Today – after letting it mature in my drafts folder FOREVER – I have an interview for you, friends. An interview with PAUL JON MILNE, artist-author of Super-Scottish Unemployed People of the Future Zine, GUTS POWER!! You’ll like him, I think.
“Paul” is one of my favourite internet people; I ‘met’ him when I was looking for info on the at-the-time recent King of Fighters 13, and found a post of his. Talking about sexist sprite designs and background racism? With intelligence and care an’ shit! It was a there are others* moment in a previously written-off ENglish-language fandom, and then he spoke about Grant Morrison with a starry eye and that was that: we were pals whether he liked it or not. I forget how I discovered Paul’s zines but when the opportunity arose I swapped the huge hardback Batman Knightfall novelisation for the first two issues and I do not regret that one bit!
Guts Power is set in the future (2003) where everything is a bit crusty and hypergross BUT that bit kinder too. BeBox (human male in corset & heels), Negway the Segway (a segway), and LoveLaffs1820 (trancendental being of some sort & good friend) are jobless and looking.
Issue three came out the other week, and it made me laugh and laugh. Result: I got out my lasso, and roped y’all some facts. Frome here on bold is me; plain is he.
Me being me, I did this over gmail, on the fly. BEGIN ANSWERS!
Hello! Yes, I am free just now! I plan on going to the bank, and to take a game back to a shop (disc four of Lost Odyssey is broken and IT IS FRUSTRATING TO NOT BE ABLE TO FINISH AN RPG), but I’ve pure got three hours to do that.
I apologise in advance for if my answers are crap, and I will try to not make them too smug and/or wanky.
Oh you can be as smug and wanky as you like, I am often both.
OKAY well my first question, which obviously only counts if you answer no: is it a secret that blog-you is the same person as zine-you? Because even though “Paul Jon Milne” is on the front and back cover and such I still think of you as “Jean-Paul” as default, and I think that is interesting.
I don’t think it’s thaaaat much of a secret – I just use a pseudonym for the cowardly reasons that I don’t want my family knowing too much about the terrible way I live my life, and I also don’t want hassle from internet creeps that disagree with my opinions. I also just really like the name ‘Jean-Paul’. It reminds me of both my French grandpa, and also top comics superhero, Northstar.
I use my own name on my art stuff as I am a mercenary bastard and secretly dream of one day actually being a mild success of some sort. Ha!
Mild success? I am hosting chats with a dirty SELLOUT.
Right, right, first I shall ask you about zines, then about unemployment, and then about scotland because these are “main points” in GUTSPOWER the zine about unemployed scottish people. OK? OK.
So. Zines. I am fascinated by people who make zines because: how did you know they exist, as a thing?? How do you get them to people? How do you find OTHER people’s? Explain this to me. How art thou a zine-er (zinester?). Easy questions..
Luckily, I’m a 90s indie loser who was total into Bis and Urusei Yatsura and stuff, and there seemed to be a big zine culture around that. I never got actively involved, but I one day dreamed that I too could be carrying my earnest photocopied thought-bombs around in my rucksack, meeting like-minded people, and wearing plastic jewellery. It only fucking took me 15 years to actually make one, though I’ve been contributing some stuff to various zines over the years.
My means of distribution are pretty rubbish. I tend to advertise on my facebook page and my tumblr, and also carry some around in my rucksack just like I always dreamed), and mention it when I’m with people, on the off-chance they’ll buy one. The local Independent Comic Shop takes some copies, though I find approaching shops with this sort of thing in mind to be utterly, utterly nerve-wracking and humiliating, so this is the only shop I do this.
Sadly, I tend to not buy other people’s zines as often as I’d like, but that’s mainly because I am so poor I tend to not buy anything other than cheap bacon or things on Amazon that I’ve bought from vouchers earned by filling in online surveys. I really like zines, though! Ace cultural artifacts, that even if I don’t particularly enjoy what I’ve read (which inevitably happens sometimes), they are still pleasing to own and hold. They seem to be sold in quite a few places in Edinburgh, especially with the boom in Etsy-esque whimsy shops.
Sorry, that was a long, meandering answer.
That is the kind that I like.
So like, do you photocopy them or print each sheet or.. zerox? Is that still a thing?
That’s a rubbish question so I would also like to know if you pencil first or go straight to inks.
[..second email, immediately following]
with 2 Xs
I pencil first, sketchily, and then go over it with whatever pens I have that have got ink left. Then I scan the pages in, fix 50% of the mistakes in photoshop, then make the pages into a pdf. I then take them to a printing place, where they charge me slightly more than I’d like, as they have one of those printers that blows my mind and actually staples things as well! I tried a cheaper printer, but they were abysmal. Bad paper, bad printing, rude staff. I’d say who they are, to help other people, but maybe I just got them on a bad day? Though they seem to advertise shitty misogynist shirts in their windows as well, so they probably deserve everything they get?
I should probably photocop the zines myself, as it’d end up cheaper and be more DIY? I’d only do it wrong, though.
Say who they are in case you got them on a good day!
Do you break even on what it costs you to print? Rude questions about economics, I have everything.
I do break even, eventually! I think? I don’t really keep track as money is depressing. I gather breaking even is as much as an artist can expect, though, unless Maddonna likes them or they’re in graphic design.
I can’t remember the name of the printing place, but they seem to spend an awful lot of time printing up terrible posters about how the Edinburgh tram developments are bad for their business. I found this charming, until I actually used their services. Edinburgh people will know the place I mean!
Haha okay. I approve of codes.
About your zine in particular, and sliding neatly into the “unemployment” section of this grilling: Is BeBox’s character design/wardrobe designed to represent the mental state of “unemployed” (muscles: innate capabilities / bondage gear: the whole ‘subject to strictures of jobcentre visitation’ thing + how restricted general life without money or external validation is or can be / heavy make-up: “putting a good face on it”) or is it just a style that you find compelling on a dude?
I WISH that was the thinking behind that character design (and I’ll pretend it was, subconsciously), but it is mainly just because I think the combination of ‘feminine’ clothing with ‘masculine’ body types looks dead cool. As a superhero reader since I was a bairn, I have been raised on muscly guys in tight-fitting clothes, in action poses, and non-muscly women in even-tighter clothes, in sexual poses. I really wanted to make some sort of Liefeldian hunk who wears the sort of clothing more generally forced upon female characters, and superhero costumes are basically fetish outfits anyway, so figured I’de be overt about that, make him look sort of like if Captain America was dressed as Selene, the Black Queen, if only to please Chris Claremont.
I worry that it might appear transphobic, but I do deliberately make it so that the crossdressing main character’s dress sense is never something to be laughed at? I might fail sometimes, but I personally just think he looks cool as fuck. Who wouldn’t want to be a muscly hunk who gets to dress in elaborate outfits? I’ve tried to get a cross a thing of the ‘universe’ the comic’s set in being a place where dressing however you like is completely normalised, as well? It’s utopian thinking, but maybe one day we can have a world where people realise that “men’s clothes” and “women’s clothes” are socially-constructed categories, and not, like, the ‘way it is’ and ‘natural’, or something? Maybe I dream of one day being able to wear a totally ace gown without being excommunicated from my family and roundly mocked or beaten up? Maybe?
I like this reasoning too; I have that same flex/grind comics background. And god bless Chris Claremont! I was going to metion him later because he was also a fearless pioneer of the phonetic dialogue which you use to great effect. Of course, Mr Claremont was not always a native of the accents he was spelling out and some people get a little bit scowl-faced when they find their own voice reduced, as they see it, to “ah for I” and franglaise etc. But you are a scottish person (right??) doing spelt-out scottish accents – tell me about the reasons for THAT choice, and if you ever feel nervous about readers having adverse reactions to it?
I think I use phonetic Scottish words and such partly because the other big part of my comics upbringing were overtly-Scottish mainstays of whimsical newspaper for old people, ‘The Sunday Post’, The Broons and Oor Wullie. I love all that crap. “Ocht naw, he’s no havin’ a barbeque, twins! He’s in the BARBER’S QUEUE!”. I dunno, I really ‘like Scottish words’ and also I write like I and people I know talk, I guess? A hideous, nonsensical exaggerated version of it, anyway. It’s a mish-mash of so many different Scottish dialects (mainly Fifer) that it probably reads as totally inauthentic to someone that isn’t me?
I do worry it basically means no-one’ll understand the comic, like those zany Americans with their Trainspotting subtitles and phrasebooks, but . That’s fiiine, though. It makes me seem ‘edgy’.
The ‘Graveheart’ character in issue 3 is basically my ‘have my cake and eat it’ thing, what with him deliberately using well-known/lazy approximations of Scottish and Australian dialects (and also a clumsy dig at the whole patronising “oh yeah, my heritage is Scotch-Irish!” Americo-Tourist thing). I know nothing about the way Australians actually speak, so it is my equivalent of having Claremont make Wolfsbane talk in a way that would make no sense to an actual Scottish person.
Basically, I’m a modern-day national poet, like those Arab Straps.
(PS I need to dash off to the bank and a computer games emporium, but shall be back within the hour. Sorry!)
Sometimes I’m not exactly sure what every word “means”, but your sentences always make sense to me in a dream-logic sort of way. And.. just the sounds that all the vowels make as I read are sort of delightful? Maybe that sounds patronising but I can’t help being English I suppose.
I loved Graveheart, I was nigh pissing myself through issue three. But the finest moment in my opinion is the PERFECTLY TIMED Highlander joke. Do you like Highlander (or any branches of the Highlander franchise, damn them all), or do you just acknowledge its existance? Obviously it’s icluded as a Scotland/tourism/stereotypes reference to fit the theme of the issue, but is it one rooted in bitterness or..?
AND If you have no particular nationality-based issue with Highlander, do you have any opinions on it as a story? I think that Highlander sucks, but you are entitled to your own opinion of course.
RE: P.S. cool, cool, at your leisure! I’m not much for schedules.
I am glad the words work as language, even if you don’t fully know what the words mean! Cheers.
I actually totally love Highlander. It’s a load of balls, obviously, but it is entertaining. The ridiculous Queen soundtrack! A Frenchman as an unconvincing Scotsman! A Scotsman as a Spanish-Egyptian (I think?)! And of course, an irrestibly stupid central concept. All other Highlanders are absymally banal, though I have probably seen everything to do with them except the baffling recent anime. The first time I saw the serialised highlander cartoon on telly years ago, I thought for a split second it was a really bad Final Fantasy VI cartoon, just because Ramirez’s armour was a bit Yoshitaka Amano-esque. Ridiculous. What a stupid child I was.
The greatest thing about Highlander, though, is that they’re all from space. Thanks, Highlander 2!
But yeah, as an actual story or as anything other than ‘ironic’ (urgh) fun, Highlander is shite.
RIGHT. I have been watching the series recently (it was perfectly timed as a joke within the issue but also within MY LIFE) and I hate it so much, but also.. it’s so daft I want to see what it does next.
Changing directions but sticking with the “bizarre things that pop culture icons do”, I like that you included Negway the Segway. Partly, obviously, because it is a fun character and tadpole-eyes are awful but kind of nice to think of, but: partly also because in one of the 2003-ish issues of b&w TMNT that I have, Peter Laird, or possibly Stan Sakai goes off on a whole crooked rant about how people don’t respect his rights or dignity as a Segway user. It’s just there, in the comic, because he’s really annoyed about it. I don’t suppose you read that and got inspired?
Duncan Macleod is a pile of shite.
I haven’t read that issue of TMNT! In fact, the only turtles stuff I have read is the child-friendly ones from when I was wee and started getting it instead of the AMAZING Simon Furman Transformers comics that I should have stayed loyal to.
It is really hard to respect a Segway user, though. I’m not sure why? Maybe because it raises the rider up just enough to make them tower over you smugly? Hmmm. I should address my anti-Segway prejudices at some point, maybe. I mainly invented a character that is one, though, as I very much enjoy watching the security guard at Glenrothes town centre shops, who has a Segway. It makes him look bizarre, as he trundles around on his ostentatiously-gleaming piece of technology, in a near-empty dank hole of failed industry.
Also: Gob from Arrested Development. He is funny on his Segway, so he is.
It’s a weird period for the turtles. I think that probably anti-Segway prejudice is one of those internalised issues that one doesn’t need to worry about too much, but you probably get karma-points for intention.
SPEAKING of failed industry.. unemployment. It’s a bummer. Let me try to remember the questions I thought of about that.
Here’s one: how much would you need to be paid in order to be the new Friendly Face of the Job Centre? I dunno if it’s different in Scotland but here we have all these big photos of smiling happy people with jobs around the walls and on screens. I’m not fond of them. What would it take for you to jolly along the common jobless anonymously, but facially, forever?
Ooh, that’s a tough one… I think it’d have to be some ridiculously large amount of money, like millions or something? Then I’d live with my guilt by staying drunk and saying that it’s “all a big laugh”? Ideally, no amount of money is worth promoting such an awful, stinking system, though. And I like to think I don’t especially NEED a huge amount of money, used as I am to living on/below the breadline. I do LIKE the idea of financial comfort, though. But do I have to sell my soul to The Man to get it? Can’t the jobcentre just get me a job, instead?
Don’t be silly, that’s not their area.
Have you ever left a GUTSPOWER in or around the job centre?
I’ve considered it! But no, I do not have the guts or the power. Instead, I worry that one of my ‘advisors’ will find it and put me on a blacklist, or something. Why would they, though? What an arrogant image of myself I have.
It’s not the sort of place that encourages people to think of themselves as supported/an individual with a genuine need for expression though, is it? Not so much arrogant as reasonably anxious I should say.
I read an issue in my job centre once and it made me feel much better about things though, like a medicine.
Do you try to represent “real life issues” re: being the receiver of a jobseeker’s allowance in your story? Like, is telling The Story Of The Unemployed a part of your motivation re: making your zine, or does it just ‘happen to be the setting’.
This is the last question about unemployment because it’s giving me a headache.
I am glad a Guts Power made you feel better about being in the jobcentre! That is high praise, indeed.
I think I started off trying to represent ‘real life issues’, only because I was really fucking angry at the total bullshit the jobcentre put us unemployed people through. It just sort of came out as graceless, unsubtle and not that funny, though? But it was cathartic, so that’s okay! Subsequently, I’ve put ‘real’ stuff in it so there is some emotional grounding? ‘Write what you know’, and all that. Well, I know about being unemployed and having to always depend on other people for money and generally being a wretch. All the sci-fi sort of stuff is a way of making the mundane details of my life seem more exciting, and also give me something that’s enjoyable to write and draw, and maybe even read? And I genuinely DO want to tell the ‘story of the unemployed’, as you say, as most representations are ‘wasters’ like the guy from Shameless, or whatever hate figure the government and media want to conjure up to turn people against the poor.
I have no problem with people being ‘wasters’ on the dole, either, though, it should be said. I resent the constant implication that unemployed people should be unhappy, all the time, or we’re wasting taxpayer’s money. If the dole, with all the ‘handouts’ for ‘nothing’ is so great, why don’t YOU try being unemployed, Mr. Daily Mail? HUH?
I appreciate that so much! I wanted to interview you particularly because.. I am honestly grateful that you are creating a thing that is for/by someone living jobless. I drew some autobio anecdotal comics about JSA but I never finished any of them because I started feeling like I would rather just lie on the floor and rub at my own forehead for a while. SOMEONE needs to represent SOMETHING, and you are doing it. Thank you.
Okay, the scottishness. Since I am English and there are POLITICS ecessarily involved, perhaps everything I can ask you or say about scotland or “the Scottish” will be offensive automatically, but I think that that is half the point.
I shall say a bunch of my favourite things from scotland, and you can tell me your Authentic Scottish stance on them! That will be a fun game.
To start, a hard one: Shoebox Zoo. You may need to wikipedia it.
Shoebox Zoo! If I am remembering properly, it is a live-action thing with a box full of tiny cgi animals, on a high-stakes adventure? I’m getting images of the freelance vivisectionist from Spaced, for some reason. I don’t think I ever watched it!
It’s brilliant, you should.
NOW I KNOW THIS IS CONTROVERSIAL TOPIC. But battered Mars Bars. The chip shop near my house used to serve them and now they don’t, and they are fucking delicious.
My stance on the whole ‘battered mars bar’ thing has been that no Scottish people actually eat them, and the only people who do are journalists and people who believe the propoganda of journalists. But I don’t actually know, as I am weird about food and try not to use chip shops as there is nothing there for me. For all I really know, everyone in my block of flats is eating one right now.
If they are, I am jealous.
Family name tartan! There’s one to my surname, and I use a discoloured version of it in my old logo. Are you embarrassed for me?
Ocht, I suppose it is good to know things about your family and be proud of them? I don’t know anything about my family tartan, really, as I sort of think kilts are just rubbish skirts, and the sporran is for hiding the erections of the manly men who wear them.
George Cowley, of the Professionals.
All I know is he looks a bit like my uncle. Never much cared for the Professionals. Lads having gritty police fun never really appealed to me, though Scottish people do make convincing bosses in the Forces.
Their trousers are very tight, I can recommend it for that at least!
Grant Morrison. Obviously I know the answer to this but “the readers” do not, perhaps.
I think I love Granto more than any other comics guy (other than top-of-his-game Peter Milligan). His stuff has imagination and heart and tries new storytelling techniques and he often crams in Scottish people, just for the hell of it. That said, I’m tired of him just doing superhero stuff, as I’m always looking for an excuse to ‘jump off’ of Marvel and DC, being that the comics they produce are expensive, shiny slabs of absolute contempt, regardless of the actual content.
Morrison’s beliefs that we’ve got to use all the planet’s resources up so we can ascend, like ‘caterpillars eating a leaf’ are nonsense, though, and show an amazing lack of regard for personal responsibility. Also, he seems to have a dubious attitude towards the people that actually created the shitty superheroes he writes about (though he does write them very well).
He is responsible for kick-starting Mark Millar’s career, though, and shall never atone for that.
That was the last question, because I just checked and gmail says I have been interviewing you for SIX HOURS. Which is absurd! Beg pardon.
On Grant Morrison – have you read SUPERGODS? I started it but haven’t finished. It needs more story. Don’t answer that! This interview is OVER!!!
Thanks for your time, tho. I’ll shake your hand any day.
Supergods has too much comics history I already know about, represented badly, and not enough Actual Interesting Life Story stuff, I reckon. It’s immensely readable, though!
Thanks for interviewing me! I hope I do not come across too badly!
I liked the bits about his skinny trousers. More fashion, Grant.
*Outside of my romantic partnership, I mean