A Deconstructing Comics Podcast: An Interview with Tim Young

Tim Young of Deconstructing Comics

Tim Young of Deconstructing Comics

Tim Young is a guy who runs a podcast, Deconstructing Comics, out of Tokyo. He’s originally from Iowa, so he’s had a fun strange trip to his current location. We sat down recently and talked about everything from his podcast, to the Electric Company, to The Crazing Spider-Hag!

First, who are you, where are you from and where do you currently live?

I’m Tim Young, most possibly known to anyone in comics as host of Deconstructing Comics podcast. I’m originally from Iowa but have lived in Tokyo since 1989.

Wow, what took you from Iowa to Tokyo in the first place?

In high school I started writing to a pen pal in Osaka. Then in college I got a chance to go on an 11-week study tour in east Asia. Of course, I met a woman in Japan. We were married for 16 years. That’s been a while ago now, but my kids are here, and besides, I’ve been here pretty much my whole adult life! Moving back to the States would be culture shock! lol.

Yeah, I’m sure. Heck, I live here and I’m constantly in a state of shock. So, did you read comics as a kid? And if so, what were some of your early favorites?

The first comic I remember reading was Peanuts. Probably a common experience for most of us of a certain age! Growing up I read a lot of funnies. Newspaper comics, but also stuff published by Gold Key (licensed stuff, like Bugs Bunny and Bullwinkle), Harvey, Archie, etc.
In junior high (I hear they call it “middle school” now!) was when I really got into Marvel. Spider-man was the gateway drug, thanks to Spidey Super Stories/the Electric Company. That started when I was in 4th grade. (Will anyone even know what I’m talking about there? lol)
My geezerdom is showing. lol

Hey man, I think we must be close in age because I definitely remember Spidey and the Electric Company. People have no idea what The Electric Company is nowadays. So you were a Marvel head, do you still collect?

Well, “still” is not quite the right word, because I dropped out of comics for a while. In college I got more interested in other things. I read some comics in the two years between college and coming to Japan — Swamp Thing, Watchmen, Dreadstar, Nexus. But then I came here and got married and comics dropped off the radar for a while…

In 1992 I started working on a US air base here, where some comics were available (less so nowadays, probably due to the Internet). But I didn’t really pay attention until a few years later, when a friend back home told me “Spidey’s really interesting right now! His clone from the ’70s came back!” lol So I started reading it again. Before long I had gotten back into Fantastic Four, Avengers, etc. and was getting them from a subscription service in the States, rather than trying to hunt them up on base

I know that you’re not a comic book creator, but did you ever have any aspiration to create?

I’m not a PUBLISHED comic book creator. My brother and I made lots of comics growing up. Mine were mostly parody comics, inspired by Marvel’s Not Brand Ecchh comics of the ’60s. (A friend — the same one who told me about the Clone Saga years later — had old copies of NBE that his older brother had bought!) I’ve gotten back into it for brief periods over the years, including in 2003-2006, when I revived one of my old strips as a Web comic. But I think the story was too complicated for the layman to follow! lol It’s still online at timyoungonline.com(a site that badly needs some updating!)

Oh, see that’s what I get for assuming. Do you do art and write?

Yes, It’s all me! No outside forces acting on it. Though some may be sorely needed. lol
Actually, this is where Mulele Jarvis comes into the picture. DWAP readers should know his name. When I re-started my comic, “The Crazing Spider-Hag“, I decided I would really like to be able to take a class to help me improve my drawing. I put in a request at the Arts & Crafts Center on the air base. I’m not sure if it was because of that, or just coincidence, but the Center did subsequently offer a class, taught by Mulele. That was 2004.

I was in the class for about a year. That’s also where I met Brandon Kirkham, who was also a student. At some point, Mulele told us, “I can’t teach you anything more. You’ve graduated.” So it became, meeting up for coffee on Wednesdays. Then one day in 2005, Mulele said, “We should start a podcast about comics.” He thought it would be a way to promote Spider-Hag. So we started Deconstructing Comics. Actually, the podcast became another thing to promote!
Once I got the hang of podcasting, I started another podcast, an English study program for a Japanese audience. I got so busy with podcasting that I ran out of time to make my comic!

Ha, ha. How many podcasts do you do besides Deconstructing Comics?

Just the English one, Machigai Podcast. Well, and lately Deconstructing has spawned a spinoff, Critiquing Comics. But that comes out a bit irregularly, and it’s in the same feed as Deconstructing.

Give us a little background on how the podcast began and how it has evolved over the years?

Well, like I said, it began with the comics class. It was just me, Mulele, and Brandon meeting up every week and discussing comics. Initially, we’d just come up with a topic on the spot and talk about it. Then we might say, “next week, let’s cover this” or “here, read this comic and let’s talk about it in a future episode.” …

Then in 2006, Mulele decided to move to LA. I think that’s when he met Dale. So Brandon and I did the show without him for a year. Then Brandon had to return to the States for work reasons. That was really a turning point, because I had to come up with new ways to keep the show going. Mulele had returned to Japan by that time, but he didn’t live nearby so we couldn’t just meet up every week. Sometimes we did meet up and record, but other times I started doing Skype interviews with creators in the States or elsewhere. And, it’s been said before, but it’s great to be doing a show about comics, where many of the creators are very accessible and happy to come on a podcast. Good luck with that if you’re doing a show about Hollywood movies. “Dear Brad Pitt, I’m doing a podcast called Deconstructing Movies. Would you be free for an interview?” lol

Ha, yeah, I’d like to see that happen. Who are some of your favorite creators that you’ve had on the show?

Wow, tough one. There have been quite a few, and spread over several years. Alex Robinson, Mo Willems (yeah, his children’s books are comics!), Jeff Parker, Chris Bachalo…

You’ve had a ton of different creators on the show, who would you like to get to come on who hasn’t? Who would be your dream interview?

That’s easy. Garry Trudeau! Maybe it’s just because he’s so hard to get. He doesn’t do many interviews. What bugs me is that, when he is interviewed, it’s by somebody like Slate, somebody mainstream, and they don’t ask any comics questions. I mean, they talk to him about politics and about his stories in Doonesbury, but not about his storytelling techniques, for example. That’s what I’d like to talk with him about.

I should say, though, that interviews have just been part of our equation. We still have a lot of reviews and topic discussions. Mulele’s friend Kumar, down in Australia, has become a regular. And we have on a lot of new creators who aren’t well known.

What little known creator or project do you think is going to become more well known in the near future from amongst the many you’ve reviewed and discussed?

We recently had Ryan Cecil Smith on. He’s here in Japan, but down in the Osaka area. He’s been pimping his stuff like crazy, and it seems to be paying off for him. I see his name popping up in other places. He’s pimping it, but he wouldn’t be getting traction if he weren’t GOOD! I think we’ll be seeing his stuff a lot more in the future.

Who do you think is underrated and deserves more love?

Hmm. Well, first person who comes to mind is Daniel Way. He’s been on Deadpool for going on 60 issues. Besides Bendis on Avengers and Ultimate Spider-man, who stays on a work-for-hire book that long anymore? And I wouldn’t say that his stories are world-beatingly awesome, but he’s kept me coming back. There have been some issues that really impressed me, although I wish the quality were a little more consistent.

Okay, now time for a little self promotion. Is there anything else that you are working on that you’d let us in on?

Just been plugging away at the podcasts. I should mention we’ve been getting more submissions lately for Critiquing Comics. On that show, fledgeling creators send us their stuff, and Mulele and I critique it. We try to give them pointers on how their work could be better. Sometimes it’s pretty rough, because the work is so lousy, but other times it can be pretty promising stuff, or even outright awesome.

That’s cool. I’m going to have to send you guys my book, Force Galaxia. I’d love to hear intelligent criticism. Well, man, it was good talking to you.

OK. Thanks for the opportunity to get the word out about the show. It’s been a little difficult to build an audience for it. I think that’s partly because we’re way over here and can’t go to conventions, but also because we don’t talk that much about superhero books, so the average comics fan might not be attracted to our subject matter. But if people are looking for an intelligent discussion of the comics medium, I hope they’ll check us out!

Thanks for your time and hopefully this column can help get the word out.

Cool. Thanks.

Andre Owens has been hiding in Los Angeles for over 15 years, a former Director of Photography, he now writes and publishes the cosmic comic, Force Galaxia. He is currently writing and plans to produce a webseries, The Psychedelic Detective. In his free time he enjoys long form television, sushi and a celebration of all things 420. His name’s not Supergreen!

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