Pepe the Frog's Creator Talks Making Zine History
“Zines are a great way to do whatever the hell you want,” says Matt Furie, creator of Boy’s Club.
Selection from the cover of Boy’s Club published by Fantagraphics. Photo courtesy of Matt Furie.
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Pepe the Frog, one of the main characters of Matt Furie’s cult classic Boy’s Club, has taken on a life of his own in viral meme infamy. But the Boy’s Club books themselves, which feature four best buds as they smoke, drink, puke, and party their way through life, started in the form of small-run zines, and have gone on to achieve immense underground success. The Creators Project recently spoke to Furie about the humble beginnings of Boy’s Club and how to succeed in the zine scene.
The foundation of what would become Boy’s Club “started in a little zine I made on Microsoft Paint that was called Playtime,” says Furie. “And it featured Brett and Pepe and I made a really small run of these funny little drawings.” When it was time to turn that work into something more substantial, Furie says he took inspiration from “the zine culture that I saw in San Francisco. I would go ride my bike to the Kinkos and make them [issues of Boy’s Club] myself.”
Furie says he was surprised by the success of Boy’s Club. “It started off pretty small and a lot of the jokes, and the vibe of the comic book itself, was really just to entertain myself and my friends. They’re just little critters who represent my early-20s lifestyle. And I was doing it because I thought it would be fun and funny, and it grew from there. I handmade the first run of the first issue, and then a guy named Tim Goodyear up in Portland, Oregon published the first book through a publishing company called Teenage Dinosaur. He gave me half the run of the book, so I wound up with boxes and boxes of the book that I got to sell myself.”
For inspiration into the content and creation of the books, Furie says he was “big into Paper Rad at the time, and I also like the comic book Frank by Jim Woodring, and that was pretty inspiring in terms of the look of the comic characters. The characters just evolved as I was drawing them. I had a vague idea, but there aren’t really storylines, they don’t really do anything, and it’s all just sheer absurdity and stupidity. So it was fun to just figure out the characters as I moved along.”
These days Furie works in fine art, showing original pieces at group shows in Los Angeles. But he’s interested in returned to sequential art, “I was looking at some Robert Crumb drawings and I thought it would be neat—because Boy’s Club is pretty streamlined, almost coloring book style, very minimal—so I thought it would be interesting to get into something more cross-hatched and densely detailed, more shadowed, more backgrounds. So I haven’t started that, but it’s definitely in the cards.”
Furie has advice for readers who may want to start their own zines. “Just do it for yourself, do it for fun. Half the battle is having a little creative space set up. I was working out of my bedroom for years and years, and if you have a little desk and your pens are ready, your paper’s ready, you do need a little habitat for creativity. You don’t want to get a spark, and then sit there and try to figure out where your paper is, where your pens are. You have to have a station ready. The funny thing about zines is that they can be anything you want. You don’t have to go through a publisher, or anything. Zines are a great way to do whatever the hell you want.”
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