Behind Yehuda Moon

I was so instantly impressed and wholly amused by the Yehuda Moon comic that I wanted to find out more. Here’s an interview of sorts I threw together asking the artist himself, Rick Smith. He was quickly responsive, and revealed that he’s a pretty nice and cool guy. Enjoy.

CrankedMag: Where do you originate from? How long have you been in Cleveland or the Midwest?

Rick Smith: I grew up in Cleveland, but only moved back here in 2005. I spent fifteen years in Virginia, Texas, and Colorado before deciding that Ohio was where I wanted to be.

CM: Have you spent any time elsewhere? Do you think the Midwest has shaped your bike mentality?

RS: I biked in all of the above places, and Cleveland certainly isn’t the best spot out of all of them. But there are less people here, and that makes for a calmer commute (sometimes). I think my summer riding during college in Michigan and upstate New York probably shaped my riding the most. I learned to ride long distances, and came to truly appreciate the pastime.

CM: How long have you been commuting by bike? Have you always been “bike-minded”?

RS: I’ve been biking off and on to school or work since 1986. I usually took winters off, but decided to take the plunge and go year round. It’s been a blast. Winter riding takes careful planning, but once you’re out on the road, you learn different things than you do during warm weather riding. There’s so much more to keep track of—gear, clothing, repairs, the ride itself (what with the snow and ice).

CM: What’s your commuter bike? How long is your commute?

I ride an Azor Mechanic’s Series 108; basically a customized Dutch bike built by the folks at the Dutch Bicycle Company. It’s decked out with Shimano components including a dynamo hub and Nexus 8-speed internal hub. It’s a beast, a tank, but feels luxurious while riding. I’ve taken it camping as well, but will probably get a country bike for those trips. I travel 24 miles a day, round trip.

CM: Your comic is really relatable, many of the themes are like many I’ve experienced personally. Are these comics thoroughly derived from personal experience or what?

Some of the strips are from my own experiences, while others are from discussions with colleagues (like the Lauterbrunnental series). Most are simply concocted on the ride home. Riding every day gives the strip its sense of ‘relatability’.

CM: Do you relate more to Yehuda or Joe? What or who was the inspiration for Yehuda Moon? Are these characters or the Kickstand Gallery inspired by any shop in particular?

I speak chiefly through the character of Yehuda Moon. Joe represent the views of a cycling comrade I work with. Many of the discussions or arguments between Joe and Yehuda are drawn from conversations he and I have had about bicycles and bicycling.

CM: I loved the “Lauterbrunnental Leaflet” bit. What brought about that satire?

I recently bought every issue of the Rivendell Reader from a seller on eBay. The Reader changed me as a bicyclist. Civilians should read it. I’ve offered my services to Rivendell to bind all of the previous issues into four fat volumes. I even made covers for the volumes. I really want to see it happen—there are so many others who should read the Reader.

The LL was a gentle jab at the wonder that comes with each issue, as well as some of the obsessiveness of Riv members. Joe’s a skeptic, and feels the LL is a bit overzealous, and I wanted to capture that in the strips as well.

CM: How long have you been cartooning? What’s up with Shuck and Sulfurstar? Do you have any advice or anything to say to those attempting cartooning themselves?

I’ve drawn most of my life. Shuck was published independently as comic books and by Top Shelf Productions as a graphic novel. After, I tried my hand at a daily strip and got bored. I’ve also drawn a graphic novel with Damon Hurd called ‘Temporary’ about Envy St. Claire, a temp worker with a terminal illness. Advice? Keep drawing.

CM: Is it a lucrative activity? Do you have a day job?

I work as a web developer at an insurance company.

CM: Shuck looks like it was once in print form, is it still available? How do you manage publishing? Publishing Cranked Magazine myself is pretty difficult, is publishing a comic similar?

Shuck ran in print as both a graphic novel and as saddle-stitched comics. Copies are available at shops, online at retail sites, and at Publishing a printed comic is much different from publishing the strips online. Working with the printers, getting colors correct, proofing the galley copies, distributing to shops and through wholesale channels—wow. There’s a lot of work. But it’s very fulfilling.

CM: Is Yehuda Moon in print anywhere?

Yehuda will likely be in print within the year, in some form or another.

CM: What can readers expect to see in the near future with Yehuda?

RS: Yehuda will have to deal with city council again after he paints the illegal bike lanes along the city’s main thoroughfares. There will be a segment on bike camping. More commuting hi-jinx. More customer interactions at the Kickstand (look for the ‘Bike Whisperer’, ‘New Old Parts’, more ‘Carbon Copy’, ‘Dateline Mom’, and others). More info about the models sold at the shop, and who builds them.

CM: Is there an overall message with Yehuda Moon that you’re trying to put out?

RS: I hope the strip doesn’t exhibit an agenda, just points of view. I want to skewer Yehuda’s message as much as I do other character’s. It’s only fair. If you enjoy riding a bicycle, you’ll find something of yourself in Yehuda Moon.

Sounds awesome, you keep drawing too Rick, I know people that are looking for more Yehuda. Keep him coming. Looking forward to seeing it in print form.

Thanks again for the interview.