Otto Splotch is a New Orleans cartoonist, now living in Chicago, with a penchant for experimental and underground factions of the comic world. Despite his mother’s advice, he continues to make “weird, gross” comics that may have landed him a few dates.
We asked Otto for an exclusive edition of his comic “Quarter Vomit” about life in the French Quarter.
THE OXFORD AMERICAN: What comics did you read as a kid? Which ones do you read now?
OTTO SPLOTCH: I was really into Image comics when I was a kid. Like “Savage Dragon,” “Wildcats,” “Gen X.” I thought Image was a lot more cutting edge compared to the other mainstream comic companies, like Marvel and D.C. I stopped reading comics for a while, then in my early twenties I stumbled upon “Eight Ball” and other more underground comics.
I realized comics didn’t have to be all about superheroes and be so predictable. Now my favorite comics are “Black Hole” by Charles Burns, Dirty Plotte by Julie Doucet, Ed the Happy Clown by Chester Brown, and more underground comic artists like Mat Brinkman, Matt Furie, Patrick Kyle, Edie Fake, Heather Benjamin….
THE OA: Who’s your all-time favorite cartoonist?
OS: Mat Brinkman
THE OA: Did you ever consciously decide to be a cartoonist? Or were you always doodling and drawing all your life, and then one day someone paid you for your art?
OS: I never planned on being a cartoonist. I have a background in fine art and used to only paint and build sculptures. Then I started moving around a lot and wasn’t able to store large pieces of artwork. So drawing comics became the most practical art form for me. I can just throw my supplies in a backpack and draw almost anywhere.
Also, printed material is an easy way to promote your art. A lot of people are able to see your work without having to spend that much money. After drawing my first self-published comics everything started snowballing. Now I’m getting a lot more offers to have my work printed in different magazines and more paying gigs.
THE OA: Have you ever had any formal art training?
OS: I went to an art high school called NOCCA in New Orleans, and I also graduated with a BFA from Loyola University New Orleans.
THE OA: Recommend to us a cool cartoonist/graphic novel/whatever that we’ve never heard of. Bonus points if it’s Southern!
OS: My friend Caesar Meadows is the comic guy in New Orleans. If you draw comics and you live in New Orleans, chances are you know him or he’ll eventually find you. He self-publishes his work, has a few monthly strips in local magazines, and puts out an annual comic anthology called Feast, which contains local artists. He also hosts a weekly drawing night at his house called Mogi Womp and does some conceptual comic art, like his popular “micro-comix” and “nano-comix.” He is the comic king of New Orleans.
THE OA: What’s your stance on superhero comics—love ’em, hate ’em, totally apathetic?
OS: For the most part, I hate superhero comics—too predictable and way overdone. I’m all about underground comics and being experimental.
THE OA: Do you practice any other forms of visual art? Like graffiti, murals, photography, painting, sculpting?
OS: I kind of put down a lot of other art forms to focus on making comics and drawings. I’ve been trying to do more performance stuff, like comic readings. This is where I’ll project each frame of the comic on a screen and act out the characters’ parts using weird voices while having a soundtrack playing in the background—sort of like watching a live-action cartoon performed by me.
I’ve also been working on a performance project with a few of my friends called “Techno Opera.” This is basically a play with techno music in the background.
Drawing comics is a very solitary and tedious art form, so I like doing performances because it’s more thrilling and fun.
THE OA: What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received about your work?
OS: I’ve dated a few girls that I think primarily had interest in me because they liked my comics. I’d say that’s a good compliment.
THE OA: What’s the most disparaging remark you’ve ever gotten about your work?
OS: My mom told me to stop making weird, gross comics—and I needed to grow up.
THE OA: What non-cartoon art or literature or music inspires your work?
OS: David Cronenberg movies. I really like the way he makes sci-fi. All of his stories exist in real life, but there’s always something weirdly tweaked about the reality. Also, absurdist plays like Endgame. I was inspired to write one of my first comic books after reading that play.
THE OA: What do you hope to make your readers feel or think about when they see your work? Or is that not something you consider as you draw?
OS: I want to create something really interesting and unpredictable that can make people laugh, while having nicely rendered and original imagery.