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Riding the Slow Wave with Comics Artist

Jesse Reklaw

Interview by Chris Auman

Published February 21, 2011

Jesse Reklaw

Jesse Reklaw has been drawing your dreams for over a decade for his syndicated strip, "Slow Wave". He's also produced dozens of mini-comics, most recently the weekly comic journal Ten Thousand Things to Do (an anthology of which was published last year by Microcosm Publishing). He also teaches, plays in bands, lives in Portland, and is working on an autobiography (in comic form of course) to be published (hopefully) next year by Fantagraphics.

Ladies & Gentlemen, please enjoy this interview with the dreamy Jesse James Relaw.

I’ve gotta tell you about this dream I had last night... Do you get that a lot?

Yes! Most people respect my request to submit via the form on my website (that way it gets formatted for my dream database—10,145 dreams by other people and counting...!). But sometimes they just don't hear when I say I won't remember it if they tell me in person, and just go on talking. 


I’ve been reading your yearlong comic diary, 10,000 Things To Do, which you described to me as tedious. I don’t find it tedious. I actually find it interesting. Did it become tedious for you to do?

No, it was inspiring to make. I just feel sheepish asking others to read quotidian details about my life. Plus some people have mentioned it's pretty wordy. But of course the diary is kind of a document for me too—and I like details about me!

What did you learn about yourself from doing this journal?

I always suspected I had a mood disorder, but this pretty much confirmed that I have a 2-week mood cycle of ups/downs. I just applied for low-income health care in the fine state of Oregon, so hopefully I can get help soon...?!?

Jesse Reklaw The Night of Your Life

Trying to earn a living doing art takes a heap of self discipline? Do you find that you manage time well and did keeping a journal help with that?

I always get a little ego boost from finishing a project—gives me energy and perks up my mood. So it was a small thrill to finish one of those comic strips every day.

Slightly dream-related question, what is a dream project that you’d like to be able to start and/or finish that you've never had the time for?

I keep thinking some day I'll get back to doing sculpture. It's really time-consuming, but it's kind of meditative and relaxing for me. I'd love to make my own fully-articulated action figures/dolls/puppets and then animate them in a feature-length rock opera!

I also learned from the diary that you suffer from some chronic pain, have you gotten any free medical advice from people who have read the diary?

Tons of unsolicited advice! I have to tell myself that people are doing it out of kindness, but it always feels like a put-down or something. Like, do they think I'm so stupid that I haven't tried exercise, diet, yoga, acupuncture, chiropractomancy, etc.?

Damn! I was gonna say, yoga. You also seemed to have a pretty crazy sleep schedule, is that still true? You're all over the sleep clock.

Part of the mood disorder I think. My dad and sister have the same problems. Dad actually gave up on trying to be normal years ago. He just sleeps whenever he feels tired, and when he gets up (whether at midnight, dawn, afternoon), he makes coffee and toast and pretends it's morning.

Where are you from originally, where did you grow up?

I was born in Berkeley, CA and grew up in Sacramento.

Can you describe that experience in five words or less?

No, I cannot do that.

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At what age did you start drawing comics?

Like a lot of kids I made my first picture books/comics/ zines with crayons and scissors and a stapler when I was five or so. It wasn't until I graduated high school that I decided to be a full-time cartoonist though.

During that time, what were your influences or inspiration to draw?

I read a lot of silly superhero comics as a kid. When I was in my late teens Kurt Vonnegut was probably my favorite author.

Jesse Reklaw Ten Thousand ThingsTen Thousand Things to Do

Ten Thousand Things to Do is the year-long, illustrated journal of artist, Jesse Reklaw. Originally appearing as a series of mini-comics, the diary details (in four-panel comic form) Jesse's daily life living and working as an artist in Portland, Oregon. Self-doubt, bouts of depression and booze, creative spurts, good times with friends, playing music and also mundane everyday activities all get recorded, sometimes with the help of guest artists. Jesse tracks his sleep schedule, as well as his coffee and alcohol consumption which he is then able to use as a tool to gauge his mood and behavior which is useful for a little self diagnosis. It's is an ambitious project and an interesting glimpse into the creative life. [Microcosm]

I think I gleaned from 10,000 Things, that your Dad is a poet. Do you come from a creative family or background?

My family's pretty creative. Dad (after the divorce) was a cross-dressing slam poet and performance artist in the 90s. His mom was a church organ player and quilt-maker, and her maternal grandfather (my great-great-grandfather) was a traveling music teacher and composer in Oregon.

I read on the Wiki (not WikiLeaks, the other one) that your real name is Walker. So is Reklaw just Walker spelled backwards or is Wikipedia wrong again?

I can't speak for the moral character of Wikipedia, but I did legally change my name from Jesse William Walker to Jesse James Reklaw when I was a twenty-year-old acid dealer.

Hmmmm. There are so many levels to that. I hope there's a comic about that someday. Do you listen to music when you draw?

Music is usually required to get me in the mood for drawing/inking/painting. I must have silence to write though.

What’s the best music for you to listen to you that's conducive to drawing?


Fun Yeti, Superstring, Pissant these are some of your past, or perhaps still current bands, any other musical projects we should absolutely know about right this minute?

I'm also working on a "solo project," to be titled Days of the Week.

Are you still drumming?

Trying to, but I think it's not the best instrument for me. Give me ten more years... then we'll see.

What is your best and/or worst musical experience?

I used to bang on pots and pans when I was three, making stuff up, then ask my mom: "You know that song? Know that song, Mom?" I made up "tap" dances too, and lied that I had learned them in school. Mom has always been very proud of me.

What is Couch Tag and how is it progressing? Or maybe a better question would be what is the next project or projects we can expect from you in the "One One"?

Couch Tag is my poorly-titled graphic novel memoir. It's going to be about 200 pages in monochrome watercolor, published by Fantagraphics, hopefully in 2012? I still have about sixty-five pages to draw and paint, and they each take ten to fourteen hours.

Finish this sentence: Jesse Reklaw is still...

...except when he is moving.

Last question, are you going to finish that last piece of tofurky?

Is that what that is? I thought your retainer fell out!

What? No. Gross!

Jesse Reklaw Slow Wave

Read more comics artist interviews:

John Porcellino
Hans Rickheit
Mimi Pond
Tom Neely
Ed Piskor
Derf Backderf
Andrew Maclean
Jef Czekaj
Jeffrey Brown
Box Brown
Simon Gane
Corinne Halbert
Ben Snakepit


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