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An Interview with Kaz

I’ve known Kaz for a frighteningly long time. The first time I met him (1979?) he was wearing a used bowling shirt with someone else’s name on it – and this was way before that was a thing. I was very impressed. Oh, and I also liked his comics!

During the years we both lived and worked in the relative isolation that was Hoboken we saw each other often, and had a rather snide, sibling rivalry/one-upsmanship sort of a relationship with each other (and which we never outgrew, judging from the following interview). Kaz was always “cooler” than me, in the generally accepted sense of that word, and which he never failed to remind me of. He also knew that town – as well as the entire state of New Jersey – much better than I did, which often came in handy for me.

One fond memory I have from those days was an “Ugly Art” project that me, Kaz and fellow cartoonist Ken Weiner (now Ken Avidor) did together. We basically just stole the idea behind the ugly stickers Topps put out in the 1960s, with each hideous portrait having a name like “Sue” or “Earl” underneath it, and pasted copies of them all over the place. Eventually we had a couple of art shows – one in a Manhattan gallery owned by a crazy Chinese guy named Kwok who kept a live rooster in a garbage can throughout our opening (and that he later ate for dinner!), and the other at a dive bar in Hoboken, whose mostly butch lesbian clientele took offense at one of my drawings and tore it off the wall (it was pretty goddamned offensive, so I didn’t object too much to their violent objection).

Anyhow, we all decided to do paintings for these art shows, which was hilarious in and of itself, since none of us knew how to paint (my wife Joanne felt compelled to “finish” all of my paintings since they came out so badly). Kaz took the cake though, in that he wound up doing one enormous, sloppy painting of two abstract sophisticates sipping cocktails – and in giant red letters right on the canvas he scrawled “FOR SALE, $200!” I still laugh my head off every time I think of that monstrosity. And he sold it that very night -- for $200!

underworldFantagraphics recently published a large collection of Kaz’s 20-plus-years-and-counting Underworld comic strip. You should buy it if you haven’t already. His sense of humor is dark and twisted and… well, really fucked up. And no other comic strip has been as consistently funny for so long. Every single strip in that collection is a gem – if jokes about backstabbing, thieving drug addicts could be described as “gems,” that is!

-- Peter Bagge

BAGGE: You told me some funny stories about when you were a kid in Hoboken, NJ. One was how your parents were Lithuanian, but the rest of your block was mostly ethically Serbian, so you assumed most Americans were Serbian! Did I remember that correctly?

KAZ: The street around my block was mostly Czech. I remember the babushkas dressed all in black. They were always yelling at each other. If we made too much noise playing under their windows they would dump a pot of water on us. The boys all had crew cuts and were very mean. I knew they weren’t American because I was aware of other ethnics. The Puerto Ricans all looked very sharp. Tight black pants and pompadours and always blasting music that had wild syncopation. Their women all wore beehive hairdos and black nylon stockings. The PR kids were tough and would throw rocks and bottles at you if you got too close to their turf. The Italians ran the food stands and social clubs (hang outs for low level mafia types). The white people (who I felt apart from for many years) had the edge in my mind because they were the cops, firemen, and teachers (and because they were on television and in the movies). Seeing a black person in Hoboken in the early 60’s was very rare. My mom was afraid of black people back in those days because of all the anti-black propaganda she heard while a child in a Lithuanian refugee camp in Germany. For some reason the Germans around her would tell horror stories about black people in America in an effort of discourage her family from moving to America.

The house rule for our family was that we had to speak Lithuanian while at home. And not knowing any other Lithuanians in Hoboken besides my family made me feel like an outsider (even though I had blond hair and freckles like Dennis the Menace). If we didn’t want people around us to know what we were saying we’d speak in Lithuanian. I remember my mother constantly making fun of other people around us with asides in Lithuanian.

BAGGE: Do you still speak any Lithuanian?

KAZ: I retained very little since leaving home. Though I was able to understand my parents when they spoke to me in Lithuanian. And the Lithuanian I spoke was a very limited child’s vocabulary. I remember my dad listening to Lithuanian language programs on the radio and I could only make out half of what they were saying. I do remember practicing rolling my R’s which is very important in that language. My dad would proudly go on about Lithuanian being one of the world’s oldest languages. That fact did nothing for me, as I was more interested in the latest American slang.

BAGGE: You also told me your ma was a bit of a hard ass, and once ordered you to beat up a kid who stole your bike. Again, is that accurate?

KAZ: Yes, but that kid was so much bigger than me that after he clobbered me my mom jumped in, punched him, and got my bike back. The Czech babushkas were braying like donkeys at us from their window perches.

There was a bar on the ground floor of our tenement building and there was a guy who used to stumble out of the bar every afternoon screaming “Hot shit!” over and over again. We named him Hot Shit Charlie. When he would calm down we’d slowly creep up to him and say “hot shit?” and then he’d start screaming it again. Fun times!

BAGGE: Did Hot Shit Charlie ever make a cameo appearance in Underworld?

KAZ: No. But there certainly are a lot of drunks and bums in Underworld. The Man in the Gutter is probably the closest to Hot Shit Charlie.

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BAGGE: I met one of your brothers several times during our Hoboken days. Was that Tom?  He was taller and more heavy-set than you.

KAZ: You probably met Vincent. Tommy was still just a kid in the 80’s. Vincent works in a warehouse and his interests are Horror films and bird watching. Maybe I should write a horror film about bird watching for him: The Bird Watcher Massacre.

BAGGE: Do you have a sister, too?  I forget!

KAZ:I also have a twin sister, Laima. It’s a Lithuanian name meaning forest sprite.

BAGGE: I have a vague recollection of meeting her. You’d think I’d more vividly remember your twin – especially if she’s a forest sprite! Where are all your siblings now?

KAZ: They’re all still living in New Jersey.

BAGGE: How old were you when your family moved to Rahway, NJ? And why did you move? What did your old man do for a living?

KAZ: I was 9 when my parents bought a house in Rahway, N.J. My mom was sick of living in a four-room shotgun apartment with no hot water. I grew up with no hot water. We’d boil water on the stove for our baths. And when the heat didn’t work we’d light the stove and keep the door open to warm the kitchen. My dad worked in a plating factory. I’m not sure what he plated but I’m sure it wasn’t baby booties. He came home one night white as a sheet. Apparently he almost fell into a plating vat but was saved by a fellow worker. I imagined life with a plated dad in the living room next to the TV.

Rahway is an old colonial town. George Washington slept there and all that horse shit. The original name of the town was so much cooler: Spanktown. The story is that some Revolutionary soldiers saw some idiot spanking his wife while marching through the area and bestowed that name on the place.

BAGGE: Was Rahway markedly different than Hoboken at the time?

KAZ: Yes, it was a big change from Hoboken. There were big parks, lakes and rivers all through town. It was suburban with big old houses and a creepy old cemetery with skulls and crossbones on the headstones. For a 9-year-old it was like living in a Hollywood movie. I ran around, fished, broke windows, and rode my bike everywhere to have kid adventures.   

BAGGE: Rahway is also a prison town though, isn’t it? Did the prison affect the local culture at all? It’s hard to imagine it being as purely bucolic as you described it with a prison in the mix! My hometown was close to Ossining, NY, home of Sing Sing prison. The town looked just like all the neighboring towns, yet the local conventional wisdom was always “don’t go to Ossining!”

KAZ: Oddly, Rahway Prison (where the famous Ruben Hurricane Carter was incarcerated) wasn’t in Rahway at all. It was in Carteret. They named it Rahway after the closest stop to the prison on the East Jersey Coast train line. It was also across Highway 1-9 so it was very separated from the town of Rahway. So there was no prison culture.

After High School I got a job at a record factory, Springboard Records that was located near Rahway prison. I’d sit outside and watch the prison guards escort prisoners to a series of trailers just outside the prison walls. The trailers were for conjugal visits. 

Springboard Records pressed all The Chipmunks records and a record called Jimmy Page’s Special Early Works Featuring Sonny Boy Williamson. Which was really just a Sonny Boy Williamson record that Jimmy Page did session work on.

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It was my first job just out of High School. On my first day they handed me a broom and told me to start sweeping the warehouse. It hit me real hard that this was my life now. After two days the guys running the forklifts felt sorry for me and would, using the forklifts, lift me up to the top shelves where I would read and take a nap until lunch and then again until quitting time. I did not last long there.

BAGGE: Almost all of your work is set in a rundown, urban residential landscape – not unlike Hoboken or Jersey City, though more depressed than those places are now. Might this be the Hoboken of your youth permanently planted in your psyche? Or perhaps because you moved back there when you started doing comics in earnest?

KAZ: Yes, Hoboken and Jersey City did look like Betty Boop backgrounds back in the 60’s. It’s perhaps a psychic space that reflects my own run down mind. But the simple truth is that I like drawing depressed backgrounds and interiors as well as weird architecture. 

BAGGE: Your interiors always include naked light bulbs, pealing wallpaper, broken plaster, torn shades and wobbly floorboards. You should have been an interior decorator! Ha ha. And the exteriors include abandoned littered sandlots and people going in and out of sewers. Stuff that kids are fascinated with, actually (or at least when we were kids).

KAZ: Yes, sewers are fascinating. I love the idea that there’s an underground world connecting the whole city. I lost a lot of Spalding rubber balls down sewers. My brother Vincent accused our mom of shoving his dog, Zero down a sewer after she was sick of taking care of it. He claims a friend saw her do it. When he confronted her she denied it. The dog just disappeared. Zero the sewer dog.   

BAGGE: I just heard Zero’s echoing, ghostly bark!  Since you mentioned Betty Boop, I’m guessing those type of backgrounds also evoke cartoons and comics from the 30s and 40s that clearly had a huge influence on you. Were you always drawn to that old-timey stuff, or did it start to grow on you once you were out on your own?

KAZ: I think I always liked it. I never considered it old timey. Just different. The underground comics that influenced me the most had the same feeling. Robert Crumb and Kim Deitch. But yes, I was drawn to them because they looked like Hoboken. I found drawing plain suburban houses, storefronts, and strip malls pretty boring at the time. 

BAGGE: Were you a loner in high school? Or have your own clique of freaks? I’m assuming you weren’t much into sports or going to proms.

kaz2KAZ: I had friends. Misfits like myself. Though I didn’t have friends who were into reading comics or drawing. That was a solitary pursuit. The other students saw me as an artist. I had an after school job working behind the counter at a local deli. One night my boss gave me some cognac and I nearly cut my thumb off on a meat slicer. Blood everywhere! There was a young girl who lived upstairs and would come into the kitchen and flirt with me. Her father was an undertaker and said he’d kill and embalm me if I touched her.

I played sports with my cousins. My Aunt Ruth had four boys around the same age and we played football together that always ended in bloody noses and torn clothes. I once joined a city league baseball team just for the hell of it. I sucked but our team won a championship. I took part in school plays and once played the lead in You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown. I had girlfriends in High School. One was a fellow artist and the other one was a cheerleader. That’s right, nerds! I dated a cheerleader!

BAGGE: You played Charlie Brown in a musical? You sang show tunes in front of people?

KAZ: I wish! No, we did the show without the musical numbers. Nobody in our troupe could sing. We put on the play for the whole school during a weekday so students got to leave class to see it. The play opens up with me as Charlie all alone on stage doing a monologue. Scanning the audience I could see the look of shock on my fellow students faces as it registered that they were watching a play starring that weird kid that draws cartoons.

BAGGE: There’s definitely two kinds of comics nerds. There are the extremely awkward ones who obsessively collect superhero comics and line up for Star Wars movies days in advance and who talk incessantly about stuff that the listener clearly has no interest in. And they don’t date for obvious reasons. Then there are the ones that simply like weird crap in general, like Basil Wolverton as well as Sargent Bilko and The Cramps, yet they also take baths and are able to communicate with other humans in a normal fashion. You’re obviously in the latter camp. This isn’t a question, of course, but there’s a sharp distinction that gets blurred by the general use of the word “nerd.”

KAZ: Yes, back in the day we were just called weird. Nerds were into science and such. I never thought of myself as a nerd. Geek makes more sense. My friend Jim Ryan called us Lowlife Scum.

My two major High School friends were George and Crazy Eddie. George worked at a combination greasy spoon/general store and Crazy Eddie went to the “special” class and was a lot of fun. Crazy Eddie’s brother was a member of The Pagans motorcycle gang so there was always a lot of hogs and bearded tough guys getting drunk at his house. There was another kid who tagged along whom we named Igor because he was so willing to do anything we suggested. George would order Igor to jump off a garage roof and he’d do it for the approval. George, Crazy Eddie and I would often play hooky and take the train into Manhattan and bum around Greenwich Village looking for kicks. 

BAGGE: Were you always into rock music early on? You were at least into glam stuff like Bowie and T-Rex before punk came along, yes?  Did anything pre-date that? The Stones and Led Zep maybe?

KAZ: As a kid I was into pop music. Whatever was on the radio. Then I graduated to stuff like Elton John and Alice Cooper. I was very influenced by my Uncle Alex’s record collection. He’d let me make tapes of his records: The Rolling Stones, Led Zep, Dr. John, Hendrix, Pink Floyd. On my own I discovered David Bowie, T. Rex, Sweet, bands like that. I remember buying The Rolling Stone History of Rock and Roll and just buying everything in that book starting from Little Richard to Brian Eno. I got heavy into art rock. Then ’75 I read about a little club on the Bowery in New York called CBGB’s but I didn’t start going there until ’76 when I was seventeen. I couldn’t get my friends to go with me because the music was called “Punk Rock” and they were disgusted by anything that would call itself punk. My friends also said the bands can’t play their instruments and looked like fags (I got that a lot). Only Crazy Eddie was crazy enough to go with me. 

BAGGE: When my friends and I first heard the Ramones we thought they were just a comedy act, whose shtick was “look how dumb we are!” So I was surprised by how passionately some people suddenly loved then, and how in reaction to that how so many more people hated them.  And those attitudes spread to the whole punk rock phenomena. A lot of the earliest punk stuff was a little too crude for my taste, but I got into it more as the bands got a bit more competent. And I also loved how much it upset the hippies, whose attitudes had become fossilized by then.

KAZ: I was always amazed how people missed the humor in The Ramones. Live they were so loud, powerful and funny looking. They lyrics were hilarious. But there seemed to be a rule in Rock that you couldn’t be funny and taken serious as artists. I never understood that. I’m surprised that you would need bands to be more competent considering how crude your drawings and jokes were at the time. But your musical tastes were always more mainstream than mine. For me, when the punk bands became more competent they became boring. Who started off as Punk and hit their artistic stride on their 5th album? The Clash? Blondie? No one.    

BAGGE: I wasn’t trying to be crude with my art back then. I just sucked!  As did the Dead Boys! I simply thought most of those punk/new wave acts hit their peak with their 3rd LP. By the 5th they were done! I also had that Rolling Stone book. It annoyed me though, in the way the editors made their own preferences quite obvious.

mpMQ4L1kyC9CeyGFkDjsUAgKAZ: The way you made your preference obvious when you were editing Weirdo? You think music writers have to be fair and balanced?

BAGGE: But that book sold itself as an encyclopedia.

KAZ: Well I still own that book. Let’s see. The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock and Roll. Copyright 1976. It’s mostly broken down by artists. A different music critic writes each chapter. That could be the problem you had with it. Robert Palmer wouldn’t necessarily agree with Dave Marsh or Greil Marcus. On the back of the book it’s called “A critical history” not an encyclopedia.

BAGGE: I guess I simply had little tolerance for anyone who had a different opinion than mine back then. But imagine a book called “The History of Comics” that said, “Nancy was a totally uncool strip, but a lot of idiots seemed to like it.” Would you be impressed?

KAZ: I read that Bushmiller himself described Nancy as being for the “gum chewers” out there. He thought his readers were idiots!

BAGGE: Bushmiller was an idiot!

You once told me you and your old girlfriend Kathy met each other when one of you had a letter published in Cream or Circus Magazine saying, “Is there anyone in my part of Jersey that likes The Stooges or Lou Reed?”  And the other one said, “I do!”

KAZ: It was Rock Scene Magazine and it was a pen pal column. I said I was into The Ramones, Richard Hell, and The Dead Boys. I was out of High School and working dead end jobs at the time. I got a whole bunch of letters. There was a young punk rock crazy crew in Long Island that hung out together. I got a letter from a girl who lived in Texas and called herself Sheena. It was a lot of fun getting those letters and writing back. Pre-Internet! Kathy was the closest to me because she was going to Rutgers and that was on the North Jersey Coast line. So we made plans to go to CBGB’s together and became boyfriend and girlfriend very quickly. Now I had a punk rock girlfriend to go to shows with. 

BAGGE: Rock Scene Magazine! I forgot about that one. I liked Circus the best, though I don’t remember why. But that’s an adorable story, how you found your own punk rock girlfriend. 

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KAZ: Yes, we clicked and had a lot of fun together. We’d go see a lot of bands. Patti Smith, Devo, Johnny Thunders, The Jam, on and on. Rock Scene was basically just a stupid photo magazine with captions. But they were the first to capture the downtown NYC Punk scene.  I read Circus from time to time but the writing was pretty shallow and they worshipped Jethro Tull. It wasn’t until I got a hold of the British music press: NME and Melody Maker that I get deeper into discovering music I would have missed. There was a record shop in Rahway called Sound-A-Rama run by a middle-aged hippy. I bought all my albums there until he refused to order stuff that I wanted because he thought it was shit (stuff like Iggy and the Stooges and The Velvet Underground). So I made trips into Manhattan to buy records.     

BAGGE: How did you wind up back in Hoboken? Was it because you enrolled in SVA? You never lived in NYC, did you?

Kathy and I moved into Hoboken after we were both done with college. The rents were cheaper and the apartments larger than what we could have gotten in Manhattan. And it was fun in Hoboken back then. The same bands that played Manhattan played Maxwell’s (just around the corner from you as you know). The local Hoboken movie theatre was showing the same grindhouse films that Times Square was showing. The subway from Hoboken to Manhattan (The Tubes) was only thirty cents. After a few years you moved to Hoboken. Then Patrick McDonnell (Mutts) moved in. I was DJing on WFMU after a while. I remember many summer nights sitting on the crumbling docks on the Hudson River drinking cheap beer, looking at the New York skyline and telling funny stories with friends.

I lived in NYC after Kathy and I broke up and I met Linda (whom I am married to now). We lived on the Upper West Side (first on 88th and Broadway and then on 109th and Broadway). I lived in Manhattan with Linda for eighteen years until we moved to Los Angeles because I was getting work in TV animation. I loved living in Manhattan but toward the end I saw how it was changing through gentrification and Mayor Giuliani cleaning up Times Square and such.    

BAGGE: What year did you move back to Hoboken? You must have seen a lot of changes during your time back there. In the 3 years I lived there the place turned into a totally different city.

I think I moved into Hoboken in 1982 or ’83. I remember that landlords were burning their buildings for the insurance around that time. We would go to a fire every week as if it was entertainment.

Yes, it’s totally different and I was there to see the changes from a multi-ethnic (mostly white European and Puerto Rican) to white yuppie professionals. Everything changes.

BAGGE: I moved there in Jan ’82, so you had to have been there before then. And the landlords already knew the town was going to flip when I moved there. The ones setting their buildings on fire didn’t have much foresight!  And yes, neighborhoods like that are getting gentrified everywhere, but I never saw a place change that fast.

KAZ: If that’s what you remember then I probably moved in around the summer of 1981. I was still in SVA in 1980 and living at home. You and I were part of that change being white professionals. Though we probably made less money than the working class families around us.

BAGGE: Were you pretty familiar with Underground comics before you started at SVA?

Not Brand Echh - Cover

KAZ: Oh yeah. I started collecting undergrounds when I was around 14-years-old. Before that I was mostly reading the mainstream comics like Mad, Plop, Spider-man, Batman, and those crazy Jack Kirby books like The New Gods. I sent for a back issue catalog so I could buy Not Brand Echh and S.H.I.E.L.D. comics and I saw adds for underground comics that looked insane. So I wrote ‘”I am 18 years of age” and started buying all the undergrounds that the Bud Plant catalog carried. They blew my little teenage mind because here was a comics art form completely unchained from any publishing or editorial control. It was comics as fine art and I fell in love with them and decided that I was going to be an underground cartoonist. I remember once in junior high school we had to write the name of a person we admired the most on a sticker and wear it during class. I wrote R. Crumb.

BAGGE: So you already know you wanted to be a cartoonist when you enrolled?

KAZ: At that time I wanted to be a lot of things. I flirted with being an animator for a while, then a painter, then a photographer and filmmaker. Second year we were forced to pick a major and cartooning was offered so I signed up for those classes. I figured whatever else I could be I’d always be a cartoonist at heart.

BAGGE: Did Art Speiglman’s class affect the way you looked at comics, as well as your own work? Did you get much out of SVA other than Art’s class?

KAZ: Yes, Art’s class forced me to think deeper about the art of comics. His inspiration opened brand new ways of expressing things in comics. My stuff was always funny but I was able to play with many different approaches. He encouraged us to use all the different styles and tools of art available. I was already starting to do this from just spending hours in the Museum of Modern Art and all the galleries of Manhattan.

BAGGE: How did you even make a living when you got out of art school? I don’t recall you having a day job. You were just working on your comics all day.

KAZ: Well, I didn’t make a living. I worked at a phone survey place for a while. I made a few bucks here and there, mostly from illustration work. The girlfriend paid most of the bills. I borrowed money. I used a credit card. I started picking up more work eventually. I became a semi-regular in Details magazine. I did advertising jobs once a year. I was making a name for myself as a cartoonist but wasn’t making much money because there wasn’t any money to be made. The girlfriend and I broke up. I lived in the slums of Jersey City with friend the painter, Alexander Ross. Dropped acid, got sick. Then I met Linda. I moved into New York with her. I started my weekly strip. I began getting more jobs. But I was still waiting for my big cartooning break, which never came.

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Then in late 2000 when I got a call from The SpongeBob show asking me if I’d be interested in writing for them. Real money doing animated cartoons and I can still draw my weekly comic strip. An offer I couldn’t refuse.

BAGGE: You just covered the last 30 years of your life with that last answer! I never got a sense of you experiencing financial hardship back in the day. Yous were always so focused on your work that you never talked about such things.

KAZ: I never talked about money with my friends. In my household growing up there were a lot of fights about money so I always found it stressful. When I was a child my mother would get mad at me if I got sick and needed to see a doctor or dentist. We couldn’t afford healthcare and she’d blame me for my illness.

As an adult I lived cheaply. Bought my clothes at thrift stores, ate mostly pizza and fast food. Cartooning supplies were cheap compared to painting supplies. Getting Photostats made of my originals was expensive.

BAGGE: You were very invested in doing experimental “arty” comics back in the early ‘80s: Longer stories with surreal backgrounds and characters and unconventional layouts. But one day I remember you asking me if I’d like to collaborate on a gag strip with you to submit to Playboy (back when they had a small comics section that Spiegelman had a hand in assembling, as I recall.). Your idea was that you would draw it (being a better draftsman) and I would write the gags. But to get the ball rolling you came up with some gags of your own that were way funnier than anything I could ever come up with in that 2-3 panel format, so we both agreed you should do it on your own. Might this have been the start of your “gag cartoonist” career? Or would you describe your full page New York Rocker strips as “gag strips” as well?

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KAZ: always had one foot in the art camp and the other in the commercial camp. I honestly enjoyed both. I remember getting flack from some of your cartooning buddies because I was published in Raw. But Spiegelman was doing the same thing. At night he did art comics and during the day he wrote Wacky Packs jokes. At SVA he would encourage his students to get published anywhere. He gave me the tip that porn magazine High Society was looking for comics so I went up there and sold them a four panel gag strip about a sexy couple that ran for close to a year.

I knew my art comics were a harder sell than my humor strips. While still in art school I sold The New York Rocker a half-page gag strip about an insect punk rock band. When they got sick of it they dropped me. On a whim I decided to show them the full-page art comics I had been doing in Art Spiegelman’s class. They loved them and began publishing them monthly. Those strips were collected in my first book, Buzzbomb. The humor in those works were pretty dark.

BAGGE: After that I remember you publishing strips in alt. papers like Real Fun and The East Village Eye that were prototypes of Underworld. But then there seemed to be a gap between those and the debut of Underworld.

552399KAZ: A giant gap. In between I got involved with Glenn Head co-editing Snake Eyes, which grew out of a student comic book called Bad News. Editorially it sat somewhere between Raw and Weirdo. It took so long to assemble and some cartoonists resented our editorial interference that I seriously considered quitting comics all together and just become an illustrator. It took me a while to harness what I had been doing with the art comics and marry it with my humor strips. That process actually began with the full-page comics I did for National Lampoon when Drew Friedman was the comics editor.

BAGGE: I just wanted to ask you about one last thing: When re-reading your Underworld book I’m struck by how much your influenced by specific old timey cartoons and cartoonists: The Fleischer Brothers, Elzie Segar, Cliff Sterrett, Milt Gross, Bill Holman etc. In more recent years you’ll even do occasional tributes or “hat tips” to them. Did these artists influence you from the start, or has it been an on-going thing? Meaning are you still inspired by them, perhaps now more than ever?

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The Smithsonian Collection of Newspaper Comics book had a huge impact on my work. I kept going back to that book for inspiration. Over the years more comic works from the 1890’s through the 1930’s have been published and I love almost all of it. For me, there is a high energy to that work that really floors me; a kind of open-ended optimism and a joy in the possibilities of the art form. Do you own the Sunday Press book: Society Is Nix? Those pages are breathtaking.

I don’t believe that art moves in a straight line. It zigzags and often doubles back on itself before springing forward. In fifty years today’s art will be old-timey. Picasso and Warhol are old-timey now.

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7 Responses to An Interview with Kaz

  1. Jeffrey Goodman says:

    Thanks for that most entertaining excursion into the minds of two artists I’ve been following since almost from the moment they started producing for ‘mass’ consumption. Really exciting, as well, to see that issue of Not Brand Echh in the spotlight. It was the first comic book I ever owned, and still do to this day! Marie Severin RULES!!!

  2. vollsticks says:

    Great interview, Snake Eyes is still legendary

  3. Chris V. says:

    “But imagine a book called “The History of Comics” that said, “Nancy was a totally uncool strip, but a lot of idiots seemed to like it.” Would you be impressed?”

    Hey, that’s pretty much the Maurice Horn book!

  4. Drew Friedman says:

    Shemp

  5. Ron Wilkinson says:

    I can’t remember if I saw Kaz in Raw or Weirdo first. I liked it, the stuff in those publications. I rediscovered him on Facebook.
    I can see the rivalry in the interview. I like that too.

  6. Rob Kirby says:

    Everybody get the big phat new Underworld collection, it’s great, as is Kaz himself.

  7. Oliver Smith says:

    Great interview! Always looked forward to the NY Rocker cartoons. Seared forever in my mind is a panel that had these two real messed up people. Mental patients, maybe? The caption read “Hurry up my lover, before the nurse gets back.” Too much. I clipped them all out and have them somewhere. Thanks for your work, KAZ.

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