INTERVIEW WITH JACK FALLOWS
Jack Fallow, or the ‘Geordie Yeti’ as I once saw him described as in an article, is a Newcastle based comic artist whose been self-publishing comics since his early teens. Now in his late twenties Jack has developed both a unique style in his art and writing. His art is characterized by his classically alternative cartoony characters and his stark use of black and whites. While in his autobiographical writing he explores themes such as sexuality, gender issues, physical insecurities, family history and social isolation with a blunt honesty and humor.
Find out more about Jack’s work here: http://www.jackfallows.com/
I managed to catch up with Jack a few weeks ago. In our interview we had a chat about how his own life is his biggest influence, how Jack thinks the British comic scene is incredible and how in Jack’s eyes Liz Prince maybe the best comic book writer / artist of all time.
So here is what Jack had to say for himself.
Why do you use your own life as the primary source for your work?
I’ve been self-publishing for thirteen years now and the content of my work has changed a lot in that time. This is mostly down to a cycle of self-loathing. It doesn’t take long for me to end up hating my work after it’s finished and my main motivation is the voice inside my head saying “you need to do something totally different to this now”. The exception to that rule is my recent return to autobiographical stuff. While all of my work features big elements of my own life, the diary comics are an effort to just tell the truth. Its taken this long to work up the courage to do that but it’s a rule I’m trying to live by in everything I do these days – my comics, illustration, music and relationships with people. In doing this, I’ve managed to reach more people on a deeper level, which has been a total dream come true. The kid version of me would be really proud to know that I eventually found out I wasn’t so weird and all alone just by making comics and having people read them and tell me they were relatable. So I think I’ll stick this out for a while.
Issues of gender are prevalent in your work. Do you think it’s important to be vocal about these issues?
The simple answer to that is absolutely, yes. The longer answer is almost too insurmountable to put into a single response as it permeates so much of our culture and daily experience. I think the gender binary is a damaging concept and enforces ideals that can be alienating and oppressive to a lot of people. The world at large can be doing a lot more than it is to understand gender identities better, and it would take very little effort. In the cases where I’ve touched on it with my comics or music, it’s kind of been circumstantial because it’s just something I think about a whole lot. I haven’t built up to my big gender comic yet but you can expect it in an issue of Axolotl somewhere down the line!
What artists have had the biggest influence on your style?
My whole comics career has been an exercise in plagiarism so it’s pretty hard to pick out specific cartoonists. I tend to become infatuated with small things in people’s work – the way they draw eyes, or backgrounds, or their panel borders or page layouts. I assimilate them into my own visual vocabulary and make this kind of half-assed, mediocre broth out of it all. People I know I’ve stolen from include Chris Ware, Rutu Modan, Julia Wertz and Daniel Clowes to name just a few!
Jack, you are a very productive comic artist, I am always seeing your work pop up in zines and across the internet. Can you please tell me what cool stuff you have lined up for the future?
I’ve really cut back on commissioned work but I do have a couple of record covers on the horizon on that front. Comics-wise, I’m just being opportunistic and taking offers to include work in cool sounding stuff if and when those opportunities arise. I founded this non-profit arts group called The Paper Jam Comics Collective and we’ve got a food themed anthology set for release in the new year and probably another before 2015 is over. But mostly, it’s all about Axolotl now. I’m just using that as a platform for everything I want to do to make it all a bit more manageable and easy to follow for people. Kind of the same way Clowes used Eightball, or Ware used Acme Novelty Library or Tomine used Optic Nerve, except, you know, not a work of genius or anything.
What do you think of the British independent comic scene?
I think we have a totally amazing scene here. I’ve been regularly exhibiting at conventions since around 2005/2006 and made some of the best friends and met some of the most amazing humans I’ve ever encountered in my life. The level and variety of talents on show is breathtaking, the work being produced continues to keep my interest in the medium peaked (it waned a lot when I was working in a comic shop). Above all of that though, there’s a real sense of community and inclusion. Creators love sharing ideas and resources, welcoming new people to the medium and offering help and advice. This isn’t without the occasional exception, of course, but on the whole I’m proud to say we’re pretty fucking rad when it comes to doing comics right.
Every person I interview I ask for his or her 3 favourite comics that have come out this year. I will then read and review one of those comics. This is all basically an excuse for me to find out about loads of new comics. So Jack can you recommend me your three favourite comics from the past year?
‘Tomboy’ by Liz Prince has to be my number one. As soon as I put the book down, I went home and drew a comic about it and posted it online. Rather than repeat everything I said in words, you ought to just read that instead. You can still find it on my blog. (Find below this comic in full) Liz Prince is unbelievable. Liz Prince for president of all comics forever.
‘A Measure of Space’ by Kristyna Baczynski really bowled me over. It was a late entrant for 2014 but watching Kristyna’s visual language grow from vast to universe-engulfing over the last few years has been so amazing. It’s the kind of book you could switch your brain off and enjoy aesthetically or switch your brain on and have your heart ripped clean out. A great musing on solitude vs. loneliness, a prevalent subject in my life right now!
‘Double Dare Ya’ (Riot Grrrl anthology). Literally the coolest thing I’ve seen committed to print in a very long time. It’s feminist, it’s punk rock, it’s slickly produced but has all its DIY credentials intact and it boasts one of the most eye-popping contributor lists you could imagine. It’s like the Bikini Kill basement show of UK independent cartoonists and it deserves to take up space on your book shelf.