Michael Kupperman is an American cartoonist and illustrator. His work has appeared in publications ranging from The New Yorker to Screw. He has two books published, Snake’N'Bacon’s Cartoon Cabaret and Tales Designed to Thrizzle.
Question: What inspires your work?
Kupperman: For material, I look to the absurd. So I'm looking for, in some ways, the bad, you know, or the material that's a little off key in some way. There are lots of writers that I enjoy for their excellence, but I wouldn't say they really influence me, you know, in what I do. I love Patricia Highsmith and Phillip K. Dick, Stanislaw Lem, you know, writers, writers like that. But as far as influencing me as a writer, certain kinds of humor, more like. I'd say my writing is actually more influenced by other veins of humor such as television humor, the kind I grew up with, I guess, like SCTV or Monty Python, or certain other kinds of printed humor like, I don't know if you know Viz Magazine, but that was a bit of an influence, you know, there's a tone to it that is just completely beyond any serious consideration of things that I find very appealing.
Question: Why hobos?
Michael Kupperman: Hobos. Well, hobos are kind of a romantic archetype of a way of life that doesn't really exist any more. You don't hear about people riding the rails so much. I mean, I'm sure there are people doing it, but the whole romantic idea of hobos wandering the country, it's a very depression-era, romantic thing, you know, like Little Orphan Annie, or something.
Question: Can you explain where Underpants-On-His-Head-Man came from?
Michael Kupperman: It came from the idea that someone could put their underpants on their head and that would be a kind of disguise. I did it for the Nickelodeon magazine, actually, which sadly just went out of business. And I did a strip for them and then they waited about a year and a half before printing it and didn't seem that enthusiastic for more. But later they did ask for more, but by then , it was too late.
Question: What shaped “Tales Designed to Drizzle?”
Michael Kupperman: Well, my idea was to do kind of a one-man humor magazine and to try to give it a sort of kaleidoscopic feel as if different people were involved, you know, different pieces. So the thing about my comics is they're not really that character based. I don't have that kind of character at the center of the action that a lot of cartoonists do, I mean, I wish I did frankly. I think, you know, if I had characters, I could market those. But some of my characters that have become best known, like Snake 'n' Bacon, they're really anti-characters, there's nothing you can really do with them beyond having them just be passive, like repeating the same phrases every, you know, panel or so.
It is a little bit like certain sit-coms where there's just, yeah, a repetition of the same kind of beat back and forth. But as far as other characters in Thrizzle, there's Pagus, who's the half-brother of Jesus and the god of Paganism, he's been a fairly popular one. Who else? Oh, the tiny, 4playo, the tiny foreplay robot that, he has his fans.
The Mannister has a lot, actually someone who I've made friends with on Twitter recently sent me, they had carved a tiny Mannister for their dollhouse and they sent me pictures of it both standing and installed as a banister. And for those who don't know, the Mannister is the man who can become a banister, which is useful if someone steals the banister.
Question: Do you identify with any of your characters?
Michael Kupperman: No, I don't have any characters that I really identify with. I've toyed with the idea of creating a character that people could identify with in a different way, kind of sarcastic every man. There's an old strip called, The Outbursts of Everett True, which is from, about 100 years ago, or a little more. And it's basically a two-panel set up where someone does something that annoys the main character, who is a stout man, you know, in a hat. And then the second panel is Everett True yells at them and tells them how awful they are. If I was going to do a character that I would identify with, it would probably be something like that.
Recorded on December 19, 2009