Jason Marcy is a Canadian cartoonist who published his first major autobiographical work, Jay's Days, in 2001. Volume 2 is due in stores very soon, and shows an amazing growth in terms of both art and writing. His work shows influences from Harvey Pekar and Joe Matt, but his personality and point-of-view shine through. Jay is a delightful guy who loves doing comics, and I guarantee once you pick up either volume of Jay's Days, you won't be able to put it down until you've read the entire thing. I interviewed him on February 2nd, 2002.
-- Alan David Doane
Alan David Doane: Jason or Jay?
Jason Marcy: Jay is fine, man.
ADD: No, no, I can never figure out if Jason is the creator and Jay is the character or vice versa.
JM: (Laughs) We're the same idiot either way, so whatever you're comfortable with!
ADD: Yeah, I get the impression that there's not much difference between your real-life self and your character in Jay's Days. Would you say that's true?
JM: I'd have to agree. I mean the differences are real subtle. I notice it more in the dailies I've been doing, where I'm a little less "refined" so to speak.
ADD: The dailies...you've begun a daily cartoon diary inspired by James Kochalka, is that right? Are those being published anywhere yet?
JM: Well, my publisher has the first book in hand, as we speak, but no real date yet for release. They ARE coming out though. Yeah, Kochalka has been a real inspiration with these, though they're as different as night and day from his.
ADD: Different in what way?
JM: Well, James is a bit more whimsical, where as I'm a cynical, pessimistic jackass! I don't know the way to explain it properly...I think he's a little more introspective than me, really fascinated by the day to day little things in life...hmm. I dunno.
ADD: James can be downright neurotic, though, too, if you've read some of his stuff like Tiny Bubbles. But he always seems to find the bright side of things.
JM: Yeah, well, I'm the same way; neurotic I mean. We have that much in common. I'm overly fascinated in a lot of the strips by my bodily functions and how they work as I get older. Heh. There's a lot of scenes of me walking around with my bare ass hanging out. I've even got some frontal nudity going on, much to my wife's dismay!! But I think I TRY to stay positive about things.
ADD: So when did you get started cartooning?
JM: I was all of a wee lad of 19, actually!! Before that I was more of a writer wannabe, even flirted with journalism, a bit. But yeah, I thought I was a freakin' genius at 19. Boy was I wrong!!
ADD: Having read some of your mini-comics from the mid-90s, I have to say that although your artwork was rough early on, it seems like the honesty and humour was always there. I'll forgive a lot if I get a laugh out of something or if it makes me think, and you've apparently had that down for quite some time.
JM: I can hardly look at those early days. I mean, I was swiping from my earliest autobio exposure Joe Matt. Oddly enough, it was those books that had me hating James Kochalka's work for awhile. He really slammed me in a review way back when, and I just could not see the appeal of his work, until his interview in Comics Journal! But yeah, I've always tried to keep that honesty there. It's VERY important to me not to lie, or present things in a light they didn't have. I've barely tweaked any of my autobio actually. I don't know where that comes from.
ADD: Well, I see a real similarity to Harvey Pekar in your willingness to let your worst character traits twist out there in the wind...do you think he was an influence?
JM: I've always loved Pekar. I call him the "Master of the Mundane", as in he can take the smallest, most ridiculous thing and do a story on it. I wasn't exposed to him until a few years after starting out on my autobio adventures. Of course, "Our Cancer Year" is his most revealing work, and heart wrenching. Joe Matt's kind of losing his appeal, though. I mean, the guy is SO DAMN SLOW!! Also, when he revealed he changes things "for dramatic effect", it really turned me off. But yeah, I still read, cause he's just, well, just such a DIRTBAG!! And in person you can't really see it! It's funny! I've a lot of people I respect though in the genre.
ADD: What kind of reaction have you gotten to Jay's Days Volume One?
JM: It's been fairly positive. I mean, people are reading it,for sure. I've had a few dissenting voices, usually people who are IN the book. My sister was apparently VERY unhappy with how she was portrayed in the story of my Uncle's death, but it was HOW she was, you know? I'm still learning to deal with that type of stuff. But in general, you know how small the comic world is. It's been very difficult to get heard, you know? I mean, I'll do cons, and get very discouraged. By this point, you think I'd be used to the casual glanceovers of the superhero zombies, but it still can be discouraging. But when someone buys the book, and I can connect not only with the book but a PERSONAL up close thing, it's nice.
ADD: Well, I think that a large part of breaking through is just self-promoting and making sure everyone knows what you are doing. In comics, "If you build it they will come" is not a viable philosophy. I think the more you get word out there, the more people will respond. My wife, who does NOT read comics, sat down this morning and read a good portion of Jays Days 2 and found it compelling and funny. Luckily with the Internet, making yourself heard is as much work as sitting on your ass and typing.
JM: Yeah, exactly. I'm a real big proponent of getting out there and hitting as many shows as I can. I know it's the easiest way to connect a face to the product, to show people you give a damn about them enough you're willing to haul ass and go to shows to meet them. It's odd how you mention that your wife was reading Jay's Days 2 and liking it. My wife has a co-worker at her job who has read the first book like five times, and she is DEFINITELY NOT a comic fan! So yeah, I think autobio is a great way to show people that comics aren't all guys in capes and tights beating the piss out of each other! I always get a thrill out hearing of people who've read Jay's Days and dug it even though comics are the LAST thing they'd read.
ADD: Do you find readers respond to some types of stories more than others? I really like your more personal stories, like the Chelsea story about your cat, or your concerns about your health and the health of your loved ones. I find those more involving than, say, the record store ones. Are you finding any sort of indication from the audience of which way you might want to take your work?
JM: Hmm. That's a good question. It's a mixed bag, actually. People really respond to the emotions of stories like the Chelsea tale, or when my Uncle died. I was getting a lot of, "Damn it, you made me cry!" from friends and strangers alike. Still others like the humor of the more Pekar-ish record store stories (where they're told from a different person to me). I don't get a feeling of where they want me to go. I don't want it to be a sobfest all the time, but yeah, people tend to talk more about those stories. I know the inker on Chelsea (Joe Meyer) had a HELL of a time doing the job, cause he lived with us for six months, and LOVED the cat. I like to keep it mixed up, mainly for my own sanity. I think a lot of people whose work I admire (Ariel Schrag, Dennis Eichorn, Joe Sacco etc.) do the same.
ADD: I'm glad you brought him up. I really like the depth Meyer brings to your work.
JM: Yeah, Joe does a good job, though he tended to "overink." A lot of the stuff you've read will be slightly touched up. But yeah, he's a great inker when he really applies himself. he's also my best friend!
ADD: What comics do you find yourself reading regularly?
JM: Let's see... I'm getting back to the guys in tights a lot lately, but let's start out with the obvious: PEEP SHOW, Anything James Kochalka does. A lot of autobio titles and alternatives. Naughty Bits. HATE (even though it ain't regular no more, I know...) Assassin and the Whiner, an AMAZING autobio book by Carrie McNinch, a digest book. TRUE STORY SWEAR TO GOD. Superheroes? THE AUTHORITY,THE ULTIMATE line from Marvel, geez! I'm drawing a BIG blank here...BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, BONE...it's interesting to note I'm the ONLY alternative buyer at my store!
ADD: That's downright depressing. It seems like you've got pretty diverse reading tastes, though. Have you gotten any reaction yet to your work from any big publishers or pros?
JM: Well, I forgot John Porcellino, of King Cat Comics. He really enjoyed the book, and I'm a drooling fanboy of his stuff. Lennie Peterson who does a daily newspaper strip called "The Big Picture" really liked it. Other than that, I made an appearance(well, my book) on the cover and interior of CBG's COMICS COLLECTIONS issue, which was an unsolicited honor.
ADD: Your covers are extremely eye-catching.
JM: (Laughs) Yeah, you could say that!! Jay's Days 2 has a very disturbing cover, I don't know if you've seen it. My wife was mortified by me scratching the hemmoroid on my ass for that. Oh geez...I try to do things that are that way. I do all the color proofs and such. It's very important the book looks the way I want it to, in and out!
ADD: I've seen it, and it's going to be included with the interview, actually.
JM: (Laughs) That's funny! No, I really think the cover has to be there to draw people in. If it gets too cluttered, it doesn't work. Keep it simple stupid is the way to go. My publisher has been GREAT using his skills to jazz up the look.
ADD: What's it been like trying to get distribution for the book? I know some alt/indy creators have told me horror stories that have me wondering why anyone would even bother trying. Has it been hard to get the book out there, or has it been relatively easy?
JM: I'm glad you asked that. It's been a real pain in the proverbial buttocks! For example, my other book, POWERWUS, was recently TURNED DOWN by Diamond because they said it was "too much like Dick Tracy." Now, Powerwus is a spoof of the superhero genre! There's no question it's been hard. The ONE store I thought would carry it in the Toronto area, THE BEGUILING, didn't even have a copy of Jay's Days! Distribution has been spotty, to say the least. Cons have really been our biggest exposure, though I don't rule out Diamond as a useful tool. They are the biggest distributor to comic stores. But if you're not Marvel or DC, well...Yes, it's been all the horror stories, and last night, for the upteenth time, I questioned just why I DO comics.
ADD: Have you thought about maybe offering the daily strip on the Internet to spread the word?
JM: Well, that's EXACTLY what my publisher is doing, or going to be doing, though he's breaking down the first two books into "dailies" to help promote sales. I'd love to see the dailies on the web, maybe not all of 'em, but enough to spark interest. Spreading the word is the key, you're right. I'm pretty much game for anything.
ADD: So when does Jay's Days 2 hit stores? And how can people get it if it doesn't appear in their store?
JM: Well, we're looking at maybe the next three weeks for it to hit stores. It's curently in the pre-press stage right now,so the way my publisher works (usually VERY fast), it could be out next week! Definitely by the end of February, I'd wager. You can also get the book from ordering it through the company website. I may also have a limited stock on hand. The book will also include a September 11th story I did in the span of maybe two days, if you compress the hours spent.
ADD: Jay, I want to thank you very much for taking the time to do this interview. I've really enjoyed what I've seen of your work so far, and I know that you've got big things ahead as more and more people get a look at your work.
JM: Well, thank you Alan. This was my first interview, and I really appreciate all the support you've given, and hey, we gotta meet in person one day! Maybe you'll make a future book!
Related site: Landwaster Books
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