Do you remember the famous characters from Calvin and Hobbes, Little Orphan Annie, Charlie Brown and Snoopy from Peanuts? I recently got the opportunity to interview Jason Yungbluth, a cartoonist, who gave these characters a unique take in his magnum opus, the Weapon Brown graphic novel.
Jason knew he wanted to be a cartoonist from fourth grade. His career officially picked up when he was in highschool and Sharp Comix published an editorial cartoon he drew about Jimmy Griffin, Buffalo’s cantankerous mayor. After graduating with a BA in illustration, he began cartooning for publications such as Starlog, Cat Fancy, Dog Fancy, The Buffalo News, and The Sun tabloid. In 2000, he self-published Deep Fried, and that’s where Weapon Brown came into existence. For the last seven years he’s been a featured cartoonist in MAD magazine, and has created recurring comic strips that include Scooby Don’t, Orwell, and Detective Slow on the Draw. He has years of experience and that’s why Weapon Brown came across as a very well-written and amazingly drawn story to me.
Let’s see what he has to say about his story that shows famous comic strip characters in a post-apocalyptic future.
Q. When did you first get into comic books?
The first comic I remember reading (at around age eight) was a Green Lantern story where Hal Jordan fights a giant mutant zombie that used to be his pet starfish. I encountered that comic around the same time I read a Jack Chick tract about a guy sitting in Hell awaiting his final judgment while World War 3 rages above. Somewhere between these two comics you will find the physics that define my entire career.
Q. Any favorites?
Tuffolino (Mussolini’s favorite comic strip!)
Q. When and how did you get the inspiration for Weapon Brown?
I first drew Weapon Brown (not known by that name yet) when I was about twelve, in a single-page cartoon called “Charlie Brown: 2025”. That was it until 2000, when I began publishing my anthology comic book Deep Fried and needed some additional material. I thought that there was gold in the idea of Charlie Brown taking revenge on the Peanuts gang, and I turned out to be correct. Years later after that story arc wrapped I decided to resurrect Chuck and pit him against the remainder of the comic strip universe. It seemed natural to resolve the question of who – Charlie Brown or Calvin–would survive the end of the age of newspaper strips.
I call Weapon Brown an “action parody”, in that it works just fine as a good ol’ fashioned post-apoc story, but takes on a new dimension when you see how well these loveable comic strip characters work in their new, “weaponized” roles. You could also say it is a recuperation of culture in the same vein as Fables or The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, although I’m using work that is modern instead of antique.
Q. I see a lot of familiar faces, mostly from Peanuts. Why decide on parodies of these characters for your story?
No one else was doing it! With my original story I intended to draw the line at lampooning the most obvious tropes of Peanuts, but it seemed unfair to deny all the other comic strips that have shaped our lives their due. Also, it was fun being the one to finally kill off so many of the strips that just won’t die otherwise!
Q. I have to be honest; 416-pages are a lot, though I have to applaud you for the amazing art work, and a well-paced story. How’s the general fan response been for you?
I’ve heard nothing but praise from the masses (though I’d really like some bitter a-hole to take me apart online so I can start a productive flame war with him). A lot of people would like to see the story continue, but I don’t know if there are any A-list comic strips left for me to rip on. Perhaps the next chapter, if it comes, will incorporate web strips.
Q. What other things are you up to other than Weapon Brown?
I am returning to Deep Fried for at least one more volume, and I intend to really turn up the dial on the adventures of Beepo, Roadkill and Squints and make this the final word in underground humor.
My most imminent project is a mini comic, Suicide Note #3, where my newest Clarissa story will debut (Clarissa being my extremely bleak take on li’l gothy girls). I’m hard at work on that now and hope to have it done by the fall (of Man).
I have also been tantalizing my fans with a new action comic that mashes 90’s style Image heroes with post-9/11 American decline, and that will most likely be my 2015 project. Of course, before then, Disney may have written me one of their billion dollar checks to add Weapon Brown to their stable. Then I can finally renounce worldly possessions and devote my days to creating sand mandalas on the patio of my Italian villa.
If you are a fan of post-apocalyptic stories with elements of humor and action then Weapon Brown is for you. The 416-page book also includes additional material such as sketchbook work, a cover gallery, and pin-ups by comic artist talent including Phil Hester (Green Arrow), Stephen Notley (Bob the Angry Flower), Stuart Sayger (Shiver in the Dark, Bionocle), and Matt Allison (Dark Horse Presents).
Jason Yungbluth will also be doing a signing at Forbidden Planet in NYC, August 13th at 5pm. So, you can go and personally meet him.
Have you read Weapon Brown yet? What are your thoughts about the story? Let us know in the comments!
Farid has a Double Masters in Psychology and Biotechnology as well as an M.Phil in Molecular Genetics. He is the author of numerous books including Missing in Somerville, and The Game Master of Somerville. He gives us insight into comics, books, TV shows, anime/manga, video games, and movies.
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