of the more interesting comics to hit publication this year didn't
come from any major company, not even from an indie set, but from a
talented self publisher right out of Salt Lake City. Let's
Go To UTAH! is quickly becoming a popular read among local comic
fans, stepping outside the standard noir style you find in most books
while showcasing a Black & White art form that's been
lost in recent times. I got a chance to chat with creator Dave
Chisholm about his book, his band, comics in general, and some other
random stuff that came to mind.
Gavin: Hey Dave. First off, tell us a little about yourself.
Dave: I was born in Fairbanks, Alaska in 1981. Graduated from Highland High in 1999. Got a Jazz Composition degree from the U Of U in 2004. Going to grad school this fall. I'm sure there's more.
Gavin: For those who haven't read it yet, tell us about Let's Go To Utah!
Dave: It's a story written and drawn by me. All of the characters in it are based on friends of mine. Basically, this 18 year old named Dave (who lives in LA) starts having these horrific dreams that always end in Utah. He has these dreams every time he falls asleep for 4 months, so he decides that, in order to make them stop, he needs to go to Utah. The thing is, the only person who is willing to drive him (he has no car) is a friend of a friend named Leif... and Leif kind of kills people. Woops! That's the setup, basically. That's where issue #1 ends. There is much more to the story. It's a 9 issue run.
Gavin: How did the decision come about to do this as a comic?
Dave: I've always liked comics and I've pretty much always dabbled in drawing them. At a certain point about a year ago, I started drawing with more intent to get better, and really had an itch to make a comic book. A few months later, with some help, I got this crazy story together and just started to draw it. I'm just doing this for myself, you know, but after I posted some pages on deviantART, it started to become a minor success story, so I did some research and found the best way to get it printed in small numbers. I've got 4 printed out and almost 7 issues of the 9 drawn.
Gavin: How did it finally come about to going into publication?
Dave: I just did some research into self-publication. There's this website called Ka-Blam that prints out small runs of comics, and it was a perfect fit for me. I sent off copies of issues 1-6 to a few publishers, so, knock on wood, hopefully someone can help me put it out on a larger scale.
Gavin: What do you think of the reception you've gotten for it so far?
Dave: It's been overwhelmingly good! Most people seem to really get it--I know that there are a few shortcomings with the art in the book, but most people that have checked it out have really latched on to the look and feel and story of it. It couldn't be going better!
Gavin: Are there any specific comic artists who influenced your work?
Dave: Of course! Visually, my main influence is Paul Pope, but I also love Frank Quitely, Katsuhiro Otomo, Jeff Smith, and a bunch of others. They are all way better than I am, though! Haha!
Gavin: What about writers and the style you tend to put the book in?
Dave: That's a bit tougher. Probably the biggest influences on the writing and style of the book are the Coen brothers. In a lot of ways, Let's Go To UTAH! is an homage to those movies. I also love the writing of Alan Moore, Grant Morisson, Charles Dickens, etc. But in no way am I comparing myself to them.
Gavin: What's your opinion on comics today, both good and bad?
Dave: Hmm... It's weird, you know? People who are into comics still see themselves as maybe marginalized or outside of the mainstream, but there are, what, six movies coming out this summer that are based on comics? Iron Man, Hulk, Wanted, Hellboy 2, The Dark Knight, Punisher comes out in the fall. Why are comic book properties so successful but comic book sales so bad? It's tough to say. Sometimes I think that, by in large, people who buy comics week in and week out kind of like being marginalized... but that's another story. I think that there are a ton of great comics coming out right now, both in the superhero genre and outside of it. That's a great thing. You can go into a major bookstore and see a HUGE variety of great trade paperbacks and graphic novels. That's awesome. And, honestly, I think that, in so many ways, a lot of these more left-of-center books (like Let's Go To UTAH!) are more easily accepted by non-comic people than comic people. But, I'm rambling!
Gavin: Is there anything you feel could be done to improve it?
Dave: People just need to go to a comic store, like Blackcat Comics, and find something they like. I think that just going in that first time is the hardest step to take. It can be intimidating, but it's worth it!
Gavin: If you had to make a top 5, what are your five most favorite comics to date?
Dave: Ohh, top 5, hmmm.
1. Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. No big surprise here. One of the best books I've ever read in any genre. Just brilliant.
2. Preacher by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon. Great characters, great story. 67 or so issues and the ending is awesome. Not for the faint of heart!
3. THB by Paul Pope. I've just got a soft spot in my heart for this man's work. His line-work is freaking amazing, and this is clearly the piece that he cares the very most about. These are really tough to find, because they are all self-published and long out of print.
4. Bone by Jeff Smith. Awesome all-ages stuff. Mind blowingly good fantasy on par with Lord Of The Rings. But funnier.
5. All Star Superman by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely. Thought I'd toss my current fave book on the list. This is amazing. You need to own this.
Gavin: You recently got the cover of SLUG. What was that experience like for you?
Dave: It was fun! The extra exposure was nice. I think it's funny--I've been playing music in this town for over a decade and never got on the cover of SLUG, you know? And then I draw comics for a few months and they contact me to do the cover! I guess it's more novel, you know. Everybody plays music, but not everybody does comics.
Gavin: Speaking of which, you also write music and perform in Let's Become Actors! How have things been going for you and the band?
Dave: We just put out a CD that is really cool. Mike, the other singer in the band, really wants to tour, so he just put together another band. I honestly don't think that Let's Become Actors will play that much at all from this point forward. The CD is really good, though. I'm super proud of it.
Gavin: Are there any plans to tour with it, or are things a little too busy to do so?
Dave: I'm starting grad school in the fall, so touring is not an option for me right now. I'm sort of jaded about the whole start-a-band-and-try-to-make-it-big thing. I just want to make art. Screw commerce. Blargh! The whole thing makes me sick.
Gavin: When this story arch is over, will that be the end of it or will you keep it going?
Dave: There are more stories planned, but I don't know when I'll have time to get around to them. It ends, but not really. You'll see.
Gavin: What can we look forward to the rest of the year from you?
Dave: Five more issues! Then a ton of music!
Gavin: Anything you'd like to plug?
Dave: Blackcat Comics in Sugarhouse! Those dudes freaking rule. It's the only place locally where you can buy the comic, except directly from me.