The Illu–Straight–ors, Part 1: Josué Menjivar
You've read Way Off Main and Everyday Things. Now read all about the Oz-like man toiling behind the curtain, comic illustrator Josué Menjivar.
Buenos días, señor. Cómo está?
Muy bien gracias.
I remember that you once told me that you've lived in many different places. Where were you born? What are some of the places you've lived?
I was born in El Salvador, Central America. When I was four, my parents moved to the United States. I grew up in Los Angeles. I left home at 17 and have lived in many cities as well as other countries. I lived in Bangladesh for six months. I have lived in New York, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, and Texas to name the big places. My last U.S. city was Austin, Texas.
What brought you to Canada?
The usual. Love and adventure.
What do you think of Vancouver compared to the other places you've lived?
I love it. Sure, I can bash the architecture and the blatant disregard for history here, but overall after nine years of living here, I still feel like a tourist. It's so different from South Central Los Angeles, where I grew up. I feel like a millionaire living here. Vancouver is home to me now. I have never lived anywhere as long as I have lived here.
Do you now live way off Main?
I live two major streets west of Main, so yeah, I live way off Main.
Do you think that all that moving around contributed to the observatory nature that is evident in your work?
Absolutely. I've always been moving so I have always felt like a foreigner wherever I was. This made me more observant of customs, language, landscape, and people.
Can you tell us about the concept behind Way Off Main and Everyday Things?
They are both little vignettes about trying to capture a moment. A gap in time. It's about regrets, yearnings, and loss. Everyday Things is a little bit more experimental. I want to experiment with the images, the drawing style, and tell some quirkier stories.
Did you have any comic series published prior to those two?
I've been doing comics for years. I have mostly self-published my books. I had a series titled "Broken Fender" for a while. It did well enough to have it published by an American comics publisher. It was short lived. I had my 15 seconds of fame.
Have you taken any formal art training, or have you always just drawn as a hobby?
I have failed every art class I ever took. Even went to a fine arts school (Otis Parsons) and would have my anatomy teacher rip up my art. He would raise my work and tell students " this is how not to draw!" I think he was right. I have taught illustration classes for a private design school and even I would tell my students not to draw like me.
One time, you mentioned to me that Mexican dramas were an influence on your work. Can you tell us about that?
Well, as you can tell by reading my work, it's quite cheesy and melodramatic. Growing up in Los Angeles, I would watch Mexican soap operas and Spanish movies with my mother. Those dramas always had a way to pull at the heart strings, so when I tell stories, I use those elements as well as my deep influence from watching Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone.
Are there any real life stories behind some of your Everyday Things that you can tell us about?
If I did, it would incriminate me. Most of them, though, are based on a small grain of truth, a memory, or a yearning.
What's the strangest feedback you've gotten about Way Off Main or Everyday Things?
I had someone (who shall remain nameless) tell me "it was the comic you read before killing yourself." And I had a Way Off Main fan for a while that would send me her opinions of each week's strip along with an attached photo of her breasts. True story.
What direction are you hoping to take Everyday Things?
I mostly want to try new things. With Way Off Main, I held back because my good friend Scott would ink the pages. Some of the things I would draw would be lost in the transition from one creator to the next. I missed inking my stuff so after three years we ended the collaboration. In the new strip, I experiment with watercolours, crayons, coloured pencils, and even paint. The Georgia Straight publishes my comic in black and white in print, but on my own Web site, (www.freshbrewedillustration.com/) I post them in colour. Story-wise, I am enjoying just telling any kind of story that comes into my head. I'm currently writing little stories about life lessons from playing chess. I'm glad the paper gives me the freedom to tell these quirky stories.
Is it true that Scott Malin failed to heed your warnings and turned to the Dark Side and formed the evil Empire, which thereby forced you to head the Rebel Alliance and lead us with your noble Jedi ways? Or is that just a nasty rumour created by the tabloids?
Only rumour. He has recently moved to Massachusetts.
Which visual artists, illustrators, or cartoonists do you admire or find inspirational?
Even though you can't see it, my two main artist I am hugely influenced by are: Jack Kirby (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Kirby) and Vincent Van Gogh.
Do you find inspiration from other artists—writers, musicians, dancers, actors—for your series?
Yes, music is very vital in the production of my comics. Certain music creates a mood for me when I sit down to write stories. I read a lot so certain authors really get me fired up with ideas. I know a few people who are into modern dance and their performances have helped me see things in a different light and in turn have helped interpret ideas into comics. As for actors, I wish all the characters I draw could look like Humphrey Bogart, Anthony Quinn, Audrey Hepburn, Isabella Rosselini, and Robert Mitchum.
Me encantó charlar contigo.
Fue un placer, muchas gracias.
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