An Interview with Cartoonist Eugenio Negro

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Eugenio Negro is a cartoonist and writer who contributes to the website Nose Milk and is the author of the book Almira and the Backward Family; here is a link to his blog:

https://negrocomics.wordpress.com/

Q: What inspired you to start Negro Comics?

A: I started the blog because I wanted a website for showing off my comics and writing. It seemed like websites are out, or anyway I couldn’t find a well-connected free one, so I went to the blog. I like how the blog has the social feature built in.

Q:     What is the overall theme of the blog?

A: The theme of the blog is art I make.

Q:     What is Almira and the Backward Family about?

A: Look, Almira and the Backward Family’s setting was kind of a cynical and desperate thing. I wanted to try historical fiction, knowing that it’s the best-selling fiction now. Only thing is I don’t do genre fiction, so it’s kind of window dressing for whatever theme I’m writing about. The story looks at what a child is capable of when her environment isn’t interested in educating her, and at the same time it’s an examination of gun violence. In fact this replaced another historically-set thing that demanded too much research for how much story I had. Sandy Hook had just happened, and as usual no one in the mainstream media –both corporate or social –had anything of content to say about the causes of gun violence, and I was in a bad mood about it. So I thought I’d make fun of people’s lack of concern about guns, and point out that it stems from our mostly voluntary lack of education and critical thought. Basically this little girl in 1860 Placer County works out the shape of her family. She gets it in her head that her stepfather killed her father so he could marry her mother, and the violence happening around her during the Gold Rush convinces her that the thing to do would be to harm him.

Q:     How is it different from other westerns?

A: The story is different from other westerns in that I cut out the western romance –gun fights, saving women, and so forth –from the plot and just did the poverty, desperation and violence. I also was watching a television show with Misses Negro and noticed that television shows in their hasty schedule put today’s voices, words and mannerisms, even social mores, into the historical setting. In an effort to improve on the form, it was important to try to make Almira’s characters sound like they would’ve then, and think and act like then. That involved some spurious linguistic research, and then the fun part of going back to Twain, Beecher Stowe and Joaquín Miller, whose work I adore. Someone complained to me that Almira’s characters are bloodthirsty lunatics, and I thought, I did it right! So it’s bad historical fiction because it doesn’t flatten history out into easy good-versus-evil consumer fodder. And it’s a bad western because the gun fight is a real trauma instead of an economic tool or even a kind of macho communication device. The other western elements are just for fun, and a way to educate the reader about a part of California history that’s often overlooked.

Q:     What sort of day job do you have and how does it influence your creative work?

A: I’m not going to be specific about my day job because my privacy is precious. But I will say that it’s a fun job, it’s not a tech job, it’s not a service job, and I’m around a lot of people all day. They give me a lot to think about and write about. Since I’ve had this job I’ve really developed a concern for the future and the effects of our current values.

Q:     How did you become involved with Nose Milk?

A: I ran into Rishi on Craigslist, as I’m on it constantly. He liked how I did the satire and basically lets me do whatever I want. I’ve been writing for him almost a year now.

Q:     What do you think are the sociological benefits of blogging?

A: Well, here’s the thing with how I write. I take Ariel Dorfman’s commitment to speaking for the vanished really, really seriously. And then behind that I have my past as a volunteer organizer and I have all this guilt that I didn’t become a journalist, or at least keep working as hard as I once did trying to organize people and help them advocate for themselves. So the only concrete sociological benefit I can see to blogging is that I can find the messages of other bloggers who’re trying to shine a light on the prison industry, on poverty and discrimination, or who have any perspective on big issues outside of the lazy status quo, and I can carry their message a few steps more into my audience. Plus writing about privileged white people’s problems –I wouldn’t want to step on Bret Easton Ellis’ toes, who’s already doing such a good job covering that.

Q:     What are the sociological disadvantages of blogging?

A: I don’t know if I can think of any serious disadvantages. Any good writer can deal with things like negative comments or whatever. I mean, you’re beholden to people’s taste and perception, so people who’re looking for information delivered in a certain fashion just may not see your stuff. The main problem is that you’re writing for a crowd of people who have the stability and time to look through blogs, so the  people who really could benefit from your advocacy may never see your work, never be able to use it.

Q:     What are some of your favorite blogs?

A: I amuse myself with the Consumerist. A very important one is Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity. They have a wealth of primary sources. I try to do stuff for them via the Nose Milk as much as I can. Mostly I use blogs that list other sources, like publisher lists, reviewer lists, zinester lists, etc. Almost Normal Comics out of Arizona is awesome.

Q:  Who was the most pretentious character you ever met in San Francisco (and what made him/her so)?

A: Who is the most pretentious person I ever met in San Francisco, specifically? Not Santa Cruz or San Jose or Salinas? An unanswerable question. To be fair, my circle at this point is pretty closed off to pretentious people. I’m not an attention hog, and certainly not when I visit SF. I know. There used to be this band called the Phantom Limbs. They were tight players and had managed to get themselves on Alternative Tentacles. Heaven knows the guy who fronted it could’ve been getting himself dragged through broken forty bottles because he was sad, but otherwise… anyway some friends of mine used to go to his shows expressly to beat the shit out of that guy. I went along, observed and laughed. He was a primadonna on stage, but man could he take an asskicking once you got him in the crowd. He was called Hopeless, and they’d shout What’s Up Homeless! at him incessantly before beating his ass. Now he’s Loto Ball (call him Hella Sacs). But I’m sure he pales in comparison to people like Greg Gopman, Mark Zuckerberg, these clueless little shits who’ve now taken over the global good old boys’ club. I’m working on a story right now where she writes her sabotage plan in poetry, knowing that her STEM boss won’t be able to read it.

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)

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