SPX Talks: Jamie Noguchi / by David Anderson

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I’ve been following Jamie Noguchi’s work for some time now, and I reviewed Yellow Peril Comic this past year. He’s been working as an artist for a while now, and he recently began Super Art Fight, which has been popular all up and down the East Coast. Saturday night, right after a match, I got the opportunity to do a quick interview with him about a few of the things he’s up to. It was a great opportunity and I hope I didn’t sound dumb, since this was literally the first interview I’ve done with anybody since Journalism class in high school. So! Here we go. Everything from Super Art Fight, socially conscious entertainment, to Puppy Cow and (a little bit) more. Spandexless: So, this is David Anderson of Spandexless, and I'm here with--

Jamie Noguchi: Jamie Noguchi.

S: Of YPComics fame and also Art Fight.

JN: Super Art Fight!

S: Yeah, we just got done with Super Art Fight and it was pretty terrifying, it was pretty funny for the first round and then the next two got grotesque, there were penises and feces everywhere, it was crazy, you want to talk a little about that?

JN: Well we've been doing SAF for a while now,  it kind of started off as a different sort of competition, there was this thing at a local convention, Katsucon, called Iron Artists, which was structured more like Iron Chef. You have two artists with a secret ingredient, which was a topic and then they would draw by themselves for an hour, and you know, show their pieces at the end of it--a friend of mine who started this with me, Nick DiFabio, we were asked to participate in it and things got kind of screwy, so in the middle of it we just decided it would be more fun if we just drew on each others' canvas and then like added pieces, because we were on the stage and we were like "Well, let's turn this into a show." And when we were done with that we were like "this is a lot of fun, let's see if we can take this on the road and take it to different venues." So it kind of grew out of that and we've been taking it around the DC/Baltimore area.

S: Yeah, the first time I saw them was Connecticon. You've been going up and down the East Coast?

JN: Yeah, we do CT con a lot, they show us a lot of love. The first year we did Connecticon we had a small room, and apparently the fire marshal was called in because we were breaking the code and it was pretty cool and so they moved us into a bigger space. It was a lot of fun.

S: Cool. You got any plans for, I don't know, going out to the West Coast?

JN: Yeah, we've done a handful of West Coast shows, we might have stuff coming up, we'll keep everyone updated on our site.

S: So, thought I'd talk to you a little bit about YP Comics, Yellow Peril.

JN: Oh yeah.

Well, it's an Asian-American office romance comedy, like The Office meets, uh, something with Asian people in it! It's basically how they deal with everyday life and their bosses, the internal politics of working in an office, and that kind of thing. Dealing with crappy clients, so that's cool. But I wanted to formulate it as a romance comedy because I wanted it to star minorities but I didn't want it to be the sole focus of the strip. I feel like there's a lot of comics that do that kind of thing and I just kind of wanted to do like a romance comedy strip starring people that looked like me but that wasn't the main reason why they were there.

S: Well yeah. This is kind of a personal thing I think of, but to me, I think you can tell when a society's accepted a minority group when they act like it's no big deal. You know, like Will and Grace or something: "Oh man, he's gay?!?" But when people are like "Yeah, he's gay, so what?" That's what I think is cool about YPcomics is how they have a gay character in there, and he's actually a pretty cool guy. I mean--it's about finding the balance between the social message and making a fun comic, right?

JN: Yeah, the main goal really is to tell a good story. Sometimes race will be involved, sometimes sexual politics will be involved, but the main goal for me is to tell a good story and write characters that seem to be believable and that people enjoy reading about so... with a lot of my influence in there, but I don't want to like, hit people over the head with it, you know?

S: Well like, it's like Lady Gaga, where they get too focused on the social message, then they take a hit for that.* I mean, speaking as a white male, you know...sometimes white privilege, male privilege, even when you're conscious of that stuff you can still trip over that, you know?

JN: Right.

S: So what else did I want to talk to you about? Puppy Cow.

JN: Yeah! So Puppy Cow started off as a sketch that, actually, I did at ConnectiCon. I was trying out a brush pen, I came up with the sketch, and my friends were like "Oh, you should try to turn that into a thing!" And I thought everyone was crazy but I went home and I figured well if enough people who don't know me are interested, maybe this could be a thing. So I put it up on Kickstarter and enough people who don't know me wanted it to be a thing, and now it exists. I'm working on trying to build a world around it and I think I have an angle that can work, I just have to flesh out the details, create some more creatures and stuff.

S: You going to try to work it into Yellow Peril or it's going to be its own thing?

JN: It's going to be it's own thing for a while, it doesn't really seem to fit, and I don't want it to be sort of like the mascot just to sell things--it doesn't feel natural quite yet. I've got plans, I just need to iron them out.

S: What about like in YPComics, those--not sprites, but--

JN: Oh, you mean the Daruma! The wishing dolls.

S: Did you make merchandise for those?

JN: Yeah, my wife has actually sewn a couple of small plushie love Daruma, and as we develop more we plan on adding more versions of it like the skull one, there's a couple other ones I've developed throughout the comic, and they show up as sort of like, little icons to--I don't know, they're cute. [laughing]

S: Heh. I don't know, I've been losing track of the comic just because of all the other stuff we've been doing but I've been taking a look at some of the stuff you've been doing recently and you've been branching out with the art style, and I think that's pretty cool.

JN: Oh, thanks.

S: Like what you did with--what's the gay character's name again? Lance?

JN: Yeah, Lance.

S: You changed up the whole art style with that story, I thought that was pretty cool.

JN: Haha, cool.

S: Your latest story arc, what's it about?

JN: The latest arc is about them trying to deal with Steve, who's been accused of being racist, which is kind of a different turn. So they're trying to figure out whether or not they want to help rebrand him or not.

S: Just a quick question--his last name is Liefeld--

JN: Yeah! I figure, I'm gonna poke fun at him anyway, so I tried to come up with something silly that some people would get and other people wouldn't.

S: Haha, great. So... well, good luck with Super Art Fight and all.

JN: Thanks!

*in case I pulled a Mitt Romney, what I mean to say is that Gaga was criticized by the media for trying to be more socially aware in her entertainment, not so much that her fans punished her for it or that people generally don't like socially aware entertainers. I don't think what I said made that clear.