Friday, January 17, 2014

A Chat with Matthew Southworth

Hi Matt. Tell us,

Did you have a favorite comic as a kid? 

I was a "Marvel kid", back when such things seemed to matter: in the 1970s and early 80s, DC was doing stuff that looked very tame and old-fashioned and crusty to me. I was heavily into the X-MEN during John Byrne's run on the title--a school for superheroes? Sign me up!
How about now?

Nowadays I tend to follow things that come out in short bursts, like miniseries or graphic novels, so I don't have an ongoing favorite. I follow artists and writers from project to project--my hands-down favorites are probably Chris Ware, Jaime Hernandez, and Darwyn Cooke.

You're originally from Tennessee. Do you think that influences your illustration style?

It does, in a couple of ways. The most noticeable way is in my attention to geographic setting and detail. Growing up in Nashville, I saw a lot of depictions of the city that seemed totally inaccurate and cartoonish.

I remember seeing movies like Peter Bogdanovich's The Thing Called  Love where the geography was all wonky and things that were halfway across town were made to seem like they were next door to one another. When I did Stumptown, which was set in Portland, I took great pains to make sure the city was as accurate as I could get. As far as I know, I only made one error (making a one-way street go the wrong direction).

I also know that being from TN affected me in that music has always been a part of my life; I'm a musician, and I grew up surrounded by professional musicians, amateur musicians; music saturated the atmosphere so much that I didn't realize that was unusual until I'd been away for a while. 

Music and illustration coexisted (along with film) for me all along as parallel interests, and I think there's a lot of subconscious crossover and influence music and rhythm have on my comics' tone and mood and storytelling.

Do you listen to music when you're working?

Yes, I do, when I'm writing. Usually something fairly legato and unobtrusive (it's tough for me to concentrate if there are lyrics). When I'm drawing I will sometimes listen to music, but more often I listen to This American Life and Radiolab podcasts or audiobooks.

When you write and draw a comic which comes first: words or pictures?

Both! The thing that makes writing and drawing a comic both fun and complicated is that it's a constant shuffling of words and pictures, and they determine one another. When writing a comic, you're describing pictures as much or more than you're writing dialogue. 

Lately I've been writing scenes almost as though they were plays, then breaking them down into pages and panels and describing the pictures. Other times I've drawn the scene without any idea of the text that might be inserted, then "dialogued" it after the fact.

Thanks for stopping by Matt. We're glad to have you back again.

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