I'm gonna start this introduction with two lyric quotes...
"... this is a man's world but it wouldn't be nothing... not one little thing... without a woman or a girl..."
"... the men all pause..."
Why these two lyrical quotes and who are the artists? I'll answer the first bit of that question first. 1) if you don't know the artists without me telling you, you should. And 2) 'Cos the next two interviews I post will be with female comics creators.
With that outta the way, let me just inform you, Jennifer Young truly does make the men all pause when she walks into a room. I'm not sure it's only due to her looks (which are admittedly good) but it's probably more about her vibe. Jennifer's cool... she's collected... she's an artist with vision... those things come across at a moments glance.
I've been a fan for a few years. Jennifer's illustrated diaries read as funny, informed and thought-provoking as any I've read from Kochalka and Thompson. And her's is a new voice in ways which matter... approach and execution.
It's a pleasure to include Miss Young in this series of interviews. So... here we go.
CCC: For those who don't know, Name and location?
Jennifer "Jenny Bunns" Young, Atlanta, GA.
CCC: How did you become interested in creating comics?
My big brother got me into comics when we were kids. I've always liked to draw and write, and I found that I could combine the two loves into one using this medium! Ever since, I was hooked and have been making my own silly little comics since I was 9-10 years old.
CCC: What was your first published work? Did you self-publish that work?
I was involved in a self-publishing collective with two other artists called Cute Girl Demographics. Shortly thereafter, I went off on my own and have been publishing most of my own work through Lulu.com or my own printing resources.
CCC: If you self-publish, what do you gain from that experience?
I've learned, through trial and error, how the whole process goes from pencil and paper to folding and stapling/and or editing proof copies. I like to self-publish, at least for now, because I have full control over what's going on... how my books look, who's buying, etc. The most challenging part is self-marketing! It's fun because you have to use a whole different part of your creative side to figure out the tipping point of your books sales/recognition. It's a constant (educated) guessing game and it's interesting to hear feedback from fans and potential readers.
I hope to be published by a publisher soon, with my graphic novels, but I think I might stick with self-publishing with my Diary of an Apprentice books (a comic strip diary of my life as a female tattoo artist in the South). But with my tattoo career, freelance work, and teaching piano... I just don't have the time to DIY anymore.
CCC: Give us a list of your published works (self-published or otherwise)?
*Diary of an Apprentice - There are 6 volumes out so far, the 7th is coming out in a couple of months.
*Not My Small Diary 13 - produced by Delaine Derry Green
*Wide Awake Anthology 666 - a horror anthology by Wide Awake Press
I had some works published under *Cute Girl Demographics, but they're being reworked and republished elsewhere. Still in progress!
CCC: Describe the art scene where you live. If you've lived elsewhere and were producing art there, compare those scenes.
There are a lot of small, independent galleries and art collectives in Atlanta. A lot of urban and alternative art is found here as well as a tattoo scene full of talented artists. However, like the city, there is a lot of sprawl. There are a lot of small groups of artists doing their own thing, but it seems spread out. Perhaps it's because of how the city is laid out... or perhaps this is my own skewed view of the scene - geez, I work too much!
I'm originally from Rochester, Minnesota so I still visit and come to the Twin Cities once a year for the FallCon. From my visits, I've noticed that there's a bigger appreciation for sequential art, especially the independent scene. If I lived back up there, I'd probably get hooked up with some awesome printers! I love my visits to the Cities - it puts a different perspective on the indie world as I know it.
CCC: Do you belong to any online or 'real world' art groups? If so, list them and describe how that/those group/s benefit you.
I'm not in any online or "real world" art groups, not really, anyway. I rely on my work ( http://www.skinwerks.com/) and personal work websites (http://www.theapprenticediaries.com/), my blogger site ( www.theapprenticediaries.blogspot.com), myspace, and facebook. I try to keep up with small galleries and other artists, mostly through myspace.
CCC: What is your ultimate or immediate goal in creating comics?
I use Diary of an Apprentice as my personal, public ventilation system. If something silly/funny/stupid/annoying happens, I write it down. If it's something funny that happened, I'll be happy to share it with my friends and fans. If it's something really annoying, I'd feel better about venting about it, because it's turned into something funny. I don't know what I'd do without it, frankly. I want to continue printing them for as long as I can, just a personal desire, I suppose, to record my life and share them with friends, fans, and future generations of my family.
With graphic novels... what is the goal of any writer/artist/creator? To put it out there and to hope people will read them and appreciate the blood, sweat, and tears you put into the work. I suppose that's all I can ask for.
CCC: What do you think is lacking from the underground art scene? If you had the power, what would you do to address that void?
It's a catch-22. The underground scene is underground, because it lacks enough audience/marketing/distribution to become mainstream, yet, the very struggle of the underground scene is to reach that audience.
The essence of the underground art scene is not the goal of reaching that audience but, instead, it is the process. I often hear indie artists complain about how hard it is to be a part of the scene and how they contemplate whether it's worth putting forth the effort... but I think that struggle is the very spirit of the scene and it's something that's fundamentally important to recognize.
CCC: Do you blog? MySpace? ComicSpace? If so, what kinds of things do you communicate through it and what is your ultimate goal in using that site?
I post my almost daily comic strip diary on my blog, myspace, and facebook (my blog is where I mainly post - it includes more fun stuff, like articles, pictures, etc. - as I only sporatically post blogs on myspace and facebook). When I use up a book that's when I publish it and set it to print.
CCC: Do you read any other creators' blogs? If so, what do you think of them?
Yes! I have a links page on my blog site with the blogs that I subscribe to. I also subscribe to other artists' myspace blogs. I love going through blogs. I think it's become that much easier to keep up with other artists - not only with their finished work, but (if they're willing to post it) their processes which I find most interesting. Everyone wants to get an inside look on interesting people's lives and people are beginning to share it with others.
CCC: What kinds of books do you enjoy reading?
Aside from graphic novels, I like reading plain, old fashioned all-word books too. I like books with great a storytelling voice like the works of (but not limited) Neil Gaiman, twisted postmodernist reality narrative such as Brett Easton Ellis. I also like non-fiction works that have to do with biology, pyschology or linguistics. Unfortunately, I haven't had much time for leisure reading since I started my tattoo career so it's mostly come down to reading blogs!
With these advances in communication and networking, people are able to multi-task and take on more and more projects. Of course, because of this, there leaves less free-time for concrete reading materials. It's easier for people to read short, informative works - magazine-style, such as blogs and e-zines.
CCC: What kinds of standards and/or expectations do you place on a comics purchase?
If I go out and buy something at a book/comic/specialty store, it must be something I've already read that I can't live without having it in my collection. The last one I bought was Black Hole by Charles Burns. It was so good, though, that I ended up giving it to a tattoo artist who was doing some work on me, as a tip. I wanted to spread the word about this book to someone who might appreciate it, but doesn't necessarily have a strong comic book background.
I do most of my comics purchases, however, at conventions. I only have time to go to ones I actually participate in, mainly the FallCon in Minnesota. I trade some stuff, buy others, etc. My daily life revolves so much on electronic communication, it's refreshing to interact with the creator in person, at the time of purchase.
CCC: What is your favorite indie publisher?
I like Top Shelf Productions. They're good guys with good taste... and they're local (to me, anyway!).
CCC: What is it about that publisher you find unique?
I haven't had a chance to catch up with them in a few of years so things might've changed. But when I knew them they were a two-man team working, at first, from their own homes and eventually moved into a place of business. I just find it admirable that something that starts so small can become as successful as they are, but still undulate between the mainstream and the margin.
CCC: Who is your favorite creator/writer/illustrator?
I can't play favorites, but I know I'm expected to make a list. I'll forget a whole bunch of people, and some of these aren't even in the comic book industry but they've made an impact on me... Chris Ware, Craig Thompson, Elizabeth Chai Malpass, Charles Burns, the Hernandez Brothers, Neil Gaiman, Jeff Smith, Hiroaki Samura, Jamie Hewlitt, Brett Easton Ellis, Alphonse Mucha, Tamara de Lempicka, Colin Sone, Ian Charo, Jerrell Conner, Bruce Timm, Masami Taraoka...
CCC: Give us a short list of indie creators you believe are sort of shaping the future of comics (indie and/or mainstream)?
I'm sure there are a few out there, but the reader probably knows more about this than I do. I'm pretty in the dark about this secret society that I loiter in the fringes with, and in a way, I like it like that.
CCC: If you could change one thing about the modern comics 'industry' what would it be?
I think it'd be great to give more opportunities to lesser-known, but equally talented creators. Things like the Xeric Grant are a good step toward that direction, but there should also be more local support.
CCC: Give a shout out to any site and/or underground comic you think people ought to be checking into.
My links are on my blog site, check 'em out! :)
And... there you go. The ladies are just as much in the mix as the men. And, it seems, with publishers like IDW, Top Shelf, First Second, Oni, AdHouse, Highwater, Dark Horse, SLG, Image, TokyoPop, Titus, D&Q, W.W. Norton, Fantagraphics, NBM, etc. it's going to continue AND increase. This is good for the underground and mainstream. Hell, in time, people not normally inclined to read comics will be less likely to read mainstream superhero books. They'll be informing the scene on what publishers indie creators should be taking their properties to. And, if we pay attention, we'll also learn what it is we can do/create to connect with and truly effect the lives of our readers.
The future looks bright... and less smelly.