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A Short Interview With Gary Panter on Fort Thunder
posted October 30, 2003

During dozens of interviews with artists and writers concerning their impressions of the Fort Thunder group, one name came up more than any other as a probable influence and potential fellow traveler: cartoonist and painter Gary Panter. We took our questions directly to Panter, who enthusiastically agreed to talk about the Fort.

TOM SPURGEON: Can you tell me how you first became aware of Fort Thunder?

GARY PANTER: Various Fort Thunder associates began sending me Paper Rodeo along with other mini-comics and silkscreen material.

When I did my light show in my studio in Brooklyn a whole crew or two of them came down to see it and we had a swell time.

SPURGEON: Is there any specific artist in that group whose work you're taken with?

PANTER: Since these guys often work anonymously, it's a little hard to know who is doing what at any moment. I like all the work I've seen. My friend Devin Flynn and pal Seth [Cooper] contribute to Paper Rodeo, so I recognize their work more readily. To my thinking this is a bunch of talented, motivated people.

SPURGEON: Do you feel an affinity with any of their artists specifically, or the group in general? One person I talked to said, "Gary Panter gave Fort Thunder permission to do what they do." Do you feel like they work in an area of comics you've previously staked out?

PANTER: I do [feel an affinity] and recently I contributed to Paper Rodeo. If I am any kind of influence on them I am highly complimented and not competitive.

I can't give anyone permission to do their work or take inspiration from the many places it might be found. The same goes for my work: I take inspiration where I find it. If someone claimed Jimbo as their own I would take exception to that, but that has never happened.

SPURGEON: Are you aware of any common influences shared by your work and that of the Fort Thunder artists?

PANTER: We all practice art that is hand-made and intuitive. I would guess we share the influences of the English pop artists of the sixties; the art brut movement spearheaded by Dubuffet; the Chicago Hairy Who; the wild French drawing teams like Bazooke, Elles sont de Sortie, le Dernier Cri and more stuff young people would know about.

SPURGEON: David Mazzucchelli mentioned Le Dernier Cri as a probable influence.

PANTER: Le Dernier Cri owe much of their inspiration to Bruno Richard, Pascal Doury and Anthonyu Caro's "Elles Sont de Sortie."

SPURGEON: What do you think of the Fort Thunder cartoonists' general approach to packaging and publication design?

PANTER: The design sense is sloppy and does the job.