Brad Yung And SBC Swap Tall Stories
Posted: Wednesday, July 5, 2000
By: Darren Schroeder
BRAD YUNG is a professional cartoonist living in Vancouver. He contributes regularly to Geist magazine and Sunburn, a comic anthology. He has also self-published a few collections of his own comics and artwork Stay as you are #1-5 and Juxtsuppose #1 & #2. Brad's comics are concentrated doses of ironic humor and intelligent social satire that rate as one of my most favoured small press tiltles. So I had to have a chat with him.
Darren Schroeder: What is your full name?
Brad Yung : You don't need to know that. "Brad Yung" will suffice.
BY: 31, which is much more horrible than it sounds.
DS: Favourite web site?
BY: Oh, they're all so good.
DS: Were comics a big part of your childhood or did you discover them at a later stage?
BY: I read comics from the drugstore as a kid, then stopped, then started up again in university. I met some guys who still read them and was a bit disbelieving. Then, one day, I was over at one guy's house and he had to do something. He threw a bunch of comics on the table in front of me and, having nothing else to do, I started reading them. Shortly after that, I went into a comic book store for the first time. Years later, I told him how he ruined my life.
DS: Was art an important part of your education?
BY: Not at all. Hardcore math and science geek. I was in university studying engineering when I got sidetracked. Poorer but probably happier for it. Well, at least I don't have to wake up before noon if I don't want to.
DS: I get the impression your work is published in strip form, how did you get the gig for that?
BY: I don't quite understand the question. Stay as you are is a comic strip I decided to do that I publish in a zine format. At this point, it's the best way to get it out there.
I came up with the current strip format while in university, getting it published in the school paper. I tried to go the mainstream route with another strip after I quit school, became disillusioned with my lack of success and went into zines. Then a friend from university called me up to see if I would contribute to an internet magazine his company was starting. I had just drawn a few samples of Stay as you are to try and shop around, so I took them to him instead. They ran them and I got a little money out of it, but the magazine was discontinued 8 months later. It was just natural to publish them in zine format after that.
It seems most of my gigs come to me, I very seldom get one when I try. I'm published regularly in The Sea-To-Sky Voice newspaper -- the people who bought and took over the paper found a copy of SAYA #2 in a desk drawer when they were cleaning the office and called me up. I also appear in Geist Magazine -- they asked to reprint some comics that I sent to them as thanks for reviewing my very first zine, Juxtsuppose. Adbusters -- they called me after a guy who used to work there whom I met once or twice recommended me. I got an American paper to run the strip, but it wasn't the paper I sent the package to -- they couldn't use it, so they passed it along. The Columbia Journal runs my cartoons because the editor's son showed him my stuff. These experiences all kinda fit in with my attitude of why bother trying ...
DS: Is producing a regular strip an artistic challenge or a creative ball and chain?
BY: I make it a regular strip because I need the self-discipline. I used to do a strip when I felt like it, but then I got very little done. I eventually figured out that if I was going to try and "make it", I'd have to increase my output. So now I hold myself to the once-a-week schedule which isn't really that much, if you think about it.
However, when that week's almost over and you don't have the joke figured out properly, it certainly does feel like a ball and chain. I think some of the strips have suffered because I rushed them, but I read an interview with a comic book artist long ago that said it was better to just get something out there, to have something to show for all your work, then it is to get everything absolutely perfect. If you mess up one cartoon, so what ? It's just one cartoon, you'll get the next one right. Or the next. I know a guy who spent months drawing an entire zine, printed it up, decided he didn't like it and threw the whole thing out. Then he spent another few months re-drawing it ! He could have put out the second issue but instead wasted all that time and energy re-doing it, and very few people ended up reading it anyway.
And sometimes the cartoons that I hate the most, the ones I feel I screwed up, they become other people's favourites. I have my own personal favourites, but it's always interesting to find out which ones other people like. I try not to throw anything out anymore because you just never know what's going to appeal to whom.
DS: Do you make a living from your comic strip work?
BY: Not yet, but sales of the strip to newspapers and magazines are finally covering the cost of printing the zines. I'd need quite a few more papers to make a living from it.
DS: What made you decide to self publish?
BY: I self-published my first zine, Juxtsuppose, because there was no other venue in which to get my work out there. I wasn't well known and the material was so different, I really didn't have any options. Besides, I liked the idea of being able to have total control over every aspect of the zine.
At this stage, I still don't think I should stop. I'm only in one weekly newspaper and I still need to get my comics seen. I'm waiting for word from a publisher on whether or not he wants to publish my book -- basically a larger collection of my comics. If that happens, that would be a lot more exposure for me and I might be able to stop publishing the zines myself. (It's always nice when somebody else pays the printing bill ... So I've heard ...) But if I do that, then that would mean a long period of time between books, and I don't like that.
Plus, there's something about going to the printers and picking up all the boxes, opening them up and checking them all out that's so exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time.
DS: How do you distribute your comics?
BY: I take them around to local zine-friendly stores, I sell them through the mail, I send copies in for review to zine-review magazines and I have a few small distributors who carry my zines.
DS: What is the worst experience you have had with printers/photocopiers?
BY: Nothing too bad ... yet ... There always seems to be one minor error per zine. The first one was the most stressful (and costly) 'cause I didn't know what I was doing, but mostly it's been okay. I think the guy who owns the print shop remembers me because I'm one of the few people who brings in something other than business packages and advertising pamphlets.
DS: What materials and equipment do you use when drawing your comics?
BY: I use a Winsor & Newton, finest sable, series 7, round point, size 2 brush with W & N black indian ink. I do the panels and lettering with Mars-Staedtler technical pens and I draw on a very smooth board, Crescent 218. And I use lots and lots of erasers.
DS: Who do you see as the target audience for your work?
BY: Yes -- that audience -- roughly 20-40 years old. Too old and they don't appreciate the irony, too young and they don't know what irony is.
DS: What work have you been doing recently?
BY: I took a small break from the weekly strip to do a bunch of illustrations for a book that Bill Brown, a friend, wrote. It's a great book -- we're trying to find a publisher who also thinks so.
DS: What is the book about?
BY: It's about a guy who installs and fixes sprinklers in California. He discovers a hidden line of sprinklers in the desert. Then he discovers an old map with a trail on it called Saugus-To-The-Sea, but he can't find the actual road. He tracks down the guys who surveyed it to ask them about it. He finds pictures of the ornate, old sprinkler heads on the cover of an indie movie advertisement. He falls in love with the girl who puts on the movie nights. He falls in love with another girl who plants flowers on the side of the highway and hops trains. He has weird dreams about subways and Charles Richter, inventor of the Richter Scale. One of his roommates disappears. He eventually finds his answer, and it's perfect. It's the book I wish I had written.
I've done 5 illustrations of particular scenes from the book plus the front and back covers. I might do more if I can think of a good scene to draw.
DS: What comics have you read recently? Why did you like/dislike them?
BY: I read Cerebus but it's getting to be tedious. I love Usagi Yojimbo-- it's a comic book about a samurai ronin rabbit. Other than the fact that all the characters are animals, he does a great job of exploring Japanese history and folklore. Of course I read Acme Novelty Library. I can't think of any others. I just don't read that many comics these days.
DS: If a film was made of your life, who should play you?
BY: André The Giant. Oh wait, he's dead.
DS: What has done more good for the world, Comics or Princess Diana?
BY: Comics make you laugh, cry, think and feel, they expose you to other cultures and ideas, they entertain in a unique format, they've influenced the worlds of movies, art and literature, they cover every topic imaginable and anybody can do one.
Princess Diana popularized to the world the wonders of colonic irrigation.
This is a highly subjective question that depends largely on your own priorities.
DS: You and Billy Reuben produced two issues of Juxtsuppose. How would you describe the work in that?
BY: The energy of youth cut up, mixed up, collaged, pasted and wasted in print format. The first issue was your typical "we'll probably never do another one so we'd better throw everything in" zine, full to bursting with cartoons, clippings, collages, short stories and weird inserts. The second was more of the same, but a bit more refined and tidier.
DS: When I read Juxtsuppose I thought you might have been inspired by the Dada movement. Was this an influence?
BY:No. I didn't know what Dada was at the time. I have no art education and haven't wanted any. I had seen some others' photocopy collage work, liked it and decided to do my own.
I'm the same way with my artwork. I decided early on, and you can interpret it as either having some sort of integrity or just laziness, that I didn't want to have any influences. I wanted to just develop a style that was only me, not derived from anybody else's drawing style. Of course, people see influences in my stuff all the time, but if they're there, it's not a conscious effort on my part. I'm not sure if this direction has been beneficial to my art or not.
DS: Define ironic:
BY: Everything is ironic now, so the word has lost its meaning. It's pervasive, you can't do anything without being ironic in some way. You can't even use it to make a statement because the irony folds over on itself and just collapses. I've been called "meta-ironic", but I expect I'll still become passé any day now. You want a definition ? "A state of being that used to be fun in a sad way, but it's over now. Time to let it fade into the background and get on with our lives. Oh, don't get me wrong -- I'm still bitter, I've just stopped being snide about it."
DS: Is the concept of the "post-ironic" a self-referential piece of irony or just plain stupid?
BY: I really don't know anymore. Are we post-ironic or post-post-ironic ? Or post-post-post ironic ? Which am I and which are you ? Where does meta-ironic fit in all this ? Does awareness of the situation change the situation, like some generational, societal Schroedinger's cat ? Ug, give me a few months and I'll eventually do a cartoon about it.
DS: Do the two guys in Stay as You Are have names?
BY: Nope. One of them looks a lot like me, so people assume it is. The other guy is just a slightly different-looking, slightly more stupid version of the first.
DS: You treat your Ninja Bear strip as a guilty pleasure. Why is that?
BY: Because it's stupid. And yet, it secretly aspires to be more. Having my conscious debate my sub-conscious gives it a whole new layer above mindless violence and eye-candy -- it's self-analytical, self-deprecating and self-serving. I get to draw something fun while maintaining the impression of intelligence. And it's so easy to draw, but very hard to write.
People tell me they like it a lot -- a little bit too much, actually -- so now it's not so much a guilty pleasure as it is a crowd pleaser. Hey, there's the idea for the next installment.
DS: Your comic book humour would be quite scathing if unleashed on civilians. Do you have to bite your tongue a lot in life or do you stay as you are all the time?
BY: I'm much worse in real life. I have to bite my tongue a lot, but it's not enough. My friends know my comments aren't as mean-spirited as they sound to people who don't know me. The end result is my current friends will put up with just about anything, but nobody else wants to be anywhere near me because I'm just so horrible ! My girlfriend is trying to change me, but I'm fighting her all the way.
DS: Any useful pieces of advice for budding comic creators?
BY: No. Well, no useful ones.
All Brad's zines can be ordered directly from him at :
#305 - 642 E. 7th Ave.
B.C. V5T 1P1
Update from Brad (27 Jan 2004) For those of you that might not know, I have stopped drawing my comic strip "Stay As You Are." For those of you that do know, let me emphasize yet once again : No, I will not be drawing any more damn comics, please stop asking. The last issue, #8, came out in April of 2002. Two more "Non-Sequitur Theatre" strips were drawn for Geist Magazine but never made it into a SAYA issue, so they are available for viewing on the SAYA website. If you choose not to view them, they will still be there. Or will they ? Take that, armchair philosophers.
All issues are still available for $2 each, except for #3 which is $10 due to its extremely limited availability. However, issues 4-6 are running low, so this would be a good time to complete your collection before I cut you off and call a cab to take you home.
The SAYA website contains ongoing updates on my new screenwriting career. Basically, everything you have ever read, seen or heard about the movie industry is absolutely true. I can offer no new insight, only the piffling consolation that it is finally happening to someone who may or may not deserve it. If I have used the word "piffling" incorrectly, I no longer care, I only care that some bloated, overpaid actor does not mispronounce it or ad-lib something else in.
The SAYA website: http://i.am/wastingmylife
The Juxtsuppose site: http://i.am/ignoringyou
Review of Sunburn #13.
Millennium Messages: work by Asian-Canadian authors.
Stay as You Are review.
The Comics Journal has something to say.
Does Brad really feel depressed?
Contribution to GUIST #27.
If you have a comment or question about Small Press then feel free to contact me