Today, we bring you Gary Groth’s 1991 interview with with one of the truly great raconteur cartoonists, Arnold Roth. Here’s one of many excellent exchanges:
ROTH: I wanted to do humor. I was frothing at the mouth to get in The New Yorker and they were very interested in what I had. An editor there went through my stuff, sort of giving me a critique. Finally, he said, “You know you keep making wise cracks. Are you sure you understand what I’m telling you?” I said, “Well, I think you’re telling me I should draw more like Cobean.” Sam Cobean was a terrific New Yorker cartoonist who had recently died in a car crash. He said, “You have to make up your mind if you want more than anything in the world to be a New Yorker cartoonist.” I said, “No, I want to screw and drink and smoke and cock around.” He looked at me and he was really serious. He repeated the question. I told him no and I never went back. That was the end of me, there.
GROTH: Why did you do that instead of giving him the “right” answer which would have been, “Yes, sir.”?
ROTH: I knew what their system was and I knew it was a system I didn’t like. I don’t like to do sketches. I don’t like to do things over and over. I don’t like it when they say things like, “If this guy’s finger was a little blunter, or this eye was straight …” I don’t work well under those circumstances. That doesn’t mean that I’m always right and they’re always wrong — but it’s my work. I have to make my mistakes my way, and when I make it good, make it good my way. Other people can work that system and they do terrific work. I would be miserable. I’d rather work in a grocery store — but I’d like to say where the cans go. [Laughter.]
—Lots of great-talker cartoonist interviews out right now, actually. Los Bros Hernandez talked to Bleeding Cool. Evan Dorkin & Peter Bagge talk to TMSIDK. I haven’t read it yet, but Colleen Coover talked to Toucan.
—A truly enthusiastic Charles Hatfield is something to see. Here he enthuses about the upcoming anthology Cartozia Tales.
—Only Tangentially Comics. The idea of “geek” or “nerd culture” may be the most purely corrosive force posed against us in the battle for truly relevant comics. Though their argument doesn’t approach the idea from that angle, on the leftist journal Jacobin two writers are having a debate on the larger politics of geek culture.
—Not Comics. I missed this, but Lynda Barry reviewed Kathryn Davis’s Duplex for The New York Times Book Review. She is as individual a critic as she is a cartoonist.