INTERVIEW WITH JOSH LATTA FOR THE ATLANTA CREATIVES PROJECT
Though it isn't obvious from his demeanor and dialect, Josh Latta was born in Nashville and grew up in the Atlanta suburb of Stone Mountain. And while he makes a living creating Flash animation for kids games and conservative clients, he is most proud of his confessional comic books starring a down-on-his-luck rabbit in search of something more meaningful in his life than bong hits and strip clubs.
While working on the fourth issue of his Rashy Rabbit series, he took some time to talk about Rashy Rabbit, the local comics scene and what led him to cartooning.
For those who haven't seen it, what's your comic book about?
It's about a character named Rashy Rabbit and they're semiautobiographical stories about me and other people I knew growing up. They're usually about sex and drugs and other various debaucheries. It stars a rabbit, who's basically my stand-in.
Is it an online comic or in print?
I would like to probably put more online. I have them on places like MySpace and Blogger, but not a specific Web site where you can just read the comics. A lot of people like to read comics online, but I just could never get into it. I think comics are always going to be a printed medium. That's how I enjoy reading them and I assume a lot of other people do to. Then again, what do I know? There's a lot of online comics that seem to be real popular nowadays.
Magazines and newspapers are moving towards that, too. But to me comic books and magazines are things I want to read when I'm not in front of a computer.
Yeah, exactly. I like to lay down when I read, or sit in a comfortable chair. Sitting in front of a computer just feels like work to me and I can't really relax in front of a computer. I guess that's also because a lot of the art I do nowadays is going to be done on a computer some way or another. It's going to be in Vector or Flash animation or Photoshop. Everyone wants files, not raw art. I don't really have original art anymore since I piece together so much of it on my computer.
At what point did you realize art was something you wanted to pursue?
According to my mom, I've been drawing since I was 2. I've always wanted to do exactly what I'm doing, which is cartoons. For whatever reason, that particular medium just spoke to me, there's something really special and magical about it and I always wanted to do it. Animation always just felt so far away from me, though, because growing up in the pre-Internet days there wasn't really that much information on how animation was done. I just didn't know how people did it. That's one thing about Flash animation is it puts the tool in anybody's hands.
Did you go to art school or are you self-taught?
I'm self-taught. In some ways I wish I went to art school, probably more for the social aspect of it. It might have sped up the process a lot more. But when I got out of high school you couldn't have convinced me that college was the thing to do after being in school for that long.
Who are some of your favorite cartoonists that have influenced your style?
My earliest influence would be Disney. I was a big Disney fan and that stuff always stood out. Looney Tunes cartoons, Cheap Hanna-Barbera cartoons – I loved that stuff and still do. I read Disney comics growing up and a lot of Mad magazine and humor books. I didn't get as much into the superheros. Further on in my life I guess more quintessential influences would be Robert Crumb, Dave Cooper, Pete Bagge – a lot of the alternative guys. But Robert Crumb in particular opened my eyes and showed me that you can tell personal, unflattering, un-politically correct stories through the medium of comics. And I love that, I love when people are honest in art and I think most people aren't, people are afraid to show their dark side.
Take us through your creative process.
It still always starts off the same way, which is pencil and paper. I still sketch everything out and try and get it right in the pencil stages. With comics I still do it by hand and with the computer I scan in everything and ink it in Illustrator and Flash. It still starts off the old fashioned way with pencil and paper. I think nothing can beat that.
Where did you get the idea to do Lattaland.com?
That came from my father, actually. He would jokingly refer to our house as Lattaland and he put that in the cement in our driveway. I always thought that was funny and obviously there's the Disney influence. I thought about getting a new Web site because I don't know if it's too hard to find me with Lattaland instead of Josh Latta. But I like the sound of it.
Do you ever do gallery shows or just the comics and online stuff?
I've done a few art shows, but I always end up feeling misplaced in something like that because my art really doesn't look that great when you see it because I do piece together things in Photoshop like putting word balloons in and whiting out stuff. A lot of my stuff is drawn on tracing paper, so it looks kind of rough when you see it up close. Like I said, I think comics are a printed medium and that's how I like my work to be presented.
How do you feel about Atlanta's art scene?
There are a lot of good artists here. To me the comics scene is something entirely different and what I do is even an offshoot from what most people in Atlanta do. I self publish and put out mini-comics that are personal stories and humor based. I don't think a lot of people are doing that.
It's hard to get a comic book in people's hands. It's hard to get people to read just about anything, so it's an uphill battle. I don't do well at Atlanta comics shows, I seem to do better in other cities. There's a good small press expo in Baltimore and in Charlotte I do really well. And I usually get a better response from people who aren't already into comic books than comic book fans.
I do have a lot of good friends who are cartoonists. One good thing about being in Atlanta is we have Turner, so there's a lot of opportunity for cartoonists. I have a good friend who's also my mentor in cartooning named Stephanie Gladden and she's been a lot of help. Another good friend who was actually the best man at my wedding is Brad McGinty, who's a self-publisher, and he's amazing. He puts out so many books, he's a machine.
Who are some of your favorite local artists?
I like Stephanie Gladden, of course. And I like Bethany Marchman as far as fine art goes. Brad McGinty's not only a good friend of mine, but he's also a great artist and I'm a big fan of his work.
Oh, it definitely has. When I draw my comics I draw a lot of real things from the South. The one I'm working on now, Rashy Rabbit No. 4, there's a scene inside the Pink Pony and I didn't even call it some goofy name. It's just the Pink Pony, so I'll call it the Pink Pony. Rashy Rabbit's world is pretty much an animal version of Atlanta. It's kind of like Song of the South with animals that are clearly meant to be of different races. I don't shy away from stuff like that because I think it's honest and sincere and it's coming from a place where I'm like, "Hey, we are different and this is the South and this is what I personally deal with."
Why are you Rashy Rabbit and how do you decide which animal characteristics are going to apply to certain characters?
I don't know exactly. Rabbits are kind of a quintessential cartoon animal. Rabbits are at the bottom of the food chain, everybody will eat them and they really don't have much purpose except to be food and fodder for other animals. And since a lot of my comics revolve around sex, I thought the rabbit's sex drive would be apt, too. I use other animals, too, but pretty much everybody's a rabbit or a weird dog kind of creature.
Where can people find your comics?
You can find them online at Cutegirldemographics.com. If you're here in Atlanta I'd recommend looking at Criminal Records and on my Web site and at comics shows.
INTERVIEW BY JONATHAN WILLIAMS
PHOTOGRAPHS BY NEDA ABGHARI
Thanks ATLANTA CREATIVES PROJECT!