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Matt Dembicki was a finalist for the Small Press Expo’s minicomics award last year for Xoc, his comic about the life of a shark. Matt’s also one of the founders of the D.C. Conspiracy comics collective and in 2007 had a story in Postcards: True Stories That Never Happened (edited by Jason Rodriguez), an anthology of comics stories inspired by jottings found on old postcards. Matt also has a new book on American Indians coming out next month.

WashingtonCity Paper: What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?

Matt Dembicki: I do a wide variety of comic books, from horror to anthropomorphic science fiction, but over the past few years my longer projects have focused more on fictional ecological stories with animal characters.

WCP: When (within a decade is fine) and where were you born?

MD: I was born in Hartford, Conn., in 1970.

WCP: Why are you in Washington now?  What neighborhood or area do you live in?

MD: I moved to D.C. from Connecticut in 1992 for a job (I’m a journalist/editor by trade and this city is a hub for those jobs). My family and I live in Fairfax, Va., but I commute to work in Dupont Circle.

WCP: What is your training and/or education in cartooning?

MD: I’ve had no formal cartooning training. I took a few art classes in high school and art appreciation classes in college. Otherwise, I’m self-taught.

WCP: Who are your influences?

MD: Steve Bissette, Wally Wood, Al Williamson, Steranko, Frank Miller. I did most of my comics collecting in the ’80s, so I’ve been heavily influenced by the top artists at the time. I also had a strong interest in EC Comics, so those artists have swayed me, too.

WCP: If you could, what in your career would you do-over or change?

MD: After high school, I took a 15-year hiatus from drawing comics—in fact, I did little drawing, period. I’d like to go back and fill that gap. I sometimes feel like I’m 15 years from where I should be or want to be.

WCP: What work are you best-known for?

MD: Mr. Big, which is a nature parable about a large snapping turtle and the denizens of his pond.

WCP: What work are you most proud of?

MD: I’m most proud of my two current projects—Trickster: Native American Tales, which is a comics anthology of Native American trickster stories that includes a number of D.C. cartoonists (I edited the project and drew one of the stories), and Xoc, which is my minicomic about a great white shark’s journey across the Pacific Ocean. I’m also quite proud of the work of the D.C. Conspiracy, a local comics creators’ collaborative. We’ve done several anthologies, taken field trips to places like the Frank Frazetta Museum and Geppi’s Entertainment Museum, created and hosted the annual D.C. Counter Culture Festival, and now we’re planning to launch a free comics newspaper called Magic Bullet.

WCP: What would you like to do or work on in the future?

MD: I’ll be working on a horror story for Plastic Farm, the long-running twisted title by local creator Rafer Roberts. After, I plan to start working on a new project, which will hopefully tie in history, religion, and the supernatural.

WCP: What do you do when you’re in a rut or have writer’s block?

MD: I put comics aside and go do something else. There’s no sense wracking my brain and getting frustrated. I go play with the kids or do some home-fix projects.

WCP: What do you think will be the future of your field?

MD: I don’t do cartooning/comics for a living, and I would not want to. It’s such a competitive field and unless you’re at the top, it seems like you’re always hustling for a gig. Doing comics on the side takes the pressure off and makes drawing a creative outlet for me rather than a job.

WCP: What’s your favorite thing about D.C.?

MD: It has great cultural events and museums, and if you want to get out of town, there are many cities (Baltimore, Richmond, Philly) within driving distance, or you can head to the mountains or beaches within a couple of hours.

WCP: Least favorite?

MD: Commuter-related stuff. Like when Metro breaks down, or when folks stand on the left side of the escalator.

WCP: What monument or museum do you take most out-of-town guests to?

MD: The Freer Gallery of Art and Sackler Gallery, and the Udvar-Hazy Center. For lunch, I take them to the National Museum of the American Indian.

WCP: Do you have a Web site or blog?

MD: My blog: matt-dembicki.blogspot.com