For over five years, artists Ben Marcus and David Krueger have been meeting at the Arts of Life, a non-profit that provides artists with intellectual and developmental disabilities a shared studio space in Chicago. There, they have been making one of the most singular bodies of work in modern comics: Love Man. The titular Love Man is a Clark Gable-esque alien wandering American cityscapes helping the heartbroken and looking for someone to adore and decadent desserts in equal measure. Completely charming and outré, the Love Man series, mostly printed in pink and red risograph ink, and is now collected in its entirety by Perfectly Acceptable in Love Man: Forever and Ever Again. I talked with Marcus and Krueger about their collaboration methods, frozen treats, and what’s next for the endearingly enigmatic Love Man on this Valentine’s Day.
Who is Love Man?
KRUEGER: He’s a real human being, with fresh blood and bones.
MARCUS: Love Man is a character that me and Dave Krueger came up with during one of our many brainstorm sessions. Love Man is an alien and he cares about other people. He wants to know what it’s like to be a human being. Love Man is also an illustrated outlet for Dave’s personality. Much of what Love Man says in the comics is taken from candid conversations between me and Dave.
With Love Man being an alien, do you think he has a better understanding or different perspective on love and the human condition?
MARCUS: I think his unique perspective allows him to prioritize what’s most important in life. He is always honest about what he wants to experience in human form.
KRUEGER: When he first came down to Earth, he was the best man for the job.
You two have teamed up to make one of the most peculiar, hilarious comics series around. How did your collaboration begin?
MARCUS: Thank you — that means so much to hear that!
KRUEGER: We work like a team and make great comics, like when we came up with Love Man, page by page.
MARCUS: In 2014, I was invited by Vincent Uribe, my friend and artistic director of Arts of Life, to be Dave’s artist mentor. Dave expressed a strong interest in making comics, so we started from there. I quickly realized that Dave is a comedic genius, so I’ve worked to best represent his ideas and get them out to a larger audience.
What is the Arts of Life studio? How did both of you get involved with Arts of Life?
MARCUS: Arts of Life is a non-profit art studio for adults with disabilities.
KRUEGER: I got a phone call. I wanted to see what it feels like to be a professional artist.
What is your process like when making these comics? What steps and tasks are each of you in charge of?
MARCUS: Our work always starts with me asking Dave a lot of questions about what he’s thinking about for our story. I take a lot of notes, writing down Dave’s thoughts and making small, quick thumbnail drawings. From there, I start to form a longer story from the episodic narrative details that Dave provides. A lot of the bones of any given story are made of the dialogue that Dave comes up with. I plan out this longer story based on these narrative touchstones. I draw out the pencils of the comic panels and then bring them to Dave to ink with a marker. I then take the inked drawings back to my studio, where I scan and edit them, and take them through the process of having the comic published.
Perfectly Acceptable just today released the collected Love Man tales. How does it feel to have all the stories in one place?
MARCUS: I’m happy that people will have access to all the Love Man stories. We only released a small quantity of the first book, so I’m not sure many people got to read the Love Man’s debut. I know that Perfectly Acceptable will do an amazing job presenting all of these works, especially since the format of the book is much bigger as well.
KRUEGER: To me, it gives me a happy feeling.
Forever and Ever Again collects comics from 2015 to 2020. Has your thinking about storytelling or making comics changed at all over those 5 years? Have you learned anything along the way?
KRUEGER: I learned how to make comics with Ben. I learned how to make characters come to life.
MARCUS: I’ve learned a lot about how much work it is to make comics, and I’ve learned how to self-publish through this project. My goals with comics hasn’t changed much over the years, but I’ve learned a lot about writing dialogue from working with Dave. I think I’ve allowed myself to simplify the dialogue in my own comic work since I can see how effective it is in Love Man.
Favorite Slurpee flavor?
MARCUS: I think the Coke Slurpee is good, but I can’t remember the last time I had one. Maybe 20 years ago. It’s just frozen sugar, isn’t it?
KRUEGER: Banana Ramma.
What’s next for Love Man?
KRUEGER: The Love Man is going to make the world a better place to live.
MARCUS: We are working on another short Love Man comic coming out in another few months called “Love Man Goes Online.” I’m planning to release it with a different comic me and Dave wrote about The Terminator robot. I’m also hoping to make a few more paintings with Dave.
Do you have any messages for Love Man readers — or anyone just now being introduced to Love Man — on this Valentine’s Day?
KRUEGER: I am the Love Man and I want the people to understand how I get my point across!