Interview with independent cartoonist,
ELLIOTT G. GARBAUSKAS
by Robert D. Krzykowski

Copyright 2003 - Elliott G. Garbauskas - All rights reserved

   Unconventional cartoonist, Elliott G. Garbauskas’ artistic legacy sits in a sleepy corner of the comic world. He’s the creator a wonderfully inventive strip called ‘Buttercup Festival’. ‘Buttercup Festival’ is an open-ended comic that appeals to an impressive crowd of cult followers at his website www.buttercupfestival.com. He has a shirt that reads, “I’m so indie even I think I suck.” Well, open your eyes, folks, Buttercup Festival is not your standard Sunday morning funnies-fodder, it’s a magical and freewheeling world of keen intellect and joyful madness. I recently got a chance to speak with E.G.G. about his quirky masterwork, Bill and Ted, and what he’s got planned on the horizon.

Bob K. - Buttercup Festival has some of the most loyal fans I've ever seen. They keep your site alive through t-shirts and buttons, books and art. You seem to have a powerful cult following. How does that make you feel? Is this the source of your drive?

EGG - I wouldn't say I have a powerful cult following. I don't have many readers, comparatively, although those I do have seem to connect with the strip strongly and appreciate it for more than just the day's joke. People's enthusiasm for what I do does surprise me at times, and I always feel grateful for every bit of support I receive, from book/shirt sales to friendly email. The fact that I make any money at all through the comic, that my girlfriend and I can treat ourselves to a meal at Uno's and think, "Buttercup Festival fans are paying for this" is still incredible to me, considering how completely un-serious I was about the comic for when I began it in college.

Bob K. - You often escape into whimsical moments of universal wonderment and questioning, do you speak through your characters?

EGG - In those sort of moments, absolutely. I try to make the protagonist's musings a little over the top to keep some silliness in it, but I'm the sort of person who makes a point of watching evening come on over a swamp or whatever, and I like letting that wonderment spill into the comic. The natural world is such an incredible thing, intricate and lovely, and my lunatic attempts at discourse with it frequently find their way into my comic.

Bob K. - In the past couple years, studios have become prone to adapting comics into movies. If someone offered to do ‘Buttercup Festival’ justice on the big screen, how would you react? Would it work? What would be your role?

EGG - To begin, I don't ever see this happening. But, suspending reality for the moment, I think it would be great and very satisfying to write and oversee a Buttercup Festival animated film, something with the general feel of Spirited Away, visually robust and completely crazy, but a bit sleepier. There are far too many loud movies these days. And I think I'd score it entirely with Eel’s songs.

Bob K. – I’d like to open the Sunday newspaper and see an Elliott G. Garbauskas creation in there with Foxtrot and Dilbert. Have you thought about major syndication? Is it possible?

EGG - Of the many comics carried by the paper I read every day, only Mr. Boffo and Zippy, and occasionally the Boondocks, keep me interested and amused. Syndicated comics play for Middle America, something I wouldn't want Buttercup Festival to do, or have to do. I'll be happy achieving whatever success I can within the realm of indie comics.

Bob K. - Your artistic style is unique and charming. What do you use as tools and how do you know when it's finished?

EGG - I use pencils, a ruler, an eraser, I ink with Sharpies, and I letter with a Uni-Ball pen. Pretty basic. I've been practicing incorporating watercolors, colored pencils, crayons, markers, and ink brushes for future projects, but I'm happy with the current simplicity of Buttercup Festival. Knowing when a comic's finished is easy enough, as there is a certain assembly line approach to it, especially the smaller Wednesday/Friday ones. Some of the larger Monday strips prove a challenge, and I may make a few different drafts if something's not turning out correctly. I try not to worry about the look of any one strip, thinking of it as just another step in a slow process of improvement.

Bob K. - Do you ever look at one of your comics and go, "What the heck was I thinking?" Do you ever draw one and throw it away?

EGG - To the first question, all the time. To the second one, I've never discarded a strip after drawing it, because I do all of my editing at the writing stage, so that by the time I've sat down to draw up a comic from a strip, I try to have faith in my former self to have made the right choice in not tossing the whole page out. Having said that, however, there are times I'm aware that I'm running ho-hum material, and I'm never very comfortable with it. ...Having said that, however, some of my most enthusiastic fan email has come in response to strips I would have called ho-hum, so I suppose the lesson is to understand that even within my narrow readership there's lots of variation in taste, and I should just go with ideas as they come to me.

Bob K. - What's the next big step in your artistic career?

EGG - A narrative strip called Green Evening Stories, of which I aim to have an on-line preview up by the end of this summer, and which will begin updating in earnest no later than the beginning of summer 2004. It'll be open-ended, formed of little connected episodes which will move lazily through larger arcs, and be illustrated in full color, along the lines of a lot of the artwork that's posted in the miscellany on my website. I'm chomping at the bit to begin, honestly, but I have several other things which need doing at the same time. I'm starting an MSc in creative writing program at the University of Edinburgh in the fall which is going to take up a lot of my time, obviously. I take my poetry writing very seriously, although illustrated stories are increasingly interesting me as a serious career pursuit. Who knows? But Green Evening Stories is the next immediate step.

Bob K. - Who do you look up to artistically and from where do you gain inspiration?

EGG - Bill Watterson, Ernest Shepard, and Alfred Wainwright, artistically. In a broader sense, the poems of Wallace Stevens let me think about crazy things, which often trickle down into my comic in one form or another. I've also been enjoying Thomas Hardy recently. Both of those writers help me to appreciate the wonder of location, of being somewhere in the world and understanding it as a means of understanding oneself, and vice-versa. Granted, not much of that is going to come into play in a Rodney strip written around another t-ball pun I thought was funny, but I'm sure is squeaks through somewhere.

Bob K. - If you had to do something other than comics, what would you do?

EGG - This is a strange question to answer, because comics aren't my livelihood now, just a hobby that earns me a little scratch on the side and keeps me busy. What I'd like to be able to do is quit doing everything else and just do comics. But if I had to completely abandon the whole writing/drawing thing and take up another career path, it would probably be a hiking guide, something like that.

Bob K. – Agreed. Okay, here’s some ridiculous rapid-fire questions. Here we go. Batman or Superman?

EGG - Batman. But not George Clooney.

Bob K. – Yeah, Michael Keaton is the only Batman I acknowledge. Calvin and Hobbes or Charlie Brown?

EGG - Calvin and Hobbes, although not without hesitation.

Bob K. - Smart or beautiful?

EGG - Smart is the new beautiful. Unless you ask anyone.

Bob K. – Smooth answer. Milky Way or Baby Ruth?

EGG - Reeses Nutrageous.

Bob K. - Schwarzenegger or The Rock?

EGG - Schwarzenrocker? Rockenschwartzer?

Bob K. – Yeah, those guys. Super Nintendo or Sega Genesis?

EGG - Genesis all the way. The excellent game Landstalker will have to be listed as an influence of Green Evening Stories, if I'm honest about it. I was such a console RPG geek back in the day... the Phantasy Star series, the Shining Force Series... oh man.

Bob K. – Vanilla Ice or Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch?

EGG - Young MC. I'm like Fats Domino / I'm from Blueberry Hill / because my rhymes are funky fresh / and not run of the mill.

Bob K. – Don’t do that again. Bill and Ted or Romeo and Juliet?

EGG - Romeo and Juliet, but, again, not without hesitation.

Bob K. - Three Stooges or The Marx Brothers?

EGG - Definitely the Marx Brothers.

Bob K. – Come on, The Three Stooges would poke their eyes out. Say, what's the lousiest chore/task you've ever had to do?

EGG - I've had two summer-long hotel housekeeping jobs. I couldn't choose just one, but whatever it was, it would involve plenty of pubic hair and fecal matter, none of it belonging to me. Maybe you shouldn't print this particular question and answer.

Bob K. – Yeah, sure, you bet. So, to someone out there who doesn’t have a clue what Buttercup Festival is, why should they read it? What can they expect? How does the creator describe something as blazingly original as Buttercup Festival?

EGG - I think for most people the joke is the basic entry point, and you either find it funny or you don't. I could babble all day about the little ideas I like to have spinning within the strip, how the non-character and non-setting allow me to reconstruct an appreciation for the world unburdened by all of the cynicism and post-modern bullshit too many people wrap themselves in these days, but really, first and foremost I try to be funny. So, you should read it because you might find it funny.

***

Buttercup Festival is a regular staple of the UMass Daily Collegian. Keep up with Elliott G. Garbauskas’ manic musings online at www.buttercupfestival.com

-Bob Krzykowski is the Comics Editor for the UMass Daily Collegian
collegiancomics@yahoo.com

Copyright © 2003 - Robert D. Krzykowski - All rights reserved