Skottie Young Interview - Part 1
Interview conducted by James Ferguson
You've probably seen Skottie Young's work on a ton of variant covers for Marvel. He's drawn just about every character in that universe. His first creator-owned series from Image Comics is I Hate Fairyland, featuring a young girl trapped in a magical land and all the bloodshed she unleashes as a result. The first five issues have been collected into a trade paperback at the ridiculous cover price of $9.99. I had a chance to chat with Skottie about the book, horror movies, influences, and more.
James Ferguson: If you had to sum up I Hate Fairyland in one or two sentences, how would you do it?
Skottie Young: What if Alice went to Wonderland or Dorothy went to Oz, but instead of being there for a few days, were there for thirty years? How genuinely crazy would they become in a world filled with nothing but sugar and crazy riddling slugs? Beyond that, I've always sold it as Deadpool or Tank Girl meets Alice in Wonderland. Very whimsical in theory, but hyper violent and Looney Tunes-esque in execution.
JF: As a writer / artist on I Hate Fairyland, what is your process like? Do you work out a script or just jump in?
SY: I write out the full scripts for myself. When I first started developing this years ago, I thought, “Oh, since I'm the artist, I'm just going to start thumbnailing it out and write this thing as I go.” The artist in me would take over and I was almost animating it, giving a panel to every single action. To see these as comic book stories, I need to write these so I can get a better grasp of the timing, especially with it being comedy. It does me good to know where I'm at and know where page turns land. I can keep a tighter grip on the story so the jokes and gags land where I need them to land. Sometimes if I get too loose with that, it can meander, and nothing's worse than a joke that sticks around too long.
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JF: And you never have to explain any of them either, which is a comedy killer, so I would call you successful on that front. Are there any fairy tale tropes you haven't included (or had Gert butcher) yet that you'd like to pull in?
SY: Yeah, moving forward in the next arc you'll see me expand into not only what we consider straight fairy tales but a little bit more of fantasy tropes in general. The reason I picked Fairyland is the name evokes so many different thoughts when we hear it, as we've heard this term for our whole lives. Sometimes if evokes worlds made of ice cream and candy people and other times it's woodland creatures and fawns. There are going to be questions like, “Why in fantasy stories do kings and queens and evil rulers sit in a throne room with nothing but a chair in it?” It's one thing I've always wondered, whether you're watching Star Wars or Lord of the Rings or Sleeping Beauty. These really evil, plotting people spend a lot of their day in a room that just has a chair in it. There's no television.
JF: Maybe that's why they're so evil. They don't have any decorations in their house.
SY: They're so bored! Being a ruler is so boring. There are a lot of little weird things like that that I'm going to play around with. I'll start diving into fun things like Final Fantasy and video games, basically just entertainment in general and wrapping it in the saccharin sweet veneer that I've given it up until this point. I Hate Fairyland is a way for me to play with genre in general, not just fairy tale tropes.
JF: You mentioned that you're planning out the next arc. How long do you envision the series going?
SY: Right now I really don't have a number in mind.
JF: Will you just keep going until you run out of ideas for it?
SY: Yeah, or if it seems like support for the series is going down – which at the moment it seems like it does not look like that's the case. I'm just playing it by ear. I'm super inspired right now, and people seem to be really enjoying the series. Retailers and readers are really supporting it with their orders. I really want to just try to keep that going right now. I'll definitely do at least three trades worth. If I can get up to six trades worth, that would be awesome. That would be about thirty issues. Beyond that, if the readership is still there and everyone's still pumped and we're having a good time, who knows?
JF: Otherwise Saga and Walking Dead will have to watch out. There’ll be a new long running series at Image.
SY: Wouldn't that be funny? The big epic space opera and the super grimy gritty, eat-the-human-guts, could possibly be joined by a little girl who kills people with giant lollipops.
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JF: What's been your favorite creature to draw in I Hate Fairyland so far?
SY: Maybe Bruud the Brutal at the end of issue one. I basically only drew a panel of him.
JF: And then his head in the second issue.
SY: Everything I do about this book is really just to make me laugh. Drawing that character's giant bottle nipples made me laugh that day. It's always funny when you're watching these barbarian movies or reading these comics and these dudes with big pecs are running around in their loin cloth. We always get so salacious when we draw women characters. A guy, when drawing a woman, will draw her so scantily clad and outline the breasts and the nipples, but when we draw men, if we draw nipples, they're barely a hint of a little line there. We're just not leaning into a guy's anatomy on that front. So I thought “This character's on the Ice Cream Islands and it would be mighty cold there.” He's a large guy, so...
That character was cool. I really like...I don't know. They're all pretty fun. Larry's probably my favorite thing to draw even though he rarely changes. I really like the shape of him and his expression.
JF: I'd love the see Larry tango with someone like Jiminy Cricket. The complete opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to someone's conscious.
SY: It would basically be him battling his former self. The bright-eyed fly who's there to help her on her mission on the day she arrives vs. the Tom Waits-like curmudgeon who's there thirty years later and realizes this is never going to end for him.
JF: With all the bloodshed and the hyper-violence in the comic, has there been anything you felt went too far?
SY: I don't think as far as the visual violence goes. It's really just me leaning into something we do in comics, oh so easily when it's something serious. We will go so brutal and crazy, which I'm entertained by as well. I'm turning that same kind of content into things like the moon in issue #1, but the blood looks like a bottle of ketchup exploded. Sometimes people will look at it and say, “God, it's so violent,” but while I'm drawing it, I'm actually not feeling aggressive or that it's overly violent. I think it looks so silly that it doesn't even occur to me that it's that violent really. It's like when Daffy Duck gets his beak blown off by a shotgun. He literally gets shot in the face with a double barrel shotgun and his beak spins around his head and flies off and he's burnt to a crisp. As a kid, that was so over the top that it never even occurred to me that it was violent. I think that's where I'm going.
The touchy area for me that I probably pull back from and I'm still trying to figure out how to approach is Gert's age. She looks very young. I had the joke in the second issue where she's drunk at a bar and she's hitting on a frog prince. Now technically, if you were just to read that issue without the context that she's thirty years old, you would think, “Woah. Where's he going with this?” She is a grown adult with adult needs. That's one area that I don't really know how to approach because visually it's kind of creepy. I don't lean into it a ton, but I think there are a couple of funny jokes to be had there. I dealt with it tastefully while still walking up to the edge.
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JF: That actually brings up a good point. Gert came into Fairyland at six or seven years old and she's lived for decades in this world, but she hasn't had the social norms we have in our world to grow up and mature in that way. While she is in her thirties, is she in the mindset of someone in that age? Or is she a child that didn't grow up?
SY: It's really a mixture. I think we can all probably relate to that on some point of the spectrum, especially any of us that would be fanatics about our hobbies. I'm a big comic book reader and animation and book lover. I get very wrapped up in this world that sometimes I actually forget that I'm almost forty. If you think about it, Gert is not that far from me really. Obviously I don't go around chopping things up.
JF: That we know of.
SY: Yeah, that I'd tell you guys about. It's a little bit of an exploration into how we get into the things we get into and how we've frozen ourselves at certain ages. In some aspects I go home and I have to tell my son to eat his vegetables. An hour later, after I've put him to bed, I'm downstairs reading Invader Zim. There's this weird conflict in my brain that's very juvenile in some ways and mature in other ways. The majority of my day is finding the middle ground between those frames of mind. That's kind of where Gert is for me. Sometimes, simply because she's grown old, her body and mind advances in certain ways, but because she's been installed with certain things, she also doesn't quite know how to act. There's an interesting dichotomy there that we can all understand. Look at how involved we can get at the minutiae in The Force Awakens or the Deadpool movie and discussing them, treating them like they're real. I think back to my dad at the same age and it was just about going to work and paying bills and telling me not to do this or that. There wasn't an allowance for that dual life to exist. I think Gert falls somewhere in there.
JF: I'm trying to remember if my parents had anything like that and I can't think of anything. They never had to watch this movie or read this book.
SY: It's so funny to me now. UPS will come to the door and my son will open up the box and it's The Art of the Peanuts Movie or The Art of Zootopia, which are movies made for kids. Those books are not for him. They're mine. I'm literally telling him to be careful with my book. That's crazy to me. I can't remember my dad having anything that he showed us that wasn't supposed to be manly or adult. Fixing cars, building things, things you do when you grow up to be a mature man. You hammer wood. You go to races. You watch football on Sunday. My life is very different. Gert's a little bit of a reflection on that with the weird balance between how old you are and how old you feel.
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JF: Now you have me thinking of what would happen if Gert ever made her way back to the real world. She has a warped sense of reality.
SY: It's funny how this book has shown me things about myself that I didn't know. When it first started, it was simply a joke. Wouldn't this be funny? Like most things that we do, you have this idea because there are some things beneath the layers. Looking back, I started to have this idea around the time my son was one or two years old and I'm reading to him every night and watching age appropriate TV shows. These are very brightly colored, repetitive shows.
If anyone's watched Dora the Explorer and not wanted to take an ax to things, I applaud them. There's literally a song by a talking map that just says, “I'm the map! I'm the map! I'm the map!” like twenty five times. That will happen twice per episode. If you watch three episodes in a row, you will hear this talking map say, “I'm the map” hundreds of times. It's maddening. You're walking through a room filled with colorful blankets and colorful swings and a high chair that's covered in colorful animals. Your whole house is covered in colors and this bright, funny, cool cartoony stuff that you love and then this show that's kind of cute, but it's repetitive and maddening. Your kid is singing it. All of a sudden, what was just a joke of an idea, I could look back and see why these ideas where occurring to me and how they can be a reflection of what's going on around you.
Yo Gabba Gabba was a show that I loved. My son ended up getting so into it that I watched the same episodes ten times. That's kind of the premise of Fairyland a little. Even with the things we love, if we love them too much, we can grow to hate them. Going back to your question as to what would she think if Gert went back home, that's an interesting question. Would she be happy that she got there? Will she realize that she only thought she hated this wonderful world, but not really? The grass is always greener. No matter what jobs we all have. I write and draw comic books for a living and there will still be days where I'll see something and say, “Oh, look how much better they have it.” I'm basically in Fairyland, right? I'm in this world that's crafted for me, but for some reason, I'll find something else that's more appealing. I think I Hate Fairyland is a good examination in a completely over-the-top cartoony way of how worlds made for us that we don't appreciate even if they're slightly annoying sometimes.
We're going to put a pin in this interview here. There's still loads more of great Skottie Young chat for you to check out so come back for part two of this awesome interview.
HorrorTalk would like to thank Skottie Young for taking the time to talk to us here. I Hate Fairyland: Volume 1 from Image Comics can be ordered at the links below.
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