Creator Profile: Asher J. Klassen

Name: Asher J. Klassen

Type of Creator: Cartoonist, Illustrator, Printmaker

Studio Shot

List your work:

  • Inspired by Art, self-published collection (November 2013)
  • M.O.C.K.: An Anaglyph Comics Installation, exhibition at UBC Okanagan (April 2014)
  • The Superhero Afterlife (Abridged), web and self-pub print (2015)

Contact Information:

Websites: www.ajkomics.ca and www.okanagancomics.com

Blogspot: www.watercolour-horizons.blogspot.ca

Twitter: @ajkomics

Instagram: @ajkomics

What was the first comic you read?

My Dad’s dog-eared old copy of that first 1987 Calvin and Hobbes collection, with Calvin rollerblading behind the wagon as it careens off the end of a dock.

What inspired you to make comics? A specific story? Writer? Artist?

I have to give credit for that initial flash of inspiration to Art Spiegelman, whose retrospective I had the honour of seeing at the Vancouver Art Gallery in the spring of 2013. The range of his work over the course of a long career set me back on my heels and made me rethink everything I thought I knew, not just about what comics can say, but what they could be. That exhibition prompted a fascination with the history of the underground comix movement in all its drug-and-xerox-fuelled glory, and gave me the nudge I needed to start thinking about self-produced, materially-unorthodox comics.

What do you like about comics? What is it about them that interests you? Inspires you? Moves you?

Too many things. Their status as cheap, low-culture material product which is collected, preserved, and fetishized; the apparently infinite communicative possibilities of image and text working in synthesis; the passionate and hardy community of creators that the medium gathers around itself; the structures of the form, the ways the rules can be used and be broken to such poignant effect; the smell of ink.

What is the most important thing people need to know about comics?

That any story can be told in comics just as it could be told in film or prose, and that there’s no experience quite like that of encountering an otherwise familiar genre or mode of writing in comics for the first time. The first time I read a noir crime comic, and the first time I opened a comics poetry journal, those are reading experiences I’ll not soon forget.

What comic would you recommend to a first-time reader?

That depends entirely on the reader.

As an artists, what medium do you work in? Pencils? Ink? Digital?

As a cartoonist I’ve done a fair number of traditional pencils-and-inks comics before, and it’s a good, clean, reliable way of working. I’ve also done comics in graphite, ballpoint, conte, collage, watercolour, and silkscreen. I’m working on engraving right now, which is…a process, to say the least. So, it’s a mixed bag.

As a writer, pen or keyboard?

Pen. A black Pentel RSVP with the pocket clip on the cap snapped off.

What’s the first thing you do when you sit down to work? Do you have a routine?

Usually, I look at my materials and think, “Oh god…now what?”

Do you have a set work space? Where?

I’ve had the privilege of using the studios, particularly the printmaking shop, at UBC Okanagan for several years now, and it’s a great space to knuckle down late at night and make a lot of stuff. I’ve also got a drafting table in my bedroom with a lamp, a solid old wooden stool, and a Bernie Wrightson print in a frame on the wall above it. Bernie keeps me hungry.

Do you listen to music when you work? Other background noise?

I need something in my ears while I’m working, otherwise I’ll start talking to myself. It’s either music, podcasts, or comedy routines.

Frustrations/challenges?

Always. Mostly I get upset about having to sleep in order to function.

If you had to pick one comic as a favourite, what would it be?

It’d have to be Calvin and Hobbes, still, after all these years. There are so many rich, potent, gorgeously drawn and published comics out there, but I’ve yet to read something that speaks to my love of childhood shenanigans in the name of discovery and imagination the way that Watterson does.

What is the:

Most romantic comic you’ve ever read?

Scott McCloud’s The Sculptor

Most exciting comic you’ve ever read?

I want to say Gotham Central, but it might well be Nick Bertozzi’s The Salon.

Most Inspirational?

Jeff Smith’s Bone series

Funniest?

Danielle Corsetto’s Girls with Slingshots, which is hands-down my favourite webcomic

Scariest?

It’s a toss-up between Hellblazer and Sandman.

Most moving?

Jeff Lemire’s Essex County

Who is your favourite comic character?

Gotta be Spider Jerusalem

What is the natural talent you’d like to be gifted with and why?

Blowing smoke rings. If I have to explain why then we can’t be friends.

What three words would you use to describe your work?

Made with beer

What is your favourite place to go in the city you live in?

My favourite place pretty much anywhere, though, is a pub with a fireplace in the middle of a winter afternoon, when it’s quiet and I can grab a pint and sit with a book for a couple hours.

Future projects you are working on/would like to work on:

I’m itching to draw a high fantasy comic that one of my writer friends has pitched me, and beyond that my lips are sealed.

Unlikely inspiration?

Yeah, that shit is everywhere.

You are stranded on a desert island, you must have:

Which 3 comics?

I’m gonna cheat a little here: we’re gonna count the whole of Dave Sim’s Cerebus as one comics, the whole of Love and Rockets as another, and round it off with all of Ms. Corsetto’s Girls with Slingshots.

Which 3 albums?

  • The Heist – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
  • New Favourite – Alison Krauss & Union Station
  • Hozier – Hozier

Which 3 movies?

  • Gladiator
  • The Hunt for Red October
  • Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves

Which 3 foods?

Sausage and caramelized onion pizza, a loaded burger with sauteed mushrooms, pepper jack, and a fried egg, and Bowen Island Brewing’s “Reef Break” hemp blonde ale

Which 3 television shows?

  • Firefly
  • True Detective
  • Fringe

And which 3 people would you be happy to be stranded with?

Delicious ones, with just the right amount of marbling.

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