This week we celebrate the release of the Other Worlds anthology by interviewing the uniquely talented Tym Godek about his work on OW, his 35+ foot long comic, and his upcoming comic which is “not a comic.”
TYM: I live in mid Ohio with my wife and two kids. I’ve always drawn comics, but I kind of aggressively maintain an amateur status in “the field'” as it were. I’m especially drawn towards exploring formal properties rather than genre or character or even story driven work. I like to figure out what makes comics tick. I’ve also become increasingly interested in how comics can kind of cross over into other fields, literature, poetry, gallery art, etc… I like to see comics playing in fields that traditionally belong to other “high” arts. If that sounds too dry and pretentious, I also still make fart jokes from time to time.
AWBW: Well, fart jokes aside, one of the more impressive comics you’ve ever made is the 35+ foot long comic strip titles “!”. This has been called the longest commercially available comic strip in the world due to the fact that not only does it extend to longer than 35 feet, but because you design it, it can also be folded up and flipped through like a standard-sized book.
How did you come up with the idea to do a book like this and what was your process in creating it?
TYM: “!” definitely grew gradually. It started as a sketchbook experiment, where I drew a branching comic, very tiny (about 1/2” square panels), across two pages. I was thinking about simultaneity, different stories crossing paths, and the webcomic concept of the infinite canvas. I think I posted the sketch to my blog or something and then set it aside.
Some time later, I was about to start in on another long-form serial on the web and I wanted something to kind of warm up with, simple drawing exercises, and I thought of expanding that sketch. I was just drawing them for fun and posting each page online as I went. When I got a bunch of pages up, it suddenly became clear that this was “a thing” and at that point I started thinking “I should print this somehow. How do I print this?” I knew the weird format would be kind of cost prohibitive, so I figured I’d end up doing a small run, maybe 10-20 copies, hand made. Then my friend Alexander (Danner – the writer on Two for No) suggested the Xeric grant, and the rest is history.”
AWBW: How did the Xeric pitch process go? Did you have to put together some sort of mock up of the project in order to submit?
TYM: The Xeric grant had been around for a while, so there was a fairly rigorous established process. I did have a mockup. Six mockups, actually. They asked for six copies of the proposal to distribute to the various judges. In my case I sent hand assembled copies of the entire book, printed on 11×17 paper (two “pages” to a sheet) and glued end to end to make an accordion fold book. It took forever to put them together, but I think submitting something that would resemble the final product helped my application through. At any rate, I got the grant, which was pretty great!
“!” would never have been possible without the help of the grant, at least not on the scale I was able to do it. The Xeric grant was a fantastic resource that’s not really fully replaced by any other funding platforms. Kickstarter is great, I’m sure that it’s helped a great many worthy projects come to fruition (Other Worlds, for instance, has certainly benefitted from the service), but the juried panel and the rigors of the Xeric process are something that’s been lost with the closing of the grant. I doubt very much that I could’ve made ! possible – my debut book, mind you – armed with only a crowd funding apparatus. Frank Santoro’s taken a nice step towards filling the gap, but comics is still poorer for the loss of the Xeric.
AWBW: Let’s move over to Other Worlds. How did you end up working with Justin Zimmerman on that project?
TYM: I’ve known Justin for years. We went to High School together, and even talked about working on some projects together back then. We kind of drifted apart, but reconnected sometime while he was publishing The Killing Jar as a series and I had just finished !. He asked me to do a pinup for the first issue of Other Worlds, which I turned into a backup story. Justin must have liked that that story (Digital Breath. It’s in the book too) because he asked me back to adapt The Mix.
AWBW: What was it like working with Justin Zimmerman on these stories, and did you find it to be different than the other comic projects you’ve worked on?
Lemme tell you a story. I do a lot of work in my sketchbook under an exercise where I draw something without looking at the page as I draw it. It’s kind of blind-contour, but without the contour part. I pick up and drop the pencil where it feels right, not know until I’m done how everything looks. It’s a fun exercise and it makes for some pretty messed up drawings in the end. At one point I wanted to do this for whole sections of The Mix. I wanted to draw whole pages, where I wasn’t even looking at the page. I would think that would be enough to give most writer/editors pause. But I ran it by Justin and he just said “Do it.” I’ve never seen, or even heard of that kind of support. Want to rearrange the story? “Do it.” Take scenes out? Add new one’s you just made up? “Do it.” You want fifty pages instead of twenty? “Let’s do it.” It was extremely gratifying to have that kind of support. We didn’t end up going with the no-look pages (let’s be honest, they kind of looked like crap.) But I know if I wanted them in there to mess up his story, he would’ve had my back.
AWBW: What about other project that you’re working on or have coming up? What can we expect to see from you next?
TYM: For an amateur I always have a lot of irons in the fire. I’m currently working on an ongoing series of mostly one shot comic strips with author Alexander Danner called “Two for No“. They’re kind of structurally formalist works, but they’re each one a little story. We post weekly to the web, but we’re in the process of publishing our first collection as a minicomic. I also have another solo book forthcoming, a full color gagbook, of sorts. I’m describing it as “a lonely autodidact’s reverse engineering of Understanding Comics and it’s called “Untitled (This Is [NOT] A Comic)”.
While you may have to wait to hear more about this intriguing “Not A Comic” project, you can read Tym’s “!” comic here, as well as his stories in the Other Worlds anthology which is now available on ComiXology. Print copies are also available to order from our shop or you can pick up a copy at Rose City Comic Con this weekend! (Sept 21&22).