@’s by WEAPON BROWN’s Jason Yungbluth!!!
Starting almost ten years ago, Jason Yungbluth began a short backup feature in a comics anthology under the title WEAPON BROWN. It takes the tropes and beats of the atypical "post apocalyptic bloodbath", but filling its cast with clear analogues for the Peanuts gang. The comic has become something of a sleeper hit, gaining more and more attention. I sat down with Jason to ask him how things are going in the industry for him now.
HENRY HIGGINS IS MY HOMEBOY (HHH): I first read WEAPON BROWN years and years ago. How has it been going? I've heard it's a web comic now.
JASON YUNGBLUTH (JY): Yes, it's a webstrip now. It's been on for about four years, and the goal is to gather the lot into a single trade, one complete book. I continue to put out issues in the interim though. I have some news, though; I found an agent, and I'm am now in the process of selling it to a publisher.
HHH: That's fantastic to hear. Any publishers in mind you'd love to get signed on to?
JY: Let's see. It's interesting, when I think of publishers, names like Dynamite and Dark Horse come up, fit the bill, even Vertigo does. The sky’s the limit for the graphic novel, and I'll go with any publisher that will take me. I'm keeping it open, anything to get me into stores.
HHH: Any progress in the "published" camp, or is it all a new development?
JY: It's pretty new, including the proposal. The ball is finally in their court, and the challenge now is finding someone who's interested. My agent followed up on me, and spoke about me in the Village Voice, and I had some coverage. It motivated them to call me and try to get it along.
HHH: Do you think WEAPON BROWN has paid off?
JY: The goal, of course, has always been to be published. That's always been the primary payoff. It started as a serial, DEEP FRIED, this underground comic, and it got a fan base, which is great, but it wasn't enough to fully support it, and the book went down. But WEAPON BROWN did end up with a fan base, so it's time to give the people what they wanted. Based on the popularity of the series, I've really expanded it and given it a proper hook. The style is a little more detailed and realistic, and I figured it'd be a good chance to develop my abilities. I reapproached my career, trying to make it more marketable.
HHH: WEAPON BROWN has always impressed on the art side of things, but lately the writing has really stepped up. Have you ever seen either one as being more important than the other?
JY: Thanks. Well, both are equally important. Finding new ways to draw, not the swiftest, but better, faster, and still my style. I consider them hand in hand. While I'll always be a cartoonist first, I want to be a solid combination of the two.
HHH: Are there any comics that were your favorites?
JY: I'm a fan of quite a few, and the enemy of quite a few. I'm actually a bigger fan of animated PEANUTS actually, having found them much more relatable, more cherished, though PEANUTS was never really my favorite comic. My favorite was BLOOM COUNTY; it was my first love affair with comics, and it's the first time I REALLY liked something as a cartoonist. Actually, FUNKY WINTERBEAN was something I also liked as a cartoonist--just so many great gags in it. GARFIELD was another big one, which I read a lot of thanks to the collections they put out. The art and the gags were just very good. I've only got GARFIELD in the book once so far, being a big fat worm. I've included one gag related to every comic strip, so it's loaded with as many references as I could muster.
If you were such a fan of Garfield, what are your thoughts on Garfield?Jim Davis must love it. People reference it all the time, find it hilarious, and it's working terrifically.
HHH: The comic is very, and I mean this in the best way, perverted. What brought that about?
JY: This is the thing; in the first place, I'm not that sentimental. I'm a fan of old MAD MAGAZINE, and it taught me you can't be so attached to things in media. Even though you love it, it's so easy to mock. This is the easiest way to poke fun. I've done my best to keep some distance, though. I strived to create my own characters from these, so that they can have their own identity, and it becomes less superficial. It has a layer of gags covering a deeper story. I see it as an homage; I wouldn't be doing this if these comics hadn't been such a inspiration for cartoonists. I'm being faithful and poking fun, the best way I know how.
HHH: Doing a book like this must push the line of parody, at least legally. What are some of the WEAPON BROWN/CHARLIE BROWN differences?
JY: The first story, “Blockhead War”, really set them apart. It was this forty eight page single issue about Charlie fighting the PEANUTS gang after the end of the world, and that was really about layering as many gags about that strip as I could. It was just full of everything I could muster, like Lucy finally getting kicked and the Great Pumpkin—I wanted to do this brutal tribute to the jokes when I was young. But during the course of it, the character Chuck, never Charlie Brown, became someone new. It's sort of a pirated backstory. The characters are like the Peanuts, but with completely new relationships. Lucy is evil, Chuck hates Linus and Sally, stuff like that. While it's hardcore in a wasteland story sort of way, it's still a little light-hearted. And that provides the humor element, the driest of humor.
HHH: As a lifelong fan of Peanuts, there are some things I'd love to know that have been referenced. Any sightings of the little redheaded girl?
JY: Stuff like that is tackled a few times. The first story is all about him trying to save the little redheaded girl from being sacrificed to the Great Pumpkin. That has provided the big trope of this little lovelorn boy from the specials, the one that got away. I've used this to maximum effect. The only connection to love is to her, and he fails her. It has a little sense of misogyny, because he has a broken heart. When you see him do these terrible things, it gives a hint towards an inner warmth.
HHH: Since I first read WEAPON BROWN, I've seen a few other "Peanuts Noir" type parodies. Have you seen stuff like BRING ME THE HEAD OF CHARLIE BROWN or SCHULTZ CITY?
JY: Yes. Thanks to the internet, these things can gain attention. Head is fine. Over time you see a million parodies of PEANUTS. Charlie Brown is one of the most lampooned characters since Mickey. I saw it, appreciate the humor, it was fine. SCHULTZ CITY was well done and funny. People who see that will find me hopefully. When I was 13, I came up with the idea of a comic with a cyborg Charlie Brown. A generation later, you just see more and more.
HHH: What is the ideal end result?
JY: My actual honest answer is a graphic novel. A slick cover, some extra content, some pinups by other artists...that has always been the cake and the frosting and the cherry. That would be perfect. Nowadays everything becomes something else. My dream follow up would be seeing a cartoon of it. Wouldn't want it to be a forgettable endeavor. Maybe like when HEAVY METAL was first breaking out--I'd love it to achieve that sort of status. But I'm not sure if it wouldn't be superfluous with so much competition. A real studio would be good, maybe the guy who did AEON FLUX. If it was done as that, I'd love that.
HHH: WEAPON BROWN has enjoyed its success, but it has been dwarfed by a number of other projects. Any people you feel aren't your favorites?
JY: How many slots can I name? I don't measure myself in the quicker to criticize then praise. I never really compare myself to other people. Just trying to make my stuff as best as I can, and I'd rather learn than damn. There are certain people who I'm not always a huge fan of. Based on writing, I think Bendis was a little overblown and I wasn't a huge fan of his dialogue. I personally felt that POWERS didn't move, at all. But ALIAS, once I got into the flow, I really enjoyed and thought it was very skilled. I don't presume that people get here by accident.
HHH: Any pet projects you're working on at the moment?
JY: I've just started to work on my follow up; hopefully the book gets out there as WEAPON BROWN goes into stores, and my name becomes more mentionable. I feel it'd be easy to sell. I have one now that I'm discussing with an artist to collaborate on. It's a cyclical version of the Image comics of the 90's.
I like mocking and skewering the industry more than going after the comic. Not quite like THE BOYS or THE PRO that grow out of Washington and rip into comics and ripping superheroes. I'm more interested in doing one that has a sense of humor that isn't just about going after heroes, but has a laugh at the industry itself. But I'm trying my best to keep it from becoming reference based only. I'd like it to be a bit friendlier to the uninitiated. I'm talking to someone now that really stands out and I'm looking forward to pitching it later this year. I'm still working on DEEP FRIED, but the characters are very personal to me, and I'm making the most balls out, outrageous material I can. Been working to at least bring back something after WEAPON BROWN, this comic I did called CLARISSA. It's developed something of a fan base on 4chan. I was planning on returning to it eventually, but it now has some fans, so I'm looking to bring it back soon. They're both very dark, but it's drastically different than WEAPON BROWN.
HHH: What are your feelings on your fan base? It must feel great to be able to actually say that.
JY: My own position in the industry is that amongst my peers I got interested in comics that are self published, thanks to MILK AND CHEESE. Black and whites were out and the internet came, leading the industry to shrink. By the time I was starting to work, it was becoming harder and harder, even if you knew what to do, and I really didn't. I started in 2000; the internet was beginning to assume a place for resources in comics outside of the mainstream. I segued into the internet and was able to find a fan base much easier than before. When I was trying to getting into stores, I didn't find as much success. I didn't hit the ground running, but I never stopped running and I've been patient and waited and let my stuff get out there and let the audience get out there. Now things are maturing, people are looking at my work, and WEAPON BROWN is getting bigger. CLARISSA only hit a small amount in DEEP FRIED, but it ended up online, and now more and more people are being into that as well. It's great to have people who are really getting into both.
HHH: Concerning everything, including the time and work that went into this career, especially the harder early days....are you happy?
JY: I wouldn't say until recently that my career has gone well. The sheer amount of competition and the difficulty of being noticed without a company’s help, it wasn't what I'd call happy. But I've always wanted to be cartoonist. Simple as that. The industry may burn you out, but I could never get tired of cartooning. My one virtue has been patience. I'm going to keep this going, I have the drive to keep going, and I'm in an advantageous position for once. I don't mind the "starving artist" role, and I can keep this going as long as I need to. The bottom line is I love this. I love this character, this universe, all of it. So, yeah, happy applies.
HHH: Be sure to check out Jason's DEEP FRIED website. It's well worth a look, just so you can at least attest that you've actually seen Charlie Brown blow people up. It's an oddly fulfilling statement.
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G