Small Press Expo (or SPX) is a nonprofit created in 1994 to promote artists and publishers who produce independent comics. It’s mission is to “To provide a forum to showcase new and emerging talent in the fields of comics, graphic novels and political cartooning”. In the spirit of this mission, the Comics Beat has conducted a series of interview with some of the phenomenal cartoonists in attendance at this year’s Small Press Expo. We hope that these interviews will improve our understanding of these creators voices, techniques, interests and influences.
In this SPX 2017 interview, we talked with Will Dinski. Will is a cartoonist, graphic designer, illustrator and book designer based in Minneapolis. His previous graphic novel Trying not to Notice was published in 2016 by 2dCloud. I’ve spoken with him to see what he had in store for SPX and was impressed to hear he’s been working on a very impressive project called Holy Hannah, a 550 page graphic novel in three volume, hand-made and in a slipcase. We spoke about Holy Hannah, Trying not to Notice and book design.
Philippe Leblanc: For those readers who may not be familiar with you and your work, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Will Dinski: I’m a cartoonist, designer, illustrator and book artist living in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I started my career making handmade mini-comics (2009 Isotope Award Winner), later I was a Jerome Book Arts Fellow (2012), and have been published by Top Shelf Comics (Finger Prints) and most recently 2dCloud (Trying Not To Notice). I have a lot of back pain because I sit too much.
PL: You’ve released a graphic novel with 2dCloud called Trying Not to Notice, about the rise of a stand-up comedian and mostly the people around him during that time. What made you want to explore these characters and the world of stand-up comedy?
WD: I used to work an agency that was across the hall from a large accounting firm.
One afternoon I was reading an article in a magazine with one of those themes like, “BORING PEOPLE WITH CRAZY TALENTS!” I recognized one of the accountants from across the hall in the article. Apparently, he spent his nights as a stand-up comedian. It inspired me to draw a comic making fun of him.
PL: You’re using a brown ink for your lines in that graphic novel rather than a typical black. Why did you choose this colour?
WD:.I’ve worked in print as my day job for years. My personal preference is to add a little color whenever possible.
PL: In addition to your comics work, you also do a lot of book design work. You’ve designed many of 2dCloud’s book, including PowerPaola’s Virus Tropical and MariNaomi’s Dragon’s Breath. What would you makes a good book design, and how does your comics making experience influence your book design?
WD : When designing a book for another artist, I try to imagine how to best showcase the cartoonists work and not let my aesthetic get in the way. It’s been a lot of fun designing books lately for some pretty talented people.
I think that I enjoy designing my own books best and learn the most about my craft whenever I do. I’m a challenging but fair client.
PL: You have new comics you’re bringing to SPX? Can you tell us a little bit more about them?
WD: I just finished a graphic novel that I’d been working on for a number of years. Holy Hannah is about a woman who gradually becomes indoctrinated into a cult. It’s loosely based on Jim Jones and his church’s getaway to South America.
The book I’ll be selling is a handmade set of three acts nestled in a slipcase box selling for $330.
PL: I didn’t know you were working on such an ambitious project. 550 pages, in three volumes, hand-made in a slipcase. From a design point of view, what made you decide the story you wanted to tell would be best suited in this kind of format?
WD: I decided to hand-make the book because I just really enjoy making books! The sewing, trimming, measuring, gluing, covering the book board—It’s a fun challenge to figure out how to construct an object like that. Also, the book is framed as a religious text, and I thought it would be funny to preset it like an illuminated manuscript.
PL: Your story in Holy Hannah is about the dangers of blindly following religion. Why did this theme appeal to you?
WD: I’ve always wanted to draw a story about a cult. I read Tim Reiterman’s book Raven, and thought of Jim Jones and his cult as a quintessential American story.
PL: What do you want readers to take with them once they’ve finished reading your comics?
WD: It’s probably different, depending on the book.
Trying Not To Notice: I wanted to write about how our conception of life and what our world may actually be can sometimes be laughably different.
Holy Hannah: I’d really like for the reader to feel my terror of religious and ideological communities.
Will will be at SPX this weekend at table W88B with his latest mega project Holy Hannah and his other comics. He’s looking forward to meeting you!
Philippe Leblanc is a Canadian comics journalist. In his regular life, he improves Canadian medical education, and is the co-host of the Ottawa Comic Book Club. He reads alternative, indie and art comics at night and write about them for the Comics Beat.