The BKBF Interview, an ongoing series of Q&As with some of this year’s featured authors, continues this week with cartoonist Ed Piskor, creator of the Hip Hop Family Tree comic book series whose current project is X-Men: Grand Design. This creator shares his favorite vibe and place to read, his best book-receiving experience, and the unexpected book he returns to most often. Join us each week as we prepare for September!
Where is your favorite place to read? Nothing beats playing some soft instrumental music in the studio while I sit in my big comfy chair underneath the lights and losing track of all time with a book in my lap. This doesn’t mean that I just sit stationary though. I swear there are certain times when I am laying almost upside down in that chair with my legs bent over the back of the chair. Can’t explain how or why that happens.
Tell us your best book-receiving experience. Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez are two of my absolute favorite cartoonists of all time. One weekend we were sent to Memphis for a festival. I remember telling Jaime the first time I visited our mutual publisher, Fantagraphics, I had a list of things I wanted to see while at the office. One of the books on my bucket list was a self published copy of the Hernandez brosthers’ first comic, Love and Rockets. Jaime said “want a copy?” and pulled one out of his suitcase for me. I shook like a leaf.
What books are currently piled in your “To Be Read” stack … and where can the stack be found in your home? A “to be read” stack would be inaccurate. THE “to be read” stacks is more like it and they’re all over the place. This year so far I think I’ve read about 20 dime-store noir paperbacks from the ‘30s to ‘50s. I recently discovered HP Lovecraft, which also sent me down a rabbit hole of trying to investigate who the most popular authors of that old pulp novel era were. Guys like Robert E. Howard, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, etc. Then there’s the stack that contains the Paul Rand book Thoughts on Design and the Errol Morris book on the truth of photography. I’ve also been going through Stephen King’s entire body of work from the beginning, though his book Danse Macabre sent me down another rabbit hole of investigating all of the horror authors who inspired his work. Don’t even get me started on the comics and graphic novels that I have piling up.
What book do you return to most often, whether passages or whole? I think I must have reread Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs close to ten times by now. Isaacson’s “warts and all” approach really creates a flawed humanity in Jobs, who happens to be a big hero of mine in terms of his vision.
What’s the last book that had you reading past your bedtime? Whenever I open up We Told You So: Comics as Art, the oral history of Fantagraphics, it seems to be late at night, and I seem to continue reading it until the sun comes up. When I finish this mammoth then I might get back to sleep at a reasonable hour, though I’m sure I will replace that vacuum quite quickly.
Ed Piskor has been cartooning professionally in print form since 2005, starting off drawing American Splendor comics written by Harvey Pekar. The duo continued working together on two graphic novels, Macedonia, and The Beats. Ed is the creator of the New York Times bestselling Hip Hop Family Tree comic book series and currently working on the critical hit X-Men: Grand Design for Marvel comics, of which there will be three volumes.