Early on, Alex Graham made comics by accident.
“I didn’t know it at the time, but when I was a kid, I was kind of making comics without knowing they were comics,” Graham said. “I would draw a picture of my day and then narrate it underneath. So I always had an urge to tell stories and to illustrate them.”
Today, the 32-year-old, Seattle-based artist paints and creates independent comics like Angloid, which follows a painter with some experiences strikingly similar to Graham’s – along with some cosmic alien encounters.
Graham, based in Seattle, Washington, began making Cosmic BE-ING (which morphed into Angloid) in 2013. In 2018, Kilgore Books, a small comics publisher and retailer, began publishing this series. Other comics work from Graham include Going to Heaven and This Never Happened, two physical works currently out of print, and Baby Clowns in a Castle, a full-color comic that ran in Vice in 2018.
After a year of art college, Graham worked in retail and then got into painting. Later, she delved into comics, making the first installment of Cosmic BE-ING, at the time intended to be a one-off.
“The story of the first one is supposed to be a really uplifting, eye-opening story about how everything beautiful in life is right in front of you, and it’s all around you, and you just have to open your eyes to it and see,” Graham said.
A fellow cartoonist enjoyed it and convinced her to continue it as a series, so she did. The ongoing story became about Angloid, a skinny, self-loathing artist trying to make ends meet while producing fulfilling art.
“There are actually a lot of true stories in there. I would say that like 75 percent of what happens in Angloid actually happens,” Graham said. “Now, there are things that are exaggerated for storytelling effect and stuff like that. And also, obviously there are no aliens going around or abducting or anything like that.”
Throughout the six-issue series, Angloid drinks too much, struggles to make art through periods of sexual frustration, hangs out with someone with a toaster for a head and has several whimsical run-ins with an alien. These moments delve into a sort of magical realism, thrusting strange bouts of spiritualism upon both Angloid and the reader.
“I was raised as a Christian, so I always had that God element, probably built into my brain. Probably not naturally. It was probably nurtured into my brain,” Graham said. “So, then I grew up, and I decided I didn’t want to be a Christian anymore, and it created a void there. I was never an atheist. I always kind of felt like maybe there was something else out there.”
When Graham got older, she started to smoke weed, which she said made her feel connected to a spiritual realm.
“These creatures just kind of wrote themselves into the script,” Graham said. “And at times, when I’m writing it, it really felt like something was writing through me.”
For most of her adult life, Graham has worked in the service industry. Though she acknowledges it can be physically and emotionally taxing, she enjoys working at restaurants, seeing it as noble work with great social interaction.
“Working at restaurants has actually helped me move my art career in a way that I’m sure wouldn’t have happened if I worked in any other industry,” Graham said. “Just because of the social aspect, and regulars getting to know you, and then they figure out that I’m an artist, and then they buy my art or tell people about my art.”
Currently, Graham is searching for a new comics project to start. When she spoke with me for this piece in late May, she was out of work due to the COVID-19 pandemic and said she found painting to be a comforting hobby. Hobbies like playing video games and watching television don’t appeal to her, but art has been tremendously helpful.
“I’m finding out how important painting is to me, because if I didn’t have painting, I don’t know what I would be doing in quarantine right now, because I find myself painting just to pass the time at this point,” Graham said. “Whereas before, it wasn’t as clear to me. I knew I was entertaining myself before the quarantine, but now I’m leaning on it so hard.”
all images courtesy of alex graham. you can find her website by clicking here.
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