Johnny Ryan has to be one of the few people in the world who can say the phrase Boobs Pooter with a straight face, and well, he also one likely one of a very small handful who have actually tried. Interviewing Ryan about creations like Blecky Yuckerella, Sinus O’Gynus, and the aforementioned Mr. Pooter, it’s hard not to begin giggling like ann embarrassed school girl. Ryan, however, clearly takes his strips—which routinely end in punchlines involving AIDS and shitting in one’s underwear—very seriously, god bless him.
This is part two in of a two-part interview with Ryan, in honor of the release of his second Blecky Yuckerella book. The first part can be found here. The second is available after the jump.
You do a lot of satirizing of a lot of contemporary comics. I assume that you’re a big fan of a lot of books?
Maybe not as much as I used to be. I wouldn’t say that I read a lot. Nothing really recent; with a lot of the superhero stuff that I did, I don’t really read a lot of what’s going on now, unless someone tells me to read something. I guess I find myself reading a lot more of the reprints than the recent stuff.
Do you read any of the alternative stuff?
I read Love & Rockets, every once in a while. I like [Daniel Clowes’] stuff, but I don’t think he really puts out that much.
Obviously you’re not-so-subtly mocking it, but is it stuff that you’d consider yourself a fan of?
I wouldn’t go that far. It varies. There are comics in there I love, but there’s also stuff in there that I’m not a real big fan of that I make fun of. It’s not across the board either way. I wasn’t a big fan of that Shadow of No Towers book that Art Spiegelman put out. There are a bunch in there that I wasn’t a huge fan of.
Do you know if Spiegelman ever saw the holocaust strip that you did?
I don’t. I don’t really hear much from a lot of other artists. There’s the people that I know, that I’m friendly with, like Peter Bagge. I did a Hate parody, and I did a Dufus parody, and I’m friendly with Peter and Rick [Altergott]. And they were amused by the parodies. For the most part, the people that I don’t know, I really didn’t hear anything from, either way.
I suppose that Spiegelman doesn’t really read your book too regularly.
Yeah. I don’t know about that. I think that Seth used one of comics in a slideshow, in which I did a sort of parody of him. But I heard that second hand.
Do you get a lot of fan letters?
I guess a get a medium amount.
Do you get a lot of hate mail?
Not a lot. I think in the entire time that I’ve been doing this, I’ve only received one or two legitimate hate mails. I’ve been doing this for, like fourteen years, so I think that’s a pretty good track record. I think that when people don’t like your stuff in comics, they just don’t bother to read it, or don’t care.
Do you remember specifically what those one or two were in response to?
There was one that I got from some gay guy in France that was mad, because there were three Shouldn’t You Be Working strips in row, where I was making fun of gay people. I usually try to check myself, to mix it up, but that just happened that there were three gay jokes, in a row, so that made him angry. I think the second was just a general hate letter.
Not to get to comics historian on you, but a the strip in the back of [Ryan's first AYC anthology] Portajohnny reminds me a lot of what Crumb was doing in the 60s, as far as the portrayal of African-Americans. Do you feel a sort of affinity for his stuff?
I mean that whole concept didn’t come from Crumb, but yeah, there is something to that sort of angry, racist humor that always sort of amuses me. It’s some kind of misanthropic streak in me, where I’m amused by upsetting people.
So you’re not thinking about some sort of larger context, holding up a mirror to society?
People have asked me before, ‘do you ever get contacted by white supremist groups who want to use you for their propaganda?’ I think I’m just way too weird to be appreciated by that type. My comics don’t have any political meaning. I’m just trying to get a cheap laugh.
Are comics your main source of income?
Well, I do illustrations. Most of the income that I make comes from freelance gigs from places like Nickelodeon and Mad Magazine.
How long have you been doing art full-time?
Since about 2002.
When you were originally doing those Shouldn’t You Be Working strips, what was your day job?
The earliest ones, I was working at a urological clinic in Seattle, doing insurance billing.
How did you get into that?
It was a temp job. I got it through an agency, and they just eventually hired me. For some reason, they seemed to like me, which is very rare for any job I’ve ever had.
So you’re not a very good worker?
It depends on the type of job I had and who I was working for. There were jobs that I didn’t enjoy, so I made a special effort to goof off.
If I had to dream up a crappy job, I think doing insurance billing at a urology clinic would be up there.
It wasn’t too bad, in the sense that I had an office off to the side, so no one was really bothering me, or looking over my shoulder, so I spent a lot of the day just doodling and not doing what I was supposed to. It was boring, but I’ve had much worse jobs.
How did you get into the Nickolodeon gig. Did they contact you?
No, I contacted them. That was one of the first freelance gigs that I achieved. I think I even got in there before Angry Youth Comics was picked up by Fantagraphics. I was living in DC when I first got saw their magazine, and I saw that they had a comic book in the magazine, with Sam Henderson and Kaz, and lot of other of my favorite cartoonists in there, and I thought it was pretty hip, so I started sending them my stuff.
They don’t have any problem with your doing far more adult stuff on the outside?
No. Looking at the other artists that they’ve used, Kaz, Ivan Brunetti, Sam Henderson—I know they also use people who do adult comics. The editor over there is a hip guy who’s aware of the alternative comics scene.
You put out another issue of Angry Youth recently, right?
Yeah, it came out in December.
You’re still following Loady McGee and Sinus O’Gynus?
Actually, number 13 will have more of their stuff. Last issue was an all-Boobs Pooter issue. Each issue I try to do something different and new, to keep things interesting for me. Every time I change things, people will write me and say, ‘hey, I like the new issue, but I really miss Loady and Sinus.’ And I’ll do a long story, and they’ll ask for a shorter story.
Have you ever considered a graphic novel epic about Loady and Sinus?
Um, I guess it’s crossed my mind. I think issue number one is close to that. It’s a 32-page story. I think that’s about as long as it has ever gotten. At this point, I don’t have any plans to, but I don’t know.
What was it about those two characters that’s made them stick around for so long?
They’re pretty standard comedy characters. Sort of Moe and Larry or Abbott and Costello. The real mean guy and the wussy guy. And I also guess two sides of my own personality, working together.