Brad Foster’s illustrations have appeared in Highlights for Children and Cavalier. His work for hundreds of science fiction fanzines, including Amazing Stories, has earned him eight Hugo awards and the record for most “Best Fan Artist” awards.
Brad and his wife, Cindy, travel the country, visiting not only comic conventions and juried art shows but Renaissance Festivals and cat shows. Back in Irving, Texas, he runs his own press-publishing house, Jabberwocky Graphix, from which he issues a line of fine-art prints and art collections.
Brad sent us this Southern-themed comic about Dairy Queen and answers questions about cartooning below.
THE OXFORD AMERICAN: What comics did you read as a kid? Which ones do you read now?
BRAD FOSTER: It would be easier to ask what didn’t I read. I absorbed comics when I was a kid. Of course, back then in the Cenozoic Era (no, I don’t go all the way back to the Precambrian, ya wise guys!), if you picked up a couple of dozen titles a month, you could pretty much get them all. Now there are a couple of dozen titles coming out every hour or so. It seems that as my income has become smaller and smaller, the cost of comics keeps going up and up. So I look for titles from creators like Chris Ware and Geof Darrow who do incredible work but only actually publish something once every year or three and are thus something I can afford to buy.
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?
BF: People have asked me when I “started” drawing, and I finally came up with the best answer: “I never stopped.” Everyone draws when they are a kid, but at some point, usually when some adult attempts to be helpful by pointing out that cows don’t have six legs, most give it up. People like me decide that we don’t have to be stuck just doing reality, and keep on drawing anyway ’cause we like making marks on paper.
THE OA: Have you ever had any formal art training?
BF: I tried my hand early on at all kinds of ways to produce artwork and found out that I suck at just about all of them. But give me a pen, and I’m a happy camper. Born to draw, it seems.
THE OA: What’s your stance on superhero comics—love ’em, hate ’em, totally apathetic?
BF: Superhero comics are like every other genre of comics—or of all entertainment, for that matter. There is some wonderful stuff being created in addition to the boring and crappy. There’s nothing wrong with the genre, it just depends on the skill of the artist working in it.
THE OA: Do you practice any other forms of visual art? Like graffiti, murals, photography, painting, sculpting, etc.?
BF: Not right now, though I’m looking into bolting and gluing together some junk I’ve been piling in boxes to see if I can make it into something more interesting. Time will tell. (Time is such a blabbermouth!) Oh, and I’m still hoping to convince someone to let me paint the walls, floors, and ceilings in their house white and then draw all over it.
THE OA: What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received about your work (or, actually, about anything)?
BF: The best compliment continues to be when someone actually buys a piece of art. Talk is cheap, people, and I’ve got bills to pay! (Oh, and there was that time that Boo said, “Boo like!” But it would take much too long to explain why I liked that compliment so much, so that’s all you get here….)
THE OA: What’s the most disparaging remark you’ve ever received about your work (or about anything)?
BF: I really tried to come up with something here, but nothing comes to mind. I don’t know if it means I just don’t listen to the negative stuff, or that I usually agree with the critics. Probably just means no one has cared enough to take the time to tell me if they didn’t like my work. Seems like a good idea, too. Why waste your time on stuff you don’t like? Get out there and find stuff that you do enjoy!
THE OA: What non-cartoon art or literature or music inspires your work?
BF: Everything is a source of inspiration. Little bits of this and that, visual, audio, smell-i-o, it all tumbles and mingles around in the brain, reforming into bits and pieces of new things that will set off new ideas and drawings. Life is inspirational—you just have to pay attention.
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?
BF: Since I do a variety of things, from little dashed-off ’toons to years-in-the-inking monster drawings, I can only say that I hope viewers like the results in some way. I wouldn’t be a drawer (I think that term works better than the more highfalutin’ “artist”) if I didn’t enjoy just doing it for myself. If others like the results, so much the better!