CONCLUDED: The Works And The Key: The Chynna Clugston Interview

A column article by: Park Cooper

I interviewed Chynna once before...

And then I interviewed her and ran it last week:

And, y'know, like often happens, my wife Barb was there too. So yeah. It's like that.

Here is the conclusion of that interview, suckas.

Chynna Clugston's BLUE MONDAY: THIEVES LIKE US is on sale now.

Park Cooper: How has the comic book industry changed since you first got involved with it? Do you think, for example, that if you, with your style and approach, were starting out fresh right now, it would be easier to get the industry’s attention now than when you did start out?

...and, like, any other ways it has changed over the time period would also be interesting to hear...

Chynna Clugston: It seems to have exploded since there's so many people trying to break in, even more than when I was sitting in the portfolio review lines a decade ago- as a result it's even more competitive than before. There's more women to be sure, and that's great, considering how disproportionate it was previously. We were there, but the numbers have increased drastically, it's fantastic. I don't know if I would have broken in as fast as I did (and it was a slooow process back then) if art-wise I was back where I was 10 years ago. BUT, webcomics would have been how I put my stuff out there instead of so many ashcans, or the use of ashcans only. The use of the internet has changed so much for everyone, and webcomics have evolved so much, it's really amazing to see. And of course, I’m pretty pissed there's so many great How-To books now on manga and so on, you had to learn by trial and error when I was starting out, I mean, no one helped me at the very beginning. It was like pulling teeth just to find out what kind of paper comic artists worked on, let alone the dimensions for the comic pages when I asked several guys. What dicks they were. How to Draw The Marvel Way didn't cut it, it was outdated and well, geared for Marvel. Now you can look in any art store, book store, or on the internet and find a how-to for anything. I can't tell you what trouble it was just getting going in the early nineties.

PC: I have your wiki page here... whatever happened with that Bloodletting thing...I ask you, fellow vampire-creator person?

Chynna: I put a stake through its ass. And then through its heart. And then I ran over it. and then I blew it up. And then I buried what was left, and then I had some dude go pee on it.

PC: Bad memories? A harsh self-appraisal? Both?

Chynna: A lame book. It's an example of letting people tell you what they think you should do with your original story and then adjusting it to become even more lame than it originally was. You know what I learned from it, though?

PC: Wha wha

Chynna: Create the story that you want to read, the way you think it should be done. Sometimes people suggest good things, but other times they suggest really stupid shit that still manages to make you doubt your own ideas. The only way you're going to be original is if your following your own ideas, not what you think everyone else wants you to do or will buy. But then sometimes you have to do the unoriginal stuff just so you can survive, so you need to pick your fights wisely. : D

PC: I don't even remember Fantaco. I sorta kinda remember Tundra, of course... although I can think of very few other things that they published...

Chynna: I don't even know what Tundra is. Fantaco was okay, they were pretty uninvolved. I was referring to my own friends at the time, telling me I should do this or that.

PC: Holy crap.

Okay, having said all that, rushing forward by a million credit hours from the school of hard knocks... how's the reception been on Queen Bee? You told me about its origin more or less... now how about the happy ending

Chynna: Well, it's been shelved, so...

PC: Shelved you say. ...Does shelved mean what it means in Hollywood?

Chynna: It means in comic terms, it sold really well. But it did not sell even remotely close to anything like say, what Scholastic’s used to, like Harry Potter. Though that's a really extreme contrast.

Barb: And here I thought this was the most interesting book for young women that had come out for some time now... not like the typical slice-of-life stuff that is so often aimed at girls etc.

Chynna: I get fan letters and lots of people telling me in person that they or their kids loved it, asking what happens next (I'm sure they could guess, it's geared for kids 9-13) but there's likely no more Queen Bee on the horizon. And Barb, thank you. I could hug you for that. ...Aw, I’d hug you anyway.

Barb: I saw somebody doing something different and I was happy about it. I thought it was a lot braver than what people have been doing...

Chynna: You want to know the truth? One major problem lay in bookstores. They didn't know where to put the book. They simply didn't know how to classify it. So Scholastic I think was a bit muddled by that, and I don't blame them...

PC: Uh huh.

Chynna: They felt it was a good book, they wouldn’t have released it otherwise.

PC: I’m sure they did, they made you write it just like they said...!!!

Chynna: They weren't nazis on the book, I think you might be misunderstanding what I’d said earlier. Sure there was a committee, but I got my ideas through without a hassle... they'd only had a general idea of the kind of story they wanted, and let the creators they found loose on them.

PC: Oh, that's not so bad.

Chynna: Certain points they'd meet over, discuss, and some things would be changed... but mostly minor points. These companies invest a lot in their image and get scrutinized pretty harshly, I understand the anxiety they get over some things.

PC: Okay, I absolve them.

PC: Okay... Hey how about that Strangetown.

Chynna: It's not dead, honest. It's going to be released as an OGN since it's been so long since the first issue came out. I’d missed something and wanted to go back and research it, luckily I did before issue two never came out, life and other projects got in the way.

PC: When shall it be released as an OGN? Do we know? Can we say? Can we predict? Guesstimate?

Chynna: It'll be released some time after Blue Monday: Thieves Like Us ends and before I start the following Blue Monday series. I do still have to draw several issues...

PC: Right... Just trying to whet the public appetite
So last thing, maybe... DC. Legion et al. Tell about that

Chynna: Pretty simple really, they contacted me and asked if I wanted to do the first issue of the new series, I said sure, so I did it. Now I’m going to do one of the Johnny DC Super Friends books, but just one at the moment. The kiddie books are actually really fun to work on.

PC: Illustrating, eh?

Chynna: Just the doodles, yeah.

PC: Any chance of you writing one? Any desire to write one? Barb says you'd be great at it...
So would she, but that's me saying that, not her.
So would I, for that matter.

Chynna: Sure, I enjoy writing. I had an idea for another Legion book, but I don't know what happened with that. I thought it was pretty cool though.

PC: Okay, what did we skip that needs to be covered... You're obviously doing Blue right now... What else do you need to plug though, anything?

Chynna: All my other projects in the works are either secretive or not yet pitched, so I think that about covers it! I’m trying to imagine if there's anything else...! I do have two original stories I’m doing for different Image anthologies coming soon, though I don’t know whether they’ve been announced yet or not. But if you keep an eye out on my blog or less active Livejournal, you’ll be sure to read about it in the near future. and respectively. I’m also on Facebook and Myspace and will post somewhere on those two about it as well.

PC: Barb keeps saying "make sure you mention about posting it both the column and at mangalife"

Chynna: Why?

PC: Me: "I think she's gonna be fine with me posting it both places! Why in the world would she have a problem with it?"
My first guess is in case you don't want to be associated with manganess

Chynna: No no no, see, I love manga

PC: No, yeah, just... Barb's like... if Chynna does not exactly call her own stuff manga, maybe she does also not want to be at

Chynna: I don't really care if people classify me as manga, I personally don’t and I also think that there's so much resistance to it [in American comics] that the instant association verbally puts fanboy types off.

PC: Well Barb WANTS to post it there too because she feels you are like a role model. A role model who can draw, which is not what Barb is...

PC: I think it’s part of why I think barb feels so strongly about posting at Mangalife, because heaven knows young idealistic female creators just starting out are rather more likely to read that than the Comics Bulletin column

Chynna: This is true. Manga really is the number one way to get female readers, especially young ones. Sausage parties don’t cut it, we typically need to feel comfortable in new environments that are inviting to both genders, not just one. Manga’s the best thing that's happened to the American market in so long. Before it was popular, I kept bitching about how comics and creators in Japan were treated so differently... 80% of the Japanese population reads manga, that’s a hell of a lot of people, of both sexes, enjoying the art of visual storytelling together, even if they were reading different stories in particular. 

PC: she'd really like to make a living writing her own work, but if there's room in the shopping basket, she'd gladly toss in "Hope For Females In Comics" as well, in a heartbeat.

Chynna: Yeah, of course. Well, one day the new crop of readers are going to take over and there'll be a shitload more opportunities out there.

PC: Yes, Barb has sometimes lately (I say lately because I think we came to manga a bit later than you... although heaven knows we're up to our hair in it now) rued that she was not born in Japan...

Chynna: Oh man, I know. Look how many books Takahashi has sold worldwide...

PC: But it's good to hear someone else say it. And so we were like "let's interview Chynna again"

Chynna: I heard that they were treated like superstars, the really popular ones anyway. I can’t imagine _not_ being treated like a leper for being a comic creator. 

PC: "Were"? Aren't they still? ...You mean in the good old days when there were fewer of them, but just a few super-stand-out-stars like Rumiko?

Chynna: Well, I originally heard that they were treated like superstars back in the day, I imagine they still are : P

PC: Ah. Yes, I assure you they are. Still.

Hiromu Arakawa-- I have MEMORIZED her name-- creator of FullMetal Alchemist... I believe the numbers are 25 million volumes sold. Um... I think that's just Japan, too

Chynna: WAAAH

PC: Yeah. And a chick.

Chynna: Once I finally latched on to manga entirely (I was resistant for a while myself as a teenager after my initial interest faded - it was a short period though and soon returned,) I wanted so desperately take help bring the enthusiasm for manga to America somehow... the same sort of books, but geared for Americans or English-speakers in general... same with Anime. I think I ended up being lumped into the second wave of American fans of manga doing Japanese-influenced comics, it was nice not being alone at the party, but it was still a pretty sad-assed, lonely party. Now it’s all over the place. I was worried for a while that it wouldn’t succeed at all here and remain under the radar, but things are changing dramatically. Have changed.

PC: Well you two sisters must keep fighting... I hope to inspire her with your example and stories...

Chynna: We’ll make it happen. We’re still just in the beginning. Thank the gods for Sailor Moon and Yu Gi Oh getting the little kids... they're all infected now... I can't tell you how many little girls are coming up to me with their own comic art, including my little half-sisters... it’s just so exciting.
I'm sorry if I sound so... I don't know what, idealistic, but I rarely get to talk about this with anyone...


Chynna: I’m yapping your eyes out.
I _should_ be telling everyone I meet who wants to get into the business to run screaming in the opposite direction.

PC: Yeah, well... NOW, sure... But you really are trying to sound a note about the future...

Chynna: Yeah. If we can get it to Japanese standards of readership...
Do you have any manga suggestions, btw?

PC: Heh.

Chynna: I see so many books on the shelves...

PC: Okay--

It's hard to suggest for another person... here are our best guesses for you though...

--Yotsuba&! (extra strong recommendation)
--FullMetal Alchemist
--Azumanga Daioh (extra strong recommendation)
--Death Note
--Forget About Love (we're the adapters, so it's actually pretty funny...)

--Most episodes of Cowboy Bebop
--Azumanga Daioh (extra strong recommendation)
--Fruits Basket (extra strong recommendation)
--Master Keaton (extra strong recommendation)
--Hare and Guu (extra strong recommendation)

And then these are good but we don't know if they'll be to your taste or not:
--Both Anime and Manga: Naruto
--Anime: Full Metal Panic and Full Metal Panic: FUMOFFU
--Anime: Witch Hunter Robin
--Anime: Dai-Guard
--Anime: Rurouni Kenshin

Chynna: Haven't seen Cowboy Bebop, though I always intended to. Got FLCL and Fruits Basket; I’ll have to check the others out!

Been wanting to check out Yotsuba and I do want to read Fullmetal Alchemist. 

Usually I’m not a fan of fantasy at all (unless there's comedy involved), and these days I’m ridiculously picky when it comes to the supernatural, but I’ll read almost anything so long as it's got good storytelling. 

Thanks for the list!

PC: That’s what we do.

Once again, Chynna Clugston's BLUE MONDAY: THIEVES LIKE US is out now.

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