Interview with ‘CLERKS’ and ‘WHA-HUH?’ comic book artist JIM MAHFOOD

Interview with ‘CLERKS’ and ‘WHA-HUH?’ comic book artist JIM MAHFOOD



When asked to do this assignment, I made a list of the people who’s brains I would love to pick the most. And the FOODONE’s name was at the top of that list! Jim Mahfood first broke in doing the CLERKS comics out of Oni Press with Director Kevin Smith. He has went on to feature his work in many various forms with Marvel Comics, Playboy, Mad Magazine, Colt 45 Ads and more. Recently it was announced that he and View Askew producer Scott Mosier sold an animation project to Disney! Today, he graciously allows me the chance to break my interview skills in with this in depth look behind the man, his art and his recent doings! Please enjoy!!

EDITOR’S NOTE: We censored the “F” word here, but left in quite a few “S” words, so be aware. – Mark

Q: Lets start out with the basic: Who are you and what do you do?

A: I’m Jim, I go by Food One, and some other names maybe, I make art everyday. I’ve been at it for a long time. I write and draw comix, I make paintings, I do advertising and illustration work, I paint live in clubs all over the place, I paint on girls in their underwear, I have ridiculous adventures all over the place. I dunno, that’s about it, I guess. You can see a full bio with all my boring credentials and stuff at Ha ha…

Q: When did you realize that you wanted to be an artist?

Pretty young. I was making my own Spider-Man comics when I was a little kid and my dad would take them to work and photocopy the pages for me and then I would staple them together and sell them to the neighborhood kids for a quarter. The comics thing really hit me at a young age. As soon as I started collecting I became obsessed with it, and that fueled my desire to become a comic book artist. In the beginning doing comics is all I cared about. I didn’t really give a shit about any other styles of art….but, that all changed as I got older and became exposed to more things.

Q: Growing up, what artists or things outside of comics influenced you?

A: I was really into animation…I grew up on the classic Looney Tunes stuff, Speed Racer, Battle of the Planets, Voltron, then later got into G.I. Joe and Transformers. I discovered “Akira” when I was in 8th grade and I went and saw it on the big screen at this shitty art house theater when it made it’s first U.S. tour and it totally changed my life! Other stuff like old album artwork, skateboard graphics, stuff like that. Skate graphics in the 80’s were totally amazing! There was this skate shop in St. Louis called Sunset Surf Shop and I would just go in there and spend an hour staring at all the decks on the wall. That had a big impact on me. As soon as I saw guys like Pushead and V. Courtlandt Johnson’s art, man….that stuff just blew me away. After I saw movies like “Beat Street” and “Breakin” I got interested in graffiti art.

Q: Over the last couple of years, your art style has evolved from what it was when you first broke onto the scene. What made you decide to free yourself up and try new things? Its obviously working.

A: Oh, thanks! haha. Yea, I just made the conscious effort to keep changing my art and hopefully make it evolve into something else. The style I had in 1997-98, when I first broke in, it was cool at the time I guess, but, ya know, after awhile so many people started biting that style, it started to annoy me after awhile, I guess. MTV based their whole “Downtown” animated show on that look, as did the “Clerks” cartoon. I would get calls from friends and family and they would say things like, “I saw your art on TV!” and I would respond with, “That’s not my stuff.” I would call my buddy Scott Morse and bitch and complain to him about it for hours. I really took it personally. It quickly dawned on me that you can’t copyright a drawing style…, people will bite and steal if they want. All art is based on biting and sampling in a way, really. So I basically said screw it, and little by little, I just changed things up and evolved it into something else. If you look at my stuff now next to something I drew in ’98, there’s a big difference. I still haven’t finished changing it up…it’s a work in progress….just wait till you see what it looks like 5 years from now……some cosmic funk shit!

mutafukazcolor Q: Are you happy with where you are at in terms of style, artistic evolution and projects you get to work on?

A: Not totally happy, no. An artist should never be 100% happy. That means you’re comfortable and f–k being comfortable. Good art is always a work in progress, something that is trying to become something else, you know? I like that struggle, that frustration in the creative process. It keeps you sharp and on your toes. It keeps you going. I like to try new things….I am really trying to be fearless with the stuff I do. That’s something I really started to do this year. I just decided to fully go for it and see how far I could go with it, see how much I could actually get away with….and believe me, I got away with alot….haha…..

Q: There’s a lot of musicality in your work. Is if your pieces themselves are freeflowing trains of thought and as a comparison to John Coltrane, a “Sheet of Sound,” I say you have “Sheets of Sound and Color” in your work. Are you happy with the evolution of this style you’ve developed?

A: Nice, well, I’ll take that as a huge compliment, so thank you for that. Yea, the whole style, you know, it’s all based on music and the rhythms of music. I hope that’s obvious to the viewer. Most people seem to pick up on it right away. But yea, the fluidity of the drawings, the curves and movements of the lines and shapes, the textures, the dynamics of it all….it’s all based on the patterns and rhythms of music. I always have music playing when I make art. Always. I don’t have the TV on, I don’t listen to talk radio or anything like that. It’s always music. So, I’m just basically visually recording what I’m hearing. It’s almost like cheating in a way; the sounds dictate everything.


Q: Music is a huge part of your work. Every comic you do, you always list an unofficial soundtrack! I’ve always wanted to ask you, can you give me a desert island, top five albums of all time?

A: Damn, I really can’t do lists like that. There’s too much music I love to name just five. I would be up all night trying to figure it out, driving myself crazy, and then I would just change my answers twenty times the next day….haha. I can tell you that Gary Wilson’s “You Think You Really Know Me” and the Beastie’s “Paul’s Boutique” would most definitely be in there, though.

Q: When it comes to modern music and art, what do you think isseverely lacking and what things are working that people should take more notice of?

A: Well, quality, truth, and real substance are pretty much absent from most things these days. Especially if you’re talking about mainstream entertainment. I mean, you can sort of tell that the whole fabric of our culture is quickly crumbling apart if you look at the shit going on out there. But, honesty, I don’t even pay attention anymore. I live in my own world and I am having a total f–king blast. I just surround myself with the stuff that I am into and passionate about and it’s all good. Luckily, all my best friends have amazingly great taste in art, music, movies, culture, etc. etc…, we’re always tipping each other off to the new cool shit and trading music and stuff like that. That’s one good thing going on right now….if you look hard enough, there’s so much info out there now, you can find the good quality stuff if you really want to seek it out. That’s been the main advantage of the internet, for sure.

Q: What do you think of the comics industry right now and the path it is headed?

A: I don’t know, that’s a good question. I’m sure the industry, in America anyway, will continue to be dominated by the whole super hero thing…that will probably never change. The people that want to do their own creator-owned thing will hopefully do it, and some cool things will come out of that. I’m not the best person to ask about this. I still walk down to the comic shop once every two weeks or so….but, I am generally baffled and confused by what I see on the shelves. Most of it doesn’t interest me. Most of it looks like totally over-photoshopped crap to me. Ha ha.

Eh. I grew up reading comics in the 80’s and nothing will come close to topping that. When I was a teenager I read “Dark Knight Returns” and”Watchmen” and “Elektra: Assassin” by Sienkiewicz and the original, violent B&W “Ninja Turtles” stuff and “Love & Rockets”…and it was all just totally badass, innovative, incredible work. That’s still my favorite era of comics.

Q: Any horrific convention stories?

A: Yea, San Diego Comic-Con ’06, man…that was a bad one for me. Our Live Art party was ruined by a bunch of stupid, drugged-out idiots on stage, I got a DUI, I went to jail for 12 hours, I was in a cell with crackheads, crazed bums, and drunken asshole frat boys, my car got towed and I couldn’t get it out of the lot the next day, and at the actual convention I almost got into a fist fight with this idiot over a Ghost Rider sketch I did for him. It’s all pretty funny when I think about it now, but at the time it was a total f—ing nightmare.

Q: What is the oddest commission anyone has ever asked for you to draw?

A: In France, in 2007, this guy asked me to draw myself dressed as Batman, perched over a gargoyle. I was like, “Huh?”


Q: Most artists I know go through these bouts of artistic doubt and depression. What keeps you motivated?

A: I thought maybe I had artistic doubt and depression when I was a teenager but it turned out I was just listening to way too much Depeche Mode and the Cure. Also, I hadn’t been laid yet and I was basically an idiot that didn’t know anything. I say f–k doubt and depression. Life is too short. I would recommend smoking or drinking something, maybe put on Herbie Hancock’s “Headhunters” record, squeegee your third eye open, and fully go for it. As far as motivation goes, just knowing that I have achieved some level of success with my art, that people around the world know about it, that’s a huge thing for me. I’ve been able to travel around and sign autographs and make drawings for rad people around America and in other countries….there’s no other feeling like that, knowing you’re breaking through to people like that with your work. Being an artist means having access to amazing people. I have met some of the most interesting and talented and bizarre and fascinating people in these last thirteen years of doing art professionally. I have a dope crew of people around me that have my back, that support me and what I’m doing, that collaborate with me and are into the same stuff I’m into. You can’t do this hustle alone. My friends Jane Dope and Justin Stewart, they both do coloring and design work for me….they’ve become the backbone of my whole operation. They are down for this weird ride and want to make some cool shit with me. So, knowing that there’s people out there like that, that’s basically all the motivation I need.

Q: Who are your heroes, growing up and now?

A: Man, too many to name, really, but a few would be James Brown, Jack Kirby, Gary Wilson, Jamie Hewlett, Bill Hicks, RUN DMC, Keith Haring, Basquiat, Picasso, Steve Ditko, Parliament/Funkadelic, De La Soul, Beastie Boys, Dondi White, Stanley Kubrick, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Ralph Steadman, Hunter S. Thompson, Vaughn Bode,  Afrika Bambaataa and all the original old school hip hop pioneers, all the original punk shit….I dunno, I have trouble making these lists because I have been influenced by so many different sources throughout my life…..

Q: You did a book called “WHA HUH?” out of Marvel, working with some of the biggest writers in the industry. How fun and/or tough was that, adapting to their styles and did they allow you the freedom to go crazy with what you wanted to bring with it?

A: Yea, that was just pure fun. Brian Bendis hooked that up for me. He’s a great guy. All the writers were super-cool and they all just let me cut loose and do my thing. We were all just basically laughing the whole time we were making that book, especially me and Brian… was like an inside-joke between the two of us……it was really cool. I even threw in some of my own little jokes here and there, ya know, it was all just loose and really enjoyable.

Q: Shifting to “Stupid Comics,” You collected all of the 4 single issue comics and the Phoenix Times into a trade. Any chance we’ll get more?

A: I don’t know…..Stupid Comics was always a real treat to work on….there may be more….sometimes I think that I’ve already said everything I wanted to say in those comics. Ya know, it’s like, how many times can I write and draw about how f—ed up and corrupt the government is? Or make fun of reality TV, mainstream entertainment, religion, pop stars, celebrities, the media, etc. etc.? I felt like I was beginning to repeat myself here and there with some of that stuff. I even did Stupid Comics as a weekly for the Phoenix New Times after I had moved out of Arizona. So, I’m living in LA, and every week I’d have to get on the internet to find out what is going on in AZ so I can write and draw about it. It was challenging. It was a good gig, though, But after that ended I just needed a break from the whole thing. I feel totally ignorant admitting this, but after Obama got elected, I just sort of quit paying attention to what was going on. In 2007-08 I was so f—ing stressed out about the election and the whole f—ed up state of this country and the war and everything….it was really bad for me, for my state of mind, and my health. I mean, everywhere you went there were TVs pumping this shit down our throats. CNN everywhere you went. It was madness. The amount of propaganda and bullshit lies that are fed to Americans on a daily basis is completely staggering. It’s totally insane. So I walked away from it all. I have a TV but I don’t have cable and I don’t get any channels; it’s hooked up to a dvd player and vcr so I can watch movies and cartoons and stuff. I haven’t seen TV shows in over a year. I haven’t seen commercials in a long time. That stuff is just pure poison for your mind and your soul. So….I dunno……that being said, I just haven’t been that interested in doing those types of comics right now…..I basically took the formula for Stupid Comics and morphed it into “Los Angeles Ink Stains”. That’s my on-going autobio strip I started on the first of the year in ’09. It’s way more personal, maybe even selfish in a way, I guess…haha…..but it’s an absolute blast to write and draw about me and my friends’ weird and bugged out adventures. The whole point is to make people laugh and put a smile on their face. I’m trying to inspire people to go out and enjoy life, get into a little bit of trouble here and there, and have some fun.

Q: Any chance of ever returning for some more “GRRL SCOUTS” or “ADVENTURES OF PAGE FILLER MAN?” I’d love to see a “SMOKE DOG” collection.

A: Grrl Scouts, yes. I’ve been working on a new story for over a year now. I know what the basic plot is, what happens in it and everything. I just haven’t scripted it yet. But I can say that it will be a glorious return to sex, drugs, rock ‘n roll, and over the top violence for those three young ladies…

Q: You’ve done books surrounded by the themes of certain albums. “FELT” and the “PAUL’S BOUTIQUE” ones come to mind. Any more that you think you would love to do? I’d love to see visual interpretations of maybe Hancock’s HEADHUNTERS or Davis’ BITCHES BREW from you!

A: Yea, those are two great suggestions. The key thing is, the story behind the album has to be amazing, you know? I read a book about the making of “Paul’s Boutique” and did a bunch of internet research, and the story of them coming to LA and making that album is just classic. It was begging to be told in comic book form. So, that’s sort of what I’m looking for with those types of comics. But, yea, a Sun Ra comic book, something like that, maybe Parliament or Funkadelic…..that would be the shit.

Q: On your blog, you do these “Los Angeles Ink Stains” strips, very similar to the “It was a good day today” strips in STUPID COMICS. Is it inevitable that we’ll see those collected?

A: Yep, working on collecting those right now. More news on that will be coming soon….

Q: Turning to the live art shows: How cool is it to let the art feed off the vibe of the live music and the people and let art spill out? Is it what gets you going now?

A: Yea, that’s the funnest form of art-making you can get involved in, hands-down. We’ve gotten to the point where we’ve basically turned the live art thing into full-blown rock shows. I mean, at SDCC this year we were drinking and carrying on, paint splattering everywhere, aerosol fumes in the air getting everyone high, we were doing shots with people in the crowd, high-5ing everyone….haha….I was stuffing weed rice krispie treats into people’s mouths… was wild. Drunken hollywood movie execs were buying us drinks and some of them even bought a couple paintings from us. Some girl took her clothes off and let me paint all over her. We had three different canvases going at all times with five totally badass artists (Mike Huddleston, Scott Morse, Scott C., Jason Shawn Alexander, Dumper Foo) just crushing shit. There’s nothing better than being with your homies, cold beer in one hand, paint brush in the other, and loud music blasting through your ears. Fun stuff.

Q: What are the future plans for you and your work? What do you want to be known for?

A: I’m just going to stay busy, hustle, and try and advance and evolve the shit I’m doing, you know? I’m nowhere close to where I need to be yet, but I feel like big things are over the horizon. I’m working on some animation stuff right now, that’s new territory for me….I’m excited about it. So hopefully, people will see my stuff in animated form sooner than later. I just try and stay fresh and keep it going. Things have been going really well, I’m a pretty lucky bastard. People can stay updated at

Q: Lastly, and the billionth time you’ve been asked this: Any advice for anyone starting out and pushing through the pressures artistically and avoiding self doubt?

A: Well, you have to be original. That’s the most important thing to me. Being unique and fresh. Which, is sort of difficult these days since everything under the sun has pretty much already been done. But, finding your own voice, doing what you enjoy doing and being true, that’s the most important path to follow as an artist. Money should not be the motivating factor. You have to feel this shit in your heart and soul and live and breathe it and really want it. A job well done, doing good work…that’s the most important thing.

Meet Mahfood and others at DCC14 Meet Mahfood and others at DCC14

(A great thanks to Jim Mahfood for the words and pics! Stay tuned for more Interviews from people in the Comic Book Industry in the future! Check out his work at and



For more from the writer of this article, visit his website at

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About the Author

Raised primarily in central Michigan all his life, Adam is a successful writer, artist and self publisher. He is best known for his comics: PLEASANT LIFE, THE EXPENDABLES, WISE INTELLIGENCE and the upcoming ANNA POCOLYPSE. He also wrote a free online how to book called "IN THE TRENCHES: HOW TO SURVIVE AS A SMALL PRESS COMIC BOOK PUBLISHER." He also has done some pinup work for ANTARCTIC PRESS and logo designs for many other clients. He has been featured on web sites, newspapers, television and magazines talking about his work and travels around the country promoting it. He resides in Southwest Michigan.