One of the great parts about interviewing authors is I'm constantly having to re-examine stereotypes and perceptions. For instance, I never really thought about cartoon books as an avenue for education on difficult subjects. But Larry Gonick, with his cartoon guides, has proven me wrong on that front.
Now we turn to Lloyd Dangle who, with his cartoon and book, Troubletown, has also forced me to think out of the box as I realize it's possible to write sharp barbs about the Bush administration and the war on a regular basis and still be funny. Think G.B. Trudeau's excellent Doonesbury strip (there's an author I'd LOVE to interview) meets the movie Network meets the documentary Control Room.
As with Larry Gonick, Lloyd Dangle is a sharp, witty cartoonist. Dangle frets, though, that he may best be known for doing the artwork for the Airborne product.
This is Dangle's third book. He has been writing this comic since 1988.
I told Dangle I was going to reference Larry Gonick and his Cartoon History of the World book in my review and asked what he thought of Gonick.
I'm a big fan of Larry Gonick and know him. He's so good, I'm surprised he's never taken on anything really ambitious. Come on, history of the universe? That's a topic you could just phone in, isn't it? Seriously, Larry was also a mentor to me when I was starting out. He's a nice guy. But I like Larry's comics not only because they are very smart and accomplished, but because he's one of the guys who create characters that are springy and alive, and throw in lots of good yuks and visual surprises, and it makes for good, classic cartooning.
And now on with the interview, which was done via email: How did you come to be a cartoonist?
Odd as it sounds, I had a crazy image of myself being a cartoonist when I was a kid. I imagined I would have this really cool lifestyle where I sit around a groovy Manhattan apartment, smoking a pipe, being witty and urbane, and somehow wads of money would just flow in. After a lot of missteps and twists and turns I ended up doing almost exactly what I had pictured, except for the pipe and the Manhattan digs––and the money. Mostly, I have always been very good at ridiculing people and drawing portraits that exaggerate their flaws and sensitivities. These things in the normal world will get you fired or beaten up, but for a cartoonist they come in very handy. Lastly, I was born with a funny name, which tends to send one down a certain path, like for me it would have had to be circus clown, porn star, or cartoonist.
Did you draw about less controversial subjects first or was politics always your interest? When I was younger I drew “relationship” comics. Love is a universal subject and I seemed to be so good at getting myself into screwed-up relationships that I became an expert in dysfunction. That kind of drama was very relevant to me, and the cartoons went over pretty well. Eventually I got into a healthy relationship––and nobody wants to read about that. I was so happy when my son, Oscar, was born, in fact, that I wrote three Troubletowns about being a new parent. Never have I received so much hate mail!
The truth is that I always write cartoons about what is relevant to me at the moment. With the worst president in history and our liberties and values under threat, I can hardly imagine writing cartoons about other things right now. What’s it like to hear someone like the late great Molly Ivins praise you with the words on the back of the book?