–Our favorite comic books are no stranger to best friend fighting duos, but it's not as often you hear about partners in crime creating the said stories. Together, writer Robert Wasp and illustrator Javier Suárez have satirically tackled America' s abundant batch of #firstworldproblems with their weekly Columbia Chronicle comic Meowica! and are expanding their comic creations with the launch of their online artist collective Fresh Veggie Press.
In their interview with CIRCUS, the guys break down their creative process, their inspirations and what it's really like working together while best friends.
I am Robert Wasp, a fiction writer from Columbia College. I write comics–that’s what I do.
I am Javier Suárez, a Mexican illustrator from Chicago, also from Columbia College. I recently started illustrating comics, mostly because Robert convinced me to try it out.
What is Fresh Veggie Press and where did the name derive from?
RW : Fresh Veggie Press is basically an online press mainly for our comics right now.
JS : Lots of cats.
RW : Yeah, it’s just a lot of fun. Well, the first name for us I thought of, and Javi disagreed with right away, was the Pudding Enthusiast Press–it was Bill Cosby inspired.
JS : I hate pudding.
RW: Javi is a vegan and he really doesn’t like pudding so that didn’t work. I was trying to figure out what we both enjoyed. I was actually drinking a green smoothie when I thought–Fresh Veggie Press.
JS : Really? I didn’t even know that’s how you thought of it.
RW : We both were all, “Man, this is really fresh.”
What inspires comic stories and illustration style? What inspires you guys on a daily basis?
JS : Hmm, on a daily basis I get inspired by a lot of things. I look at a lot of stuff in print, especially graphic design. I actually look at more graphic design than illustration. It’s funny, now that I think about it, most of my inspiration comes from graphic design and non-art related subjects. I read as much as I can and that influences my drawing style more than anything, especially a lot of Latin American art and literature.
RW : For me, I’m very much inspired by Adventure Time and how it’s written. That’s what inspires me–watching comedies, cartoons, and reading comics daily, and bringing it all together and humanizing my stories. You know how everyone always raves about 90s cartoons and how they were so great?
JS : I’m glad you brought that up.
RW : The 90’s cartoons kind of sucked. Besides like, Hey Arnold. Hey Arnold was the epitome of what the 90s cartoons were aiming to be. It explained the complexities of things around you in a very simplistic way, especially to a younger audience–and it was funny. Sometimes the most serious things are funny and Hey Arnold understood that.
Every week, I love seeing our comics come together after all of the hard work put in throughout the week. Especially because I’m doing this with someone I respect as a person. It’s inspiring to work with Javier, for both of us, and have people reading our work.
JS : I love that feeling when someone comes up to me and says, “Oh hey, I read your comic.” I get excited when someone else knows it exists.
RW : Yeah, and honestly, I rather have 10 people read and laugh about it all day, than 100 people just look at our comics.
How did Meowica! come to be and what was the experience like creating it?
RW : Sometimes I look at the news and grab some stories from there. Truth is, I’m not really into politics.
JS : It’s funny because Meowica! is not meant to be a political cartoon, but our strips deal with a lot of current political events; especially our more recent ones.
RW : It’s more about creating a parody on patriotism than politics. It’s more about American’s first world complaints.
JS : It’s a very weird cat satire on U.S. American life.
RW : It’s also about the trials and tribulations of not really understanding that we are all kind of privileged. Especially me, I’m very privileged because in a lot of different places, people can’t ridicule their country.
Meowica! has been great because It’s just daily life here. We’re young and fresh out of college and there are so many ideas out there on how to perceive the world. Our stories come from a sense of restlessness. Young people want to do something about society’s problems, but no one really knows how to do it. There are also many people who want to do something, but don’t want that responsibility and remain ignorant to those problems.
JS : I think Meowica! does a great job at depicting that because a lot of our characters are from people we’ve heard or seen. Meowica! is not meant to put anyone down or anything, a lot of these scenes are just things Robert and I experience everyday. It’s saddening that a lot of these very ignorant acts come from good people–It’s incredibly frustrating.
Creating comics seems so fun, but what are some of the difficulties of the publishing process?
RW : Being published weekly in a big newspaper is difficult. You have to think about whether or not people are reading your comic, whether or not you are likeable–stuff like that. It’s also about whether or not you can actually do it consistently. Doing it weekly is the most difficult. A week is a long time, but it goes by quickly, especially when we’re both super busy.
We’re very lucky because writing for a big newspaper, like the Chicago Tribune, is even more difficult. There are comics published in there that have been published for decades. They are completely outdated and the writing isn’t very good anymore, but people grew up with that so it’s still there week after week. That needs to change. No one is reading Baby Blues anymore.
JS : Creatively we always try to find a balance between what both Robert and I enjoy and what other people may enjoy, especially in the writing.
RW : Writing isn’t incredibly difficult because, well, I think I’m a pretty funny guy.
I try and think about what other people may think is funny. Sometimes what I think is funny, wont be what other people find funny. That’s the hardest part because I had to realize early on that I’m writing for an audience and not just myself.
JS : One of my biggest difficulties is illustrating a comic, generally speaking. I don’t read very many comics, I have only read graphic novels–I did the whole manga thing. It’s difficult, but also rewarding, figuring out how to illustrate the characters and place the dialogue in the same space and making it work as a comic.
RW : Javi does comics pretty well for a kid that doesn’t know much about comics.
JS : I’m the opposite of Robert because when I illustrate anything, I do it for myself because it is something I enjoy doing. I rarely think about whether or not someone will enjoy my work. I just have fun with my illustrations and I share them with everyone because I enjoy sharing my work.
Where do you see Fresh Veggie Press in the next five years?
RW : I’m hoping we aren’t homeless.
I still see us making comics five years from now–hopefully on a much bigger scale. I understand things take time. Right now, it’s all about putting projects together and seeing things go up on our website consistently. I’m trying to write as much as I can, when I can. I want to keep writing comics for the rest of my life.
JS : I really enjoy making comics. I never saw myself as a comic artist, but Robert’s writing just has–I don’t know–some weird charm to it. It’s compelled me to keep illustrating his scripts and I honestly believe Robert is a really talented writer and I enjoy his writing. I honestly see us still working together five years from now.
Realistically, five years from now, we’ll both have four Range Rovers, a nice house in Oak Park, and a cat.
RW : Yeah, and we’ll have a cat ranch in Montana–something like that. We may be Cat Ranchers.
JS : Cat wranglers.
RW: That’s what I’ve always wanted–a cat farm.
The most important part is that this isn’t about Fresh Veggie Press, It’s about our friendship.
We are actually doing something together. This is huge for us because we’re not just talking about doing something–we’re out there doing what we enjoy doing. I think we’re on to something great and I hope people keep reading and enjoying our comics.
You can check out new work from Fresh Veggie Press at CAKE, Chicago Alternative Comics Expo, May 31st and June 1st at the Center on Halsted (3656 N. Halsted) .
–interview curated by BIANCA BETANCOURT