It was a dark and stormy night. I’d just finished off a homemade meal with a few unexpected dinner guests. After the plates were cleaned up and the chit chat dispensed the guests headed out and my wife headed to bed, that’s when I sent the message to Carl Randles. His long travel to my house from his distant domicile was hindered by the inky blackness of night combined with the torrential downpour that drenched the landscape and had become a chronic ailment of the changing season. Braving these elements however Carl arrived on my doorstep at around 10 o’clock. I showed him in and we sat down at my dining room table over matching cups of hot tea. The rain beating down on the glass of the adjacent window was a constant reminder of the cold unruly harshness of nature which has become man’s self appointed sisyphean task to struggle against. There was an intensity in our speech that night, and a depth to our meaning.
Just kidding. It wasn’t nearly that serious. Ha! Although I was pleasantly surprised at how candid our conversation was and how serious my friend took the questions I put before him. It was a very long and pleasant conversation and after it was all said and done I felt like I had just been through some type of therapy session, although I’m not sure whether my role was as the analyst or the patient.
How can I describe Carl Randles? He’s a unique fellow with a hugely diverse area of interests who never fails to conjure strange bits of information at the most opportune moments. I’m sure everyone knows someone amongst their group of friends similar to Carl. The type of friend who meshes well with the rest of the group, and who has a confident unintentional charm about him. Someone who is generally well liked by everyone, and who no one can seem to pinpoint any fault with. Basically the type of person who winds up being a serial killer. “Oh he always seemed so nice. He was so polite and quiet, we never suspected he had a closet full of hobo feet.”
Again only joking! I’m 98% sure Carl has never killed anyone!
Before I even got into my prepared questions Carl and I got into a hearty conversation that included what my goal was with this interview, life getting in the way of art and having to work less-than-fulfilling jobs in order to pay the bills. We talked about whether morning or evening was the best time for creative expression, and how to find time in general to foster said creativity. We touched on the upcoming Mid-Ohio Comic Con and the outrageous commercialization and monopolization of comic book conventions in general. Over all Carl and I talked for about an hour and a half and unfortunately there had to be a considerable amount of editing in order to shave it all down to an acceptable length. So without further ado let’s get into it already!
Carl Randles laborer, student, artist, good friend, man, woman, child, butcher, baker, candlestick maker, Carl Randles.
Carl as he peruses the dollar bins at Baltimore Comic Con.
Joshua: So Carl, first of all thanks for coming here on such short notice!
Carl: No problem. I’m not gonna lie I thought you wanted me to help you with your Stormtrooper outfit.
Joshua: Ha! Oh well if you want to help too, we can do that after we’re done here. Maybe I’ll let you wear it.
Carl: Naw, you should be the first one to wear it fully done.
Joshua: Yeah I suppose, but I might still need your help. I’ll let you know. But anyway, when you and I first met a lot of our conversations centered around Star Wars and comic books. Those were some unifying subjects for us. What geek, or pop culture subjects these days do you feel don’t get enough attention, or that you’d like to see get more of the spotlight?
Carl: Myself, I would love to know more European comic book artists, because there are things that are huge over there and I’ve only read a few things. I’m reading Tin Tin and I’ve read Blacksad which the art in is terrific.
Joshua: Blacksad? I don’t know what that is.
Carl: It’s about an anthropomorphic detective, and the crime noir style caught my eye, and the art is just phenomenal. I have one edition of it. That would be cool obviously to check that out. I don’t know too much though, my interests in Hell Boy and B.P.R.D have gotten big and Mignola is huge now which blew my mind. I think I started reading those in high school which I think was a few years after he got started and it surprised me, I wouldn’t say I jump on the bandwagon a lot, but when its popularity falls off that’s when I get into stuff.
This is Blacksad, the anthropomorphic cat detective
Joshua: Yeah, being there at the beginning of something like that is rare.
Carl: You’ve got to feel stuff out I guess. I tried that once, being the frontrunner. I don’t feel right being that guy that’s like “Oh yeah I heard about that before . . . .” I had that happen once, with a band, and it was stupid.
Joshua: What band was it?
Carl: (Laughing) Limp Bizkit!
Joshua: (Laughing) Ha! Fantastic!
Carl: I remember I was in high school when they came out, and I think I was in Quonset Hut and I was like “Three dollar bill y’all.” I don’t think I even picked the album up, but I’d heard them on the radio. My music changed I really liked Korn at the time, and now I haven’t even listened to them in years.
Joshua: Why do you think some of those European books and things are overlooked?
Carl: I guess because they’re not established, they’re not Marvel or DC. I don’t know it’s really adult, I would love to go back and read 2000 AD and the early Heavy Metal books which are phenomenal, but I don’t really know why some of that stuff doesn’t make it.
Joshua: Comic book fans always seem to know of them, but they don’t always seem to know the details. Comic book fans talk a big game, I think a lot of the time, but then when it actually comes to reading things . . . .
Carl: Oh yeah, I’ve gotten to that point. In my mind there’s all these books, like stupid Wizard puts out those lists “Top 100 Trades” that I think, ok I’ll check that out. But then again that’s their opinion, I would probably love to read that stuff but don’t know why.
Joshua: So are you reading any comics currently?
Carl: I have back orders of some of the Punisher, and Hell Boy/B.P.R.D stuff, but other than that I’m just hearing of individual one or two trades that I want to look into. Tin Tin is one I’m trying to read.
Joshua: I want to see the movie.
Carl: Yeah that’s why at this point I have this trade, the one story in it is what the movie is based on. It’s pretty cool and clean illustrations, the line qualities are really nice. I would definetly suggest it. Other than that, I was reading Loveless and Jonah Hex. The current stuff is all one-shots like 99% of the time, just boom, boom, boom.
Joshua: Ah, that’s like old school comic books there, going back to individual issues.
Carl: Yeah, yeah. It’s pretty cool. There’s also Criminal and Incognito, I might be about one story arc behind on those, but I like that kind of stuff. Oh! AND the Goon, whenever the hell that stuff comes out.
Joshua: Ha! Yeah, whatever year and a half time frame it takes to put out a new Goon book. While we’re still on the subject of comics, here’s the most typical comic book question ever asked: What is your favorite comic book company?
Carl: Company? God damn . . . .
Joshua: That’s not really an easy question to answer anymore.
Carl: DC I loved for awhile, but then the story arcs they were focusing on were . . . . I kind of lost interest in. But I do kind of like that they started over with their reboot, it’s ballsy! Which is cool, you have to go back, and all these young people can get into it which is smart, business-wise. It also pisses off a lot of people, and I can sometimes understand that but most of the time I’m just like, let it go.
Joshua: (Laughing) Yeah, but most of the DC Mega Fans are on death’s doorstep anyway.
Carl: Marvel is cool. But my favorite? I want to say Dark Horse or Image because they’re underground, and with Image it’s creator owned. I haven’t read a whole lot of stuff, maybe because it’s not out there and what I know, but I can’t really take the chances and spend the money on the books. But it’s the same with Dark Horse, they’re both along the same lines.
Joshua: Dark Horse too has really taken up the abandoned business of the licensed books that Marvel and DC don’t really do any more.
Carl: Yeah, they’ve put out reprints, and have the rights for all the old Conan and stuff like that.
Joshua: So Carl, speaking of comics and art and all that, would you consider yourself to be an artist?
Carl: If you’re including my output, hell no.
Joshua: Well I mean, I suppose it really comes down to who is an artist?
Carl: I would love to be able to realize and understand all of the high art concepts. But I can’t fathom it all, I wouldn’t be able to create it myself I think, which sucks.
Joshua: You mean like you’d want to come up with your own artistic concept, like being a founder of surrealism or something?
Carl: Yeah, like all the modern stuff where it’s just an image, like a Mark Rothko where it’s just a canvas and there’s two shitty blocks. And there’s something behind that, which when I look at something I may not see it. I usually see textural and have a very two dimensional approach to it, there might be some nice aesthetics and textures. So you have to look behind what the artist meant to do, which is not convoluted, but it is advancing the art form but like you said, what is art? It’s man’s creation, painting or writing, anything can be art. But then you have people who are high up who talk down comic books and say it’s childish, but then again that’s because we were forced to think that. But you look at the stuff of Alan Moore or Grant Morrison, that European stuff that we haven’t really read, they love that, that’s high art to them!
Joshua: Yeah, yeah absolutely. Well and they put big concepts into their work.
Carl: Yes, very satirical. Usually whenever I do something my train of thought isn’t very logical for most people, so it’s like phrase after phrase, it’s more emotional rather than logical.
Joshua: Well that’s pretty much art right there!
Carl: I guess I’m saying I’m just not that precise, so if I’m looking at a piece of art I may not even be able to explain, or dissect it to a point.
Joshua: That’s where the arrogance of art comes in, people trying to tell you, what an artist is thinking. Who would you say are some of your artistic inspirations?
Carl: Comic book-wise would be like Mike Mignola. Writers I’d say Ed Brubaker, Alan Moore, Grant Morrison. More artists, David Mack and even someone like Stan Sakai, there is something in that fucking line, he can really nail that stuff out. A lot of comic book artists are really talented, there are some of course who are just not my taste obviously, but I’ve found myself getting less interested in the superhero genre. That type of realism just doesn’t do it for me any more. With Hell Boy it is realistic but it’s two dimensional, and there’s really graphic elements to it. Same with Usagi, even though Stan Sakai is not realistic, it’s two dimensional, but Fucking-A . . . .
Joshua: Ok Carl let’s really get into the important questions now. Answer me this, what is your favorite ethnic food?
Carl: I guess maybe Asian food? I mean unfortunately I haven’t really had all that much, well, I guess there’s pasta which is Italian, there’s Mexican. I’d really like to try more of the others, like Russian and everything else that’s out there.
Joshua: You should go with me and Lauren to the Russian Festival out in Mogadore sometime!
Carl: Is that yearly?
Joshua: Yeah it’s at St. Nicholas church, the big Russian Orthodox church out there. It’s pretty cool. The church is interesting, you go into the sanctuary there and it’s like stepping back into the Renaissance. All the stylized iconography and all that, I guess it’s the Byzantine style or whatever.
Carl: Yeah that very two dimensional, geometric, style where it was all story based to get the illiterates to understand the church.
Joshua: But they have some good food out there.
St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church in Mogadore Ohio
Carl: I’ve always been intrigued by the Russians, with their borscht.
Joshua: That’s just fun to say. But overall you’d say that, of the foods you know of, Asian cuisine is your favorite?
Carl: I think so, there’s a little more variety. Then you’ve got sushi and everything in there.
Joshua: Now, moving on, as everyone may or may not know you have partaken in several multimedia productions along with myself and directed by the incomparable David Tavolier where you play a character named Dennis, talk about Dennis.
Carl: As a character I kind of know him. That he is this stumbling, lower level, naive character but I also know that that’s quite a bit of me because I don’t know how to act and it’s just like I’m awkward behind it and so it’s just a lot of me coming through in that part.
Joshua: Well that’s my next question, which is what’s your motivation for Dennis?
Carl: Well I know that I don’t have so much self respect that I wouldn’t lick out of a puddle, there’s a point that you’ll do anything for the laugh. There’s humility at some point I think though.
Joshua: Right, sure. Like you’re not going to whip your dick out for a laugh.
Carl: (Laughing) Well, I don’t know . . . .
Joshua: (Laughing) If it’s really funny, it’s worth it!?
Carl: There’s a point where you think of your self respect. Like, am I degrading myself? I would suppose that after time if that’s all that I’m known for, that would be the borderline if that happens.
Joshua: So you’ve gone too far when you’ve become a porn star? That’s crossing a line?
Carl: Yeah cause then it’s like, oh no, not this racket again. But no, in conjunction with Reginald Sterling that is a good pairing because you have that comedic duo.
Joshua: Both idiots though.
Reginald Sterling and Dennis off on another whirlwind adventure!
Carl: But yeah, Dennis is just me trying to act.
Joshua: So would you say that it’s just a caricature of yourself?
Carl: I think so. Because you know, you’re reacting, so you can just emphasize what you may be thinking already, what you would do normally. I feel awkward because I’ll be thinking about the acting aspect of it, I don’t want to screw anything up, I’m always worried about whatever lines I have, which will be very minimal. But all that is the character, and we always have fun.
Joshua: Yeah, we do. Ok Carl, very last question. Encapsulate Carl Randles for the readers in just five words.
Carl: Five words?!
Joshua: I gave Lauren seven last week, but I’m only going to give you five because you have quite a talent for what I like to call “minimalist vocalizations.”
Carl: Ugh, God. Honestly I usually stray from those kinds of questions.
Joshua: I know, yeah. Well I’m gonna force you to do it Carl. Five words.
Carl: Well if I try to say humble I feel like I’m an asshole.
Joshua: (Laughing) Ha! That’s pretty much the definition of humble Carl!
Carl: It just feels wrong to say it, I aspire to be modest and stuff like that, but . . . Do you want a sentence or . . . . like “Carl Randles is . . . ?”
Joshua: Carl Randles is an asshole! There you go! No, it doesn’t have to be a sentence it can be abstract, free verse, structureless. Just five words.
Carl: Um, start with Blathering, I guess. This is just weird
Joshua: Think of it this way, think of it as a five word time capsule of you right now, up to this point in your life.
Carl: Blathering. Uh Lazy? Maybe also Uninformed?
Joshua: But you knew about Limp Bizkit!
My guess is he was drawn in by the cover art.
Carl: Also Reactive.
Joshua: These don’t have to be terrible things about you Carl!
Carl: It’s hard to think positive things, I think maybe I don’t really like looking back on myself.
Joshua: (Laughing) Christ! What do you mean? I guess it can be whatever you want, are you determined to end this on a downer Carl?
Carl: (Laughing) Well it’s honestly how I feel about myself sometimes, but it’s not like devastating to me, or a depression. I don’t feel highly about myself sometimes, or whatever.
Joshua: Yeah I know what you mean, and maybe it’s because we’re older now, we’re both thirty. I recently have looked back on my own life and thought what have I done? Could I have done more with this? But like you said it’s not depressing necessarily you just get retrospective.
Carl: But I also have the viewpoint on life that if you have a family and a good solid base, that’s what’s important. If you enjoy your life and the people in it you don’t have to be something huge. But there’s also that dilemma of “Did I do anything? What’s this life for?” You do look back on it.
Joshua: Well if you start thinking about your family, and your great great grandparents and distant relatives, who were any of those people? Do you really have any real recollection of those relatives, what they did, and who they were, those people who got you to this time and place. It just gets you thinking about your own legacy and all that.
Carl: George Carlin brought up interesting aspects of that though, like who the fuck cares where your last name is? You, as an individual, are what’s intriguing. There’s also other people who have that thought that the world shouldn’t have flags, it should be one world nation. It’s interesting. I can’t always get behind one way or another, and that would actually be another of those words.
Joshua: What would?
Carl: Uh, meandering? You know like, in between childlike.
Joshua: Ok . . . .
Carl: Because again we’re in our 30’s and we’re not serious businesspeople and stressed out, which I think I enjoy more then being that. I mean yeah, you can still have a steady job and be important and enjoy that, but we fucking screw around and make noises that are childish. Just looking to enjoy ourselves and have fun with the friends around us is important as well.
Joshua: Yeah I can totally get behind that. There’s something about having too much responsibility and dealing with huge amounts of stress and hassle with your job, doing those things that you don’t enjoy in order to just make it, which just seems wrong.
Carl: So what do I have so far? Blathering, lazy, reactive, uninformed, and meandering.
Joshua: That’s five, and that’s all I have for you Carl. Do you have any final words before we end this interview?
Carl: Nah. Thanks for the tea! It was good, what was it again?
Joshua: This was Yorkshire Gold. It’s a pretty strong tea, I didn’t brew this particular pot that long so it wasn’t too bad.
Carl: The only one I’ve had that was strong, or weird, was that African root tea . . .
Joshua: The rooibos.
Carl: Yeah! That’s it.
And there you have it, an epic interview featuring the one and only Carl Randles. Hopefully this has given you some new nuggets of information or perhaps even a glimpse into the very nature of humankind itself . . . .
That is all!