Updated: Jan 24, 2020
Jim Mahfood is one of the most unique voices in comics, his art is instantly recognizable. If you haven't heard of him, then crawl out of from under that rock you've been sleeping under. He's best know for his creator owned stuff, like Grrl Scouts. I've been a huge fan of his for years and was lucky enough to chat with him over the phone the other day.
Comic Lounge: I first discovered your work on the Clerks comics, I've been a fan of yours ever since. So I was wondering how your style developed from what it was then, to what it is now ?
Jim Mahfood: I just consciously changed up my drawing and inking style. During the late nineties, the Clerks era, I was starting to develop wrist and hand problems from that, ultra tight, kinda style of holding the pen and inking. I would draw everything in pen and then I would go back with the same pen and add all the line weights. So it was basically, like I was drawing everything twice. Which is weird to think about. So I just kinda loosened up and decided to change up my inking style. I was looking at a lot of Bill Sienkiewicz and Ralph Steadman, the looser kinda guys. I just consciously went in a different direction, then that nineties stuff I was doing, to a looser and more expressive kind of style of drawing. I didn't want to do it just for visual reasons, but also to preserve my wrist and my hand. Over the years, that also started to evolve. The style I have now, is after 20 years of drawing all the time, it's not really conscious. When people ask, "How did you develop a certain style ?", It's kind of a hard question to answer. It's not conscious, it's just drawing 8 hours a day, everyday, for 25 years. The more you do something and experiment around, the more strange and awesome things start happening.
Comic Lounge: What was it like working with Kevin Smith ?
Jim Mahfood: Oh, it was great, he's a good dude. I was doing work for Oni Press when they first formed and Kevin was the first writer, who's script, I actually drew from. His scripts are super tight, where every panel is broken down, the description of the panel and all the dialogue. So for me, it was kinda challenging. I was still new to the comic book game and his comics and movies are very wordy. I was always trying to figure out, how do I have enough room for the drawings and the word balloons. It was a bit challenging for me as a young beginner, but he was always a really good dude to me whenever we would do signings. I just saw Kevin a couple months ago in Vancouver at a convention, we got to catch up which was cool.
Comic Lounge: You've worked on established characters in the past. Creator owned stuff as well, like Stupid Comics and Grrl Scouts. Which do you prefer?
Jim Mahfood: I prefer doing my own stuff, because I have complete freedom to do what I want to do. I think I shine best when I'm left alone, to do my own thing. I think it's the most "me", that comes out of the work, when I do it that way. At the same time, it's always a thrill to draw Spider- Man. All the corporate work I've done, I haven't really had any problems with any of the work or editors, it's always cool to play in their playground for a little bit. Ultimately, I always want to go back to my universe and the characters I write and draw. I mean, I'm not the best writer in the world, but there's something satisfying and almost easier for me to write, draw and do everything. I know what I want to draw and I write towards my strengths. So if I don't want to draw westerns, I'm not gonna write a cowboy story for me to draw. I'm gonna write things for myself that I know really pop with the drawing style that I have. That usually revolves around hot girls, guns, psychedelic, weird shit, high energy ridiculousness and humor. I'm trying to have fun with stuff I draw and the comics I write and draw. I'm trying to provide, hopefully, an entertaining escape for people. You know, things are heavy in the world and I want people to kinda lose themselves, have a smile on their face and be able to look at some cool, trippy visuals and hopefully get a chuckle at the stuff I'm putting out there.
Comic Lounge: You have one of the most unique styles in comics, where or who have you drawn inspiration from the most?
Jim Mahfood: Just looking at lots of stuff, I've always looked at comic book art and I also look at illustration. I look at 60's psychedelic art, all the Zap Comix and underground comics from that era, graffiti art from the 70's and 80's. I mentioned Ralph Steadman, the British illustrator, he's one of my favorites. I have a huge list of artists that I love and respect, but, I'm really drawn to illustrators and comic book artists that have their own signature style. That's what I'm trying to do, I think I'm doing it and it's working. I like those guys that in one image, you can tell, it's their drawing. Like Mike Mignola, Simon Bisley, Dave McKean, guys that have that signature style. That becomes almost like your signature or your calling card, the way you stand out. I know I'm not gonna be the greatest of all time, but I think that I can carve out my own style and my own world where all that stuff fits.
Comic Lounge: I know you dabble in other stuff besides traditional comic book art, what is your favorite medium to work in?
Jim Mahfood: I still, just love drawing in black ink, sketchbook work or illustration work. There's just something about the brush or the pen hitting that paper, with just that solid black line and splattering the ink, is just kind of being totally free. Most of that stuff, I don't pencil out ,I just go straight to ink to paper. As i'm drawing, I'm kinda trying to figure out, like what is this gonna be. That playfulness and uncertainty is what makes me want to keep drawing,it's just fun. It's kind of me being free to do what I wanna do, let my mind go and let my hand just kinda go across the page. I love comics too, but comics is the different side of your brain, you have to lay everything out and know what the panels are and the storytelling is. Comics is more like putting together a complicated puzzle. But I like that challenge too, because when you finish a page, you kinda step back and you're like, "shit man, yeah, I figured it out". Like I said though, there's nothing like sitting down with a big piece of paper and black ink and just going to town.
Comic Lounge: What would your dream project be?
Jim Mahfood: I would love to just keep going on my own work, but, I'm also a huge fan of Batman and Spider-Man. Those are the characters I grew up on as a kid. I would love to do a huge Batman project at some point for DC. I just don't know how experimental DC and Marvel are willing to get. They're kind of reliant on more of like an old school style. I don't know if I fit in to that category, not that I care about fitting in. I'm also a huge Jack Kirby fan and would love to play with some of his creations,Fourth World stuff, like New Gods, Forever People and Mister Miracle. Mitch Gerads is doing a great job on the new Mister Miracle book. It's refreshing to know that stuff can be done like that, in an exciting way. So even though I would love to continue working on my own stuff, as a kid growing up following Spidey and Batman, who wouldn't want to write those guys. So we'll see.
Comic Lounge: What upcoming projects are you working on that you can talk about?
Jim Mahfood: I'm working on this new Tank Girl comic, that's coming out this year, it's called Tank Girl All- Star's. It's a celebration of her 30th anniversary this year. It's me and a bunch of other Tank Girl guys, working on it for Titan Comics. I'm doing variant covers for Valiant, on Harbinger, Ninjak, and Quantum and Woody. I just finished a cover on Barbarella for the guys at Dynamite. I'm doing this new Grrl Scouts series called, Grrl Scouts: Stone Ghost. I don't have a schedule for it yet, but that'll be next year with Image, I'm working on the first issue now. I have a podcast that I'm launching Aug. 16, called Skull Funk Radio. It's me digging through the archives of my records because I'm a huge music fan It's gonna be me playing music from the collection I've been accumulating since I was like 10 years old. People can find that on skullfunkradio.fireside.fm. It's gonna be a biweekly podcast. I'll also be hitting up a lot of the cons this year like NYCC, Rose City Comic-Con, and LACC.
You guys can follow Jim on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Don't forget to check out Skull Funk Radio out now.