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Minimalist comics artist John Campbell talks books

John Campbell talks about the background to the trip to Mexico…

READERSVOICE.COM: Where did you live until recently?

JOHN CAMPBELL: Chicago, Illinois. The Wicker Park neighborhood to be specific. I absolutely loved it there, though rent kept going up and the taquerias kept closing down. I was pretty satisfied living in walking distance from Quimby’s Bookstore, Sultan’s Market, Myopic Books and Marshall McGearty.

RV: Who have you been living with since you moved out of your home, and where are you living now?

JC: Before coming out here to Mexico I was living with a lot of different friends who were gracious enough to give me couch space. Mostly in Chicago, though I visited some friends in the burbs and in Wisconsin. Right now I’m in Zacatecas, Mexico. We just rented an apartment in a 175 year old building in the middle of the downtown historical district. It’s gorgeous. We’re trying to locate everything and learn the language and all that, but I think it’s going well.

RV: How did you meet Ryan Estrada and the other artists involved?

JC: I met Ryan face to face for the first time in San Diego, right before we left for Mexico. We knew each other through the internet. He’s made some extremely long hourly comics, and I’ve made hourly journal comics for a full month at a time. He probably first read my work when Ryan North of Dinosaur Comics plugged my comic Stevie Might Be a Bear, Maybe. I’m sure I’d read his stuff before that.

When Ryan started talking about Mexico, I e-mailed him and then showed up to go to Mexico. I think the fact that I was willing to drop everything and leave the country insured that I’d be the same kind of traveller as Ryan.

We got lost on purpose and are generally pretty laid back about most things. There are a lot of other artists who say they are going to visit, but the only one we think is going to live here is a girl named Nikita who is an Indian fashion designer. Ryan and I will both be working on our own projects and selling merchandise and custom comics.

RV: Can you talk a bit about your plans to create comics there?

JC: Well, Ryan worked for Citibank in India for over a year and saved up enough money to just live somewhere and try making comics for a while. We’re hoping to turn it into income, and I would be more than satisfied with a wee supplemental income. Making a living off independent art is tough, though the internet has simplified distribution and communication a great deal.

RV: How did you find a place to live and can you describe it and the neighbourhood?

JC: We met up with our friend Vlad who happened to have a real estate magazine, and there was an apartment in it that was extremely cheap and right downtown, and with his help (neither of us speak Spanish) we signed a lease. Our building’s right on Hidalgo, which is the main street here. Whenever there’s a parade we’ve got a great view from our roof.

It seems like there’s a parade here every other week or so. Mexico knows how to celebrate. In the last one there were rollerskaters and people jumping through flaming hoops.

RV: How soon did you start working on your comics or other projects?

JC: Once we moved in and got settled I started working on comics. It was probably just a couple weeks after entering Mexico.

RV: What did you work on? Did you end up working on the projects you intended, like the graphic novel about the end of a friendship, or web comics?

JC: Well, I started working on my webcomic Pictures for Sad Children. The first few weeks comics came out real easy because I’d been thinking about them for about a month. The rest of my time was spent trying to get a real website up and running, which was tough because we didn’t get internet access in our apartment for the first month or so. That comic and the occasional comic I post on my livejournal have been essentially my only output. This is a little disappointing, and I’ve been trying to figure out how to get my productivity to the point that I can be working on several projects at once. Webcomics have a deadline, and I’ve learned that if work doesn’t have a deadline, I will put it off indefinitely in favor of work that does.

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