Sublife Goes On: An Interview with John Pham
John Pham started out self-publishing his works, which soon got him noticed and earned him a spot as a contributor to the comics anthology Mome before he started his own Epoxy series. After that, he started his own anthology collection, the twice-yearly Sublife, Volume 2 of which is now available. We caught up with Pham briefly and asked him a few questions about his work.
Do you remember your first comic book?
I think buying a bunch of Star Comics (Marvel's ’80s line of kid-friendly books like Strawberry Shortcake and the Getalong Gang) are among my earliest comics memories. I bought a bunch of these at the local 7-11.
How did you get involved in the comics field professionally?
I guess winning the Xeric in 2000 would be the milestone. The Xeric actually gave me a goal and a deadline, which was important because I was basically direction- and clueless at the time.
Where did the idea for Sublife originate?
Around 2004, I decided to stop producing Epoxy (my first series) and begin a new comic. I wasn’t really satisfied with the comics I had been making up to that point and wanted a clean start. Plus, there was a s---ty Canadian design company who wanted to take me to court over the Epoxy brand.
What is your goal for this anthology series?
I'd like to serialize a few longform stories (221 Sycamore St., Deep Space) as well as present a variety of shorter strips. It’s partly because I have problems with focusing but also because I’m grossly insecure about making a commitment to the longer stuff; it allows me to keep my fingers in multiple stylistic pies. Hopefully it makes for an entertaining reading experience.
How long do you see it continuing?
I dunno, indefinitely? At least for as long as it take to finish Sycamore St. and Deep Space.
What freedom does Sublife allow you as an artist?
I'm free to do pretty much whatever I want on the series, thanks to my all-too-kind publisher. The challenge really is to see if I can self-edit and make sure the work isn’t too self-indulgent or crappy.
Where do you see the series evolving as you continue with it?
I hope to have established a sort of model for the upcoming issues with Volumes 1 and 2. So basically, continuing serializations of either Sycamore St. or Deep Space, accompanied by various, shorter strips where I can experiment and joke around.
What kind of outlet does Sublife provide for you in terms of addressing the topics and concerns that interest you as a writer and artist?
It is the ultimate outlet. The greatest thing ever.
Who inspired you as an artist?
I look to people like Chris Ware, Dan Clowes, Ben Jones, John Cassavetes, DF Wallace, Sol Lewitt, ’80s-era toy and packaging designers, Sammy Harkham, Martin Cendreda, Henry Miller, Anais Nin, life, my girlfriend, my non girlfriends, etc., etc. Also, working daily to stave off my mild anxiety attacks maybe counts as an inspiration but is probably more of a goal.
What are you working on next?
I'm taking a little time off from Sublife 3 to work on a solo gallery show at Giant Robot LA. The opening will be April 3rd. Also, trying to revamp my website at the moment, as well as make headway into various other projects for friends, galleries, etc.