From The Comics Journal #171 (September 1994)
By Darcy Sullivan
If Dame Darcy doesn’t have a cult following yet, give her time. Her comics are winningly preposterous blends of girlish whimsy and macabre invention, full of absurd plot twists, loopy young women, wisecracking animals and sinister daddy figures. Her artwork is at once avant primitive and evocatively old-fashioned, ornately detailed with the kind of frills precocious teenage girls doodle in the margins of their poetry.
And comics are just part of the legacy Dame Darcy is weaving. She’s also a musician. A palm reader. A fluent speaker of pig latin (she claims she speaks it sometimes without realizing it). An actress. A lover of Victoriana, glitter, and clams. A divining rod for paranormal activities. A wildly digressive raconteur, whose tall tales — true or not — cry out for a Real Stuff-like book of their own.
The similarity between our names — her full name is Darcy Megan Stanger — probably made our interview one of those fated meetings in comics, like Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, the Thing and the Hulk, Jaime Hernandez and Gilbert Hernandez. She insisted we use our first names throughout — “It’s part of my plan”— but in the interests of reader friendliness, we have appended her self-bestowed title to hers. Our discussion, with its jarring transitions and illogical flow, is probably confusing enough as it is.
DARCY SULLIVAN: You’re into this Victorian thing, aren’t you?
DAME DARCY: I’d say I like the 1880s to the late 1920s. The ’30s start getting bad. Everything back then was so luxurious. Everything was dripping with floridity, everything was beautiful. First of all I like it because it was just the beginning of our modern-day conveniences, but you could actually look at a machine and look at its inner workings and watch the cogs moving together. If you cranked it up it would work; you didn’t just push a button and trust by the face of God that it was gonna go. Plus, everything that was practical, they also made it look really fanciful and beautiful.
That’s just one aspect of why I like the 1800s through the ’20s; there are like so many other aspects of that time period that I like. I like the fact that everybody was uptight and really conservative and bound, and they had these twisted views, this weird morbid society, that they romanticized death because it was around them, it was such a big part of their lives all the time. They accepted death rather than trying to hide it beneath all this crazy youth culture plastic ideology like they do today.
DARCY: But they hid sex the way that we hide death.
DAME DARCY: They did, but they didn’t. The average American family would put a skirt on their piano so you couldn’t see the table legs because leg was a bad, nasty word. But prostitution and call girls, child pornography, never did better. And there were all kinds of crazy sideshows and acrobatic sex acts going on then. They’d start up a gold-mining town and one of the first things to start up was a prostitution den.
DARCY: You want to give a bit of personal background?
DAME DARCY: My grandparents were in agriculture, and they were one of the top Appaloosa horse breeders in the world. My dad and my uncle grew up in this atmosphere on a farm in Idaho, and they were also artistic though, and they started playing bluegrass in their late teens. My grandpa died and we had to sell all the horses, which was really sad. My uncle still runs the farm, and my dad used to do sign-painting for 16 years and now he does some kind of graphic design thing.
I was born in 1971 in Caldwell, Idaho, and the nurse came out and told my dad that I was a boy. And I costed $100 and I was a month late. [Laughs.]
DARCY: Why did they think you were a boy?
DAME DARCY: Because the nurse was some stupid nurse in Caldwell, Idaho, who didn’t know …
DARCY: Well, she must have known the difference.
DAME DARCY: Apparently, she didn’t. I don’t know what happened. See, I always took this to mean that I was supposed to be a boy, when I was younger.
I grew up in a community that’s very conservative, very Republican, everybody was Mormon. The population of Idaho Falls, Idaho, has more Mormons per capita than Salt Lake City, Utah. Everybody’s parents worked at the Site, which is a nuclear power plant in the Arco Desert. And all the mothers worked at Smiths or Safeway as checkout women, or at the fabric store. Everyone had 10 kids in their family, and they all went to the same church, and they all worked at the same place and knew each other. It kind of reminded me of the pod people in Invasion of the Body Snatchers, how if you’re different they point at you and make that weird noise.
I was an outsider because my mother was from Pasadena, so she didn’t grow up in Idaho. Her mother was a top government official in the ’50s; my mother just didn’t come from this thing where you’re raised to be a brood cow and you’re raised to be Mormon and you’ve only lived in this insular place all your life. My father was an artist and didn’t work at the nuclear power plant. Plus, we were Catholic and not Mormon. So in so many accounts I didn’t fit in, plus I was a weirdo and didn’t fit in anyway.
DARCY: Were you raised pretty Catholic?
DAME DARCY: Yeah, I went to Catholic school for the first, second and third grade. By the time I was in third grade I said to my mom, I am not going to be in this Catholic school anymore, and I’m going to let my hair grow — cause she’d always cut it in this ugly ’70s mushroom haircut, and I hated it so bad. I always wanted really long luxurious beautiful shimmering golden locks, and my mother would just cut them off.
That is the same year I realized the Virgin Mary was only a vehicle for Jesus, that she wasn’t God. I thought she was higher than God, because she was the mother of God. You never see statues of God, always of Mary, Mary, Mary, Mary, Mary. So I thought, obviously, she’s better. When I was nine I realized she wasn’t and my whole system of religion started to crumble. I started to hate being a girl. I also found out about menstruation, and I knew it was going to be hell, which it is, and I hate it. [Laughs.] Despite these things, it was the best year of my life, I think.
DARCY: Why is that?
DAME DARCY: Because I loved my baby brother a lot. And I had some real fun friends. I was real popular in my class for being a spaz. They didn’t condemn me for it, they liked me for it. I would make up all the games in the playground, and I started writing poetry that year. I read Alice in Wonderland and memorized all the poems. And I read Through the Looking Glass and memorized some of the poems. And I read a lot of Pippi Longstocking books. And I started writing all these poems. I think that’s how come now I can make up rhymes really quickly and easily, because I had a lot of practice.
DARCY: That seems like a real formative time for you. There’s a lot of Alice in Wonderland-type stuff in your cartoons.
DAME DARCY: Well, I didn’t know whether to mention this or not, I didn’t know if this should be in print, about me and my … See, I’ve had extensive experiences with ghosts. When I was 11 I would see ghosts all the time and they would talk to me. I was very psychic, I could guess 45 or 46 cards out of 50 right. I would get 95 on tests in seventh grade when I had no idea what the material was even about. I would go down the test and know what number to circle, it would sort of glow. I started reading palms at 11 and I was always really right. I would guess what the insides of people’s houses looked like, people I’d never known. Strange things would just come out, like that their mother had a light blue coat she wore a lot, and I’d never seen their mother. I’d have prophetic dreams about major events and later on I’d hear about it in the news.
And then when I was about 12 I went to junior high and everybody despised me.
DARCY: ’Cause you were weird?
DAME DARCY: Yeah. You know the kid in school that everybody in school totally beats up on? That was me. I didn’t go to their church, and I dressed funny ’cause I was poor. First, I didn’t like their stupid Idaho hick fashions that they got at the stupid Grand Teton mall, and second, I couldn’t afford them anyway ’cause we were poor. I wore my older second cousin’s corduroy pants. And my mom hated to go shopping. Nowadays, though, I’m a clothes horse. [Laughs.]
THINGS THAT GO BUMP
DARCY: Did you still see ghosts when you were 12?
DAME DARCY: OK, here’s what happened. There was this old woman’s barn across the alley and we had this clubhouse up there. The ghosts were living in the barn. See, they weren’t living in the barn until I called them into the barn, and then they wouldn’t go away.
DARCY: What would they do?
DAME DARCY: They would make the room ice-cold in the middle of the summer, when it was like 90 degrees. It would be like a freezer! Because ghosts are freezing cold. I’d opened a porthole for them to come through, and now they’d come through and I didn’t know how to handle it. I was only 11 and I didn’t know how to deal with it. Later on, when I was 17, they tried to possess me. It was really scary. [Laughs.] See, I constantly see and hear things, and some people might say that I’m crazy and I’m delusional. But I am not. They are always there, it’s just that some people can see them and some people can’t.
DARCY: Were these ghosts dead people?
DAME DARCY: Of course. They were children who had died early.
DARCY: They were all kids?
DAME DARCY: They were between 4 and 13. One of them tried to make my lungs stop one time and that was really scary. The ones that tried to possess me later weren’t the same ones. The four-year-old told me that if I stood with my back to her and took a mirror and looked over my shoulder, I would see her reflection in the mirror, and that way not only could I hear her but see her. I didn’t do it, because I was too scared.
I found out this later: Where I would hear them talking was in the back of my head, not the front of my head, where your thoughts are. At school I found out that’s where the [sense of] sight is. I found this out when I was 14 and I said, “Oh, my God, that makes so much sense!”
Then, when I got a concussion about eight months ago … I bashed my head against a headboard by accident and got a concussion in Pasadena — I was trying to drive from Guerneville in the Redwoods to Providence, Rhode Island, and the car was breaking down. I was so excited when we stopped at this hotel that I threw myself back on the bed and smashed my head really hard. [Laughs.] I got a concussion and blacked out and after that, OH MY GOD, I was so intuitive, I could guess anything. I was really really really really psychic. I don’t mean to be a flake, I know it sounds flaky when I say things like this, but I’m sorry, this is my life, I can’t help it. So anyway, I think it’s because I bashed that part of my brain. When I got the concussion, I was not conscious, I was blacked out living in this black void that’s the closest to death I’ve ever been. I’ve seen it a couple times. I’m hypoglycemic, if I don’t eat I’ll faint. And that’s the worst feeling, I hate it. It’s not like sleep, it’s like death, honestly. It’s even scarier when you’re in this place and you’re not aware of what you’re doing. You’re walking around and functioning and maybe even talking, but you aren’t in control of it, so who is? What’s going on? Are you dead? And this other thing has just taken over? And what is this other thing? Does this open you up, does it open up some sort of doorway for demons to enter your body? You’re not there to guard it? It’s scary to me.
Anyway, when I had my concussion, my boyfriend at the time didn’t see me do it, and when he came in the room he thought I was just lying there, watching TV. I guess we were watching The Ed Sullivan Show. But I don’t remember watching The Ed Sullivan Show, I’ve never seen it in my life. That song comes on, “God didn’t make little green apples, and it don’t rain in Indianapolis in the summertime … ” [Laughs.] You know that song?
DARCY: I know that song.
DAME DARCY: I’d never heard that song before, right? So I was blacked out and I heard this. We finally did get to Providence, and I made a movie this summer in Boston. And while we were making the movie, I was walking around in this antique store looking at this religious manual from the 1800s, and I heard that song, “God didn’t make little green apples,” and I thought I had never heard it before, and suddenly this wave washed over me and I remembered where I was when I was in this past-death thing that happens when you’re unconscious but your body is still moving, and I felt like I was two centuries old and like my body wasn’t my body: I could move it around but it didn’t belong to me. And this terrible wave of like a nauseous feeling but without the actual nausea in my stomach, and blackness, everything just black black black, when I heard this song. And I wondered, why is this song causing this reaction? And I remembered that I’d heard it when I had my concussion, and I remembered where I was in this black void and hearing it.
CARTOONIST BY DEFAULT
DARCY: Why did you move to New York?
DAME DARCY: Because I could play my banjo at the clubs here and get fairly larger crowds and it actually mattered. In Providence the same 30 people show up. I could get art exhibits in New York — I’m in one now. I could do comic book signings here and not the same 30 people that would show up at the shows would come. It’s a bigger pond, it’s better for publicity, I guess. If you get everything squared away you can live wherever you want to. You can work really hard and suffer when you’re young and you don’t have to so much when you’re older, and that’s why I’m a workhorse.
DARCY: What do you see as your career? Are you a cartoonist, a musician, what?
DAME DARCY: I never wanted to be a cartoonist. I wanted to be an animator. From the time I was 8 years old, I wanted to make animated films and show them on TV and in theaters. The only reason I do comic books is because I can’t animate all the stories I think of.
DARCY: Why can’t you be an animator?
DAME DARCY: It takes like two years to make one story, all by myself.
DARCY: Most animated films, a bunch of people work on them.
DAME DARCY: See, this is the thing. I want to get my comic books … I can’t tell this! This can’t be in print, because then they’ll know my secret plan.
DARCY: Who’s they?
DAME DARCY: The public!
DARCY: The public doesn’t read The Comics Journal.
DAME DARCY: No, I’m not going to tell you. You’re just going to have to see. But basically, the only reason I’m a cartoonist is because I think of about five new stories a week, and there’s no way I could animate five new stories a week.
I’m also a cartoonist because, when I was 16 years old, I said, I can do several things. I can paint and I can draw and I can play the banjo. So what do I do? I asked my dad, and he said, “I would pick one thing and get really good at it, and then the other things do on the side as a hobby. That way you aren’t just medium good at two things, you’re really good at one thing.” And I said, that’s good advice.
So I said, “Do I want to be a musician?” And no, I do not, because my mother says they’re the craziest people in the world. And I think that they are, I think musicians are the pinnacle of insanity. [Giggles.] I never wanted to go out with a musician. All of my boyfriends have been musicians, not because I want them to be but because it’s all I know. I have a fetish for men in ties. I have a fetish for tall, dark pale men with ties on and wingtips on.
DARCY: So, like, undertakers would really set you off.
DAME DARCY: Well, no, but like those guys who have those snappy ’40s teal suits with the nice ties and the wingtips, parading around with that Vitalis in their hair — I think that is so sexy. I love businessmen. I go down to the financial district, I just go crazy. I want to eat them all up like cake.
I was wondering why I have such a fetish for these businessmen. I think it’s because they are exactly the opposite of who I was raised with and the people that I know. People usually romanticize cowboys and artists, but since I grew up in that atmosphere, I romanticize businessmen. It’s so cool to think about them going off and leaving me alone all day. This way they’re not around all the time bugging you. They leave.
DARCY: So are you playing the banjo on the side or being a cartoonist on the side?
DAME DARCY: I’m sorry, I got off the track. So when I was 16 I decided I didn’t want to be a musician, because second of all the music industry is crazy. You’ve gotta know someone who’s going to press your records for you, you’ve got to put up thousands of dollars to get anything out of it, and you probably won’t get anything out of it. And I come from a very poor family, I was raised poor and I want money. I want to have a warm house and money to travel, nice clothes and jewelry and things like that.
DARCY: [Incredulously.] So you’re gonna be a cartoonist?!
DAME DARCY: I’ve got a big plan, and it’s going to work.
Also, I was really bad in school. I think I have a learning disorder. I can only remember concepts. I run on a logic that works for me, but it’s not a logic that other people can understand, unless they really try hard. So I didn’t do well in school, and my mother from the time I was 12 or 13 said, “Darcy, let’s face it, you’re not very good in school but you are a very good artist. You’re going to have to make it as an artist, and it’s very hard.” And I knew it was very hard, because my dad is an artist and he barely makes it. I said to myself, I am going to make it, and I’m going to have a lot of money and I became very driven.
So at 16 I decided I didn’t have thousands of dollars to put into records. I mean, I don’t love art enough to do it just for the sake of loving art. I’m from a poor family, so it’s gotta have some practical value. When I was 6 years old, I would just cry and cry and be so frustrated. I would pray to God and say, “God, you can take all the talent if only I could add. You could take all my talent so I could be normal. I’m tired of being this way.” But I have no choice, so I have to make it as an artist.
I moved out of the house when I was 17, and I was living on my own in San Francisco. It was really, really hard. I didn’t have any friends, I didn’t know anybody. I’d lived in a small town isolated in the middle of Idaho for 17 years, suddenly I’m in the middle of one of the bigger cities in America, alone. And I needed to make money. I was going to school in San Francisco. I went to the Art Institute for a year and a half and took animation classes and film classes. I didn’t take drawing classes ’cause I already knew how to draw.
I decided that I would make cartoons because I knew somebody who worked at a photocopy place. He would copy them for me for free. I put out my first two comic books, with zero overhead, so I made 100 percent profit. And I did it for the money.
I started drawing books when I was 2 years old. The first book I drew was about cats in love, and they had little hearts above their heads, and the boy cat had testicles and my mom thought that was really funny. Her and her friends all came over and pointed at the boy cat’s testicles and started laughing, and I was really insulted.
DARCY: What were your first self-published comics called?
DAME DARCY: They were Meat Cake. Another reason I put them out was that I thought, if I’m a painter, I have to sell one $200 painting, let’s say. First of all I have to get people to come to my opening. And then I have to sell my painting for $200, all in one lump. Who, first of all, wants to come? How do you get people to come to an opening of somebody who nobody even knows about? Second, the likelihood of selling a $200 painting when nobody knows about you is really unlikely. You can keep working away at it, but you’re probably not going to immediately get any money. And I really wanted some money. So I decided that painting was also out.
I decided if I was a cartoonist I could make these comic books for free, and if nobody bought them, at the very least I could stand on the corner and give them to people. I took them around to the local comic book stores. I did a second one with a color cover. I hand-glittered them all because I believe in luxuriousness, it’s very important. To change the aesthetics of America is my goal in life, and glitter is one way of doing it.
I could only do 50 at a time because if my friend printed more than 50 at a time he could get caught. We had to sneak. I think there are about 200-300 of the glitter ones in circulation. I only have a couple myself; I had to sell them all, because I was poor and I was doing it for the money. I self-published a calendar last year, and this year I self-published another calendar, and I’m coming out with three or four books, and three of them have records or something like that.
DARCY: How did you hook up with Iconografix?
DAME DARCY: Somehow I got in touch with Ed Brubaker, and he was with the Iconografix company. Company of fools. He’s a jerk! Not Ed Brubaker … Ed Brubaker gave me he-who-shall-not-be-named’s number, and I called him and sent him some stuff, and he said he liked it. He said he was gonna put out my comic book. I gave him the stuff that April and it didn’t come out until like eight or 10 months later. And when it did come out, two of the pages were in the wrong order, and the cover looked awful. That was a painting I did and all the colors were really off.
A FIGHTING BREAK
DAME DARCY: Last year, when I was 21, I got in a lot of fights. I would beat people up all the time, and sometimes I’d get paid so I wouldn’t really care.
DARCY: [Incredulously again.] Who would pay you to beat somebody up?
DAME DARCY: I was in Suck Dog, and we went on tour and I beat people up.
DARCY: Yeah, but they weren’t paying you to beat the people up, were they?
DAME DARCY: Sure they were, that was part of the show.
DARCY: Good show!
DAME DARCY: I guess so. And I got like 53 marriage proposals.
DARCY: Did you beat all those people up?
DAME DARCY: Some of them I beat them up and then they would propose marriage to me. And one of the people I beat up, he’s my friend, and me and Lisa [Carver] tried to pull off his pants and we were riding him like a horse and beating him up. Exactly a year later I moved into his house and I lived there for free, and if I hadn’t beat him up he wouldn’t have let me do that.
DARCY: So beating up people turned out to be good for you.
DAME DARCY: Yeah, but now that I’m 22 I don’t beat people up anymore. I’m a pacifist.
DARCY: Why did you beat all those people up last year?
DAME DARCY: Because I was being tortured for a year and I had a lot of aggression and I was being … kooked.
DARCY: What do you mean you were being tortured?
DAME DARCY: It’s a long story. I was being mentally and physically tortured. I don’t really want to talk about it.
DARCY: This isn’t related to possession, is it?
DAME DARCY: No, not in the least. But my days of beating people up are no longer in existence.
DARCY: So attendance probably went way down at those Suck Dog shows, huh?
DAME DARCY: We don’t do Suck Dog shows anymore. Lisa lives in San Francisco now, she writes a magazine called Rollerderby, and I’m featured it in frequently.
DARCY: What was Suck Dog?
DAME DARCY: Lisa and Jean-Louis Costes and me. We made up an opera about Siamese twins girls who loved each other. First me and Lisa would have an Indian leg-wrestling match. And then Lisa and me would get in a big fight, and we’d start running around, and we had these luxurious outfits on. Lisa had on her mother’s ugly orange bathing suit with tic tac toe on the stomach, and “Go Hogs” on the butt in sparkling glitter puffy paint, and she had a weird swirly cape. And I had a baton and this thing that said “Darcy” on the top and then “#1” over my cunt, and then I had this cape that had feathers and said “Darcy #1” that my mom made; it was blue silk with purple letters and blue letters. And I could twirl my baton and we would get in a wrestling match and then sometimes we would involve people in the audience.
But then we got slapped in the face by these stupid girls in Boston, who thought we were being sexist. One girl kicked me really hard, and when I turned around she was running up the stairs because she was afraid I was gonna beat her up. And back then, I would have really kicked her ass.
I have beaten so many men at arm-wrestling. I am 5’ 9”, 130 pounds, and I can beat any man up. Actually, several men have proven to me that I can’t beat them up, but I really try. I get an A for effort. But I don’t beat people up anymore and I hope you don’t focus on this beating up of people in your interview, because I am a very sweet, kind, Catholic pacifist, who loves the human race.
BACK TO COMICS
DARCY: OK, how did you go from Iconografix to Fantagraphics?
DAME DARCY: I was living in the Redwoods in Guerneville, and I was destitute, and it was freezing cold, and I was miserable. I’d been a preschool teacher for two years. I was like, “I need some money real quick. Maybe I’ll be a stripper. I don’t want to do it because I know I’ll go insane. But I have no other way of getting money quickly.” And my ex-boyfriend said, “I will help you publish a book with a cassette. You can hand-color the covers and sell those and you won’t have to be a stripper.” So that’s what happened. I self-published Are You Afraid to Die? It’s an eight-page book with a hand-colored cover that comes with a tape of me playing banjo and singing “Are You Afraid to Die?”, which is an evangelist song by the Louvin Brothers. I got some money from that, and then I also self-published the second Meat Cake calendar.
I wanted to be on Fantagraphics since I was like 18. I’d sent them some of my stuff earlier and they rejected it. Then I finally sent them stuff when I moved to Providence and they accepted it. When I found that out I was so relieved. I felt the same way I had when I graduated high school. I probably haven’t felt so elated since. This was about a month before my 22nd birthday, so it was May .
DARCY: How come you didn’t want to stay with Iconografix?
DAME DARCY: They suck. They lie, they didn’t give me any money. Excuse me, I can make money off self-published stuff, it’s not that hard. I can distribute 1,000 things and make money off it, so being published by someone else, I expect more than that. Being on Iconografix will lead you nowhere but misery and disappointment.
DARCY: Doesn’t Fantagraphics seem like a boys’ club, though?
DAME DARCY: Comics in general is.
DARCY: Does that bug you?
DAME DARCY: No, I love it. [Laughs.]
DAME DARCY: Because I can be a luxurious show pony and stand out even more.
DARCY: [Laughs.] No wonder those feminists were coming after you in Boston. A luxurious show pony?
DAME DARCY: What’s wrong with being a show pony? If you’ve got it, flaunt it, that’s what I say.
SPIRITUALISM AND PROFESSIONALISM
DAME DARCY: What else was I gonna say … The angels, they speak to me now, I can hear them in the bells. I don’t mean to sound crazy, OK? But if you listen, anybody can hear them. The ringing sound in the bells is the voices of the angels, and I couldn’t make out what they were saying, because I was afraid. Because if you could make it out, you get afraid you’re crazy. You get afraid that maybe God is actually speaking to you. You get afraid that maybe you might not want to hear God.
DARCY: What’s the difference between angels and ghosts?
DAME DARCY: Ghosts are the souls of dead people, usually children, women, suicide victims, young people. Angels are ethereal spirits that are lightness and goodness that guide you to hopefully the right end.
DARCY: Uh-huh. What’s the difference between dead people and spirits, though?
DAME DARCY: [Exasperated.] I told you! A dead person is its own self who now has no body. A spirit is the feeling, the positive or negative feeling that is sort of condensed into a form. A spirit is like the holy spirit. It’s a lot less tangible than a ghost that you can see in a New York window if you just go walking down the street!
DARCY: OK [Flustered.] Are you in a band now?
DAME DARCY: I’m in two bands now. One is called Grouse Mountain Sky Ride. I play banjo and we have a tap dancer and a fiddle player. They are called Miss Christine and Mr. Christe. We do a lot of songs from the 1800s and older songs, like child ballads from the 1600s, and Christine tap dances and plays banjo and does harmony backup. Mr. Christe plays fiddle, and sometimes when just Christine is playing, Mr. Christe and I will dance or sing.
Bluegrass songs have this haunting quality of people being controlled by their passions and by the earth. This manifests itself in visual form through my comics. The songs I sing and was raised on are very similar to my cartoons, except for the gag cartoons, which I do to break it up.
The other band is still unformed, it’s in its fetus state right now …
DARCY: [Laughs.] For a second, I thought that was the name of it. I thought it was called Fetus State.
DAME DARCY: No, it’s still in its zygote state.
DARCY: You’re living in a condemned place right now?
DAME DARCY: No, my stuff is living there. I am living at my manager’s house. My manager and my dear, dear, dear friend, Miss Victoria Wheeler.
DARCY: How do you have a manager?
DAME DARCY: I have a manager, I have a lawyer, I have a director, and I have a benefactor.
DARCY: Why do you have a manager and a lawyer, may I ask?
DAME DARCY: Because I am a professional. I need a lawyer to look at my contracts, and I need a manager to look at my promotion.
DARCY: What does the benefactor do?
DAME DARCY: What do you think?
DARCY: He gives you money?
DAME DARCY: Yeah.
DAME DARCY: ’Cause he likes me. He thinks I’m a good artist.
DARCY: Is this like a sugar daddy thing?
DAME DARCY: No, I don’t have a sugar daddy anymore.
DARCY: Why? Did you fire him?
DAME DARCY: [Laughs.] Well … Why don’t we not talk about my personal life.
DARCY: That’s what people want, all the personal facts.
DAME DARCY: They cannot have them. [Laughs.] Maybe if they call me up and give me some money I’ll tell them all about my life.
DARCY: You sent me a picture of you in all National Enquirer clothes. How did that happen?
DAME DARCY: When I was 18 I was living in Santa Cruz, in a shack in the backyard of a woman who was a friend of a friend of mine who was a millionaire. I was reading The National Enquirer and there was a contest for if you make a fashion out of The National Enquirer using glue and staples and sewing and nothing else you can win $300. So I made the dress. I sent it in. It had Gilligan on it, and I made these Call for Love hearts thing over my heart, and the lace was made of missing children’s heads, and the skirt was made out of a man jumping through flames on a motorcycle.
DARCY: Did you win?
DAME DARCY: No, I didn’t, and I didn’t even see who the winner was. Maybe it was all one big scam.
DARCY: Maybe putting the big pointy boobs on the dress wasn’t a very good idea if you wanted to win.
DAME DARCY: What was wrong with that?
DARCY: Well, they’re kind of a “family” newspaper.
DAME DARCY: That’s the way boobs should be.
DARCY: All the girls in your cartoons have pointy boobs. Why are they so pointy?
DAME DARCY: Because that’s the way mine are. They have luxurious little pig snouts at the end with one nostril. Little pink pig snouts, shell pink, they’re so pale pale pink, like the color of the pink underneath your fingernail. Actually, they’re not pointy but they’re not round.
But I like ’em like that, pointy. They’re like weapons, like knives. They’re so inviting, yet if you were to lie on top of this girl her breasts would pierce you and stab through your menial, peonic male heart. [Laughs.] I’m sorry to say that, I am just kidding! I love men and I love the human race. Put that in print.
MEAT CAKES AND FAIRY TALES
DARCY: When I brought up Lewis Carroll before you immediately brought up ghosts. What’s the connection?
DAME DARCY: Here’s the thing. When I was a child, these were my biggest influences: the drawings of Sir John Tenniel [illustrator for Lewis Carroll’s books], John R. Neill [illustrator for the Oz books] and my mother’s medical books. My biggest influences were those two artists, plus the lithographs from the 1800s, because I like how everything looks like it’s fluid but stiff. Later on, when I was 18, Winsor McCay was a huge influence, and that books Real Life: Louisville in the Twenties by Michael Lesy and Wisconsin Death Trip are like bibles to me. So is the Sears Catalog 1903.
DARCY: Why are your comics called Meat Cake?
DAME DARCY: When I was 18 I was obsessed with meat and cake. I would eat cake and I wouldn’t eat anything and I’d eat a hamburger and then I wouldn’t eat for two days. I wanted to indulge in these things yet I didn’t want to be fat, so I thought if I starved myself I could work off enough calories that I could eat again. I’m a vegetarian now, because I read something. But anyway, meat is the most decadent thing you can eat. So is cake: It doesn’t have any nutritional value, it’s very beautiful, and you only eat it on special occasions. If you eat it every single day, every day is a special occasion. So meat cake is the epitome of decadence. I also had this thing about dogs and angels, and I think cake is the food of the angels and meat is the food of dogs. I was really obsessed with dogs and angels and meat and cake.
DARCY: Why do you call yourself Dame Darcy?
DAME DARCY: Because I’m American royalty. I am related to two presidents and a murderer of a president. I’ m related to John Quincy Adams, the Adams family, and John Wilkes Booth.
DARCY: Where did the character Strega Pez come from?
DAME DARCY: I used to have a Pez bunny that I got for Easter. And I thought it was so morbid to make this candy for Easter, the day of Christ’s rebirth. This fake plastic bunny whose head tilts back and candy comes out of its slit throat. Well, hallelujah! So I thought of this character that speaks by doing this, and Strega means witch.
You know, you didn’t ask me any of the questions I wanted to talk about. I wanted to talk about fairy tales. The Grimm brothers were these Christian patriarchal men who took all the fairy tales, which before the patriarchy had only been translated by young women — the mothers were not the ones who told the fairy tales, it was the young women who watched the children. The tales were passed on in an oral tradition, which is considered not important in a patriarchal society that made up writing and then said that everything that isn’t written isn’t important, which it is. Fairy tales a lot of times have to do with rape and incest, women being brutalized, and how you should be wary of this. The Grimm brothers would take these stories that used the evil man who molests the daughter, and they said, the man only did it because the devil made him do it, or it isn’t a man at all, it’s a witch. This way it turns it around and it’s seen through the eyes of this patriarchy, and it robs the matriarchy of their past and thus their power.
DARCY: What matriarchy are you referring to?
DAME DARCY: I’m talking about before patriarchy, they worshipped these goddesses, and the Christians came along and eventually it was seen that Mary was the vehicle through whom Christ passed, but before that Mary was the goddess. That’s why she’s such a big symbol of Catholic ideology … You’re putting me off the track! I wanted to tell you this thing about fairy tales. They would take out the sex and put in more violence because that was considered OK in a patriarchy.
CRAZY, PRETEND CRAZY, OR JUST PLAIN PSYCHIC?
DARCY: Tell us about the independent film you starred in, Check-Out Time.
DAME DARCY: It’s about the end of history. I play a rich eccentric girl who likes to wear Victorian clothes. I was a lot like this girl when I was a teenager, really self-obsessed and kind of bratty, but I wasn’t rich. I was kind of snobby. I used to go around thinking, “Oh, how dare you insult me, I am obviously not anything of your ilk, how dare you even compare me to someone at your level.” Not that I was necessarily smarter, but I knew I had more insight than these hicks that lived in Idaho. When they insulted me I would just blow it off like that. I had to, or I would be totally self-deprecating and dead by now.
I have almost died five times in my young life, between the ages 16 and 22, two times last year. That’s why I really fear the winter time, because I almost die every winter.
DARCY: What were the almost deaths from?
DAME DARCY: Well, the concussion was one. And I almost got hit by a semi when my car stalled. The semi was barreling toward us and didn’t see us because our lights had gone out. My boyfriend heroically leaped out of the car and pushed it to the side and we were safe.
DARCY: Why didn’t you just get out of the car?
DAME DARCY: Huh? Because I didn’t want my car to get hit by the semi! Another thing is, my door wouldn’t open and I was trapped in the car, and I had my concussion and I wasn’t thinking very good. I almost got hit by a train when I was 16, and the other times I almost died I don’t want to talk about.
DAME DARCY: Because I don’t. Don’t make me sound like too much of a crazy person with the ghosts and stuff.
DARCY: A lot of people think you are crazy if you see ghosts. I can’t do too much about that.
DAME DARCY: Well, I tell you, one of the main influences on how I draw and my stories has to do with fairy tales and the ghosts I see. I got attacked by a ghost when I lived in Guerneville, and I have a scar to prove it.
DARCY: How did it attack you?
DAME DARCY: It threw a plate at me.
DAME DARCY: Because it didn’t like me. I don’t know. Things like this happen. I’m also hypoglycemic and I’ll hallucinate on call if I don’t get something to eat.
DARCY: How do you know you’re not hallucinating when you see the ghosts?
DAME DARCY: Because before I was hypoglycemic I saw ghosts, and hypoglycemia brings on a physical reaction that causes me to hallucinate, and when I see the ghosts I have eaten. And I also get this feeling like my heart and diaphragm are being pressed together. Everything becomes still … the depths of darkness, shadows, become like black depths that you can reach into really far. Everything becomes like a two-dimensional screen, like a movie screen that everything’s printed on …
DARCY: I think you should get some help here.
DAME DARCY: I sound crazy, don’t I?
DARCY: Affected more than crazy, I’m afraid.
DAME DARCY: What do you mean?
DARCY: It sounds like you’d like to believe this stuff more than you actually do.
DAME DARCY: No, no! I’ve spent a lot of my life living in this two-dimensional, flat surface. Hold on … It was two-dimensional. Just recently, though, I’ve been able to start seeing things in 3-D. And it’s a wondrous sight. You think I’m just pretending I’m crazy?
DARCY: No, but it sounds like you’ve willed yourself into this world of the occult and arcane powers.
DAME DARCY: I have not! I’m really psychic. I can read palms, I’m not making that up. I don’t want to come off like Shirley MacLaine, like, “Oh, I’m the all-knowing psychic power being of the world, I see ghosts and blah blah blah.” It just so happens that’s what happened to me. I was born blonde with blue eyes, I was born psychic, I was born in Idaho. It’s just facts.