Friday, August 24, 2012
AN INTERVIEW WITH JOSH FILER
You may remember a while ago when I wrote an installment of EVERYONE’S GOT ONE about printing companies censoring art by refusing certain customers. I asked the creator of GROSS, GRANDPA! to write a little bit about his experience trying to get issue two out in time for C2E2. I caught up with him at Wizard World Chicago and scored this interview with him.
[QUICK NOTE: The sound quality of the recording was really bad. For some reason, it was picking up the conversation of the guy at the next table really clearly, but it was barely squeaking by on this interview. There are a couple of places where it's just too unclear to decipher it. My apologies to all.]
John Bruni: First of all, you're selling GROSS, GRANDPA! here. Tell us about your book.
Josh Filer: Well, it’s . . . originally I wanted to—
Jon Lennon (creator of PRODUCT OF SOCIETY): How big’s your dick, man?
JF: Really tiny. I’m white. [Pause for hilarity to wind down.] I wanted to take the idea of when you have a drawing of a teacher when you’re in middle school and blow it up. Just do something beyond. It’s something I’ve been thinking about lately where it’s just very shallow and very petty. It’s like taking this fuckin’ woman from my eighth grade study hall for kids with ADHD. I went to study hall one day, and she was crying. She said, “Josh, sit down.” She’s like, “You’re the reason I hate my life so bad.” I didn’t say anything. I was just a kid. I remember drawing nasty pictures of her, and I just hated this woman. I hated her. I’m just coming back to that as an adult, just taking those drawings and making them as fucked up as possible. That’s really the jumping off point. I felt like I could do something with those drawings, those hate filled drawings of a middle-aged woman. They’re just horrible, and I wanted to expand on them. That’s where it started off. I had done some [UNCLEAR SEGMENT; SOMETHING COCK-RELATED] drawings in college for illustration class, so I started pulling all of these little ideas together. That’s how it’s kind of written, just stuff that I thought was funny. And then on the second issue, I wrote it before I drew it, and that seemed to work better.
JB: So if there’s anything you can really say that GROSS, GRANDPA! is about, what would that be?
JF: It’s just pictures. The bulk of it is shallow. I don’t try to make any statements, it’s just stuff that I get inspired with. I don’t take things too seriously.
JB: Have you always been this fucked up?
JF: I guess it just goes with the territory. I don’t know. Yes?
JB: How far back does your psychosis go?
JF: I don’t know. These things work for me over time. The funnier, more fucked up they do . . . well, I get laughs out of people. That’s all I do. That’s what the driving motivation for everything is. I don’t trick myself into thinking I’m going to work for Marvel or DC. One, I’m not good enough, but also, they wouldn’t let me do that kind of stuff.
JB: There’s no room in the Marvel Universe for dick copters and queef rockets?
JF: Exactly! I would have a hard time just accepting that. It’s just not happening.
JB: The dream in this business is to work for DC or Marvel. As a life-long attention whore, what was it that made you want to write and draw comics?
JF: Art and writing were the classes I could pass. Math, science, and the others, I wasn’t so good at. I’ve had teachers who were really good to me and let me write whatever I wanted, and I still have stuff from when I was a kid that I’ll get inspiration from now. I was writing some crazy shit. These teachers enjoyed it and thought it was great and they gave me passing grades for that stuff, so I kept doing it. I don’t know another medium in which I could do it. It’s a skill set I’ve developed over the years. I would have liked to have been a comedian, but I wasn’t a showman. I didn’t have people who helped me in that way. Then I got to college, and everyone was like, no. No. Nope. You’re writing about pedophilia. No credit. I didn’t know what else to do.
JB: Speaking of class, on the back of issue two, you have quotes from a fellow classmate denigrating your work.
JF: I just copied and pasted those from his response to my work. I don’t think that’s his real name because he’s not on the class roster. Nate Willkomm. He just fucking slandered me and blew it out of the water. He was in my class when I wrote a story for my fictional writing class and it was a story about a guy who got drunk and went on this escapade with Quakers, killing this town full of retards. This was the first story I did for this class, and the way it was set up was, you print off 24 copies for everyone in class and on Wednesday, they would come back and critique the story. So I came into class. This was the first time anyone had read my stuff, and the class flipped. Two guys defended me. Everyone else freaked out, and the ringmaster for that was Nate Willkomm. He wrote on the papers. Every line was like, “This is where I stopped reading,” and blah-blah-blah. “Why are you writing this?” “This is the worst thing I’ve ever read.” “If I wasn’t required to read this, I would burn this right now.” It was fucking hilarious. It was for a completely different story, but I thought it would be funny to put on the back of issue two. The same day that I had that story I turned in, I was the cartoonist for the school paper, and I did this cartoon called ATTACK OF THE FEMINAZIS. Every week, I did an editorial cartoon. [UNCLEAR PORTION; however, it sounds like Filer says the cartoon was about women who refused to take their kids to the doctor because they didn’t want to do what The Man says.] People from lit classes and women studies classes were holding up signs that said this was not funny, that I’m not funny. My email exploded. A professor said I was not funny, and I should do this and this and this. It was this one Wednesday when I had that paper come out and that critique of my retard story . . . I got out of class, and I was like, “Whoa, man.” They were screaming at me. I got back to my place and started reading the reviews I had. The thing that made me the most mad was someone said that Quakers are peaceful people. How dare I make them violent! I was like, what the fuck is wrong with you? What made me madder was that it was in the 2000’s, and this guy [Willkomm] was still wearing elephant pants, and he wore a hat with a big fucking feather sticking out of it. And his unkempt, long hair, and he thought he was really smart. He’s just . . . fuck that guy.
JB: Does he know you used his quotes on your book?
[IT’S HARD TO TELL FROM THE RECORDING WHO THIS INTERRUPTION COMES FROM. IT SOUNDS LIKE KEVIN BANDT, WHO WAS SHARING THE TABLE WITH FILER.]
JF: What do you want?
[BANDT?]: I want a picture of a bunch of Power Rangers all strung out on heroin in a methadone clinic, and then the nurse comes in and says, “All right, Power Rangers! It’s morphine time!”
JF (laughing): I’ll do it!
JB: Anyway, you should send him [Willkomm] a copy of issue two and see what he thinks.
JF: He stayed in Whitewater [WISCONSIN] for a while. He liked it there just fine. All the other people I went to school with, they graduated and moved on to other states. That motherfucker stayed in town. I saw him at the post office.
JB: Speaking of the cover, I noticed that the inside front and back cover is blank. I imagine with this kind of material, it’s hard to find advertisers.
JF: I wanted a bike so bad. Someone stole my bike from my garage. So I emailed this guy and said, “So I’ve got this comic. I’ll trade you ad space on the back of my book for a bike. He didn’t do it. Damn it! I could have had an ad in my book and a new bike. It didn’t work out.
JB: Maybe porn companies would be interested.
JF: There you go! Like grizzly bear gay porn.
JB: Just outlandish, weird specialty stuff, like maybe leper porn, or something like that.
JF: I’m going to start making my own ads. I wanted to have Optimus Prime and Megatron on there, saying, “I want to put my Decepticock in your Autobutt.” I think I should also make shirts. [UNCLEAR PORTION] As far as ads go, I doubt I’m going to get, like, Cherrios.
JB: Looking around Artists Alley, you see a lot of the usual stuff. Zombies are really popular now. Just your basic, typical stuff. A lot of cutesy stuff as well. But you bring everything to a whole new level. There are very few edgy books like yours. How do you think the rest of Artists Alley looks at you? Is it one of those he’s-a-sick-bastard kind of things? Or maybe I-wish-I-could-do-what-he-does?
JF: I see people walk by. I try to put up funny signs. Edgy, I guess. And then I judge their body language. If they scowl at having sex with historical figures [HE'S GOT A SIGN UP OFFERING TO DRAW A PICTURE OF YOU HAVING SEX WITH ANY HISTORICAL FIGURE], I don’t need to bother. I’ve had moms rush their family past my table, but then there are others who say they wish they could go that far with stuff. I could probably take it further. I’d just need to think about how I could do it. As I go back through all of the ideas I’ve had, you can see the progression. This is what I was allowed to do in middle school, and then I keep going further and further. It’s just . . . things I find funny.
JB: Last time we talked, we discussed censorship and printers who say, “Oh, we don’t want this kind of thing, we don’t want to be associated with this kind of thing.” There are a few other books around here that are questionable, like PRODUCT OF SOCIETY across the row and DEEP FRIED. Judging how they’re able to get stuff out and you’re hitting that roadblock, do you think it’s because you actually show dicks and tits? Their shit is really awkward and psychologically fucked up. Is it really just a matter of words versus pictures?
JF: There’s a bluntness to my work. The one printer said, “Well, my wife didn’t want to look at it. It’s crazy, but I get why some people would like it.” I have a hard time being subtle. I have ADHD, so everything has a rapid fire quality. My art, my writing, it’s all tied to my personality. More and more stimulation, stimuli, stimuli, stimuli. It’s true to my personality. Go-go-go, more stimulus. It’s going to be hard on some people who don’t think that way. It’s funny to me.
JB: What’s coming up next in GROSS, GRANDPA #3?
JF: The next one is super hyperactive attention deficit. (GROSS, GRANDPA #3 will be after that.) It’ll be all rapid-fire stories. I’ve got the Fire Retard Ant story. I’ve got “Moon Shits” from PRODUCT OF SOCIETY #5. I’ve got a handful of other stories. As far as GROSS, GRANDPA! #3 goes, it’ll be about how Ms. Sprain gets killed. They tie her up like a prize goat and tie her labia and tits into a ball and put horns on her and show her around the fairgrounds. They sell her for top prizes. I don’t have all the details yet, but that’s where it is.
JB: Will it be out in time for C2E2?
JF: I hope so. These things take time. I’m writing, drawing, lettering, and coloring everything myself. Issue one I pumped out really fast. Number two, I’m like, stop, write it, rewrite it, build the world, make the characters. It took me a fucking year to do this one.
Josh Filer's work can be bought here, and you can read his blog here. My review of GROSS, GRANDPA! #2 can be found here.