"Maakies is my life story"

An interview with Tony Millionaire by Kioskerman.

Tony Millionaire is my favorite comic artist. In a world filled with comics about real life struggles, this man reminds me what adventure used to look like. And he is a very good person too. Last year i interviewed him for an argentinian comics magazine called "Comiqueando". He answered all my questions by mail and then his wife gave him trouble for staying up so late to do it. Thank you Tony! Here is an interview conducted by a fan, not a journalist.

¿Did you always wanted to become a cartoonist?

- Yes ever since I was a little kid I loved comics, mostly newspaper
comics. I would go over to my parents' friends house and sit down in the
basement and read the stacks of newspaper comics that were bundled for the
trash. My grandfather used to show me his collections of old newspaper comics,
he would clip them from the papers, these giant full page epic comics,
like 15 inches by 25 inches long, for ONE COMIC. They would let these artists
take a whole page, so they had less comics in the paper than they have now
but they were beautiful only because they were so much bigger and the
artists would just open up and draw these incredible pages. Even the stupid
comics looked great when they were that big and colorful. I was never a big
fan of Super-comic books, I didn't really see the point, especially after
Shultz (Peanuts) came on the scene, talking about the horror of just
being alive and trying to get through the days without wanting to strangle
yourself. I guess the super comics were dealing with similar issues of
frustration and the desire to bring out great strength from the puny
bones of the readers, but I wasn't so much interested in correcting the
weakness as I was in dwelling in it.

You once said in a interview that being a cartoonist is not
easy. Why did you say that?

- Maybe I was talking about making money. There's not a lot of money in
it unless you are really good and/or know how to get yourself into a money
siphoning position. You have to stand under the chute that pours the
money out and then open up the bag. That ain't easy, figuring out where to
stand.

You also said that when you started making your strip, you set a
very high standard. May you tell me what that standard was about?

- It was about not making stupid lame-ass comics, which you can find in
every modern newpaper, really this stuff is putrid up to 90%. I like a few
strips, and some of them I like because of what they used to be but...
Well, I shouldn't dump on other people's work, but I go crazy every
week trying to come up with something that is first, interesting to look at,
clean lines and good blacks, second, easy to follow and read, third it
makes you laugh and fourth, it leaves you with a thought that you can
think about for awhile. I can't crank out some lame-ass pun about coffee.

Do you really get tired of “working blue”, the scatological and
vulgar, etc, as you said in one of your latest strips where we see Sock
Monkey and Drinky Crow looking at a the sky at night?

- No, if a turd joke is funny I'll use it. That's the rule, though, it
has to be funny. Once I asked Mike Gentile, my editor at New York Press
before that magazine became a tampon for Godzilla's wife, if I could do a joke
using the words, "You fucked my mother!" Mike said, "TONY, THIS ISN'T
SCREW MAGAZINE! ......Is it funny?" It was funny and it ran. I never
get tired of shit jokes, they are the funniest jokes on earth, my daughters
blow fake farts all day and laugh hysterically.

A cartoonist I admire, Bill Watterson, said that in the cartoon
industry, authors should move “from silliness to significance”, talking
about the content of cartoons nowadays. Watterson said “the strips I
admire go further than a gag a day and take you to a special world” Do you
agree with that? I think that Maakies has both things, and perhaps that’s why
I like so much the strip.

- I loved Watterson's work. Yes I like the idea that a strip is a place
you
go to, and once you're there, it should be not only an interesting and
comfortable place to be, it should be a thoughful place, thoughtful in
the
most absurd topsy-tirvy way.

Why do you invite other cartoonist to draw Maakies? Are the childish
drawings really made by children?

Yeah, I think it's a good idea to bring kids back into comics, they've
been
pushed out of the comics world in the past few years, and the danger is
that the pokemon and manga douchebags are moving in for the kill. That
stuff is garbage compared to the good old Sad Sack and Casper comics we
used to have in the sixties. What about "Hot Stuff?"

I noticed that in the last Maakies volumen, you chosed “Shockheaded
Peter” to be the inspiration for the cover art. Why was that? Was Chip
Kidd´s decision or was it your decision? That book scared me as a kid.

It was my decision, I love old kids books, I've found them to be
greater influences than comics. I think that if you fill kids' heads with
beautiful scary stories and images when they're young, they spend the
rest of their lives trying to recapture that beauty, it makes
revolutionaries out of them.

How more many years do you think you will be making Maakies? Is there
a natural lifespan for any strip?

I will be making Maakies until my dying day. I'll be looking across
the hospital room at an old man's ass as he shoots diarrhea all over the
floor and that will inspire my last Maakies in 2055. Maakies is my life
story, my personal diary.

Are you interested in comic´s theory, Scott Mc Cloud, Will Eisner,
etc?

No, I don't like to analyze it so mathematically, I go with my gut.
I'm sure it's interesting and useful to some, but I've always just made my
own rules. I have McClouds' book though, flip through it now and then, he has
some good points.

Do you think comic strips always must have a punchline? There
are some Makkies strips wich don´t seem to have one.

I love a good punchline but that's only one of many ways to illustrate
an idea.

Another thing Bill Watterson said (I have been reading his books
recently) is that today cartoonist “don’t have to reinvent the wheel”.
Instead they have too read the good old classics like Krazy Kat and
Peanuts and start developing their own from there. Do you agree with that
statement?

Good advice for the nitwits I've seen lately in the paper. I'm lucky
working in weeklies, I have great freedom to experiment and sometimes I
fail, but it doesn't matter, it's about process. I heartily endorse
the idea of studying masters like Herriman and Shultz, in fact reading good
novels and short stories will get you much farther in good
comics-making than reading comics will. Kaz's best advice to an aspiring cartoonist
was,"Learn to tell a story."

Do you really tried one of those crazy Maakies recipes?

Yes, I've made them all. Some are jokes but some are quite delicious,
chicken pan pie is great. Take a frozen chicken pot pie, chop it up
with an axe and fry it.

How much time do you dedicate to the text writing, do you do it
right in the moment or before?

I agonize over getting a joke or story for a week, finally one comes, I
write it down in a few different ways and then I bust out the pencil.
When itlooks right I ink it.

Wich is more important for you, the drawing or the idea and the
writing?

It all comes together, one would be not much without the other. It's
like a play, you never really get it until a good actor acts it.

We are living in a time when comics strips are far from being
draw with craftsmanship. Nowadays anybody who wants to express
an idea can make a strip, without knowing “how to draw”
.

Two examples: David Reese is a genius. Ted Rall is a terrible
cartoonist.

You sell your originals? Is it because you like it or because you need
to make a living of it?

I need the money and I know that people will spread the originals
around the world and that they will take care of them especially after paying
$350 for them.

*The author is a comic artist from Argentina. He studied journalism and learned some english only to interview Millionaire.

RETURN TO KIOSKERMAN´S COMICS