Straight Outta Warrenton: Clay and Hampton Yount
Clay and Hampton Yount are the co-creators of the weekly-updated comedy comic Rob and Elliot. Clay is also the creator of the now on hiatus Cosmobear as well as the creator of "Bikini Frisbee Suicide Days", the former Saturday-only series at Sluggy Freelance.
Rob and Elliot is one of those "wacky roommates doing crazy random things" comics that is a lot stronger than its thin premise would initially suggest. As a comedy comic it scores on the most crucial criteria -- it's funny. And it does so through both the writing and the artwork.
Read on for my interview with the brothers Yount.
What's the basics on you two? Where did you grow up, where are you now -- that sort of thing? Was there a hippie commune involved at any point?
Clay: We grew up in Warrenton, Virginia reading a lot of comics. After college I have moved up to the DC Metro Area and read slightly less comics.
Hampton: Here's how I describe Warrenton -- "If it was possible for a location to shoot itself in the face...Ka-Blam" I can't wait to leave here. I just have to finish my term as Mayor, then I'm gone.
I just checked the archives -- it kind of snuck up on me that Rob And Elliot has been "on the air" since 2004. I still tend to think of it as the "new kid". I'm a big fan, I almost always find it funny and I love the artwork. I guess I want to ask something along the lines of "why haven't you all conquered the comics world yet" but that might be rude so let's just go with what are your goals for the comic?
Clay: There are probably two reasons we haven't "hit it big".
- We only update once a week now, and it isn't always on time. I work long hours at my job, and that can get in the way of consistent and frequent updates. Hampton's also busy with his comedy.
- We haven't really approached it as a business. To succeed in the webcomics world, you need to actively try to get your comic to new readers. Advertising, conventions, books...we haven't really done any of that. We're trying to change some of that this year though. We'll see how it goes.
Hampton: I'm going to go ahead and say it's because of everyone else. The comics community has their boot on our necks and they have been grinding a sense of failure deep into our bones. We're incredible and do nothing wrong. Whatta buncha joiks!
I have a brother, in fact I have two. Although I love them both, with one I could in fact collaborate on a comic but with the other it would quickly degenerate into something like comics slash ultimate fighting championship. How is it between the two of you collaborating on the comic? What exactly is the process?
Clay: The process, if we are busy, is usually I ask Hampton for a script, he writes it, then I draw it. There are plenty of times where we will brainstorm up scripts together, and a few rare occasions where I'll write a script myself and Hampton approves it. We'll argue over stuff sometimes, but we have pretty similar taste in humor, so it's usually not a big deal.
Hampton: I can't imagine fighting with my brother. That must suck.
Back in this 2006 Digital Strips interview Clay said Hampton did all the writing and that Rob and Elliot were named after musicians or maybe your brother-in-law? So anything more you can tell us about how he came up with it?
Hampton: Rob and Elliot are named after Robert Smith of the Cure and Elliott Smith. We changed the spelling of Elliot for fun. Noel is named after a girl in a song called "Teenage Dirtbag" by Wheatus, where after listening I was like "That's the feeling Elliot should have for this girl!". I stopped trying so hard after that. Boner.
Clay also mentioned that both of you also previously did Ghostcat for the Virginia Cavalier Daily. What was that about? Does it survive on the web anywhere? Even further back -- you did Action Daxton - was that a solo Clay effort?
Clay: OK, I should probably set the record straight on this old stuff. Action Daxton was a solo effort for me waay back in 2000. It had a few good ones, but mostly it sucked balls. Most webtoonists I know look back on their first work and cringe a little. Ghostcat was somewhat better. Hampton helped me brainstorm some of the characters and storylines, but he only wrote a few scripts. I gave him a by-line but he wasn't really a part of that. When I graduated, I asked him to do a truly collaborative comic with me where he'd do pretty much all the writing, and the rest is history. As for seeing it online, I'm not hosting them anymore, but you can embarrasingly read Action Daxton and Ghostcat in the Cavalier Daily comic archives. I'm not making it easy for you.
Hampton: I dug his strips. I thought it was so cool to be making a comic all on his own. He put my name of the thing because he's super nice and does things without thought (Hint: his weakness!).
Hampton is a stand-up comedian. Although I have yet to see him in person (being a lame suburbanite, otherwise known as
Arlingtonus-Snoozus) I have in fact seen the hilarity ensue via the magic of the intertubes. How long have you been doing stand up?
Hampton: 2 and some years. It's really fun, I get a lot out of it. It's pretty much my life now. I'm really committed to learning as much as I can and always trying new things. I'll try and put up more clips in the future.
Just checking on that sibling rivalry again - how would Clay do up on stage?
Clay: I'd have to work through my crippling inability to speak in front of crowds.
Hampton: Clay is so funny! My biggest fear is that he would do comedy and then be great at it. Then he'd sit on my head and fart.
Clay how was it doing the Saturday series called "Bikini Suicide Frisbee Days" for Pete Abram's Sluggy Freelance comic? Did you collaborate at all with Pete on it? Were you a fan of the strip before you took on that gig?
Clay: It was an awesome experience. Sluggy Freelance was the first webcomic I ever read. Back when I was working for the Cavalier Daily, most people in the comics section were big fans, me included. It was a huge honor to work on the classic Sluggy characters. Pete was kind enough to pretty much give me free reign on what happened because BSFD comics were non-canon. The only guideline was that the stories had to take place before Sam revealed he was a vampire. Surprisingly, I was not torn to shreds by the Sluggite army.
Clay's other comic project is Cosmobear. Can you tell me how you came up with that idea -- was it something you had filed away or did you just come up with it last year?
Clay: It was something I came up with just before Rob and Elliot. Unfortunately, it's been shelved for now until we get Rob and Elliot to where we want it. I will finish it at some point, but for now it's on hiatus.
Clay what are you influences in terms of art generally and then comics more specifically?
Clay: My artistic influences growing up were are Calvin and Hobbes, Tintin, and a ton of manga. I've tried to distance myself from that as I've worked to develop my own style. More recently I've been influenced by Jeff Smith's Bone, which I realize shows in Cosmobear.
In terms of comics more generally what do either of you read now? What are your favorites?
Clay: In terms of print comics, my favorite right now is Scott Pilgrim, hands down. I also enjoy Fables, Invincible, Hellboy, Y the Last man, and all the Cartoon History series by Larry Gonick.
In terms of webcomics, I read the Boxcar comics, of course, Penny Arcade, PVP, Sam and Fuzzy, Shortpacked, Sinfest, Sluggy, Starslip Crisis, VG cats, Three Panel Soul, and a bunch of others sporadically. Joe Loves Crappy Movies is probably my favorite.
Hampton: I read all the print comics Clay does, with the same good feelings attached to them, as well as some other books. I like: Powers, Blade of the Immortal, Stray Bullets, and the Walking Dead also. I will go on the record right now and say that I used to love The Ultimates and now it is quite possibly the worst book out there. Spit on it in the store if you can. Then smear feces on the face of the store owner (how dare he?!).
For webcomics, I read PVP, Penny Arcade, Sore Thumbs, and Joe Loves Crappy Movies. Joe is incredible and should be a famous man guy for all his insane effort. I have no patience to read more webcomics than that. Sorry. Not really.