Skottie Young Interview - Part 2
Interview conducted by James Ferguson
This is part two of James' interview with writer / artist Skottie Young about his book from Image Comics, I Hate Fairyland. If you haven't read part one, head on over and check that out as Skottie drops some straight up science. We now dive into the interview, already in progress.
James Ferguson: There is a lot of action that happens in between issues. Was that a conscious decision?
Skottie Young: It ended up being my motif for that first arc. The first arc is a defined story that had to hit all the plot points with a nice bow at the end. I think because of that, I didn't want to waste too many pages with just action. The main reason was I didn't want to get repetitive. There are only so many ways that you can draw someone punches someone. I found this to be challenging for myself in super hero comics. We grow up thinking that action is the thing we want to draw, but I find it to be the biggest challenge because I can't think of so many different ways for two characters to punch each other. In a book where violence was going to be over-glorified and really taken over the top, I didn't want to beat that into the ground.
In issue one, my big over-the-top violent moment was blowing the moon's brains out. Because I did that, I didn't want to also have five pages of Gert just chopping up a guy. The same thing with the zombies. You show a couple panels of that and it's good. If I show an actual sequence of her fighting the conflict in every issue, that starts to get a little repetitive. This book wasn't about how good of a fighter she is. It's about how funny a fighter she is and that only needs a panel or two.
I like stuff like Mike Mignola's work. If you look at Hellboy, he fights things, but there's almost no sequence where a fight lasts more than four pages.
JF: It's very quick. I think what's great with Mignola is he does a lot of showing, less telling.
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SY: There was one story in particular that probably inspired my approach to this. It was the mermaids short story [in The Third Wish] where Hellboy went under the sea and he met with the mermaid sisters. He fought the big fish woman. It's story and build up and then there's one panel with a single punch. They skip to the end where he's already defeated her. I liked that. There's something about that that can only be done in comics or done in the way of growing up with comic strips or Looney Tunes. You'd have a fight break out and instead of showing you the next eight minutes of Jason Bourne type action, you just got a big cloud of smoke. Stars and fist and feet would pop out of the smoke randomly. You didn't know what happened, but you know a fight took place. They come out and they're all bruised and battered. There's something appealing and silly about that to me. There's something to leaving it to your imagination. You see Brood at the end of issue one all, “DUN DUN DUN!” and the next time you see him, he's just a head on a bar. That was the gag and I don't know if I had intended it to happen every issue.
I had two continuing motifs: The narrator (and that really only started because she killed the moon. I didn't know that that would continue, but I thought that it would be kind of funny to have her kill the narrator). Then I could have her do the traditional comic book cliffhanger, but you just jump into the next comic, it leaves a lot to the imagination. It also helps me fast forward a little bit. I think one of the challenges to comic books is dealing with time. How do you advance time if you have to show every single step? I think it's served a lot of purposes.
JF: How are you liking your first foray into creator-owned series?
SY: Oh man, it's the best. It's so great. I love the fact that for fifteen years I've gotten to come to a drawing table every day and make a living and raise a family off of making things up on paper. The majority of those years have been spent bringing other people's and other companies' creations to life, which has just been a blast. I've learned so much and have absolutely no hard feelings for that at all, but man, nothing compares to coming in, flipping on the light, pouring that first coffee, and making something up right there and not asking anyone about it, not running it by anybody. At the end of that day, you've made something up. At the end of that month, that book's going to be in someone's hands. For better or worse, it's all you.
There's something that speaks to that primal kid in you. That original five-year-old in you where you just pretend all the time. You're making stuff up and you're doing it for you. You're not pretending for the purpose of anybody else. I've watched my six-year-old in a room when spontaneously he forgets that people are watching him and he just starts pretending. He's got a sword and all of a sudden he's Wart from Sword and the Stone. He doesn't care who's looking at him or who's watching. He's just in it for himself. It's for him. This is about as close as I've ever felt to going back to that time where you just make things up and it's about you and having fun. Now the byproduct is there's a book at the end and I get to share what I've created with everyone else.
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JF: What's something that scared you as a kid?
SY: I'm 38 years old, so I grew up watching the Michael Myers, the Freddys, the Jasons, and all that. I remember, the very first thing I was scared of was actually E.T.
JF: Was it the finger?
SY: He was just so ugly! Ugly and wrinkly and he walked so weird. Past that, I definitely remember the first time I saw Halloween and thinking that was super creepy. Freddy and Jason not so much because things like that looked like someone made them up. Michael Myers looked like he was a person with a person mask. There was something dead and creepy and scary about that. That was probably the first time I was pretty scared.
JF: That kind of leads into my next question. Do you have a favorite horror movie?
SY: I definitely think the first Halloween is pretty high up there. Do people consider Alien a horror movie?
JF: Definitely. We do.
SY: I remember seeing Alien for the first time and being absolutely terrified as well. If I were to jump forward as I got a little older as far as horror movies go, I remember I had never been more tense while watching a movie than I was with High Tension. You've seen that?
JF: I have. I agree, but I was let down by the ending.
SY: Yes! I hated the ending. It just took away all the tension with the reveal. I remember needing to take a break. I paused it and went outside for a little bit. I think one that doesn't get talked about a whole lot – or it does and I don't hear it – is The Others. I don't know where people classify it, but it's more of a ghost story. I don't think it's necessarily horrific. As a ghost story, I thought it was really strong.
JF: You're perhaps most well-known for your incredible comic covers. Are there any titles or characters you'd love to take a crack at?
SY: Because I've been with Marvel for fifteen years, there's almost no character there I haven't drawn either professionally or for fun. I don't often think about it much, maybe because I know at some point they're all going to come down the pipeline. It's more thinking of characters from other companies because I've never had the chance to work for them. Batman's rogues gallery would be pretty great. I think they're so friggin' cool.
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JF: You mentioned Hellboy before. I'd love to see a Hellboy cover from you.
SY: Oh yeah! I've actually drawn a lot of Hellboy characters for fun. I do a daily sketch every day for five or six years now. Over those years I'll often dive in and do an Abe Sapien or a Johann or somebody from the Mignolaverse. They're a blast to draw.
JF: Is there anything you'd like to tease going into the next arc of I Hate Fairyland?
SY: My original intent for I Hate Fairyland when I started development all those years ago was a 48-page story. I was always just going to do a little hardcover. Then I thought I'd do little web shorts, kind of like an old zine or Tank Girl. Tank Girl was never big long tales, just little minis or episodes. That was always the most appealing part to me. I thought Gert in Fairyland is less about her plot and more about her in a crazy world and the different ways that she deals with it and the world deals with her. Sometimes plot can screw that up.
Now that it's an ongoing comic series, I'm going to do both. My friend Jason Howard, who worked on Super Dinosaur and does Trees with Warren Ellis, has been alongside me the whole time I've been developing this. He explained that the first arc was my movie and now the second arc is where I'm launching the television show. I'm going to take her and spend a little more time developing the world with her in it. Each issue might tell its own little stories a bit more. They'll be tied together through a few things, but it will be more about getting out on the road and exploring the world a bit. That way I can introduce new characters and really do a throwback to how comics were when I was growing up reading them in that you weren't quite sure when a big arc would take place. Groo is one of my favorite comics. You have this dumb barbarian doing crazy things and every now and then it would be a big story. That's kind of what I'm going for moving forward.
You might get a crime noir land issue where she's crossed over into a Frank Miller-esque world. Or maybe all of a sudden she's part of Bloodsport Land or in some sort of weird anime Street Fighter world. There's a story where we might explore what's inside Larry's hat. He pulls an awful lot of things out of there. What's actually going on in there? A lot of the things I want to do, if I had such a tight plot, it's hard to branch off and explore those things individually. I'm going to take it and relax and slow things down for a while to explore all the corners that this bizarre world has to offer and see what kind of new characters I can throw in as well.
JF: It sounds like there's no limit to the areas you can dive into with this.
SY: That's really what I want to try for. Sometimes when your story is on rails, you're servicing the plot so tightly that it gets very tough in a world like this to stop and spend twenty pages with her in this Street Fighter-esque land where she's in a Bloodsport-like contest of champions or something. The real estate is so precious. When you only have five or six issues to do a beginning, middle, and end, you don't take the time to veer off and just play. With a book like this, I think it's important to just let it play and explore playing. If bigger, plot-driven stories naturally rise to the surface, then at that time, I'll tackle them. Right now, it's going to be fun to play for a little bit.
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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