Clem has plenty ‘Nice’ to say

After reading – and loving – the comic “Nothing Nice to Say,” I decided to try and get inside the mind of it’s creator, Mitch Clem, but in a non “Being John Malkovich” kind of way. I stalked him on MySpace and wrangled him to an interview through Gmail. The following transcript is a documentation of what ensued.

No comments

By Desiree Perez

By Desiree Perez

After reading – and loving – the comic “Nothing Nice to Say,” I decided to try and get inside the mind of it’s creator, Mitch Clem, but in a non “Being John Malkovich” kind of way.

I stalked him on MySpace and wrangled him to an interview through Gmail.

The following transcript is a documentation of what ensued.

Desiree: What first inspired you to create “Nothing Nice to Say?” What’s the brief history of its creation? Was it your first crack at drawing your own comics?

Mitch Clem: I’ve been drawing comics since I was a kid. Like, elementary school. So I was always already doing that. And then I made a flyer for a house show I was hosting and I drew what would later become Blake and Fletcher on it making a joke about punk rock, and that sort of clicked, that I could make jokes about punk. And so I did that!

D: Most comic book authors are also fans. What are your top five favorite comic books by other authors? Of your comics, which is your favorite?

MC: Hm. Okay, let’s see. Favorite comics:

1. Calvin & Hobbes

2. Geoff Johns’ run (ha) on the Flash

3. Three-way tie between Preacher, Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing, and Sandman

4. Astro City

5. Superman “For All Seasons”

That’s off the top of my head, I’m sure it needs adjusting.

My favorite comic that I wrote… That’s a tough one. I can tell you it’s definitely not anyone else’s favorite. I’m always most proud of the ones no one ends up caring about. Every time. And every time I’m entirely ambivalent about a comic, people say it’s my best work. So clearly the key to great comic making is apathy!

D: “Nothing Nice to Say” is heavy with musical references. What are your top five favorite musical artists?

MC: Top five favorite musical artists is too hard to say. I can tell you Propagandhi, Archers of Loaf, Scared of Chaka, and They Might Be Giants are definitely involved. Probably Dillinger Four also. And then some kind of seventeen-headed mutant spawn of the Vindictives, Screeching Weasel, Blue Meanies, and Apocalypse Hoboken.

D: How did you come up with the main characters in your strip, Blake and Fletcher? Are they based on certain people? What about the minor characters? And what’s with the gopher?

MC: They’re not based on anyone, none of the characters are based on anyone real except for Phillip, and I only barely knew the guy I based him on so I don’t know that it even counts. But don’t think everyone I knew even tangentially when I started the strip didn’t infer homages to people from around town where there were none.

The gopher is just because I thought it would be silly. Minnesota is the gopher state, after all. I wish I would have drawn him to look anything like a gopher the first time around. Now it’s too late.

D: How did you come up with the look of the Mitch Clem in the comics?

MC: I don’t remember why I drew myself like that. I haven’t parted my hair like that since probably middle school. But I did, at the time, wear v-neck sweaters and collared shirts. It was cold.

D: How does it feel to be Blake and Fletcher’s god?

MC: It feels okay. Kind of moist. Spongy, you know? Like a tongue. It’s weird.

D: How did you get involved with Dark Horse Comics?

MC: They contacted me. I don’t know how they found my comics. When they first approached me about doing abook, I thought someone was pranking me. I checked the email thoroughly for a hidden camera.

D: How long was this book in the works?

MC: It took somewhere between thirty seconds and one year. I don’t remember how long, exactly. Most of the hold-up was on me. I’m a slow, slow, lazy slow person.

D: What was the process leading up to the final product?

MC: Me and my friend Zach threw it together, sent it to them, they fixed my spelling errors and then, one day, I got a couple copies in the mail. And then I tried desparately to make the world care, and it didn’t, so now I’m sure there’s a warehouse overstocked with these things.

If you’re reading this, don’t bother buying it, they’ll start giving them away any day now I’m sure.

D: In the introduction to the book, you explain that this first book is actually volume two. Can you clarify that?

MC: If you go to the site and click “FIRST” and browse forward from there, that is the volume one stuff. It’s in color, the drawings are really bad, etc. Also, I never saved any of the originals, so those 72 dpi web files are the only versions of those comics that I had.

Basically, a volume one would look awful, it would be expensive because of the color, no one would want it.

So I started the book with the dawn of the black and white strips that were all standard sizes and didn’t look as awful. But I didn’t redraw any of those. Keep browsing through the web archives and you’ll get to the stuff from the book.

D: I have to say, yours is the first comic where I’ve seen references to Skankin Pickle, Alkaline Trio, Jello Biafra, Rude Boys, vegan punks, straight edgers, femi-nazis and communists all in one place. Can you tell me more about how you decide to incorporate those elements into your work? Also, what kind of responses have you had to your characters?

MC: Basically if I think of a joke, I make it, and I use whoever I have to to make it. The response is generally one of disdain, accompanied with an email saying so and so will never read my comics again.

D: Blake and Fletcher are music snobs. Where does their taste in music come from? What would their top five favorite bands be?

MC: They are snobs. Fletcher moreso, but they both kind of are. Blake’s top five is all probably from Lookout Records, and Fletcher’s favorites are anyone who sounds like Minor Threat.

D: From what I understand, “Nothing Nice to Say” is based in Minnesota near St. Cloud, but in your other comic, “My Stupid Life,” you make mention of Texas. Have you left your “Nothing Nice” state? Will this effect future “Nothing Nice to Say” strips?

MC: I moved from Minneapolis to San Antonio, TX about three or four years ago. So far this has not affected NN2S any. I thought about moving them with me, but decided against it, since San Antonio doesn’t have as many shows.

D: Is there a future for “Nothing Nice to Say,” or have you moved on to bigger better things?

MC: Yeah, I’m still making them. I keep trying to move on to bigger and better things, but people get mad when I draw anything that’s not NN2S. Some day hopefully DC will call and ask me to write the Flash, and then I’ll be set. Other than that, it’s just status quo from here on out.

D: Some of my favorite characters in the comics are the two poser-hating teens that take over “Nothing Nice to Say,” can’t spell or draw, and call everything gay. How did that come about?

MC: Those guys are everyone on punknews who hate my comics and what NN2S would look like if they took over.

D: If this article reaches Mitch Clem fans, what would you like to say to them?

MC: Ha! “Mitch Clem fans.” Good one.

D: If this article turns some people on to your work, what would you like to say to those people?

MC: Buy the book so I can eat.

D: What would Henry Rollins do?

MC: He’d change into workout shorts and get a bottle thrown at him.

D: If you’ve gotten this far, thank you. But now, if you’ll stick with this a little longer, I’d like to play a word association game.

I’ll make a list of words, and you can reply by typing the first words or phrases that come to mind.

1. Woody Allen

Central Park apartment.

2. coffee

Delicious.

3. The Donnas

Pink.

4. vegan

Squash.

5. Web comic

Bar fights.

6. barista

Crush.

7. NOFX

NOTHX

8. emo

Stupid hair.

9. poser

Comedy goldmines.

10. punk

Safety pins.

11. Henry Rollins

Sweaty.

12. kittens

Allergic.

For more Mitch Clem, check out the review of “Nothing Nice to Say” on http://viewpointsonline.org.

You can find more of Clem’s artwork at http://www.mitchclem.com.