MEET THE ARTIST: Derf Backderf

Name: Derf Backderf

Born: October 1959

Lives and works: Clevo. I was born and raised in Richfield. My people are Akron folk, stretching back to the 1880s when my great grandfather arrived from Germany to work in the new Firestone plant. In fact, I am the first adult male in my family who DIDN’T work for a tire company! Went to college at Ohio State. It wasn’t my plan to stay in Oho. That happened for reasons I can’t really explain.

What is your favorite material to work with? Why?
Pen & ink, because that’s what comix are made of.

What is your favorite tool in the studio?
My new best friend is a Huoun light tablet. An incredible time saver.

Favorite place in the region?
The Cuyahoga Valley National Park. I grew up on the lip of it. Our backyard was virtually the border of the park. Even though I’ve been an urban animal since age 18, that landscape is carved into my psyche.

What risks did you take to become the artist you are today?
I was a well-paid, young art director/ staff cartoonist at the Plain Dealer. It’s why I first came to Cleveland in the mid-Eighties. But I grew tired of making lame comix for squares. I wanted to write and draw what I wanted, how I wanted, so I quit and jumped off into the unknown.

What artists, authors, or texts that have influenced your thinking?
Spain Rodriguez, Lynda Barry, Bill Mauldin, Will Eisner.

Music in the studio?
Dizzy Gillespie, postwar period. Mixtapes of rare European punk, courtesy of my Dutch publisher, Lester Bang’s Birdland.

What are you excited for this summer?
Finishing this damn book (Trashed) and taking a breather before the book tour madness starts in the Fall.

New episodes from my web comic, The Baron of Prospect Avenue.


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