David Z. Morris: What’s Your Background? Art School?
William Cardini: I’ve been drawings comics and reading sff books since I was in elementary school. In fourth-grade I self-published my first comic book, a story about a half-man, half-pterodactyl cyborg. I started off reading Calvin and Hobbes, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics published by Archie, and the Silver Surfer, then got into Jim Woodring and Ron Rege Jr in high school, around the same time I started reading Nietzsche and the Existentialists.
I went to the University of Texas and majored in Studio Art and English [Holy shit, we were probably in the English program there at nearly the same time! – DZM]. Not quite the same experience as my friends who went to private art schools but when I talk to them, I realize how much I needed an analytic focus on literature to balance out my creative explorations.
I focused on performance and land art in college. I only took a couple drawing classes but I sporadically drew comics for the student newspaper, the Daily Texan. I feel good about that because the Daily Texan also published Chris Ware and Berkeley Breathed. I’ve been lucky in that I’ve had really good friend-collaborators who’ve pushed me to where I’m at now–Jeff Hipsher AKA Jak Cardini, Chuch, Totally Wreck, Anthony Romero, William Sellari, Josh Burggraf, Sean T Collins, and my wife Glade Hensel.
DZM: Your comic is pretty firmly based in fantasy themes, but with a very distinct twist. Where did you first get familiar with this sort of setting – and when did you start to realize it could be fucked with?
WC: My parents have a large library of sci-fi and fantasy books from the 60s and 70s and encouraged me to read them. I devoured the Lord of the Rings and all of Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern books in elementary school and became obsessed with Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time.
It didn’t take too long for me to move on to more subversive novelists. Philip K Dick and Stanislaw Lem opened my mind to the psychedelic, truly alien possibilities of sci-fi, while Robin Hobb’s Farseer books, Michael Moorcock’s Elric series, and Elizabeth Lynn’s Dragon’s Winter were my first exposure to tortured antiheroes. What really got me in the gut, though, was when my friend Juan Cisneros brought a copy of Kramer’s Ergot 6 into our performance art class at UT and I first read a Mat Brinkman
comic. Up until that point, my only exposure to the Fort Thunder school of comics had been Brian Ralph’s Cave-In and easily overlooked bits in SPX anthologies.
My comics for the Daily Texan were surrealist, sometimes Jim Woodring-style adventures, sometimes more Ron Rege Jr-, Krazy Kat-, or Marc Bell-style super formalist poem-like comics. But that Mat Brinkman comic showed me I could use my raw, ink-drip drawing style to tell the kind of psychedelic sf stories that I loved. I took a character I’d been using in my performance and video art, the Miizzzard, and made the Miizz the protagonist for my comics. Because of Robin Hobb’s Farseer and Herriman’s Krazy Kat, I made the Miizzz a shape-shifting, gender-fluid being. Because of Lem, I made the Miizzz an unknowable alien. From Kirby, I took the giant space-gods in outrageous outfits vibe. From Brinkman, I adopted the melting monsters and contemporary, slangy dialogue. From the Wheel of Time I took the epic, mountain-leveling magic battles. I love all of these things, from the most adolescent and cringe-y to the most self-aware and progressive.
DZM: There are definitely other artists comic creators who work at the connection between fantasy themes and a punk attitude (maybe the two most prominent being Skinner and Jesse Moynihan). Do you feel like you’re part of a ‘scene’?
I think there’s two scenes that you could say I’m in. There’s the scene of people I talk to and trade collaborate with, and then there’s a larger scene of people that critics might group me with. I see Skinner’s paintings and Jesse Moynihan’s comics as a plateau that I’m still striving to reach. They were doing what I want to do before I really got it solidified. But sometimes when my work gets reviewed I get compared to my influences and then I get a nice warm feeling of belonging. Like when Robert Boyd put out an article on his art blog The Great God Pan is Dead
grouping me with Moynihan and Jesse Jacobs because of our shared Jack Kirby influence.
DZM: Why do you think that approach is coming along at this particular time?