Where did you grow up?
Long Island, New York.
What is your earliest memory of writing/drawing?
I drew lots of lots of pictures of King Kong. Mostly King Kong battling airplanes while he stood atop the Empire State Building. But oddly enough, I’d spend MOST of the time, and a lot of the page, drawing the empire state building, the WHOLE building, then draw a tiny King Kong on top. What I REALLY wanted to draw was King Kong, but for some reason I felt I HAD to show the whole building, and was left with this fly speck of a giant ape. Later I’d discover comic books and learn a bit about close ups.
What inspired you to write/illustrate your first book?
I began as a cartoonist who wanted to do a daily comic strip for newspapers. I spent years working on that, created my own strip when I got to college, and eventually got syndicated with a comic strip called Frumpy the Clown. But my experience on The Real World and meeting and become so close with Pedro Zamora, an AIDS educator and activist, changed my perspective. Pedro died, and I felt that his story shouldn’t die with him. I wrote and drew Pedro and Me so his life would go on in some way, so that people would have some kind of record of his story. After that, doing comic strips didn’t seem as important. I wanted to tell bigger stories.
Do you use your childhood as inspiration?
No. J My mother and father are my inspiration from my days growing up. They ALWAYS instilled in me that I could do just about anything. They meant it, and supported me in everything I ever attempted.
What books from your childhood have most influenced your work? What about adult titles?
As a kid I read tons and tons of comic books. Comics still get an unfair shake, but comics, then and now, are about “good guys” and “bad guys”. Good and Evil. Right and wrong. Comics gave me that. They also taught me about storytelling and I learned how to draw from copying them.
And I owe just about everything to Berke Breathed (Bloom County), Garry Trudeau (Doonesbury) and B. Kliban. Theses were the cartoonist I emulated, strived to be, and mercilessly stole from. I wouldn’t be ANYTHING without them.
And I should mention the painter Charles Bragg. He made me want to tell stories with one picture.
What are your hobbies and interests besides reading and books?
My job is writing and drawing stories, I don’t need any hobbies. J
But if I’m pressed, I must say that I adore music, books, comics, TV and movies. Your basic nerd.