By Rachel D.
Matthew Thurber is an American comic artist, the author of the graphic novels 1-800-Mice, and Infomaniacs. His most recent graphic novel, Infomaniacs, is definitely one of the best comics I’ve read. His humor, in combination with wide range of eccentric characters divide his comics from any other graphic novels I’ve read. Matthew’s work can be seen not only in his books but also in zines, the New York Times and Vice. I interviewed Matthew about his upbringing and his pop culture influences.
Rachel D: Did you read comics as a kid?
Matthew Thurber: I read newspaper comics first. Like Bloom County, Peanuts, The Far Side. I got into superhero comics, but only a few. Like Spiderman, which lead me into fantasy comics. I feel like the transitional period between underground comics and superhero comics is fantasy like Dungeons and Dragons period where I was into other worldly narratives. When I was fourteen my head just exploded and I found out about Monty Python, The Butthole Surfers, and punk rock, and like crazy comics.
Rachel D: What was your favourite as a teen or child?
Matthew Thurber: I was really into Elf Quest when I was twelve and thirteen because it was such a well mapped out fantasy world. I was kind of into these dark sort of antihero comics, like Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen. It’s just like there was a period where they were like “Comics are really dark and serious and not just for kids” so big companies were making all of these dark or adult comics, and I got caught up in that. Like the joker, and that kind of mythology.
Rachel D: Did you draw a lot when you were younger?
Matthew Thurber: I always made little story books, and books about my cat, like little adventure books that I stapled together. So it seemed pretty natural to just start making zines in high school. It was a way to reach out to people from my small town where I had a few friends but it was really interesting to see this whole world of different zines and trade stuff through the mail. I guess that was later in high school when I got into music and art. I made this zine called the Glistening Earlobe for a while and I’d leave around town, in stores.
Rachel D: Do you think your parents were a big influence on your taste or did you discover things on your own?
Matthew Thurber: Definitely my parents. My dad’s a fiddle player so he got me into tons of music, so did my uncle. My mom worked as a librarian, so she brought me tons of books. I was whiney, I would whine until they let me go to the book store and buy some choose your own adventure books. They always supported me when I was interested in things.
Rachel D: Did you go to art school?
Matthew Thurber: Yeah, I went to Cooper Union. When I was eighteen I moved to New York City to go to art school.
Rachel D: Did your parents support you?
Matthew Thurber: Yeah, I got a scholarship to go. So it was cheaper than a lot of art schools but they definitely helped me, they paid my rent. They fiscally supported me through doing that.
Rachel D: What was your favourite television show or movie as a teenager?
Matthew Thurber: This is a tough question because I watched so much. I really loved Star Trek: The Next Generation. I would sit with my TV tray and watch Star Trek: The Next Generation pretty frequently. When I was a kid I watched all of the James Bond movies. Once my friend gave me all of them on tape for my birthday when I turned twelve, I was pretty obsessed.
Rachel D: Your favourite band as a teen?
Matthew Thurber: Well, I really liked the Smiths, My Bloody Valentine, The Butthole Surfers, Depeche Mode.
Rachel D: Do you think your tastes have changed a lot, or do you like the same type of music, and movies?
Matthew Thurber: Oh no, they get more spread out, wider but I am still so fond of all that new wave, early punk stuff.
Rachel D: Is there a particular fictional character that you idolize now or when you were a teen?
Matthew Thurber: I was always identifying with the creative people behind the characters, rather than Sherlock Holmes. I would fantasize about being a writer.
Rachel D: Who’s your favourite person you follow on Twitter or Tumblr?
Matthew Thurber: Good question.. Jessica Ciocci from Paper Rad but she deleted her account, I also like DJ George Costanza, there are some people who are so funny. I just found out about Dril on twitter, his persona is kind of like a horrible dad. I like totally fictional characters, and people who are really psychedelic with their accounts. I never know what persona to project, sometimes it’s me, sometimes it’s nonsense.
Rachel D: Do you usually write the stories for your comics first, or do you draw the characters and then try to create a personality for them?
Matthew Thurber: If I’m more serious about it I’ll write a script and do little thumbnail sketches. Sometimes it’s more fun to not know where it’s going.
Rachel D: The characters in your books are really eccentric, do you ever draw things that are most realistic, or from your own life?
Matthew Thurber: I do make comics about my life, but I feel like I encounter so many eccentric people that it just doesn’t seem like reality.
Rachel D: Are there any characters in your stories that are based off of yourself?
Matthew Thurber: Yeah, Mr. Colostomy.
Rachel D: Do you intend to stick with comics and eventually have a large body of work, or do you want to switch to a different art form?
Matthew Thurber: The ideal would be a bunch of bound copies like The Complete Works, like a bunch of leather hardback editions. I’d have to stick with it, at the same time I want to do so many other things but I’m in it pretty deep, 15 years deep so I have to keep going.