re too precious. The ink spills. I tour a lot, and I move all the time. I’m always traveling everywhere, my life is very weird. So I wasn’t always in the position to have my table, and my ink, and my shit to paint with and draw with. My life couldn’t be preciously wrapped around this table with my stuff. I mostly use rapidographs, but I’ve had to change the ink in the bathroom of the train, you know, or I’ll have another one on the plane, in case the one I’m using explodes, or explodes when I get there. My go-to is rapidographs. It’s mostly because they use archival ink.

RegeYou don’t draw with a brush or anything like that.

Darcy: I can do it. It just looks a bit different. That’s like painting to me. If I’m going to paint, I’ll use paint and paint a painting. Going through the Bible, there are so many pictures of myself. It’s like a diary for me. With every page, I can remember where I was when I drew it, I can remember who I was dating at the time, or what was going on in my life at the time, or where I was sitting when I was drawing this page.

Rege: All of the photos of you in the book are fairly recent.

Darcy: Yeah, they're all of me now.

Rege: You could've chosen to put in pictures that spanned over the last 20 years.

Darcy: There's one of me when I was nine.

Rege: You could've put in a collection of pictures that showed what you’ve looked like along the way, as the comics were drawn, through the years.
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Darcy: I fucking didn't even think to do that. I'm super into feminism through femininity, that's why I really like the Lolita thing. You don't care who thinks you're not sexy cause you've got a bonnet on. You're like, “I'm going to wear this bonnet, and if you don't like it, or think it's weird, or don't think I'm sexy, that's your problem”. It's just me, and I'm going to wear a bonnet because I think it looks cute. That's what I love about Lolita, and that's my brand of feminism. I'll just do what I want bitches. I'm going to get a captain's license, and I wear my mermaid costume as clothes every day, all the time. I’m just walking around in a mermaid costume because that's what I feel like wearing. I don't need to explain myself. I'll introduce myself. If you want to look my ass up, you can. I'm just being me.

Rege: There's a lot of sex in Meat Cake too.

Darcy: Yeah well you know, I'm feminist. [Laughter.]

Rege: Again, seeing it all collected like this, there's a lot more sex than I remember.

Darcy: There's lots of sex. The mermaid is always topless, and everybody's always like, “whoops, my panties!” Girls are getting excited, and their vaginas are talking like, “yay!” People get excited and just pee, and girls make out with each other and shit and they don't care. It's because that's what happens in real life right? So I just put it in there.

Rege: I remember reading your comics long ago and wondering, “where are these people who hang out and act like this? I’ve got to find these girls.”

Darcy: [Laughter.] They were out there, in every art school and in rock bands or whatever. They were my friends.

Rege: I've always liked the triangle boobs that you draw. It’s a great shorthand. You just draw this little dart. It’s the opposite of the perfect globes we see in most comics, right? Breasts have usually been drawn like beach balls.

Darcy: Oh thanks, I just thought those were funny. Not everybody has, or even wants fake, crazy boobs like that. It is really sad and anti-feminist and I don't like it. I think everybody should embrace whatever beauty they've got, and everybody's got different kinds of beauty. Don't try to just go cookie-cutter or hate yourself for what you look like, just accept what you’ve got. I mean I've got pointy ears for crying out loud. I really got teased for that. Now, I'm really glad I have them. I'm from Atlantis, I'm a fairy, I'm a mermaid, and that's the proof, my DNA. The pointy ears. I'm not a human.

Rege: Can you explain your idea of being a pirate, what that means to you?

Darcy: It means ultimate freedom. You get a lot of booty. I'm very anti-establishment. I don't really care about rules. I'm going to get my captain's license & learn to sail. When you've got the ocean, that's where all the lines of countries are blurred. The rules are blurred, and if you don't like it somewhere you can just sail away and go to another place. If you still don't like it there, you can sail away and go to yet another place. There's that freedom of having disconnect. I was mermaid queen, one of the coronated queens at Coney Island. I have the naughty nautical night cabaret, and all that. It's not a costume. When you're on a boat in a storm learning how to navigate the inter-coastal waterways of South Carolina, and nobody can see you or even cares who you are or what you did before. When the waters are rising, that's the next logical step right?meat-cake-bible-119-1000pix

Rege: I like the way that you're a pirate, you're a mermaid, and you're a witch. I like the idea that you can say all that in 2016, and a lot of people know what you actually mean. That wasn’t true as much 20 years ago, when you started.

Darcy: Yeah it's cool. Every book that I've done, and every year that goes by, everything that I make, I always come “this close” to getting my big break.

Rege: It's easier now than ever to explain what a witch and a cartoonist are. [Laughs.]

Darcy: I know. I'm a total realist. I know how to really live on a dime. I know how to live and strive through anything. I'm taking sea safety. I'm going to learn how to do CPR and all this other stuff even better. I'm super into knowing how to drive a car and swim and all this stuff because in any emergency situation, I want to know what to do. In a lot of ways I'm a total realist. It's always been the background to every minute of my life.

Rege: Well you've got consistency with these drawings, that’s for sure.

Darcy: This is like the fiftieth book I've published. I've done so many books.

Rege: Do you feel like it's a different book than the other ones?

Darcy: Yeah, I finally feel like in the end, Meat Cake is my heart, my soul, my brain. Like if you don't know me at all, and you read Meat Cake, you know me more than anybody who thinks they know me, and hasn't read it. I wish everybody had a book to just hand me to show me their heart, and their soul, and their brain - what it really, truly is. It would be very handy. Like, if I'm dating somebody, and I don't really know him that well, or if I just met somebody, and they don't know who I am, I'm like, “here's who I am, look at my book.” If they're all freaked out by it, or don't like it, or get jealous, or wanna destroy me, or wanna fuck me, or whatever their agenda is after they see my book, It instantly determines things.

Rege: I have to say, most of the people I’ve met over the years that like Meat Cake a lot -- They weren’t really into comics otherwise. They liked Meat Cake because they recognize it. They recognized themselves, and their friends in it. I’ve seen that reaction in people for 20 years. It’s appeal goes way outside of the realm of who is usually buying alternative comics. It’s been hugely influential.

Darcy: I know. It’s been fine being the unicorn in the room or whatever, but it’s been a little bit of the problem.

Rege: Yeah, you are a little bit of a unicorn in that way.

Darcy: What’s funny now is that I’m the grandma of all the Lolita anime girls. They might not always know who I am. Some of them do and some of them don’t. When they do, they’re like “Grandma! Here’s a crown made out of ice cream, we love you!” and when they don’t know who I am they’re like, “Oh she’s carrying a doll, and she has a bonnet on too, she’s another Lolita like us” or whatever. I want to live in a world where they all know me, because I told them. I’m putting Lolitas in my TV show, because Lolita world is really fun. The fashion is really great, everybody’s cool. We all have the same ideas about things, we live in the same adorable little wacky kind of sick planet. We are not represented very much on TV, or in movies. There’s a lot of fashion stuff, but there isn’t a mainstream movie or TV series about Lolitas.

What did we talk about when you interviewed me in Boston?

Rege: Did I interview you in Boston? Did I interview you on the radio?

Darcy: I know isn’t it weird? You interviewed me in Boston for a radio station.

Rege: I think we freaked out. We started screaming and yelling and shit. I think we got a little wild. [Laughs]

Darcy: We got weird.

Rege: We didn’t think about it. I think we just acted crazy.

Darcy: Yeah, well I’m not surprised. How old were we then?

Rege: I think you played a song. Oh, in our 20s.

Darcy: I think we were like 25, 24. I don’t know are you my age?

Rege: I’m 46.

Darcy: Oh yeah I’m 45, I just turned 45 this year. So yeah we’re the same age.

Rege: I totally forgot that happened.

Darcy: All artists truly care about is legacy, what happens after you die. The fact that I was alive, what I did to change society, what I did for feminism, what I did for the world while I was here, and what I left behind. Because, those books in the attic that I read, that were 100 years old, those people that are long dead? - they’ve influenced me. My ultimate goal in life is for the little girl from 2172 seeing my book. She will, because it’s been published. Maybe she’ll do something really weird and different for her time. Where she’s interpreting it in the context of her generation.


4 Responses to A Conversation with Dame Darcy

  1. Zack Blackstone says:

    So when is Fantagraphics going to collect Dame Darcy’s highschool comic strip into a comic/book and publish it?…and did everyone notice that the Globe Darcy’s holding displays Australia…? What does it mean…? Chance…or something else…?

  2. Dame Darcy says:

    Hey Zack :) Thats a good idea. Publish a compendium of the works from my childhood and teen years. I’ll look into this. Also Australia is great! Been there once. Supportive fun anti establishment people. But I didn’t do it on purpose. Love DD

  3. Patrick says:

    Great interview, Ron and Darcy!

  4. Russell Johnson says:

    I’m almost 60 years old and have just discovered Meat Cake. I’m reading the MC Bible now. It is so inspirational. I’m getting my pens back out. :)

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