In the Toy Division: RJ Astruc interviews Mimo
You probably know Toy Division. (Note: Toy Division is NSFW) Although little more than six months old, it already has a huge following and a reputation that ranks it among the most twisted comics on the ‘net. Billed as a venture into SSexploitation, Toy Division features kewpie-doll faced dictators, sexual deviancy, and grotesque medical experiments on human subjects. The artist behind this delightful moral abomination is Mimo.
Your comic is seriously f**ked up. Where do you get your ideas from?
My ideas come from all over the place, but are mostly a result of having a mind that is permanently in the gutter. I take ordinary everyday things and ruin them. For instance, a strip about Whiskers snacks was inspired by my cat - we all know how pets beg for titbits and it got me thinking about how well fed an evil doctor’s pets would be. Other places I frequently get ideas from are history books, the local toy shop and 70’s grindhouse movies (my favourites are the ones the try and pretend they are art films, but are really titty-flicks!) Sometimes I twink out the dialogue in war comics (you can buy them by the bundle) and make up my own captions.
Where I get my character ideas is another story. Snowball is a very mercenary lady. I think of her as a cross between Xavier Hollander (the happy hooker) and Evita Peron. Pepsi von Hellswine was originally a one off character - I was going to kill him but he was saved because everyone loved him so much. I designed Pepsi to be the worst cartoon character ever. He is totally selfish, pompous sadistic ass, but he looks like a hummelware cherub. Good looking people get away with a lot more.
You’ve got a very unique style - and a highly controversial one, considering the comic’s content. Why did you choose it?
I am a big fan of the grotesque cute movement. Super designer Mari-chan’s character culture project was a huge influence on me as well as Junko Mizuno and Emma. I spend a lot of time in the toy shop looking at toys: My Little Ponies and those whorish Bratz type dolls. I’m sure the creatures are rolling in their graves as I type this but Precious Moments and love are huge inspirations too.
I have to be super careful to emphasize the secondary sex characteristics of my characters so I don’t look like a kiddy-fiddler. The women tend to have pneumatic hourglass figures and the male ones have broader shoulders and more body hair. It is much harder to make the men look older, but the uniforms help. I run into difficulty when it comes to little Paris and Hladgunnr, who are children - I have to throw something in for scale.
Why do you think Toy Division has become so popular so fast? Is it just because sex sells?
Toy Division is sordid trash, but I think it is pretty memorable; I strive to create something that’s interesting, even if it’s not very funny that day. Dictatorships are many things but boring isn’t one of them. It’s like an office comedy but with better weapons and cooler stuff. It’s also very easy for unpopular characters to disappear and popular ones to get away with all kinds of kooky antics.
There are pluses and minuses to having an adult comic. Some doors will always be closed to you, but it does mean you tend to attract older fans that are both richer and more for the most part quite mature. I have yet to get an email written in "leet" which is nice.
What kind of interaction do you have with fans… and detractors?
My readers are all sweethearts and I love them. A forum has just been created and I am pleasantly surprised that people are using it. My lj friends list has supported me from the beginning and I value their feedback. It’s like having my own little focus group!
I feel very fortunate that most people who come across my comic understand that it is satire and that I’m not promoting burning of villages, looting and spitting semen into dictator’s mouths. Pepsi’s constant chain smoking seems to upset people but I think syphilis is going to get him before the cancer does.
Why concentrate on gore and sex? Why not do something nice?
The short answer to that is… because I can! It’s like when I go to a smorgasbord restaurant I gorge myself, just because I can. Something about the freedom of the internet makes me go buck wild. Sometimes I forget not everyone is as jaded as I am - too many late nights flicking through Japanese art sites has de-sensitised me a bit.
How do you know so much about kinky sex and the SS?
The Nazis are to sadism what the regency era is to romance novels. I think it’s all that leather… the riding crops don’t help either. I am fascinated by 70s/60s men’s adventure magazines - "historical events" strips mined and exploited for their sadomasochistic content. I’m sure men who had actually seen the elephant had no interest in reading crazy war stories, but they were lapped up by those who hadn’t. You have to understand that these were on regular news stands, not tucked away in the back of some seedy bookstore! It would be heartbreaking if they weren’t so campy and OTT.
Do you have any moral qualms about what you do?
"Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall down an open manhole cover and die." -- Mel Brooks
You get used to nightmares and the constant bowel-cramping guilt. I kind of want a Hagar the horrible, Wizard of Id type thing (but with less torture and murder). In my head I refer to the regime as "comminazi". I like to keep it vague about what country or time Toy Division is set in because then I would have to worry about accuracy and that would be terrible! I would get floods of emails telling me that I had the wrong colour shoulder flashes for the Gotterdammerung berserker division and bla bla blah. I would feel worse about it, but Pepsi usually ends up looking foolish.
I have no qualms whatsoever about the sexual side of things as long as no minors are reading it. I find it strange that adult comics are relatively small in number. I mean a lot more of us are interested in sex than playing video games.
Do your family and friends know what you get up to?
It’s all very secret squirrels. I would die if my parents ever found out, but my sister knows; indeed she is the one who encouraged me to start Toy Division as a comic. A few of my friends know, but I only show them the tame strips.
What are you actually like in real life?
Believe it or not I’m actually quite a perky normal looking girl. I’m the sort of person who you would walk past on the street and not notice.