LAURENN McCUBBIN: This is my second interview, my first one was with CNN and they gave me about two hours notice and my house was a sty. I had to kick everything under the bed and dust off my dog and hide all the porn. They were very worried because I was xxxlivenudegirls.com and they werenít able to get to my website. They were doing a thing about web comics and they werenít able to get to my website. They asked, ďWell, is it porn related?Ē and I said no, itís about girls, I just lucked into the URL.
SPLASH: Whatís on your site?
McCUBBIN: We put the color comics on there because weíre never gonna be able to print them again [laughs]. Well not never, but not until we get the money to print them in color again, so we wanted to put them up in glorious color online. Iím gonna start trying to do a more weekly original thing, even if itís just a short story, just a couple of pages. Which is really weird to say online, pages, I donít know how thatís gonna translate. I have to go back into my web design mindset and I donít have that mindset anymore.
SPLASH: Were you part of the dot com boom?
McCUBBIN: No, actually. I am the only person in the dot com boom who didnít make any money because I quit too early because it got too depressing. It wasnít what I wanted to do and people were only paying me to push out other peopleís really crappy content. I was like, okay, I want to do what I want to do and no oneís gonna hire me unless I have a degree in art, so Iím gonna go to school. And then by the time I got out of art school I was never going back to advertising again.
I used to work at a strip club, hence xxxlivenudegirls. I worked in a peep show and when we got bored we used to try to get guys who were in the booth to lick the glass and I really feel like advertising is a lot like trying to get people to lick the glass. They donít really want to, but you convince them that itís the best thing in the world to lick that glass.
SPLASH: What led you into doing comics?
McCUBBIN: I was working in Chicago making handmade books. I was writing a lot. My friend Nikki who does the book with me was taking photos for the book and we were putting the photos with my stories and then I did a drawing based off of one of her photos and put the words with that drawing. She said why donít we try doing this as a comic book and I said, ďAll right, thatíll work too!Ē So then we started doing it. We were really happy and feel like weíve found something that really can engage our interest. Weíre getting to do all the things that we like to do without having to do the crappy things that we hate to do. We get to play with typography and we get to work on our computers without having to be tied to the computer, without everything originating on the computer. Weíre back to using the computer as a tool instead of having the computer be the end all be all, which when I was in advertising that was it. I hated that.
SPLASH: What kind of process do you use to create the book?
McCUBBIN: I write the story and then Nikki and I talk about what we want to do visually and we get people to pose for us which is really hard because sometimes we ask them to pose naked and they run away. For some reason, I canít imagine why [laughs]. Then she takes a million photos and we go through the photos and decide which ones go where, then we split it up and sheíll do a story and I do a story, then weíll draw pictures from the photos and then scan the pictures. We do really intricate line drawing stuff. If youíve seen the book youíd see that everything was really blocked off in areas and thatís because that was the way I used to draw stuff when I was screenprinting. I showed Nikki thatís how I drew stuff and she started picking up on it and our styles are really similar which is very cool. Then we take the final drawing and draw it on tracing paper and then scan that and color it in the computer, which I guess no one else does because everyone says, ďWow you do this in the computer!Ē Somebody asked me if I we took the photos and traced them in photoshop and I was like, ďThey would look so different if you did it like that. No! Go away.Ē
SPLASH: Thatís one of the interesting things about the book is that you retain the look and emotional impact of screenprinting but itís clearly not there.
McCUBBIN: Thatís originally how I wanted to do the whole book and Nikki at first was ďYeah! Okay!Ē and then, ďYouíre fuckiní crazy. What the hell are you thinking of? We canít screenprint a 32 page book.Ē
SPLASH: Are you going to be doing any prints or anything like that?
McCUBBIN: Yeah, what we decided to do is a series from each story. Weíre gonna do a series of three photos that sheís gonna do as cibachromes which are big, nice, blown up, juicy color photos, and Iím gonna do a series of three screenprints from one image in the story and weíre gonna sell those or give them away or use them as Christmas cards, I donít know [laughs].
SPLASH: Describe to me what xxxlivenudegirls is.
McCUBBIN: Xxxlivenudegirls is a series of stories about a series of girls and we always try to think of them as the everygirl because we really want girls who read this to go, ďOh, that could totally be me,Ē or ďI knew that girl in college,Ē or ďI heard about girls like that.Ē The same thing with guys, ďOh god I dated her,Ē or ďShe was my sister.Ē We want people to identify with them so we donít have one single character because weíre trying to tell more stories than just one personís stories.
SPLASH: How does comics allow you to do these character studies that other artforms wouldnít permit?
McCUBBIN: One of the things Iíve noticed about doing the stories is that Iíll have my words all written out and Iíll have my images and my image is saying something and my words are saying something and separately they say something totally different but together they really inform each other. I couldnít do that just with the writing and I couldnít do that just with the image. You look at an image of a girl in a fight with a boy and you think one thing, but when you read the words about what sheís thinking during this fight it informs that image.
SPLASH: Comics is traditionally known as a boys club, so whatís it like coming into the field with this character study of women?
McCUBBIN: Itís so funny because everybody seems to have this huge history of comics when they come into comics. ďIíve been reading comics since I was a child and I studied Krazy Kat and find the backgrounds in Little Nemo to be so very interesting.Ē They really know this history and I think thatís really cool, but I had none of that. I came at it because it was a cool way to put Nikkiís pictures with my words in a whole new way that we could both work on it. So, thatís one way. I havenít really run into the ďgirls canít play hereĒ kind of stuff and I think itís because Iíve never allowed stuff like that to get in my way before. Itís something Iím very scornful of. If anyone tries to tell me I canít do something because Iím a girl I will then go try a million times harder to do it. But I havenít had anybody say you shouldnít be doing this because youíre a girl, you should be drawing Barbie comics. But at the same time I have had female comics institutions who shall remain nameless be very discouraging towards me because I donít fit into their idea of what a female comics artist should be because I like to dress up and be shiny and loud. I would definitely call myself a feminist, but Iím not an old school feminist. I donít think that being a feminist means you canít wear makeup and burn your bra. I like my bras! I buy them special.
SPLASH: Your stories are very urban. They rely on urban settings and the kind of characters that you meet in urban settings. How does the city and your experience of cities impact your art?
McCUBBIN: I love to draw signs. Iíve always been really drawn to decaying buildings and decaying neon signs. Itís what I see everyday so itís what Iím gonna draw. Iím sure if I lived in a more rural setting there would be a lot more trees in my work. I have no trees, so I draw bricks [laughs]. That is not as pretentious as it sounds [laughs].
SPLASH: What kind of stories are you aiming to tell?
McCUBBIN: I want to tell stories about girls. A lot of the stories that Iíve been writing have been somewhat based in my own life and my own experiences, and Iím starting to draw other girlsí stories and Iím so fascinated with doing that because I start to draw on other peopleís experiences and retell them in a way that makes them accessible to everybody. Nikki and I just worked on a story that weíre calling ďRunaway Kansas BrideĒ which is about a 17 year old who gets pregnant in Kansas and discovers that itís totally fucked up her life and is trying to figure out what sheís gonna do about it. That wasnít me. I never lived in Kansas. I was never pregnant at 17, but I can totally get into this girlís skin and write about her and think about her and Iím just so happy to be able to do that. I think thatís so cool. Iím looking forward to doing more stuff like that. Iím really hoping to do more stuff about women of color and I really hate telling it like that, but itís so removed from my personal experience Iím fascinated by it and want to do it. My sister comes home from work and tells me all these stories about this Latino lesbian girl that she has a crush on and Iím like, ďI want to know more about this Latino lesbian girl! Quick, Iím writing it all down!Ē My sister actually told me sheís gonna stop telling me stuff because a couple of things sheís told me has ended up in my stories. Iím like, ďMan, she was one of my best sources! [laughs]Ē
SPLASH: Whoís your audience, whoís the audience you want to reach, and how are you going to reach them?
McCUBBIN: My audience so far is everybody at the San Diego and all my friends. I want more girls to read my comic and I want more girls to read comics in general. Coming into comics and knowing nothing about comics I am discovering everybody. I want to reach more people like me who havenít been reading comics and maybe itís because theyíre not seeing their stories and maybe if I start telling their stories theyíll start reading comics. Although I have to say, I always read Love and Rockets growing up. They were telling my stories, although I never worked on a space solar converter thing like Maggie did, but I knew all those girls. I used to throw bottles at cop cars too.
SPLASH: Youíre one of the instigators of the west coast events.
McCUBBIN: Yeah, I read that they were doing it in New York and I was so jealous because I want to go and hang out with people and not think about the world blowing up. I love the fact that I can come and talk about comics and draw things instead of sitting at home and watching CNN and feeling scared. I love every single person here I want to kiss them. But Iím gonna drink a couple more beers first [laughs].
Defend Your Comics
Support the CBLDF www.cbldf.org