Mickey Zacchilli is a Providence – based artist who “does lots of different things”, as she scarcely puts it – one of those would be drawing awesome stuff with her fast, manic, kinetic use of line, which has been a favourite for some time here at HMPH! headquarters and was the main reason behind writing this post.
Mickey is known among alternative comics fans mainly for her self-published serialized comic RAV, as well as for being a constant presence in a miriad of other zines, anthologies (Thickness, Kovra, Kuš! , Lodaçal…), and such. Her highly recognizable style is caffeine for the eyes. If you dig what you see in here, then don’t hesitate to pick up the future RAV collection*, which was recently announced to be published by the fine folks at Youth In Decline and will be a blast. Meanwhile, you can also treat yourself by reading online the Bullshit Frank and Gorilla Joe strips to get a glimpse of what Mickey Z is about. Or just dig in her Tumblr, where she sometimes posts full short stories as brilliant as this one. Mickey is also a contributor to Frank Santoro’s Comics Workbook site, where she does hilarious drawn reviews about comics and pretty much everything else in life:
Oh, and on top of that, she also draws some kickass illustration stuff:
And gig posters:
Back to RAV, I cannot stress enough how much enjoyable it is. Sadly, for the time being, there are just two issues** available online (or you can try to track them down at the US shops listed in Mickey’s site), but HMPH! was lucky enough to get issues 6, 7 and 8 (thanks Michaela!). Storytelling-wise, RAV is a lot like manga, but its vibrant, almost aggressive drawing style, will appeal to anyone with an itch for visual frenzy (but open-minded manga fans would still be welcome, I think). The plot follows the wanderings and tribulations of a colorful cast of characters, in a rare mix of adventure, fantasy, humor and romance, with perhaps some subtle autobiographical and self-exploratory elements scattered around: there is Juice, a taciturn badass, Sally, a girl with magical powers, Edward the Snake Prince, who is a handsome Snake indeed, Main Marian, owner of the mystery place known as the Meat Cave, and several others who cross their paths in and out within an enigmatic setting. As fairy tale-like the world they inhabit could look on a surface level, most of the time the characters feel like real people, in a fashion that suggests that a great deal of the struggles they are facing come, consciously or not, from the author’s experience as a living being. Also, the informal language and humorous dialogue, spurted by the characters in ghostly, vaporous speech balloons tied to physic laws of their own (another of Mickey’s trademarks), helps blurring the line between the fantastic and the mundane.
Despite possible preconceived impressions, the comic reads smoothly, with the story unfolding at a quiet pace, delivered through total graphic craziness. The result is as fresh as it sounds, and coped with the tender way the characters are written, it keeps one hooked and wanting for more after every episode.
Mickey Z is part of the Providence art scene that has its roots itself in the underground creative big bang that was Fort Thunder***. Paralel to her visual mischief, she runs the small experimental cassette tape label PRICE TAPES, and the entire catalog can be listened to for free on WFMU’s free music archive: http://freemusicarchive.org/label/pricetapes – her own project there is called Dungeon Broads, in case you want to provide a soundtrack for the next questions that Mickey was so kind to answer:
So, what is RAV about?
Right now RAV seems to be most about relationships and interactions between existing characters. It started out as a punching/adventure comic that sort of degenerated into an Alice in Wonderland-style conceptual wandering comic, and more recently it seems to also be an “underground romance comic” (which is my new favorite way to describe it).
Who are the main characters in RAV?
Juice is the main character in RAV, he started out as a one-sided tough guy, but has since become a more quiet, less angry person. He is still “working on it”, and is pretty confused about what he’s doing and where he’s going. Maybe he’s a little sad.
Sally was Juice’s girlfriend in the beginning, and she didn’t have much of a personality (if any). After she left him, she explored herself and freedom a little bit, and eventually became kind of an asshole. Maybe to overcompensate for previously having been nothing (by her perception). She appears to be searching for power or control or something along those lines, and her search might be beginning to affect her negatively as of issue 8. Since the first issue Sally had developed some “magic powers”.
The Snake Prince (who we discover is named “Edward” in issue 8) is sort of a goofy weirdo who crushes on Sally pretty hard, at some point they start dating, and Sally turns him into her little bitch, kind of. He’s not dumb, he just needs more time to think about stuff than the other characters. He is a sweetie though, he has been friendly to Juice. He has a “power cube” that’s been in his family a long time, it’s magic and not a toy. Edward is also processing some stuff as of issue 8.
Main Marian is the mysterious, friendly lady who seems to operate the Meat Cave (which is a mysterious underground party labyrinth? dungeon? All-purpose venue? Very eclectic locale). She is an eccentric lady, she is confident and has saved Juice from a variety of various-level problems more than one time. She also has a vacation home above ground somewhere in the woods. She gives Juice the gift of an equally mysterious, unnamed kitten. She also has some pretty scary magic powers. Maybe she is a witch?
Ben is a chaotic, trickster type. He likes to get in the way of others, not help, or make things difficult. Sometimes he helps. It’s unclear what he ultimately wants or why he’s involved in these people’s lives, but he seems to be heading in some direction, and he also seems to have a lot of resources at his disposal. He’s not a completely terrible guy, but he can be pretty mean. He has a wonderful silent lover/friend named Rolo.
All the other characters are pretty minor… I think. Unless I’m forgetting somebody!
Is it influenced by manga, or do you not regard it that way?
Yes! The comic is heavily influenced by manga… All my work is unfortunately very heavily influenced by manga and anime. For awhile, I tried to shake the influence, because it is very apparent and not intended or conscious (I watched and read lots of Ranma 1/2 as a younger person)… But it wasn’t going anywhere, so now I’ve just accepted it as part of how I draw, haha.
Do you feel there is actually a theme behind RAV that you are exploring?
Yes, there are lots of themes… I wouldn’t say there is one main theme, but maybe if there was one theme, that theme would be “living”. That’s very broad, though! But i like exploring stuff like relationships (of all kinds), feelings, personal growth, repetition, honesty, nothing, confusion, dialogue, subtlety, infinity.
Are you having fun drawing it?
Haha, yes and no I guess? I love the characters, and at this point everything is writing itself, and there certainly isn’t a comic I would rather be drawing…. But I do feel chained to it. It’s a funny self-imposed commitment, and I usually detest committing myself to anything. Mostly I like it, I guess, I like it most when an issue is done, though. Haha.
What is your artistic background, and how did you start making comics? Any particular influences worth mentioning?
(hm, people like, Brian Chippendale, I suppose?)
When I was a little guy I always wanted to be comic book artist, but I went to school for printmaking because it seemed sensible to learn something tangible, plus I’m too lazy to draw well, haha. I do a lot of printmaking and print related stuff still though, so that was very useful. Well, speaking of Brian, his biggest influence on me was seeing someone else print their own comics, and realizing I could print my own comics too if I wanted! I guess that’s how I started making comics, as opposed to just drawing them, kind of. Certainly now Brian is an influence, Christopher [Forgues] too, Carlos [Gonzales] and anyone’s work I see on a regular basis. In terms of writing, Tom Bubul is probably my heaviest writing influence… Sometimes when i write dialogue I think to myself: “would Tom like this wording?” And if so, it’s a go. Hahaha.
What’s your experience with printing your own stuff? How does it feel to be part of the seemingly rising self-publishing scene? Are you making profit from your online store?
Printing my own stuff has been great…. I am not currently living off sales from what I print, but I’m surprisingly close to it. I started off silkscreening the exteriors of books, and photocopying the interiors. But have since gotten into using a Risograph (thanks to Xander Marro introducing me use hers for awhile!), and have fallen off on the silkscreen : ) It still looks darn good and is a much faster process.
As for the self-publishing scene…. It’s cool, I like it I guess : ) I do love printing, and being a weird businessperson. I think everyone should be free to share their work, no matter how “terrible” it is! Haha, someone will love it, I promise you.
How did you get to to your current drawing style? Did it develop in a natural way for you, or did you put conscious effort into get all crazy and loose with the lines, or…?
It developed pretty naturally…. I don’t like spending a lot of time on stuff, so I try to draw as fast as possible… Which is why everything is so loose and messy. I used to try to draw well, be a “good artist”, but once I discovered it was ok to be a bad artist, I just conceded to be a lazy mess. Although sometimes I’ll spend a lot of time on something and it will look different… And with drawings on a much larger scale, it can be interesting in various ways. I guess something being a lazy mess affords is you can draw however you want whenever you want, there’s not value in your work being consistent…. Beyond being a consistent mess.
You comics gave me a chaotic (yet awesome) first impression but they are surprisingly readable. How do you approach this? Are you interested in the mediums’ language, narratively speaking (pacing, flow, etc), or do you care more about the aesthetic effect?
The narrative is very square!! This is true, it’s a funny contrast I guess, the messy aesthetic and pathetically bizarre content paired with this super square, traditional way of conveying it all. I haven’t thought too much about this contrast… So I don’t have much to say!
Whose work in the comics field are you most interested in these days, and/or what are your favourite comics you’ve read in the last few months ?
I think Patrick Kyle has been killing it lately! Especially with his “Baby Comics”, but also Special Friend, which i really loved. Christopher Forgues has been doing some beautiful work in the last year or so, his comic Monorail High for Mothers News being probably one of the best strips I’ve ever read in my entire life, and TYMN still being one of my favorite short comics (it’s about a cyborg). Carlos Gonzales has been putting out some great shorties, Lost Canyon most recently, Perfect Pitch, which is about baseball (America’s favorite pastime), and then this one about this brother and sister couple that go on tour projecting videos… I forget the title of that one, but it has a good title and [is] a great comic…. Him and Christopher put out a little anthology called “Off the Press” recently that contained some amazing work. Also have been into Andy Burkholder‘s work lately. This is all just off the top of my head.
Finally, what other stuff besides RAV are you up to these days?
In terms of comics or in terms of whatever??
In terms of comics I’ve been printing this little series of me, Patrick Kyle and Michael Deforge‘s short theme comics, the first issue was Cop Comic #1, then there was Basketball Comic #1, and most recently Xmas Comic #1…. And upcoming is Pixar’s “Cars” #1… I like to think of them as trash comics, but Michael and Patrick’s work is too good for me to fairly say that! My comics are trash though, I promise! And most recently (besides RAV 8) I printed a one off short called Haunted Forest, about a fox man who does jiu jitsu with you if you visit the forest and want to.
Also have a small tape label called Price Tapes, most recently release being new Earth-Enemy album “De-Memorization Techniques“, c62… It’s a really good tape! Earth-Enemy is Joe Buzzell, who i love and is brilliant.
Oh! I forgot to mention my ongoing monthly strip Graveyard Ducks in Mothers News as well as the review comics for Comics Workbook : )
Thanks a lot!
In brief: Mickey is a cool person and you can/should buy stuff directly from her HERE.
Her Tumblr: http://spideretc.tumblr.com/
BONUS: A lil’ piece drawn by Mickey about women presence in the media, on the HMPH! COMIX Tumblr.