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UNDERWORLD comic creator Kaz interviewed

This edition of readersvoice.com features an interview with New York cartoonist Kaz (Kazimieras G. Prapuolenis).Kaz was born in Hoboken, New York, in 1959, and is probably best known for the syndicated comic strip UNDERWORLD and his comics anthologies like SIDETRACK CITY.These comics feature dark, urban landscapes, with characters like smoking cats, disgruntled rodents, lovesick devils, and Grim Reapers on a stakeout.It might sound like Anti-Disneyland, but the characters have an innocence about them, and the humor is sharp.Also, his comics capture a lot of the look and feel of early 20th century comics and animation, and makes it fresh.He mentions some interesting books, too, so read on...

READERSVOICE.COM: Could you list some of your favorite books and say why you liked them?


This is the book that opened my mind to reading.

Beautifully written and laugh out loud funny.

FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS by Hunter S. Thompson. Amazing, frightening, and funny.
ZAP COMICS #2. It made me sweat.

THE STRANGER by Albert Camus.

It was my companion through JR High School.

WHY A DUCK? It was a collection of Marx Bros. skits with words and pictures.
I couldn’t put it down.

RV: Your humor in comics like Underworld has been described as dark and nihilistic.

I was wondering if you did much reading along these lines and if so, which books influenced your style of humor?

KAZ: See the answers to question number one.

I also love the books of David Sedaris, the screenplays of Charlie Kaufman, Charles Addams cartoons, John Water’s films, Dorothy Parker’s poems, and E.C. Segar’s POPEYE comics.

RV: I read you were very interested in the fine arts.

Do you read a lot of biographies of artists? What about books on comics, and turn of the 20th century animation which has had a big influence on your comics?

KAZ: I do read artists’ biographies from time to time.

I just finished reading THE SHAMEFUL LIFE OF SALVADOR DALI by Ian Gibson.

The problem I have with biographies is that I know how all of them end. The subject dies.

I loved NIGHT STUDIO (about Phil Guston), and I read anything I can get on Buster Keaton.

Mostly (when it comes to art) I look at art collections.

I use them for reference and inspiration.

The best book on comics is THE SMITHSONIAN COLLECTION OF NEWSPAPER COMICS. Any and all of the KRAZY KAT and POPEYE collections are wonderful.

THE FLEISCHER STORY by Leslie Cabarga is my favorite book on twentieth century animation.

I’m now reading MAKIN’ TOONS, Inside the most Popular Animated TV Shows and Movies by Allan Neuwirth.

RV: Do you still live on the Upper West Side in Manhattan, and what’s your daily routine?

KAZ: Yes, I still live on the Upper West Side.

Though I’ve been flying to L.A. lately to work on TV shows and movies.

I get up, watch a little TV or read something. Answer e-mails. Go for a walk (or even a jog).

In the afternoon I’ll do my phone calls.

Then I start laying out my work for the day.

I’ll work from late afternoon into the night.

Night time’s easier to work because there are no phone calls.

I go to the movies often. If there’s an art show I wanna see I’ll do that.

I have friends in the art world who clue me into shows to catch.

Dinner with my wife and friends is always fun.

But really – I work whenever I have to.

If I haven’t finished something I’ll get up in the morning and finish it.

I still take classes, usually NYU Continuing Education.

Screenwriting, studying playwrights, etc.

Actually, that’s my advice. Keep taking all kinds of classes.

Never stop your education.

I always run my work past my wife who is an amazing editor.
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