Arts Desk

Meet a Local Cartoonist: A Chat with Trickster‘s Andrew Cohen

brewhouseAndrew Cohen is a small-press comic-book creator, and drew "The Yehasuri: The Little Wild Indians" for the Trickster anthology.  In this interview, he reveals he's working on a story about the Christian Heurich Mansion on Dupont Circle, which I'm looking forward to seeing. The Mansion, the former home of the D.C. Historical Society, is worth taking a tour of. This might be the last of the Trickster book interviews, but many of the cartoonists from the book may be appearing in the Comic Book Boom! exhibit at the D.C. Public Libraries next month.

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

Andrew Cohen: I do mainly self-published, hand-worked stuff.  One series that I did, "Howzit Funnies," was based on old blues songs and poems, so its stories had more meter to them. A current project, "Dr. W," is about a character who breaks in and out of the panels and frames. I used a lot of those elements in my "Trickster" story, to convey some of the "trickiness" of the characters, who aren't really bounded by our sense of reality. So I guess there's some formal interest in my stuff, although I'm always interested in a good gag.

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

AC: I was born in NYC in 1981, but moved shortly thereafter to northern New Jersey where I grew up.

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

AC: I moved to DC five years ago for law school.

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

AC: I consider myself generally self-taught, but I did have some pretty formative education in college.

WCP: Who are your influences?

AC: It's probably hard for me to be too objective about decisive influences.  Crumb was a pretty heavy influence when I was getting into drawing comics, but I know that many other budding cartoonists would have to say the same thing.  I think a lot of my influences actually come from outside of comics, at least in terms of the guiding thoughts I have when I'm working on something.

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

AC: I don't know if I'd want to change nothing or everything.  Maybe decisiveness would be a good thing.

WCP: What work are you best-known for?

AC: I did a small comic in law school that got me into some trouble.  It was this cheap, dirty joke, basically, about a duck-headed professor who spoofs the rules of civil procedure as he tries to seduce a student.  I left copies in the common areas of the school, and a few days later got an e-mail from a dean.  Actually, it was his secretary, informing me that I should make an appointment to have a meeting with the dean.  Ultimately, I wasn't allowed to do any more comics, which resulted in a number of angry posters and flyers telling students how to buck the man and get their comics anyway.  For such a low-rent effort it's made for a pretty good story to tell.

WCP: What work are you most proud of?

AC: I'm very proud of my Trickster story, actually, about the wild Yehasuri of the Catawba tribe.  I tried to make a good comic, but I also worked hard to include little researched details to make the visuals specific to the Catawba tribe.  One of the best compliments I received was from Beckee Garris, the storyteller herself, who picked up on those little bits. That was very gratifying.

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

AC: Right now I'm just working on finishing up the next project, which is a story about the Brewmaster's Castle in Dupont Circle. Matt Dembickiwrote it, and I'm doing this detailed cross-hatch work for the art. It should be a unique little book, and it's great fun to do, although it involves the sort of fine drawing sometimes reserved for the obsessed.

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

AC: I get freaky.

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

AC: I'm probably not the best person to speculate on this, as I'll probably be the last to know.

WCP: What's your favorite thing about DC?

AC: I'm a big fan of the D.C. Conspiracy, which is a group of area cartoonists and comic book people.  It's excellent for getting those creative and productive juices going.  More generally, I like how there's a wealth of museums and things to do in the city, without the aggravation of an insane number of people.

WCP: Least favorite?

AC: For starters, I'd like to be able to get a decent slice of pizza near my apartment.

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

AC:I've lately become a fan of the D.C. World War I memorial and the Botanic Gardens.  They're generally not things that people think about doing, but they're both worth it.

WCP: Do you have a website or blog?

AC: www.howzitfunnies.blogspot.com

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