Fantagraphics Books announced today at Comic-Con International in San Diego that it will publish the work of Australian cartoonist Simon Hanselmann, best known for his ongoing series of “Megg, Mogg and Owl” strips that he now releases on his blog Girl Mountain.
Titled Megahex, the hardcover will feature than 200 pages of Megg and Mogg comics, including 70 never-before-seen pages. It will debut in summer 2014.
For those that aren’t familiar with Hanselmann’s work, Fantagraphics’ press release aptly sums up its unique appeal:
Megg (a green-skinned witch), Mogg (a black cat), and Owl (an anthropomorphic owl) are a trio of ne’er–do–well roommates cohabiting in a suburban flop house. Megg and Mogg spend most of their time smoking pot and having sex while Owl works various office jobs and usually comes home to find himself the as the butt of every joke. Behind the fart jokes and stoner humor are the depressed and misanthropic lives of these characters. Each possess their own tragedy which weighs on their shoulders, keeping them from escaping the nihilistic pit into which they’ve fallen. Equally funny and melancholic, Hanselmann is able to evoke empathy for his characters, making it easy for readers fall in love with this disdainful bunch. Part Ernest Hemingway, part Johnny Ryan, Megahex will make people laugh, cry, and then take a shower.
“This is literally a teenage dream,” Hanselmann goes on to say. “Fantagraphics has been my favorite/the best comics publisher since forever. I’ve had a Fantagraphics poster hanging over my bed since I was fourteen. My brain is doing confused celebratory cartwheels.”
This is indeed excellent news. As anyone whose read Hanselmann’s comics knows, he’s one of the most interesting cartoonist to come out of the Internet in recent years. While taking the basic template of your average stoner comedy (albeit with some fantasy and funny animal elements), Hanselmann isn’t afraid to take his characters into some very dark (and given their recreational habits, logical) places. It’s emotionally powerful, raw and uncompromising work that also happens to be really funny.
You can read the full press released after the jump, along with a short Q&A I conducted with Hanselmann via email.
Chris Mautner: Let’s start with some of the basics. How long have you been doing “Megg, Mogg and Owl,” and how did you get the idea for the strips? Has the series changed at all from your original conception?
Simon Hanselmann: I’ve been drawing Megg and Mogg stuff since 2008. It was essentially an accident. A stoned accident. Over the last five years it’s slightly evolved from “meanness prank” based material to “deeply depressed meanness/prank-based” material.
How did you get interested in comics? Have you always been a fan of the medium, or was it something you were introduced to later in life? What made you decide to make your own?
I was a sensitive, nerdy kid in a small town and was naturally drawn to comics. The school library was decently stocked with Tintin, Lucky Luke and Asterix. Spider-Man, 2000AD and MAD Magazine were lurking around corner stores. I found all this stuff really early and for some reason really latched onto it. I guess i started making my own comics because it was a very immersive activity I could do on my own, very cheaply.
I really am convinced I have Aspergers currently, and my complete and utter obsession with comics would fit in with the “special interest” aspect of Aspergers.
My entire existence since age 7 has revolved solely around the consumption and production of comic books. It’s quite pathetic and unhealthy.
You were born in Tasmania and currently live in Australia. How did you come across American cartoonists like Peter Bagge and Ben Jones? What’s the comics scene like in Australia? Is there one?
Australia to a certain degree lacks its own (pop) cultural identity. We’re bombarded with American and British produce. It’s not hard to find anything if you want to find it. I had “cool older friends” that showed me all the underground/alternative stuff when i was 13 or 14. I read The Comics Journal, I haunted the little Tasmanian comic book shops (which were generally fronts for drugs). I’ve always tried to be aware of everything.
There is a comics scene in Australia, there always has been; it’s just very small and unsupported and flies under the international radar. It’s probably about the same as any other scene in terms of quality work, 90 percent rubbish made by misguided ding-dongs and 10 percent interesting experiments made by intelligent, talented people.
The “Megg and Mogg” strips are very funny, but very mean and very dark. It’s a cringe kind of comedy, which I like quite a bit, but I was wondering what your influences were for that type of humor. Are there particular artists or cartoonists you draw upon as far as your cast of characters and their nasty interactions with each other goes?
“Megg and Mogg” is heavily autobiographical. It’s influenced by the mid-2000s Tasmanian noise music and bar scenes where seemingly everybody was a bipolar narcissist. It’s also probably very influenced by the films of Todd Solondz, I saw Welcome to the Dollhouse on cable when I was 17 and became obsessed with it/him. In terms of comics I’m influenced by, definitely Hate by Peter Bagge, that was my teenage bible.”
There’s a lot of references to banal pop-culture stuff like iCarly or Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Do you see the strip as an opportunity to offer a commentary on modern culture, or am I reading too much into it?
Again, it’s autobiographical. I own all of Sabrina on DVD (and some iCarly, which I think is actually a pretty good modern Nickelodeon show). I’ve been trapped in some deep, deep sadness holes watching that sort of stuff for hours and hours on end.
It could definitely be read as a comment on Western privilege. Megg and Mogg are very lucky to be able to pull off living inside their own little bubble, immersed in escapism, successful in avoiding reality, spoilt and soft. If there was to be another major war or a huge ecological disaster they would not cope at all.
I’m more than a little bit in awe of your color work. It always comes off as so lush and bright. What techniques do you use and is it instinctive for you or have you been trained to via school or work to know what color to use where and when?
I dropped out of high school to be a stoner, so it definitely wasn’t school. It’s just been trial and error i suppose. I use a lot of cheap stuff … and food colouring … I don’t know. There’s just blank white spaces and I fill them. My only technique is to keep the field wet and keep the brush moving so i don’t get streaks. Also I don’t use Photoshop or anything; all of my scans are raw and unedited. Basically i have no idea what I’m doing … I just do it.”
I get the feeling Megg is a very autobiographical character for you — not to say that the other characters aren’t, but there seems to be a unique, personal perspective with her that, say, Mogg, doesn’t necessary seem to have. Am I right about that?
Megg’s pretty damn autobiographical, but also has a lot of elements of ex-girlfriends. I love her very much and hope things get better for her. She needs to make a lot of changes in her life. … Mogg is very much the thinnest character, yeah. I was thinking about that whilst writing some scripts this week. He really only exists as Megg’s little sidekick. (I often consider them the same character. He is just an extension of her.) Owl is the part of me that tries to fit in with reality and function in society. Werewolf Jones is my extremely destructive fucked-up side.
Why is everyone so mean to Owl?
I’ve found that most groups of three people or more will find somebody weak to pick on. They’re jerks and are trapped in “Drug World.” They lack empathy.
What was the inspiration behind the Truth Zone strips? What sort of outlet do those strips provide that the more “straightforward” Megg and Mogg strips don’t?
Frank (Santoro) asked me to do some kind of “reviews” in comic form for his “online magazine” and it went from there. I’ve come to think of it as my Saturday Night Live. The characters get to perform and have celebrity guests appear. It’s also a little like a Simpsons Halloween episode where all the rules are gone and anything can happen (except instead of “horror” it’s based in “unprofessional criticism”).
You talked (very bravely) in the TCJ interview about your gender confusion and sexual-identity issues. I was wondering if you saw these issues cropping up in your work at all, even indirectly, and if so, how?
Yeah, I’ve been dropping subtle hints in my work for years. Owl has cross-dressed on numerous occasions and there’s the supporting character Booger in “M&M” who is a “gender illusionist boogeyman.” (Booger shows up more in some recent stuff I’ve been writing. His dressing is never really called to attention, though; the other characters just accept Booger as Booger.) Also in my old, abandoned graphic novel Girl Mountain, the main character was always intended to be a transvestite, I just never made it far enough into the story to explore that stuff …
Life’s been quite weird and overwhelming after that TCJ interview. I received around 200 emails from people which were all very supportive (only two death threats), and several cartoonists privately came out to me about similar “problems.” I’m feeling pretty nightmarishly depressed but am coping and trying to figure everything out. A few weeks ago my partner and I separated, which has been very difficult, but I’m just throwing myself into my drawing and trying not to cry all the time. Bought some fancy fake boobs. Still too scared to leave the house.
You mentioned battling depression. Does comics work as therapy for you?
I 100 percent think of comics as “art therapy.” It’s a very cost-effective way to sit alone in a room for 15-hour stretches and be utterly thrilled and deeply entertained solely by yourself. It’s the only thing I’ve found that can fully block out all the bad things and feelings in my life. Generally I’m only ever happy when I’m working on a piece. If i have to be away from working on whatever I’m working on for too long I’ll start to get upset and stressed. I don’t leave the house too often. I’m very, very obsessive. You gotta be if you wanna be good. Time don’t grow back.
How did you get in touch with Fantagraphics? Did they contact you? Had you been looking to collect your work in print?
In April 2012 I became frustrated by self-publishing minicomics, I was having trouble with the global distribution element and decided to become “a webcomics person.” I naively started my Tumblr and threw a bunch of pages up. I think within around a month I received an email from Jacq [Cohen] at Fantagraphics saying that she liked my comics and would show them around the office (I danced around my room and felt incredibly giddy). Six months later i signed a contract.
It’s kind of unbelievable … There was interest from other respectable publishers too, but I went with FB (I’ve loved them the longest).
I love how boastful Fantagraphics is, “publisher of the world’s greatest cartoonists,” “the BEST comics publisher.” It’s true, though. It’s an immense honor to have them release this book.
It also feels very surreal to have actually reached my “life goal” …
This has been my little dream since 1995, staring at a Fantagraphics poster that hung above my bed, dreaming that one day if i worked hard enough that maybe i could actually make it in the “big leagues.” It’s very satisfying to have actually achieved that dream.”
Tell me about the Megahex book. Any idea at this point what’s going to be in it? Will it just be “Megg, Mogg and Owl” strips or will you include other work as well? Will you include the “Truth Zone” strips? Or any of the original Girl Mountain stuff? Do you know the basic size/design of the book yet and are you going to have to reformat the strips for print?
Megahex will be wall to wall “Megg & Mogg.” “Canon” “Megg & Mogg.” No “Truth Zone,” no anything else.
It’ll be around 140 pages of “the best” existing “M&M” material from Tumblr and anthologies (all edited with additional colour work), plus 70-ish pages of new stuff just for this release. All together the strips will tell a story and there is an “ending” for the book that will set up a new phase for the characters.
No plans for reformatting. It’s going to be a dense, tight brick. I want it to feel like a Simpsons boxset. “Hours and hours of consistent fun” (obviously I’m referencing ’90s Simpsons).
Most likely it will be around the size of a Mome or the second volume Raw books (or a DVD case). I want people to be able to lazily lie around in bed and read it, or easily conceal it in with their school books.
I’m predicting it will be a bestseller and will sweep all of the 2015 awards shows. Christopher Nolan will direct Lindsay Lohan in the movie.
Fantagraphics Books To Publish Simon Hanselmann’s Megahex
San Diego, CA 7/20/2013 — Fantagraphics is excited to announce the acquisition of the first book by acclaimed Australian cartoonist Simon Hanselmann, to be released in the summer of 2014. Megahex will be a deluxe hardcover featuring over 200 pages of Hanselmann’s beloved Megg, Mogg, and Owl comics, including over 70 never before seen pages. Hanselmann’s Tumblr site Girl Mountain has already propelled Megg, Mogg, Owl & Co. to Internet infamy, and Megahex will be the solid collection those fans have long been waiting for.
Megg (a green-skinned witch), Mogg (a black cat), and Owl (an anthropomorphic owl) are a trio of ne’er–do–well roommates cohabiting in a suburban flophouse. Megg and Mogg spend most of their time smoking pot and having sex while Owl works various office jobs and usually comes home to find himself as the butt of every joke. Behind the crass poop jokes and stoner humor are the depressed and misanthropic lives of these characters. They all possess tragedies that weigh on their shoulders, keeping them from escaping the nihilistic pit into which they’ve fallen. Equally funny and melancholic, Hanselmann is able to evoke empathy for his characters, making it easy for readers to fall in love with this disdainful bunch. Part Tennessee Williams, part Peter Bagge, Megahex will make people laugh, cry, and then take a shower.
“This is literally a teenage dream,” explains Hanselmann, “Fantagraphics has been my favorite / the best comics publisher since forever. I’ve had a Fantagraphics poster hanging over my bed since I was fourteen. My brain is doing confused celebratory cartwheels”
“Simon has the deadly combination of talent and work ethic,” says Fantagraphics Associate Publisher Eric Reynolds. “He has a sneaky awareness of the language of comics and a pitch perfect sense of dialogue and humor. He is almost too good to be true. The first Megg & Mogg strips I read were so effortlessly funny and fullyrealized that I almost couldn’t believe he wasn’t a pseudonym for someone more established.”
Megahex is set to release in June 2014 from Fantagraphics Books, INC.