Hello, again, folks. I survived the snow and cold of the weekend and I'm back with another interview. I'm really happy to be posting this third interview 'cos it rounds-out the three Midwestern cities (Windy City, Cream City, Mill City) I've worked with most in my comics career.
Danno is more of a force of nature than he is a comics guy. He's one of the fastest guys you'll ever encounter on a story. You'd think with all this speed you lose something in the quality but nothing could be further from the truth. Danno is a great writer and a fine artist... and everything he does oozes with his love of the medium. Come to think of it, it's appropriate his interview follows Alberto's... as the same could and should be written/said about Mister Rios. One more thing worth mentioning about Danno... he's a co-founder of The International Cartoonist Conspiracy. If that bit of info doesn't put him in your 'cool book', you're too hip for me. Read a flavor of the month blog instead.
With that, here we go...
CCC: For those who don't know, name and location?
Oh geez... Okay the easy part is I live and work in Minneapolis. The difficulty comes with my name. Most know me as Danno, a nickname I've had for half my life, but I also go by dank! (at least in signature, it's kinda awkward to actually call me that). I use dank! since my first name is Dan and last is Klonowski. I was Danno because my last name USED to be Ochsendorf. I've had work published under Danno, dank!, Danno Klonowski, and Dan (no) Ochsendorf. And in almost EVERY SINGLE CASE where my last name was involved in a review or whatnot, it's been misspelled. This has made it nearly impossible to accurately google me.
CCC: How did you become interested in creating comics?
I was born at what I consider the "beginning" of the superhero era. The HULK and SUPERFRIENDS and BATMAN and SPIDERMAN were on TV. SUPERMAN and STAR WARS were in the theatres. (Nowadays, well... it's outta hand) I was a born geek, basically. As I got older I discovered comics (mostly toy tie-ins like GI JOE and newspaper strips) and was drawing my own comics... constantly. Around age 10, I discovered stores near my house that sold comics and it was pretty much all over then. I knew drawing comics is what I wanted to do with my life.
CCC: What was your first published work? Did you self-publish that work?
My first published stuff was zines my friends and I made. My first ACTUAL published stuff was when I went to St. Cloud State University for one year and was asked to be the staff cartoonist (one of the editors happened to notice all I did in class was doodle). I did a few illustrations they asked for, specifically, but mostly I did a strip called DANNO COMICS twice a week. It actually paid too! A whole ten dollars a cartoon. Sadly, it's the most I've ever made of cartooning. I started self-publishing mini-comics after that in 2000.
CCC: If you self-publish, what do you gain from that experience?
Debt, frustration and a big ass box full of old mini-comics I've done that no one will ever buy. I hang on to them because the day is not too far off that it'll be too expensive to heat my house with gas during the winter, so I'll just burn'em all to keep me and my family warm.
CCC: If you've been published by other publishers, compare the experience to self-publishing.
With the exception of the college newspaper, the publishers I've worked with have always seemed like DIY operations. I've even got something coming out in an anthology from Random House, but it's still all being organized by one mini-comic creator. I don't even think the days of Marvel Bullpens will ever return with all the technology people can have in their own homes. So, basically, it's pretty cool that every venture feels self-published. It makes me feel like I already know what I'm doing.
CCC: Give us a list of your published works (self-published or otherwise).
Seriously? Ok... you asked for it... 1994-1999, Wasted QuarterTales From The Five Burroughs Of Anoka County, Danno Comics (zine and ST CLOUD newpaper strip) 2000-PRESENT, Staplegenius(about 15 issues), Bogus Dead (my first real published work--it's awful), tons of Cartoonist Conspiracy jams (online and minis) 24 HOUR COMICS collection and box sets, Lutefisk Sushi A & B box sets, Brian Food (pin-up), Weird Illustrated, BzzZero, Uptown Girl (Special #3 and Presents #1), thebeanmen.com, soapythechicken.com, citypages.com, ericlappegard.com, Muscles and Fights, Alley Cat anthology, Musclier and Fightier, Manly Tales of Cowardice (issues 1-4 and 2 minis). 2008 (SO FAR) more Manly Tales, Muscliest and Fightiest, Super Fantastica #1, Tommy Chicago vs Manly Tales vs Uptown Girl Special, Lutefisk Sushi C box set, Julia Wertz's MISSED CONNECTIONS anthology, Tommy Chicago (volume 2) and some other stuff, I'm sure...
CCC: Describe the art scene where you live. If you've lived elsewhere and were producing art there, compare those scenes.
THRIVING!!! Especially in Northeast Minneapolis, where I live. There's either a bar, church, or art gallery on ever corner and nothing but houses and studio spaces inbetween. There's even a city-recognized "arts district" that it's irony or something, but I live HALF A BLOCK outside the Arts District. So often while I'm walking my dog I go to the end of the block and act "arty".
CCC: Do you belong to any online or 'real world' art groups? If so, list them and describe how that/those group/s benefit you.
Ummm...I belong to mnartists.org They're super for getting word out about gallery shows and such... I also belong to/co-founded the International Cartoonist Conspiracy.
CCC: What is your ultimate or immediate goal in creating comics?
Ultimately, I'd like to be able to make a living offdrawing comics. But the likelihood of that is so slim that I'd settle for making a decent supplimental income so that I dont feel like such a heel around my family cause I spend so much time in my basement studio after work.
CCC: What do you think is lacking from the underground art scene?
INTEREST! Well, people are interested but often not enough to actually spend money and help support the artists. Whenever I do gallery shows or whatever, I use a "minimum wage art" ethic - I price my stuff in a range where people can actually afford it, thus, encouraging them to actually purchase something. I know every artist wants to feel their stuff is worth thousands of dollars (and it is). But, frankly, anything over fifty bucks is likely to sit unsold for a very long time.
CCC: If you had the power, what would you do to address that void?
Print my own money. DANNO DOLLARS!
CCC: Do you blog? MySpace? ComicSpace? If so, what kinds of things do you communicate through it and what is your ultimate goal in using that site?
I use the "SPACE" sites to promote new work and friends' work. Secretly, I hope Rupert Murdoch will notice me and buy me in a hostile takeover. I will have a blog (staplegenius.com) running "eventually" and I'll post all the stuff I do on there as a way to help garner attention and [hopefully] make Oprah's Book Club List. And, then, Rupert Murdoch will buy me in a hostile takeover.
CCC: Do you read any other creators' blogs? If so, what do you think of them?
I read friends' blogs mostly. I don't have an enormous amount of time to goof around on the internet (in other words, I don't have internet at home and do all my computer stuff at work).
CCC: What kinds of books do you enjoy reading?
I think Kurt Vonnegut is the greatest writer ever. Gore Vidal also spins a good yarn. I just read Alan Weismans "THE WORLD WITHOUT US" which is science book with a "What If" premise that all human life was extinguished tomorrow. It explores how insanely BAD we've fucked up the planet and what the repercussions will be. I found it to be downright biblical and think everyone should read it.
Max Brooks "WORLD WAR Z" was a perfect zombie novel. Perhaps the definitive work on the subject. I also find audiobooks to be great to listen to while inking or painting.... Wait... you meant comics, didn't you? In that case, I get stuff at the library. Whatever is there that I've heard is good. I consider reading all those graphic novels "research".
CCC: What kinds of standards and/or expectations do you place on a comics purchase?
I buy comics so in frequently nowadays. I just can't afford to with a mortgage and a family and all that (See! I'm guilty of my own bitching about people not supporting the arts!). Like, I actually went and bought 5 comics recently and the total was over 20 bucks! It's insane. Like I said, I go to the library. But I am picking up the Joss Whedon Universe of comics off the shelf (BUFFY, ANGEL, SERENITY) cause I am mad for his work.
CCC: What is your favorite indie publisher?
Bob Lipski who does the mini-comic UPTOWN GIRL.
CCC: What is it about that publisher you find unique?
He's been doing a book MONTHLY for almost 5 years! Books from the big name companies can't even claim that kind of consistency anymore. PLUS, he does about 3 or 4 one-shots and stuff a year too.
CCC: Who is your favorite creator/writer/illustrator?
Speaking 100% locally: My favorite writer is BRIAN BASTIAN. He does TOMMY CHICAGO and UPTOWN GIRL and I think with is comedic sensabilities he's destined for great things. I feel honored I get to work with him on MANLY TALES, the upcoming crossover special, and the second series of his TOMMY CHICAGO book.
My favorite creators are all my sisters and brothers of the International Cartoonist Conspiracy. My favorite illustrators? That's tough. I'll tell you who my favorite illustrators are that really have kind of disappeared from the scene lately but are both AMAZING and think deserve wider recognition: SEAN TENHOFF (thebeanmen.com) and QUILLAN ROE.
CCC: Give us a short list of indie creators you believe are sort of shaping the future of comics (indie and/or mainstream)?
I, honestly, have no idea. I don't pay that close of attention. And with all the webcomics and stuff who even knows anymore? I can tell you who influenced me to get my ass moving making mini-comics: ALEX ROBINSON, PETE SICKMAN-GARNER, JOHN PORCELLINO, BRUCE TIMM, MIKE MIGNOLA, and JOHN BYRNE.
CCC: If you could change one thing about the modern comics 'industry' what would it be?
COST!!! It wasn't that long ago (well... 15 years...GEEZ!) that I was buying Superman comics for 75 cents. Last weekend I tried to buy 6 comics and it came to over 30 DOLLARS!!! Now, I'm no math expert but, considering that PAPER quality seems to be a MAJOR difference in the 75 centcomics of yore and the 4 dollar comics of today.
I see no reason not to go back to newsprint. Sure it ain't as pretty but what's gonna save the industry - Quality work that draws in new readers, or CHEAPRELIABLE 'same-old-same-old' that will bring in new readers AND get old geezers like me to start buying again (cause they can finally freaking afford to)??? It's no wonder people buy 20 dollar trade collections more than 4 dollar monthly comics nowadays. You actually GET YOUR MONEYS WORTH waiting a year for a trade.
CCC: Give a shout out to any site and/or underground comic you think people ought to be checking into.
... and then follow ever damn link they have!