UR collects a variety of Eric Haven's stories previously published in various anthologies, and draws upon many influences, including his love of classic comics, while swimming deep in the waters of absurdist humor.
Haven spoke with ROBOT 6 about what went into arranging this collection, how it landed at AdHouse, his hatred of dancing, and the comedic truism: "Explosive diarrhea is always funny." AdHouse is offering a preview of the book, which will be released in December.
Tim O'Shea: What prompted you to collect your stories in one book at this time?
Eric Haven: Since finishing my last comic The Aviatrix in 2008, I started drawing new stories for my own amusement without thinking about where they'd appear. Many of these strips ended up being published in anthologies and magazines. After a few years I realized I had a quantity of work that could be bundled together in a single package and now seemed a good time to do it.
Did you arrange the stories in any particular order? In collecting them for this book, did you tweak/revise any of the stories?
Chris Pitzer (publisher of AdHouse Books) and I discussed different ways of putting the book together. There were a few different versions … different sizes, different page counts ... and we went back and forth a little bit on the order of the strips. But this final version is the one we are happiest with. Since the strips weren't originally created to be published together in a book, I welcomed Chris' input and ability to fine-tune the project. There was some minor tweaking to some strips. Since I wanted a full-color book, I went back and colored some strips that were originally black and white.
What factors influenced your decision to release the book through AdHouse?
Chris reached out to me, and that started the conversation about doing a project together. I wasn't super-familiar with AdHouse, but the Afrodisiac book he did with Jim Rugg is one of my favorite graphic novels in terms of its look and design. It's perfect. I love the size of it, the fact that it has no title on the cover (just an image) and even the feel of the paper. So the prospect of doing a book with AdHouse was very exciting.
Do you recall what inspired "Even An Android Can Dance"?
Well, yes ... I hate dancing! No sense of rhythm, way too self-conscious. Even watching other dancers makes me feel sympathetic embarrassment for them. One time at a wedding after many drinks I lurched up on the dance floor and stomped around. As I looked down at my feet, I imagined each step was causing untold destruction, a butterfly effect that rolled out in waves of horror and chaos from under my crashing, rhythmless shoes. So that's where that strip comes from, essentially. The title is a play on the classic Avengers story, "Even An Android Can Cry," which I just thought was funny.
Are there certain artists/humorists that you consider to influence your storytelling approach? Am I wrong in sensing a Fletcher Hanks vibe in stories like "Bed Man"?
I like lots of different artists and styles, from classic newspaper strips to undergrounds to '70s Marvel to '90s alt-comics. But my current favorites are the more stylized artists of Golden Age comic books. Fletcher Hanks, Basil Wolverton, Fred Guardineer, Howard Sherman, Jay Disbrow, Jimmy Thompson. My "Bed Man"strip was absolutely an homage to Fletcher Hanks.
Speaking of "Bed Man," was that a done-in-one story, or have you considered revisiting the character again one of these days?
It was conceived as a stand-alone story. I don't have any immediate intention of doing more "Bed Man" comics, but I could imagine him being a character on a weird, late-night animated cartoon show.
Am I correct in assuming the absurdism of superhero comics helped inform some of your stories?
Yeah, I'm a product of reading lots of Marvel comics at a young, impressionable age. That stuff left an imprint on the the deep tissues of my brain. As a result, I enjoy drawing superheroes and think they look spectacular flying through the air and smashing through things. But I find more amusement in flipping the story and showing how absurd or horrible such activities would actually be.
With your "Race Murdock" strips, did you ever hear any comments from New Yorker folks about the Eustace Tilley Exhibit joke?
Ha, I wish! If those folks ever happen to see that strip I just hope they find it funny. Explosive diarrhea is always funny.