Matthew Melis just finished his second comic book, ‘She Always Looked Good in Hats,’ and is working on his next. He lives in Madrid with his wife and their daughter in a hundred year old piso where he spends his days minding the baby and drawing during nap time.
What got you in to independent publishing?
Independent publishing is the only publishing I’ve known! My earliest comics were published online about ten years ago after the webcomics boom. Between then and now I was reading more and more graphic novels and mini-comics and the physical world of comics appealed to me. Printing a book and selling it in stores and at conventions gave me direction beyond putting comics online and feeling like I was tossing them into the void. So when I started making comics again in 2012 it was with the goal of making books and getting out from behind my computer to share those books with people.
What do you make/publish?
I make mini-comics! Black and white, ink on paper, hand-lettered mini-comics. Printed in our neighborhood of Malasaña. I’ll have two comics for sale at Dublin Zine Fair:
Strong, 2012 – A historically inaccurate tale of strength set during the American Great Depression.
She Always Looked Good in Hats, 2014 – Out of work and deep in debt, Alice has a PHD and no prospects, but an old hat shop is hiring for the summer, and she always did look good in hats.
Alongside the comics I have postcards of drawings of silent film stars in their signature hats and hand-drawn badges of a wide range of millinery fashion.
Who/what inspires you?
I studied Moving Image Arts in college, so a lot of my inspiration comes from the world of film: Buster Keaton, Julio Medem, Abbas Kiarostami, Takeshi Kitano, Tarsem Singh, Sarah Polley, Isabel Coixet. When I work I surround myself with comics by Vera Brosgol, Colleen Coover, Hope Larson, Julia Wertz, Kate Beaton, Chris Samnee and Bryan Lee O’Malley to keep artist’s block at bay. The stories themselves are mostly autobiographical but I bury the details deep so that no one would notice. As a visual artist I spend a lot of time observing the world around me and Twitter has been a extremely helpful tool in getting exposure to lots of different voices, kind of like eves-dropping at a global cafe.
Who are your audience?
I’m not always the best judge of audience. Three times now, I’ve handed my comic, Strong (about a circus strongman), to enormous body builders only to have them flip through it, put it back down and walk away. But when I’m not shamelessly profiling, I’ve found that people who enjoy my work have a good balance of melancholy and silliness in their tastes.
Have you exhibited at the Dublin Zine Fair before? How did it go?
This is my first time! As an American cartoonist living in Spain, getting my comics to English-language fairs has been the most difficult part. Since my wife is Irish with family near Dublin, I’ve had my eye on the Dublin Zine Fair for years, but this has been the first time we’ve been lucky enough to coordinate our trip with the show!
Tell us a joke!
A person hiking in the woods reaches a river they can’t cross. As they follow the river they see a Buddhist monk walking on the other side. The hiker calls out “how do I get to the other side?”
The monk responds, “you’re on the other side!”
In an alternate version of this joke that I’ve heard, the hiker calls across the river to a blonde woman instead of a Buddhist monk. As a Buddhist I love that we’re effectively interchangeable with a tired-comedy-trope-blonde-