Jason Yungbluth has been drawing the web comic Deep Fried since 2000. That same year, he began publishing the 4-issue Deep Fried comic book through his company Death Ray Graphics. The comic gained a strong following for its uncompromisingly critical look at politics and society, its vulgar humor, and the little girl who’s being molested by her father and the family not only covers it up, but they actually blame her for it.
Deep Fried is sick and funny.
To give you some idea of what kind of man Mr. Yungbluth is, I present the following anecdote: I met Jason at the 2003 Small Press and Comics Expo, (SPACE). He was wearing a Charlie Brown shirt and a purple wizard hat. The shirt was to promote his Weapon Brown comic, a re-imagining of the Peanuts gang as adults in a post-apocalyptic future. (I don’t know what the wizard hat was for.) We talked briefly. He mentioned that if he didn’t sell enough comics here, he’d shave his head bald, save for a thick strand in the front, for his appearance at the Pittsburgh Comic Con later that year. This would make him look almost exactly like “Weapon Brown”, only without the cybernetic arm.
Two months later,
I don’t know how many comics he sold.
Jason Yungbluth is a man of integrity. When he makes a promise, even a stupid, crazy promise that would drive people away, hurt him financially, and ruin his public image, by God, he keeps that promise! And that’s more than you’d expect from a guy who thinks child rape is funny.
A new Deep Fried comic was released this month. I finally got off my ass to ask Jason Yungbluth the questions on everyone’s minds:
Why are all the women winning on ‘Survivor’?
I’ve got a glamorous squad of forensic detectives working on the answer to that question right now. Tune in this fall for CSI: Pearl Islands.
How come the Iraqis haven’t greeted us as liberators?
Cuz they’ve got true grit! Every Marine they detonate is an homage to the fighting spirit that made our own country great! We should be proud to be fighting people who aren’t afraid to give our Armies of One a workout instead of some limp-wristed sissy boys!
How the hell can Jean Loring be Sue Dibny’s killer?
I dunno. Time travel?
I then asked him questions about himself:
When did you begin your career as an illustrator? Did you always want to work in comics, or were you first interested in commercial illustration in general?
God your questions are hot. I’m so gay for you.
At what point did you decide to create comics? Was there a strong desire to express your opinions, or were you looking for something to merchandise?
I have always been a cartoonist, and all artists have a strong desire to be heard. It was after 9/11 that I spun characters from my comic book into a web strip to address the subjects evolving from those events. Since then I have done the strip weekly, sometimes tackling news items and other times just going gonzo.
Politics is very hard to merchandise. News stories are not very timeless, and strips that cover Iraq or Washington have a shorter shelf life than if I had just done something crude and apolitical. But I’ve always erred on the side of saying what I think needs to be heard.
How many different ideas and characters did you go through before settling on Beepo and Roadkill? Was there an idea to take a couple of typical, wholesome cartoon archetypes (a clown and a cat) and make them as filthy and offensive as possible? Or did the filthiness come first, and you searched for its proper vessel?
“Filthy” is such a malodorous word. I have had Roadkill the cat as a character since I was 12, only then he had a more sympathetic personality. Beepo came into the picture in college when I needed a partner for Roadkill. I thought this sort of “negative Garfield” would be funny, and swore I’d force the world to see it that way too. Now I wish SkyNet would send a Terminator from the future to kill my parents before they met.
Were you ever traumatized by clowns? Or cats?
I once saw a clown traumatizing a cat, but my mom said they were only mating and bought me an ice cream.
The early “Beepo and Roadkill” strips feature the humor of two disturbed individuals. After being re-invented as “Deep Fried”, the serious became much more political. What motivated this change in direction? (And don’t say 9/11 or Bush.)
I have actually switched gears after three years of tackling politics regularly in my strip. I am now veering the characters back towards their obnoxious roots, but incorporating the new jingoistic paradigm of our nation into the humor.
In a comic book it is hard to sell straight political content, and I don’t have the energy to be a teeth-gnasher. Dubya won a second term, and that’s that. My crusade to unseat him is concluded (barring a much needed impeachment), and I am grateful not to have the campaign to preoccupy me any longer. I will instead take my glee from watching this cancer grow and swallow its apostles, and provide grass roots comedy to those who must inevitably battle it.
Thank you for creating “Weapon Brown.” I’ve waited all my life to see Charlie grow some balls and off that bitch Lucy.
Didn’t it suck how Schulz didn’t make that his last strip? I don’t care if his colon was falling out of his ass! That sonuvabitch owed us! But where he failed, YUNGBLUTH CONQUERED!!
Over the course of Deep Fried, you began drawing political figures as fictional characters. Does this reflect your personal views on reality vs. public perception vs. the reality “they” want us to see?
Politicians are fictions. Has anyone reading this interview ever seen Dubya or Kerry or Powell in the flesh, without a box around their heads? They’re just Max Headrooms quoting from bumper stickers.
My personal view on reality is “try finding it.”
How did you decide to draw. . .
George Bush as Humongous from “Mad Max?
When Bush, seeing that the UN inspectors were on the verge of proving that Iraq really didn’t have WMDs, delivered his televised ultimatum to Saddam, it evoked the scene in Road Warrior where the Humungus tells the heroes in the oil refinery to just “walk away, walk away and I’ll spare your lives.” I haven’t seen such blatant plagiarism since al Qaeda cribbed 9/11 from the Death Star battle in Star Wars.
Dick Cheney as Devros, mad scientist from Dr. Who?
Tough one. I eventually let the man’s bum ticker and his dependence on evil science to keep him alive determine that pick.
Donald Rumsfeld as Donald Duck?
Rummy’s innate sourness made him a natural to be transformed into “Donald Duksfeld.”
Kerry and Edwards as Gumby and Pokey?
I originally intended to cast Kerry as Plastic Man, due to his ability to change his persona and his flexible recall of his record. I eventually went with Gumby because Kerry’s hair put me in mind of Gumby’s head bump. Pokey was then the obvious choice for Edwards, though I gave him a big, toothy manga smile.
Saddam Hussein as Megatron, evil Transformer?
He was the first news figure I transformed via a pop culture reference. It was obvious though! Megatron the Decepticon, capable of transforming into a weapon of mass destruction! Heh heh! Whoops!
Ever have an idea for a story or caricature and think to yourself, “Whoa. That’s going too far, even for me”?
I had some reservations about the scene in issue #3 where Roadkill pisses on the Vietnam Memorial. I thought perhaps that I was being pointlessly shocking. I had a larger point to make, however. And that is that Vietnam veterans suck.
No, I kid! War sucks, of course, but only our enemies deserve to be urinated on. If they would only build a monument to the millions of dead Vietnamese from that war I’d piss all over it myself. And I thoroughly endorse a saturation whizzing of Iraq.
Ever worry about making a pop culture reference so obscure, no one would get it? For example, how many Americans under the age of 40 who aren’t hardcore sci-fi/Brit TV geeks would even know about Devros, let alone recognize a parody of him?
Hey, I only saw the guy in two episodes 10 years ago. Curse my perfect memory!
“Zed the Corsair has ended.” Name that movie! NO GOOGLING!
Explain to the non-readers what is “Clarissa,” and why you think it’s funny.
Clarissa is a little girl with a very disturbed home life. Her father sexually abuses her, her mother tries to compensate for her non-intervention by smothering Clarissa with gifts and food, and her brothers have marked emotional trauma over the whole situation. It’s a lot like Everybody Loves Raymond.
You’re a sick, sick bastard.
You are not the only one who thinks so. In point of fact, “Clarissa” uses humor to illuminate some very dark subject matter without suggesting that the subject itself is funny. It’s a fine line to walk, and there are some who haven’t gotten my point. It’s definitely gut punch comedy.
Is there anything you consider sacred? Any taboo you won’t violate?
Jesus, are there any left? I don’t go looking for taboos to break for their own sake. I would much rather subvert my readers’ sense of what is proper subject matter to joke about than to take something that is obviously tasteless on the surface and rub their face in it.
Humor is essentially taking relief from seeing things that we fear ourselves happening to other people and having the horror mitigated by some quantity of absurdity. Whether it is Porky Pig having an anvil dropped on his head and surviving with nothing to show for it but a constellation of bluebirds or watching some comic strip nitwit enrage his boss through his incompetence but live to work another day at the same salary, the result is the same: hope endures. Nothing hurts.
I don’t consider cheering people up to be an essential part of my humor. When Beepo, dateless, jerks off impassively on his couch he is mocked by his own talking shlong. A talking shlong is funny, but his situation is tinged with the genuine despair of an emotionally stunted loser. Likewise, Clarissa’s bitterness is not feigned. She’s surrounded by absurdity that the reader can laugh at, but she herself is going through hell.
In addition to creating and publishing your comics, you also work as a freelance commercial illustrator. Where can we see some of your non-comics work?
I’ve done storyboards for some New York State tourism ads, and my illustrations are used from time to time on the cover of the Voice, a faculty publication for the New York State University system. I used to do spot cartoons for Starlog, but gave it up after Data died in Star Trek: Nemesis. My world stopped turning that day.
I read on your website that a newspaper dropped Deep Fried for its language. First of all, congratulations on getting it printed anywhere! Second, have you ever lost an illustration job because of Deep Fried or your political beliefs? I mean, if a toy company saw your site, they might think twice about asking you to draw jigsaw puzzles.
I actually do draw jigsaw puzzles, so nyah. I slipped the Invisibles into a crowd scene in one of them so that future generations of children will be inspired towards career-threatening rebellion.
My strip was yanked from a corporate owned weekly in Rochester, NY after a few Christians pissed their bloomers over my reference to the “holy fukkin’ spirit.” Odd, since the “holy spirit” is just a metaphor for jizz.
I needed the loot but I am nonetheless well rid of them. I have routinely had my professional ambitions stifled by my inability to work with editors. A lesson to you kids: don’t listen to Ayn Rand! No one’s career moves an inch in the real world if you don’t sell out!
I recently caused a commotion at the Voice for being politically incorrect in my portrayal of a boxer. I suggested that there are some in that sport who may be black, and this apparently unnerved a few pussies who are so afraid of stereotyping that they ignore simple reality. Another lesson for young readers: sometimes liberals are the problem.
Moving back to politics, what the fuck were 60 MILLION people feeling? How could ANY mildly coherent lifeform look at the Bush cabal and think they did a GOOD job?
I have sincerely wrestled with the issues that were under scrutiny in the last election (and will remain vital for the rest of this generation, thanks to the inevitability of the course Bush has charted). I have analyzed and devil’s advocated as best as my limited intelligence allows me, and my conclusion is this: we’re just going to have to get used to being stuck with the South.
Would the destruction of the current administration improve the country, or does the problem lie with the stupid citizens? If the latter, would you favor stringent re-education or mass executions?
People, we had our opportunity to stop this war. Likewise, we can end it any time we want. I talked two people out of shopping at Wal-Mart today. That’s a real result. Stop buying the products and using the services of the companies that own this administration and tell others to do the same. If you can’t even be bothered to do that much then quit your bitching.
Seriously, if I had the chance to establish a totalitarian left-wing regime that would ensure 100% literacy, employment, and health care coverage, but brutally to
rtured and executed anyone who disputed my reforms, I’d load up and march TONIGHT! Any form of Democracy is doomed to failure; it is based on the false premise that people think clearly about every decision and act in their own best interests. Every form of voting, from presidential elections to American Idol, has proven that premise false.
I wouldn’t know. I don’t watch TV.
Now tell people why they should buy your new comic, old comics, and inevitable bobble head dolls.
The new Deep Fried #1 contains sizzling satire, ugly humor and 50% MORE carbs than the next leading brand! Enjoy the world’s most revolting body cavity search, a deadly lampoon of Richy Rich and some of the slickest art in indy comics today! And yes, Beepo is naked for most of the book.
When’s your next convention tour, and are you still bald?
My follicles have regenerated thanks to the time I spent on the Genesis planet. I will definitely be at this year’s Pittsburgh Comicon, and more than likely at one of the Wizard shows or San Diego, and possibly the Heroes con. Stay tuned for more (and by “stay tuned” I mean visit whatisdeepfried.com often!)
What comics do you currently read?
Planetary (the best biannual comic ever), the Ultimates once in a while (just to see how clever Mark Millar thinks he is), the Simpsons, We3 (Quitely, man. God I hate him). Jason recommends: Blankets by Craig Thompson. It’s a great comic novel. I also enjoyed Seth’s Clyde Fans a lot.
You get any new video games lately?
Viewtiful Joe 2. Lotsa fun. My roommates are hooked on Katamari Damacy, and let me say this: I honestly and truly believe that Japan is a nation of lunatics.
Where do you stand on the Gwen Stacy controversy?
a.) A great character’s been tainted for all time.
b.) I can see how it could have happened.
c.) I have a life.
Although I am not a Spiderman fan, I did happen to read those issues. Except for the fact that the writing licked my scrotum but forgot to buy me dinner, I have no comment.
Your pick for best porn mag:
The Utne Reader.
And finally, if you had a million dollars, what would you do with it?
Shit it away on comics like I do with all my money.
Deep Fried #1 is in stores now. Issue #2 is available in the current Previews catalog under Death Ray Graphics. You can buy Deep Fried comics, trade books of the first series, and the “Weapon Brown” collection at www.whatisdeepfried.com . There’s a new strip almost every week as well as excerpts from Deep Fried vol. 2 and animation.