Steve Lafler is the artist behind the classic series bughouse (available in trades from top shelf).
He is also the publisher of manx media.
Above is artwork by Lafler.
1. can you describe your drawing routine---how often you draw, how many hour per day---how you break up the day with drawing?
My work day runs 8 - 2, and if my kids go to sleep OK from 8:30 - 10:30 pm. IF I'm hot on the trail, I'll get drawing by nine a.m. and go for four hours, then another 1 - 2 at night. This being said, I'm also running a freelance shop so I gotta break for commercial stuff a lot. Then there is the business of publishing which is also fun, and it eats up time & energy.
2. how much revision/editing do you do in you work?
For next book El Vocho, I wrote the script in one week, a great experience. ONce I got inside the story, it was like taking dictation. I edit as I go, penciling and lettering and working out the final form of the dialog. Once in awhile I'll start a page and it sucks, so I turn the paper over and start again. On rare occasions, I'll ditch a whole page or two or three, usually because it takes the story on an unproductive tangent.
3. talk about your process---do you write a script or make up the drawing as you go?
IN the 80s, with Dog Boy, I was just shootin' from the hip, making it up as I went. It honed certain skills. I learned to write a more cohesive narrative with Bughouse. The whole idea there was to create distinct characters and illuminate their attributes via dialogue, which naturally moved the story forward.
I''m a strong believer in improvisation, in coaxing the muse out of the cave of ideation! These days, I'm more in the writing mode when that happens. With Dog Boy, the whole package was improvised. When you connect with the muse, you're at the center of life, there is nothing like it. It frankly can't be put into words right here, with luck it comes through in my comics.
I freely admit I'm part goddamn hippy and I love reefer. Sometimes I take a couple hits and start drawing. You can get some cool surprises. You bounce in this matrix of story and idea. If you overuse weed as a tool, it flattens your stuff, and I suffered from this sometimes with Dog Boy.
4. do you compose the page as a whole or do you focus more on individual panel composition?
5. what tools do you use (please list all)?
An HB drawing pencil, smooth or vellum heavy bristol, Winsor Newton #7 brush (#2) or equivalent, various micron pens, Dr. Martins white, eraser. Sometimes I use computer image or life drawing reference to draw stuff like cars. I cheat with a light table on occasion, but it's more fun to draw directly on the bristol of course, no tracing.
My drawing table and light table are "new", I just bought them from Peter Kuper when he moved back to NYC from Oaxaca a couple months back. I'd had the same drafting table since '84 and I'd sold it when I moved to Mexico last year. It was heart wrenching to let go of it, it was a goddamn magic object to me, the muse delivered incredible riches to me sitting at that table!
6. what kind(s) of paper do you use? Any decent quality bristol, 2 ply at least in weight. Smooth or vellum, I like both for their distinct way of grabbing ink off a brush.
7. do you read a lot of comics? are you someone who reads comics and then gets ectied to make more comics---or is your passion for making comics not linked to any particular love for other comics?
I love comics, somehow have not read as much in recent years. Could have a lot to do with time and becoming a dad. It's frustrating as a part of me wants to immerse myself in lots of comics. I just ordered Jesse Reklaw's new book, and Carrie McNinch is about to visit Oaxaca, I'll ask her to bring some comics down.
Of course I love the work of the generation I came in with, the Hernandez Brothers, J.R. Williams, Lloyd Dangle, Mary Fleener, Krystine Kryttre, Joe Sacco, Clowes, and I love Roy Tompkins. Steven Weissman is in his own catagory too. Phoebe Gloeckner is a singular artist. Watching the development of Austin English (hey, that's you) is really exciting and entertaining. Jordon Crane is a great narrative stylist, just immensely talented.
8. do you make comics for a living? if not, how do you support yourself, and how does this relate to your comics making process?
I have an income from comics but I depend on my commercial illustration and wholesale TShirt printing work to make a living. Owning a successful TShirt biz takes a lot of time from making art, but it also frees me to make any comics I want, straight from my heart and guy, with no thought of pandering to an assumed market. Product is product, art is art. The two rarely meet, says I.
When I was 29, I was full time comics until I was almost 31. Again, at 40 I spent half a year in Mexico and went full time. Now it's maybe 15 - 20 hours per week. When the kids are a bit older, I'll get closer to full time. I like being an involved dad.
9/ do other artforms often seem more attractive to you?
I've finally dug into playing guitar in earnest after 28 years of fucking around with it in the margins of my life. I've fallen in with a group of ex-pat musicians. My mentor, Todd, is a punky rockabilly guy, and the others are sort of old timey/Bluegrass/Dylan/Dead hippy burn outs.Me, I dig the combo. Todd thinks that he and I will start the first Oaxacabilly band! It's hard to explain just how much fun this is.
Also, as I am a trans person (transgendered) I enjoy acting on the impulse to be a girl. I guess you'd call me a crossdresser. It has aspects of an art form, as it's very visual. It's also similar to any addiction, it exerts a pull on you and you come to terms with how far you will go into it. It's very creative and a hell of a lot of fun. For those of us who come with this software, it's not a choice, just a fact of being, so I accept it and honor it's place in my life. I recently went months without dressing up and it was no big deal, and now in Halloween season I'm dipping a toe back in. It's sort of self regulating. I should probably mention that my latest book Tranny is in stores right now...
10. what artwork (or artists) do you feel kinship with?
I like a well told story in comics form that is the singular vision of the artist. It's been said before, but look at Jaime Hernandez. Fuck. I also was thrilled, as a kid, with Kirby, Ditko, Eisner, Crumb and many others. I love painting, and paint a bit too. Cezanne dissembled the world and put it back together in such a gorgeous way, although I prefer his landscapes to still life. I love going to galleries and museums and looking at painting. We've made friends with a couple of outstanding Oaxacan painters, who are parents at the kids school, it's a sort of boho artsy school.
11. is a community of artists important or not important to you?
Of paramount importance. I've cycled through many scenes. Living in Portland '05 - '07 was fantastic, you could see stuff coming together so beautifully. I credit Jesse and Dylan, and of course Greg (Tugboat) and many others. Brett Warnock and J.R. Williams had told me before I moved up that the scene was diffuse. True enough I thought upon arrival, but then it really came together. I miss it big time living here in Oaxaca. Peter Kuper was here last year, and he is a great guy and a kindred soul, but his family had to split for NYC after a 2 year stay.
The mid - late 80s in the BAy Area was ssuper fun too, with Kryttre and Dori Seda, Bob Crabb and Mario Hernandez moving up, and J.R. coming down from PDX all the time. Dangle moved in and blew us away with his talent and bravado, I love Lloyd like a brother, Don Donahue was sort of the godfather of the scene too, and even the Crumbs were around the edges of what was then the young group of cartoonists. My then girlfriend Shirin had a Halloween party in '88. Kryttre and Aline showed up. NOw, Krystine Kryttre is over 6 feet tall, She was wearing a nurses dress two sizes too small. Aline Crumb was wearing a red leather mini dress and was Devil Girl. She said, "Not bad for forty, huh?" Well, Shirin told me to put my eyes back in my head.
Anyway, maybe some more cartoonists will visit Oaxaca, and when El Vocho comes out, I gotta tour behind it.
12. what is your parents/family's reaction to your work?
My wife Serena is super supportive, and is a writer herself. I learned a lot about writing from her when we hooked up in the 90s. My son Max, age 7, thinks I'm a little boring, but he likes to draw comics too. My mom and dad are fine folks, but they have no fucking idea what I am up to, they just do not get it and don't have a clue about art comics. The division between art and money making is incomprehensible there. Anyway, after years of trying to get the idea across, I simply accept their stance and don't worry about it.
13, what is more important to you---style or idea?
idea -- I let the drawing evolve of it's own accord, it's packed with changing dynamics that I ponder over, but it always serves the narrative for me.
14. is drawing a pleasure to you or a pain?
starting can be tough, but it's pleasure. When it's really rolling, it's the most fun goddamn thing in the universe. It's what I came to the planet to do.
15. when you meet someone new, do you talk about being an artist right away? do you identify yourself as an artist or something else?
Depends on the person. I try to listen first and see what they have to say. Sometimes I can't help but pull people's legs a little bit, as the preconceived ideas about artists or comics are pretty narrow. I saw crazy shit with a straight face and people believe me. Sometimes I'm surprised, as I think I'm making this great joke, and they will take it on the level.
16. do you feel at all connected to older comic artists like steve ditko or jack kirby---or does this seem like a foreign world to you?
I was ten in 1967. You get the picture. Marvel Geek. I had Spiderman #3, #7, #20 - 120. Jack was my god, still is. Well, along with Lux Interior and Jerry Garcia, of course.
17. do you ever feel the impulse to not draw comics?
Ha ha. Due to the combination of economic frustration, getting dumped by girls, and beer addiction, I musta "quit" several times. All of these factors have been fixed, I'm happy to say. Full steam ahead.
18. do you draw from life?
Sometimes. Did lots of life drawing in college. Life drawing pulls a version of the truth through your hands and eyes. Again, think of masters like Jaime or Crumb. Those chops come from life drawing.
19. do you pencil out comics and then ink? or do you sometimes not pencil?
Pencil, yes. I like to pencil stacks of pages, lettering as I go, before inking with a brush, then doing some details in micron pen.
20. what does your drawing space look like?
My drawing space looks like my garage with drawing equipment in it. Our place in Mexico has a beautiful tile floor in the garage. Go figure, I'm no way gonna put my beat to shit VW bug in here!