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Interview with a Vegan Superhero: Ethan Young

Cartoonist Ethan Young

Cartoonist Ethan Young

Cartoonist Ethan Young is a superhero vegan. So frankly, it’s about time that we interviewed him here. On top of that, Ethan’s new book, Tails: Book 1, is out in stores as of this week. If you don’t know Ethan, or if you only know him through reading his online comic, Tails, then read on, for your life isn’t quite complete until you learn about the life of one of the most well known vegan cartoonists there is. Hilarious and fearless, Ethan isn’t even afraid to be self-deprecating while advertising his own work.

SuperVegan: For newbie readers, tell us what Tails is about. And I’m talking, is it about you? A part of you you’re afraid to show the world? A part of you that you had to tame down because you know you have a wife watching your comic?

Ethan: Yes, Tails is about my life, give or take. I’ve always referred to it as the story of a vegan hippie with super powers. The comic incorporates comedic semi-autobiographical stories combined with epic fantasy. My cartoon facsimile is a bit of a dick at times, but my wife already knows that about me. More importantly, Tails is about arrested maturity, and the struggles of becoming a real adult. It just happens to have super-heroes and kittens. And then some super-kittens.

SuperVegan: I know you’ve done work a lot more raunchy than Tails. Tell us how you went on your strange journey and how Tails serves as the outlet for your angry superhero vegan side.

Ethan: Ha, I don’t know how much I should actually divulge. Well, my raunchiest art gig was illustrating gay porn. It was fun, to say the least; never a dull moment. I can’t remember any other period in my life where my ability to draw cute girls was utterly useless. Other than that, my professional art career is fairly perfunctory, which is why Tails exists for me to explore some zanier artistic endeavors.

I started self-publishing Tails back in 2006. At the time, I was a disgruntled worker at an animal shelter; being an aspiring cartoonist while fostering a dozen cats is generally a recipe for frustration. Not to mention the usual 20-year-old problems like relationships, family issues, and low self-esteem. I channeled all of it into Tails, and it was fairly well-received. I later reworked Tails as a webcomic and now it’s back in print, courtesy of Hermes Press.

SuperVegan: You got featured in some pretty big press before this release, didn’t you? And what’s new in this release?

Ethan: I was featured on MTV Geek last year and got a blurb over at VegNews. As for Tails: Book 1, it reprints the first nine chapters of the online comic (tailscomic.com) with some additional material that’ll only be seen in this collected volume.

SuperVegan: Give us a sneak peak; what’s new in the collected volume that’ll make us drool and go out and buy it now?

Ethan: Just a good story with good art. I don’t know if that’s drool-inducing, but it’s something.

SuperVegan: So, the tough question. Another vegan artist? How did you decide the world needed one of those? ;)

Ethan: That’s probably the most complicated question here. I basically wanted to attack negative stereotypes about vegans. Most times when the word ‘vegan’ is mentioned in pop culture, it’s shrouded in mockery, whether it’s TV, films, comics, or whatever. I wanted to portray a vegan as just a regular person with regular problems that anyone else would have. In fact, my being vegan isn’t even really essential to the story. Most people enjoy the comic for the story and resonate with the broader themes. I’ve only encountered one reviewer who was offended by what she considered, my “extremist views.” (FYI, that reviewer can go suck a turd) Of course, that means you end up reading stories about my being an asshole boyfriend during my petulant youth. Is that a good or bad thing, to have that associated with vegans?

SuperVegan: Saying that you want kittens to have homes is something only an extremist terrorist would say, as that reviewer understands well. So you’d rather be identified as frustrated asshole first, vegan superhero second?

Ethan: God, I don’t want to be identified as an asshole, period. But I’ll let the reader make that decision.

SuperVegan: You’re actually getting well known now, wouldn’t you say? When do you think you’ve “made it?” What’s your big project when you can do anything you want once Tails puts you on a bigger map?

Ethan: I think I’ve ‘made it’ as a professional, for sure. I’m not rich, but I’m way better off than most, and way better off than most freelance artists. I’ve recently bought a house and I’m still south of 30, I think that’s a pretty neat bragging right. However, I haven’t yet ‘made it’ if we’re talking about fame. In my ideal fantasy world, every stray kitten would have a warm home, and my doodles would sell for millions. That’s my greedy, delusional, narcissistic side talking.

If I had it my way, I’d keep doing more Tails for years and years. And years. And then open a vegan café.

SuperVegan: Vegan cafe? Do tell. Comics themed?

Ethan: Well, Foodswings was kinda like a comic-themed vegan joint when it first opened. My wife and I have just talked about opening up a vegan cafe for a very long time. We’re in Ithaca, NY right now, which is very veg-friendly, but there’s no 100% vegan place. The closest vegan place is Strong Hearts in Syracuse, NY. This is just me thinking out loud, by the way.

SuperVegan: Anything new you’d like to add or shamelessly plug about the release?

Ethan: Yeah, buy my book. Now. Don’t wait for it to go on sale. And after you buy my book, go adopt a cat.

SuperVegan: Which stores can we find your book at? Barnes & Noble?

Ethan: Yes, Barnes & Noble should have copies. The book was released in comic shops last Wednesday, and Amazon will have it available on September 4th (you can still pre-order it right now). You’d have a better shot of finding the book in a comic shop, but it’d be great if people would flock to Barnes & Noble, because they return all the books they don’t sell.

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