Jess Fink, creator of Chester 5000, was an absolute delight talking to. I ran into the same problem with her that I had with Sylvan Migdal; I am a huge fan of her work, but her work happens to be smut. There’s no easy way to approach this, so I took the liberty of editing out the five minutes of uncomfortable jokes before I started asking questions. This is my gift to you, the reader. Enjoy! Spandexless: So how did Chester 5000 Start?
Jess Fink: Well I wanted to do something that was easy for me to update often, and I was really into Tijaunana bibles at the time, and I really wanted to do something that was silent so that it would feel like a silent movie. I knew it was going to be dirty, so I didn’t want there to be all of this, like, text to get in the way. I just wanted it to flow and let the visuals tell the story. I figured, I could do ink-wash really quicly and I had a story I wanted to do. I had stories laid out, but it wasn’t laid out in any conrete form. It was more like, “Okay, this is gonna happen and thats gonna happen and this is gonna happen,” and then I’d just sit down and draw it. That’s basically how the first book happened.
S: What tools did you use?
JF: When I first started working on it--7 years ago?--I didn’t give a shit about what tools I used. I would just sketch it out in my notebook and then do inkwash on paper, so all the first comics are super-tiny and they’re all crinkled up and shitty, but now I use microns and ink-wash and stuff. Whatever you’re comfortable with.
S: Was this comic spawned more under the auspices of showing off the repressed nature of Victorian female sexuality or more just about the (robot) sex?
JF: There’s a lot of both. I had a lot of influences for it, but reading about the whole “hysteria” thing--you’ve heard about the whole hysteria thing, right?
S: Oh, yeah. [ED NOTE: The root of the word hysteria lies in a psuedo-medical condition that Victorian physicians would diagnose women as having. The symptoms were basically “being horny," and the cure was to go to the doctor and undergo “treatment,” which was essentially the Victorian equivalent of a vibrator.]
JF: They thought that … the divide was so weird. For men they just thought, “Well, men can’t help it. They just have to go to prostitutes. They just have to.”
JF: With women they were like, “This must be a disease. Women don’t like this.”
S: Is that where Chester came from?
JF: I was definitely interested--it wasn’t like I read something and said “Oh I am definitely making a comic about THIS.” I had just a lot of stuff in my brain and I was just like... I was also thinking, like, I watch a lot of anime, read a lot of manga... there’s always, like, lady robots that are perfect lady robots, and I was like, “I wanna make a guy robot for a change”.
We went on a brief tangent here about my education in Victorian studies and the appendage added to Chester in the middle of the book, and some stuff about websites. It wasn’t too relevant, and when it was, it was actually somewhat spoiler-y, so I decided to leave it out.
S: So the book was always conceived of as silent? I really liked that--it’s a really international book.
JF: I wasn’t even thinking about that. After I made it, I thought, “Oh yeah, anyone can read this!”
S: Is the story complete, now? Is Chester 5000 the final word?
JF: That story is done, but I am working on another story that is sort of a prequel, though I am not sure I want to call it that. I also have an autobiographical work I am working on.
S: I noticed you also do children's work?
JF: I used to, yeah.
S: Truly scandalous.
JF: I have a couple of children's books I did, but I never really did anything with them. There’s no great place to put them, I guess? I have the autobiographical thing that I update.
S: To be clear, the autobiographical comic is not the same as the prequel, right?
S: That would speak to a lot, and I only have so many pieces of paper...
JF: There’s another book coming out from Top Shelf next year that’s a lot more autobiographical. It's got sexy things in it, but it's much more of a memoir.
JF: No robots. Time Travel.
S: Ah, that explains the pants. [ED NOTE: Jess was wearing these awesomely ridiculous space pants.] One last question: What has excited or delighted you at SPX?
JF: I have yet to walk around and buy shit, so I haven’t seen much. There is always so much amazing stuff at SPX, and it’s in the middle of nowhere, so people bring so much and it’s a giant party every night. I’ll have to get back to you.