RICH INTERVIEWS: Derrick Chow Writer/Artist “Yonge At Heart”

First Comics News: Why did you want to be a part of “Yonge At Heart”?

Derrick: I’ve been a fan of the Toronto Comics anthologies since I picked up the second volume. At first, it was simply refreshing to read stories set in my own city, as opposed to New York or Los Angeles or the many fictional metropolises that comics tend to favour. But the quality and range of storytelling in the anthologies were what really held my attention. As soon as I heard that the editors were looking for submissions, I was eager to pitch to them.

1st: Why do people like anthologies?

Derrick: Anthologies are a great way for readers to sample writers they’re not familiar with. I’ve personally discovered some of my favourite authors and artists in anthologies.

1st: What is your contribution to “Yonge At Heart”?

Derrick: Break and Enter is about two strangers who meet in the city’s most risqué gay bar. Over the course of one wild night, they revisit childhood traumas, uncover common ground, and ultimately find the meaningful connection they both hunger for.

1st: In “Break and Enter” who are Luke Wong and Tyler Martelli?

Derrick: Luke and Tyler are young men who feel like outsiders in the gay community, for differing reasons. At first glance, they are a study of opposites: Luke is tall and burly; Tyler is small and weedy. Luke is a peacemaker and eager to be liked; whereas, Tyler thrives on confrontation and drama. But they have much more in common than either of them initially suspect.

1st: Why did you choose this story for the anthology or did someone else choose it?

Derrick: I pitched this story to the editors because I felt that I have a unique viewpoint I don’t often see portrayed in media: what it’s like to be an Asian guy in the gay community. Also, I’m a huge fan of stories that unfold over the course of an evening, particularly if they involve two strangers getting to know each other (Before Sunrise is a movie I have re-watched many times). There’s nothing more thrilling to me than those first few hours you connect with someone when awkwardness starts to give way to ease.

1st: How would you describe your art style?

Derrick: For comics, I’d say that my art style lies somewhere between the Gothic romance comics of the 1960’s and Herge’s Tintin. I love the texture and grit of watercolour and pencil crayons, so you definitely see a lot of that in my work.

1st: Which writers and artists do you admire?

Derrick: Adam Nevill is a horror author I revisit a lot. No one can spin a yarn about festering evil quite like him. Emily Carroll’s Through The Woods is fantastic. Her horror anthology is full of visual wit, genuine scares, and stories that manage to feel familiar in the best possible way, like classic ghost stories from my childhood. Manuel Fiore’s 5,000 Km Per Second is a book so gorgeous and poignant that it made me want to become a better everything…writer, artist, lover. Lastly, I adore the work of Lisbeth Zwerger, a children’s book illustrator. She creates worlds I want to inhabit using achingly perfect compositions in watercolour.

1st: Are there many comic book related events in Toronto, Ontario, Canada?

Derrick: Thankfully, there are many – from zine fairs to indie comic conventions to fan-cons. My favourite is The Toronto Comic Arts Festival (TCAF). You can meet all sorts of creators there – indie zine-makers and literary celebs alike. And the atmosphere is all very welcoming, a great place to discover new books and make lasting contacts.

1st: What is your short story in “Hogtown Horror” about?

Derrick: My short story, Mooncake Madness, takes place on the eve of the Lunar New Year. Mei Ling is an elderly woman desperate for the company of her self-centered son. Her life takes a turn for the bizarre when she stumbles across a mooncake stall in a Chinatown alleyway. The mysterious vendor promises her not only freshly-baked mooncakes but the solution to her loneliness. What follows is a psychic and physical unraveling that I’m hoping will disturb and thrill readers.

1st: Which publication were you most thrilled to be published in?

Derrick: Nothing can beat the excitement of my first professional illustration gig, which was for The Toronto Star.

1st: Do you enjoy working on Children’s books?

Derrick: I love it. It’s something I was doing even as a little kid – making up stories and illustrating them using markers and poster paint. My inner child takes up a big part of my psyche, so it’s always a joy letting that aspect of my imagination loose.

1st: What are you currently working on?

Derrick: I’m in the beginning stages of a graphic novel I’m quite excited about. It’s set in Montreal in the 1960s, which has prompted quite a bit of research into a time and place that has always held a special place in my fantasies. It’s inspired by my late father’s experiences as an immigrant and aspiring artist, so it’s a story I want to tell right.

1st: What do you think of teddy bears?

Derrick: Teddy bears are one of the three keys to happiness. That’s my sincere belief. If everyone took ten minutes each day to have a good cuddle and chat with a teddy bear, the world would be a much saner place. My husband and I are the proud guardians of a dozen or so teddy bears. It’s often quite a challenge providing a nurturing and stimulating environment for them, but the smiles they put on our faces make it well worth the effort.

1st: Anything to say to those who enjoy your work and support you?

Derrick: It’s always a thrill getting positive feedback from readers, and I’m thankful to everyone who takes an interest in my work. Readers can see what I’m up to at or on Instagram @derrickchowart.

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