Tom is my old Chinese speaking partner and friend and also makes cool/random-ass comic/zines.
ARTIST PROFILE: TOM JOHNSON
What inspired you to start making zines?
I wish I could remember. For some reason, one day in high school, I started drawing stories, stapling them together, and giving them to a few friends. From there it picked up into what I like to call my “fake” publishing company Crab and Egret which comes out with new stuff a couple of times a month.
I think all zinesters are fetishists on some level. There’s a deep feeling of satisfaction that comes from making a relic of paper and staples out of your own personal thoughts. Whenever I finish a comic it’s like I’ve just made a meaningful statement, even if it’s just a dumb joke. Seeing my comics sitting on people’s coffee tables or imagining that they’ll be found 50 years from now in a box in the attic makes everything worth it.What is your creative process like?
Usually ideas come to me when I’m going about my daily business. Something will strike me as funny or important and I’ll write it down. I think the goal of most of my comics is to give readers that same feeling of impact I experienced when I had that thought. From there I write a short story around it and draw some characters.
It’s also important to say that almost all of my comics are drawn in one sitting. This is partially because I’m not a skilled enough artist to do anything too complex and I really enjoy it being a medium I can sit down and knock something out very quickly. Allowing myself only one sheet of paper to get something across is as limiting as it is liberating.
Which part of Twin Cities Zinefest are you most excited about?
Interacting with other zinesters. It’d be great to put faces to names and I’m very curious to hear how they handle the technical side of printing and distribution. I create everything with a photocopier and distribute everything via direct mail or leaving them around town, but I’d like to see how everyone else does it. Zinesters, by definition, I think, have to be hustlers. I want to learn from people playing that same game.
Who are some of your favorite fellow zine writers?
I honestly don’t know many other zine writers. Whoever was responsible for the publication “Real Hep” that existed circa 1983 in Minneapolis deserves some kind of medal, though.
Do you have any plans for your zine-related future? If so, what are they?More recently I’ve been working on a “Men’s Lifestyle” publication called Stubble (stubblemag.com) which I hope to publish the first print issue of sometime this fall. It’s a kind of pseudo-journalism inside joke machine at the moment but it’d be great to make its content a bit more poignant and open to everyone.
I’d also like to continue developing Crab and Egret as a business. It’s mostly just a motivation for me to actually sit down and create things and get my friends to do the same, but I’d like to put some serious thought into it in the near future. I’ve always wanted to publish a legitimate book and generate some kind of income to use to support some legitimately good artists in town.
Anything else we should know about you?
I’ll have free things at my table. That’s the plan anyway. Also, I’ll probably be interviewing people for Stubble too, so come on over if you feel like talking.