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Interview with comics creator BEN SNAKEPIT

Originally published in Reglar Wiglar Magazine.

Comics artist Ben Snakepit

Comics artist Ben Snakepit has produced dozen of books, zines and assorted comics collections. He's been drawing a daily autobiographical comic strip for over two decades. He's also played in multiple punk rock bands, ( J Church, Ghost Knife, Party Garbage, Bloodbath & Beyond, The Capitalist Kids, Shanghai River and Shit Creek) toured the country as a musician and a roadie, and created 100 monthly strips for punk zine Razorcake.

After living in Austin, TX for almost 20 years, followed by a few years in San Francisco, Ben, his wife and dog Frankie have moved across the continent, back to Virginia where Ben grew up. The Reglar Wiglar caught up with comics creator Ben Snakepit for an interview right before his move back east. —Chris Auman

REGLAR WIGLAR: Hey, Ben! You’ve been drawing daily comics for 22 years now. Am I wrong or does that mean you’ve drawn over 8,000 strips? Do you keep a running tally at this point?

BEN SNAKEPIT: That sounds about right. I've done the math a couple times before, but I still have a long way to go to beat Charles Schultz's 50-year record. I also remember reading about some Japanese guy that drew a daily manga cartoon for like 80 years or something wild like that.

RW: Your daily strip is autobiographical so it’s essentially a journal. Some people keep journals to monitor their mental and physical health. Do you ever look back and say, wow, I need to do less of this and more of that?

BS: Oh yeah, totally. I'm constantly looking back and monitoring my progress. It's great therapy, too!

RW: Your 100 Columns for Razorcake book came out last year. It's a collection of columns you did for the magazine from 2003 to 2022. Was drawing a monthly column/comic harder or easier than a daily comic?

BS: Way, way harder. With the daily comic, I only have one goal: to answer the question "what did you do today?" That is super easy to come up with every day. Even if it's boring, I can always answer that question. For the Razorcake comics, I always had to have a specific theme or tell a story or something. There were so many times when a deadline was approaching and I just had absolutely no ideas, and I'd end up phoning in some stupid shit. I really call myself out in the liner notes of the book. But honestly, that stress of having to come up with an idea in time to meet a hard deadline is one of the main reasons I quit doing those.

RW: Your new book, Snake Pit’s Big Adventure, comes out this month (May). It chronicles your move to San Francisco from Texas, but you’ve already moved to Richmond, VA. Is this nomadic lifestyle intentional or is it due to different unforeseen circumstances? At the very least it must give you good material for your comics.

BS: Yeah, by the time this comes out, I will have relocated to Richmond. That was kind of a quick decision, my mom is not doing well, and I'm her only family. We didn't necessarily want to move there, but we need to be closer to my aging parents, and it's the right thing to do.

I'm trying to see the bright side of it, getting to reconnect with old friends (I'm originally from that area) and enjoying the much lower cost of living, compared to San Francisco.

RW: Speaking of moving, what is the chronology of your moves across the country?

BS: I was born and raised in central Virginia (Petersburg, Hopewell, Chester) and went to college at VCU in Richmond. That's where I joined my first real punk band and went on tours and saw the world. During one week in Richmond, I got fired from my job and evicted from my house, so I decided to jump on a Greyhound Bus to Austin, where I had a couple of friends. I ended up staying there for almost 20 years, until my wife got a really incredible job offer that led us to move to San Francisco. Ironically, only two months after we got there, the pandemic hit and we started working from home. My wife still has a great job, but we now have the freedom to live wherever we want, so moving back to Richmond isn't going to be as difficult for us.

RW: Other than being your hometown, why did you choose Richmond over the many other fine cities across the country?

BS: Really just because of my family. Before my mom's accident, we had been thinking about moving anyway. Some of the cities we were considering were Portland, OR, Santa Fe, NM, Baltimore, MD and Burlington, VT. Richmond's really not a bad town at all, and it has changed so much (and so have I) in the 23 years since I was last there, it's almost like a new city.

RW: Is the plan for RVA to continue the journey in music and comics?

BS: Oh yeah for sure. I'll never stop drawing the comics until I'm dead. Music has definitely just become a hobby for me, but I love playing it and will always be in bands for as long as I can.

RW: Is Richmond where you first discovered punk rock?

BS: Yeah, my first show ever was GWAR and False Sacrament. November 20th, 1990 at the Metro. I lied to my mom and told her I was going to the mall. When I came home all covered in blood, the first thing she said when I walked in the door was "You went to see Gwar, didn't you?"

RW: What were your earliest punk rock or comics/zine obsessions?

BS: Aside from worshipping Gwar, I loved the Misfits, the Cramps, Sex Pistols, Ramones. All the usual suspects. Zine-wise, I had a subscription to Factsheet Five and did a crummy zine in high school called The Irrigation Ditch Times. I got reviewed in Factsheet Five and it was awesome. I started getting cool mail and making pen pals all over the world. I also liked Maximum Rocknroll but always found it very intimidating.

RW: What do you miss most about Richmond? And what will you miss most about San Francisco?

BS: I honestly believe that Richmond has a better music scene than SF or even Austin. When big bands do US tours, they usually play DC or Norfolk, and skip Richmond. As a result, it has a really strong insular scene, and I can't wait to get back into it.

In San Francisco, I will really miss the weed stores, the amazing public transportation, the Musee Mechanique, Cafe Vesuvio, Thrillhouse Records. I will not miss the people squatting in the stairwell of my apartment building, or paying $80 for lunch.

RW: Do you have a band already lined up for you in RVA?

BS: Not yet, but I have some old friends that I'm hoping to start playing with. We'll see what happens.

RW: You’ve toured a lot in your own bands and as a roadie for others, do you still get a chance to get out of town and play occasionally? If not, what do you miss and not miss about touring?

BS: The last tour I went on was in 2010, so it's been a while. I loved touring very much, going to a new place every day, meeting all kinds of cool people, and just being on tour. That knowledge that the whole point of where you were, who you were with, what you were doing, everything revolved around the fact that you have a band that is playing songs, and that is the most important thing in life at the time. That is the real beauty of a tour, is that everyone is focused on the art, and it truly becomes your life. I do not miss sleeping on shitty floors and getting sick. I honestly don't think I could do it nowadays.

RW: Lastly, what's next for Ben Snakepit?

BS: I've really been doing a lot on my Patreon page (shameless plug), I've been posting a full page of old comics every day, with new commentary similar to how the Razorcake book is set up. I also do small-run zines of brand new comics that are only available to Patreon subscribers. I know it's kinda crappy to monetize art like that, but capitalism sucks and we're all stuck in it, unfortunately.

New book Snakepit's Big Adventure comes out on May 17th from Silver Sprocket, it covers 2019-2021. I'll keep doing the comics until I can't!

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