Friday, May 7, 2010

Toronto Comic Arts Festival 2010: Dustin Harbin


The 2010 edition of the Toronto Comic Arts Festival -- TCAF for short -- takes place May 8 and 9 at the Toronto Reference Library. This year's line-up of cartoonists, artists, writers, graphic novelists, and other sorts is fantastic, and in the lead-up to TCAF The Afterword would like to introduce you to some of the talent attending this year's festival. Just like like year, we've devised a fun little questionnaire so they can speak for themselves. 
Who are you? Why are you coming to TCAF?

My name is Dustin Harbin; I’m a very tall skinny cartoonist from the “North Carolina” region of the United States. I’m coming to TCAF to seek my fortune and find a Canadian bride (either/or). When I’m not doing that I publish a daily diary comic and weekly (although I’m way behind lately) comics at

Have you been before? If so, what’s your fondest TCAF memory?

I’ve been to TCAF like crazy, I think I’ve been to all of them since 2005, although last year’s was the first one I exhibited at as a cartoonist, as opposed to just carrying a hangover around Bloor Street all weekend. I’ve got enough fond TCAF memories to choke an elephant to death, but besides the several that occurred in karaoke bars, most of the really great ones are just hanging out in Toronto itself. You guys do great city--I’ve lost count of the pleasant times I’ve had at different restaurants and cafes and outdoor sunshine times. I love it. Such a great town.

Do you make a living from comics? If not, what’s your day job?

I wish to earn a living from comics, but that’s not yet a reality. During the day I’m one of the organizers of HeroesCon [], an annual comic book convention in Charlotte, NC.

If you could have dinner with one other artist attending this year’s festival, who would it be and why?

Hm, that’s tricky. I will likely have dinner with SEVERAL artists; I don’t want this to come back and haunt me if they find out I didn’t choose them. If I could dine with just ONE person though, I’d pick Chester Brown. I’m a huge fan of his work, and while I’ve met him a couple of times, it was never long enough for me to calm down and stop sweating everywhere from nervousness. So yeah, a nice dinner and chat would be fabulous, right? Also, I’d probably be at least twice as a good a cartoonist afterward. #benefits

What’s the best comic you’ve read this year? The worst?

Oh man, the last year has been ridiculous for good comics. I think Asterios Polyp was probably the best thing I read, but Kaz Strzepek’s The Mourning Star volume 2 was such an utterly awesome reading experience.. plus maybe under the radar a little bit. THAT guy--so amazing.

As for bad comics--I don’t read those, silly!

Who’s the most under-appreciated comic artist working today?

All of them probably, although events like TCAF are great for altering that a little bit. It’s probably not true as much in Canada, but having just (finally) read Matt Forsythe’s Ojingogo, I’m kind of surprised he’s not talked about more as a cartoonist--I mean, he’s one of the guys and everything, but I rarely hear anyone talking about the insane quality of his cartooning. I was blown away, every page was just .. well, delicious!

What’s your most anticipated comic of the year?

I’m pretty excited to read Bodyworld, which I just got but probably won’t get to until after TCAF. I feel like Dash Shaw is going to be the next David Mazzucchelli, the kind of cartoonist who pushes the medium of cartooning into new formal and thematic territory. So good that guy.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to an aspiring cartoonist?

The standard cliché advice is standard and clichéd for a reason--I think the main advice is 1) draw constantly; 2) quiz other cartoonists and soak up knowledge; and 3) stay off the internet whenever possible.

Tell me about your dream comic: who would write it, who would draw it, who would do the cover?

Are you ready? Because pay attention big money publishers: my dream comic would a long form, serialized adaptation of the original Dune novel, written by ME ME ME, drawn by Sam Hiti, with backup stories by Paul Pope (“Tales of Muad’Dib”). Can you tell I’ve been thinking about this?

Failing this, I’d settle for adapting the movie Krull. I don’t have any original ideas. Sue me.

What’s your earliest memory of comics, reading them or encountering them?

I grew up reading Richie Rich and Uncle Scrooge comics, but I think the first time I was like *whoa* upon discovering a comic was reading an old Dick Tracy digest reprint of the Pruneface story (from like the early 50’s, maybe late 40’s?). Insane, that story, oh my god. I still have it--just the art, the weird way the story is written, the hyper-violence of it. Plus, even in the 80’s, serialized newspaper comics were already more than a little anachronistic, so it was like something that was just MINE. I’m selfish.

Would you recommend your work to someone who’d never read a comic book before? Why or why not?

Yeah I would actually--most of my comics are either short autobio stories or one-page humor strips, so there’s not a lot of context you need to be aware of. I try to avoid using harsh language (besides English), although sometimes some teetee caca language slips in. None of my close friends read comics, so I think of them as my audience; I try to make comics that they would get, or at least not need to know much about comics to get.

Who’d play you on the big screen in an adaptation of your life?

This one is so easy: Dustin Diamond, TV’s “Screech.”

We asked this last year and we’ll ask it again: which cartoonist appearing at this year’s TCAF do you suspect may in fact be an alien?

Man that’s tricky. Do you know Aaron Costain?

If you had to spend a Saturday with any of the following “golden age” characters - Superman, Dagwood Bumstead, Popeye, Betty Boop or Flash Gordon which would it be, and how would you spend the day?

Popeye, Popeye, a thousand times Popeye.

What potential does the iPad hold for comic creators and readers?

Like any digital delivery device, huge potential. For webcomics creators it’ll be a mass-market device that webcomics will look good on, as opposed to, say, an iPhone with its smaller screen. Large format touch-screen technology is going to open up a lot of possibilities for webcomics, from display to navigation to interface and beyond. And if nothing else--just a massive jump in audience as more readers discover comics through the increasingly ubiquitous nature of digital devices like the iPad or whatever. So. There you go.

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