The Complete Interview Transcripts from the Journal Comics Explored Feature Article

Here are the complete question-and-answer transcripts that were originally amassed for part 2 of the April 2003 Journal Comics Explored feature. As with any feature, all of the answers can never be used in the final copy, and some questions are always dropped for purposes of focus and clarity.

Comixpedia has chosen to include the entire set of interviews here – verbatim (typos and all) – so that those curious to know as much as they can about the thoughts lurking inside their favorite journal comic artists' heads can do so without having to resort to guerilla brain surgery.


KENN MINTER: i'd have to say that i was inspired by james kolchalka's stuff. but when i actually did the first couple of strips… i had been reading alot of charles bukowski and jack kearoac (sp?) at the time. that got me jonesed to do something new.

DREW WEING: Mostly as a way to get myself drawing every day!

JOEL STOKES: kochalka's strips inspired me to do my own.

JEREMY DENNIS: Um hum. I've never actually put it online, but the first TWS strip I did was a piece about the last ever UKCAC. I met Eddie Campbell there, and (pretty much as a homage) did a strip in the 9-panel style about myself, and being an artist, and getting drunk, and (of course) imaginary birds. From then on I did the odd one, but only really started it weekly during a stint of tedious phone-temping. I hated my life right then, but when I told people about it, it turned into something funny; tidying those stories about my boring job and my stupid life down into 9 tidy panels turned into a sort of a ritual, something to keep my drawing hand doing something practical rather than endless glammy doodles and something to help me get an angle on the grim stuff, reduce it down to entertaining whimsy.

KEAN SOO: It started out as a way to force myself to draw something on a daily basis. I had worked on a few self-contained webcomics prior to my journal comic, but I found that it was difficult to maintain the discipline to draw something new every day. I also felt that I wasn't comfortable or "good" enough to produce comics that were of an acceptable standard, so keeping a daily comic was an excellent way of teaching myself the ins and outs of storytelling and also improving my skills as an artist. And at the same time, I was going through a rough patch in my life, and I needed an outlet to just vent every once in awhile. I tried doing this in my self-contained comics, but it wound up that the quality of the work suffered. So the journal comic was also an excellent form of therapy that let me get all the crap out of my life and allow me to focus my energies on the more serious, self-contained stories that I hope to get around to telling one day.

JEFF LEVINE: Don't know.

KOCHALKA: Well, there's two reasons. 1) I've been looking for a hugely ambitious project that could be my "master work", and it seemed like a daily diary comic strip, carried on for long enough, could fulfil that goal. 2) I've felt for some time restricted by the graphic novel format. Real life doesn't fall neatly into the story format of beginning, middle, and end. The stories of real life never end, they just keep going. And there's thousands of subplots that keep twisting and writhing around each other. The daily diary strip seemed a way to get at the rhythms of real life in a way that the graphic novel never could.

TODD WEBB: i started writing one page comics about my day when working at the grocery store in 1998. this wasnt daily, it was just practice for me to draw and get better with a brush, plus my job seemed to provide stories. i liked the story that was evolving, so i redrew these and turned them into my mini-comics "the stockboy". i drew very few journal type comics back then, but thats what they were. then in 99 or 2000 james kochalka printed some of his diary strips, and i thought it was cool that he had done one EVERY day. so i figured, thats a good idea, and i need the practice, so i resumed my journal on a daily basis. i mainly started it to practice improving my art and storytelling skills.

LES McCLAINE: I wanted to do something to get me drawing every day, and I thought other people might enjoy reading it if I put it on the web.


LES McCLAINE: I guess I'm just an incurable egotist. There's something kind of thrilling about throwing oneself out on the internet for all to see, too.

TODD WEBB: because the material is available immediately, you don't have to "write". plus, i was keeping a regular journal at the time and was bored with it. stories are more fun with pictures 🙂

KOCHALKA: Well, I don't limit myself to just the journal comic, either. I also do kids comics, and graphic novels. But as I stated above, the journal comic fits certain expressive needs that the others don't. I'm just trying to understand what it means to be a human being, and the daily diary comic is the most direct means I have towards that end.

JEFF LEVINE: Instead would be the wrong word. I draw all kinds of comics. As a cartoonisist I go through all kinds of a phases. Wanting to tell different kinds of stories in different ways. It just so happens that right now one of the main ways I want to tell stories is in one page doses on my website. But I'm also working on other strips in other ways at the same time.

KEAN SOO: I chose the journal comic format simply because there's no pressure to make up an interesting story every day — it's just a matter of taking parts of your daily life and slapping it down on the page. As I said before, for me, the journal comic was more a means of artistic exploration & growth than anything else.

JEREMY DENNIS: Hmm. Well, I have put some genre stuff in there, from time to time. I don't feel too bad about that — I suppose TWS is just there to be the cartoon of me, and if me that week is doing something else, print that instead. That said, I need to get back on track because I have about six scripts on the table and haven't had time to draw them up — the scripts *do* just happen, after all — it's the drawing up that takes the time.

JOEL STOKES: its good practice, helps me observe everyday things, you always have material to work from

DREW WEING: I could've just drawn a daily strip, but I figured doing a journal would also be a good way of keeping track of my life – I have a pretty awful memory.

KENN MINTER: i've done other comics before. i've been doing comics since 1988-89. this comes easily to me. and people seem to really dig it.



DREW WEING: I have a certain size limit – All of the journal strips are drawn 2 1/4 inches tall, and have to be under 11 inches wide (or I run out of paper.)

JOEL STOKES: I use 5.5 by 8.5 sketchbooks, and use 4 panels drawn with UNO cards.

JEREMY DENNIS: I have a 9 panel grid photocopied onto a sheet of A4 paper and most of the weekly strips get drawn over that. Unless they need something else, of course. I also give everything a title, but that has more to do with the indexing system I use on the website.

KEAN SOO: I like setting rules for myself in all my work — and then pushing them as far as they can possibly go. In the case of the journal comic, I set my strips up in a 450×450 pixel format. I then usually go with a 4-panel grid for the strip, but I tend to get quickly bored of that layout, and usually start experimenting with other layouts in the strip. I've already played with 3-panel horizontal formats, splash/inset panel layouts, the odd thing taken from my sketchbook… I don't like following set formulas at all, especially the gag-setup/punchline routine.


KOCHALKA: No. Drawing comics is a way of searching out meaning. So, in the search of that meaning I'm willing to take some formal risks. I think you'll find a variety of approaches in my diary strips.

TODD WEBB: i try to stick to a square format. doesnt matter how many panels, as long as it fits in the overall box. no formula, just write about the first thing that pops out in my head about the day. i try to fit my friends in the strip when i can, because its boring to just read about myself (i go back and read these things too, ya know)

LES McCLAINE: Sort of. I usually do a strip-style one, just because that's the shape of the sketchbook I draw the strips in. Sometimes I play with it, though. The strip is sort of my experimental space sometimes.


LES McCLAINE: I keep in mind that my Mom reads the strip, so I don't go too far with anything, but I try not to let that impede me too much.

TODD WEBB: its pretty much as is. its a journal, so what happens, and what i feel, it all gets in there somehow. i'm pretty optimistic most of the time, so most of my comics tend to be "peppy", but sad things get in too, like when my girlfriend broke up with me and when my dog passed away.

KOCHALKA: It's pretty raw, I guess. One decision I made that led in that direction way to draw everything freehand. In my other comics I would use a ruler to measure and draw panel borders… in the diaries I use a freehand more organic approach. Sometimes I have no idea what the strip is even going to be about when I sit down to draw, but other times something happened during the day that is so clearly THE moment that there is no question and I'm merely transcribing the events.

JEFF LEVINE: Right now I'm less interested in talking about the actual events of my day to day life. More interested in the connections between thoughts. When I've drawn autobiographical, event based comics, I try not to self-edit. The more true, the more interesting the strip is to draw. I'm always trying to get towards the truth. That's the whole point and challenge of creating art.

KEAN SOO: Again, since I use the journal comic as a form of therapy, I find that it helps to be as brutally honest as possible, even if it portrays me as a less-than-likeable person. This usually leads to some (I feel) unreadable strips, but for some reason, some of my readers tend to connect most with those strips. I usually write whatever comes to my mind first, or if it's something that's been weighing on me for that particular day. Or just whatever fits within the constraints of a four-panel strip.

JEREMY DENNIS: Editing it down to the grid is part of the distillation process for me, a way of cutting into what makes the moment I'm writing about. I'm also not in the business of upsetting other people, and have delayed publication or even abandoned strips for that. I also (given that the strip are set half inside my head) try to edit for comprehensibility, though I think I often fail.

JOEL STOKES: self-edit, I try not to make fun of people or get anyone in trouble

DREW WEING: I try not to be boring, so I cut a lot of the tedious bits out. I also try not to write anything about other people that could be private or sensitive. I don't purposefully censor myself, but I don't have a lot of interest in depicting my masturbatory practices or the like. It's been done!

KENN MINTER: i try to stay a bit enigmatic. i'm not gonna do any masturbation strips.


KENN MINTER: no. and i don't call what i do a journal comic. i call it an autobiographical comic strip. this ain't my diary.

DREW WEING: Not really. On occasion I'll have a really boring day, so I'll just write about something that has been generally concerning me recently, or just do a sketch.

JOEL STOKES: no, but sometimes i don't remember how a person looked or exactly what was said, as long as i get the idea across

JEREMY DENNIS: Well, yes. I'll change facts if it'll make it funnier or more interesting or more true or make the point better, or just if I feel like it, really. All of it starts in my life, but after that? It makes its own way in the world.

KEAN SOO: Not to my knowledge. I have been drunk enough several days to be slightly fuzzy on the details, but that's another matter. However, I do tend to take some "artistic liberties" to sometimes portray a thought in my head that's interesting, but would look boring with me sitting around, just thinking about those thoughts…


KOCHALKA: Sometimes I decide that what I thought was more important than what I said or did, so I may draw myself saying or doing something that I actually only thought. However, as far as I'm concerned the real of the imagination is just as real as the physical world. "Just as real" as in "just as important an influence in our lives". For practical purposes, you should consider everything in the diaries as "real". My friend Jason would tell you that I always misrepresent him, but I don't think that counts as fiction. Let's just say that I'm always true to myself.

TODD WEBB: not yet. i have drawn certain things just because people asked – i drew a robot one day because someone said there needed to be a robot 🙂 i like to stick to the real deal though.

LES McCLAINE: once I spread the events of one day over three, but I used the fact that I did that as one of the strips, so my answer is "sort of."


LES McCLAINE: Yeah, I guess I do. It sort of goes with the format I've chosen.

TODD WEBB: no – in fact, sometimes i like to just include a portion of a conversation or something minute, to leave the readers guessing. i just try to draw one small event of my day. if its funny, that's great, but most of the time its just something small like making up a song with my friends, or even drawing comics. i draw other comics than my journal, so sometimes the days journal comic is ABOUT drawing comics. it can't be avoided sometimes 🙂

KOCHALKA: Absolutely not.


KEAN SOO: If by "punchline" you mean some sort of payoff or resolution to each strip, then yes. I feel that pretty much any story needs to have a beginning and an end in order to make it at least interesting for myself. Life may not have a punchline, but any kind of story becomes more readable if there is some sort of payoff at the end.
JEREMY DENNIS: I'm not writing gag strips, so, no.

JOEL STOKES: you don't have to, you could do a cliffhanger every day till you're dead (the ultimate punch line)

DREW WEING: I think each strip has to have a point. There's a lot of things in life that I find amusing, so I guess most of the strips turn out that way. At least in my opinion.



KENN MINTER: right now, this is a hobby. i try to update at least once or twice a week… usually no more than three strips… just to keep some sort of readership count.

DREW WEING: I TRY to update daily… but frequently get off schedule. The strips always take me a couple hours to do, so I often find myself short of time. It's nice to be up to date – it gives readers a sense of immediacy and relevancy.

JOEL STOKES: yes, i know if i skip one day, next ill skip 3 days then a week and so on . . .

JEREMY DENNIS: Weekly, weekly, I'm almost weekly. I do try. It's a committment, saying you'll be back every week to add a bit more to the pile. With me, art is all rituals, and part of that is doing stuff regularly.

KEAN SOO: Yeah, like I mentioned before, this journal comic was started as a means to get me to draw something every day, whether I want to or not. So I keep churning out the strips on a daily basis, so that I can (1) keep developing my skills as an artist, and (2) I'm a lazy bastard, and if I ever stopped for any length of time, I'd likely stop drawing the journal strip altogether.

JEFF LEVINE; I'd love to update daily, and infact kept that pace for a few months, but have slowed down considerably this year – am lucky to update once a week right now. I don't feel any obligation about my strip – if I did, shit, I wouldn't do it. It's a completely selfish project.

KOCHALKA: I draw the strip daily. That's what the project is all about for me. Updating daily is less important… for instance, if I'm away from home I keep drawing the strip daily but then just update the site when I get back.

TODD WEBB: i do my best to keep a daily schedule as far as drawing the strips. i used to just update my website whenever, but notw i've committed to that daily as well. it's only fair to others that want to read my strip that i keep it updated as often as i can.

LES McCLAINE: Yeah, more often than I do. I notice if I don't update regularly, my hit count starts going down, and that bothers me.


LES McCLAINE: They worry about me a lot. I seem to get a lot of email from girls, too, which I like. 🙂

TODD WEBB: i'm surprised at how many people read my journal. i didnt think anyone would. most feedback is overwhelmingly positive. there's a few that put me down for it, but not many.

KOCHALKA: Typically they don't give me any feedback at all! Of the couple thousand people that probably read it, there's only 10 or 20 that post regularly on the message board. Typically, they tend to be supportive of everything that happens in my life, which is nice I guess. That at least saves me time from having to argue with them!

JEFF LEVINE: Typically, none. Occassional complements. Occassional hate mail.

KEAN SOO: Readers? What are those? Heh… I have so few readers, I hardly hear anything from them. The few that I have heard from tend to appreciate the honesty in some of the strips, usually connecting in some way to my depression, or from people similarly recovering from alcohol abuse. Again, I'm doing this for myself right now, so readership isn't very important to me at all. Don't get me wrong though, it's certainly cool to hear nice things from nice people.

JEREMY DENNIS: Some people leave comments in my livejournal ( ) otherwise typically none. When it comes in, it's always a major surprise.

JOEL STOKES: i don't get much feedback, only from people i knew in high school and they just ask how im doing

DREW WEING: Most often: "Weird, that's just like my life!" I think we all have a lot more in common than we think.
KENN MINTER: i get very positive feedback and support. i do appreciate it. it's surprising.


KENN MINTER: just to stay true to myself and true to what i've done thus far.

DREW WEING: It's nice to be able to connect with people – to make them feel as though they're not the only person in the world; that we all have similar problems, hopes, feelings and thoughts.

JOEL STOKES: i set out to do one a day for one year, ill probably do more than a year

JEREMY DENNIS: Definitely not. It's not there for objectives or goals or career bloody advancement, it's there to give me a break from all that. Somewhere I can be defiantly myself and not have to please anyone else, at all, ever.

KEAN SOO: Just to improve my storytelling & artistic abilities to the point where I'd be comfortable to be able to move on and work on larger, more cohesive, self-contained stories.

JEFF LEVINE: To enjoy working on it.

KOCHALKA: I'm going to keep doing it as long as it remains interesting. At this point it is such a part of my daily existence that I can't see stopping. I could easily imagine keeping it up for 10 years or more. I'm into my 5th year already right now.

TODD WEBB: mainly just to get better and faster at drawing. my journal serves as practice for my longer works.

LES McCLAINE: I mostly think that it'll be interesting for me to read when I'm older.


LES McCLAINE: absolutely. Kochalka's books sell fairly well, and there's definitely an interest in them on the web.

TODD WEBB: i guess so. I like them, so theres bound to be others. james's sketchbook diaries seem to sell well.

KOCHALKA: Absolutely. People love daily strips, plus they love looking through a window into other people's lives. I'd say journal comics are in an exceptional position to reach mass popularity.

JEFF LEVINE: I'm not sure exactly what you mean by marketable. Shit, everything is marketable. But most comics I've ever seen that have been drawn with a market in mind have been completely garbage – worthless – a waste of time.

KEAN SOO: Sure, anything in this world is marketable. Kochalka seems to be doing a fairly good job at it. Cobain's journals (not a comic, but it's the same idea) have been selling like hotcakes. There's a market for everything. However, it's questionable whether someone can live off soley writing a journal comic. Even Kochalka seems to be keeping the journal comic on the side as he writes larger, more marketable works. It seems to me that it's an easy way to get yourself exposure by writing a good journal comic, then move on to more sustainable material. Whether someone can do nothing but a journal comic and keep it interesting would be an experiment I'd like to see.

JEREMY DENNIS: I have no opinion on this. See the answer to question 9 for why.

JOEL STOKES: i want to say yes, but its hard to say if any comic is marketable, the industry has changed so much, i guess i would just say . . . i don't know

DREW WEING: Sure, in moderation. Journal comics are a subsection of autobio comics, which are a subsection of nonfiction, which are a subsection of comics as a whole. There are plenty of prose books published that consist of someone's journal, but they're still a small percentage of the total amount of books published.

KENN MINTER: oh, i do indeed. why not? it's an artform with an already built-in market. i think people like to read about others lives in order to not feel so alone in this creepy, confusing world. if they see something in a person's strip they can relate to… they may find it easier to live within their own skin. who doesn't wanna feel better?


KENN MINTER: myself, not really. i only reveal so much. i sometimes get a little uncomfortable with joe matt's stuff.

DREW WEING: Not really. A cartoonist is obviously intending for others to read their work, and always has control over how much they want to reveal, so it's not exactly like peeping in someone's blinds. I feel more like a voyeur when I read people's blogs. Since it takes a certain amount of work and self-review to do a journal strip, they're more thoughtful and not usually as "gushy" as someone spilling their thoughts out in text.

JOEL STOKES: no, i just view them as i would any other comic,

JEREMY DENNIS: Yes, sometimes, yes sometimes. But I don't vastly differentiate between online modern non-genre fiction (like Derek Kirk Kim's stuff ) and online journals. Life and fiction inform each other, and can be equally revealing (or concealing) about the artist. Many online journals (both written and drawn) are intense performances, which hide far more than they reveal.

KEAN SOO; I try not to think about this when I'm writing my strip. But yes, there is a large egocentric factor involved with making parts of your life available for public viewing, and thinking that people actually care enough about your own life that they'll want to read the strip and follow along with your life — it's enough to make me want to stop sharing my comic, crawl into a corner, and keep the journal all to myself. I'm a shy person and don't particularly like thinking about "me me me" all the time. But keeping any kind of journal in some way also means that you're writing for an audience, whether it's just for yourself, or for others to read. The sudden increase in journal comics is very similar to the upswing in the number of blogs, or the sites, for example. Everyone has an opinion, and with the Internet, everyone can be heard.

JEFF LEVINE: I don't feel like an exhibitionist, maybe because I like writing and drawing, but I never really let the idea of an audience cross my mind. I don't care if people see what I'm doing, I just want to do it. Don't know if that makes sense. But yes – I definitely feel like a voyeur when reading other's autobiographical comics or blogs or books or whatever. I like peeking into other peoples lives and thoughts, etc…

KOCHALKA: Hmm… no.

TODD WEBB: not really. though when reading other's journal comics i do get a strange sense of "knowing" the person and their friends, even if i dont. drew weing's is fun for me to read because i KNOW him and Antar in real life from hanging out at comic shows, and its fun to see what they're up to day-to-day.

LES McCLAINE: Oh yeah, big time. That's half the fun.


LES McCLAINE: I like funny ones and sad ones. My favorite moments are the sort of "turning points" that you can see taking place in peoples' lives in the strips.

TODD WEBB: i just think its neat to see what other cartoonists do each day. its amazing how similar we all tend to be.

KOCHALKA: I most like reading ones that seem very different than mine. I don't enjoy the ones that seem too much like the person is just aping my style.

JEFF LEVINE: Actually, I don't really like other peoples "journal comics" that I've seen. A couple are okay, but I've yet to be really wowed.

KEAN SOO: I like getting inside someone's head and trying to understand what they're thinking at that particular moment. The "this-happened-to-me-today" type of strip lends itself well to setting up jokes and is okay every once in awhile, but it doesn't grab me as strongly as when I can understand what's going through someone's thought processes, or insights into how these people lead their own lives. I think blogs & journal comics are an excellent tool to examine the human condition, and that maybe we're not using it to it's fullest extent. Yet.

JEREMY DENNIS: I don't know. That's a toughie. Oh, I like them, I do, I love reading about other people's lives and I love comics, but the actual … I think what I'm looking for is the moment when you've been following someone for a while, and suddenly they step out in a way that's wholly unexpected and yet at the same time completely right.

JOEL STOKES: when i can read a new one every day, my favorite moments and types of strips are humor

DREW WEING: I think my favorite strips are when a person does something that should seem oddball, but is nonetheless completely understandable. Like when James Kochalka shouts at his cat "What do kitties say?" or Tim Doyle paints in the nude.

KENN MINTER: this is going to sound trite… but usually when someone captures a moment that i can relate to. i find strips "about cartooning" or being "a cartoonist" pretty dull.


KENN MINTER: you mean my own comic or someone else's? my favorite of my own is the one i did about a girlfriend getting her heart cleansed. i like alot of james kolchalka's and drew weing's stuff.

DREW WEING: DW: My favorites are usually the ones where the drawings turn out best. It always sucks when you have a great idea and the actual drawings turn out horribly. I think my readers' favorite is the "Cat-cat" strip.

JOEL STOKES: i don't know

JEREMY DENNIS: Ah, um , , or (still a major favourite) Ah, realism. Who needs it?

KEAN SOO: I don't have one that stands out above the rest. I'm usually proud of a strip where I've tried experimenting with a different layout or style, and it works out to some degree (like "Mr. Depression," "Head in the clouds," or "Insomnia strikes").

JEFF LEVINE: It's always the last one.

JAMES KOCHALKA: Of my own? I don't have a favorite.

TODD WEBB: i dont really have one. i guess if i did it would be one of the strips about a really fun day, but there's a lot of those 🙂 thats like answering "whats your favorite day from your life?". and i'm not married yet, so i cant say my wedding day.

LES McCLAINE: hmmm… I think it's 7-14-02. (


LES McCLAINE: I never had any intention of being part of a movement, but it seems to be working out that way. Seems to me like there's a lot of people doing much more elaborate stuff than me. I'm constantly impressed by it.

TODD WEBB: sure, i think journal comics are keen, and i think the people that draw them are awesome. my favorite is missy kulik – i think her little journal strips are the best. john p draws awesome diary-like comics, and of course james k and drew's are always fun to read.

JAMES KOCHALKA: Well, it's a useful artistic vehicle for me. As far as I can tell, there was no "genre" of the daily diary strip before I started, but there definitely is one now. If other people find it a useful vehicle for their own work, I think that's great for them.

JEFF LEVINE: I really don't see a difference between this type of comic you seem to be talking about and any other. A comic is either good or bad, that's what matters, not the percieved genre.

KEAN SOO: The diary comics movement. Is it really a movement? No one has ever pointed to all the blogs on the 'net and said "look, it's a blog movement!" Yes, there's been a sudden upsurge in journal comics, but you can tie that directly with the steadily growing number of and blogger sites. With the nature of the Internet, the appearance of all these journal comics seems to be a natural progression from all the blogs out on the web. I think it's highly egotistical to say "look at us, we're part of a movement!" That sort of thing is best left up to the historians as they look back after a decade or six. Or maybe it's just because I don't like being labelled as being part of a large group or movement. Yeah, maybe that's it… But for sure, we're establishing another genre within comics, which is never a bad thing at all.

JEREMY DENNIS: I only discovered it was a genre when Pete Ashton said so on Bugpowder, and that's quite recent, really. I haven't gone out on major investigations looking for other stripbloggers (though every now and again I find someone and waste three hours reading everything on their site) so I'm looking forward to your article and finding out more about all it all.

JOEL STOKES: a journal comic is a great way to express yourself, and a good way to look back on your life, i wish id started one when i was i a child

DREW WEING: I think journal strips are an interesting parallel to the "blogging" phenomenon, and maybe a little faddish right now. But they've got a pretty good foundation of support. I've seen a bit of backlash, but for the most part the response has been overwhelmingly positive – especially considering the fashionable disdain most people had for autobio comics after the epidemic of them during the 90s. Which is good, because they're often just as compelling (if not more so) than the cartoonist's "actual work." Only time will tell how they're ultimately received. d r e w

KENN MINTER: i just hope it lasts… and that we can all make some dough or get a little recognition. i just enjoy having the opportunity to do it and get a little positive feedback.

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