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Dithering Doodles

Talking with SLC indie-zine creator Steve Anderson


If you haven't had a chance to see Dithering Doodles around town... shame on you. Following in the footsteps of countless zines ahead of it, this SLC-based publication is a combination of random thoughts and cartoons, all from the perspective of it's creator, Steve Anderson. What currently sets this particular zine apart from others you may be finding around town is the fact that it's been running longer and more consistently than many in town. Sure, a couple issues have been missed here and there, but what zine these days isn't missing a couple numbers? Today we chat with Anderson about the publication and where it's headed. (All pictures courtesy of Dithering Doodles.)

Steve Anderson

Gavin: Hey Steve! First thing, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Thanks Gavin for this interview, first off folks, Gavin's got a real cool cubicle to do this in here at the City Weekly offices, nice sterile polished linoleum lighting, ya got any sunglasses? HA! Well, I was born tween X-Mas 1960 & NY-day 1961, but my mom and dad were always great at giving me grand B-day's full of gifts, even though I got the usual helping on X-Mas day as well, which may explain the rather sunny atmosphere of my comix zine, Dithering Doodles, as opposed to the dark ruminations of many zines. I grew up in Salt Lake City, 360 Kensington Avenue was the most influential, as we lived there from 1965 to 1977 from age of 4-16. I went to Whittier Elementary, Lincoln Jr. High and South High School. Would have been in class of 1979, but dropped out. It just bored me to no end! Plus, I was a lazy, procrastinating bastard. Explaining why it took me so long to even start doing a zine, hence the title. Heh Heh! I was the only doodler in this neighborhood. I think I got the bug from my dad who was an excellent cartoonist. He went to South High also and did comics for the school paper, which I have never seen. (Need to visit their archive.) He said the Salt Lake Tribune saw his work and offered him a job doing a strip, but he declined. He did not want the pressure of a deadline. I've only seen his illustrations in letters he wrote home from the Philippines during WW2. By the time I came around though, dad was not cartooning much, busy driving busses and watching TV, which is why I'm not much the TV watcher now. Also, as a youngster, I got into astronomy, about the only subject I excelled at in grade school I found my parents old 50's 45 RPM collection as a preschooler and began collecting more of these at local second hand stores starting in 1974. Got a massive collection of oddball vintage 45s. Later, I worked at Randy's Records soon after he opened in 1978. His kids mainly run it these days. I remember them in diapers! I'm basically a loner type but much more social than I usta be! So these things find their way into Dithering Doodles.


Gavin: What first got you interested in comics and what were some early influences on you?

Like a normal boy, I liked watching morning cartoons and comic books,things like Casper, Richie Rich and a bit later I came upon a box of mid '60s era Archie comics in a neighbors garage.

Gavin: What was it like growing up and kind of honing your style when it came to art?

Even as a toddler, I was mad about drawing on the walls, I ate a bar of soap for my troubles, but it did not work. I settled into a favorite simple thing I named Fawny Face, an upsidedown T with a circle drawn on top, and two dots for eyes. Maybe a line for a mouth. Guess it's a "funny face." Sadly, all that is lost under layers of later paint jobs! Dad may have drawn something for me, but I don't remember, Around 3rd grade he showed me how to draw a sidewalk (that I had turned into your kiddie style ladder look), in proper" perspective." It was quite a revelation, it was about that time I started drawing the Jupiter Two space ship from Lost In Space. I was obsessed with that silly show, already in re-runs in 1969-70. By this time I liked drawing on my desk! You got away with it better in Jr High, as seven class changes made it hard to trace who marked up what desk, HA HA! I looked forward to next the next day to see any alterations, additional comments to my own doodle! It all snowballed from there! Unfortunately, all drawings before 1973 are dust in th' wind!


Gavin: What pushed you to create comics and eventually work on zines?

In junior high the drawing bug really kicked in, but I never drew any multi-panel comics. It was my thing to go to each class and start a fresh new paper full of doodles, it was fun to watch my stack of daily doodling grow higher and higher as 1974 melted into 1975 into 1976, etc. I can really look at the quick progression as this was all I did at school. My school work went neglected. It was the era of disaster movies and I just loved that crap! There's too many pictures of people dying in capsizing ships, earthquakes and cities going up in nuclear mayhem. Oh, I just remembered! I did get into the whole '70s Planet Of The Apes thing. It culminated in the summer of 1974 and an exception to my rule of making multi-paneled comics. I was determined to do an illustrated comic in a notebook but quit after three or four pages! But it's pretty good by my 13-year-old kid standards! But I had the bug and it would never go away! The weird thing of it was, I enjoyed drawing at school but at home my passion for old 45 Rekkids took over. I did not know which side was the " A" side till a few years later when I discovered old Billboard Magazines at the library. I loved hitting all the second hands on my bike, if I wasn't so one track minded and had more than my meager mid '70s allowance, just think of the FINDS to be had at those stores then! Plus there was not much competition as" DI Shopping" was WAY uncool then.


Gavin: What was it like for you to break into the local art scene and start creating work for people to see?

It's a big thrill to me for others to see my stuff because I knew there were people out there who would like it. And there are! After I dropped out of high school in March of 1978, my daily drawing habit slowed to a crawl.
In 1975, I had begun writing in a diary. I would also illustrate it here and there. In 1977, I switched to larger Journals and through the '80s and '90s filled them with more drawings and doodles, but I started to ponder at who would be enjoying all this, but a few relatives after I bite the dust! I started to yearn for an audience, knowing my creations would be fun for people out there somewhere! By the way, not yet mentioned, but other influences were MAD Magazine and one that had people who had worked at MAD Magazine and some others, who did a comic for DC called Plop. I also got into some of the creepier stuff from Nightmare. I guess a natural progression from Casper The Friendly Ghost! But yes, when feedback started creeping in, it was a thrill, even at such a small, alt press level where I will probably happily remain!


Gavin: Did you create any other zines before Dithering Doodles or were you mainly just making your own art and comics?

Nope. Dithering Doodles has been my first zine. I'd been tempted to change the title because people may think of doodles as mindless, half-assed kerfuffle like you might do on a napkin or while the boss is droning "BAWWWN IN THE USA" at an employees meeting. But it IS that and so much more! I think my best stuff is the one-page subject done in multi-panel, or a full-page of little true life bits at temp jobs or going around handing out my zine and dropping them at mysterious places. Oddball stories or subjects no one else may bother cartooning about. Kind of like Seinfeld, though I'm not a fan. But most things I'm my mini-stories are not made up! I like knowing that the irritating co-worker will never know he or she has been immortalized in Dithering Doodles! In my latest issue (#17 just now making the rounds) I have a six panel about hitting a buffet of snacks at a SLC Public Library lobby event that is hilarious if I may say so myself! And a six panel involving those irritating employees at retail stores who announce the closing of their store in a hammy sing-song manner. In the previous edition, I do the zine art as though there are 3 or 4 artists contributing. You'll just love it I'm sure! It includes Garfield spoofs that beat any Garfield, Jim Davis and his ghost artist cohorts ever dredge out!


Gavin: How did the idea to create this zine come about?

The germ of Dithering Doodles began in 1991 in Phoenix, Arizona where I lived with my brother a spell. In a used record store in Tempe, I found a few issues of a crudely put together little zine called SAA DOO. It was put together by a kid in Globe, Arizona, bored with life in his town and school. It was banged out on a typewriter and illustrated here and there with badly rendered cartoon doodles and I snapped these babies up. The store owner said the kid would be thrilled to know he finally sold them! I thought I had lost them but finally found a couple recently. He begged at the conclusion of each issue for fans to write but I never did. I regret it to this day! I can't find any mention of SAA DOO on the internet! Finally around 2007, I discovered the Zine collection at the public library (SLC branch) and kept checking all that out! The final inspiration was finding a comic called Simion by B.C. Sterrett, a local multimedia hound. It's a flashback to the early '80s when his parents put his older brother in charge of watching the kids and the "fun?" that ensues! The family is depicted as a family of bears! It appealed to me as I also like to do flashbacks into my own past! But I'll have to think of another animal for our family. Ferrets, Kittens?

Gavin: What was it like for you creating the first one and hearing public reactions to it?

Creating the first issue of Dithering Doodles, which had its debut in September 2011, twenty years after the SAA DOO epiphany, was a rush! Knowing it was actually in the works, the audience that it would soon be finding out there, unaware it was coming. Those thoughts were heady stuff! Other people would be discovering and enjoying what had been a solitary thing! I can't believe I waited so darn long! Then finally getting reviewed and getting feedback. What a rush!


Gavin: What’s the process for you in coming up with new ideas for each issue?

I'm always daydreaming, that was my big problem at school. Maybe today they would put me on anti-daydreaming meds! But doing this zine, these daydreams sometimes hit me with ideas for a story in my zine, an ancient personal event or just something that happens in the day-to-day. Sometimes I may put in an old page from a diary or journal.

Gavin: How much of the content that you create for an issue stays in and how much finds its way to the trash or different issues?

Not much ever hits a trash container, but I have put aside work and included it in later issues. My latest, #17, has five pages of things from 2014 and announced as such. I'm anti perfectionist. I can take time to draw neatly and sometimes I do. But you will find mostly a quickly rendered approach to my stuff. I'll leave in ink smears instead of editing it out. I like to make some panels look as if a less talented cartoonist, or 10-year-old amateur were doing it. Also you will note the oddball spellings, I do a lot in my zines with the occasional actual spelling gaffes... “c'mon, i'm ay Hi Skool drop Owtt!” I just like the freedom of not having to sweat having things so clean and perfect. I'd only do one issue every two years if went that route. I also want to inspire people to try drawing and not getting all uptight about it! That's what SAA DOO did for me. This kid couldn't draw, but he did anyway. The best compliment for me would be for someone to be inspired by Dithering Doodles and start their own zine!


Gavin: As the zine has progressed, what have you done personally to help make it grow and define its voice?

Well, not as much as I should have thus far. Let's be honest. I could do a lot better, taking advantage of modern media like Facebook. I belong to an earlier age of cartoon zines though I was stupidly unaware of it at the time even though SAA DOO should have had me investigating this phenom back in 1991. In 1983, I actually had a moment discovering the fun of Xerox machine art at the SLC Public Library when it was at the previous building built in the 1960's. I'd taken a 1963 Huntington Beach High School yearbook I had found at a DI store in Murray (I called it the "Smokestack DI", as it was near those old towering smokestacks that were dynamited in 2000), and made a weird cut and paste collage out of it with some of my doodles worked into it. This should have evolved into zine creation had I kept pursuing this thing. I made several copies, only one exists today, maybe I'll put it in a future Dithering Doodles! I went about stapling and taping them on utility poles and whatnot. Anyway, I'm happy just to go about handing them to potential fans and leaving copies here and there, like the yard ornament Buddha statue in the avenues! Laundromats, coffee shops, creepy phoneless-phonebooths and such. I think I have already defined it's voice, "Hi there, I am here to switch the gears in your head wherever you happen to find me and get a cool break from the routine of whatever moment you find this issue of Dithering Doodles."

Gavin: How is it for you seeing it still continue to be picked up and enjoyed by the community, especially with the library keeping them on file?

Having the first issue be displayed in the local library was a happy moment. Having put your creative energies into your first issue. Having gone through trial and error at cobbling it together after the fun part of drawing it is over, mastering the more two side page manipulations on the copy machine (I still go to Kinkos!), and stapling it all together! WHEW! And finally... DISTRIBUTION TIME! And then knowing people are discovering it and thinking, "Who is this guy!?" Yeah!


Gavin: What do you hope to do with it in the coming years as you keep creating it?

Just become better at my thing. Having people say, "So when do we get to see the next issue?" Not many people write to say what they think, but, okay, who wants to be stalked by their favorite cartoonist, right?

Gavin: What do you currently think of the SLC zine culture and the work coming out of it?

Alt Press Fest in July at the SLC Public Library is a blast! You get to shyly meet amd greet your fellow local zinesters, make trades, mostly give away your zines to the passers-by who at least stop by your table. I tabled for the first time last year, prior to that I'd just bring a box and hand 'em out, I kind of miss that because I spent more time at table than looking at others work. But I'll be tabling this coming July and hope you'll stop by. I'm good at handing out missed back issues, GRATIS, so take advantage!


Gavin: Are there any zines you’re reading that you think people should also check out?

Yeah, anything local by Ricky Vigil or Steve Thueson are up my alley, and there's one small mini-zine done by Kyle Marshall Nixon called Monster Hobbies! My favorite panel being "Lochness Sockmess" and dinosaurs riding bicycles. I met the guy at Alt Press Fest 2014 and I pointed out to him that if you flip his cover art upside down, it releases a GHOST! "Oooooh," he was aghast! We had traded our zines the night before when we happened to be pumping out zines for the event at Kinkos! There's a new one out soon called Pathology by Ryan & Madeline, we also met at Kinkos sometime ago. I don't see it on the internet but watch for it. The aforementioned Simion by B.C. Sterrett! There's a non-comics zine I dig from Plano, Texas called Kogomo, because he tells great stories of renting a booth at a failing indoor swap meet and the weirdo customers and fellow boothies. He gets weird prisoner mail and art, poems, and oddball fan letters. I like Cometbus and Snakepit that have been around for years. Another favorite I discovered at the zine library uptown is Not My Small Diary, by Delaine Derry Green. Each issue floated a new theme and zine artists everywhere would submit a full-page on it. Alas, I was too late to get in on it! It really whetted my desire to get going on Dithering Doodles!


Gavin: What can we expect from you and Dithering Doodles over the rest of the year?

More ideas are sprouting everyday outta my daydreams! But I need to start wrapping up a few older issues that reached a snag and are not yet available. #9, #10, #11, #14 and #16! I want to get one done about my first time at a seasonal job out at the Great Salt Lake (Oct 1, 2014 to Jan 7, 2015) for the "Great Salt Lake Brine Shrimp Cooperative." A crazy adventure! Dithering Doodles #15 and #16 were scrawled out there but were not really ABOUT my time there. So get on it Steve! Be on the lookout for all these and new ones to come!