Portrait of An Artist as an Angry Youth: An introduction to the comic artist Johnny Ryan

Posted by on October 11th, 2010 at 12:01 AM



TANGEN-MILLS: Does your family read your comics?

RYAN: Do they know what I do for a living?

TANGEN-MILLS: Do you just say I draw humor comics?

RYAN: At first my Mom thought this would be a nice hobby for me. She never liked the idea or thought I could make a living out of it. Now, she seems to appreciate it a bit more. I do send her my books because she asks for them. I don’t think I would otherwise. I don’t necessarily think this stuff is her cup of tea, but you know, I usually think when you’re approaching your art, it’s not a supergreat idea to sort of stifle your creativity by thinking, will my parents like this — unless your parents have extremely good artistic taste. I don’t necessarily think my mother does. Whatever.

TANGEN-MILLS: When did you start Angry Youth?

RYAN: When I first got out of college. ’92, ’93. That was kind of like the point when I was drawing them as letters. They were three page letters I would send to people I would do one, then Xerox it and send it to three or four different friends. Eventually, they were like you should make this into a real comic.

TANGEN-MILLS: How did you pursue that?

RYAN: One of the friends told me we should do this together. I did comics and he sort of did like a zine. He would write stuff, just stupid articles about porno movies and other trashy things. So we kind of went in on it together. We would go to the local copy shop run off like a hundred or so, drive around to different comic stores and see if they wanted them.

TANGEN-MILLS: When did you know you had fan-base?

RYAN: I still don’t know. In some ways, I was more interested in just trying to get the book published in some form. I think my main goal was never: I need more and more fans. I just thought, I need to make a living at this. That’s been my main goal all along.



TANGEN-MILLS: How were you working before you could live off of your comics?

RYAN: I’ve had several jobs since I graduated from college. Bussed table. Worked at department stores. Worked in dollar stores. Stuffed envelopes. Worked in a warehouse. Telemarketing. Painted houses. Mowed lawns. Worked for the liquor store. Urological clinic. Various temp jobs.

TANGEN-MILLS: When were you able to work solely on your comics?

RYAN: Probably like the fall of 2002.

TANGEN-MILLS: Was Blecky Yuckerella before Loady McGee and Synus O’ Gynus?

RYAN: No. Well she made an appearance in issue #3 of Angry Youth Comix and then a couple years later I got contacted by the art director at the time of the Portland Mercury and they asked me if I had any ideas for a weekly strip. So I thought maybe I could this. I gave them the idea for the Blecky Yuckerella strip and they ran it in their paper for three years, three and a half years.

TANGEN-MILLS: How did Boobs Pooter come about?

RYAN: That was some goofy character I had in my sketch books. He seemed kind of fun. Sort of like this jokester, comedian type whose sole purpose is to make people laugh and have fun, but his idea of people laugh and have fun is their pain and horror and torture. So it seemed like a fun idea.



TANGEN-MILLS: I’m thinking of the Boobs Pooter comic “Joke-apocalypse” when he takes the emancipation proclamation and shoves it up Abraham Lincoln’s vagina. A lot of people would be offended by that. Do you get letters or e-mails from pissed off people that are offended?

RYAN: No, not really. That’s one of the perks of being an alternative-comic artist. It’s both a perk and a detriment: Nobody gives a shit. Nobody cares what you’re doing. I obviously have some kind of fan base, but it’s very small comparatively speaking. If people don’t like my stuff, they’re just going to ignore it. They’re not interested in it. They might go on some message board and shit one me, but I rarely get personal e-mails or letters, [from anyone] who’s actually offended by what I do.

TANGEN-MILLS: In The Comic Book Holocaust, you touch on nearly every comic, from Sunday strips, to Marvel, then in the third section you get into alternative comics. Are you familiar with all the works you parody?

RYAN: A lot of them I knew, but then there was some I made a special effort to read just so I could fuck with them.

TANGEN-MILLS: Like what?

RYAN: I had to read Persepolis. I had to read Epileptic. Those are the two that come to mind.

TANGEN-MILLS: Do you know any of those artists personally?

RYAN: Sure. I know Peter Bagge. I know Dan Clowes. Steve Weissman. That’s sort of the thing. I think that people think that just because I’m parodying these books that I hate them. That’s not the case across the board. There’s comics that I’m not a big fan of and there’s comics I like, but I thought that I could make fun of them a bit. It’s not [because] I hate all those books that I lampooned them.

TANGEN-MILLS: I didn’t think that; I just thought that indie comics would be a small world…



RYAN: But I mean the ones that I make fun of… The comic or artist I have made fun of that I didn’t know previously, I never heard from. So how they felt about it I have no idea, or I might have heard second-hand. And people that I am friendly with, they took it as some kind of compliment.

TANGEN-MILLS: One of the comics you dissed was Milk and Cheese by Evan Dorkin. In some ways it reminds me of Angry Youth. Did you read Milk and Cheese?

RYAN: No, I didn’t come up reading Milk and Cheese or his work very much.


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