Interview: Minty Lewis »
Melanie “Minty” Lewis’ wonderful new book, P.S. Comics, is a collection of her minicomics to date. Minty’s tales of “Fruit Pals” and “Yorkie Roommates” are cute but heartbreaking accounts of everyday melodrama, which earned her an Ignatz award in 2007. She also recently created the most freaking cutest ever iGoogle theme, which you should all install immediately. Minty lives in Berkeley and is vegetarian.
How long have you been vegetarian?
Since I was 11.
Are you vegetarian for health, environmental, animal rights reasons, or a combination?
Originally I decided to become a vegetarian for animal rights reasons. I wasn’t that well informed about the health and environmental reasons for not eating meat when I was 11, but the more I learn, the more my decision is reinforced.
Do you ever include a vegetarian message in your comics?
I’ve always imagined Apple as a vegetarian—he’s such a sensitive creature and so aware of how his actions affect those around him, how could he not be? That said, I don’t think there are any “Fruit Pals” stories where dietary choices are at the forefront of the drama, although I do have a comic where Ruffles (the cat) experiences angst when she finds out that Fancy Feast is made from dead animals. I don’t really see my comics as an appropriate forum for vegetarian propaganda, but at the same time I can’t imagine creating a scene where a good-hearted character brazenly eats a hamburger or a self-centered jerk orders a vegan meal. That’s not to say that those characters don’t exist in real life; I just think it would be distracting to have that dissonance in a character unless it’s a driving element of the story.
There’s actually a panel in one my earliest comics that always makes me feel guilty: Apple is eating dinner, and there’s a drumstick on his plate. I think I drew the drumstick because it’s an iconic shape and so many vegetarian meals just look like a pile of slop, but I worry that Apple will have a meat-eating reputation just because of my cartooning laziness. That’s a veat drumstick, OK?
What is your favorite animal?
I really love dogs, specifically terriers. I also like capybaras very much, because they sort of look like terriers. I found out from wikipedia that people used to eat capybaras during Lent because the Catholic Church classified them as fish in the 16th century. Isn’t that convenient for them?
Can you draw animals really well? Can you draw Laura as an animal? Will you do a portrait of my pit bull Hazel for free? Yes?
I draw animals better than I draw people. I can draw Laura as an animal. I can also do a portrait of your pit bull for free. I can combine Laura and your pit bull into… “Laurel.” Beautiful.
Favorite vegan food to make?
This is the simplest and most delicious tomato sauce on planet Earth. It takes kind of a long time to prepare all the garlic and tomato, and it probably seems like I am not very creative for recommending something so straightforward, but honestly I wish I had a friend like me to recommend this to me. I put it on everything, pasta is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s better on the second day after all the flavors have inter-absorbed, etc.
Favorite vegan dish at a restaurant/fave vegan restaurant?
I regularly crave the veggie combo at Cafe Colucci in Oakland, so many different flavors and vegetables in one meal. Cha-Ya in Berkeley (haven’t tried the one in SF) also offers highly delicious food, everything they serve tastes so fresh. They have the best miso soup I’ve ever had, and I really like the fried portobello mushroom thing that’s served with kiwi sauce. I was skeptical at first, but it’s good.
Based on food options alone, which is your favorite comics show to travel to?
I only went to the Portland Zine Symposium once, but it was at Portland State University and they had a farmers’ market right outside the entrance, so that was pretty neat. Portland has tons of cheap vegetarian options all over the place. You don’t even have to try.
Any eating tips for traveling cartoonists?
Bring nuts, and don’t expect any good eating options near convention centers.
Do you have one drawing tip to share?
If you just keep practicing, you will get better and you will develop your own style naturally. It doesn’t seem like there are any shortcuts on the path to becoming a truly good drawer. However, if you would like to take the easy route and simply mask bad drawing, there are lots of tricks I have learned: hide hands behind objects, draw fruit people instead of human people, keep your characters in easy-to-draw situations (avoid crowds and ferris wheels), seat characters at round tables instead of rectangular tables, copy other people’s artwork…
Do you have a day job, or do you draw comics full-time? If not, why not?
I do not have a day job, nor do I draw comics full-time. I freelance irregularly as a graphic designer and, more recently, a proofreader. While I recognize that I may be rationalizing, I think it’s best that I don’t draw comics full-time—it seems like an important part of the creation process for me involves allowing ideas time to percolate. Also I manage my time better when I have multiple things to do.
Why is Apple so awesome and also so depressing? Is he a comment on the human condition?
He is what he is, which is all of us.
Why is Banana such a creepy dick? And what’s up with Kumquat? Is it a coincidence that “kumquat” rhymes with “dumb twat”? Discuss.
I have kind of a soft spot for Banana. Sure he’s a creepy dick, but he has an enviable outlook on life. Imagine being so carefree that you can drink by the creek until you pass out in the middle of the workday! As for Kumquat, it hadn’t crossed my mind that her name rhymes with “dumb twat,” but that’s brilliant.
Do you think Pear and Apple will end up together? I don’t.
Doubtful. There was maybe a small window of opportunity once, but at this point they’re familiar enough to know that they’re incompatible to their cores (get it? ha ha! it’s true, though).
What is your favorite fruit? Do you regularly eat apples? Is that a little weird for you?
Peaches are my favorite fruit, but only when they are exactly ripe. We have an apple tree that yields perfectly crisp and flavorful apples, so I am a fervent apple-eater for a few months each year. Eating apples is not weird for me unless they have eyes. My husband and I had lemons and limes with googly eyes glued on them as part of the centerpieces at our wedding, and the florist suggested that this might prevent drunken guests from eating them. She said that drunken guests always eat fruit from the centerpieces at weddings, even lemons and limes.
What inspired “Yorkie Roommates”?
My dear departed yorkie, Lucy Fourpaws, inspired “Yorkie Roomies.” When I was in college, I lived in a house with four other girls, and she would eat the crotches from our dirty underwear out of separation anxiety whenever we left her home alone. One time we found a turd composed entirely of brightly-patterned underwear bits! As Lucy’s owner, I felt responsible for her actions and regularly bought new underwear for the house and/or reimbursed my housemates for their losses. Eventually we all learned to use a hamper with a lid, but not until many underpants were lost. A few years after college, several of my roommates admitted that some of their pairs with smaller holes were still in rotation.
Tell us about all your cute pets!
Otis is the terrier of the house. We got him from the Milo Foundation a couple of years ago—I suspect that they tricked us by making us meet him at a park instead of in their showroom where he surely would have growled and bitten us through his cage. It all worked out though! He’s a sweet little rascal as long as you aren’t a stranger coming in the door!
Rufflz is the white cat with crossed eyes and splayed hind legs, also from the Milo Foundation where her name was originally “Beijing.” She enjoys hiding behind foxtail ferns and making noises.
Pearl is the gray cat with the great big gut. She was originally a barn cat in Maryland, but Damien (my husband) rescued her and fattened her up. She actually lost a lot of weight when she first moved to California from New York, but she did not lose the skin that held the weight. We later found out that the weight loss was from the neighbor’s terrorist cat stressing her out. When he moved away, her flap filled in again.
Elvis is the black cat, also a rescued Maryland barn cat. He disappears for most of the day, and only returns for food and affection at night.
Who did you have to bribe to get a cover blurb from Jack Handey on your new book PS Comics? Are you guys penpals now? Can I have his number?
I sent him my comics and a letter, and he wrote me back with a cover blurb. Getting an email from Jack Handey was the most intoxicating moment of my life! He was super nice, but I got a vibe that long-term correspondence was not in our future.
Do you have a favorite “Deep Thoughts”?
"The crows seemed to be calling his name, thought Caw." I think about that "Deep Thought" once a week, on average. Mostly when there are crows. I also like "The face of a child can say it all, especially the mouth part of the face."
What exciting upcoming projects can we look forward to? Because we do look forward to them.
Right now I’m in the very early stages of two graphic-novel-length stories. One is a “Fruit Pals” story in which Apple starts volunteering with The Gorilla Foundation after quitting his job. I’m also writing a story that Damien will illustrate called “Leisure Cove,” about a terrier that moves home to work at her parents’ furniture store in Florida while she pursues her dream of creating a successful interior design blog. Also, in non-meat-eating news, I’m going to design a poster & various press materials for my friend’s “Vegetarian Thursdays” campaign (so everyone would eat vegetarian on Thursdays, schools and restaurants would only serve vegetarian food on Thursdays, etc.).
Any questions for Vegansaurus? Anything!
Why don’t you have a podcast? I would listen.
Actually, we do! Kind of! There’s only one post in it so far, and it’s a video. But still. Beggars can’t be choosers!
You can find more of Minty Lewis’ comics at her site, pscomics.com.