Josh’s Words

In Interview on February 20, 2013 at 3:17 am


Josh Sullivan and I exchanged emails over the years related to the zines we both were working on at the time. It was only last year that I met Josh face to face at a Can’t Do It show at St. Pete’s Local 662. Today, I’m proud to call him my friend. He’s thoughtful, kind, and has an abundance of fun stories to share. Here are his words.

How is school going and what are you studying?

For the longest time, I was completely adamant about never going to college. I was also really in opposition about the idea of ever going to an art school. On my first day of high school, I told myself: “Ok, this is it. There will be these four years and then I can be done with school.” I wasn’t challenged and I hated wasting time in school while I could be spending every waking minute drawing comics. When everyone took their SAT’s, I sat in the back of the class and drew. In my teens, I started getting paid to design flyers for local punk shows so I worked on those in school as opposed to doing my work.


I finally bit the bullet and have been going to school for the past year. I absolutely love it and it’s been fantastic learning new things and meeting a bunch of new people in the process. I’m working my way towards a major in Meteorology, since one of my first loves was the weather. My loves went chronologically in this order, it was: Trains, dinosaurs, weather, Nintendo, comic books, The Simpsons, music, the opposite sex, silent films and painting. I’m completely fascinated by the weather and I’m constantly looking at radars and data. During hurricane season, I closely watch everything from a storm’s inception to the last advisory the National Hurricane Center puts out. I always told myself that if I didn’t make it in the world of comics, I’d want to become a meteorologist so that’s the dream I’m currently chasing.


What have you been drawing lately?

Absolutely nothing. I don’t remember when the last time was that I drew. I’m disgusted with myself that I’m not making any art anymore. I’m proud that I’m concentrating so heavily on school, but it’s pretty stupid to consider myself an artist when I’m not making any art. Part of me hopes that when I get back into the swing of things, I’ll create some really spectacular art, but then the logical part of me knows that I’m getting rusty and not advancing in any way since I’m single-handedly killing my own craft.

Were you born and raised in St. Petersburg? What are some of your favorite spots in St. Pete?

I grew up in Saginaw, Michigan. I really don’t like that place at all, but I do love St. Pete. I moved down here when I turned 18 and I’m so glad that I did. St. Pete has such spectacular art and music scenes and I’m really lucky to be involved in both of them. Our waterfront parks are beautiful, the layout of our city is magnificent, and we have a tremendous amount of great people all huddled together on our little peninsula. The Globe Coffee Lounge will always be the greatest place to have existed in St. Pete, even though it closed a little over a year ago. It’s been a while since I saw a show there, but The State Theatre holds a warm place in my heart. My band’s early goal was to play a show at The State and we ended up playing there a total of ten times. The St. Petersburg Shuffleboard Club is one of the city’s jewels and playing shuffleboard is so much fun. Other favorites for me include: Daddy Kool Records, The Emerald Bar, Mastry’s and the Museum of Fine Arts.

Ten things and people who inspire you:

1. Howard Stern
I’m a huge Howard Stern fan and I listen to him almost every day and for many hours on end. He is the greatest interviewer to ever live and I can’t believe some of the things he is able to cull from the people he talks to. I’ve been intrigued by him for half of my life and his show is the greatest form of entertainment that I enjoy. I got to see him work his magic last year when America’s Got Talent was filming in St. Pete and a week later, I called in to his show. I couldn’t believe I was talking to one of my idols while millions of people got to hear me make a fool of myself on the air.

There are a lot of preconceptions about Howard, but most people haven’t taken the time to actually listen to what he has to say. There is no other person alive who is able to be so real, either with who they are or by the way they act as an artist. Nothing makes me laugh harder than his show and I’d be hard-pressed to find something remotely close to matching its superiority.

2. Evan Dorkin
If it wasn’t for Evan, I probably would have never pursued drawing comics. His work is, without a doubt, the best comic book material ever produced. From Milk & Cheese to Hectic Planet and everything else he has ever done, I appreciate how funny and how fantastic of an artist Evan Dorkin is. Getting to meet him and hang out with him and his wife, Sarah, at the Small Press Expo back in 2003 is still one of the most cherished moments of my life.

3. Buster Keaton

I’ve studied the films of Buster Keaton so much that I started picking up on some of his mannerisms and they carried over to how I act in public. Forget Chaplin and forget Lloyd, Keaton was the true innovative silent film comedian. I can watch something with him in it every day and never get tired of it. Films of his are approaching 100 years old and they’re still better than most of the movies being put out today.

4. Ivan Brunetti
Holy shit, when I discovered Ivan Brunetti’s comic book Schizo, I was blown away. I was at a point where I still would look at the newspaper comics every so often but would be absolutely aghast at how dumb they all were. Calvin & Hobbes had ended a few years prior and nothing would ever hold a candle to it. So, when I saw Brunetti’s jab at traditional four-panel comics by making his own as repulsive and oft-kilter as possible, I knew that I had found a new motivating influence. His book Haw! was the reason I pretty much concentrated on making one-panel cartoons for many years.

5. Time
If time wasn’t something we had to measure, I’d probably get a lot more done. When I’m running out of time, I do tend to get so much more accomplished – like it is for most people. I’m the worst at being timely with something and that never used to be the case. I need to get back into making deadlines for myself because time, either lack of it or it just passing by too fast, is a huge reason I even get anything done these days. 

6. Sleep
When I was a kid, I would never sleep. I would stay up all night and read comics and draw. A lot of times nowadays, I stay up all night and run on very little sleep, but then it catches up to me and I sleep an inordinate amount of time, going into something that resembles a coma. I’m inspired by sleep because I do have some fantastic dreams that sometimes correlate into some piece of art. But, I’m really inspired by sleep because I don’t want to go to bed and I’ll fight my hardest to not pass out if I still have something unfinished. When I’m running on no sleep, I have some ridiculous ideas going through my mind, so I’ve probably made some decent art that way, too.

7. Bill Hicks

I’ve just recently spent time analyzing what Bill Hicks had to say. What a fucking genius he was! He spoke with such earnest honesty that it makes me strive to tell people like it is. Like the kind of person Howard Stern is, I gravitate towards people who are so true to themselves. Bill Hicks lived such a short life, but he said more poignant things than most people will ever have the balls to say. 

8. Bill Murray
I also started concentrating on the comedic genius of Bill Murray and I just love his supposed blasé attitude towards everything. He seems to be pretty comfortable with the person he is and when he pops up every so often (either in a movie or at someone’s party), he’ll let everyone know how much of a badass he is just by being there. I would give anything to act like him and to just not give a shit. 

9. Stuart Andrews
Stu has been my best friend since we met on the first day of 1st grade in 1987. Our first mutual memory is defacing a Transformers coloring book and laughing at how we made it appear that all of the robots were drinking beer. We’ve basically been causing trouble ever since. A huge chunk of what I would grow to appreciate in life is because of Stu. In 2nd grade, we were listening to N.W.A., Public Enemy and Too Short while everyone else was listening to New Kids on the Block. In 3rd grade, it was Anthrax and in 4th grade, we were listening to Biz Markie. I’m still so shocked that I was getting such a musical lesson from Stu, who just always happened to have the craziest stuff to listen to. Eventually, it turned into The Dead Milkmen, Dead Kennedys, The Ramones, and more. But, it was when he said to me as we pulled up to the comic shop that I worked at in high school, “Hey, I bought this CD. You’ve got to hear this song on it.” That turned out to be “Carry On” by The Skolars (Telegraph). It was ska and good ska, at that. I then realized that I had heard another song by them played on a local radio program. Even though I was aware of ska and was starting to get into it as the country was becoming more and more receptive of it, this moment is what really solidified it for me. I became completely obsessed with it, which eventually led me to singing in a ska band that is celebrating ten years of existence this year.

Screen shot 2013-02-19 at 9.41.10 PM

Artistically, we’ve always bounced our respective works off each other. We’ve done art shows together where both sets of our work looks completely different, but they somehow mesh real well together. He’s been a huge inspiration to try to get better and he is one of the greatest artists I will ever know. 

10. The desire to do something that will excite me, entertain me, and enthrall me.
I used to churn out so many comics and paintings. I never let anything get in my way and I couldn’t believe the output that I had. Then, in 2006, a series of events really blindsided me and coupled with a feeling of being burnt out, I stopped doing what I loved the most – making comics. There was a short reprieve when I successfully booked a two-week tour for my band, Can’t Do It, but things weren’t as good as they used to be. I didn’t have it in me to continue the grueling pace that I was constantly on. The mind is just as much of a creativity-killer as it is an idea-maker.

I do make comics every once in a while but it is nowhere like the heyday of my incredible production of them. When I do draw something and it makes me laugh or makes me excited, I’m glad that I can still have those reactions. Recently, with my band, we started making new music and that took me back ten years ago when we were first starting. I will always appreciate the energy release that comes along with jumping around on stage and singing songs that I somehow wrote lyrics for. Being able to make music with those guys has definitely been a savior when things aren’t always so happy.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in creating your comics and art?

When I was around 15, my mom told me that I wasn’t going to get anywhere with my comics. That made me pretty upset but it was probably a huge motivator on getting so much accomplished with my creativity. My mom is now a huge supporter of whatever I do and I can just imagine that she thought I was going to end up penniless and in a ditch because I was fixated on drawing stupid little humor strips. My dad was always a big supporter of whatever I did so it was a little disheartening to have each parent telling me opposing things about my art.

I definitely have a strange sense of humor and my comics haven’t been for everyone. There have been times where the jokes are not taken well at all and some people think I’m crazy. I can’t tell a joke in a conversation to save my life but I used to be pretty good at expressing them in comic form. At times, I’ve had on my list of stuff to do: “Write comedy”. I don’t know how to start, though, which is ridiculous.

The biggest challenge to my art is that I just don’t know what I’m doing. I haven’t really had any formal training and it definitely shows in how limited I am at drawing or painting. I’d like to really dig myself into learning more about art and writing and just become better at expressing myself with pictures, painting or prose.




What do you tell yourself when things get difficult?

While out running recently, I kept saying out loud “Get fucking better”. At that moment, I meant to be a better student because I wasn’t concentrating the most on my schoolwork but as soon as I did buckle down, I felt a lot better and started learning a ton more. It also meant, though, I needed to be better at managing my time. I hate being an adult. I hate having roadblocks put up for what I want to do just because I have to make sure I’m able to pay for the necessities of life. I’m making myself go to school so I can get into a field I enjoy and not be stuck at my stupid job I have right now that refuses to give anyone a raise. I do take naps, though, when I’m having a bad day. They’re a good way to clear the air and clear my mind.

I don’t know if it’s because I’m getting older and more jaded or if I’m tired of the same old shit, but I am not as happy as I used to be. I started going to school because I felt like I wasn’t using my time wisely on my art and I wanted to force myself to get smarter. But, now that I’m in school, I just want to make art. I want to concentrate on art and see what kind of amazing things I can churn out. But, all of my free time goes to school or sleep. If I got to do art on my own terms and didn’t take every stupid commission job or put my stuff in every dumb art show, it would be incredible. I actually stopped taking commissions because people are the worst to deal with.

Kurt Vonnegut once wrote “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” I sometimes think to myself that I don’t always have to appear to think everything is funny for the sake of others. At times, I hide behind humor just to make sure I don’t outwardly show how melancholy it is at times. In certain settings, a different persona overtakes me and I feel like I have to entertain everyone. This may be me overcompensating since I had been quite shy for many years of my life. No one ever sets you up for the disparity you go through in your 20’s, coming out of your teenage years, but when I turned 30 last year, it kind of made all of those stupid thoughts of growing older a little more moot. Just because you aren’t a kid anymore, that doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy life. And if you never get back what you once had, at least you had it and at least you got to experience it.

Life will never be easy and for the ones who think it is, they’re just a bunch of liars. I’m proud of myself for accomplishing so much in such little time. I have to remind myself, though, that I didn’t achieve those things by being lazy. I have worked hard and I do work hard to make things a little easier on myself in the long run.

If we could no longer live on the planet Earth and were relocating to another planet, what five essences would you take with you? (Anything attached to a sense. A certain smell, sight or sound)

1. The euphoria of being in love. Every time I tell myself that I should just concentrate on scholastic duties or art, some little thing pops into my head and it makes me long for someone to share in life’s little experiences. When a girl smiles at me, I get completely discombobulated, too, because it doesn’t happen that often.

2. The thrift store smells and factory smells attached to my dad’s clothing. My dad died back in 2006 and I made sure to save some of his clothes. I have them stored away and whenever I bring them out, it has his scent on them and it immediately makes me feel like he’s right there. The jacket I have of his, he probably never washed but I’m glad he didn’t because it’s one tangible thing I can hold onto that invokes the feelings of having him around. 

3. The runner’s high. I wish I ran more because it really does make me feel better and accomplishing some ridiculous personal record makes me so happy when it happens. I used to run every day and I lost 20 lbs. in the process but I eventually overdid it and fucked up my legs a few times. But, I now know not to run like a lunatic anymore – it’s just laziness that keeps me from going out there too often.

4. The ability to make someone laugh. This is the single biggest reason why I made humor comics – I wanted to make someone happy by way of pictures and jokes. The world is so fucked up and everything is such a struggle, but if I can just make a single moment of someone’s life a little bit better, it is so rewarding.

5. The feeling you get when you hear a great song for the first time. It doesn’t even have to be a particular genre or band, but nothing beats having a cadre of excellent music at your disposal. I make it a point to always track down new stuff to listen to, and I’m so glad I do, because I come across some fantastic work thanks to the Internet. 

So recently you’ve been thinking a lot about your traveling around the U.S. in 2009 because of your presentation in The Travelogues. What’s next for you?

When I finished my trip, it took another two years to finish the accompanying ‘zines. I worked really hard on them and people kept asking what I was going to do next. My first response was that I was going to finish the books, but then I also said that I wanted to travel internationally. After I did finish the ‘zines, it was such a huge relief. In total, I had spent almost four years on “Fifty-Two Friends” from the inception of the idea, to planning, to the trip, and then editing everything that I wrote. I’ve been contemplating studying abroad because I want to get the hell out of here for a little bit. I realized the other day that I haven’t even left Tampa Bay in almost two years. I’m a traveler that is doing a piss-poor job at traveling. Another thought that goes through my head from time to time is doing another trip like the one I did in 2009 where I stay a week with someone different. But, this time, I might not confine myself to a set stay and I would definitely not worry about making ‘zines and trying to chronicle everything. Maybe I’ll do a tenth-anniversary tour and see how many people from the original trip would be willing to put me up again and then see how many new people would take me in.



If you could sum up your experiences in 2009 in one sentence, what would it be? 

I took a life-changing trip in the span of a year that made me realize I no longer had to be scared of the world.

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