The New Yorker has a profile of author Gene Wolfe. “His narrators may be prophets, or liars, or merely crazy, but somewhere in their stories they help to reveal what Wolfe most wants his readers to know: that compassion can withstand the most brutal of futures and exist on the most distant planets, and it has been part of us since ages long past.”
Posted July 23, 2009
Originally from the “New York and New Jersey area,” Evan Munday is a Toronto-based comic artist and illustrator with a day job as a book publicist. He’s a member of the illustration collective, SketchKrieg!, has written a young adult novel, The Dead Kid Detective Agency and illustrated magazines and books, most recently Jon Paul Fiorentino’s novel Stripmalling (ECW, 2009). I first met Evan at a zine fair where he was selling, The Amazing Challengers of Unknown Mystery, his comic about superheroes in Waterloo, Ontario. It’s funny, smart and kinda punk. I’d really like to pressure him to make more. Instead, I ask him questions.
Carol Borden: Stripmalling‘s a fictional(ized), coming-of-age at a crap job memoir. But my favorite chapters are the ones you drew, the four panel tasteless gag strips and the comic Evan the character makes Jonny the protagonist. Did you have much input?
Evan Munday: Thanks! I had a great deal of freedom with how I would illustrate the panels and depict the characters, but the dialogue and jokes all came from Jon Paul. It’s funny because in our live performances of the book–we try to team up for something a little different than the usual reading (short films, amusing Powerpoint presentations)–I have way more input in the writing. But the book’s text was all Jonny’s show.
CB: I’m all for the abuse of Powerpoint.
EM: I’ve had really good reactions from my Powerpoint comic readings. I’ve often thought I should give up on drawing and writing. Just design funny Powerpoint presentations. There’s so much you can do with it when you’re not leading an office workshop. Or even when you are. I could become a Powerpoint artist. That’s a thing, right?
CB: A fine thing. Incidentally, which is harder, writing or drawing?
EM: They are both torturous in very different ways. Most days, I dread doing either.
CB: Are there differences in how you approached your Stripmalling illustration, your magazine illustration and your comics?
EM: With illustration I do for other people or organizations, I’m trying to inject some of their sensibilities into the work. The illustration is like a puzzle, attempting to solve the problem of making something they want and something that is also my work. With my own work, I don’t need to worry about that first part. It’s pure, unadulterated Munday. Which is probably for the worst.
CB: You mentioned that Stripmalling was all Jonny’s show. The book’s filled with metafictional angst about turning people into characters, writing and metafiction itself. How was being a character in his show? Any angst for you in representing other people?
EM: At first, the character Evan Munday was named, “Ewan Sunday,” then Jon Paul called and asked if I had any problem with him using my real name. I suppose I should have given it more thought, given that Evan is a seducer of men, a drug peddler and becomes a male prostitute in Montreal, but I immediately told him it was fine. In retrospect, I’d insist my character not live in Montreal. My parents loved it. They seem to get a liberal thrill out of showing friends in their North Carolinian gated community the scenes of man-on-man action involving their son.
As for the other characters, Jon Paul was happy with how I depicted his counterpart, Jonny. (I made him younger and better-looking!) But in general, I tried to avoid gross caricature.
CB: You pulled off a remarkably sensitive portrayal of Avril Lavigne in the final full storyline of The Amazing Challengers of Unknown Mystery.
EM: Thanks! I think people who bought that story were looking to see Avril Lavigne sent up in a horribly nasty way. I got emails from people who were looking for blood and wound up either pleasantly surprised or felt ripped off. And there was one Avril Lavigne super-fan who loved every minute of it. One comic convention, he spent most of a day by my table, regaling me with Avril trivia.
I love caricature and satire, but if I ever do it, I think I’ll choose a more relevant target than Avril Lavigne.
CB: You set TACUM in Waterloo when a lot of Canadian-based artists seem diffident about setting anything explicitly in Canada.
EM: When I was living in Waterloo, I made a comic about Waterloo superheroes. And now that I live in Toronto, I’m setting a comic there. I’m bad at illustrating backgrounds, so I run around the city and take reference photos of spots featured in the script. It makes things easier but it also reflects my interest in local history. I’ve always loved books or comic books set somewhere specific with specific references, rather than just some city. Or worse, New York City or Los Angeles. Don’t get me wrong, there are some very good New York and L.A. books — Ex Machina’s a great New York book — but it’s also a crutch for some writers. The way some writers depict New York, it might as well be Houston or Minneapolis.
Adding local flavour, references, settings gives a book more authenticity, and something for readers to grab onto. Look at Scott Pilgrim — it’s made the Toronto Reference Library and Sneaky Dee’s nerd tourist destinations.
CB: Did DC’s The Challengers of the Unknown influence more than the title?
EM: They were a huge influence, though I didn’t know that much about them when I started my book. I really liked Steven Grant and John Paul Leon’s short-lived, late 90s incarnation, and was influenced by that. I also wanted my book to be part-homage, part-parody of Silver Age books, and I can’t think of a better, more iconic title to rip off than The Challengers of the Unknown. Maurice Jamais [necromancer/”Canada’s greatest living biographer” pictured above] was almost a complete character design rip-off of their pilot, Marlon Corbet.
My new book is more influenced by Scott Pilgrim, and every post-apocalyptic movie I’ve ever seen: Mad Max, A Boy and His Dog … The Postman, even!
CB: What’s it called?
EM: Quarter-Life Crisis, a tale of the Yung brothers trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic Toronto, in which everyone but twenty-five year-olds have died. The remaining Torontonians have split into neighborhood-based gangs. It’s like Scott Pilgrim meets Mad Max … meets, uh … Train 48*, I guess. It’s both depressing and funny (I hope). And it’s longer than anything I’ve done before, about 136 pages.
CB: Any advice for the kids looking to break into illustration, independent comics or collaborations with poets?
EM: Try to draw every day. Something I’m not great at myself, but is immensely helpful. Also, get involved with your local comic book / literary scene. Go to events, make sure people know that you draw, show people your work. It may seem crass and networky at first, but it’s important.