“I like to put myself in absurd narratives and take them to their logical endpoint” Matthew Dooley gives us a glimpse into the Practical Implications of Immortality
Last year was a banner year for cartoonist Matthew Dooley as he released his excellent collection Meanderings, but also scooped the prestigious Observer/Jonathan Cape/Comica Graphic Short Story prize as a result. The story that won him the prize was a tale about a tall milkman and is the centrepiece in his latest collection Practical Implications of Immortality, alongside sweary birds and auto-biographical stories that literally see him laid bare – so we decided to find out more about his unique world view.
Your new collection Practical Implications of Immortality is out now, how do you go about assembling them, do you cherry pick the best strips you’ve produced, or do you plan the strips to match up with a theme?
Matthew Dooley: I wish I was prolific enough to be able to cherry pick! There isn’t a theme so much as the strips indicate the sorts of things I’ve been thinking about whilst writing it. That’s perhaps why there is a little more existential angst than my last collection. At the moment I spend far too much time reading about ways mankind could be obliterated.
You’re a regular in the likes of Dirty Rotten Comics, have these stories appeared in print before or are they completely new?
MD: Apart from a strip which had appeared in Dirty Rotten Comics #9 and my entry for last year’s Jonathan Cape competition, all these strips appear here for the first time.
How has appearing in anthologies like these helped your career compared to producing books yourself?
MD: They have helped enormously. Dirty Rotten Comics #3 was the first time I saw my work in print. That was a big deal for me and I suspect many of creators found in the pages of Dirty Rotten Comics would be in the same boat. I think their inclusive and broad submissions policy has been a real positive force in the small press scene over the last few years. If I was offering any advice to anybody who wanted to start making comics I would direct them to Dirty Rotten Comics.
Some of the stories feel incredibly personal (especially the scales one where you are literally stripped down to nothing!), is it important for you to put a lot of yourself into your stories?
MD: I feel most comfortable writing in the first person. This obviously lends itself to autobiography. But my life is not an especially interesting one, at least to somebody who isn’t living it. Instead of straight autobiography I like to put myself in absurd narratives and take them to their logical endpoint. So, whilst there isn’t anything in the book that has actually happened, I think it can tell you something about me. The decision to portray myself naked was simply because it made me laugh. Unfortunately this means that no family are allowed to buy it, cutting my sales figures in half.
Some have quite a dark, almost nihilistic edge (the existential threat strips) while some feel deliberately daft (the swearing birds, the tallest milk man), is this your attempt at making sense of the crazy world around us, or perhaps of poking fun at it?
MD: I am a pessimist. I am pessimistic about pretty much everything. There is a definite nihilistic streak in this book and I think that can be found in me too. However, I don’t want the reader to think I’m some terrible Nietzschean because I’m not. I’m fearful about the future, about how the world is going to deal with automation, populism, climate change and all the other myriad creeping dangers. On the other hand, I’m quite silly so that’s why I sometimes write about tall milkmen.
You seem to enjoy making quite structured stories (the 8 existential threats, or the 21st century divination) are you quite an ordered person or do you just like nice ordered panels on a page?
MD: Anybody who has lived with me would attest to my constant state of disorder… I mostly live in a shambolic fog of absent mindedness.
How has winning the Jonathan Cape prize been for you? Has it helped give you freedom to tell more stories in your own way? Or has it added more pressure on for your next collection?
MD: I wouldn’t say it has put pressure on me. Winning the Cape prize has encouraged me to try and keep getting better and to put more work out there.
Your stories are quite short single idea pieces, any plans to do more long form pieces? Any you’d like to expand out perhaps?
MD: I am in the process of writing something that will be a good longer than anything I’ve attempted before… so watch this space!
You can purchase The Practical Implications of Immortality and Meanderings from Matthew’s Big Cartel Store.