Monday, 9 August 2010

Heeby Jeeby Comix Interview Part 1

Kicking off Heeby Jeeby Comix week here at the blog is the first part of our three-part interview with the fab four behind the first issue: David DeGrand, Bob Flynn, Chris Houghton and Dan Moynihan. One of the most exciting projects to come out of the indie/ small-press scene this year, it's a very welcome reminder of the comic book at its purest. Fun, hyper-animate, and sometimes even a little strange, it's the kind of work that's sure to appeal to a wide variety of readers, young or old. We love it.

Today, the Heeby Jeeby gang 
detail the origins of the project, discuss the merits and influence of Nickelodeon Magazine,  the challenges of producing comics for both children and adults, and how they might still be big kids at heart. 

What's the secret origin story of Heeby Jeeby Comix? What were your aims when planning to publish your own "all ages" comic?

Bob Flynn: Chris should weigh in on this one, but as I remember it, Heeby Jeeby started with a phone call with Chris. We were talking comics—somehow we got on the tangent that a lot of comics being made now are for mature audiences. Most of what I read details serious-to-mundane topics and a range of life experience scenarios, told by people in their twenties and thirties for people in their 20s and 30s. Some of these comics are truly amazing, don't get me wrong. But the industry is overrun by them.

We just want to draw comics that make people laugh. It's as simple as that. The "all ages" idea was largely a reclaiming of comics for younger audiences; you might say a counter to the graphic novel movement. By the way, did you hear they're making graphic novels for kids these days? What will they think of next!

Chris Houghton:  At the time, I had just finished teaching a couple small 6 week courses in cartooning for kids and got an education myself in seeing what kinds of comics kids enjoy. Their tastes really don't differ much from mine and the rest of the HJC guys, which in my opinion, is completely awesome.

So, why not start our own simple publication? Bob and I got talking about how fun it'd be to create a small "anthology-like" comic with anything and everything that might be considered weird and funny. No reoccurring characters, no confusing back stories to follow, just simple fun short stories.

David DeGrand: I think the decision to go "all ages" was from the apparent lack in the comic scene of quality comics for kids, the type that we used to read when we were younger. With most comic shops now filled with really violent and serious fare, we wanted to go back to the "funny book" days when comics were actually funny. The name came about after going through dozens of others, it just seemed to fit with the weird and silly vibe we were going for.

Bob Flynn's metamorphic "Brain Freeze" is so perfect that you'd be forgiven for remembering it as animation rather than a comic.

Flynn: The name "Heeby Jeeby" really summed up our objective for me. I found it as I was scrounging around for fun words to say. My mother would always refer to weird things giving her the heebie jeebies. It seemed appropriate—a tweak on just being funny. Plus, it reminded me of my childhood.

Houghton: Before Heeby Jeeby, I had been trying to get some of my sillier comic work published. I sent my stuff off to MAD Kids who said they liked my work, but then they went under. Then I sent my work to Nick Mag who said they liked my work, but then they went under. I started noticing a disturbing trend and decided to stop sending out samples to kids’ publications!

Dan Moynihan: When Nick Mag went under, I felt like I had no outlet for my zany comic ideas. Heeby Jeeby gave me the motivation to keep drawing them.

The first issue is dedicated to the sadly-defunct Nickelodeon Magazine, which Bob and Dan produced comics for. How much of an influence has the magazine been?

Flynn: I know for myself, it weighed a ton. Drawing illustrations and comics for the magazine was the best thing I had going in my early career as a cartoonist—though I'm not sure I realized it at the time. I was profoundly impacted when news broke that it had been cancelled. First, because so many talented people employed by the magazine were losing their dream jobs. And second, because kids were going to be miss out big time. Looking back, I can't help but consider the cancellation a call to arms. When Chris and I brought on David and Dan, Nick Mag was a big part of that conversation. I know it has given me personal focus.

DeGrand: Sadly I never did any work for Nick Mag, although I was a big fan of the magazine and was influenced a lot by it in my work. Nick Mag was one of the few places kids could go to for fun, silly, and weird comics meant just for them, and so we thought it was important to fill that gap when it sadly had to be cancelled.

Moynihan: Nick Mag was great because it gave writers and artists the freedom to create whatever they wanted, and then it put the results in front of a huge audience of kids. I don't know of anything else like that. I think it helped expand the idea of what a comic can be. Doing comics for the magazine got me into the rhythm of telling a story in 1 or 2 pages, and I'm having fun continuing to follow that format.

Houghton: I never did work for Nick Mag, but would have loved to. I read the magazine a bit when I was younger but it really wasn't until recently did I discover how great the magazine was and how much they were doing. I wish I would've gotten a subscription years ago and learned much earlier what a huge impact they had in comics and giving cartoonists an outlet for their work.

Dan Moynihan's charming take on the classic piano pratfall ends in romance for this questionably-lucky chap, proving once and for all that fortune favours those with broken limbs and a concussion.

What do you see as the challenges and rewards of creating material for both children and adults?

Houghton: I don't think there are many challenges. Sex, drugs, and rock and roll aren't a big part of my work to begin with so that's an easy thing to exclude. I think there really needs to be more all-ages content in comics.

Moynihan: For me, it's my natural inclination to create something that is kid-friendly, so I'm not really challenging myself in that respect. I just draw comics that I think are funny or interesting, so I get that reward even if no one else likes it!

Flynn: I see no challenge, really. I simply write comics that make me laugh. Maybe I'm still a kid at heart. You just cut out adult themes and unnecessary violence, and I think you have yourself an "all ages" comic—at least that's the current lingo. The reward is that when I go to a comics festival, I get to see a 70-year-old woman chuckling away, and a 6-year-old grinning ear-to-ear.

DeGrand: Oddly enough, it's easier for me to come up with ideas for kids than for an audience closer to my age (I'm 31). I went through a phase where I drew more "adult fare" that included really gory images and more taboo material, and I got to where that sort of humor wasn't rewarding to do after awhile. The type of humor that makes me laugh is more on the silly side, just plain having goofy fun with one of the few mediums that lets you do anything. I find it rewarding to come up with funny ideas without relying on profanity or adult subject matter.

Flynn: What makes it tricky is that you have to communicate something that's funny to you to a broad audience. I guess I'd say that's the challenge. But I certainly don't expect everyone to like or get my comics.

Heeby Jeeby Comix #1 is available over on the team's official blog (via ComiXpress) now for $5 (plus shipping). It's absolutely worth every penny, and we wholeheartedly suggest buying copies for your friends, family and pets too. Please join us again on Wednesday for even more Heeby Jeebie Comix goodness, where the creators offer their valuable insight onto one of the most conflicting terms in comics today - the much-maligned "all ages" label. We can't wait!


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