with Comic Creator Jason Young
At my first ever comic convention my neighbor was Jason Young. He makes Veggie Dog Saturn. If he hadn’t been there, there’s every chance I would have given up on comics. He’s also the co-host of the podcast Gutter Trash.
QRD – I’ll start off with the big news, after 20 years you quit your job at a comic shop to focus on your cartooning. What made you take the leap?
Jason – A combination of being burnt out & an overwhelming need to focus on creative endeavors. I actually left my job for another job opportunity that didn’t work out... so I figured I could either crawl back to my old job... look for another job... or use this golden opportunity to dive into the plethora of creative endeavors that have been swirling around in sketchbook limbo for the past year. I kept expecting to be able to somehow make the time I needed to devote to each one, but as the months snuck past it was starting to feel like I would just never do any of them. The second part that kind of propelled me to go for it was losing a friend in April who died way too young. Since his death I’ve been thinking a lot about the absurdity of not doing with your life what you feel put on this earth to do... or at least the absurdity of not giving it the old college try. I’m giving myself six months (until February 2014) before I even let the thought of getting another square job (as the street ruffians call ‘em) enter my mind.
QRD – How many comics do you hope to complete over the next six months?
Jason – Well, since I quit my job just over two weeks ago, I’ve finished about fifteen pages of comics, one forty page Silber comic (about the equivalent to five pages of a regular sized comic), a seventeen page storyboard sequence, two comic strips for a local paper, an illustration for the online art collective Ok Panic! & I hand painted a sea serpent on a skateboard. So if I can sustain this level of creative energy for the next six months I’m hoping to complete a couple of mini-comics & possibly even complete the graphic novel I’ve been writing & sketching out for the past few months.
QRD – How did working at a comic shop effect the comics you make?
Jason – Working there definitely exposed me to all types of comics... but mostly my influence came from my older brother’s small press comics collection when I was around twelve years old. I always wanted to do stuff like Chester Brown’s Yummy Fur & Joe Matt’s Peepshow once I was aware of them. I will say that working at the comic shop had a direct effect on the mini-comic I’m drawing right now parodying Magic the Gathering & it’s influence on comic shops in the last ten years. It’s a mini called “Witchcraft the Conjuring” & it pokes fun at not just Magic, but comic book collectors & nerds in general really... but in a loving way.
QRD – Do you think people making the type of comics you do should make any effort to reach the mainstream comic market or do you think you’d be better served reaching towards people not even familiar with comic books?
Jason – Why not try both? I personally witnessed countless mainstream comic readers express discontent with the books they pick up on a regular basis... but many of them... man, I can’t think of a better way to say this... they just don’t know any better. They don’t seem to realize not only do you not have to buy books you don’t enjoy, but you could be buying something completely different that might give you the same thrill you used to get when you actually enjoyed reading The X-Men instead of just feeling compelled to purchase it to keep your collection going.
QRD – You just started doing a strip for your local bi-weekly paper. How is that different than working on Veggie Dog Saturn & is that a format you feel drawn to pursue?
Jason – I’ve always loved reading comics strips in the paper. They have a different timing & skill set that I find fascinating when it’s done well. Also in the last few years I’ve discovered so many comic strips from yesteryear that just blow me away. Some of the artists working in that field in the early part of the twentieth century were so talented... more than I can describe here. & they did those things on a daily basis! Genius! I’ll definitely keep doing my strip (Revolve which can be found at www.telephoneweekly.com) until I’m told to stop.
QRD – Word on the street is you have a graphic novel finished. What are your plans for it? Are you looking for a publisher or printing it yourself or just going to leave it unprinted?
Jason – You’re probably referring to Ball Point Break... my seventy page comic parody of the movie Point Break. My roommate & I both love ‘80s action movies & I started drawing it just to amuse the two of us. I figured it might be six or eight pages when I finished... but it just kept going! Now I figure it’s so long & would have such a niche audience (people who love Point Break & small press comics) that it’s most likely just going to rot on a shelf in my basement forever. Perhaps I’ll figure out exactly what it would cost to do the production work & print it & do a Kickstarter campaign to see if anyone’s interested.
QRD – How do you try to structure & breakup your day to stay on task just working on artistic stuff?
Jason – I just set my alarm for 8:30 every day, eat breakfast & then work until the sun goes down. I have occasionally taken the time to watch a movie or go for a bike ride... but I’ve tried to even work all of those into part of my output (by riding my bike to the library to get a book to use as research for my graphic novel & by inking pages of my comics while I watch movies).
QRD – I know you are relatively anti-internet. Looking at your friends trying to make it as cartoonists, do you think staying away from it has more hurt you from getting the word out or helped you to actually have time to get work done?
Jason – That is a slippery slope to try to balance it correctly. I’ve without a doubt given myself more time to actually work on my projects by staying away from too much internet... but my lack of social media & internet presence has most likely kept me a little known secret too. I’m trying to change all that. In the last couple of weeks I’ve set up an Etsy store, a Red Bubble account, a Society6 account, & a Deviant Art Page. I’m going to bite the bullet & sign up for Facebook & probably Tumblr as well.
QRD – While you’ve done a few collaborations, you’ve mainly done everything yourself (writing, drawing, publishing). Is that something you want to do & plan to continue or just a necessity?
Jason – I like to occasionally do collaborations... they’ve honestly been some of the most fun comics projects I’ve been a part of... but I’ve got so many ideas for books I want to write & draw myself that I could spend the rest of my life working on them. Most likely I’ll do some more collaborating at some point next year.
QRD – Would you ever write a superhero comic?
Jason – Only if it had some kind of spin. I love comedies involving superheroes... & not just parodies but ones that don’t take themselves too seriously are good fun as well. But ideally I’ll leave that to more capable hands while I do my own thing.
QRD – Do you think comics in general should be kept forever or discarded after reading & what do you think people should do with your comics after reading?
Jason – People should definitely discard my comics after reading them & then repurchase them any time they start feeling that tinge of remorse comic collectors universally feel each & every time one tiny fragment of our precious collection slips out of our grubby little hands.
QRD – With a lot of your work being autobiographical, how much do you try for historical accuracy versus embellishing to serve the story?
Jason – I try to convey the essence of what actually happened as honestly as I can. I’ll change what I think are inconsequential things (even attributing what one person says to another if it helps streamline the story), but the end result has to get across what I took away from whatever scenario I’m trying to share.
QRD – Do you find yourself having trouble with repeating stories to people that they already know from your comics &/or repeating stories to people while trying to craft them into a story for one of your comics?
Jason – That is weird when that happens. I’ll start telling someone an anecdote & realize it’s already in one of my comics & I’ll say, “If you want to find out how this all ended, just pick up a copy of Veggie Dog Saturn #5”. Which never works by the way... so I end up just telling them the end of the story.
QRD – What do you think makes an autobio comic “work” as far as it not just feeling either self-indulgent or voyeuristic?
Jason – Honestly, I love voyeuristic comics. & I don’t just mean in a perverted way (although I’m not against that either). I love comics that just depict what regular people do when no one’s around... seeing them lay it all out there. What they do, what they think, & how they feel about life. It can give you a good perspective. That said... autobio can definitely feel self-indulgent... which is hardly ever enjoyable for the reader. I think as a cartoonist working in that genre, you have to edit some times to not just make your work a way to hold people prisoner & yell at them what you want to yell at them. No one wants that.
QRD – How is the storytelling you do on Gutter Trash the same as & different than the storytelling you do in your comics?
Jason – Gutter Trash is the podcast I co-host with my friend Eric Shonborn. We do kind of play exaggerated versions of ourselves at times & attempt to make it enjoyable by telling fun stories from our lives without actually making up anything. We won’t just lie & say we did such & such a thing, but we will definitely exaggerate our reactions to things to try to make it more fun... at least that’s the goal.
QRD – Who are three cartoonists you admire & why?
Jason – Noah Van Sciver (dedication & such a distinct style), Jeffrey Brown (diversity & prolific as hell... also a really nice guy & his sense of humor is fantastic), Jason Martin (writer/artist of Laterborn & Black Tea which are two of the most heartfelt & well written comics I’ve ever read. They inspire me every time I reread them.).
QRD – Usually the cover art for Veggie Dog Saturn is in a different style than the interior. Is there a reason why?
Jason – I want to lure people in with something strange & otherworldly instead of just a picture of me waiting on a bus or whatever. I figure once I’ve got your attention you might be ensnared in the web & I can get you to read stories that are just about some dude getting a tattoo or getting drunk in Chicago or whatnot.
QRD – How do you manage to mix fun & seriousness in your comics so well?
Jason – If you’re telling stories from life, they are always inexplicably intertwined. I’ve had fun at funerals before & been depressed as hell at parties... that’s just life, right?
QRD – Why is Fantastic Four #9 so important to you & what are your plans after your re-creation of it is complete? Will you do re-creations of other books?
Jason – Since 2006 I’ve been commissioning cartoonists to recreate pages from the original Fantastic Four #9 by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby. The issue has no special significance... I was just reading it one night when I thought, “I should totally commission Chester Brown to recreate this page where Sue Storm is fighting Namor!” & he did! Once it’s finished (just two pages to go!) I’m going to print up copies for everyone who contributed & then try to get some press for it. I can’t sell copies of it myself, since it’s obviously copyrighted material, but I might give out some copies when people buy something else from me or something like that. I would never even have thought to see if Marvel would have any interest in publishing it until I saw their Strange Tales mini-series from a few years ago (with people like Jeffrey Brown & James Kochalka... both of which have done an FF page for me)! As for ever doing another project like this one? Probably never again. It just ended up being too expensive & taking too long to complete... but I have no regrets about it as it’s super fucking sweet!
QRD – What would you like to see more of in comics?
Jason – Other than my name on the credits page... I’d like to see more comics being fun. I can enjoy a serious story now & again (From Hell is probably my favorite graphic novel), but they seem to dominate the industry these days... especially in mainstream comics. Publishers, writers, artists... it’s okay to give us something that doesn’t take itself so seriously... we like fun, right people?
QRD – Anything else?
Jason – Thanks for taking the time to get to know me... & if you’d like to check out my work visit www.buyerbeware.guttertrash.net where you can browse, comment & even purchase if you feel the inclination. Whatever you do... just please keep reading comics. They’re what’s for breakfast!
Other QRD interviews with Jason Young:
Indie Comic Creator interview with Jason Young (February 2011)