By Tom Waters
Perhaps you haven't heard the name before, but if you enjoy editorial cartoons, comic books, or the brain children of one of the most warped minds of our generation, you'd best get acquainted with Jason Yungbluth. About a year ago, he released a comic series called Deep Fried that's going on it's fifth issue and it's gone over like gangbusters according to authoritative market mags like Comic's Journal, The Comic Buyer's Guide, and Wizard magazine. And as if publishing, drawing, writing, and inking your own indie title weren't enough of a full plate, thirty year old Jason has a spin-off weekly strip that's appeared in Blue Dog Press (before they went belly up) and a few other reputable magazines in his hometown of Buffalo, New York.
His work is hot now. White hot. His menagerie of characters; Beepo, an alcoholic clown with a very low self esteem. Roadkill, the sidekick: a heroin addicted, pedestal-spouting cat with an herbal tendency. Weapon Brown is a post-apocolyptic Charles Schultz creation gone postal ("I'm just a round-headed son of a bitch.") And my hands down favorite, Clarissa. A very bitter little girl with an ugly family secret. Want a hint? She bathes with a steel wool brush. Figure it out. You can pick up his series at any of your finer local comic shops, or online when you check out his animated cartoons at www.whatisdeepfried.com.
It's a steamy Tuesday night in Buffalo and Jason meets me at The Steer for a few pitchers of rolling rock beer and a very, very long conversation. I'm an ill prepared writer, so I show up with the questions, no prior research, no voice recorder, and no pen. The bartender obliges me with a pen and Jason rolls in around eight o'clock. Talking to Jason is like talking to the bastard child of Woody Allen and Orson Welles. Talking to him is like talking to mad schizophrenic hopped up on Ritalin, so bursting with ideas that he can't wait to get them out. Opinionated, but far from egocentric. A nice guy. He thinks Tom Green is 'a retard' and that 'liberals are too thin skinned'. We hit it off tremendously. And three pitchers later, we're still talking comics. Which is fine by me.
Is Alex Ross now officially a whore?
I don't think he's a whore, I think he's just over-exposed. Painting a poster for the Oscars? That's a great opportunity and an honor. It's better to do what you can and get it done on time than to push the envelope.
What's the one comic that made you want to go into the business?
I wouldn't say that there's just one. I've always wanted to get into creating dark, satirical comics as well as mainstream action titles. Milk & Cheese, Squee, and Johnny The Homicidal Maniac are all really great independent titles. Anything by John Byrne & Bill Sienkiewicz has been really inspiring. I always knew I could do it, but right now I'm focusing on a whole lot of dreams.
What did you think of "Chasing Amy"?
I liked it. Any movie that celebrates comic artists rather than making them out to be some 2 dimensional dorks is really positive, but "Clerks" is still my favorite. "Clerks" is my Lone Star. I prefer (Kevin Smith's) movies over his comics. ("Bluntman & Chronic" is a current series). He's best when he's directing.
Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, or Frank Miller? Who sold out the most?
Jack Kirby never sold out. When someone realizes that they're starving and that they need to make money to pay the rent, that's considered selling out. To me selling out is rock bands giving permission to use their music in a commercial for baby wipes or diet pop. I'd rather be comfortable and not give my stuff to the highest bidder than give in to the money, though. Making money is just a reality that you have to come to terms with.
Favorite graphic novel?
I know it's cliche', but "The Watchmen" by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons and "The Dark Knight Returns" by Frank Miller. I can't really pick one over the other.
Do you enjoy The Batman?
I don't read Batman and I hated the movies.
What's your favorite film adaptation of a comic title?
"Blade" would almost have to be it. I never read it but I liked the movie. I've liked a number of adaptations. "Men in Black" was good. "Ghost World," "Akira" was a good one. "Cool World" (Ralph Bakshi) is a good movie to smoke pot and watch. "Captain America," "The Punisher," "Fantastic Four." Roger Corman directed the first F4 (there's a new one in the works at the time of this writing). I've gotta buy the rights to Strawberry Shortcake and release it as a porn! I loved Transformers! - (At this point, Jason and my other drinking partner launch into a half hour dissection on the archetypical beauty of "Transformers: The Movie" while I examine my pen and watch some guys play darts.)
What have you learned in the last year and a half about comic publishing and distribution?
Well...there's only one independent distributor in the company: Diamond. They've taken care of me, the discount can seem stingy, but it's a third. Publishing...it's a bitch. Comics are a bitch goddess. You really have to love what you're doing. I'm hoping that I can break even on the next issue. I'm hoping this issue is the one where I break into the business. Deep Fried is like the comics I love that you don't see that often.
What was your favorite Sunday comic growing up?
Bloom County! Bloom County! I liked the Far Side, Calvin & Hobbes, and Garfield continues to be an influence on Roadkill. Beepo & Roadkill are photo negatives of Garfield. Controversial and funny is a horse of a different color. South Park walks that line. The episode where he makes the kid eat his parents was so pitch black!
Preacher, Hellblazer, or Sandman?
"Preacher" (by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon) ....got into it and loved it. The hero was very heroic. He was a hero like John Wayne to me. It was a perfect blend of bad taste done right.
What new series and off-shoots do you have planned for the future?
I've been thinking seriously about a Clarissa one-shot but it depends on my financial future of Deep Fried. I'd love to do a science fiction spin off and a Deep Fried trade paperback compilation with extras.
Who are Beepo and Roadkill inspired by?
Garfield. Roadkill is the evolution of a Garfield character when I was a kid. Roadkill started off as a character named Schmitty. And as far as Beepo goes, a tragic clown seemed fitting ("Tears of a Clown", by some strange coincidence, is playing in the background). I may have ripped him off from a bit character I saw on an episode of "Night Court". It's tough to be shocking and still have a point, though.
How do you feel about the total degeneration of Saturday morning cartoons?
Do they even exist anymore? They lost their importance because the big networks focus too much on weekday shows. I used to love G-Force, Starblazer, Thundercats, Mask, Transformers, and GI Joe. (At this point we talk about what action playsets we had as kids. Jason had GI Joe, I had everything that was Mask, and Tim had Star Wars).
Anime, Space Ghost, or "The Simpsons"?
Do I have to choose? Space Ghost-love it but it's too much to credit it over the Simpsons. Simpsons...what can I say that hasn't been said? Homer, he's a perfect character and he pulls it off every episode with evil aplomb.
What music do you listen to when you create?
Err! I've got eclectic tastes; depends on what I'm writing. Sting; I'll play the same songs over and over again. Houses of The Holy, Strange Days soundtrack, the Blade soundtrack, "Carpet Crawlers" by Genesis, and original songs from the 70's and 80's. (At this point we launch into a discussion about why early Genesis kicked ass, whereas Phil Collins Genesis was a steaming pile of sick, and how weird Peter Gabriel got after he got popular with "So".)
What is the future of comics?
It's marketed towards adults, and I think that we're all going to keep trying to push the envelope in terms of mature entertainment and in depth plot development and story arcs.
How encyclopedic is your comic collection?
It's only in alphabetical order. I've never counted. I've got eight 500 issue long boxes at home.
Favorite mainstream super hero?
My favorite was the John "ring a ding" Romita & Claremont run of "X-Men." I was never much into the ancient history of characters. I've always looked forward.
Is there a direction you'd like to take Deep Fried in?
The story arcs are all self contained, but I try to think of the Greatest Cliffhanger for each issue. I'd like to take the series in a direction that no one else has thought of.
Where do you see your career in twenty years?
I can't even tell...it better be somewhere. I gotta believe that if you follow your talent, you'll get somewhere. I've got a loose plan, but I mostly think year to year. My loose plan is to a) make Deep Fried the going concern as far as profitability or b) to have my strip in three or four papers. In a year, I'd like to say that I'm a cartoonist for a living. It had better be soon. We'll see. What keeps you going? Um...I don't know. The fact that I'm stuck in Buffalo keeps me going. I have faith enough to say that maybe there's an audience that will help me do this (HINT HINT!). When you're in a city where someone like Tom Toles leaving town hits you like destiny, you know you're on the right track.
How do you feel about the new Spiderman movie and its overwhelming success?
I saw it, I liked it. It was a pretty faithful adaptation. There were a couple changes. The one thing I thought was interesting was that they changed around a minor detail with the origin. Rather than being bitten by a radioactive spider, Peter Parker gets bitten by a genetically engineered spider, reflecting society's current fears. Not everyone who's into comics gives a crap about Spiderman. I'm glad it was good but I was never a Spiderman fan.
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