So Many Bad Decisions: Bob Fingerman on Minimum Wage [Interview]

IMAGE COMICS: MINIMUM WAGE: SO MANY BAD DECISIONS more than delivered on its title, as Rob made bad decisions both big and small. I'm curious about how far out you've plotted Rob's life. Do you sit down fresh with each new volume and build on what came before, or are you following a blueprint you've already laid down in outlines or notebooks?

BOB FINGERMAN: For the original run it was more catch as can, but for the new Image run, my writing process was far more methodical. The entire run was plotted in advance, with room for changes. But I had a clear idea of where it was headed.

IC: What's the ideal tonal sweet spot for you in MINIMUM WAGE? How do you balance the incredibly awful decision-making with the comedy?

FINGERMAN: I see them as one and the same. No bad decisions, no comedy. When have good decisions ever been funny? "Oh, look at that guy. He's doing great." Crickets. As to whether others find Rob's poor choices funny, that's up to them.

IC: There's a good point late in the book where someone asks Rob a question and there's a pregnant pause, then a flash to Rob at his drawing table. This sort of visual gag—how strict is your creative process? Do you leave yourself room to improv moments like this, or do you script pretty strictly?

FINGERMAN: Well, like I said, there's room for improvisation. There actually was a lot of thought balloons written for that sequence, but in the end I thought it played out better ambiguous. He's asked if doing personal art is therapeutic. The silence is an answer. Or is it?

IC: Your cartooning is always really interesting to me. What's your approach to character design? Do you come up with the design more-or-less freestyle, and then fit a personality to them after, or design toward a specific look?

FINGERMAN: Rob and the gang have gone through major design alterations since I began the series initially in 1994. The new version are such radical departures from their early versions as to be unrecognizable. I can't lock down a style or "look." As my art evolves, so do the characters I depict. Rob's hair quiff got out of control. I can't explain it. Or justify it.

IC: Rob's social circle widens a lot in this tale. How are you choosing which characters become recurring, and which are just there for the single scene? What makes a new character "work" for you?

FINGERMAN: It's about Rob's world expanding as he grows as a person, both emotionally and professionally. His social and professional circles. Some characters start off as oners and then I like them and they keep coming back. Kind of like real life.

IC: This comic has mainstream appeal, but it's got goodies for comics fans, too. The references to Richard Corben, R. Crumb, and Moebius make me curious what's in your artistic DNA. Are you particularly influenced by these guys, or are they just people you're into?

FINGERMAN: I'm sure they've influenced me in more ways than are even apparent to me. They're some of my Art Gods. Heroes. But more Corben and Crumb than Moebius. He's my all-time favorite, but the other two more clearly influence me. They're earthier. More of the flesh and clay. Moebius was on a whole other plane of existence, creatively and spiritually. His work is lovely in every sense of the word. I couldn't even aspire to that because it's not in me. But I adore it.

IC: What's the story behind how Marc Maron came to guest star in SO MANY BAD DECISIONS?

FINGERMAN: Marc and I are friends, but as with almost everyone in Maron's orbit, there's history. He and I are in some key ways very similar. My wife noticed that even before I did. And said so. "You're too alike to be friends," she commented, way back when he and I first were getting to know each other. But again, we met a long time ago. A transitional, probably a bit fragile, period for both of us. He's grown enormously as a comedian and creative force. Anyway, we got back on the right track with each other, so I thought it would be fun to have him appear as himself, rather than a pastiche of him. I asked him if he'd be cool with it, and he was. I only wish he looked back in 2000 like he does now. He'd have been easier to draw!