Jay Howell may have left us for the palm trees in Silverlake, but that doesn’t mean that he’s gone forever.
You may know Howell for his zine Punks Git Cut, his drawings of people with neon faces on vintage book pages, or as that really tall guy you always used to see in the coffeeshop. Upon moving to sunny (and smoggy) Los Angeles, Howell has gotten a car, finished up doing the character development for Bob’s Burgers, and is currently working as the art director for a show on Nickelodeon. He returns to San Francisco on Sat/18 for an art show at Fecal Face Dot Gallery to celebrate the release of his new zine The Dark Wave -- a 50-page comic book about the lead singer of a death metal band and his existential journey to the ocean.
On a rainy Monday afternoon, the Guardian called up Howell – who was more than likely basking beneath the Southern Californian sun – for a phone interview about writing The Dark Wave and his obsession with Harlequin romance novels:
San Francisco Bay Guardian: Hey Jay. How’s life in Los Angeles?
Jay Howell: LA is awesome. I love the weather. I like beach-sunny-California style stuff. It’s really cheesy but I love it. I’ve been drawing more beach themes and things like that. I moved here to work on Bob’s Burgers and then around the same time got offered a pilot deal for Nickelodeon. Our show is just about completed and I think it’s the most favorite thing I’ve ever made.
SFBG: We’re excited to have you back this weekend for your show. What’s Dark Wave all about anyways?
JH: The lead singer of a death metal band has a panic attack on stage and runs in to the night. He runs in to the forest and finds surfing somehow. It’s pretty weird. He basically falls asleep in an empty coffin, then a flash flood spills him out of the coffin, and then the coffin lid comes off and turns in to a surfboard. There’s some writing, but the pictures mostly tell the story. I drew everything in pieces with Rapidograph pens and used Photoshop to put it all together.
SFBG: Is the story all in the course of one night?
JH: It’s a wild night.
SFBG: Does this guy have a name? And are there other characters?
JH: I just call him the singer. There are other people in the beginning but it’s usually just him and his surfboard. [The story] is all about this guy’s weird journey. He just wants to keep running and see what happens.
SFBG: What prompted your panic attack?
JH: I don't know. I get them all the time too. Probably living too much outside of your mind and then wondering where the hell you are.
SFBG: Why death metal and why a coffin?
JH: I was drawing and I thought it would be really funny to have black metal dudes surfing. You know, like really morose surfers. And then I just started writing a story in my head about it. [The singer] never turns in to a happy dude, but he takes up surfing the only way that suits him.
SFBG: You usually ditch the canvas and opt for pages off of books for your artwork. Do you have specific books that you use?
JH: I generally buy the same brand of book every time. They’re called Harlequin novels and they have a romance series. I was in a thrift store maybe six months ago and I noticed that the titles in these books were just so funny. I was doing all these drawings about people reading books with funny titles [because] I really like making up fake names and fake book titles. Then I saw those books and it was just so perfect. It turned out that there were hundreds and hundreds of these books published in the 1970s and ‘80s. So I bought them on eBay 40 or 50 at a time.
SFBG: Back to Dark Wave. Is it much different from Punks Git Cut?
JH: Definitely. It’s way more of a comic book. I’ve been reading tons of comic books lately and I’ve been doing some comics myself. I’m moving away from the zine format a bit and I’m even working on a full, proper comic book right now. I just kind of want to get more in to that kind of stuff.
SFBG: I noticed that a lot of your usual humor was toned down for television. What can readers expect from Dark Wave?
JH: Dark Wave is all about sex and drugs. Yeah, it’s nasty. It’s definitely an adult comic for sure. I’m really excited for people to see it. My buddy Scott – he’s in a death metal band in San Diego – even wrote a theme song for it.
“Midnight on the Sun” zine release and art show
Sat/18 6-9 p.m., free.
Fecal Face Dot Gallery
2277 Mission, SF
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