Prior to meeting her, all I knew about the creator of Idiot Comics was that she was Chinese and went by the nickname Tou Yeye. Her illustrations have a goofy, off-the-wall humor, but in our conversation, she admits to depressive tendencies. “I’m often depressed and sometimes very goofy,” she says. “I like the writing of Yukio Mishima and Tatsuhiko Shibusawa, along with films of Roman Polanski.” These tastes are mirrored in her comics: cheerful but shot through with black and white lines, melancholy but saturated with color, never entirely choosing one side.
“When I was a freshman in college, I was extremely introverted and didn’t have many friends,” she recalls. “I read a lot of books by Osamu Dazai, who romanticized the idea of running away from home. Thinking it was a cool idea, I used all of my New Year’s red envelope money to travel to Tibet.”
Tou Yeye’s foray into creating comics began with the conclusion of this trip. She wanted a way to document her travels, as seen through her wild imagination. Her inaugural comic, Yi Chang, chronicles the entirety of her journey through Sichuan.
Swipe to read select works from Idiot Comics Vol. 1
Several characters make frequent appearances throughout Tou Yeye’s comics. The short-haired girl by the name of Weiwei represents the artist herself, the snarky bird is one of her real-life friends, and the rabbit and the dinosaur are friends she dreamed up. Throughout Idiot Comics, these characters can be seen cursing each other out, throwing poop at each other, or falling prey to spilled milk teas.
In a separate series, Nightmare Shop, Weiwei travels to a monochrome world. As she wanders through this colorless realm musing on the meaning of existence, the bird and rabbit can be randomly spotted embedded within the surreal landscapes.
After graduating from the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts with a degree in printmaking, Tou Yeye left China to study for two years in France. During her time abroad, she became friends with a lot of comics artists, whose bohemian lives seemed ideal. Back in China, she found a very different creative environment. She wants to keep doing what she loves but has to spend most of her time every day on French translations to make ends meet. “I know so many other comics artists who are really impressive, but they all have other jobs, or they’re still in school,” she sighs. “Still I’ve seen that the overall creative atmosphere in China is getting better and better.”
Tou Yeye says she may soon quit freelancing and find a steady job drawing things she might not really love. But Idiot Comics will go on no matter what. It’s a project that gives her and others a few minutes to escape from reality, a moment to enjoy a simple happiness.