WORDS AND IMAGE BY JULIET GELFMAN-RANDAZZO '18, ARTS EDITOR
Malcolm Phillips is in his Halloween costume when we meet at 4:30 on Saturday in downstairs Usdan. He’s dressed as a fox, designated by his black baseball cap to which he has pinned a real fox-skin face. He ordered it on Etsy for $5.
Malcolm is a freshman at Wesleyan, here through the Posse program that grants scholarships to veterans. Originally from Long Island, he joined the military to get out of his small town, and went to Afghanistan twice, as a military cook. He tells me, laughing, “it was a good time.”
But we’re here to talk about Malcolm’s art. “I draw cartoons and comics,” he tells me, “mostly about myself. Sometimes about cute girls.” As inspirations, he cites Trenton Doyle Hancock, Robert Crumb, Johnny Negron, Brandon Graham, and many more. He has a huge comic book collection, and likes to read a wide variety of different artist’s work. “When you say comics people think one thing, but comics are all over the place,” he tells me. One of his personal favorites, though, is an anthology of adult comics entitled “Thickness.”
I ask how he got into comics, and Malcolm tells me that when he was a child his brother used to draw comics based off of the “Gargoyles” cartoons. He would try to copy them, whereupon his brother would get jealous and not let him see his drawings, forcing Malcolm to make up his own. “I was very much into superhero comics,” he tells me. “It was like a gateway drug—Xmen, Archie comics, Calvin and Hobbes, Mad Magazine, all of that.”
At this point, Malcolm has put out two issues of his self-published zine, Monge, and has another issue in the works. He makes them himself on the photocopier; the physicality of the comics is important to him. “I try not to read comics or books online, because there’s something about having something physically--it’s a whole different experience.” If all goes according to plan, he should have another issue of Monge out for Chrysalis, the art show being hosted by Owen Christoph at Eclectic this weekend.
I ask about Malcolm’s training; I know he’s in drawing 1 this semester, having spotted him around campus with the telltale black portfolio in tow, but I wonder if he’s taken any classes in cartoon drawing. He tells me about a graphic narrative class he took during one of his two spells at community college, before dropping out. There he learned about “the nuts and bolts of creating a graphic novel or a comic, like dimensions and logistics. I didn’t really finish the assignment,” he laughs, “but I learned a lot.”
As of now, Malcolm feels he’s still developing as an artist, but he’s working on a “rough chapter of a graphic novel that I’m trying to put together, so you can be looking out for that. It’s about me.” If it’s anything like the Malcolm sitting in front of me in his homemade fox hat, it should be good. I ask him what he’s trying to bring across through his art. “I want people who’ve felt the same things that I’ve felt to know that someone else is feeling those things.”