Jason Young is a name you may not have heard, but his face is almost certainly one that you’ve seen. A mainstay Mavericks employee, Jason has been serving customers for almost 20 years. You may have also heard his voice as a co-host of the critically-acclaimed Gutter Trash podcast, in which he and co-host Eric Shonborn review comics and movies.
Jason’s passion is art, and he’s been writing and drawing his own comics for a majority of his life. His work has been featured in numerous indy publications and zines, and he has won two SPACE Awards for his autobiographical comic, Veggie Dog Saturn.
We sat down with Jason to talk about how he started making comics, some of his most notable work from over the years, and his current projects.
Who are you?
I’m Jason Young, comic book shop employee and small-press cartoonist.
You’re a clerk. You’re a writer. You’re an artist. You’re a publisher, an entrepreneuer, a man-about-town.
I don’t really get about town, and I’m not preneuing anything.
What kind of comics do you do?
I do autobiographical mini-comics.
What is a mini-comic exactly?
You know, it’s a smaller size, it’s not your typical standard Marvel or DC size. It’s typically a half-sheet of typing paper, computer paper, because in the ‘70s and ‘80s people printed them really cheaply themselves at Kinko’s or whatever. So it’s the size of typing paper because it’s convenient to print.
Do you like that format?
I do, it’s probably one of my absolute favorite formats. It’s very portable. You can get it in your back pocket if you’ve got big enough back pockets.
You might have to fold it in half.
Oh no, you don’t have to. I’ve got a big back pocket.
That’s what I’ve heard. So you work at Mavericks.
Yep, Mavericks Cards & Comics, in Kettering, Ohio.
And where is that located?
2312 East Dorothy Lane, in the Woodlane Plaza.
Hopefully the reader will be familiar with that location.
Since it’s on our website?
Yes. How long have you been reading comics?
I would say, probably over 30 years, and I’m 35, so my whole life, basically.
Yeah, and even before I could actually read. I remember ‘reading’ Thor comics before I could read.
Just looking at the Walt Simonson pictures?
No, these were Jack Kirby. My brother had Silver Age Thor, and I remember specifically reading Thor books but not understanding what was going on because I couldn’t decipher the words.
Is that why you like Thor? It seems like you’ve got a special place in your heart for Thor.
I really do love specifically the Jack Kirby, inked by Vince Colletta Thor. I really like the way that looks for some reason. I think because it’s the oldest thing I’ve seen that has that sort of, like, feathery artistic style, and it just looks way different from everything else from that time period.
So you’ve been reading comics for over 30 years. How long have you been making comics?
Just about the same amount of time, really. I know me and my brother made book comics when we I was like, less than 10, I was probably about 9 or 10. But as far as actually printing them, since I was a teenager, in high school.
So you’re a teenager in high school. Let’s talk about Killman.
Oh yeah, Killman.
Where did Killman come from? What is Killman about?
As a teenager, I was like, ‘I’m gonna take on the world!’ so I wanted to do something that had a politically-charged or socially satirical bent to it. Killman was what I used. He was a superhero, but he was never really fighting crime. He stopped some corrupt religious zealots once, and then he basically just got his head severed. He thought he was a cop for a while. It was very much like my version of punk rock song lyrics but I just turned it into a comic.
Was Killman your first comic?
I think that was the first one I printed up.
How many copies did you print?
No more than twenty, at the most. I only knew two people at my school that would read them, so I gave them there, and then I gave them to my brother and a couple friends, and I tried to sell a few at Mavericks, because I was working there when I was in high school, but yeah, no more than twenty. I’ve lost the originals over the years, I have no idea where they are, so that’s it, those twenty.
What was your next major project after Killman?
I worked on a superhero parody that I never printed called Dave the Killer Whale. It was kind of like The Tick, sort of, and I actually still have all of the originals for that, and it might be one of the most well-drawn things I’ve ever done, because I really spent a lot of time drawing it. It was just like The Tick, basically just a goofy version of a superhero where these outlandish things happened and the characters did funny things. He fought a guy named Dr. Evil…
Yeah, this was before Austin Powers. His secret base was inside of a White Castle, because no one ever went in White Castle, so he was always just in there doing evil stuff.
So did he use evil sliders? Is he the guy who put the holes in the patties?
I don’t think there was actually any food, because I figured no one would ever walk through the door. So they could use it as a front, they just made it look like a White Castle, but inside it’s just his laboratory.
One of the first things I recall reading from you is a mini-comic called Panic Attack. Tell us a little about Panic Attack.
I did that around ’99 or 2000, and it was my attempt at doing an autobiographical comic for the first time – actually for the second time, because I did one when I was a kid. Reverting back for a second, when I was 12 or something, I made an autobiographical comic about me and my brother and his friends playing basketball, and I had no idea that autobiographical comics even existed, so that was awesome.
It was just you and Harvey Pekar.
Yeah, it was just us. I’m sure Chester Brown was doing it, too. It was an elite cadre. But yeah, fast-forward to Panic Attack, that was the first one that I ever published, because I didn’t print the other one, I just made a copy. And basically, I couldn’t really find my voice in there, I was just ripping off a bunch of things that I liked, and it was kind of a failed attempt so I never made a second issue. I had to regroup almost 10 years later and do Veggie Dog Saturn.
We did skip one of my personal favorites, which is Francis, Prom Queen Maggot.
That never happened! [laughs]
Let’s talk about the Star Wars Holiday Special of Jason Young’s career.
You know what, that might be the best thing I’ve ever written, honestly. There’s a very personal thing in that, and a lot of people think when they read it that it’s me coming out of the closet, which it’s not. I had a very good friend of mine who was gay and he was in the closet for, like, the first 10 years that I knew him, we didn’t know he was gay, and he passed away – he had cancer, and he passed away, and he was a huge comic book fan, so I made that comic as sort of an homage to him, because I tried to include all of the elements of comics that he liked. He liked a lot of odd small press stuff, and he was really into Vertigo and a lot of small press oddball stuff, so I made a comic about a boy who was coming out of the closet, and it was a three-issue series, and I just sort of dedicated each issue to my friend, Jason Brooks, who had recently passed away.
Interesting. And here I thought you were going to say the really personal thing was the ‘Entry in Rear’ joke.
Oh, you remember that!
That’s one that stuck with me.
It’s funny, I used to play guitar in some punk bands, and there was this music store I’d go to all the time to buy guitar picks, or batteries, a tuner, strings for my guitar, and there was this sign that said ‘Parking in Rear’, and everytime I saw it I thought, ‘Someday I’ve gotta use that as, like, a joke for a gay club.’
You used it to masterful effect, because you did that series in 2002 or 2003, and that has stuck with me. Well done, sir.
Veggie Dog Saturn is your current series.
Yeah, current autobiographical mini-comic.
Is everything in that series autobiographical?
Yep, so far, other than, I think there was one or two stories in one of the anthology issues that had, like, some fun weird stuff that didn’t actually happen.
How did you come up with Veggie Dog Saturn, the title and the concept for the series?
Well, the title is sort of a reaction to, there’s a guy named Roy Peters whose nickname is ‘Hotdog Chevy’, and I pretty much think that I’m the polar opposite of this man. I was trying to think of a title for this book, and, you know, civilization’s been around for a long time, so every title is pretty much taken already, so I was like, ‘I need two or three words that don’t make sense together to make sure that I’m not copyright-infringing on anyone.’ So yeah, I was like ‘Veggie Dog Saturn’, that’s the opposite of Hotdog Chevy, ‘cause I drive a Saturn and Roy Peters drove a Chevy.
I had wanted to do an autobiographical comic ever since my failed attempt called Panic Attack, and I went through a breakup and I was really bummed out at the time, and a lot of the comics I read were about people who had went through break-ups, and I thought, ‘Huh, maybe this is some how like of a healing thing, I wanna try this,’ and I gotta tell you: it’s better than drinking.
So you tell autobiographical stories about things that happened recently, and in your childhood…
Yeah, in the first three I would do stuff that, y’know, something would happen and I would write a comic, and then something else would happen and I would write a comic, and then something else would happen… That’s how I did the first three, and by the fourth one I was like, ‘Y’know, I did a lot of fun things that I’m never gonna get a chance to write about because of all this awesome, exciting stuff is always happening to me now.’ So I decided for the next three issues to go back and tell stories from either my childhood or my ‘coming of age’ era, and those are really fun to do because it was fun to revisit and, when I printed them up, I gave one to my brother, and a lot of them involve him, and he said, ‘I can’t believe you wrote about that, I forgot all about that happening.’ It was like a fun little trip down memory lane to do.
And then I recently put out a Veggie Dog Saturn special, and most of those are more recent stories, things that happened in the last few years – not all of them, but some of them. It’s kind of fun to go back and forth, I think, from remembering things to documenting the present.
Do you enjoy doing a certain type more? Is it easier to do current stuff than to do older stuff?
I think it’s easier to do older stuff. It’s kind of become this weird obsession where, anytime I do something that’s sort of out of my realm of, y’know, ritual, anything that’s different, I take notes. Anytime I go on an odd trip or if something happens, I’m like, ‘I should take notes in case this becomes something that I want to tell a story about.’ I took a trip to Nebraska last November, and I still don’t know if that’s going to become a story or not, but I took extensive notes on the trip, and I do that a lot, like if I do something that’s sort of out of the ordinary. It might be something that, years later, it connects with something and gels into a story, but I think it’s a lot easier, actually, to tell stories from years and years ago.
Why do you think that is?
I think because you’ve had time to reflect and see how that was meaningful, or if it was even meaningful, or how it affected you or became part of a larger “story” of your life.
Do you think that people place more weight on things that are happening now versus things that happened years ago?
That’s hard to say, because, to me, it seems like if I’m reading a story and it’s like, ‘Here’s a true story about me’, and they’re like ‘It was 1984’, you think, ‘Okay, obviously this really affected them, they remember the year and everything. So to me it’s almost the opposite. I read a lot of diary comics and I really enjoy those, but I view each individual one as more of a throw-away, because I think of them as largely part of a whole. I do a diary comic, and my friend Carrie does an awesome diary comic, and when I read those or I do those, I think of them as part of a whole as opposed to one, specific interesting event.
You do a diary comic called Day-Off Diary. Where could a reader find that?
It’s kind of a long website. It’s http://buyerbeware.guttertrash.net. Any time I have a day-off, usually two or three times a week, I’ll do a diary comic about what I did during the day on my day off. Like I said, I’ve taken notes about things that I do over the last few years in case they become a comic, and a lot of times on my days off I’ll have a weird, fun day that I’ll do something bizarre, and I thought ‘I should just write about those’, and that’s why I decided to start doing those, in January. So far I’ve done one every day that I’ve had off work during 2012, including right up to yesterday.
And that’s completely free.
Yeah, you can hop on over there.
Who are some of your influences as a writer and as an artist?
I would hope that I’m not ripping off Jeffrey Brown, but I know that I’ve learned a lot about storytelling from him. He’s done a lot of autobiographical comics, he did Clumsy and a couple of other books, and he also does kind of humorous fictitious stories, but his autobiographical comics have inspired me more than anyone else’s, even though his wasn’t the first autobio that I ever read, it’s just probably my favorite autobio. I feel like, unfortunately, that I not only have been inspired by his storytelling but, like I said, I’ve learned a lot from his artwork, so I try not to rip him off, but I feel like it’s inevitable. The people that you like, you’re going to end up showing signs of being a fan of. So yeah, he would be the main influence, I would think.
If the reader hasn’t read any of your work and is interested in procuring some of it, where might one do so?
Well, either the aforementioned Buyer Beware Comics website, or you can stop in to Mavericks Cards & Comics, or I’ve actually got them in a lot of other stores like Quimby’s and Chicago Comics in Chicago, and a couple other stores in California and what-not. They’re out there, which is awesome and exciting for me. Shake It Records in Cincinnati has them, so, yeah, they’re out there.
Are there any final thoughts that you want to leave – words of wisdom or just general thoughts about life?
I would just like to say, don’t be afraid to try a different kind of comics. Believe me, I love superhero comics – I have tattoos of superheroes and I’ve got hundreds and hundreds of superhero comics in my collection, but, to me, it seems like a lot of people are missing out because they only make the time or reserve their funds for superhero comics, and to me that would be like only watching action movies. There are so many different genres and so many different types of stories being told in the form of comics, and I think you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you don’t at least take a peak and see what you might be missing in the other genres and the small press world of comics.
Jason Young, creator of Veggie Dog Saturn and Day-Off Diary, which is found at http://buyerbeware.guttertrash.net – thank you very much for talking with us.
We’d like to thank Jason again for taking the time to talk with us. You can find a wide selection of his comics in the ‘Mini-Comics’ section at Mavericks. Each issue also includes information on ordering his other work through the mail. Check out Veggie Dog Saturn #6 and the Veggie Dog Saturn special, in stores now.