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Phil McAndrew – Various comics

Essay and Interview by John Seven

In “But Are You Man Enough?” cartoonist Phil McAndrew gets to the point — dads don’t want your daughters to marry you because they like you, they want them to marry you so they have competition in their never-ending quest to one up everyone around them and prove something. Continually. Into infinity. At least the guy in this story does and  his disdain for artists is something that plenty of other guys share. McAndrew hints that an artist not only has to play the game, but the make the game his own. Personal experience?

All this is related through McAndrew’s art style, which is both precisely primitive and often larger than life at the same time.

There’s a little Jules Feiffer in the guy, as exhibited in his strip “The Secret Thoughts of Harold Lawrence Windcrampe,”  and its hilarious expression of romantic self-loathing. Cruel to the point of hilarity, his “That Darn Cane” wastes no time in some old fashioned ageist humor that echoes an an earlier sincere slapstick era in magazine cartooning. 

McAndrew’s site is well-worth a dive into.

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Click a thumbnail to view comic.

Materials: I love working with ink. I bounce back and forth, sometimes inking with brushes, sometimes with nibs. I like to use watercolors and ink washes a lot too. I love the textures and happy accidents that often come with those mediums. I work digitally quite a bit too, drawing in photoshop with a tablet. More often than not, my work will combine all of those materials or methods.

Interview with Phil McAndrew:

Q: What cartoonists and illustrators have informed your work?
A: It’s a long list, but I’ll touch on the big ones! Visually, my work has been most informed by illustrators like Quentin Blake, Ralph Steadman, Shel Silverstein, and Ronald Searle. I grew up reading Roald Dahl books, which were usually illustrated by Quentin Blake. Amazingly, I wasn’t familiar with Searle until somewhat recently. Some friends urged me to check his work out because they thought I was taking my own stuff in a very similar direction. I’d definitely consider him a big influence now. I’m usually drawn towards work that makes me think “that must have been a lot of fun to draw.”

To name a few, cartoonists like Jason, Christophe Blain, Joann Sfar, Graham Annable, and Lilli Carré have all informed my comics and my sense of storytelling. I love The dry humor and masterful pacing in Jason’s books. Annable is also a master of pacing and humor. Blain and Sfar… everything about their comics just feels perfect to me. Wonderful stories and fun art. Lilli Carré‘s comics make me laugh, but there’s also something dark and and unsettling lurking beneath the humor, which I love. More recently I’ve been obsessing over cartoonists like Gipi and Richard Thompson. 

I think cartoonist and illustrator friends of mine have had just as much of an impact too.

Q: Why did you end up creating comics? 
A: I think being exposed to them at a very young age had something to do with it. My father is a newspaper reporter, so I grew up surrounded by piles of newspapers. I loved going through the comics section every day. This was back when Calvin & Hobbes and The Far Side were still being produced. I’ve always enjoyed drawing, so at some point I thought to myself “hey, I could do this…” I wanted to be a syndicated newspaper cartoonist. In high school I started reading more indie books and web-comics and graphic novels, stuff being put out by smaller publishers or self published on the internet. Comics by James Kochalka and Jhonen Vasquez were sort of like the gateway drugs for me. They weren’t drawing daily gag strips and they weren’t drawing super heros. Vasquez was drawing incredibly dark, funny, violent comics. Kochalka was drawing cute, sometimes strange comics about his own life. They both really appealed to me and again made me think “hey, I could do this…”
I’m also really not that great at much else. That’s not to say that I’m a great cartoonist or illustrator, but I enjoy drawing and telling stories. If I’m failing, at least I’m having fun while doing it!

Q: Some of your strips really dissect overly-demonstrative manhood — is that something that concerns you in the real world?
A: Ha! I guess I just think it’s sort of a funny thing. It hasn’t come up in my comics much, but I think overly-demonstrative womanhood is just as silly. I like characters that push some aspect of themselves over the top, often to a ruinous end.

Q: I know Doomed is autobiographical — how much of your own life creeps into your other comics?
A: My life creeps into my comics quite a bit, I think, especially recently. I’m getting ready to start drawing something now that’s fictional, and at times totally ridiculous, but draws pretty heavily from my life over the last year or two in a very blunt way. The main character goes through some things that are pretty much identical to my own experiences. He ends up dealing with them in a wildly different manner.

The comics I’ve contributed to each volume of You Ain’t No Dancer (a series of anthology books) have all drawn on my life in varying degrees. One was an autobiographical story from my childhood, much like Doomed. One was a story from my grandfather’s childhood. The most recent one was complete fiction, but it had a lot of little details from my own life.

Q: Is there any one kind of gag that always makes you laugh?
A: This is kind of vague, but jokes that twist the obvious can usually force a laugh out of me. Impossibly awkward situations are also wonderful.

Q: Do you have any desire to do an extremely complicated epic graphic novel or do you prefer to keep it simple?
A: I’ve been scripting out a book length comic for a little over a year now. That’s the big project that I’m getting ready to draw. I’m feeling really good about it. There were a few abandoned attempts at longer stories when I was in college. One of them was an incredibly complicated murder mystery. It took place in a big mansion and had all these bizarre characters. I might take another stab at that someday, but that would be way in the future.

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