// you’re reading...


Jim Woodring – painter of colorful, cartoony, surreal pictures, and the creator of the comic, FRANK

JIM WOODRING is a painter of colorful, cartoony, surreal pictures, and the creator of the comic, FRANK (Fantagraphics). Born in Los Angeles in 1952, when he left school he made a living in sanitation. Then he went from sanitation to animation. He was influenced by the underground comics of people like Robert Crumb, and started getting his own comics published in magazines underground and otherwise. He also worked as a commercial artist. In 1980 he started his illustrated auto journal called Jim. His comic Frank, which has run to five issues, is peopled by a variety of strange, yet human, creatures living in a fantasy world. readersvoice.com asked Jim Woodring about his favorite books.

READER’S VOICE: If you could give yourself a list of books to read years ago what would be on it?

JIM WOODRING: I can’t really think of anything; some of the books that have come to mean a lot to me since I was a teenager would not have appealed to me then, and none of them would have been especially helpful to me had I read them when I was younger.
Actually I would probably suggest that I NOT read a lot of the books I read then- Mann, Camus, Sartre, Huxley- because they were written for adults with life experience.
I slogged through all that stuff without getting the meat of it, though I enjoyed the experience.
Now I have to read them all over.
Even good old Henry Miller turns out to be saying something quite different than what I thought he was saying when I was a kid. O well.
RV: As far as your comics go, which comics artists or other influences had the biggest input into your work?

JW: George Herriman, Jack Davis, Bill Elder, R. Crumb, Justin Green, Boris Artzybasheff, Salvador Dali and Harry McNaught were and are among my biggest inspirations.

RV: Have you done much reading about your interests in surrealism and 17th century Dutch Art, and art in general including comics, and if so
which particular biographies or histories did you enjoy the most?

JW: Oh yes… too many books to list.
THE SECRET LIFE OF SALVADOR DALI flattened me when I was a teenager; just laid me out cold.
That was one of the top five reading events in my life.
It had a prolonged and deleterious effect.

RV: Symbolism plays a big part in your work, and I was wondering if you were into symbolist poetry.

JW: You mean like Rimbaud? I like his work a lot… or used to. Haven’t read him lately.
I’m not sure who the symbolists were. Dylan? He’s like totally boss.
RV: Some of your comics have great sorrow in them, but it’s balanced with humor. Any humorous titles you particularly liked?

JW: My favorite humor book is THE EGG AND I by Betty Macdonald.
It’s the reason I first moved to Washington.

Too bad it’s so awful toward the Indians, but in a way that kind of makes it an excitingly forbidden book, the way TROPIC OF CANCER used to be.

RV: Can you talk a bit about your recent trip to Japan and anything that stuck you about their comics and art?

JW: Japan is great. I love Japan.
It’s fun and pretty, and if the Japanese do indeed say terrible things about Westerners right to their faces knowing they almost certainly don’t understand Japanese, which I’ve been assured they do, well, I can live with that.
Japan is beautiful. Japan makes Seattle, where I live and which I think is beautiful, look like a Czechoslovakian ghetto.
Their comics are wild and free.

Frank is published by Fantagraphics Books.
Check out Jim Woodring’s website at www.jimwoodring.com.