Matt Silady makes me want to learn how to use Photoshop. I have it on my Mac, but have no idea what to do with it. Silady, who isn’t a trained artist, has been able to use Photoshop to illustrate his own stories and to a nice effect. We met Silady at the Alternative Press Expo while he was promoting his book, The Homeless Channel from AIT-Planet Lar.
Pink Raygun: How did you get started with The Homeless Channel and AIT-Planet Lar?
Matt Silady: For the last two years I’ve done an issue a year, just for APE at my own little table while I was getting my graduate degree. After I finished issue two, Larry [Young] offered to collect the whole series, so I finished three and four, didn’t print them myself. And they’re coming out as a graphic novel.
PRG: Can you summarize The Homeless Channel for me?
MS: Yeah. It’s about a woman who’s attempting to start a 24 hour cable network called the homeless channel and her various success and sometimes utter failures in doing something so ridiculous. But at the same time, hopefully it makes for a good story.
PRG: Do you watch a lot of reality television?
MS: Yeah. That’s one of the interesting things. I really enjoy Aaron Sorkin’s shows, like Sports Night, West Wing, and Studio 60. On Studio 60 they’ve ripped on reality TV a lot, and the book is patterned more after Sorkin’s type of characters dealing in the world of reality TV. So, I don’t watch a lot of it, but I’m interested in exploring the ethics behind it. These are people who are choosing to be on those shows, but at the same time, they’re being terribly exploited. In this case [the book] they’re putting homeless people on TV and there are some interesting voyeuristic aspects of that. There’s a guy, Jason MacNamara, who wrote something about the book and the end of his piece, he said “When it comes to The Homeless Channel, you’re either watching it or you’re on it”, which is pretty interesting.
PRG: Do you do both the writing and the art?
MS: Yes, I do. I had actually started writing the script and was looking for an artist. Artists are a real pain in the butt, because either they’re not so good and they’ll do it for free or they’re great and you have to pay them up front. I could do neither, so I decided to sit down and try to do it myself.
PRG: Do you have any background as an artist?
MS: None. I taught 8th grade for six years then came to California to get a Master’s degree and the first page of The Homeless Channel is the first page I ever drew. It’s all based on photo reference. I think the art changes as the book goes along. It grows.
PRG: Are you drawing by hand or using Photoshop or some other digital medium?
MS: I use both. I start by taking the photos and breaking them down into blacks and whites in Photoshop. Then I print them out in a really light cyan and with an inking brush I go over them by hand. So, hopefully it has the reality of the photos, but at the same time a hand drawn feel.
PRG: Do you anticipate, or are you trying to work with an artist, so you can focus more on the writing?
MS: In my ideal world, I’d be able to do both. I’d be working on “my” book where I’m doing the art and the writing – I just did air quotes on an audio interview, so I just felt kind of silly – It’s a very slow process when I’m doing my own art, so I’d like to keep cranking out stories and hopefully working with artists in the future on those.
PRG: From a writing standpoint, who are your influences?
MS: I pretty much ape Sorkin half of the time. I love what he does with his very unrealistic dialogue that sings on the page and sounds wonderful and it’s kind of how I wish people would talk. Beyond that, in terms of influences, it’s mostly fiction writers. I got my Masters in fiction and worked with a lot of really good prose writers in the program and I really enjoy taking prose fiction that I’ve written and trying to find a way to transform it into good comics. My next book I’m working on is sort of a spy thriller, so I’ve been reading a lot of spy novels lately.
PRG: You mentioned that you taught 8th grade for how long?
MS: For six years. I loved it.
PRG: A lot of strange things happen in the classroom. Do you think you might find a way to incorporate some of those things into your comics?
MS: I’ll tell you what. That is always in the back of my head. There are little stories throughout that make it into the things I write, but someday I have it in my head – wait, let me start with this. I hate movies about teachers. I hate TV shows about teachers. There’s nothing that makes my skin crawl more than that. Probably the same way doctors hate ER. But, I would love to dive in and really do a show or a comic or a book about what teaching is really like because I think there is so much natural drama there, you don’t have to look very far. The thing is, I know every single teacher and student I put in that book will look at it and go “Ah! That’s me!” So, I’ve been toying with the idea of how many people I want to burn along the way here. Yeah, I would love to see a show what happens behind the teachers’ lounge door sometimes because on one hand I think it would surprise people, and on the other, I don’t think it would surprise them at all.
PRG: I feel the same way about teacher shows and movies, I call it “teacher porn” and “false advertising” because I’ve encountered a lot of people who got into the profession because of Dead Poet’s Society and then they get into a real classroom and freak out.
MS: Mr. Holland’s Opus. . .
PRG: Yeah, that one makes me want to vomit. This question doesn’t have anything to do with your comic, but I’m curious. Is there a show or movie or book that you think got close to capturing what it’s actually like?
MS: No. I’m just having this nightmare, Boston Public and things are going through my head. . .
PRG: I used to watch that and every 20 minutes or so I’d shout out “LAWSUIT!” because they did so many things that in the real world would wind up in litigation.
MS: There was a show when I was younger called Bronx Zoo like that and I used to think “how cool” and. . . no, it’s not like that. Teaching is so rewarding, but not in any way that they would let you think it would be. So no, I don’t think it’s been done justice. Shows I love right now are shows like The Wire.
PRG: I love The Wire!
MS: When I think of doing a teaching show or a comic book, I think of The Wire. I think of creating people who truly are real people that are completely flawed and totally heroic all in the same breath.
Autographed copies of The Homeless Channel #1 and #2 are part of Pink Raygun’s “Couldn’t Make APE?” prize pack. A winner will be selected from our email subscriber list on May 31st. For more on Matt Silady, visit his website.