It was 45 years ago that Gonzo journalism became a style of writing to describe the first-person participatory narratives overrun with overstated satire and profanity as a way of voicing social criticism. Borrowing from the term that has been ascribed to Hunter S. Thompson, the Long Beach Comic Expo panel “Gonzo: The Outer Limits of Comics” was moderated by comic book writer and shop co-owner John Yuan on Sunday afternoon. Yuan was joined by Victor DeTroy (co-creator of Man vs. Rock), Nick Marino (co-creator of Holy F*ck), Dan Mendoza (creator of Zombie Tramp), Johnny Parker II (co-creator of Black Fist and Brown Hand), and Matt Yuan (co-creator of Serving Supes and Declan and Chang with his twin brother John), and each represented an embodiment of the spirit of countering acceptable, politically correct mainstream comics of today.
Understanding the motivation and inspiration of a creator can shed light on their product. Each creator briefly described their comic book series and their intent. DeTroy started off by describing Man vs. Rock as a South Park-inspired comic book that comments on any genre of blockbuster out there. He and his co-creator Kevin Bieber wanted to make something funny, so they came up with a main character who believes that every rock is out to get him. Fortunately for him, his semen will paralyze rocks for 24 hours, which DeTroy states allows them to include a lot of “tasteless dick jokes.”
Marino was an old-school comic book reader and developed a cynicism about comics that were made into movies. He thought about the biggest, fan-based book and thought, the Bible, which led to Holy F*ck. He said he naturally gravitates to subversive humor, giving homage to B-movies while critiquing society. In his first volume, he explores monotheism vs. polytheism via the exploitation of celebrities.
With an interest in Grindhouse, Russ Meyer, Toyko shock, and generally transgressive media, Mendoza wanted to create a comic book series that incorporated his interests while commenting on popular culture, such as bullying, Uber incidents, etc. Zombie Tramp epitomized a character that “accepts that she is going to run into bad people” and exact the bad karma that bad people deserve.
High school English teacher Parker saw a lack of diversity among African Americans during the 1990s, where it seemed they only had one hair style: the high top. In his classroom, he observed that his students consistently broke racial walls down with jovial slang name calling that resulted in opening the line of communications between them. Parker stated that South Park and The Boondocks were inspirations for his comic book series, Black Fist and Brown Hand, which analyzes societal racial stereotypes.
Each panelist was asked what criticism they have received for their comics. DeTroy stated he had expected more outrage against Man vs. Rock but says that since he and his partner rely on comic convention sales and interest, that they do caution parents ahead of a sale; however, DeTroy revealed that the majority of parents respond that their kids have likely seen or read worse. Mendoza is often derailed for Zombie Tramp‘s appearance (specifically, her breasts), but he reminds the audience that “any notice is good notice” as far as he is concerned. Parker revealed that he is waiting for a bad review. When asked if his students have read his comics, he responded, “I want to keep my job.” John Yuan stated he doesn’t like when individuals are vocal about their uninformed opinions. Matt Yuan concurred and added that the “harshest criticism comes from people who haven’t read the comics.”
These comics are not likely to be available at you local comic book store. Marino, who has exhibited at cons and pitches to retailers, reminded the audience that retailers are focused on getting sales, so it is often a matter of getting the comic book’s publisher accepted at the store. Mendoza encouraged Gonzo comic book creators to use the internet; it’s easy, it’s free, and it is the best way to promote. Like Marino, Parker pitches his comic book to the local comic book retailers and depends on exposure at the comic conventions. The Yuan brothers, who co-own the Los Angeles-based Cool Cats Comics and Cards, try to support independent comics, because their clientele are looking for new comics to read.
What’s on the horizon for these creators? DeTroy announced that a Man vs. Rock game app is in development, as well as a new series about cult leaders living together. Marino is working as a letterer on a YA super villain story and has a sci-fi drama on the horizon, while Mendoza will be expanding the Zombie Tramp universe and will continue to have guest artists, many of them are women, illustrate upcoming stories. Parker has two upcoming projects: one is a Harry Potter/Lord of the Rings cross-over and the other, an autobiography. The Yuan brothers will be continuing their Serving Supes and Declan and Chang series with issue #2 due out this week, and, of course, you can visit their store where you will be able to find many Gonzo comic books discussed during the panel.