The Many Tales of Joey Weiser

A month or so ago, when I first contacted Joey Weiser, mainly it was to discuss his 2007 AdHouse book, The Ride Home. As with most good interviews, the email exchange took us in different interesting directions. Also as luck would have it, Weiser recently announced the release of his new collection, Tales of Unusual Circumstance, which is published by Author House and can be purchased here. Tales of Unusual Circumstance is a collection of work he’s done in mini-comics, anthologies or elsewhere over the past four years, as well as 48 pages of previously unreleased material. Here’s the core official line on the creator before we launch into the interview: “Joey Weiser was born on April 5, 1983, and has lived most of his life in Bloomington, Indiana. He is a graduate of the Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD). Weiser’s comics have appeared in several anthologies, and his first graphic novel, The Ride Home, was published in 2007 by AdHouse Books.”

Tim O’Shea: For your first major project after earning your degree from SCAD, I’m wondering what made you opt for an all ages project like The Ride Home?

Joey Weiser: There wasn’t really a decision to make an all ages story. The Ride Home is just the kind of story that I write naturally. My older work was a bit more all over the place, but once I recognized that the kind of story that I enjoy creating is typically categorized as “all ages” it’s pretty easy to omit an occasional “Oh crap!” or whatever that might come through in a first draft that might keep it from being okay for everyone. But, honestly, I didn’t give it much thought.

O’Shea: Given the success that Top Shelf has had with its all-ages book (by Andy Runton) Owly, do you have some interest in doing more stories with Nodo the Van-Gnome for AdHouse?

Weiser: At the moment I feel like Nodo’s story is over. However, that doesn’t mean that I’ll never do another story with him or in the world of The Ride Home. If an idea for further adventures for Nodo hits me that I feel is worth doing, I might go for it. I have occasionally thought about doing a new story with Ferdinand, the Sewer Dragon.

O’Shea: You have a great deal of work that appears in anthologies, do you have an affinity for the anthology format, or do you view it as an opportunity to get your name out to a potential new audience?

Weiser: Yeah, I love doing work for anthologies! I think, perhaps I’m a bit addicted to being published. And anthologies are great ways to do a variety of stories, and get your work out there relatively quickly and frequently. I sort of go through comics creating seasons. I was doing tons of anthology work for a while, and then when I was working on The Ride Home, I just wanted to focus on that, and more or less took a break from everything but that one big project. And then, after TRH, I was ready to do anything but a big project and took some time to dive back into short stories and pieces for anthologies. However, I think it’s time to get back to work on something long again…

O’Shea: Speaking of anthologies, at your blog you mentioned that have started work on your contribution for David Yoder’s Elephano Anthology? Can you talk a little about that, and –out of curiosity–how did you end up with a job at a magic shop?

Weiser: The Elephano anthology is something that came out of a concept created by my pal David Yoder and Linda Medley while she was teaching at SCAD. They each created their own completely different characters and stories based on the idea of an elephant magician named “Elephano.” David developed his idea for a while and is finally drawing a finished version of his Elephano story. The idea for the anthology is for each creator to work with that same basic concept, but create their own personal take on “Elephano.” I’m helping David put the book together, and we are planning on having it for SPX this year.

And me working at a magic shop? Well, that was a kinda weird situation…but pretty good fuel for this project! In Savannah, there was this local television show with a magician, and it’s for kids and is educational and stuff. Well, he opened a store in the mall that sold magic tricks and he performed there from time to time. I had just graduated, and a couple of my friends worked there and got me the job. The job mostly consisted of taking care of the rabbits and birds that lived in the store, and showing kids magic tricks in the hopes that they’d buy them. There was a decent amount of down time there, actually, and a lot of The Ride Home was drawn in that store…

O’Shea: You are currently gathering your previous mini-comic work to print a collection. Is it going to be all-inclusive or are you picking “a best of” collection, allowing you to pcik and choose what to run.

Weiser: Yes, I’ve actually just made an announcement about that on my blog, website, and various forums. It’s called Tales of Unusual Circumstance and collects work from my mini-comics, some anthology work, and some never-before-seen short stories and art.

It’s almost all-inclusive, but I’ve left a few things that were in my original minis out. For instance, in the mini-comic Tales of Unusual Circumstance #1, there’s this story about the invention of whiteout, and it goes into this thing about the Monkees and a critique MTV. I’ve left that out for a couple of reasons. One being that it’s the first time I’d actually inked a comic with a brush, and it’s a huge mess! I get a lot of compliments on it, calling it “experimental,” and it was to some extent. But mostly it’s due to inexperience! Also, it’s kinda too high school, whining about how MTV sucks and stuff. I’m over it.

But I just got my proof copy the other day, and I’m happy with how it turned out! There is work from 4 years ago, and work from only a few months ago, and you can see a growth, but it all still fits together pretty well. Some people are adamant that my short comics are my best work.

O’Shea: In terms of your next graphic novel, Cavemen in Space, will that be an all-ages book as well?

Weiser: Yeah, like I said, that’s just what I seem to create. Cavemen in Space is about a group of cavemen who are transported to the future and live on a space station where they are studied. It’s got a bit more action than The Ride Home, but it’s not like people are having limbs chopped off or anything. It’s also considerably longer than TRH, so it’ll probably be quite a while before it sees the light of day. However, I am printing a full-color mini-comic that is a short introductory story, outside of the storyline of the graphic novel, featuring the cast.

O’Shea: Checking out your blog, I see we’re both fans of Arrested Development. On a related note, who or what informs/influences your sense of humor and would you say your humor helps shape your storytelling tone?

Weiser: I love Arrested Development! But, yeah, although I love all sorts of different stuff, it’s really hard to pinpoint what influences me and how. I guess everything does to some extent. I wrestle a lot with this question, actually. It seems like it should be more obvious to me!

I guess a fairly obvious and huge influence is Jeff Smith. Bone meant a lot to me, and it definitely had an impact on my work. I’m also a really big fan of Akira Toriyama. As much of a Toriyama fanatic as I am, I have to believe there’s some influence there, but I think it’s less blatant. I don’t know, I could totally be missing something. The cartoons I watched as a kid, especially the first couple of waves of Nicktoons like Rocco’s Modern Life, Doug, Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, etc. were a big influence, I think. As were the comic strips I read as a kid like Calvin and Hobbes, Peanuts, and Bloom County. Recently, I’ve been really into the Moomin books, comics, television shows, etc.

O’Shea: Is there anything you’d like to discuss that I did not ask you about?

Weiser: That pretty much covers it. I’ve done a new story for an upcoming volume of Flight. It’s a true-life story about my cat’s delusions of time travel.

I guess I’d also like to mention that I’ll be attending FLUKE, MoCCA, and SPX this year, where I will have copies of The Ride Home, Tales of Unusual Circumstance, and the Cavemen in Space mini in hand. Keep an eye on my website and blog for upcoming news regarding that and whatever other projects I can manage to cram into my schedule!

O’Shea: Do you have a degree in cat speech, or did you hire a cat interpreter to get the gist of your cat’s time travel delusions?

Weiser: My girlfriend and I have probably created enough personalities for our cat to fill a graphic novel! Embarrassing, but true. Oh well, at least it gives me good material to work with…

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