I had a chance to talk to native Texan Eric Michener, who founded the Fishboy music project in 2001. He got the nickname Fishboy after he ate a live fish on a dare. His latest release An Elephant is also a 160 page graphic novel that he created as a companion piece for his album. An Elephant comes out January 20th.
What draws you to a narrative style both in art and music?
I naturally gravitate towards stories in any medium. I’m a filmmaker/video
professional by day but I’m also very practical. The great thing about both
songwriting and making comics is that they are both essentially no-budget
mediums. I can take big story ideas that would cost 200 million dollars to
produce as a film and make them for free!
How did you devise the name Fishboy?
The official answer to this question is that I swallowed a rare fish from a
local aquarium on a middle school field trip putting myself in legal and
financial hot water at the age of 15. It turned into a nickname, and then
performer name, and then band name.
Are you planning on submitting An Elephant to any graphic novel shows?
Like the Mocca comics art fest? You should consider it.
I am exhibiting at STAPLE an Austin indie comics fest in March. I have
exhibited there before and had a great time. Mocca seems like more of a
gamble because airfare would be involved. If they are friendly to self
publishers then maybe I’ll give it a shot.
Do you write the story first and then work on songs based off of the scenes
of the story?
Nope. Quite the opposite. I wrote the album linearly song by song based on
how I think the direction of the music should naturally flow. I figured out
lyrics and story points as I progressed which was tricky.
The first song starts at as a revenge fueled anthem and as I wrote it
became clear to me that the character needed to grow out of that anger and
learn that forgiveness is more powerful even in the worst of all scenarios,
in this case murder.
I envisioned the project as a darker all-ages cinematic story, so I wanted
to adhere to a classic three act story structure but a vinyl record is two
sides. So it required a bit of a detour story-wise in the middle to allow
for side B to start off strong.
Making a perfect album was my first priority and recording was wrapped
before I story boarded the comic and fleshed out the details. Fishboy was a
band for ten years before I started seriously drawing comics and most
people come at it from the music angle, which is great. I’m good at writing
song and love doing it, but my goal with this project was to raise my
comics up to the level of my music.
What kind of tools did you use to make the comic? Pens? Pencils? Paints?
I use all photoshop with a tablet and very self consciously try to make
everything look as physical as possible. I am at the end of the animation
progress for an-elephant.com which has been really fun. I’ve been able to
transform pages to short promo videos as well. I’m in the beginning stages
of figuring out a full music video with the artwork.
How difficult was it to see the whole project all the way through?
160 pages is a lot!
Honestly, making the music was more difficult that drawing the story. I put
a lot of pressure on myself to make classic albums that stand the test of
time so I have to have a gut feeling about every song in order to move on
to the next one. This took about a year just for songwriting. The recording
process took seven days because we mostly track guitars, drums and bass
live and came in to the studio well rehearsed. Once we wrapped that, I
wrote a script out on square paint samples I stuffed in my pocket from
Lowe’s. Each square had a different description of what was happening on
that page and how many panels I think it should have. From there it was
just about the daily routine. Having already finished the music to what I
think is my best album yet really inspired me to finish the comic. I knew
it was coming out no matter what, so I may as well finish drawing!