(Translated excerpts from an interview for the Polish fashion/culture magazine EXKLUSIV. This ran in their November 2006 issue...)
EXKLUSIV: I've heard you talk about your childhood artwork quite a bit....
POPE: It's been a recent interest of mine for about a year now, really
trying to understand how a child thinks when he/she is trying to make
a picture. I've been studying my own childhood art and reading Rudolph
Arnheim's writings on child art and psychology. Paul Klee is another
interest of mine, as a thinker. He tapped into this a bit too.
According to my mom, I was drawing before my 2nd birthday-- I have
stacks of old drawings to prove it. I just started looking at them at
some point, getting curious about the little person who made the
drawings. It's a little person who doesn't exist anymore.
EXKLUSIV: Can you talk a little about how this work relates to what you're doing now, and what you discover through reexamining it?
POPE: Well, for one thing I was suprised to discover that the little
person I was really was trying to draw pictures with a sense of
stylized realism. I am interested in how it was I could come up with
certain things in my child drawing which I would call abstract--that
is, I think I had a way of thinking and a way of picture-making which
I am more or less unable to do now that I am grown up and, I guess you
would say, trained and skilled. In many cases my child "style" was
due to the fact that I was very artisically naive and not really in
control of my motor skills enough to really use my hand and the
drawing tools in any other way. But still, some of the pictures are
very interesting and strike me as valid, successful artistic
compositions. This is a very Bauhaus idea. Although I wouldn't say
the work is faultless of course. I would like to reclaim some of the
best parts of that period of picture making --a certain looseness of
approach and boldness of gesture-- and use it in my future work.
EXKLUSIV: I've also heard you talk about being influenced by European comics. Which ones do you find particularly inspiring?
POPE: Most of my favorite cartoonists are Italian-- Hugo Pratt, Attillio
Micheluzzi, Guido Crepax, Sergio Toppi, Piero Dall'Agnol... these
cartoonists are brush masters. I also love Joost Swarte, Blutch, Guy
Peeleart, Jean Gir/Moebius. Daniel Torres' old work. Early Silvio
EXKLUSIV: What other interests do you have besides making comics?
POPE: Certainly music is one, fashion and fashion design is
another. I love poster art, particularly fin-de-siecle French and
Austrian print and type design. I am interested in Greek and European history and,
in a wider sense, historical biography-- the lives of great men and
women are a huge source of personal inspiration for me. RW Emerson is
one of my heroes. I am interested in cultural history and comparative
mythology. The future of space exploration, early animation, silent
film. Weiner-Werkstatte design. I am fascinated by Honda's attempt
at making a humanoid robot, the thing they are now calling Asimo.
Which I am convinced will one day--likely in our lifetime-- be used
as some sort of military weapon.
I have also recently been interested in the whole youtube.com
phenomenon. I don't think it is healty or good but I haven't figured
out exactly how or why yet. I am absolutely against censorship, but
that is different from social critique. I think it can't be good for
a person's psyche to be able to type in "horrible car crashes" and see
hours of videos of horrible carcrashes.
EXKLUSIV: How does making comics about the big established superheroes (your recent Batman work, for instance) compare to making your own books?
POPE: I've always compared doing American superhero comics to trying to
write hit pop music. It is trying to write in a certain style for a
chart-topping audiences' ear. My personal comics-- what I call "pure
comics"-- if more like free jazz. It is sonic picture making, wild
and full of energy.
EXKLUSIV: Do you have any unusual work habits, or unusual processes you go through when creating your work?
POPE: I've resigned myself to the fact that I am a very anxious artist, and spend half of my creative process
completely stressed out and tense. I pace a lot and waste precious
time, although I've come to see that is probably necessary, at least at
this point. Partly this is because the skills required to do things
like interviews, meetings, phone calls and etc. call for a certain patient
gregariousness which I find to be the opposite of the personality I
really am--or become when I am cartooning. Once I cross between the
two I am fine, one way or the other. This is why I prefer to work
without interruption for days on end, alone in a room. "When I paint,
I leave myself outside the door," as Picasso is quoted as having said.
EXKLUSIV: What the best advice you could give an aspiring young comicbook-creator?
POPE: Oscar Wilde advises against giving advice, especially good advice,
and I tend to agree with him, never the less, in an unvarnished way I
would say: Study the great artists of the past --not just
cartoonists-- and understand how and why what they did was valuable.
Acquire the best well-rounded culturally humanistic education you can.
Do not proseletyze through your art; rather respect your audience and
never write down to them. Never stop being a critical thinker and
remember "No masterpiece was ever created by a lazy artist." Salvadore Dali
said that and I believe it's the truth.