Kochalka: Trans-Media Superstar
Interview With A Cutesy Elf At Heart
Kochalka is a genius: a genius whose passion comes across
in every frame he draws. I've been a fan since the night I
left Spike & Mike's Festival of Animation with the song
Monkey vs. Robot firmly entrenched in my head. Picking up
everything by Kochalka that I could find, I quickly realized
that he was a new voice that could really change the way I
looked at comics, from the Monkey
vs. Robot graphic novels, to the beautifully philosophical
Magic Boy and Robot Elf.
was good enough to answer a few questions for this highly
Garcia: You might be the hardest working man in
comics, putting out so much material that it's hard for me
to keep up with them all. How many projects do you currently
have going? What is on-deck for readers?
Kochalka: Well, I'm always working on my sketchbook diary
strips at AmericanElf.com
of course. Right now, I'm working on putting together the
big book collection of these strips, it'll collect a little
over 5 years of my diaries. I think it's about 500 pages.
Right now I'm working on putting together the introduction
and the appendixes...which will be about 32 pages and in color.
The individual volumes published by Top Shelf have always
been titled "Sketchbook Diaries" but we're titling
the big collection "American Elf."
on a new Fancy Froglin book. I'm writing a prose novel titled
Baby Hoo Ha, which in the end will probably be heavily illustrated.
I just released a minicomic titled "The Cute Manifesto,"
which is an argument on behalf of cuteness in art. It's part
of a series of comix essays I've drawn about art and life
and philosophy. I've got another chapter or two to draw before
that book can be collected.
I've begun work on a epic superhero-team comic. I haven't
decided on a title for it, but it's possibly BOOMBASTIC. I
probably won't finish it before the end of 2004.
A friend of mine has a hundred page dissertation on how Monkey
vs. Robot is the battle between our primitive side and our
industrial side. I keep telling him to publish it. Any thoughts?
What's the deal with the two different versions (the live
action and the animated)?
You're asking about the Monkey Vs. Robot movies?
There's actually been at least five of them, all made by film
students and based on my song Monkey Vs. Robot. Each one has
come from a different school, too.
strange phenomenon... I guess film students just love that
You did the art for Monica's Story, a rare non-fiction graphic
novel that is actually entertaining. Who came up with the
concept? How did you approach the art when every American
knew what these people actually looked like?
Me, Tom Hart, Jon Lewis and the publisher Jeff Mason came
up with that idea together. I actually tried to channel Tom
Hart's drawing style since I knew he'd be inking it. Basically,
as far as the way Bill Clinton and Monica look, I just wanted
them to be sympathetic. It's a very human story that was dehumanized
by the media. We just wanted to bring it down to the emotional
James Kochalka Superstar has put out some great music, including
Monkey vs. Robot, Hey, Ronald Reagan and Bad Astronaut, all
of which are on my regular listening lists. How hard is it
to work in one graphic story-telling medium and then switch
over to a musical story-telling medium? Do you ever have internal
battles as to which arena an idea will go into?
It's not a problem at all. I'm just in the habit of creating
all the time. I write new songs and draw new comics every
day. It's not a big deal, it's just what I do. I have no internal
conflict between music and comics.
You won the Ignatz for Sketchbook Diary. Why did you choose
to show yourself as a elf? Is that the highpoint of your career
I've won three Ignatz awards, actually. Two of them were for
the diary strips, and one was for my minicomic The Perfect
symbollic meaning behind why I draw myself the way I do. It's
not just that it's an elf, but the specific way the elf looks.
Also, the relationship between the way the various characters
look, it's all symbolic. Should I ruin it for you by explaining
it? I'll probably explain somewhat in the introduction to
the American Elf book.
Let's not hurt sales by giving it away. Now, you have such
an original and instantly recognisable style. Who were your
big influences? Who out there today do you enjoy reading?
Big influences.... Tove Janson's Moomintroll books, Peanuts,
Casper the Friendly Ghost and 100's of others.
my favorite cartoonist to read is Chester Brown.
Tell me of your Hot Sauce?
I designed four hot sauce labels for Chicago Comics. Every
year they make a special item for Christmas. One year it was
my hot sauce. This year they had Peter Bagge design ash trays.
You can get 'em at chicagocomics.com
(I think that's the url, I'm just guessing. I'm too
busy to check!) (It