Friday, February 29, 2008

Cream City Conversations with Dan Olson

Okay, folks.

I intended my next entry to be an introduction to my teaching partner-in-crime but my buddy, Dan Olson finally got his interview in to me so I wanna make sure he gets his time in the... erm... Cream City limelight. Dan is one of those crazy internet "slice-o-life" comics people. I love what they do... it's daring... there are so many different takes on the genre. Dan has also graced the pages of Muscles & Fights. I respect him a great deal.

CCC: For those who don't know, Name and location?

Daniel J. Olson. St. Paul, Minnesota.

CCC: How did you become interested in creating comics?

I can recall three points in time where my interest in comics began. My father was always a big fan of the "funnies pages," which led to myself becoming a big fan of Peanuts and Calvin and Hobbes. In elementary school years I started reading The New Mutants comic. Also, during elementary school I was hooked on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon, which I later found out was a comic itself! I don't know when I decided "that I wanted to make comics". But I know that these are three of the catalysts for my interest in the medium.

CCC: What was your first published work? Did you self-publish that work?

The first time I ever self-published was while I was attending The Art Institutes International of the Twin Cities. I rehashed a story I had done in eighth grade with a buddy of mine. I printed a total of ten copies, which I look back at now and have discovered what a horrible job I did putting it together. Later, that same story would again be reinvented to be included in the Muscles and Fights 2 (MF2) anthology.

CCC: If you self-publish, what do you gain from that experience?

Would web comics be considered self-publishing? If so, I create a weekly web-comic for my blog I've learned how important it is to meet my Thursday deadline. I've also gained an outlet to vent various frustrations and I can allow my characters to assume different feelings and roles that I play within my own life. I also just released the first of hopefully many editions of a quarterly mini-comic anthology entitled Super Fantastica Comix (SFC).

I learned through that experience to let somebody else handle the printing side of things if you don't know how to do it yourself.

CCC: If you've been published by other publishers, compare the experience to self-publishing.

Well, I've been published once in the Muscles and Fights 2 (MF2) anthology and once in the Winter 2008 edition of Super Fantastica Comix (SFC). Since I had only created web comics up until being published in MF2, I had to take into account that everything I was creating for MF2 was going to be composed and printed by somebody else, so I needed it to be perfect before I sent it to the editor.

After the MF2 story, I was able to determine what I needed from others for the Super Fantastica Comix anthology. It was difficult to create SFC, since this time I had to rely on others to get the dimensions and specifications correct. Both publishing experiences have opened my eyes to a new way (at least to me) to distribute my work. I also learned that I need a new scanner.

CCC: Give us a list of your published works (self-published or otherwise)?

* bewilderedkid comix at
* a comic posted on the City Pages website for the "Tales of the Twin Cities"
* Alley Cats: Cats on Bikes (With Ninjas!) Tribute Anthology for Eric Lappegaard
* "Tale of the Cursed Coin" - Muscles and Fights 2
* "The Mess-adventures of Super Maxi-Pad Girl - Muscles and Fights 3
* "Catalyst: Toast" - Super Fantastica Comix! Winter 2008

CCC: Describe the art scene where you live. If you've lived elsewhere and were producing art there, compare those scenes.

The art scene here is better than any other I have been involved in. Besides the Twin Cities, I have also lived in both Madison, WI and Phoenix, AZ. There seems to be more of an art-friendly community here in the Twin Cities than in Madison and Phoenix. Both the artists and the consumers of art are very accepting and active. There are so many great institutions in the Twin Cities that you can always find some art happening, showing, or exposition to attend on any night of the week.

CCC: Do you belong to any online or 'real world' art groups? If so, list them and describe what that/those group/s benefit you.

I belong to the International Cartoonist Conspiracy Minneapolis and St. Paul cells. Everyone is so damned friendly and supportive at the monthly jam sessions. I just see some of the work that these people create and it just blows me away. Being in contact with so many talented people motivates me to produce better and more creative work.

CCC: What is your ultimate or immediate goal in creating comics?

My ultimate goal is to create a particular graphic novel that I have been researching about for the past year. It has to deal with a few issues that are very close to my heart. When I finally get this project completed, which I am guessing will still take a few years, it will be a complete departure from the type of work I am currently creating.

CCC: What do you think is lacking from the underground art scene? If you had the power, what would you do to address that void?

This is a tricky question. I would say money, but you can't pour a TON of money into the underground art scene. Here's why I believe you shouldn't flood a ton of money into this scene. Creativity is generally sparked by a hunger or a wanting to express oneself. If you throw a whole bunch of money at somebody it can dictate what they create and how they create it.

For example, I create my web-comics for free. I don't get any money out of it. Instead I get the satisfaction that I created something. If I did get paid a TON of money for creating my web-comic I would be more susceptible to changing my art and what I want to express so as not to step on the toes of whoever is cutting the checks. However, with that being said, I do think that there should be more capital spent on the arts in general, because artists also have to eat.

Maybe my answer is more convoluted than I intended it to be.

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 do blog. I host my web-comics at my blog. I have a MySpace account. I use it for three purposes, staying in touch with friends, meeting new creative types, and promoting my website. I also have a ComicSpace account, but ComicSpace kind of lost a bit of steam after their server crashed in the summer of 2007.

CCC: Do you read any other creators' blogs? If so, what do you think of them?

Absolutely! I read many other blogs. I check out Ryan Dow's Introspective Comics ( on a weekly basis, he is in the midst of creating his own online graphic novel.

I read this blog, Cream City Comics, because it is such a damn good idea!

The Big Time Attic blog ( is most helpful with their cartooning tips and tricks.

Steven Stwalley's is a great repository for cartooning, comic, and comix news.

I read Jim Mahfood's blog ( on a daily basis, his stuff just blows me away.

Jennifer Young of Diary of an Apprentice ( always inspires me to keep my eyes open everyday for new material.

I enjoy Kevin McCarthy's blog ( as well, he has a unique style to his art and storytelling that I admire - I just wish I could see more of his series Fantasy Fighter!

I enjoy Matthew Kriske's blog (, he is a very talented kid that is going to go places.

I also enjoy Remrand Le Compte's blog (, he has a very unique style that I enjoy, although he keeps saying that he hasn't found his style yet. I am certain I am forgetting some blogs and I'm sure they will let me know.

CCC: What kinds of books do you enjoy reading?

I enjoy reading satire, historical non-fiction, comics and graphic novels of any sort. As is the case with most of the people that I know, I have a large stack of books and comics that are sitting on my shelf just waiting to be read. Also, I do like the Harry Potter books.

CCC: What kinds of standards and/or expectations do you place on a comics purchase?

I won't buy something if it looks like somebody just slapped it together for the sake of making a comic. I would rather wait months for a comic to come out and have someone actually care about it's composition and the storytelling than wait for the newest monthly issue of "Big Time Super Hero Movie Character" to come out where the creative team changes with every fourth issue. Although I can't blame people for trying to make a living on their characters and projects, you have to make certain you don't destroy the integrity of the final product. That is what turns me off from most of my comic purchases.

CCC: What is your favorite indie publisher?

I have a few. Top Shelf, Oni Press, Fantagraphics, Drawn and Quarterly, Adhouse Books and MF Press.

CCC: What is it about that publisher you find unique?

Really? I have enjoyed everything I've read that Top Shelf has put out. I am a big fan of Oni Press for about ten years... I have been a fan of their catalog since I read the Clerks comic, which features art by Jim Mahfood. Fantagraphics puts out some great stuff... I'm currently plowing through the Complete Peanuts. Drawn and Quarterly is good stuff too... I have Jason Lutes' Berlin and Joe Sacco's War's End that I have on that endless pile of books I've yet to read. I also like AdHouse Books... they've done some interesting work. And of course, I'd have to include MF Press... without whom I'd not be able to have my first published work!

CCC: Who is your favorite creator/writer/illustrator?

Of all time, hands down, Charles Schulz.

CCC: Give us a short list of indie creators you believe are sort of shaping the future of comics (indie and/or mainstream)?

Craig Thompson, Hope Larson, Jeffrey Brown, Jim Mahfood, Anders Nilsen, and Nicholas Gurewitch.

CCC: If you could change one thing about the modern comics 'industry' what would it be?

I would change the distribution. Diamond Comics Distribution has made it nearly impossible for new publishers to be successful. A few years ago or so they decided to not fill orders that didn't exceed a minimum dollar amount. Of course, some hailed this as a step toward greater professionalism, but others, such as myself grieved and feared for the smaller, independent publishers, who would likely get swallowed up by this brave new market.

I understand business. I understand that Diamond doesn't want a bunch of product sitting in their warehouses that they will end up losing money on due to depreciation. HOWEVER, I also believe there has to be another way than just cutting off these small publishers. I have some ideas, but it would make this interview longer than it probably needs to be.

CCC: Give a shout out to any site and/or underground comic you think people ought to be checking into.

Okay here goes: Amado Rodriguez (Heavee Underground)
Bud Burgy (Co-publisher Muscles and Fights franchise, Meatfist and Gronk):
Danno Klonowski (Manly Tales of Cowardice, Supermarket Vigilante):
Jennifer Young (The Apprentice Diaries):
Kevin Cannon (Big Time Attic, Far Arden): McCarthy (The Seekers, Fantasy Fighter):
Matthew Kriske (His sketchbook that he will get around to publishing one of these days):
Muscles and Fights:
Rembrand Le Compte (Make it Count!):
Ryan Dow (Introspective Comics, Plunger Man):
Steven Stwalley (Soapy the Chicken): (Also, check out
Super Fantastica Comix:
Zander Cannon (Big Time Attic, The Replacement God):

Thanks Dan!

Have a great weekend.