Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Whazamo! Celebrate Graphic Literature Series with Michael DeForge

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Michael DeForge

Did you make it to TCAF (The Toronto Comic Arts Fesitval) this year? If you did, you can keep the vibe going with Whazamo!, our month-long celebration of Graphic Literature at Open Book — and if you missed out, it's never too late to embrace your love of all things comic arts.

Michael DeForge is the creator of Very Casual (Koyama Press), which collects many of his short stories. The collection is filled with litter gangs, meat-filled snowmen, righteous cops, beagle/human hybrids and forest-bound drag queens and also features Michael's award-winning Spotting Deer comics.

Today we talk to Michael about putting together Very Casual, the difference between busy and messy and changing attitudes about comic art.

Open Book:

What is your most recent publication, and what one sentence you would use to describe it?

Michael DeForge:

Very Casual published by Koyama Press, a collection of short comics.


When you're working on a project, which comes first — the words or the images?


It depends. Sometimes I script out dialogue or text before I start drawing the page, sometimes I don't fill it in until after. I don't plot out much of my comics in advance, and choose to both write and draw them a page at a time.


What do you do to get the creative juices flowing?


I don't tend to have much trouble getting into, like, "drawing mode" (or whatever you want to call it). I'm usually able to just sit down and do it. But there are a few day to day routines that I have that can distract me from my work if I either haven't gotten to them or know I won't have the time to get to them. Like jogging, for instance.


What does your work space look like?


It's a little busy, which I like to think is different from it being messy. There are a lot of records, books, comics and posters in my room, and I usually have a fair amount of notes, sketches and checklists that I post to my wall related to ongoing projects I'm working on. I sleep just a few feet away from where I work, which I like.

I have a drafting table that I can draw on, although usually when I'm pencilling or inking or sketching, I end up just sitting on my bed and drawing on my lap. I have a separate desk with a computer and Cintiq tablet for my digital work.


What medium do you most often work with?


I suppose it's digital — I ink my comics digitally, and all my day job and commercial work is drawn on my tablet.


Graphic novels seem to be steadily gaining in popularity these past few years. Why do you think that is?


I think people have just been more open to accepting comics as a valid art form now. People's assumptions about the medium have changed a lot over the past 20 years.

I guess they've been an especially trendy thing lately, too. There's certainly a weird sub genre of cheesy, high-concept comics that are clearly intended to act as TV show or movie pitches. But that stuff will die out eventually.


Who are some of your favourite graphic novelists?


Hideshi Hino, Marc Bell, Daniel Clowes, Chester Brown, Jules Feiffer, Massimo Mattioli.


Where can we find more of your work?


I draw an annual series called Lose for Koyama Press, whose fifth issue is being released this June. I just wrapped a weekly strip called Ant Comic which I was serializing online, which will be collected by Drawn and Quarterly either this year or next. I'm starting a new weekly serial this April. I have a 24 page comic called The Boy in Question being released from Space Face Books in the summer. I also have a number of other comics available to read online on my blog at

Michael DeForge was born in 1987 in Ottawa. He currently lives and works in Toronto as a cartoonist, commercial illustrator and designer for the hit Cartoon Network program Adventure Time. Past illustration clients include The Believer, Vice, New York Times Magazine and The Walrus. His Lose #1 won in the Best Emerging Talent category at the 2010 Doug Wright Awards, and Lose #3 won the 2011 Ignatz Award for Outstanding Comic. His web comic strip Ant Comic is serialized weekly and will be collected into a graphic novel by Drawn and Quarterly upon its completion. DeForge’s work blends an encyclopaedic knowledge of cartooning with a range of influences that include Jack Kirby, Eduardo Munoz Bachs, Mark Newgarden and Hideshi Hino.

For more information about Very Casual please visit the Koyama Press website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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