Interviewed in April of 2014
Hometown: Winchester, MA
Current town: Gloucester, MA
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1.) Haig, tell our readers a little about where you’re from or where you grew up… and how does that influence the type of art you’ve found yourself making?
I’m originally from Winchester, Massachusetts. I’d love to say that great-artist thing of being enthralled by “the landscape” or “the specificity of light”, but… really, raised in a suburb of Boston in the 1970s? It was Creature Double Feature and re-runs of the Adam West Batman that set me on my path. Though at times I may have resisted those influences, I go back to those same things again and again and again.
2.) Are there any specific locations here in New England that have had a profound meaning to you and your art? A place of major inspiration or childhood memory?
You know, although much as my youth was spent worshipping at the cold blue light of the television screen, I must admit that it’s the blue of the ocean, too, that’s always had a deep resonance for me. Kandinsky called blue “the color of the infinite” because it’s the color of the two most limitless things known to mankind: the sea and the sky.
My Grandmother had a house on Cape Cod that we visited every summer as a kid and that made an indelible mark on me. One of those early, formative summers was the summer they were making a movie about a giant shark down there. And the next summer Jaws was released and nothing was ever the same again.
Twenty years ago the love of my life drew me back toward the sea, to her hometown of Gloucester. I’m really fortunate to have lived, had a studio and raised my family there for the past two decades.
3.) Unlike most contemporary artists, you seem to have tackled almost every visual medium imaginable. Depending on what hat you’re wearing at any given time you could be called film-maker, illustrator, painter, printmaker, comic book creator and even professor. You have found measures of success in so many different avenues as an artist, what has been your constant? Is there anything you always find yourself returning to, even if it’s just thematic?
Storytelling. At the core of everything, there is a story. And that’s what people connect to in art. Even when you try to dance around it… I’ve gone through major periods in my work where I deliberately avoided representation, where I embraced abstraction or conceptualization over traditional pictorial strategies… but it always comes back to the story behind it. That’s what truly builds significance and I am reminded of this again and again.
Your question gets at something else that is essential to what I do: restlessness. I can’t settle on one thing. There are so many amazing possibilities and I want to do them all. There’s no way to know if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but it is what it is and I can’t change the way I am. I’m very grateful that my career has allowed me to often tackle new and exciting problems and then return to more familiar media with a renewed interest and an expanded outlook.
When I was tired of making things to frame and hang on walls, I made mixed media gonzo collage work; over 600 pieces in about three years. I cranked ‘em out, then immediately sent ‘em through the mail to people and never saw ‘em again. Around this time, late 1990s, a particularly awesome collaboration with Caleb Emerson (cult hero of Citizen Toxie, Poultrygeist, Tosh.0, Frankie In Blunderland) grew out of control and required that I focus my energies on film-making and the enormous learning curve which that demanded for a few years. Die You Zombie Bastards! was the result. I returned to flip-flopping between drawing and printmaking and painting, allowing each exploration to inform the other… I keep going back to the medium of engraving time and again for about 25 years. I’m not skilled enough to consider myself “an Engraver” by any stretch, but nonetheless my work has been included in international portfolios and exhibitions. It’s an ancient, idiosyncratic medium that I have become incrementally better at and that I ADORE, but it would be impossible for me to do it ALL the time.
I never know what’s going to happen next in my work and I like that. I got into this whole business because seeing new things is exciting and making those things is a rush. I never want it to get boring, and so, yeah… I’m all over the place.
4.) It’s pretty safe to assume that all ‘things that go bump in the night’ are what creatively make you tick. From Troma films, Bela Lugosi, sea monsters, zombie babes to even the good ol’ fashioned Dark Knight; if you had to pick an all time favorite…..who or what is at the very top of the list and why?
I guess ultimately it has to be Dracula. He IS the original Batman, of course. I mean, as Bruce Wayne said “I shall become a bat.” Case closed. But also, like Batman, Dracula is imminently re-inventable. There are SO many versions of Dracula and there are so many different Batmen. Contrary to fan-beliefs, neither one of them can be ruined, they can’t be killed. If you don’t like a version of Batman or Dracula, just “don’t look, Marion”. There are plenty of other versions that you WILL enjoy.
Not to mention that they both Dracula and Wayne are landed aristocracy who operate unbeknownst to the population at large and are bent on getting everyone to behave according to their own system of beliefs. Control freaks. Who dress really cool. Black capes are cool. The only thing cooler-looking than a bat or a guy in a black cape might be a Great White Shark. Or a giant squid. Or Julie Newmar.
5.) It would be remiss to not ask about your unique honor of being the co-writer/co-producer/production designer of “The World’s First Ever Serial Killer Superhero Rock-n-Roll Zombie Road Movie Romance” aptly entitled ‘Die You Zombie Bastards!’.
That was a wild ride. Like I said, one of my motivators in making that movie was that I was bored with making flat things to hang on walls. The collaboration inherent to film-making enabled me to be a major force in bringing so many insane, barely imaginable visions to life. There is something about film… about it being a part of the culture at large, about it having a life of its own, that is amazingly invigorating. When you’re making art in the studio, it’s YOU making the PAINTING, all alone. That’s it. When you’re making a movie, you’re never just stuck there, it’s always in motion — it’s WE’RE making a MOVIE! There can be a great momentum, there are so many people involved-- it takes on a life of it’s own and is much bigger than any single thing you could make on your own. It ended up affecting so many people and having a place in the larger culture, which is really gratifying. For all the pain and suffering that film has caused us and continues to cause us, I never, ever wish that I didn’t do it.
In recent years, the Super Inga book has functioned really effectively for me. Creatively it falls somewhere between the massive management puzzle of film-making and the lonely studio artist toiling away at a singular vision… in making a comic book there are elements of collaboration which I welcome, but I’m also allowed a kind of solitude in developing what I have come to think of as the “Ingaverse”.
6.) Ah, yes… Super Inga. From the silver screen of “Die You Zombie Bastards” that golden braided heroine emerged and is now the star of her own indie comic book that you write AND illustrate. Tell us how this valkyrie of the undead came to life in print form by teaming up with Chroma alum and dear friend Adam Miller.
SUPER INGA! And Adam Miller… two of my greatest allies. I first met Adam long ago when he was a student of mine and he ended up playing a zombie in Die You Zombie Bastards! -- I take credit for getting Adam infected with this zombie thing. He went on to become Creative Director of a cool indie comic company and his brainchild was this really top-notch, dynamite comic anthology called ZombieBomb!. It ended up running for six big 64-page issues and showcasing over 200 artists and writers. Anyway, he asked me to write a 3 to 5 page story for it and that's when I started to develop Super Inga. I sent them half a dozen rough page ideas and they told me they didn’t want it as a story for ZombieBomb!. I was surprised… I mean, I’m not a “Comic Book Artist”, but… they wanted to do it as it’s own stand-alone book! A dream-come-true: the opportunity to write and draw basically whatever I wanted, from the ground up, and know that it would be professionally lettered and colored and treated to a lavishly printed format? Hell, yeah! So with Adam's encouragement and support, I plunged headlong into Super Inga's past, present and future. The book, ZombieBomb! presents The NEW Adventures of SUPER INGA, debuted at Boston Comic Con 2012 and, well, what was designed as a one-shot stand-alone book then demanded a sequel. Volume 2 was released in spring 2013 and with two printed books behind her, Super Inga’s tale STILL needed to continue. That’s where the webcomic picks up. The first two books can be purchased and Episode III can be read in full at www.SuperIngaSaga.com and every Friday there’s a new post. That’s the place to go for all things Super Inga… including heavy metal legends Mexican Ape-Lord’s totally boss Super Inga themesong.
So, you never know… what should have been a one-time opportunity, three pages in an anthology, has become my main creative focus for the last few years.
7.) Now, it’s been awhile since Die You Zombie Bastards!, long enough for it to attain cult status-- we all wonder: have you felt the itch to get back behind the camera in any capacity?
Absolutely. There’s always talk of a DYZB! sequel… people ask for it all the time. There’s a script. It’s just a question of time and money. If anyone wants to fund it, we’ll find a way to make it. And it will be the craziest thing ever.
Now with Super Inga taking on a life of her own, there’s that too. All kinds of possibilities. I’ve actually been approached about “Super Inga The Musical,” so that’s intriguing…
8.) Any medium or product that is your secret weapon when you’re painting or drawing? Even down to the brand name. Anything unexpected you use or tend to rely on that the common viewer would never guess? Give us the goods.
I love to draw with white-out pen. It’s so opaque and great to draw with on any surface… great to smear around, dries fast. Other brands just don’t compare to the Pentel Presto! blue barrel pen.
For the last two years I’ve sworn by Zebra disposable brush pens for inking comics. They’re the best and not squishy like your typical brush pens. They feel less brushy and more like a crowquill nib, yielding a terrific variety of line. They’re Japanese I guess and I can only seem to find them on Jetpens.com. People must think I work for JetPens because I always talk about it.
9.) Any music while you’re working? - Our guess is that it’s loud and fast. Anything you’re listening to now that is pushing you or inspiring you?
Good guess. For better or for worse, Motörhead has been pummeling me daily for over 25 years; seriously, like brushing my teeth or eating — it has to happen every day. There was a time when I worked on a 7-by-18 foot painting for over two years and Electric Wizard’s Come My Fanatics was always in the studio cd player. These are all habits that I don’t recommend.
When I’m cranking away, inking, painting or printing, it’s pretty typical noisiness: Motörhead, Sabbath, The Bags, Melvins.
Lately I’ve been cycling through an eclectic range of instrumental stuff, from 50s & 60s Las Vegas lounge to trip-hop/trance whatever, and 70s funk/soul to middle eastern. You name it, anything with a groove. For the past week or two I’ve been on an MF Doom kick, but that’s about over.
10.) Who was/is the most important or influential person in your life guiding your direction as an artist?
That would have to be David Bumbeck, who is definitely THE most tireless, relentless, perceptive and genuinely passionate artist that I have ever met. He works constantly and the work he produces is exceptionally exquisite, regardless of the medium. He was a world-class printmaker for about twenty years before turning his attention almost completely to bronze sculpture then to collage and painting. He has been my mentor since I met him and the example that he set is the reason that I have been doing what I do with my life.
11.) Give us an artist out there right now that you think our readers should know more about & why? Anyone just killing it we should shine a bright spotlight on in volume 3 of Chroma?
Geoff Mosher/Doc Muerte (Jersey City, NJ) constantly makes True Nonsense and is Awesome. He’s really excellent at cranking out a daily drawing. You can see them at his official Tumblr Outpost: http://mondomosher.com/store/
Tallboy (native of Lynn, Massachusetts, now in Texas) is one of the top gonzo gross-out guys there is. Constantly making new stuff; T-shirts, posters, barfbags, all kinds of stuff. www.TallboyArt.com
Crispin Wood (Arlington, Mass.) has had a long and varied career creating consistently high-quality creative work. He first rose to fame in the 1980s as guitarist for the acclaimed Boston band The Bags. Soon after, he created Rock School, a comic strip published every month in The Noise for over 22 years. He has worked as a multimedia artist since 1993, and been involved in the development of numerous interactive products in every possible capacity (art director, scene designer, character designer, animator, story developer, user interface designer, music composer, etc).
His latest project is Small Blue Yonder, a daily online comic strip that will hit the two-year anniversary early next year. A comic a day for two years… that’s over 700 comic strips! www.SmallBlueYonder.com
12.) Lastly, everyone here at Tryptic Press Headquarters would like a question of the ages answered forever if you don’t mind. Who wins in a fight to the death(or some version of death…); Frankenstein, The Wolfman or Dracula? Only one can remain. (We’re willing to accept The Creature From the Black Lagoon as an equal adversary as well…)
Rest easy good citizens, because NONE OF THEM CAN EVER DIE. Whew. Glad that’s been settled.
13.) Extra credit double bonus question: You were cranking out a new pen & ink drawing a day for most of 2013. Any plans for collecting all those thoughts and day-to-day artistic ruminations?
That started in response to Jake Parker’s INKtober challenge, which is do an ink drawing a day for all of October and post it online. I just got carried away for a few more months… I started NIBvember, then dINKcember and it just took off from there. I draw everyday anyway, but it was really fun to get something out there in front of people not once a week or once a month, but every single day.
In terms of a collection… they’re collected and viewable on my Tumblr site, Planet Haig. I think of that site as my cosmic art dumpster: last year I started posting just a ton of stuff on there that you can’t see anywhere else. Sketchbook pages, never-exhibited work, in progress stuff, studio shots and more. Follow my tumblr or Instagram (also Planet Haig) if you wanna see inside my brain… no cats or pictures of my lunch though, sorry.
But do you mean, like, in a book? I’ve often thought about that. I could do a book, sure. I’ve got ruminations galore about creativity, productivity, the nature of the universe, art as rock’n’roll and vice-versa, how not to make a motion picture, screenprinting in a toilet, you name it.**