This month we have a special Thanksgiving edition of “10 Questions with…” that is a perfect diversion for those painfully, awkward family gatherings! I’ve been enjoying the disgustingly delightful work of modern underground comix brewmaster Josh Simmons since his zine Happy first caught my eye at the Top Shelf table at SDCC. Simmons has carved out an impressive career since those “Happy days”! He’s put out multiple books and zines, including the critically acclaimed House, The Furry Trap, and his ongoing epic Jessica Farm.
Simmons has had a busy Summer/Fall season promoting his latest full-length graphic novel, Black River. As creepy and dark as Black River gets, it never loses it’s sense of humanity(and sense of humor!). Josh Simmons also just released the 2nd edition of Habit, which is an anthology of short stories with collaborations between Simmons and some of his artist buddies. You can still order a copy here, while they last!
Mr. Simmons gave some really revealing and entertaining answers to my questions, so find a safe space and fasten that straitjacket tight, because I think you’re really going to enjoy this!!
1. Freddy Krueger or Leatherface?
As a child I would have gone with Freddy Krueger.
But as an adult human in the world, I have to go with Leatherface. Freddy’s a lot of fun, the Walt Disney of horror, a fantasy forest dreamland child-killing force of pure malice. A demon. But with Leatherface (maybe only in the first movie anyway), there’s a sense of tragedy, more layers, more confusion, more noise, more human.
2. Do you ever drink and draw or partake in any other vices while making comics??
No drink or drugs, aside from caffeine. No people around, no distractions while writing. When I pencil and ink I can listen to music and podcasts.
3. Your graphic novel, Black River, is about a group of people(mostly women) seeking shelter and electricity in a post-apocalyptic world filled with all kinds of sick and sadistic individuals. With all of the scary news of terrorist attacks, climate change, and nuclear proliferation of late, do you think the world will eventually end up as you depict it in Black River or are you still hopeful for the future?
I’m neither pessimistic nor optimistic about the future. I don’t think we’re going to see the wasteland I depict in Black River. I have more faith in people than how I depict them in BR. Even if we did get to full on Mad Max world, I think people would do awful things, but would also work together and help each other out more often than not. It’s just useful with certain stories to take them as far as you can in a particular direction, for various reasons. I think we’ll see and experience both wondrous and exceptionally horrific things in the next 40 or so years that I’m (hopefully) still alive to see. Wee!
4. What was the last good movie you’ve seen?
In the last week I’ve watched Blood Simple, Bone Tomahawk, and Beasts of No Nation.
Blood Simple took a little while to get into, but about halfway through the movie it grabs you and you start to see hints of the Coen brothers’ greatness.
Bone Tomahawk was really good. My only complaint about the movie is that I wish it had a little more visual flair, but the controlled, matter-of-fact pace and look of the film really probably only helped make the climax as effective as it is.
Beasts of No Nation, I’m halfway through and it is making me feel very sad.
5. Which artists(comics or otherwise) do you admire the most and have you gotten the opportunity to meet any of them?
Gunnar Hansen and Linda Blair I met at a Halloween hayride festival thing in Massachussetts when I was 14, it was a huge thrill. Al Columbia and Renee French are two cartoonists I admired as a teenager who I got to meet and get to know a bit as an adult, also an awesome thing. I would love to meet ABBA and John Carpenter.
6. Did you have any experiences growing up that contributed to your dark sense of humor and twisted imagination? What does your family think of your work??
Oh yeah. That’s a whole long story for another day. I like to imagine doing a giant, 1,000-page memoir when I’m in my 70s, where I’ll spill all the beans. My life story would be just as fucked up and tragic and horrific and funny as my fiction, yessir.
I don’t show much of my work to my family, aside from my brother and niece. I think they appreciate it.
7. Describe your worst dating experience.
Nothing in particular springs to mind. In the last couple years I’ve tried online dating for the first time, and that’s its own kind of slow burn nightmare. You meet and one person likes the other more and then it’s a matter of shaking them or them shaking you by being flaky or being direct and however you slice it, I find it pretty depressing. Although I have friends who swear by it, so, y’know, I’ll keep trying.
That’s the spirit! -AY
8. I loved your bootleg Batman comic from 2007. Are there any other well known characters you’d like to take a stab at someday?
I have another Batman story I’d like to tell. This one features shit-eating. Also a pornographic and hyper-violent Green Lantern/Wonder Woman/Superman story. Call me, DC.
Punisher. Call me, Marvel.
Freddy Krueger. I could add some dimensions to that old rascal.
Marvel, you’ve gone pretty extreme with Frank Castle, before, so no excuses! -AY
9. Do you have any funny or strange road stories from your recent summer tour or just anytime you’ve gone to signings/conventions??
At one of the first APE conventions I went to in the early ’00s, a young man and his friend who was in a wheelchair stopped in front of me and the young man exclaimed, “DUDE, you’re Josh Simmons!? Your comics are so fucked up, you must do so many drugs!” and he turned to his friend and started slapping him on the top of his head, practically yelling,”Dude, you gotta check his shit out, it’s so fucked up!” and his friend just looked at me and around the table sadly as the excited young man kept slapping him on the top of the head harder and harder and yelling louder and louder for all to hear how great and fucked up my comics are. These are my people.
At one stop on the tour this past spring a young man who was acting very manic and strange like someone with a pronounced mental illness or someone on cocaine or meth came up to my table and seemed very excited about my work and bought a poster and my book The Furry Trap. A day or two later I got a long crazy rant email from this gentleman telling me I’d tricked him and my work was atrocious and he demanded I send him his money back. That was fun.
10. Your latest work, Habit #2, premiered at this year’s Short Run Comix & Arts Festival in Seattle,WA(Oct. 31st). The lead story is the unnerving, yet darkly funny “The Incident at Owl’s Head”, a 33 pager about a young drifter staying at a strange man’s house. Plus, you collaborated on 3 other stories with friends Eric Reynolds, Tom Van Deusen, and Ben Horak. Are you planning future issues of Habit, and what else do we have to look forward to from you in 2016 and beyond?
Yep yep. Ideally I’d like to do 4 issues of Habit all together. I have nothing at all done for the third issue. But I’ve talked to a couple people about collaborating on it. I’d like each issue to have 3 first-time collaborations with other artists.
Eventually there’s be another short story collection along the lines of The Furry Trap, but it will probably be a lot longer and will have a lot of the collaborations I’ve been doing. Also probably less horror-focused in general.
Jessica Farm Volumes 1 + 2 come out next spring from Fantagraphics. This is the comic I’m drawing at the rate of one page a month between January of 2000 and December of 2049. We’ll be putting out a 96-page volume every eight years. I’m excited for this because we’re completely re-designing the first volume to work with the second, I think these books are gonna look pretty sharp.
The White Rhinoceros is the next big book I’d like to get out at some point before the end of the decade. A first volume anyway, that’s going to be another very long comic. A racial wonderland fantasy adventure story. Written by The Partridge in the Pear Tree.
A couple secret projects, but they’re secret.
Thank you, Josh!
*Pictures of Josh Simmons and his work were provided by the internet. Thx!