Arts Desk

Meet a Local Comics Writer: A Chat with Jim Dougan of ACT-I-VATE

samandlilah

Jim Dougan is a local comics writer known for his minicomics, and who now writes a strip for the ACT-I-VATE Web comics collective. Dougan's bio on the site says, "His best-known work in comics is the comedy graphic novella Crazy Papers, drawn by Danielle Corsetto. Jim is a founding member of the comics collective The Chemistry Set, and the editor of the first ChemSet anthology collection No Formula from Desperado Publishing. In whatever time he has left over from creating comics, he works as an economics consultant, hangs out with his awesome wife Rachel, and cheers for DC United."

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

Jim Dougan: I’m a comics writer, and have been lucky enough to work with many amazing collaborators.  Mostly these days I work on Sam & Lilah with the fantastic Hyeondo Park as part of the ACT-I-VATE Web comics collective.  I also was the editor of the anthology No Formula, a collection of short stories from the now-defunct Web comics collective The Chemistry Set.

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

JD: I was born in the early 1970s in upstate New York, the Hudson Valley to be exact.  (I’m using the New York City definition of “upstate,” which is anywhere north of the Bronx.)

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

JD: I came here for college nearly 20 years ago, and pretty much just stayed in the area (but for a two-year detour for grad school in Chicago).  I’ve lived in various parts of D.C., Maryland, and Virginia, but now I live just off U Street, and I like that the most out of anywhere I’ve lived.

WCP: Who are your influences?

JD: In my opinion it’s really important for comics creators to be influenced by things outside of comics, as you can spot someone who learned to write and draw comics from reading comics a mile off.  So I like to absorb as much as I can from literature, theater, and movies.  Having said that, I wouldn’t have chosen to create comics without reading Frank Miller growing up.  Adrian Tomine showed me that comics could be naturalistic, Brian Bendis showed me how important dialogue could be, and Bryan Lee O’Malley has mastered the art of stories with totally out-there elements yet are grounded deeply in universal human experience.

WCP: What work are you best known for?

JD: Probably CrazyPapers, the 2006 self-published comedy graphic novella that I did with Danielle Corsetto. Recently, however, I’m becoming better known for Sam & Lilah, and the audience for that comic is only going to continue to grow, if only to look at Hyeondo’s beautiful and continually innovative art.

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

JD: I would just like the opportunity to continue creating my own stories with talented collaborators like the ones I’ve worked with so far.  That said, I’ve got some killer ideas for Jonah Hex stories that I’d like to have the chance to use someday.

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

JD: In my quiet moments, the view down 16th Street from the top of Meridian Hill. Pierre L’Enfant really knew what he was doing. In my louder moments, screaming my head off for the Georgetown Hoyas, D.C. United, and Washington Freedom.

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

JD: I generally make a point of trying to familiarize guests with the D.C. that isn’t represented by museums and monuments, taking them to the restaurants, bars, and clubs where the locals hang out. They can get any tour guide to show them around the touristy part of D.C.  Having said that, my first recommendation is usually the National Portrait Gallery and American Art Museum, for a number of reasons: 1) The collections are awesome; 2) the building itself is a work of art (including a nice atrium); and 3) the food court is actually really good, at least as far as museum food goes.

WCP: Do you have a Web site or blog?

JD: You can check out www.activatecomix.com for continuing updates for Sam & Lilah as well as some other things.  My too-infrequently updated blog is at chatterbox-dc.livejournal.com.

WCP: Thank you, Jim. Jim and other members of ACT-I-VATE will be appearing on Saturday.

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