PORTAJOHNNY: The Best of Angry Youth Comix
The Johnny Ryan Interview and Review!

Robert Berry webmaster@retrocrush.com

I've been a longtime comic book reader, but in recent years I'd become pretty jaded at the crap there was to choose from out there.  When I stumbled on a copy of ANGRY YOUTH COMIX by Johnny Ryan (published by Fantagraphics) it was like a spiritual awakening.  Well, maybe it was more like a baptism of shit, but it was a guilty pleasure the likes I hadn't seen since I giggled at those gory Driver's Ed films in high school. 

Ryan, who lives vicariously through his cartoon creation Loady McGee, a pimply faced scumbag who is easily the most loathsome character to grace a comic book panel since SPAWN, showcases his early work from largely self-published and hard to find comics in PORTAJOHNNY. 

The collection of early strips is a true "laff riot".  These opening panels from "Diary of A Rapist" are probably the most humorous look at rape since the controversial Little Lotta #45 from 1973 that was banned by the Comics Code Authority.

When I saw that Johnny had a similar interest in exploring Tom Cruise's sexuality, I felt as if he was a soul brother, connecting with me on levels I have never been connected with before! 

Ryan is like that little devil on your shoulder that whispers inappropriate jokes in your ear when you're trying to be serious.  Or that crazy hitchhiker in the beginning of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, who tries to cut you after you say you don't like head cheese. 

I was lucky enough to interview Johnny a couple years back and I thought it'd be great to publish it again here for old time's sake.

retroCRUSH: What's the angriest reaction you've had to Angry Youth Comics?

I've never had an angry person confront me about my comic book personally. I do come across people online who really loathe my stuff. It's not that they object to the "immoral" content, they just think it's plain awful. They don't think it's funny at all, and the fact that FANTAGRAPHICS publishes me now makes them doubly pissed. But, whatever...My stuff's not for everybody. Peter Bagge told me that when he first started out Spain and Robert Williams hated his stuff so much they actually wanted to beat him up! I find that story very heartening.

retroCRUSH: What's an idea that you thought was too sick to use?

Sometimes I'll come up with a disgusting idea and my initial reaction will be, "I can't do that! It's just too terrible!" But eventually that feeling passes and I do it anyway.

retroCRUSH: Did you find it a bit overwhelming to be among so many independent legends when you joined Fantagraphics?

I still find it overwhelming! I feel like a 3-year-old who's just been recruited to play in the major leagues. When I go to conventions and I'm signing books next to Dan Clowes and Richard Sala I definitely feel like there's something wrong with this picture. I should be on the other side of the table!

Johnny Ryan Self Portrait (he's much sexier in person)

retroCRUSH: How did other artists encourage and support you when you were starting out?

When I was initially starting out I did not receive any encouragement or support from anybody. I also did not participate in the underground comics "scene" in that I didn't really attend any conventions, nor did I trade or send my comics to any individual artists. I just put 'em in comic stores and hoped for the best. It wasn't until I did 7 or 8 issues of AYC that I decided to send one to Dan Clowes. He wrote me back a very supportive letter and I was totally thrilled! I guess I never would have believed that a big shot like him would write to a guy like me, but he did. God bless 'em!

I didn't send any more comics to other comic book superstars for a couple years after that. It was in early '99 that I decided to write to Peter Bagge. I had only recently picked up a few issues of HATE for the first time and I thought it was amazing! I could really lynch myself for not paying attention to his comic during its run. I was such an idiot when I wrote him-I had no clue that he had ended his comic months before. He wrote me back really fast and told me how much he loved my book. He then proceeded to shove my comics down FANTAGRAPHICS' throat until they agreed to publish me. So he's the reason I've had any type of "success" in the comics world.

Johnny does work for Nickelodeon mag, too (suckers)

retroCRUSH: How has the web changed the way you deal with comic book fans?

Well, it's only recently that I've started to get some fans, so I guess I don't really know what it's like dealing with fans pre-internet. I do think the web is a great way to promote my comics. It really helps get the message out there. And of course email is good cuz it makes it easier for fans to write you and give you feedback.


retroCRUSH: What are some non-comic book influences for your work?

The Three Stooges, The Marx Bros., funny animal cartoons, William Faulkner, Spaghetti Westerns, "Escape from New York", sunsets...etc...

retroCRUSH: You seem pretty quiet quiet and reserved, is Loady McGee like an "evil" Johnny Ryan, or just a fun character?

Yeah, I'd agree with that. Loady is everything that's awful and entertaining about myself, just as Sinus O'Gynus usually represents everything nerdy, sensitive and boring about me.

retroCRUSH: What comic creator do you respect the most?

Gosh, there's a whole bunch, but if I had to pick one I'd say Peter Bagge (could I kiss his ass anymore in this interview?). I think he's the greatest writer in the history of comics! I wanna grow up to be just like him, just not as short.

retroCRUSH: What's it like balancing putting out comic books and working in a "real job", too?

It sucks. I work all day as an insurance clerk at a urology clinic and then at night I gotta drag my tired ass over to the drawing table and work on my comics for a few hours. I don't think it would be as bad if I at least had a day job doing something that was creative instead of shuffling piss papers around.

retroCRUSH: Hard hitting one here, what's your favorite drink?

Tex Avery's diarrhea.

retroCRUSH: Favorite toy when you were growing up?

A belt.

retroCRUSH: Cereal?


retroCRUSH: TV Show?


retroCRUSH: Any tips for an aspiring comic book artist?

Sure. Draw all the time! Fill up as many sketchbooks as you can. And if you're looking to get into the comics biz to make lots of money and get lots of respect you should probably do something else, like manage a supermarket. The lower your expectations the better!

retroCRUSH: Does Bone-Boy have a future in comics?

Not only does
Bone-Boy have a future in comics, but in movies, TV, and Broadway! Keep at it, m'man!

Whether your familiar with Ryan's work or not, you'll love this 158 page collection of laugh out loud comics that Fantagraphics is selling for only $14.95. 



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