Interview: Ignatz-Nominated Jesse England Talks Technological Mediation
Prism Comics caught up with Jesse England, creator of the Ignatz-nominated Outsidewolves series, over e-mail to discuss his first published collection of short narrative works that will include his already released webcomic, Obscurant.
REBECCA KAPLAN: The beginning is the easiest place to start. So, how did you break in to furry comics? And, if this applies, do you have a furry origin story?
JESSE ENGLAND: It started years ago when I began to post simpler drawings on gallery sites and social media. Sequential imagery interested me and I was soon making short gag comics and simple comic strips. In this era, it is not hard to post images or comics online and I’m fortunate to have garnered many eyes on my works thanks to other people sharing them. That is my current level of success of “breaking in,” and I hope to solidify that success by following up with longer, more considered stories.
I found out about furry after doing an AltaVista search for werewolves back in 2000. Among typical depictions of high fantasy werewolves in medieval settings, I saw a nude wolf man gazing back at me from a bathtub. I immediately recognized this was a thing for people: a route of self expression for many parts of one’s life, from overt sensual exploration to benign, idealized domestic futures.
KAPLAN: What was the genesis of Obscurant?
ENGLAND: The entire story is a condensed narrative of true events. In this time, it is distressing to see untrue reports and rumors spread that are contrary to reality. Marginal conspiracy theorists and cranks used to be limited to things like leaving mimeographed flyers under windshield wipers or littering miserable tracts around phone booths. But now, anyone can publish content in the same social media stream as people who are actually accountable to the truth. As I’ve sought out news articles from accountable sources to counter rumors heard from distant family and acquaintances, I’ve frequently run into paywalls. There is no small amount of irony that real journalism must be paid for (as it should be,) but lies from charlatans flow freely. The working title of the comic was “Shit is always free.”
In this regard, I was reminded of growing up as a closeted youth, when homophobic, religious zealots and other clueless people spread ignorance about LGBTQI people’s reality. But I knew the truth, my truth. And among other things, I had to defeat scrambled cable television in order to see honest depictions of human sexuality in the adults-only HBO series Real Sex. As I was writing the comic, I learned about obscurantism, which encapsulated a lot about conservative approaches to sex and gender education.
KAPLAN: You have released the first vignette, titled Obscurant, online. However, you plan on turning it into an even longer work that will be released as a book in 2022. Can you tell fans what to expect from your first book? How will the short story connect to the larger collection?
ENGLAND: Most of my works end up referencing technological mediation in some way. In my life, the shift from copy-based physical media to centralized, streaming media has been the biggest redefinition of what it means to have access to information. This still-untitled book will be a collection of short observations about the changing media landscape. I hope I can highlight the good and the bad of our media status quo.
KAPLAN: I love the “I’ll send you an article” gag/comment on modern culture. Why is this theme important for you to explore?
ENGLAND: I’m not sure I intended that as a gag, but I’ll own it! It is important for me to share truthful information with people. I want people to make informed decisions about their lives from truthful sources.
KAPLAN: How would you define furry comics?
ENGLAND: That is something only the individual can define. To speak for myself, that would involve any comic with anthropomorphic characters which are usually animal inspired, and made by people who inhabit furry social spaces of expression. There are comics that only have anthropomorphic characters, but the artist has no visible connection to virtual or physical furry spaces, or perhaps openly distances themselves from them. There are certain visual styles from furry artists that are more plainly anthropomorphic- Ironically, more human in shape- than comics about animal people originating from more mainstream sources. For me, it is a combination of the author’s sincerity, social presence, and anthropomorphic style that defines a furry comic.
KAPLAN: Do you have a have favorite furry comic?
ENGLAND: In terms of narrative comics, the following come to mind easily: The comics Albion Fuzz and Bohemials were closely followed when they were published. I followed narrative works by Artdecade during earlier years, and I continue to follow his works today. I also follow works by Austin Holcomb, Iris Jay, Talbert Johnson, Jen Lee, Marlo Mogensen, Nero Villagallos O’Reilly, Paul Peng, and Alabaster Pizzo. I can recommend their works wholeheartedly.
You can read England’s work at his Tumblr, where shorter comics and drawings are also posted, as well as on his Twitter and Telegram channels listed below:
- Obscurant: https://outsidewolves.tumblr.com/post/652707844886560768
- Tumblr: https://outsidewolves.tumblr.com/
- Twitter: @outsidewolves
Obscurant leads the way for a planned 2022 book release. If you are interested in reading more of England’s webcomics, his social media accounts are regularly updated with new comics, as well as information about his upcoming release.