Arts Desk

When Comics Return: A Chat With Derf

Regular readers of the City Paper know that comic strips and cartoon illustrations disappeared from the paper a couple of years ago.  But now, after months of secret cogitation and negotiation, they're back. “We’re thrilled to have comics back,” says creative director Jandos Rothstein in a press release. “I know a lot of our readers missed them—and we did too, especially Ad Director David Walker who really rallied for the page when we were planning our redesign. It felt especially good to get Derf’s The City back in the paper—it ran for nearly 20 years before the cuts, and we’d used Derf as an illustrator—it really felt like his work was part of who we were visually and editorially.” Derf's mixture of satire and reporting has been sorely missed. He answered a few of my questions to introduce his work to readers who may have never seen it.

Washington City Paper: Can you describe your strip to attract a new reader who have never seen it?

Derf: Cranky scribblings from an anti-authoritarian, post-punk dweeb.

WCP: How long have you been doing it?

Derf: Twenty years. And the City Paper was one of the very first to run the strip. Maybe the third or fourth.

WCP: What other type of cartooning or illustration do you do?

Derf: I'm a graphic novelist. My last book, Punk Rock & Trailer Parks, was included in the prestigious Best American Comics 2010 and my next one, My Friend Dahmer, a memoir of my teenage friendship with the future serial killer (really!) will be released by Abrams Books in Spring 2012.

I've also been doing a weekly webcomic, Trashed, based on my experiences as a garbageman in a small midwestern town. That was my job before I took up cartooning and one to which I am no doubt destined to return.  Wizard World magazine, house organ of the comix promotion behemoth, just named me one of the five "Next Top Webcartoonists." So I guess I'm a webcartoonist now. Who knew? How the hell did that happen?

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

Derf: Well, obviously mostly online, like everything else. Hopefully comics will follow the porn online model, not the newspaper one, and untold riches will come to us comix creators, a million micro-payments at a time.

WCP: Can you comment on how you feel about being back in the City Paper?

Derf: It was a nice surprise to get the call! CP was always one of my favorite rags. Weeklies would do well to embrace comics as they once did back when papers were fat with pervy personal ads and the comics were used to break up the sea of grey agate type. That's a great looking comics page, too. One of the best I've seen. Most are a mess.

WCP: Will you be attending SPX again this year?

Derf: Not this year, Definitely in 2012 when my new graphic novel is out. I'll be living at f-ing comicons next year. Better brush up on my Klingon.

bISuv 'e' yIwIv; bISutlh Starbucks 'e' yIwIvQo?' (Where's the nearest Starbucks, bitch?)

WCP: Do you have any favorite things about D.C.?

Derf: I love the mountain vistas and drinking and singing with the friendly villagers.

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  • M.M.

    Hooray for the return of comics to the DC CP. I used to love reading Derf, Ted Rall, Lulu Eightball and Ben Classen. When those disappeared is about when I stopped bothering to read the CityPaper. If the comics are back, maybe I'll come back too.
    Seriously, I'm not sure what the editors were thinking ditching the comics in the first place.