Christopher Cardinale, an alumnus of the leftist comic magazine World War 3 Illustrated, is coming to town to discuss his adaptation of Luis Alberto Urrea‘s magical realist story, Mr. Mendoza’s Paintbrush (Cinco Puntos Press, $17.95). Cardinale’s stylized art, designed to look like traditional woodcuts, adds an enjoyable new dimension to the tale. He explained how he went from creating anti-globalization murals to publishing a full-length comics story. He apears at Busboys & Poets tomorrow.
Washington City Paper: What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?
Christopher Cardinale: Well, I recently published my first graphic novel with Cinco Puntos Press which is an adaptation of a short story by Luis Alberto Urrea. Before this book, almost all of my work had a social justice slant and much of it was published in a radical political comic called WW3 Illustrated.
WCP: How do you do it? Traditional pen and ink, computer or a combination?
CC: Since I studied printmaking in a fine arts program, I have an attraction to graphics that have the feel of a woodcut. Therefore I primarily use scratchboard. I use white scratchboard, apply the ink, and scratch into the ink I’ve applied. If it’s a color piece, I scan the black and white board I’ve scratched into the computer and apply a series of layers with color and handmade washes.
WCP: When (within a decade is fine) and where were you born? Where are you based now?
CC: I was born in the early ’70s in Ohio, but I grew up mostly in the Southwestern United States. I’ve been living in Brooklyn, N.Y., since 2000.
WCP: Can you tell us a little about your new book that you’ll be in town signing?
CC: Mr. Mendoza’s Paintbrush is a coming of age story about two boys in their early teens discovering girls and getting into trouble in a small town near the western coast of Mexico. The other main character, Mr. Mendoza, is a trickster. He is an old man who does graffiti on the walls of the town of Rosario as a form of social critique. I went to the town of Rosario, Sinaloa to do the visual research for the book and that process is what my presentation at Busboys & Poets will be about.
WCP: What is your training and/or education in cartooning?
CC: My experience in comics has come from working as a member of WW3, a collectively run comics magazine. I’ve had the honor of working with comic book artists such as Seth Tobocman on the magazine, which gave me hands on experience publishing underground comics in NYC.
WCP: Who are your influences?
Kathe Kollwitz. The first comics I remember copying were from the Wolverine mini-series by Frank Miller, also New Mutants characters by Bill Sienkiewicz. Later, I was influenced by Sue Coe, Peter Bagge, Sam Keith, Seth Tobocman, Peter Kuper,and Lynd Ward. Mexican artists such as the printmakers Leopoldo Mendez and Jose Guadalupe Posada and the muralists Siqueiros, Rivera, Orozco,and Camarena have been a huge influences. William Kentridge is amazing.
WCP: If you could, what in your career would you do-over or change?
CC: I wouldn’t second guess my creative impulses and prioritize the more playful work that brought me joy over the work I thought I ‘should be doing.
WCP: You appear to be moving from self-publishing on the web to doing more popular works with large publishers. If this is accurate, how did this evolution happen for you, and how do you feel about it?
CC: My first “comics” took the form of murals and protest banners, then as flyers given out at anti-war demonstrations, and ultimately they appeared in zines and a collection or two. I put all that stuff up on the web as I did it. Some of the magazines and and an anthology made their way into the hands of the folks at Cinco Puntos Press. Now I feel truly fortunate to have had the opportunity to publish a graphic novel and adapt the work of a great author.
WCP: What work are you best-known for?
CC: I know that one of the pieces that made it further afield than I expected was a chapter in the Wobblies anthology about the Mexican agrarian labor organizer, Primo Tapia.
WCP: What work are you most proud of?
CC: Two pieces, an illustrated feature for Punk Planet Magazine about doing volunteer work in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and Mr. Mendoza’s Paintbrush. In the case of the latter I didn’t know if I’d ever have another chance to do a full color graphic novel so I gave it my all.
WCP: What would you like to do or work on in the future?
CC: I would like to do a graphic novel where the writing is also mine.
WCP: What do you do when you’re in a rut or have writer’s block?
CC: Ride my bicycle, go to the park with my lady and our 6-year old son or go to a martial arts class.
WCP: What do you think will be the future of your field?
CC: I think that graphic narratives will continue to grow in popularity and reach a wide audience whether in digital or print form.
WCP: Have you attended the Small Press Expo? Will you be attending it in the future?
CC: No, unfortunately I have not, but I would like to.
WCP: What’s your favorite thing about D.C.?
CC: Free museums and kind people.
WCP: Least favorite?
CC: Getting arrested at protests.
WCP: What monument or museum do like to or wish to visit when you’re in town?
CC: I have a vivid memory of a sculpture of a male figure with nails embedded in its surface from head to toe that I saw at the National Museum of African Art during a visit when I was a pre-teen.
WCP: Do you have a website or blog?
CC: Yes, it’s www.christophercardinale.com.
Cardinale appears at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Busboys & Poets, 14th and V streets NW. Also appearing are local cartoonists from the Trickster anthology, including editor Matt Dembicki, and contributing artists Michael Auger and Jacob Warrenfeltz. Free.