MOME Interview 3: Kurt Wolfgang

This interview is reprinted in its entirety from MOME Vol. 3.

Kurt Wolfgang, the old man of MOME, was a late bloomer, which may be why he’s the old man of MOME. He always drew and always drew comics, but he never read comic books as a kid, much less obsessed over them. He read a handful of newspaper strips, but as he sagely put it, most of the strips in the ’70s were “crappy,” so he didn’t read many of them — though he did manage to take one of Joe Kubert’s ancillary weekend comics courses when he was 10 years old! His biggest influence was probably the ’70s Mad magazine; his comics were largely parodic in nature or “slapstick nonsense.” If he was utterly impervious to the lure of superhero comics, he was equally oblivious to underground comics: “I knew the undergrounds existed because just being alive you learn who Robert Crumb is, but I thought that just ended one day. Like 1970 hit or something and everything just ceased at that point. Everybody sobered up.” He lived blithely through the ’80s without discovering alternative comics, either. Kurt was, in short, what W.C. Fields once called “dangerously unobservant.”{mosimage}

That all changed in the early ’90s when he stumbled into a bookstore that sold alternative comics in Gainesville, Florida, and bought an armful of “weird-looking” comics, including Hate and Eightball. This inspired him to focus and start producing his own minicomics: he says he really got serious about cartooning in ’95-’96, which is when he started self-publishing his own showcase, No- Fie (of which he produced eight issues). He attended his first SPX in ’98 where he realized “that all these other people were doing this.”

He has since become a mover and a shaker in the mini- and alternative comics scene, printing many minicomics for fellow artists, editing and publishing Low-Jinx, a comic that parodies other alternative cartoonists (the 3rd issue, a real gas, includes contributions by Sam Henderson, Jordan Crane, Johnny Ryan, Nick Bertozzi, Tony Consiglio and himself parodying such cartoonists as Art Spiegelman, Jeff Smith, Ron Regé and Johnny Ryan).


Kurt was born in 1970 in Dover, New Jersey, which he described as “the kind of place that has the worst of both worlds, where you don’t have any of the culture of the city, but pollution and crowding.” His parents moved to Florida when he was a teenager and he dutifully moved with them. By the time he was 10 he was living in Gainesville, famous for a rash of student murders: “…The day I moved in, people started getting murdered all around me.” He skedaddled back to New Jersey where he married the girl he met when he was 10 years old (he’s evidently also a procrastinator), and has lived in the scenic town of Collinsville, Connecticut for the last 10 years. He is the father of three children, which makes his prolificacy no small miracle.

My first exposure to his work was a beautifully self-published (and selfprinted!) little book titled Where Hats Go, where, for the first time, the formal and thematic elements of his work cohered into a distinctive vision — slapstick nonsense crossed with a bittersweet fable. He is currently working on an immense retelling of the Pinocchio story titled Pinokio, which, I have every reason to believe, will be among the best graphic novels of 2010.

This interview was conducted in mid-November 2005, and edited by Kurt and myself.

—Gary Groth
November 27, 2005