David Lasky is a Seattle-based cartoonist who co-produces the occasional comic book Urban Hipster for Alternative Comics. He also produces smaller work which is widely admired, both for its quiet and polished quality and for its ambition. He’s a sort of social nexus of Seattle cartooning, widely liked and deeply knowledgeable. His good will and helpfulness are boundless. Among other things, he conceived and executed the legendary minicomic adaptation of James Joyce’s Ulyssess, the striking Carter Family Comics (with co-author Frank Young) in Kramer’s Ergot 4, and more.
I spoke with David on Feb 17, 2004, in preparation for an article to appear in the Stranger.
Just about a year ago, I interviewed you and Greg Stump about Urban Hipster, and we talked about the Seattle comics scene. What’s changed since a year ago?
DL: What usually changes in the scene is the economics of Seattle. Cartoonists originally were drawn here because of – besides Fantagraphics being here – it was just a really affordable place to live, years and years ago. It was a livable city, that was how it was marketed to the world. And now it’s kind of expensive to live here and there’s no jobs. I think people are tending to leave, which is too bad.
Has the migration accelerated since a year ago?
DL: Um, I think the Seattle winter has accelerated things but also the fact there are so few jobs out there makes it hard for artists.
Specific individuals in mind or more generally?
DL: I think people – just in the last couple months – have been announcing that they’re leaving. Elijah Brubaker is leaving for Portland. Other arts-community type people have been making noises about wanting to leave.
Who? Can you give me names or cite specific individuals?
DL: No, not offhand. Just ‘cause they haven’t actually announced it – but they’re talking about looking for jobs in other cities, basically. I guess Elijah’s the only cartoonist I can think of who is actually leaving town. But in a small community that’s someone we’re losing and nobody’s – the kids aren’t flocking to Seattle right now.
How many people are in that community?
DL: My circle of friends is about ten people and then the larger comics community, I don’t know, could be a hundred people or more depending on how you want to define the comics community. There’s mainstream people and publishers and journalists…
What publishers are there, besides Fantagraphics, in the greater northwest?
DL: Down in Portland there’s Dylan Williams – Portland is where all the publishers are. Dark Horse, Top Shelf, and Dylan Williams’ company that’s made Orchids. Sparkplug. Sparkplug comic books. He’s doing – uh, publishing – Jason Shiga and Jeff Levine and a lot of the really interesting experimental cartoonists who the major alternative labels kind of overlook.
In Seattle, aside from Fantagraphics, uh… I can’t think of anyone right now who’s publishing.
Davey Oil and Slide Rule has been a really exciting thing for me that’s happening in our scene.
Tell me why Slide Rule is exciting for you.
DL: Because he’s taking young and experimental cartoonists who most people who shop for comics don’t really look at – he’s taking them to Seattle’s arts and clubs communities and showing comics live with music and animation. . . He’s thinking outside the box with people who wouldn’t normally see it.
[David also told me that a new Moxie is to be scripted by Mark Campos. Moxie is the Fine Comics collective’s comics anthology.]
What can you tell me about the Fine Comics website? Is it up yet?
DL: Dalton Webb is the administrator and the designer. He just got a homepage set up but it doesn’t link to anything. But we do hope to put some content on it soon. I’ll email you his contact info and show you what we’ve got so far.