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The L: One of your trademarks is the use of lanky anthropomorphized animals as characters. When and why did you first begin to experiment with this form? What made you decide to use animals almost exclusively?
J: I started out with realistic drawings, but it took a long time to draw and I was never totally happy with the result. I tried out some other styles and the animal characters were the ones that fit me the best, they fit the kind of stories I wanted to tell. For the characters to be animals make them more human in a way.
The L: Your collection Pocket Full of Rain features some characters drawn as humans. Do you have any plans to include "human" characters or characters in other forms in your future books, as opposed to the anthropomorphized animals?
J: If one day I come up with a story where I feel the animal characters don't work, I might go back to the human characters, but I can't think of what kind of story that would be.
The L: Much of your work is completely without dialog, with characters always wearing deadpan expressions, no matter what the situation. Despite these verbal and visual limitations, your stories are surprisingly emotionally resonant. What other parts of a character or panel do you focus on to affect the reader in a more visceral way?
J: It's a matter of holding back, I guess, to leave room for the reader. If the characters don't show any emotions the readers must invest their own emotions into the characters. And if the characters have no thought ballons the readers must guess what they're thinking. If I have some sort of rule for my stories its this: Don't tell everything.
The L: Your artwork seems to inherit as much from film�€”in particular silent films and film noir�€”as it does from other graphic artists. Which visual artists have most influenced your work?
J: Well, the drawings are obviously influenced by Tintin, the whole ligne claire style of Hergé. From movies I've gotten inspiration from a lot of the silent films, like Buster Keaton. Any kind of old movies, really. Western, film noir, old black and white monster movies. Of recent directors I like people like Jim Jarmusch, Hal Hartley and especially Aki Kaurismäki.