Brooklyn-based cartoonist Koren Shadmi’s latest book, Love Addict: Confessions of a Serial Dater, is a cautionary tale of how, in search of love, even a good guy can turn into a bad guy — and how technology works its dark magic de-humanizing even the most human of interactions, especially when it comes to matters of the heart.
Koren took some time to discuss the book, his background and his upcoming work with FOG!
FOG!: Koren, thank you for speaking to me today. Can you tell me how you got started with both writing and illustrating?
Koren Shadmi: Drawing definitely came first, I’ve always drawn since I was a toddler, but I think around the time I was 10 I got sucked into the world of comics through an after school comics course. Comics were not a big thing in Israel at the time, so it was almost a revelation to discover that the art-form existed. I grew up reading Superman, Batman and the likes, as well as Asterix and some other Franco-Belgian comics that were translated to Hebrew.
Writing definitely came later. When I was a teen I read a lot of Sci Fi and fantasy books, I wrote D&D adventures, and choose your own adventure books, so those were some of my first attempts at writing. As time went on I realized that I had to hone my writing skills in my own comics, and I thought: the best comics have both strong story and great art, so I have to sharpen both skills.
Who are some of the people who influence your work?
Sometime in my late teens I discovered all the Alt Comics, and left superhero comics behind, although I’m still a fan of the work of some of the older superhero artists such as John Romita and Alex Toth. One of my main influences from the alternative scene is Robert Crumb, and you can (hopefully) feel that when you look at Love Addict. I think there’s just so much life and intensity in Crumb’s drawings, it’s really hard to pull off. I also love the work of Dave Cooper, Chester Brown, and all the usual suspects. I’m also really influenced by French artists such as Blutch, Nicolas De Crecy, Blain, Killoffer and many many others.
How long does it take you to complete drawing a page?
It depends. I’m a pretty fast drawer, so I would say from beginning to end (without color) I can complete a page in a day. Sometimes you will have a page with a big, detailed establishing shot, and that really slows you down, and can take longer.
Overall, I try to keep things fairly simple, but grounded in reality. I see a lot of alt comics out there where artists glaze over drawing a background. I try not to do that. I think it’s important to keep the background readable in almost all frames, it lends the story more credibility and context.
Mike’s Place is a story you didn’t write, but it is based on a true story. How did they come about? I know you are Israeli. (L’shana tovah, by the way, from my family to yours)
Thank you, Happy New Year to you as well and hope you didn’t have to eat a fish’s head! I was born in Israel and came to the US in 2002 to study art at SVA.
Mike’s Place was a graphic novel I did for First Second which came out last year, and is based on the true story of a suicide bombing that happened in Tel Aviv in 2003.
Mark Siegel, the editor of First Second, approached me because he was looking for someone to give the book an authentic, local vibe. I knew Tel Aviv pretty well, so it was fairly easy to place the story there. Drawing the book almost felt like I was visiting the homeland, and it was also difficult, since the subject was very dark and hit close to home.
I know your project The Abaddon was based on Sartre’s No Exit. What made you want to create that strip. How long did it take you to complete? Again I realize it started as an online comic.
It started with this weird question that popped in my mind: ‘Do ghosts have sex?’ That lead to the idea of having a ghost/roommate drama. ‘What if a bunch of ghosts lived together in an apartment, hating each other?’ It reminded me of No Exit, so I gave it a read and thought it would be a good story to riff off.
Abaddon is quite different than No Exit, which is a lot more minimal, but the atmosphere is similar. I like exploring the idea of a very mild form of hell, almost like a slightly worse version of our world. Abaddon took about 1.5 years to complete, and running it as a web comic helped motivate me to make new pages every week.
Your latest project, Love Addict: Confessions of a Serial Dater, was based on your life. How much of it was true? All of it? Anything you made up or left out? And how scary was it to jump into this pool?
I tell people that the book is 74% true.
Seriously though, a lot of what is in the book actually happened, I did move a lot of stuff around, and maybe merge a few dates, and also borrowed some dates that happened in other periods of my life.
The character in the book – K – dives deeper into the deep end of the dating world than I did, but you have to push things for the sake of drama. That being said, I feel like dating can be incredibly weird, and there’s tons of material to work with. Reality is much much stranger than fiction when you do online dating.
Jumping into the auto-bio pool was a little scary, because for years I was really against the whole auto-bio trend. But the older I got the more I opened up to that sub genre and started loving autobio comics by such authors as Joe Matt or Jeffery Brown.
Reading those books gave me an appetite to explore that world myself.
What are some of your guilty pleasures? Something you enjoy but know you probably shouldn’t?
Earlier this year I had a crippling addiction to this Blizzard game – Hearthstone. I had done some work for Blizzard for an ad campaign for the game, and figured I’ll give it a try.
Next thing I knew I was taking breaks from drawing to play again and again for hours and hours. At some point I gave my wife the code to the iPad, so she would be the only one able to unlock it. I would repeatedly delete the game and then re-install it the next day. It was sad.
A few months ago I went cold turkey and deleted it for good off my iPad.
Are there any mainstream superheroes you’d like to tackle?
Probably She-Hulk. If anyone in Marvel is reading this, let me write or draw an issue of She-Hulk and I will forever be grateful!
Are there any artists you’d like to write for? On the other side, are there any writers you’d like to illustrate for?
Good question. I have no one specific in mind. I really like to draw my own scripts and stories. That being said, If a good story comes my way that I feel passionate about – I would definitely take it.
What are your passions outside of comics?
I’ve been into baking bread lately, sourdough bread. I was creating a culture of natural yeast, which took forever, and looks disgusting. I’m still experimenting with baking the perfect loaf, and I feel like I’m not even close.
Finally, what’s next after Love Addict? What do you have coming up?
There’s a book I drew that’s coming out next year titled Rise of the Dungeon Master. It was written by Dave Kushner, who was the last person to interview Gary Gygax – the creator of D&D. It’s a non fiction graphic novel chronicling the origins of D&D. As a former gamer this book was a true dream project.