Lisa Hanawalt, who provided this Sunday's comic, is a wholesome and friendly lady who makes the most unsettling and hilarious drawings I've seen in years. In Lisa Hanawalt's world nothing is not gross but she happily wallows in the grossness instead of being grossed out by the grossness. She wallows in it like a hot dog in mustard, splashing the mustard and singing little songs to herself. She can draw and paint, she can write and joke. She left her home in California to live in Brooklyn and I wanted to get to the bottom of that mystery.
Vice: On your Facebook there are some headshots of you as a very heavily make-upped and sexy child. What were you doing being such a sexy kid for photographers?
Lisa Hanawalt: That was my cash making scheme! I figured models get paid tons, so I told my mom I wanted to try it and she humored me. I was sexy, but I was also chunky with grass-stained knees and turns out that was too alternative for the runway.
How'd you go from being a child model hopeful to getting into nerd shit?
Drawing sexy animals, reading comics, obsessively collecting everything from plastic horses to legos...yeah, I was nerdy from the start.
How sexy were the sexy animals? Sexier than Bernapette Peepers?
Not nearly as sexy as B.P.! But I was young and inexperienced. Huh?
You live in Brooklyn but you aren't originally from here, you came from Los Angeles.
I was raised in the Bay Area, went to LA for art school, stayed for a while, and then moved to Brooklyn for love/comics/to see if I could.
It's going OK! I love the subway, it's exciting here, I lucked out with charismatic roommates and cheap rent. But everything else is expensive, it's hard to get anything done, and my dog hates it here.
Love and comics do not exist in California.
There's more of a hustling, bustling comics-making community here in Brooklyn...like people are constantly doing readings and panels and having drawing parties. I don't always attend everything, but it's nice to feel like that's going on. The lovegrass was greener out East.
I am glad that you appreciate our majestic subway system. What school were you at?
UCLA. I liked my professors there, but I was horribly depressed and confused with the whole fine art thing. My paintings looked like giant single-panel jokes. I started to feel better after I graduated.
Palo Alto. What's Palo Alto like?
We used to call it Shallow Alto, but that was really bratty because the Bay Area is one of the nicest places you could grow up ever. I like going back there.
Are you living with other cartoonists?
Only one, Sarah Glidden, and she is a powerhouse of excellent 'tooning! The other two roomies seem to like comics too--although one of them decided I was psychotic after reading my last mini.
Your dog is named Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Explain that joke to me.
At the end of that movie, Sallah makes fun of Indiana for getting his nickname from the family pet, "You were named after a DOG?!" It's a great moment because they all almost died getting the holy grail and Jones is probably immortal or something now, but it's still okay for his friends to razz him. So my dog is named after a man named after a dog.
I was confused by that scene too. He's not immortal. He would only have stayed immortal as long as he kept drinking from the grail.
Ohhh, that explains why he feared death and ran away from things in the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. It'd be funny if he was indestructible, he'd be like, "Snakes? You're O-K."
How did you learn how to draw so good and so gross? Your stuff is repulsive!
I started drawing yuckily to make my brother laugh and then my parents were cool with it because they're scientists. Nobody stopped me when they should have and now it's too late. I'll be disgusting forever!
Were you into Garbage Pail Kids and Mad magazine and stuff like that as a child?
I was into Mad magazine, Ren & Stimpy, and B. Kliban comics (Whack Your Porcupine). My family made a point of mocking me when I read bullshit like Seventeen and Cosmo.
What's Whack Your Porcupine?
It's a little comic book full of short gags...B.Kliban's sense of humor is sort of Dadaist and a lot of his jokes barely make sense. It's like Magritte + Gary Larson + 70's porn.
The intense grossness of your stuff is kind of surprising because your Facebook photos make you look so wholesome.
I'm wholesome as a peach pie but I've also been completely obsessed with death and fucking ever since I can remember.
AKA: The Circle of Life. The Lion King is a movie that confronts sex and death in more frank and bleak way than most movies do. Was that a big movie for you?
WHAT, YES. I was aroused by the wildebeest stampede scene...it's Hamlet and Oedipus for kids, and maybe the last really juicy Disney cartoon. I like the part where Scar whines, "When it comes to brute strength, I'm afraid I'm at the shallow end of the gene pool." I thought that was so clever.
It was melodramatic and surprising and loud. By that criteria, my tastes are pretty conventional.
Some people say that The Lion King has an anti-homosexual message. They say that Scar is a homo and that Simba is taught to live a homosexual lifestyle from Timon and Pumbaa. He eats bugs and doesn't think about living in a patriarchal society until he Nuala conftonts him about coming back to the pride. Then he kills the bad guy, provides food, and makes babies.
And Simba needs Elton John to be playing while he has hetero-normative liontercourse! I don't buy that the movie is anti-gay. Secret sexy messages are a given with these movies, animators are some of the horniest and most hilarious people on the planet.
It occurs to me that the hyenas could be a stand-in for illegal immigrants.
Yeah, maybe Disney fucked up by getting Cheech and Whoopi to play the evil minion characters. But it fueled approximately 1,500 college essays on media portrayal of ethnic minorities and 6,000 stoner conversations, and that's kind of awesome, right?