EVER WANT TO SET FIRE TO ALL THOSE JOCKS AND CUTESY BITCHES YOU WENT TO HIGH SCHOOL WITH? EVER FELT LIKE MUSIC AND ART WERE THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS IN YOUR LIFE? EVER BEEN UP FOR ONE OF THE MOST PRESTIGIOUS AWARDS IN YOUR PROFESSION? WELL, IF YOU SAID "YES" TO ANY OF THESE QUESTIONS, THEN YOU'VE DEFINITELY GOT SOMETHING IN COMMON WITH THE CREATOR OF BLUE MONDAY AND SCOOTER GIRL. READ ON, AS DEBBIE GETS HIS INTERVIEW ON WITH EISNER AWARD NOMINEE AND ALL-AROUND RIOT GIRL CARTOONIST, CHYNNA CLUGSTON-MAJOR.
Debbie: Alright,.. BAM! I know nothing about you and have no idea what you do. Can you fill me in, in ten words or more?
Chynna: Uh, hi. I'm Chynna. I draw a comic called Blue Monday. It's about a small group of dorked out high school students in the early 1990s that are obsessed with new wave, two tone ska, punk, and mod music. They have scarily raging hormones and even scarier social skills (or a lack thereof, rather) that really sorta keep them from getting any play so far. So they're all freaked out and tense, but funny as hell, and pull a lot of horrible shit on each other for their amusement, since sex is pretty much out of the question. It's kinda like if John Hughes and Savage Steve Holland got together and, somehow, had a baby that turned out to just be a comic book instead of some mewling, smelly infant.
D: Have you ever been mistaken for a man? I mean, at conventions, has anyone ever come up to get a book signed, thinking it must have been a guy making your comics?
C: Not lately! Only at the very beginning, when the Oni Double Feature story came out. I don't think I was too polite when that happened. How can you be, when someone comes up to you all high-and-mighty-like, thinking you're some important comic dude's sex toy, ('cause you couldn't possibly be a creator) asking, “Could you tell me where the artist guy is?”
D: Is the Anime/Manga influence in your work something you picked up from all those Japanese cartoons in the '80s, or was it more recent?
C: It was more recent. I didn't get into Japanese comics until I had a Japanese-American boyfriend when I was a freshman in high school. I didn't like the cartoons too much as a kid. Though Robotech was pretty cool, I still had issues with Mecha, and couldn't watch for long. But then, this boy gave me some Lum comics by Rumiko Takahashi, and Mai the Psychic Girl, and I thought Manga was great. Then he turned out to be a dick, so I hated Manga for quite a while after that, barring Rumiko's stuff. I thought that Anime was lame, because everyone looked like little kids, even the old people (just with more wrinkles and maybe some facial hair added). And it didn't look very good to me. Eventually, I found some more of Takahashi's stuff, and then discovered Adam Warren's version of The Dirty Pair. It's Adam who's the one that got me into really loving Manga with his own personal style and take on these characters. I got to understand Manga through his interpretation of it, and it was great. Now I'll love Manga forever. But even today I don't like a whole lot of Anime, just because of the little differences. Not many people understand that, though. I'm just super picky, I guess. I like the language of comics far better than that of cartoons.
D: Did you make any comic stories when you were a kid? If so, do you still have any of them?
C: Yeah, I have a few of 'em left. First one I ever did was when I was six, hanging out with my grandmother in her cubicle at the local newspaper one day. It was a Tom and Jerry rip-off. I think it's where I have Tom dead by the end of it,.. poor cat. My grandma had that up until she passed away in '96, but it disappeared after that. The other stuff I have today was from a lot later, when I was in high school, and those were called S&M Rover Comix. They were about this dog who liked to goad people into beating him for his own pleasure (as you could guess from the title). They were hella-fun to make. I used to sell them at school for about two bucks, and they went over pretty well. Luckily I never got in trouble for it.
D: Blue Monday deals with kids in high school and, in other interviews, you've said that the hijinks in it are loosely based on things that happened with you when you were younger. Obviously, you're not rocking the mall bangs anymore, and are now married. But, other than that, how have you changed since high school?
C: Just for the record, I haven't had mall bangs since junior high, dammit. And I'm not married anymore. The only way I've really changed since high school is that I'm less pissed off all the time. It was always directed at the dumb jocks, the popular chicks, and all the little fanatical Christian kids who gave me constant grief. And I actually drink alcohol these days, which I never did back then. Plus, I have a dog who I dote on like a little kid. Just about everything else is the same. Humor's the same. Music is basically the same. Except, I added in more mod tunes once I got older (though I did listen to a lot of British Invasion in school). I still run around in graveyards any chance I get, and still walk around with my friends in old, quiet neighborhoods way too late at night, trying not to knock over garbage cans like an asshole. I still have an awful temper, too, but I just direct it at the page instead of punching my friends,.. sometimes.
D: When you found out you were nominated for the Eisner Award, did you:
b) pass out
c) piss yourself
d) all of the above
C: Actually, the first time I found out I was nominated for an Eisner, I stared blankly at a computer screen for about 40 minutes straight. Then I went and stared blankly at a wall for about 40 more. Then I peed myself.
D: I was sold on the first issue of Blue Monday: The Kids Are Alright, when I read the part with the "pube-burger" prank. What's the worst prank you've ever pulled or had someone pull on you?
C: I think the worst one was when I was videotaped taking a bath by my friends. The story with Bleu getting taped by the boys in Absolute Beginners is pretty accurate. They thought it was so hilarious, and had no idea it would make me look bad at school, even though no one but them saw it. Rumor got around. Thing is, I had no idea there was an upstairs bit to my friend's garage, so I really thought they couldn't see me and were just trying to scare me with their horrible giggling. There were no curtains or blinds, but I figured if all they could see was the ceiling from the ground, I was home free. I mean, I had to bathe, right? I couldn't go all weekend without bathing. Still pisses me off to this day, though. I couldn't figure out why all these kids I used to be friendly with at school stopped talking to me altogether and looked at me like I was the spawn of Satan. It didn't occur to me until much later that this incident was common knowledge.
D: What's the deal with your new book, Scooter Girl? What's it about? When's it coming out? Am I in it and, if so, am I wearing pants?
C: It's due out in May, and it's a sort of black comedy about a very popular and self-obsessed guy who is, at one moment, the king of everything he goes after. But then he meets this very chic and hip girl who wants nothing to do with him. Her loathing him somehow causes him to lose all his charm, resulting in his quick decline and fall. The rest is all mayhem and struggle between the two. It sounds simple, but there's so much more to it than that. I don't want to give it all away, though. You're definitely in it, however. But do you ever wear pants?
D: Your work is very musically driven, and it's easy to see that music plays a large role in your life. Do you remember the moment or the song that made you realize how important music is to you?
C: I was about six-years-old, I think, and I saw Adam Ant, Yellow Submarine, and Xanadu on cable all around the same time. And it was the combination of images and music that got to me most of all, not just the music. Adam was practically animated, as far as I could see, and I was completely enamored with him and his videos. Yellow Submarine was filled with all the Beatles songs I had been hearing since I was a baby, but this was coupled with a cartoon, and that was just fabulous. And then there was Xanadu, crappy as it was. But it had an artist in it who falls in love with a muse, and at one point has both of the characters turned into cartoons (good cartoons). And it had a rock 'n' roll/swing soundtrack to boot, which I thought was totally great. I was already drawing on everything at the time, proclaiming to my mother that I was going to be a cartoonist. It was right then, I guess, that I figured out how important both were to me, because they haven't been separated since. In my head, anyway.
D: Rumor is you kinda like Damon Albarn. Have you ever heard Mali Music? If so, what do you think of it?
C: I've heard of it, but I haven't heard it. I'm not going to go out of my way to find it, though. I'll just stick with old Blur and Gorillaz for now, thanks.
D: Keeping with the topic of music, in another interview you referred to The Doors with a distasteful "ick". Wassup wit dat?
C: Jim Morrisson was the shittiest song writer on the planet. He should have just stuck his dick in fence holes for a living instead. It would have made him more interesting, at least.
D: How long would you say you've been into the whole "mod" scene? Does it annoy you how much it's exploded in the last few years?
C: I haven't been involved in the mod scene too long; I'd say probably only since the mid-Nineties. Before that, in school, I was a sort of punk/alternafreak. I'd say new waver, but that's early '80s. I was kind of just,.. weird, I guess, listening to Depeche Mode and The Cure almost non-stop. There were no "goths" then. Everyone was just labeled "punk". I guess I was a cross between punk and goth, when I think about it. Then, post-high school, I was a rudegirl, and then I became a mod. Of course, I get annoyed when anything goes mainstream. I hate mall-punks, and mall-rudies. Now, with the new Vespas out and all the Paul Frank and Shag stuff everywhere, there's gonna be mall-mods, too. But, on the same note, sometimes it's nice to get a fresh injection of blood on the scene. Of course, these are normally the first people that are quick to leave and go on to the next trend, but that's just life, I guess. My changes always had to do with the music that was really saying something to me at the time, not necessarily the fashion. Fashion came second. Music is what matters the most.
D: Speaking of mod, have you ever been to Great Britain?
C: Only twice. And man are the English annoying! (wink)
D: If you could kidnap anybody, living or dead, who would you snatch up? Why?
C: I'd kidnap a young Jack Lemmon in no time flat. I think he'd have been fucking great to hang out with and talk to. Plus, I hear he could tell really dirty jokes extremely well. He could probably teach me a few of 'em, too, so I could break the ice at wakes with greater ease. I'd argue with him about how Buster Keaton was way funnier than Harold Lloyd, his hero. I'm still upset that I never got to meet him. It was my plan to somehow manage to do that before he passed away. Dammit.
D: What's a book that you'd recommend: comic, novel, smut, or otherwise?
C: The graphic novel Gemma Bovary by Posey Simmons is the first thing that comes to mind. Great stuff, but she's rarely talked about over here. I've only seen that one book by her, and I want to see more!
D: We're halfway through the Reign of Bush, and I'm thinking there's a good chance we won't make it all the way to the end. What one thing do you want to make sure to do before the worldwide nuclear holocaust kicks in?
C: I wanna rent out the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco on Labor Day weekend, and have a full-blown '20s costume party in the same rooms Roscoe Arbuckle rented on the fateful weekend that destroyed his career. It would be complete with a live jazz band, dancers dressed like flappers, non-stop silent films being played on the main wall as background, tons and tons of champagne and gin, with all my buddies and my Bulldog, Buster, in attendance. Hells yeah.
D: If your character, Bleu, had a dog, would that dog have lips?
C: No. It'd be a boy.
VISIT CHYNNA AT ONIPRESS.COM OR BLUEMONDAYCOMICS.COM
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