Zak Sally loves comics — reading them, drawing them, teaching them and, most of the time, producing art comic books for himself and other artists as publisher of Minneapolis-based small press La Mano.
The only exception is when his A.B. Dick 360 offset printing press, the fickle centerpiece of La Mano's operations, is particularly temperamental.
"Let the nightmare begin," Sally said, with a slight smile. "Last night, it's embarrassing, but it actually had me reduced to tears. One of these days I'll have it dialed in and humming."
Sally got his first press, a nod to the DIY culture and punk aesthetic he came up in, in 2004 and upgraded a few months ago.
An acclaimed comic artist, Sally is now drawing the latest installment of his "Sammy the Mouse" series. He was just 13 when he made his first zine and 20 when he began putting out zines and comics under the La Mano label in 1991.
Sally, the former bassist in Duluth indie rock band Low, last year issued a vinyl version of his 2009 solo CD "Fear of Song," through La Mano.
La Mano also published Sally's "Recidivist" series and works by prominent comic artists Kim Deitch and John Porcellino. (Beside Sally's website, www.lamano21.com, La Mano titles are available at Big Brain Comics in Minneapolis).
Sally also teaches in the comics program at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and is a frequent stay-at-home dad since he and his wife had the second of their two children a year ago.
Three and out with artist Zak Sally
- How did you get hooked on comics?
The first thing I read by myself was "Peanuts." After that I got into superheroes. It's a fairly standard comic-obsessive trajectory. Thankfully when I grew out of that was the time when the new undergrounds were happening. I was able to keep loving and being interested in comics.
- How would you describe your "Sammy the Mouse" series?
It's a bunch of animals that run around and drink and swear at each other. I'm drawing a comic that for me is really entertaining and fun to read. A lot of people think it's really dark and depressing, which I don't have an answer for. When all is said and done, I think it's going to have some really redemptive qualities to it.
- Where do printed art comics and books like yours fit in a digital world?
I think there are going to be lines in the sand that are drawn. If a piece of art is going to have a physical form, there should be a reason for it to have a physical form. It grows increasingly important to me having that physical object. The more I can see the human being behind that physical object, the more special it makes it to me.
Three more and out with Sally
- What do you like most about making comics?
You can create this world, all on your own. And every single piece of that comes from you. Which is different than film where you have to get millions of dollars and all these technicians. Comics is you sitting by yourself and working it all out. It's weird and painful and difficult and fantastic.
- You're self-taught as an artist, so how does it go when you're teaching in the comics program at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design?
Every year it gets closer to what I imagine film school would be like: People who are storytellers and love this medium and want to say what they have to say in this form. I always tell them I didn't go to college or art school because comics were still a pretty debased form then. If nobody was going to teach me that, there's no point in going through that process.
- What was the best part of being in Low?
There were parts of it I loved and parts of it I hated. Some nights it was, "Oh my God, I get to play music." Sometimes, it was, "I would rather be doing anything other than this. Sometimes being away from home was the greatest thing in the world. Sometimes all I wanted was to have a home to be at. But I wouldn't trade that time for anything. It was a pretty astounding experience.