A new year is upon us, and so to kick things off in style, I present for your reading pleasure an interview with author and artist Ethan Young.
ACW: Thank you for taking the time to chat with me! You’re the creator of Tails, a webcomic, which is now being released in print form by Hermes Press. For those who aren’t familiar with Tails, can you provide a quick summary?
EY: Thanks for having me, Alison. In a nutshell, Tails is a semi-autobiographical comedy with a dose of epic fantasy. There are slice-of-life stories layered in between metaphorical comic book adventures, all propelled by the narrative of a hapless, cat-loving vegan cartoonist (yes, based on me, the book being semi-autobiographical and all).
ACW: Given the semi-autobiographical nature of the story, where do you draw the line between fiction and reality in your work? Are there certain things you won’t write about, even fictionalized, or is everything fair game?
EY: 99% of life is fair game, but I do exercise a certain amount of restraint and decency when it comes to privacy. I rarely ever use a person’s real name, and I’ll change a person’s appearance if I don’t have their permission. But almost all the real-life stories have a footing in reality, it just so happens that it’s my personalized version of reality.
ACW: As a follow up to that question, do people expect you to be exactly like the character Ethan? How do your friends and family feel about your characters? Do you ever get the sense they’re censoring themselves around you so you won’t write something they’ve said or done into a comic?
EY: If a person has met me first, the comic acts as an additional peek into my psyche. If a reader is familiar with my comic first, they seem pleasantly surprised by how nice and approachable I am in real life. I don’t necessarily go out of my way to highlight my own faults, but I certainly crafted a flawed protagonist, which can be off-putting to a lot of comic readers.
My friends and family are generally not worried about what goes into Tails. I usually give a heads-up to friends if I’ve used their character as a plot device, just in case they get offended. There are times when I need a character to be a straw-man or another character to divulge the moral of the tale – which is technically putting words in their mouths – so I just warn them. Like I said, it’s my personalized version of reality.
ACW: Aside from real-life, what are some of the influences that lead to the creation of Tails? Are there artists or writers whose work inspired you? Personally, The Crusader Cat moments in Tails make me think of Snoopy Flying Ace and Calvin and Hobbes.
EY: Yes, Calvin and Hobbes is definitely a huge influence. Funny thing is – I wasn’t exposed to Calvin and Hobbes until my mid-twenties (having not grown up with American newspapers in the house or any of the collected volumes lying around). The comic is certainly kid-friendly, but its sardonic wit can only be appreciated as an adult, so I’m glad I discovered it when I did. Bill Watterson masterfully balanced fantasy and reality, and it continues to be an enduring inspiration to me.
ACW: I’ve seen comic creators do swaps sometimes, where they draw each others’ strips. Have you ever swapped with another artist? Is there anyone whose world you’d like to play in, or anyone whose take on Tails you’d like to see?
EY: I did a guest strip for Ménage a 3 a while back, but that was it. I’m open to see anyone’s interpretation on my characters, so long as it’s interesting.
ACW: Aside from Tails, are there any other projects you’re working on or that you have coming up?
EY: I was working on Comeback Kings from Ardden Entertainment last year, but the production on that comic has halted due to scheduling conflicts and my overall workload. It’s very touch and go with some companies, so who knows.
After I’m done wrapping up the third volume of Tails (which will be posted as chapters 16 – 20 on tailscomic.com), I’m planning to step away from that particular story and focus on a darker sci-fi story I’ve been keeping on the back burner. But nothing’s written in stone, so we’ll see. I may change my mind when the time comes.
ACW: Thank you again for taking the time to drop by and chat!
EY: Thanks again for having me, Alison!