As the worst of the pandemic raged through in 2020, the anxiety of what was happening and what might happen was consuming us all. Some of us did the best we could to hunker down and try to ride it out, while some of our more creative people found ways to encapsulate it and address it. Such was the direction that renowned Cartoonist Simon Hanselmann went with his Web-Comic Crisis Zone. Simon took the pandemic head on with a unique and straightforward examination of the ways people coped and what they did to attempt to keep themselves sane. It was at time crude, boisterous, irreverent and most of the time funny. Now, through Fantagraphics, Crisis Zone comes to print with every bit of Hanselmann’s creativity laid open for all to see. So, let’s find out how he came up with what might be his best work to date and welcome Cartoonist Simon Hanselmann to GVN’s Talking Comics.

Observations

GVN: Thank you so much for your time, Simon. As I read your book, Crisis Zone, I was mainly amused that many of the topics you discussed were many of the same things I thought about during the heat of the pandemic. (The run on bathroom tissue and paper towels, our dependency on home delivery, etc.) At times it seemed like people were out of their minds. As you did your Web-Comic, how much was based on your observations of the outside world and how much was based on more things close to home?

SH: It was a mix, and yeah, people definitely seemed to be completely out of their fucking minds. It was a rough one! Like everybody else I was perpetually doom-scrolling through the news, watching everything fall apart, taking notes. I was well stocked up on toilet paper even before the pandemic so that was never a problem for me. Although, there seemed to be a lot of paranoia around supply lines breaking down but they never did, thankfully. I had adequate meat and corn and whatnot throughout the summer and enjoyed grilling out in the yard. I actually had a great summer. 2020 was perhaps the best year of my life!”

Personal Therapy

GVN: (Laughing) That’s a positive spin on things. As you created the comic, did you find that writing and drawing it provided any kind of therapy for yourself as well as your readers?

SH: Oh, 100%, it was very useful to have an all-consuming project to while away the hours. I also got to feel very virtuous in that I was grinding away for sometimes 12-14 hours a day “for the people”.  It was very selfless of me, providing all of this free entertainment. You’re welcome! Now buy the fucking book!”

GVN: I know right? Being selfless only goes so far…You still have bills to pay. As you created,  did you at anytime have concerns that any part of Crisis Zone might step on someone’s toes? During our present “cancel culture” it feels like just about anything can offend people.

SH: I think the secret is to just not give a fuck. I’m basically self-employed so I’m not beholden to anybody! I can do and say what I want and don’t give a fuck what c***ts on twitter are saying. Creeps can try and cancel me all they want, I just don’t care. I think that also people are craving this kind of freewheeling transgressive art these days. There’s so much snobbery in entertainment currently. Talking down to the audience, telling them what they should think, insulting them, name calling. ‘Crisis Zone’ was truly for the people, all sorts of people, of many different political and societal beliefs. I don’t like to judge my audience or act like I know better than them, because I find that type of arrogance extremely off-putting. In truth, I just want people to have fun, maybe have a bit of a philosophical think about things and maybe sometimes even feel a little offended or squeamish. I grew up around junkies, bikers, freaks, criminals, murderers. I have no time for these whiney, soft little pussies on the internet. Try that shit in the real world, losers, and see how far that gets you.

 

Expectations

GVN: Did you go in expecting it to blow up like it did locally and internationally or did you think that it would mainly prove to be an amusement for yourself and hopefully for others during the lockdown?

SH: I certainly did not expect it to blow up as much as it did, I thought it’d just float about in my usual demographics. But it turned out in the end to be the most popular, most engaged with thing I’ve ever done. I didn’t dare think it’d win a damn Eisner or be nominated for a Harvey, that’s for sure. Especially given the extremely dicey nature of some of the content and commentary. Here we are though! This gives me hope for the future of art and discourse.

Parenthood Break

GVN: As we continue to feel the effects of the virus and now the Delta Strain, and you were to expand Crisis Zone, would you find more ways to find the humor in our present circumstances?

SH: I really wish I could of just kept it going forever. There’s no shortage of material I could be riffing on (some very bizarre, maddening, hilariously terrifying shit). I had to shut it down though, there was a deadline for the book. Also I had a kid in April so I had a lot of stuff to organize in my life, getting the house ready for a baby, taking care of my wife, all that shit. I haven’t drawn anything since I wrapped up the book, I don’t have time for anything that’s not taking care of a baby currently.

Upcoming Projects

GVN: Well I know that Parenthood is a full time job. Thank you once again for your time, Simon. As we let you go, did you have any other projects you wanted our fans to know about?

SH: Haha, yeah cheers! Nothing to really speak of currently, I’m unable to work with this beautiful, fussy baby lurking around the house. I just sing lullabies and deal with big paint-can shits now. I’m on hiatus! Right now I’m moving house, to another state and am busy with that nightmare. Soon I’ll be back to work though, I want to get started on ‘Megg’s Coven,’ the official follow up to my 2019 release ‘Bad Gateway.’ Got another fun Web-Comic thing I wanna do, and a whole bunch of zines I wanna draw. I’ll be back soon and don’t worry, fatherhood will not soften me, I have some horrible, truly depraved ideas in the pipeline!

(Header Image: Simon Hanselmann’s photo courtesy of Jacq Cohen)

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