James Stokoe: Getting His Won Ton On

James Stokoe: Getting His Won Ton On

Once again into the abyss, the spacefarers of Wonton Soup Johnny Boyo and Deac have left the safety of spaceport to venture out across space as truckers.

That’s right.

Space Truckers.

And as both a way to break up the monotony of deep space travel and a creative twist on a must to live, Johnny Boyo has the skills of a master-class chef – cooking up some of the most exotic and engorging meals you’ve ever seen.

Released earlier this month, Wonton Soup Vol. 2: Hyper Wonton Soup 2 Twoton Soup: The Quickening 2… Soup (yes, that’s actual title) is James Stokoe second major effort in the world of comics, building upon work in anthologies and the original Eisner-nominated Wonton Soup book. Between then he’s learned a lot, earned a lot, ate a lot, and even got kicked out the United States. For all this (and more), we talked with Stokoe by email from his home in Vancouver.

Newsarama: Let’s start with an easy one – what are you working on today, James?

James Stokoe: Today I'm working on about 2 feet of subway sandwich. As far as comics I'm drawing a one page Rogue Trooper comic just for the fun of it.

I get caught up in the mood sometimes and end up drawing and coloring six pages of something that I have no way to get published and no business drawing. I did a Godzilla thing recently too. It's what I do to fuel my Genesis device, keeping me young and beautiful forever.

NRAMA: You are quite something, Mr. Stokoe. Inbetween subs and your “Genesis device”, what made you come back for a second helping of Wonton Soup?

JS: I always planned on a 2nd book, it was just about getting around to it. I had a couple ideas for a fun scene and it just seemed to snowball from there.

Every book I do seems to start that way, until I run out of steam and work on something else for several months, or I reach the page cap. Either way, it's probably not the most efficient way to make comics, but for a spontaneity driven book like Wonton it's kind of essential.

NRAMA: This new installment focuses less on cooking and more on space trucking. What are Johnny Boyo and Deac up to in this one?

JS: There's a lot of drug abuse for some reason. They end up overdoing it on some space juju and wake up a week later stranded on an alien planet. A good portion of the book goes into Deacon’s origins as a black market sex farmer and how he became the sexual conquistador he is today.

It's some hard science fiction 'me time' for the characters.

NRAMA: Having read the advance copy Oni sent over, I was surprised at how different this was than the first one. Yes, the characters are still there – but in this one they’re on a mindbender of a different kind of adventure – like a Fear & Loathing In Outer Space. What were you thinking when you did this story?

JS: Between the first book and the second one I went rogue and did about 300 pages of other work, so I wasn't in the same zone when I got back to Wonton. When I started the first book, I had it pegged as part of a bigger sweeping story, but it's evolved into something much more loose. Every volume is stand alone and holds a 'first thought is your best thought' policy.

It's like the Kerouac method where he taped sheets of paper into 100 foot long strips and fed them into his typewriter so that he wouldn't have to stop and reload. I can relate to that.... I never stop to sketch or plan or thumb out a page and very rarely do stand alone pinups. Pretty much every idea I come up with ends up in a panel somewhere.

I've found that approach works best for a book that only comes out once every 2 years. It's like a standalone quick snack of a comic, where you want a handful of fun scenes without all the baggage that a regular ongoing series comes with.

NRAMA: This series features some crazy recipes – are you a bit of a wild chef on your own?

JS: I exist entirely on a diet of Shasta and Tofurky.

NRAMA: Ooooooookay…

This is quite an unpredictable book --- far from a 3-act structure, this reads as a more stream-of-consciousness kind of book with you jumping from one page to the next. Did you do much planning before starting this book, or was it more organic?

JS: It's important for me not to overthink things, at least with a book like Wonton, so I guess it was more organic. I've always maintained that Wonton is my dick around book, where a thick solid plot is never really addressed (or sometimes exist). It's more about keeping the characters solid and the ideas. Basically, the books exist to read on a hammock with a fruity cocktail during a hot summers day. Cool island jam comics.

NRAMA: What are you working on now that Wonton Soup 2 is finished?

JS: I've got three other books on the way. I've been holed up in my unfurnished basement apartment growing a beard, eating instant curry and drawing while sprawled out on my heated floors.

I'm a couple issues into a color Wonton side book called War Wonton Soup, focusing on the Mongolius Grahm character and his time stuck in the middle of a never ending alien war with his army pal, Buttertubs. It's like The ‘Nam in space, with some Wonton cooking antics thrown into the pot.

Then there's Murderbullets, which is about a 6500 year old artist/journalist who's sent around the future to draw comics for the gods.

Also, there's Orc Stain, which is my most darling child. It's about an orc who questions the warlike orc culture and goes off in search of his identity. I've been mulling over the main storyline and figuring out the 'world' or whatever for the last couple of years... there's a lot of classic archetypes, like orcs and wood nymphs etc, but I'm trying to pull it all together in a completely different way than standard fantasy type stuff. There's the classic 'epic quest' to string everything together, but I'm going to be focusing the book more on the bizarre society of orcs and all their rituals and way of life. It generally annoys me whenever orcs are sidelined in a fantasy story for thespians with beards, so I feel the need to give them the entire spotlight just once.

Hopefully it all works out. Ultimately, it's up to readers to decide if a story where characters carry around giant severed monster dongs as signs of power can be successful.

NRAMA: Before we go, I have to ask…. You mentioned off-handedly in the book about being deported from the U.S. Is this true – and if so, can you tell us about it?

JS: Yeah, Johnny Law caught up with me down in El Paso and I was booted out for five years. Apparently they think my extremely nerdy views on orcs in the fantasy genre is too criminally radical.

Vancouver is my current stalking grounds. I'll be back state-side eventually, if the intro/dedication to Homeland Security in Wonton 2 doesn't get me in trouble again.

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