Demon on a Mac: At the office with Tommy Yune
When we asked Tommy Yune to tell us a bit about himself for this piece, he came up with "Hello, my name is Tommy and I work at DC COMICS/WILDSTORM PRODUCTIONS. I really like comics." What he didn't say is that he's the creator of cult-favorite comic BUSTER THE AMAZING BEAR, and he recently completed the truly fantastic SPEED RACER mini-series for DC/WILDSTORM, despite being the technical administrator at WILDSTORM at the time. Tommy Yune is a talented writer, artist, colorist, and technician who we at PopImage feel will be a creator to watch in the coming years. And he really likes comics.
According to your on-line bio, you come primarily from a digital illustration and video game industry background. How and why did you decide to get into comics?
I had just finished working on LEGACY OF TIME, a PC CD and DVD-ROM game which was published by BRODERBUND so I was essentially in between projects when I found out DC COMICS was moving to acquire WILDSTORM PRODUCTIONS. I had created the CG title effects for the GEN13 animated movie the previous year and was already familiar with the folks at WILDSTORM. John Nee (then the president of WILDSTORM) must have said something really cool to get me to work for the newly combined company because a lot of my colleagues thought I was out of my skull to leave the computer gaming industry for comics. It didn't help that comic book publishing was in a terrible recession after the whole IMAGE COMICS boom. Perhaps the fact that I really like comics may have played a factor.
You started out in the industry as a self-publisher with BUSTER THE AMAZING BEAR. That's a difficult path to take.
I wouldn't call it a start. It was actually an outgrowth of a class project at ArtCenter which spiraled out of control, but I learned a lot about the comics industry in the process. Some people have a lot of difficulty breaking into a new field, so finding a mentor who can show them the ropes can be a godsend. Most of what I learned about comics can be attributed to Jeromy Cox and John Nee, both whom I knew through WILDSTORM PRODUCTIONS.
Any word on when the much anticipated second volume of Buster will it make it to comic store shelves?
Anticipated? Good grief, that was one of the first questions thrown up at a panel I was in at San Diego Comic Con. Well, self-publishing BUSTER THE BEAR on the side would be a conflict of interest while I work for DC Comics unless I got so big they begged me to let them publish it. So ... it's on hold for now, but I hope the stuff fans are seeing in the meantime will make up for it.
What exactly is your position at WILDSTORM?
As the technical administrator, I'm responsible for the operation of studio's computer network. It's an important job since Wildstorm's process of producing comic books is completely computerized and DC Comics is also leveraging our strengths to enhance production of their books as well.
How did you go from doing a more technically oriented position there to writing and illustrating the new SPEED RACER mini-series?
That was a project that was floating around at WILDSTORM without any creative direction when I came on board. Having been an anime otaku (fanboy, wacko, etc.), I was relatively well versed on the subject and submitted a formal story proposal which ended up being enthusiastically approved by SPEED RACER ENTERPRISES. Of course, I soon discovered I was in for it as I had to balance the task of working on SPEED RACER with deploying sweeping upgrades to the studio's computer network systems.
You wrote the SPEED RACER mini series as a very fresh and timeless piece that didn't rely too heavily on knowledge of the anime (cartoon) to be enjoyed. Were you worried about losing some of the more hardcore Speed Racer fans that might have wanted to see new adventures?
No, not at all. There was a hole in the classic mythos which did not clearly establish the origin of SPEED RACER and his car, the Mach 5. A prequel to the original series offered the cleanest start for new readers while offering something new to the die hard fans. It even leaves enough teasers to get readers to want to watch the original episodes all over again.
You introduced a lot of back-story in the mini-series. Not being as well-versed in the anime history as I should, did you contradict any of the previously established anime history?
I researched the original series by watching the all the classic episodes over again and even going back to the original manga by Tatsuo Yoshida that preceded the television show. There were loose ends all over the place as the original 52 episodes were mostly made up of unrelated 2-part stories. I took a lot of details from the most compelling episodes and weaved together a story that appeared to connect them all to one another. I did create some workarounds to include characters who were "supposed" to be dead and even now I'm really not sure how to spell some of the wackier names.
I made the most significant modifications to the Racer X character which were received very well. I had him "kill off" his alter ego Rex Racer so that his family would never suspect who he really was. In the original series I wondered if anybody in the Racer family stopped to think: "Hey, this guy drives like Rex, is tall as Rex, and even wears our team logo on his chest!" Yeah, I even replaced the "Mach" M with an X.
According to the "liner notes" of the series, you did all the pencilling, inking, and writing on the book, not to mention providing colour guides. That's quite a bit of work to put into a series, and not at all typical of a Wildstorm project.
Gosh, I wish there were three of me, but it all worked out in the end. I believe creators should be familiar with every step of comic book production and how they all affect one another. Understanding the process empowers one to be able to exploit the strengths and avoid the weakness of all the myriad tasks that go into making a book. I really respect multi-talented folks such as Kevin Knolan who does everything even down to hand-lettering pages (I can't letter to save my life), but such tasks have to be scheduled carefully. If SPEED RACER was an ongoing monthly, I would've burned out in a matter of time.
Can you describe the process of working on the series from start to finish? I assume, that as a licensed property there were probably "approval's" necessary.
Yes, as I mentioned earlier, I started out with a story proposal along with sample images submitted to SPEED RACER ENTERPRISES, the owner of the property. They were very supportive and actually didn't interfere with our creative process because they really liked the direction we chose to take the characters. Eric DeSantis, the editor, made my life much easier by taking care of all the logistical decisions. Once the story was approved, I'd break down a script outline and thumbnail all the pages to pace the story. Once that was approved I'd go ahead and illustrate the pages and update the dialog in the script to match the panel-by-panel breakdown. The script with the final dialog then went to the editor who would make corrections and indicate balloon placement for the letterer. In the meantime, the artwork went to the production department who scanned the boards for the colorist. A proof of the final book is sent to SPEED RACER ENTERPRISES for approval and then on to the printers with a CD-ROM of the entire book.
What kind of materials did you use to do your artwork? (Tech Pens, Brushes, paper, etc.)
I used ordinary comic illustration board that is supplied by DC COMICS to their artists. I prefer the smooth surface since I really don't pencil in details on pages -- I go straight from blueline roughs to inks with technical pens.
Were you happy with how the SPEED RACER turned out? Would you work on a sequel to the series, if it were offered to you?
SPEED RACER turned out very well. There are other stories about the Racer family that I would like to tell including one that I wrote for Racer X that has already been approved. We've even found a remarkable artist for the job. Fans shouldn't worry because the art completely blew me away.
Wildstorm seems to be moving in a very anime-oriented direction. Besides the obvious inspiration that can be credited to a few books there, you've got people like Adam Warren doing a 3 issue SAILOR MOON Parody using an established WILDSTORM character (Roxy of GEN13) at it's core. What are your feelings about the North American Publishing industry adapting Japanese works for north American audiences?
The entire industry is constantly shaping itself to the evolving tastes of the consumer market. A generation ago, SPEED RACER was the only anime out there, but now with the deluge of import games, videos, and yeah ... that POKEMON thang ... the American market has become familiar with the culture. I think diversity is essential in rebuilding the comic book market.
To that end, aside from the unscheduled second Buster series, and a trade paperback of your SPEED RACER miniseries due this spring, you have a curious link on your upcoming projects page. It points to the CLIFFHANGER web-site.
Huh? Oh, that thing on my homepage... boy, you are one nitpicky surfer. I've got something in the works that will keep me busy enough not to draw Racer X myself, but I'll be the first one to flat out say I'm not even remotely a big enough name to have earned my own Cliffhanger book. I'll let you draw your own conclusions, but rest assured ... it will be sooo groovy.
Do you have any ambitions to become a "name" in comics, like say one of the CLIFFHANGER guys? Or would you prefer to balance your technical work with your illustration and stay in the background?
Gee, it's not going to help me get a date, so what's in a name? Maybe if it will help sell more books, but I hope the strength of my work accomplishes that. I'm a geek at heart and always want my technical knowledge to creep in and enhance the creative side.
Fans of Tommy Yune can look forward to a bunch of stuff from him next year. In addition to the trade paperback collection of SPEED RACER: BORN TO RACE, he's writing a RACER X mini-series, and his work will appear in next month's SUPERMAN Y2K, which in Tommy's own words "...involves integrating computer-generated 3D images of a new variation of the Brainiac character as has never been done in Superman comics". You can contact him via his website Yoonie.com