Skottie Young: It's called I Hate Fairyland. It's about a girl who goes to Fairyland and still can't find her way back home after 30 years. She's a 40 year old stuck in an 8 year old body, living in world of wonder and magic… and she hates it. A riddling Worm King might be appealing when you're a child, but to Gerturde, at 40, it's annoying to the point of madness. How hard is it to just ask a simple question, right?
It's an idea I've been playing around with for years. Alice in Wonderland was the first novel I ever read on my own as a child. I was in love with the odd characters, the bizarre songs and the puzzle-like wordplay. Then I listened to the audiobook once day while inking and thought I was going to have a nervous breakdown. I was an anxious mess trying to concentrate on work while listening the nonsense that used to make that book so appealing as a child.
Then we had our first kid. You can't avoid shows like Dora The Explorer and your house becomes filled with dozens and dozens of pictures. The more I took in some of these kids books and shows, I Hate Fairyland started to come to life. I started wondering why Dora wasn't driven absolutely nuts by that map and his two minute song consisting of only I'm The Map! I wondered why Sam I am didn't strangle the annoying guy that insisted over and over that the eggs were clearly green and rotten.
So I though it would be fun to see what a character was like if they got all the things we think we want. To never physically age, to eat nothing but sweets and never gain weight, and live in a carefree world of whimsy with no responsibilities. It's not all it's cracked up to be. Then I thought, what happens if a character as mad as that had a big ass battle axe?
I loved and still love all the Seuss books and Alive and Dorothy, etc. But it's interesting to explore the idea of an adult who's stuck in that world.
RJ: This is her, right?
SY: Nope. That's not her. It's an older version. I've explored many versions of her over the years. She was older, bigger, smaller, wider, thinner. Heck, she actually started out as 40 year man who looked 40. So when I say I've been thinking about this for years, I'm not kidding. There is a version of her on my Tumblr that's very close to what she is in the book. So I've teased it here and there.
RJ: You have a reputation for stories aimed at the all-ages (ish). Are you bearing that in mind with the new comic?
SY: Not really. I decided to not go down the "exceptions" road. I'm just making a book for me. I don't really want to think about markets, and demographics and age groups. I just want to draw things that make me laugh and get excited about comics.
Honestly, I have not idea what the age range is for this book. It's got elements of all the things I grew up with. Mad Magazine, Sergio Aragones' Groo, Giffen's Trencher/Lobo, Alice in Wonderland, Tank Girl, Looney Tunes, Beetlejuice, and things like that. I never thought about if I was the appropriate age for any of that stuff. They were comics and the appealed to me. I'm thinking the same thing while making I Hate Fairyland. I'll make it and see who it appeals to.
That's what I've always loved about creator-owned comics as a reader. The freedom to explore ideas that don't fit perfectly into genres or categories. It's even more exciting as a creator and I look forward to playing around.
RJ: Aside from your Neil Gaiman books, all your prominent work that the public has seen, from Oz to your baby covers to Rocket Raccoon has been for Marvel. Do you realise you may be seen as a bit of a scalp for Image Comics? They did leave your announcement till the very end after all…
SY: Ha ha ha. I don't think about that side of things. That's something for pot stirrers like you to bounce around. Haha.
But seriously, I'm not sure what that really means. I've worked for Marvel since I was damn near a kid. I was like 22-23 when I stared working with Marvel. I'll be 37 in a few months and I'm STILL working with Marvel. There's people up there that are like my Family. They've been by me almost my whole adult life. I learned how to make comics with them. I learned about this business with them. I've gotten married, had a kid, a little brother had to have a heart transplant, a father passed away and these people were with me thru all that. So thinking of things like "being scalped" from one publisher to another doesn't even register with me.
I've had ideas I've wanted to write and draw on my own for years. I've talked poor C.B.'s ear off over the years with all my ideas. When it was finally time for me to do it, I went to Image and asked Eric if they'd be into a book by me. He said "Yes".
It's that simple. No drama. No beef. No "scalping" was done. Not to mention, I'm still doing a TON of work at Marvel. I'm still writing Rocket Raccoon, and writing and drawing another book soon. And the covers… oh the covers. Haha. I've yet to see a week on my calendar where there isn't a cover. the only difference now is I'm making some room to do my own books alongside of all that.
RJ: Before you came to Image, you seemed to style yourself as an "indie" artist (say, whatever happened to those projects you were developing with C.B. Cebulski?) but it's possible you may now be one of the most mainstream artists there is. Is that a gradual change or was there a sudden switch?
SY: It's interesting to hear how others see you. I would have never called myself an indie artist. I've worked for Marvel for 14 years or something like that. I think because my style has never been very "mainstream" that the perception may be that I'm indie. Maybe, but who knows. I've definitely never thought of myself as that.
I've always been very lucky to have an awesome group of people who are into the kind of things I do. So even when the comic shelves said they wanted realistic comics and cartoony was a four letter word, I attended a billion conventions and looked for the people who liked that four letter word. Haha. Now it feels like there's room for everyone. Dark, light, real cartoony. Whatever your flavor, you can find that crowd. That's been a gradual thing, I think. But again, who knows.
On the ideas with C.B.… those are still sitting around somewhere. Haha. I'll have to dig those up sometime.
RJ: It feels that the moment things changed for you more than anything was the Midtown Comics exclusive cover of Avengers Vs. X-Men that you did, turning you from a fun artist to a real money maker. Did you see that change?
SY: I often refer to myself around the house as A Real Money Maker. Haha. :) Again, it's interesting to hear different perceptions. On one side in, we had Oz hardcovers that were outselling most Marvel collections, but because the singles didn't reflect that people would ask "When are you going to get back on "real" books." Haha. Oz sold better than any book I had done in 7 years before that. So for me, things really changed during my 5-6 year, 6 volume run on the Oz adaptions.
But yeah, the Midtown AvX cover was a shocker for me, maybe for everyone. I surely couldn't have predicted that one cover would have turned into over 100+ and me doing them 3 years later. No way. I figured I would do 10, people would be like "Yeah, ok, stop.", but they didn't. They, you know… like them. Haha. There's not a day that goes by that I don't get pics of a baby's room with prints on the wall, pics of tattoos, pics of walls filled with all 100 or so I've done. It's crazy.
It's really fun to do as well. Mad Magazine, The Far Side, Calvin and Hobbes, Bloom County and comics like that were all I read as a kid. I didn't even know what superhero comics were until much later. So being able to inject some of that into those characters and covers is a blast.
RJ: How did getting Rocket Raccoon into a Loot Crate change things at all (aside from the royalties) – if it did?
SY: That's still all too new for me to know. It seems that it's changed things for comics as a whole as other companies have had books in Loot Crate. Which I think is cool. When people first started reporting on Rocket having 300k in sales then putting the * on it. like *BUT 100k was through LootCrate so you know…. doesn't count. That was crazy to me. We've been wondering how to sell more comics for years. And by sell more comics I mean get comics into the hands of readers, not just sit on a shelf. The 100k+ that went to Lootcrate ALL ended up in a person's house. In their hand. That's awesome, right?
Yes, the answer is yes. The hope is that everyone of those people will read Rocket, or Walking Dead, or Batman, or I Hate Fairyland (hit me up LootCrate!) or whatever and then go seek out their local comic shop for issue 2 and 3 and 4 and so on. So while I don't know if LootCrate changed things for my life or career just yet, my guess is that it's opened up new ways for us to hook new readers.
RJ: You once said that the book The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland had your favourite title. Did you borrow a little?
SY: I do love that title, but no, I didn't borrow it. I had this in my projects folder long before I read that book and even before it was published. Though I was very jealous of it and frustrated I didn't think of it first. THE GIRL WHO WENT TO FAIRYLAND, GOT STUCK THERE AND HATED ALL OF ITS GUTS would be a pretty great title, yeah? Haha.
RJ: Talking of titles, the standard title is titular, named after the lead character or characters, Rocket Raccoon, or even a noun that sums them up, the theme of the book, or even a place name. Certainly comic book titles seem to have been less imaginative than, well, anything else. But I Hate Fairyland joins the recent They're Not Like Us or God Hates Astronauts in expressing a statement in a title. Was this a deliberate move from the norm on your part?
SY: Not really. I went through a few titles. In fact, the title for the longest time was F*** Fairyland. Haha. Talk about expressing a statement. But I decided to calm that down a bit. After brainstorming naming it after her or making up funky names for the world I decided to keep it simple. We all know a version of Fairyland in our heads and Gert HATES the place. It's nice and clean and exactly what the book is.
RJ: It feels like sexuality would have to be an aspect of a forty year-old in an eight-year old body, but a rather disturbing one. We've seen similar in Being Human or played for jokes in Roger Rabbit – how have you approached what could be a hot button issue?
SY: I don't want to ruin the book this early but if I'm were to approach any subject that may be a hot button issue Roger Rabbit would be a perfect baseline to have in mind. You can add that movie to the long list things that led me to being the kind of cartoonist I am.
RJ: Will #1 of the Image comic have a Baby variant?
SY: Haha. No. But she's not too far from looking like that naturally, right? That's just the way I draw! :P
I Hate Fairyland by Skottie Young and Jean Francois-Beaulieu was just announced at Image Expo.