What do you get when you mix five gay urbanites with a young, ambitious woman? The Life and Times of Tony D! Set in New York City, Tony D features a cast of 20 somethings searching for love and navigating the dating scene of Hell's Kitchen and the Pines. Creators Esther Hui and David Fabricant recently held a release party for the third volume of their series at Vlada Lounge, and I chatted with them about the origins of the series and their thoughts on relationships in the digital age.
Patrick Yacco: Esther, tell us a bit about yourself.
Esther Hui: I grew up in a small town in northern CA, and moved to NYC about 8 years ago. I have always liked reading and I will read almost anything –- nonfiction, fiction, memoirs, biographies, psychology books, graphic novels. So I appreciate other people’s writing, but this is the first time I’ve tried to create something.
PY: David, what's your background?
David Fabricant: Well I’m a Jersey boy through and through. I grew up in Parsippany and got my BFA at Rowan University in Glassboro, a small town in NJ right outside of Philadelphia. I’ve been working in publishing (currently at Us Weekly Magazine) since I graduated in 2002.
PY: What inspired you to start writing?
EH: When I started working on this comic 2.5 years ago, I wanted to have an outlet for expressing my ideas. My friend Michael Castellano was interested in creating more art for his portfolio, and we talked about collaborating on a comic. We had both been playing in a dodgeball league for a few years, and decided to set it in that world. The dodgeball league plays at the Tony D rec center, which is where we got the title from.
PY: How long have you been drawing and how did you get into it?
DF: I think I started drawing straight from the womb actually. My mother always tells of the story of my preschool teacher pulling her aside around Mother’s Day and showing her all the drawings we made of our mothers to give as gifts. Mine was the only one that resembled a human being. I remember always drawing Disney, Video Game and Archie characters until I discovered superhero comics when I was 10. I used to take classes on the weekends at Joe Kubert School and would spend all night at the drawing table I had in my bedroom making posters for my walls. My mom convinced me that I’d make more money as a graphic designer so that’s what I concentrated on in college but i like to use illustration in my design still.
PY: How did you two meet and what led to your collaboration?
DF: Well, as Esther mentioned, she and Michael were working on a comic book and I really wanted to be involved in the process somehow. So I knew of Esther before she even knew who I was! I remember going to the first launch party of “Life and Times of Tony D” because my plan was to introduce myself to them and somehow get involved in the process. I even had a friend approach her on my behalf because I was so nervous. So somehow we started discussing a backup story to the main story and “Hot Tub Talk” and “Boys on the Beach’ is what resulted from our conversations.
PY: Give us a brief introduction to Tony D and its cast of characters.
DF & EH: We talk about certain types of people that we both know, certain behaviors that we observe. The characters become an amalgamation of these discussions, depending on what point we’re trying to get across. We want the characters to become more complex and fleshed out as the comic evolves, as we get to observe them in more situations.
Logan – Logan has really strong opinions that sometimes rile others, but he is also often the smartest person in the room.
Doug – Penny’s confidant in Vol I. He’s known for always being in his underwear.
Chad – He’s the everyman character. He’s very romantic and hopeful about what he wants for himself. A lot of guys see themselves in him.
Anderson - Anderson is a lot like Chad. He and Chad often have the same opinions, but Anderson is less assertive when presenting them. People listen more to Chad.
Jimmy – Jimmy hasn’t gotten a lot of screen time, but he’s the guy who is less serious, the life of the party.
Penny – Penny is an observer. As much as she’s included in the group, she’s always a bit of an outsider.
The only crossover characters from Vol I are Doug and Penny. But Ted, the main character in Vol I, will appear in Vol IV with his new boyfriend, the guy he spent most of Vol. 1
PY: So far the group has hung out in Hell's Kitchen, a ski resort, and The Pines in Fire Island. Do any of the characters work and if so, what types of jobs do they have?
EH: I haven’t thought about the career backgrounds for the characters. I have in my mind a future comic that will compare and contrast the lives of the young, single guys who tend to vacation in Fire Island, with the older, more professionally established couples who vacation in the Hamptons and are exploring options for starting a family.
DF: Yeah, these guys have the life! Whatever jobs they have, they must be successful because I certainly can’t afford their lifestyle. If I had to guess, I’d say Logan. He would work in Real Estate and have a really nice/showy apartment of his own.
Chad - Something boring like economics or maybe a lawyer? That boy can argue! Am I insulting people that work in economics?
Doug - Is there a job you can wear your underwear to? He hates clothes so much that he’d manage a gym and hang out by the pool all day.
Anderson - I can see Anderson shaping the minds of our youth as a teacher.
Jimmy - He’d be a waiter or barista. And complain about it constantly.
Penny - I’ll let you decide this one Esther...
EH: Penny writes comics.
PY: The positive and the negative of relationships is a constant theme. Will any of the characters find true love?
EH: Well, even if the characters meet someone and find true love, you never know what happens afterwards. I love romantic comedies, but I often leave the theater thinking, “well that will never last.” So far we’ve only really talked about issues with dating, but I’d like to get to the point where we can explore some of the challenges and complexities of long-term relationships.
DF: Well, we’ve explored monogamy and now marriage...up next is types. I guess we’ll have to see where the story goes in Esther’s mind but having characters find true love will be boring in my opinion. Something has to shake up the drama a little bit for the reader to be entertained.
PY: What are your "recipes" for long-term relationships?
EH: I am glad someone finally asked my opinion about this. I would say the most important things for long-term relationships are intimacy, honesty, and consistency. I think of intimacy as the capacity to love and be loved, as well as the ability to be selfless within a relationship and prioritize the other person’s needs.
The longer you are in a relationship I also think developing a strong partnership becomes important. I think of partnership as being separate from the relationship. It’s basically a very unromantic thing –- setting collective goals and working towards them together. These are making decisions about things such as what city you are going to live in, buying property, whether or not to have kids. I think it’s not uncommon for two people to love each other a lot and have a great relationship, but not work well together in making long term decisions that consider the other person.
DF: I can’t say it any better then Esther did but I’ll add one thing: good sex.
PY: What comic books are you currently following?
DF: Do you really want to know them all? My favorites right now are Ultimate Spider-Man, X-Factor (Rictor...sigh), Wolverine & the X-Men (natch), Invincible, Rachel Rising (I love anything Terry Moore), Batman, Saga, Earth-2, Wonder Woman, All New X-Men, Uncanny Avengers and The Walking Dead. I’m really looking forward to Guardians of the Galaxy and Nova too!
PY: What else do you have in the works and anything else you'd like to add?
DF: Well we are already under way for our next installment in the series, Darren and Dan, so expect to see that in a few months.