Dig interviews DANIEL CLOWES

“DANIEL CLOWES A dialogue about dialogue” / Dig / Kelly J. Cooper / May 4, 2010

Out now in comic shops everywhere, Daniel Clowes' new work is a graphic novel called Wilson. Most famous for adapting Ghost World and Art School Confidential to screenplays that got turned into actual fuckin' movies, Clowes is a gifted cartoonist with a habit for creating strange and sometimes edgy characters on the fringes of society, seeking a human connection.

Much of your early work was "slice of life," and then your more recent material has been more narrative. Was that an organic shift, or was it inspired by anything in particular?

I think over time I just got a little more ambitious and a little more interested in creating bigger narratives. When I first started out, I was kind of opposed to narrative in a certain way. I was trying to do stories as naturally as possible without imposing the structure that's required of a story on them. [Then] I got much more interested in the opposite of that, which was telling a story and taking the same kind of events I might have been using in my earlier stories, but really trying to give them the maximum narrative impact.

You made an interesting choice, illustrating each page of Wilson in a different style.

When I initially started thinking about the book, I was trying to devise a style that would work for every strip [so that] each one would have the impact I wanted. And as I was doing that, I kept trying different styles. Some worked for some strips, and some worked for other strips, and it just sort of became part of the DNA of the book. It somehow seemed all of a sudden like I needed to incorporate all these styles in the book. And that said something to me about who this guy was, and also about how we all kind of think about ourselves. I tried not to repeat any of the styles. I tried to do 80 different styles throughout the whole thing.

You've said that the first round of dialogue for the Ghost World screenplay sounded off to you. Does that influence your subsequent comic writing?

When I wrote the Ghost World screenplay, I wrote the dialogue a certain way, and then when I finally heard the actors actually say the dialogue, I ... I learned more that day than I think I've ever learned any other day of my life! [laughs] I instantly saw how much of the dialogue was not necessary. My original draft of the script had every little, um, y'know, ellipsis, and every time they'd stutter and kind of trip over a word and you can't get somebody to act that stuff. A lot of comic dialogue is ... very hard to say. That's one of the reasons I never do readings from my own comics, because it always sounds ridiculous ... and always makes me want to rewrite the whole thing.

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