Wednesday, June 10, 2009

HUMP DAY Q & A: Cartoonist MIKE RAMIREZ


You can thank Facebook for this edition of Hump Day Q&A. URTHLINGS cartoonist MICHAEL RAMIREZ and I attended high school together (Fairfax High in West Hollywood, to be precise) and we recently reconnected thanks to the social network.
Back in high school, Run-DMC and the Beastie Boys topped the charts, the original ROBOCOP hit the screens, and David Arquette was not yet an actor but a tagger who eventually dated the same girl that Mike did. Mike was not only a fully formed cartoonist, but he considered the Beatles the greatest band that ever lived (and you know, he might have been onto something!). I can still see John, Paul, George and Ringo (both early and later versions) drawn in Mike’s style in my mind.
Today, Mike and his wife, Linda, divide their time between Mike’s native Silver Lake and Cathedral City (near Palm Springs), where Linda runs her Internet business, www.myprettypinkbox.com.
Here’s Mike’s description of his Web strip, URTHLINGS:

“This comic strip revolves around four friends who have just made the jump
from Elementary School to Junior High School. The setting is on an
uncharted planet, which may or may not be in our own galaxy. This
planet, strangely enough, has been heavily influenced by Earth's many
cultures. This came as a result of intercepted satellite transmissions
and observations of our planet from the year 1980 to the present by
alien scientists. We will follow this group of youths as they try to
fit into a new social and academic climate which is far different
from the ones they were all accustomed to. The fact that the setting is
on this unique planet gives this all too familiar story a new twist!”

For more of Mike’s URTHLINGS comic strips, visit Michael’s blog at www.urthlingscomic.blogspot.com



---- How long have you been drawing the junior-high-set comic strip URTHLINGS and is it a tribute to all of the stuff you loved when YOU were in junior high (b-boy culture, STAR WARS, etc.)?

Star Wars, definitely. After seeing that movie, my eyes opened and haven't shut since. (No worries, Visine helps with the discomfort). My imagination & creativity was pretty much set loose. I was also inspired by the very early works of Charles Schulz (Peanuts -- pre-commercialization) as well as Bill Watterson's Calvin & Hobbes (which, funny enough, was inspired by Peanuts). What finally made me want to put my imagination to paper full time was, believe it or not, The Uncanny X-Men, circa 1978-81 (Chris Claremont, John Byrne and Terry Austin) as well as other comic artists such as Jim Lee, Todd McFarlane, J. Scott Campbell and the late Michael Turner. The writing and artwork was nothing I've seen before. I would also like to add that Jack Davis, Mort Drucker, Don Martin, George Woodbridge, Dave Berg, Paul Coker, Al Jaffe and Sergio Aragon├ęs from the early MAD Magazine years taught me that illustrations and comic writing could be (really) off the wall, too!
As for my current comic strip, URTHLINGS the planning and initial character designs w/ stories began in 2006. Each of the characters represents a part of me and the various personalities of old friends.
URTHLINGS will be a collection of my experiences from Junior High & High School. The good & bad times included. (Does my particpation in the 1980's B-Boy culture count as bad times? LOL). It is also my tribute to Charles Schulz.



---- Which Beatle is your favorite and why?

I would have to say the late-great George Harrison. The obvious being his trademark guitar style, which incorporated Rockabilly and Classical Guitar study. When I started playing guitar, I learned from watching George play in old videos and listening to the Beatles records. I used to think that he wasn't much of a factor due to the strong personalities of the other three members, and the fact that he just stood there in the background all quiet-like.
I'll tell you what, just listen to his playing on early stuff like TILL THERE WAS YOU, CAN'T BUY ME LOVE as well as the solos on A HARD DAY'S NIGHT, HEY BULLDOG & WHILE MY GUITAR GENTLY WEEPS. Genius! Subtle but effective...Most importantly, memorable and inspiring.
Compare his style from the Beatles' first album PLEASE PLEASE ME to their last, ABBEY ROAD and you'll see the growth and maturation of this gifted artist. His first solo album, ALL THINGS MUST PASS, is the level I want my artwork & story writing to reach.

--- Is it true that Fairfax High School in Los Angeles (particularly the fine arts magnet program) has produced the greatest cartoonists of our generation?

Yes.



-- If the Lakers lose the championship in the next week, are you going to move to Orlando or Canada?

Canada. I would rather live the rest of my life as a hoser, eh? than as a hurricane fearing, mosquito loathing, non-state tax paying Floridian. No offense, Mosquitos.


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