Literary criticism is a fickle mistress. With so much content accumulated throughout history and so many schools of thought dedicated to determining the aesthetics or particular function of a piece of human creative ingenuity, it is certainly easy to overlook or dismiss whole sections of artistic activity based on nothing more than a bandwagon’s disdain for the canonized remembrance of eras as they are imagined in a normative way. I certainly think this is true in all forms of art, and of course, to the medium most pertinent to these digital pages: comics. Indeed, the reexamination of comic work that was once dismissed as too childish, or too violent, or too garish, or too light on the substance to think about seriously lends credence to the notion that this art form isn’t fixed in time, but continually progressing towards… well, something that is intangible, but recognizable all the same.

I’ve certainly had the chance to take a deep dive in the minutiae and insight of the early ’90s comic scene due to the breezy encyclopedic and deeply thoughtful commentary provided by creators/auteurs  JIM RUGG and ED PISKOR over at their fascinating YouTube channel CARTOONIST KAYFABE. Defined as an “audio/visual inside scoop,” Cartoonist Kayfabe is deceptively simple in its conceit, but remarkably complex in its execution. The set-up of each episode is the same: Rugg and Piskor take an issue of Wizard magazine and discuss its contents. This is where the magic truly happens. Rather than take a linear approach, Rugg and Piskor cull their knowledge (and comics collection) to weave masterclasses that connect past and present, that pay respect to the masters and the young pups who were making names for themselves in the early ’90s, and, simply, display the sheer diversity of comics that diverge far from the mainstream.

With each episode being more than an hour long (some go as long as two-and-a-half hours), Cartoonist Kayfabe demands serious time investment. But viewers are rewarded with laid back, meditative, and often hilarious dissertations that enlighten as much as they amuse. I had the fortune to chat with Ed and Jim to ask them about the inspiration for the channel, fan reactions, and how they are bringing back an appreciation for an era of comics that so many tried to forget, but just couldn’t.

AJ FROST: Jim and Ed… it’s so nice to talk with you today about your Cartoonist Kayfabe YouTube channel. When exactly did you guys launch it? Back in November [2018], right? Or December?

ED PISKOR: I count the days beginning from November 5th. We put up a trailer or two before then but that was just our scam to make sure we had a big subscriber base by the time we put out our first episode. So November 5th is our anniversary, our birth date.

FROST: For those who might not be so hip to the term, what does kayfabe mean? All I know is that it’s a wrestling term. How did you decide on kayfaybe being part of the title to this channel… or maybe it’s more appropriate to say growing multimedia juggernaut?

King Kayfabers Jim Rugg (L) and Ed Piskor (R).

PISKOR: I recently heard the term ‘brain trust.’ And I kind call it that because the audience is like our backup brains in a lot of ways. If we have sticking points or something, then they’ll come through with the answers real quick. It’s much appreciated. But Jim if you want to handle that kayfabe question, then I’ll just take you back off of you.

JIM RUGG: I was a lapsed wrestling fan. Podcasts got me back into guys like Piper, Austin, Jericho, Bruce Prichard, and now Jimmy Cornette. And they would talk about storytelling in matches. I make superhero comics. Fight scenes. Wrestling matches. Can I tell a story in a fight scene? How? Kayfabe is the language of wrestling. It’s their storytelling language. Its the difference between what the fans see and what is actually happening. And when it works – storytelling magic happens. In real life, Bret Hart and Stone Cold didn’t hate each other. But in Kayfabe, they did. And they made us care. Kayfabe is wrestling storytelling.

Plus, alliteration.

PISKOR: We may even be abusing the term in a way because kayfabe means fake. But we’re the direct opposite of that. And, you’ll always hear us talk like, ‘I have to break kayfabe for a minute.’ That’s almost like a signal where something real is about to be said. And I think that that’s something that the viewership responds to because paper is a dwindling resource at this point.  People say comics is or not at its healthiest, so a lot of cartoonists really want to keep their jobs, so to speak. So they’re not going to talk any real shit.

And by the way, Jim is not talking shit. I’m not putting that on him.

RUGG: I might talk shit.

PISKOR: I don’t wanna put words in your mouth.

FROST: When did the idea really crystallize to not only discuss Wizard magazines from the perspective of fans, but also to deconstruct, not just the magazine as an artifact, but Wizard as an insight into what was happening at a certain time in comics history and American popular culture in general? I know that you guys have been friends for a long time so I’m sure you guys just would talk about these things casually, but when did the idea pop that this would actually be interesting fodder for the masses to absorb online?

RUGG: I went to a show in Baltimore, probably in September or October, and Ed mentioned it. We had been going through Wizard the last couple of years and Ed mentioned how it could work as a YouTube video. And as soon as he said it was like, ‘Yeah man! Count me in!’ because it is what we were doing anyway. It was what we were talking about and going through; revisiting Wizard was entertaining.

And then the response… I don’t know how unexpected it was for Ed but that’s been something that I really went into I’m not sure what to expect on that side. It was more of like I like talking comics. It’s a good excuse to hang out with that on a regular basis. Let’s do this. And then once we started, we started to look at what is the value of Wizard.  It’s not just the face value of Wizard, because what value does it have at this point?

We started to say, ‘Oh yeah, the ‘90s were great. There were records sales, Image starts, and it’s a fun piece of history that’s not covered much. Usually, the ‘90s are just a point of ridicule. And so the chance to be like, ‘Hey, there’s actually a bunch of awesome stuff that happened and maybe there was so much stuff going on that we forgot a lot of it…’ It became pretty rich just as a conversation starter for us. I think at least for me.

PISKOR: Two summers ago, I went to a comic book sale where everything’s a dollar. So, I go through these boxes and I just happened to see first the Wizard magazine that I ever bought. When I pulled it out of the box and opened it up, it really made me feel dizzy, like re-firing these synapses that haven’t been stimulated in twenty years. That exact issue—issue #37—I read and reread and reread so many times. And it’s the first time I saw it after twenty-five years. So then at that shop, I just bought every single copy that of Wizard they had. I was able to re-accumulate the first 100 issues really fast and cheap. Like, we’re probably going to change that now and we’re going to make we’re going to make Wizard sexy for the back issue hunters [LAUGHS].

I think I put the first hundred issues together for like $110 or something like that. And when I when I got those hundred issues and started reading through them, there really is a narrative that takes place through it; almost like a soap opera in and of itself. There are all sorts of highs and lows, dramas that take place. Jim Shooter starts and kills his comic book companies every couple of issues. At this point [as we’re preparing to shoot Episode 16], we just established Image Comics five issues ago and we’re already into the second generation with these issues… It’s staggering how fast everything happened.

And then eventually we will get to the point where the bloom is off the rose, so to speak, and adjustments have to be made to the market. And that will be interesting to talk about. CrossGen? Who’s thought about CrossGen in the past 15 years?

RUGG: It’s amazing how that stuff was so big for a minute and then just gone, erased for history. Because you’re right: Nobody ever heard CrossGen in ten years.

PISKOR: And once again, not to put words in Jim’s mouth, but I’m definitely cutting promos on them. Talk about making artwork for your king. You know like sitting like a pauper saying, ‘Yes sir, I will I will come down to Florida and live in your cult complex.’

RUGG: You talk about the things collapsing. Pretty soon, finger pointing will pop up at that time as well. Whenever stuff starts to go bad in comics, it’s every man for himself and everybody else’s fault. It gets dark. The whole landscape changes whenever the distributors go away. And at that point it is people swearing off comics and a lot of drama.

PISKOR: The last issue we covered (#15), Marvel just bought the trading card company Fleer for $250 million. I think, like, two years after that, they really wish they had that $250 million again. [LAUGHS].

RUGG: Having hindsight means you can just watch the bad moves being made. That one does stand out as a bad one.

FROST: I want to get into your headspace as you both go through these issues of Wizard. Does the reading of these issues of take you back to reading this magazine for the first time? Can you picture yourselves reading the magazine as you did when you were younger? And now reading the magazine as creators…. What I’m trying to get at here, I guess, is how much does the nostalgia factor play into your re-reads of Wizard?

Typical view and subject material for the Cartoonist Kayfabe Channel. Still from “Wizard #10” episode.

RUGG: There’s a lot that I didn’t remember. But there’s a lot of this stuff time wise where a lot of this stuff happens real fast. In my mind, that second wave of Image guys were like a year in (although it really was only four months). So… the timeline is very different than the way I remember it. But there’s just a lot of stuff I didn’t look at. We go through the news items now; that’s one of my favorite sections. And that’s where you see everything that’s happening when people are fired, when companies start, etc. I just don’t remember most of that stuff.  It was off my radar. I had things I cared about—like Bart Sears’ “Brutes & Babes”— and the new Image book or whatever. And then there’ll be other things where it’s like I don’t remember any of this. Like whole pages of video game stuff or the massive trading card sections. It’s eye-opening going through page by page now because some parts are burned into my brain and other parts I have no memory of them at all.

FROST: So many trading card ads, ya know?

PISKOR: For sure. I don’t want to cut promos too much man but that “Hollywood Heroes” thing is like seven or eight pages. And it’s just like…You couldn’t put one other comic book thing in your damn comic book magazine? You have to have all this speculation stuff about TV shows that may be in development. That shit is just so whack.

But for me, we’re not quite to the Wizard magazines that I remember when I was a kid. But I could answer it in a different way: My folks didn’t have endless resources when it came to finances and they did what they could. But looking back at that stuff, it makes me actually mad that I fell victim to that in a way. Like, I convinced my parents to pay five times the market the cover price for certain stuff. You really see how kids were taken for a ride and, you know, a lot of a lot of the gross stuff. There are things that we’ve seen that really feel even close to scandal.

FROST: Like what?

RUGG: Well, there are guys who write columns and also run a company where they’re selling the books at a big markup that they’re promoting. They’re saying: ‘This is the best investment you can have.’ And then the page across from that column is the guy’ company selling the comic books at like ten times markup. And they know it’s bullshit, There is stuff that we’ve talked about already that we’ve cut out because of fear of libel.

But it’s corrupt. It’s like Ed said in that it’s transparent in what was happening then. They were definitely aware that it was kids reading this magazine who didn’t know shit.

PISKOR: Yeah AJ, I don’t know if you got a chance to see that the Comics Journal issue that we did?

FROST: I did.

PISKOR: OK. So, there’s this one part where Gary Groth is talking about that Mile High Comics catalog where the people who are talking about intending comics [to be an investment] are also at the end mentioning how they plan to buy a thousand copies of HardCorps  #1. You know, that’s schlockmeister stuff. The cool thing that came from the death of all of those kinds of shops man is just that you know the real people are in it right now. In this town that I moved to when I was a teenager, it was it was like say 95 or 96, and this really isn’t an exaggeration, there were three comic shops in a town of like seven thousand people, all within 600 feet of one another.

And all those comic shops went away probably within the year that we moved here. These were people who were serial entrepreneurs: before the comic shops were comic shops, they were trading card shops, and then afterward one of them just became like a regular newsstand. The other one completely went away. And then the third one became a shop for card games like Magic: The Gathering and Pokémon.

FROST: Can you tell me the typical setup and process for each episode? How many weeks does it take to prepare? How long does it usually take to film, edit and then get the final product up on YouTube?

PISKOR: Wednesday is generally the day that I’ll do my research for the issue that we’ll typically cover on Thursday. So I’ll take however much time I need for that. And then we shoot it in my studio. And so while Jim is on his way to the crib, I start to set up the camera stuff. I have lighting rigs and special holders for our camera that point downwards. There’s a lot of stuff to set up, so I make sure I basically get everything set up just at the point that Jim arrives. But even before that, we have to go through our boxes of comics. I would bet that together, we might have like 80,000 comics that we can individually go through and pull to show off and to do a little show-and-tell with which with each issue.  Then we will shoot the show.

When we did the Comics Journal episodes… no exaggeration, it was about seven hours of recording that we did. So we had to break it up into two chunks: Jim took a chunk and I took a chunk. But then when it comes to the editing, it takes me probably 16 or 17 hours to edit. But I do it all at once. Like, this next round is gonna be my edit. So, for this next episode, we’ll record it on a Thursday and then I’ll draw comics Friday and Saturday. That will buy me the time to devote my entire Sunday from my waking moment until I finish it before I go to bed.

We have a queue, a weapons cache of videos that are fully produced and ready to go. But it was really important for us to maintain a regular schedule. So we did five episodes and fully produced them and had them online in the directory before the first one even came out. So we’ve been maintaining that strategy so that we can just keep things coming out on a regular basis.

FROST: Did you guys have experience with audio engineering and video editing before you started this channel? Or are you learning as you’re going along?

RUGG: We did a podcast a couple of years ago for a while. It’s not technical, what we knew going into this. So, in a lot of ways, we are learning as we go but it’s not the very first thing we’ve done yet.

PISKOR: I mean, it is a challenge. We’re teaching ourselves something new and I think that it’s a pretty fun exercise. I’m feeling the kind of creative growth that I felt when I was like learning how to draw so to speak. Like when I figured out how the biceps and triceps worked and reacted with one another.

I don’t know editing or lighting, but even our verbal delivery is getting stronger.

There’s still stuff room to grow. And there will probably be room to grow for the foreseeable future. I’ve had no experience with audio visual. In fact, part of the reason of doing this that YouTube is way more involved than an Instagram or a Facebook. But it is a social network of sorts. And because of these barriers like cartoonists’ general shyness and the technical aspects of cameras and microphones and all that stuff, there aren’t really cartoonists who are messing around with this medium. The stuff that’s out there is really just like customer chatter.

There’s nothing for me out there that I could just queue up while I’m sitting there drawing and now we’ve created it. We’ve created a system where, when it’s inking time, I could just bust out the webcam and livestream. And all these other creators pop in and we’re just like we’re all making comics. Or there’s this guy who designs wrestlers’ costumes for the WWE who pops in and kicks it with us. There are animators that come through and it works like that. But as far as I know, Jim and I are pretty much some of the very few cartoonists who are playing around with this platform.

And it would be cool if others start so that I could have something to listen to while I’m grinding on these last twenty X-Men pages.

FROST: I can tell that since the beginning of the channel that you guys have definitely found multiple outlets to experiment. Do you both see this channel as being another outlet for not only talking about comics (and art in general), but also collaborating on ideas with other creators?

RUGG: Yeah, I think so. It’s very much at the beginning, so it’s hard to tell what we’ll actually cover. But whenever we have an idea—and we’ve had several different things come up where one of the shows up with an idea—we’ll say let’s try this or let’s do that and we do. That’s pretty awesome. We sometimes do this weekly show where we talk about what working on now is something that’s new; we’ve only done two of those [as of February 2019]. You know, they’re much more current in that we don’t have the queue of those set up ahead of time. They’re very much like, ‘What you do this week?’

We’re working on some special episodes. We talked about the [Katsuhiro] Otomo series that we have in the works focusing on Akira. I could see us doing that almost anything that captures our interests and then bringing other cartoonists in whenever we’re able to. We have a list of things we want to do. So this is definitely the beginning and I can imagine quite a few variations happening.

PISKOR: We’ve confirmed a few comic con appearances later this year and the channel’s going to give me a chance to really use these trips for real value. Not to be like a flea market hustler, but I’ll be able to go to shows and have interviews lined up. And, you know, everybody likes us. [LAUGHS]. So, anybody that we want to talk to, we can have access to. It would just simply be a matter of getting them over their shyness. But I know that I can do it because I’ll just crack them up real quick up front and then we’re off to the races.

That’s the plan for me. We’re going to Heroes Con and I’m going to keep up with the proprietors of that shop and see who’s coming and I’ll make sure that I get in that we get an hour with everybody that we want to. The more viewers we get, the more attractive it is; the more subscribers, we get the more attractive it is for them to participate because they’ll be able to get their message out more and the interviews that Jim and I will do with them… we speak their language, so it’s going to have a different tone then like almost anything else that you would read with the person.

We can really get into some invisible shit. Not like in a way of unearthing some sort of scandal. But I’m saying I know how to get all these people super comfortable. We’ll be able to put together interviews with both sort of stratum of creators: the mainstream creators that we give a fuck about (and I don’t give a fuck about most of them). I’m not going to be interviewing a lot of those cats, but I have a fondness for some of those guys, certainly the ones that I liked growing up. But you know when we go to the indie show, I plan on being behind the table very little and plan on talking my head off all day every day while we’re there and just accumulating footage for the Kayfabe channel.

FROST: Are you going to be at San Diego Comic Con this year?

PISKOR: I only go they invite me and I’m due up. It’s like every five years and I’m due up next year. If I get that invite, you get to get to bring somebody with you. So Jim, don’t make plans. We do have like all this semi-professional equipment. That’ll be the checked baggage [LAUGHS].

RUGG: We should have our intern by then for the bigger rig [LAUGHS].

FROST: What has your reaction been so far to the fan response to the shows? Because you are getting a bit of a fan community. I’ve seen fan-made comics and I know that a fan made the graphic that now opens every episode. Is the reaction a surprise that you didn’t expect when the channel started?  

RUGG: I really wasn’t sure what to expect. It’s been the most active response I’ve had on any social media. I think it’s just the nature of YouTube because there’s a running time. We broadcast our recordings live so people are in a chat room and there’s a real natural community created from that. And it’s been great. Like Ed said, we’ll be in the middle of a recording and forget a name of a book or when something was published and we just throw it out live to the chat and always get an answer.

Seeing the fake Wizard covers coming in… that came out of nowhere; all this stuff happens fast. I think somebody drew one and it was like, ‘Oh yeah why doesn’t everybody do these?’ And then today, we have ten of them. So that’s awesome.

It’s been very fun. And it has been a surprise. But you know, we expected something. We just weren’t sure exactly what. The response has been great. So it’s important to keep the thing going forward. The response drives stuff. If we see that one segment or episode or special gets a better response, that helps us know what’s happening too. Hopefully, it goes both ways.

PISKOR: We just talk the way that we talk, but there is a language developing. It’s becoming a community. There are emails that are coming to us from email names that have the word ‘kayfabe’ in it. And then there are Instagram names where people are like ‘The Kayfabe Cartoonist’ and stuff like that. And then with some of the fan art that comes in, it’s this most inside baseball stuff. Like, Jim and I would dash off a sentence that we didn’t even think about and then there will be fan art of stuff, which does make me want to just make sure that I pay attention to the things that I say. You never know if there’s gonna be like, a topless Jim Rugg with a fireman outfit. [LAUGHS].

RUGG: Yeah I can live with that.

FROST: Has there been one particular moment while recording that has stuck out as, ‘Oh man! I can’t believe I’m doing this right now?’ or ‘I never thought that this could be my job?’ Just like… that realization where all the stuff that you loved growing up could actually be something that could be turned into a career?

PISKOR: I think of the channel of something that can help a career. You have to give me just like a little bit of slack. You have to let me have a hobby in life, kinda. Because I obsess about everything I do and right now, this is just super fun. I am serious about it, but I don’t want to think too seriously about it. I seem to turn everything that I do into work and this is just a fun thing. The good stuff that’s coming from it is a not necessarily planned for but I’m not going to shy away from it either. I sort of see how this works. Whenever a new video gets posted and then I see my Amazon sales go up; there’s a correlation. I’ll just chalk it up for a happy accident, but I’m not going to quit my comics career to be a vlogger or something like that.

RUGG: I agree with that. It’s not a job in any way. My favorite thing in the world is drawing comics so everything else is a facilitator for that. But it reminds me like when I was a kid I didn’t know anybody that was into comics. I was like I don’t know twenty-one or something before I actually met somebody who made a living from comics. So having this channel and community… it’s the greatest thing in the world because like there was zero chance of this whenever I was thirteen and comics were my favorite thing on Earth and there was nobody to share that with.

And now we have it. You talk about your hobbies and your nerd interests and loves or whatever. That’s what this channel is. It’s incredible. Just the concept of it wouldn’t even work ten years ago. So I love that part of it. It’s is a chance for me to basically talk to somebody about this stuff. And by somebody, I mean everybody watching. Basically, it’s a chance to share this with everybody and we get a lot back from that as well.

PISKOR: To add an addendum to that: in the same way that George Foreman made more money off of selling grills than he did at pugilism or whatever… If this thing is this becomes the thing, I’m not going to sneeze at it. I’m not gonna turn it away. It’s just like that in order for something like that to happen, this thing has to grow exponentially.

Now here’s the thing: I’ve detected exponential growth already. Numbers don’t lie. When we when we posted the first episodes, I would pay attention to these numbers routinely and it would take us maybe two weeks to get to two thousand viewers. And now it takes it takes a day. The channel is clearly growing. And if it maintains that trajectory, it will be a viable side business, something that that can help pay the rent in between comic release dates. So I’m not going to shy away from it if it grows in a way that it is viable.

FROST: What has the response been from other creators and people in the industry? Are they now giving this era of comics a reconsideration? I’m not talking about people like Michel Fiffe obviously because of the work he did with Bloodstrike: Brutalists.


RUGG: We got to him a while ago.

PISKOR: Jim and I are just doing it’s an extension of what we’ve already been doing, a rapport that’s been built for fifteen years. And whenever we go to comic shows, we don’t even try to separate ourselves from one another and just go off and talk comics with other people. There really aren’t that many people who talk comics the way that we do—even in the game—and we always seem to gravitate back toward one another at these shows.

And then a circle develops around us and we’re the dudes steering the conversation and exciting everybody in the cipher. And whenever we would do that, people you would never think about would start to express their opinions and their love for this or that. I did this strip about Todd McFarlane’s unsung contribution to comics. For me, the first Alan Moore, Frank Miller, Neil Gaiman, and Dave Sim comics that I ever read were Spawn comics. I put that comic out there and the strip goes viral. Dozens and dozens of other creators said, ‘Yeah. That was it that was my exact reading experience too.’

People take their own situations for granted. When they find out that other people had those same feelings and articulate them in this way, then that creates a situation where they could express themselves in the same way that Jim said: that he didn’t talk with anybody about comics until he was in his twenties. I’m the same way. And I would bet that many other people were too. Even though millions of comics were trading hands at that time and I learned about Image Comics from football players, that doesn’t mean that the football players were reading them.

RUGG: The ‘90s were also the last moment of that shared culture. Right before the Internet happens and everything fractures, we all just have our own groups. I think there’s a lot of nostalgia for that reason. You know anybody of a certain age that likes comics, whether they may or may not admit to loving those comics in the 90s, all looked at the same stuff because there wasn’t any other option.

FROST: Do you think a lot of the interest in those early ‘90s comics have just come back because characters like Deadpool have such across the board cultural awareness now?

PISKOR: I feel like the Deadpool people and the people who do that… They’re all noobs. I don’t see 35 or 40-year-old guys walking going around shows in Deadpool costumes. It’s the perfect excuse for a 20-year-old boy to put on a mask and be a complete asshole. And that is like advice that I can give to anybody attending a show: steer as far clear of the costumed Deadpool people as you can because those kids really do take that opportunity to be assholes. And they will make you feel very self-conscious when they start pointing out your flaws like a 3-year-old unfiltered baby.

FROST: We touched on this before, but I’m sure you guys both hope that the channel keeps on growing and evolving. But was there ever any intended, not going to say end goal, but some intended target that you hope to hit?

RUGG: I think six million subscribers was our initial target [LAUGHS].

PISKOR: With almost everything that I get I do, I’m just trying to come through things with pure, earnest energy. And the goal is to just record some honest comic talk. I try to translate the conversations that I have with Jim in an entertaining way. I had no doubt that people would dig it in an online capacity in the comfort of their own. It would definitely be cool if this channel keeps growing.

RUGG: I totally agree. You know we’ve talked about covering basically the entirety of the ’90s in Wizard. So that’s a possibility. We’ll see if everyone’s enthusiasm stays up for that. It’s been funny because the first year of Wizard was pretty fun and then issues 13-14 were bad. We finished recording those and it was like, ‘Wow man. I don’t know how we’re going to stick with Wizard.’ Fortunately, it picks back up, but it’s hard to tell if we will make it through all that or not. It is about 100 issues a Wizard.

PISKOR: So the thing that I liked though is that our conversation really carries those episodes through. What Jim is describing is that those issues are thin. We get all these hot-shotted issues where it’s like: Here’s a Jim Lee interview! Here’s a Jim Valentino interview! And these are like the biggest guys in comics at that moment. And then you get some enthusiastic jobber interviews or something. And like they’re the creators that we all know that much about. When that happens, then it’s up to us to carry the thing. And I think those episodes are successful for those reasons.

But if we cover a hundred issues, there’s a narrative that’s playing out there. Jim and I are incorporating some of our own positions in terms of where we were those moments. When issue one comes out I’m nine years old and Jim is for 14 or 15. By the hundredth issue, Jim is already making his first efforts of publishing and selling comics in small press capacity going to conventions.  And with issue 100, that was out in January 2000 and I’m about to high school in May or June and then I’m off to the Kubert School in August. We became cartoonists in that period. And the conversation is going to get a little bit richer as these issues go by. I think Palmer’s Picks, which is the real oasis…

RUGG: It really is.

PISKOR: It allows us to talk about real shit. And I think that might go away after issue 75. I wouldn’t doubt if that’s where we cut our losses, I mean, are we going to talk about Barbara and Karl Kesel’s Daredevil comic? I don’t know about that stuff. So what are we going to do? Just say, ‘Well I don’t know this!’

RUGG: I quit reading Wizard around like the mid-30 issues. So it’ll be funny for me to see some of that stuff that’s gonna be new to me. I left mainstream comics in the mid-90s or so and it’s going to be interesting… at least for a little bit. Maybe I should do random issues, like let’s do you know issue 147 or something.

PISKOR: That’s all Hollywood nonsense! [LAUGHS]. I’m going to get you back man because there’s going be like, here’s a five-page Todd Klein lettering feature where he’s talking about Ames Guides. We’ll bust out our Ames guides…

RUGG: We’ll do half an hour on rolling lines for lettering and we’ll see who our real fans are! [LAUGHS].

PISKOR: That’s the thing: we’re not dumbing this stuff down, though that will probably be the impediment in a way. There are people who have like robust channels where they’re just cutting promos, you know? It’s like, ‘Here’s the top 50 Shitty Rob Liefeld Panels’ or whatever; these low hanging fruit videos. And that is not my interest and I don’t think it’s Jim’s interest. We’re not doing a dance routine and we’re not pandering. We’re going to talk about the stuff we want to talk about. I mean if you saw that Comics Journal episode, we spent a half hour on the inside front cover just talking about the birth of the direct market.

RUGG: I think we have some great comment on the recording of that. I think somebody posted that at one point, it was an hour between page turns.


PISKOR: But who else is telling you about that shit? And I don’t think almost anybody who listened to that stuff knew what we were even talking about, but they liked it. You have to be a deep fan to even think about this.

RUGG: That’s been some of my favorite stuff in doing the show. Whenever we do get to come across some book or some cartoonist or something that you don’t hear that often and we get the chance to show this guy off because you don’t see interviews with them or he’s not contemporary. There are a lot of people watching that may have never heard of an artist or a piece of comics history. Even just doing research for it whenever you know we’re going get into this book or this artist and then we go down those rabbit holes too.

FROST: So my last question: Just checking in. What you guys are working on between episodes? Ed, I know that you’re almost done with the third volume of X-Men: Grand Design. Jim, are you working on another Street Angel or anything like that?

RUGG: I’m working on a Street Angel collection that’ll be out this fall. And then I’m working on my next graphic novel which is Plain Janes [with Cecil Castellucci]  and that’ll be out in January [2020]. So yeah I’m drawing a lot.

PISKOR: This channel has brought eighty hour weeks at the bare minimum on our laps. I’ve got to the place where we’re all-nighters are being pulled at a fairly routine clip, which is a little bit alarming.

RUGG: Yeah I don’t like that. I always tell students not to do that.

PISKOR: But I have this built-in anxiety. It’s not negative… Well, negative in as much as it will probably shave off days off my life at the end. But what’s making me anxious is just wanting to see all these videos produced. I want to sort of see how they work. And then also coming up to the end of my comic. That’s really exciting to me too.

I can’t wait to read my comic. Just get it all together and see how it works. So it’s just like it’s become this constant thing. Like I said like I before we started this interview, I’m a cross between Kurt Russell from The Thing and Jack Nicholson from The Shining. Right now, it’s subzero temperatures out there. I haven’t seen a soul in days when we shoot episodes. That might be the only time that I talk in weeks.

But when the weather breaks, I can come out of my Hobbit hole and hopefully there’s not much mental deterioration. And if there is, you’ll be able to track it on YouTube.

New episodes of Cartoonist Kayfabe are being released weekly. You can find the channel at this LINK. Follow the channel on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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  1. Someone has said how I feel personally about cosplay.

    Good read. Gonna have to try an ep to see what it’s like.

  2. Kaleb – You won’t be disappointed. I have been on the bandwagon from jump since I love Piskor and Rugg’s work. It is probably the most entertaining comics discussion you will hear. These are not just pros, but pros who love comics. And it isn’t about superhero comics or indie comics or European comics or manga…. it touches on all of them. That is what my interest are also. I love all comics IF made with energy and earnest effort. That is what is so fascinating about the channel since it allows folks to go through many different aspects of comics and relates to how these different types of comics fit in context, their importance on the medium and the effect it had on Piksor & Rugg (& Scioli).

    To be honest, I find a lot of comic discussions to be a bit trite since you have people clearly focusing on one genre or one type of comic. (Shout out to 11 O’clock comics podacst as the only other forum that I find this quality of discussion). And the conversations are given room to breathe and move organically – which is amazing. If you want to spend an hour discussing the inside cover of Comics Journal due to the ad and the comics it highlights… they can in this format. I would highly, highly recommend the discussion with Gary Groth and Todd McFarlane. It really does show the divergence between the artist and the comic critique. Fascinating stuff to look at in context.

    The major issue I see with a large amount of work being produced today is the overall sub-par quality. This can be due to lack of QUALITY editorial insight, focusing on big names from adjacent industries instead of actual quality comic writers (i.e. Ta-Nehisi Coates), neophyte and inexperienced artists, end of effective storytelling in panels and an overall soulless, rushed and empty product. This goes for independents and mainstream. That does not mean all, by a broad stretch — but the sheer quantity of comics produced without these fail safes causes worry. And I think the price only exaggerates this issue.

    And I was only able to come to this opinion AFTER listening to Comic KayFabe. These guys are eloquent and can tell stories without seeming demeaning and elitist. It really is a tour de force from some of the top creators working together and helps you, the listener, articulate ideas and opinions that might be hard to actually come by. Highly Recommended.

    My only ask for Jim and Ed would be a few episodes in the far future where we bring other folks on. I would love to hear Tillie Walden, Hartley Lin, Rob Liefeld, Gene Luen Yang or Louise Simonson… Don’t do this for the first year… but maybe in the future. Thank you for the amazing discussion and entertainment.

  3. I’m going to back up on my statement re cosplayers. It’s just a fandom that I am not into, just in the same way that I like Star Trek, and not really Star Wars that much, I think. I can back up and say that I was applying grumpy-old-man reasoning about cosplay, and critical analysis where it wasn’t really required. Cosplay, for whatever reason, is a form of expression that, on my second thought, I don’t want to categorically state as anything, despite my own personal recalcitrance. They’re welcome to it.

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