Weekly Scatter-Shot Pop Culture Blast: An Interview with Jose Cabrera
This month I got a chance to interview Jose Cabrera, the creator of the weekly webcomic Crying Macho Man which has a print collection of its first year out called Prime Cut. Cabrera's work uses caricature, parody and gross-out humor, often all at once and has been attracting notice over the last year. Cartoonist Keith Knight wrote, “Jose Cabrera's Crying Macho Man touches me in ways I cannot explain. Sharp, well drawn, and funny. It deserves your attention."
So the basics -- what can you tell us about yourself?
Being born and raised in NYC, I got a good dose of my Dominican roots along with the Americana that came with living in Upper Manhattan (Washington Heights). It was a fusion of cultures that we coined Dominican York.
Like most cartoon and comic book creators, I got my fill of comic books and cartoons starting in the 70s and into the mid 80s (what they call the Bronze Age). Everything from Spider Man, Micronauts, Thunderbirds, MAD Magazine to GI Joe! After that I lost interest in comic books and cartoons and started chasing girls. But my love for art never left. I went off to college and did the fine arts education thing.
So you're in Los Angeles now after growing up in New York City? How do you like life out on left coast?
Oh man, I hated LA when I first came out here. It was tough to get to know people other than at your job. I came out here in 1999 lured by Dot Com gold. I seriously thought I was going be a millionaire by the time I hit 30. It went bust and I was packing my bags thinking about heading back to NYC with my tail between my legs. But somehow I decided to go back to school and get my Masters in Art Therapy. Well that turned out to be the best decision I’ve made in my whole entire life ‘cause I met my wife there! Sweet Jesus was that ever a good move!
Now I like LA. Except for the (ready for this yawwwnn) driving! How many times have you heard that. But it’s true goddammit!
And the NY vs LA comic -- autobiographical?
Oh you’re talking about the Strip where I pit New York against LA. Yeah, it is somewhat autobiographical. The pizza and restaurants are better in NYC. But I gotta give LA props when it comes to general produce at the markets. Its really fresh out here, and big. What the hell is in the soil out here?!
Concerning the therapy part of that strip, there’s a funny story about my first therapist in New York. I remember I was dealing with some emotional stuff and I was talking my heart out in my first ever therapy session on the “couch.” When I finished, I look up to see my therapist sound asleep. I literally got up and left him there in his reverie. F*cker!
What's your day job?
I’m a therapist. And not the physical therapy kind, more like a head shrink. I do the cartooning on the side. Don’t get me wrong, I love being a therapist! I wouldn’t give it up for anything. So I feel like I’m in a good position. I’m not looking for a lucky break to land the big national cartoon syndicate. But let me not kid myself, if they were to offer me syndication, I’m all over that. And an animated series, Oh hell yeah! SHOW ME THE MONEY!!
Crying Macho Man is kind of a weekly scatter-shot pop culture blast. How do you come up with your ideas for most of them? Do you start with a target like a celebrity or a news story?
Weekly Scatter-Shot Pop Culture Blast? I like that description. Can I use that in my Press Release?
My ideas come sporadically and spontaneously. I always carry my little black book with me because you never know when an idea will come. I think that most of my ideas come from people watching. Being a therapist, I’m fascinated by some of the behaviors I see, especially at coffee shops. The strip I made about the small Asian man who goes around ordering coffee for his boss is true!
And I’ve lost hundreds of ideas because I didn’t jot them down. Now,however, I’ll pull over to get an idea down in the black book. TV is also a gold mine for material (and not to plagiarize). Especially the reality tv shows. The stuff just writes itself. My favorite are the info-mericials. Have you seen the TOBI Never Iron Again, commercials. Oh man, I’ve something brewing for that. My little black book has got a few hundred ideas for strips ready for some lovin’. And as far as targeting celebrities or news story, it can get really old, really fast. Except for O.J.
You do some really dead-on caricatures! Do you ever just really want to draw a particular person and build a comic around them?
You think my caricatures are dead-on? Awww shucks. Thanks! As far as basing a comic around a particular person, nah, not really. I like to keep things fresh and exploratory. Yeah, the formula for a ‘good’ cartoon series is to have a hook and character that people can relate to, but, I would be bored to death in about a second!
People have asked me, “why don’t you do you make a strip about the Crying Macho Man himself” and I say “what happens after he’s slipped on the proverbial banana peel for the hundredth time-yawwwwwwwn.” Kiss of death! I mean it works for Fred Flintstone and the Simpsons. But El macho doesn’t go steady with anyone. He’s a gigolo baby!
Though to my discredit, I have introduced some freakish characters like Cleveland the Quadriplegic Detective who solves crimes with involuntary bodily fluids, and FRY COOK the world’s greatest chef who’s smells like soft French cheese. I guess I introduced them as recurring characters because I’ve written some funny strips that can’t be captured in just a Stand-Alone. We’ll see how it goes. But, you see, that’s the loveliness of being independent and not syndicated, you can go where the f*ck you want with out answering to anyone. But I’ll still take offers, heh-heh.
I thought this one was a pretty sharp shot at consumerism and America's focus on image (LA is the king of that attitude I think). You often go for jokes that are pretty in-your-face, shocking or even plain ol' offensive but you're also obviously putting a lot of thought into commenting on issues of the day. Do you think people get the whole package in your comics or are some of your readers getting the joke and not the message?
I appreciate that you think my jokes are sharp and I’d like to take credit for their ‘intentionality’ but they’re often unplanned and not as deep as you think. The world is absurd, especially when you have astronauts in diapers chasing each other across the cross-continental United States. That’s freekin’ crazy. How do you make a cartoon out of that? But I have to say that I do put, maybe a little thought into my strips. My main criteria for making a strip is: IT'S GOTTA BE FUNNY and you can’t flinch or apologize once it’s out there or you’ll BURN BABY BURN!
As far as people getting my cartoons, I think it’s half and half. It’s really subjective. I used to be in advertising and there was always the one second rule. If it didn’t catch someones attention out of the corner of their eye within one second, the design didn’t work. There’s so much to see on the web and people flip through web pages like they pull on a roll of toilet paper. Lately I’ve been designing my cartoons to have simple compositions with lots of color in order to pull the reader in. So much stuff that I see has so much clutter; its really hard to look at. I create cartoons that are aesthetically pleasing to the eye and hopefully the content matches.
How is the first book doing? I read somewhere that you've got a second collection in the works. What's the plan for that?
Oh do you mean how are sales doing for Prime Cut? At the conventions they sell like hotcakes, but at the stores, they don’t go as fast as I’d like. People are reluctant to try out new things. Like the first time I saw Will Ferrell on SNL, I thought, man who the f*ck is this guy, give me Dana Carvey! But Will grew on me because he kept at it and at it and at it. You get the picture. My plan is to stay around for the long-term investment and see my earning potential slowly but surely grow as a testament to my staying power. Brought to you by Amerprise.
As for my second book, YOU SO LOCO, it will be coming out in June. I’ll have advanced copies for sale in May on my website cryingmachoman.com I’m going to premiere it at Comic-Con and already have a book signing booked at Village Books in the Palisades on July 31st.
I’m excited for this second collection, cause, frankly it’s my second baby. Sniff’ I feel like a proud poppa! CIGARS FOR EVERYONE!!
What comics are you reading these days? Favorite creators right now?
Lately, I’ve been reading mainly my friends work, who are hella funny. There’s Michael Aushenker, Javier Hernandez creator of El Muerto (he got a movie made). There’s also Keith Knight’s stuff, he recently got syndicated through Universal for a daily. Stan Yan: The Wang. Who else? Oh yeah Jim Lujan. Talk about funny. Jim doesn’t do a conventional strip, but creates these funny animated cartoons that are off the charts. If you want a good laugh check out his animated cartoons.
Who are your influences on your art?
Renoir, Rubens, Picasso, Matisse? Jus keedin’. That’s for posers.
Recently I’ve been looking at the Palomar series created by Gilberto Hernandez of Love and Rockets. I really love the way he creates action on the page and boy are his women busty. Boing!!! No, but seriously, the guy can draw and the content is amazing. It’s rare when you marry content with great art!
Michael Aushenker, Javier Hernandez and Jim Lujan are also beginning to influence my sense of humor. These guys are just off the wall funny and you can’t help come up with funny sh*it while talking to these guys. Lujan is actually spearheading a creators group in the San Gabriel Valley. I’m looking forward to our first meeting in May at the Bahooka. KAMIKAZIS all around!!!