Tony Breed is the creator of “Finn and Charlie Are Hitched,” the story of a married couple living their lives, working, helping (or trying to help) their friends and—once a year—epically cooking the turkey for Thanksgiving. Breed draws the ordinary life of one gay couple, and the result is sweet—even when the couple are being snarky about who’s cooking dinner—and funny, particularly when the pair deals with getting older and major life issues like unemployment. But it is the heart that Breed infuses into his comic that makes “Finn and Charlie are Hitched” work.
When did you become a comic-book artist? How did Finn and Charlie come about?
I got a late start. I’d been drawing my whole life. I always loved comics and cartoons. It was something I was always doing, but I didn’t think of it as something I could do seriously. I spent most of my twenties not really doing anything creative. I taught English as a foreign language, which was a very fascinating and engaging kind of thing to do, and creative in its own way. There’s a sense when you’re young there’s always time to do something meaningful, you can always put it off. Then you start to approach thirty and you think, I wanted to do something. I wanted to be published at some point. So that was in the back of my mind. A friend of mine was planning to put together an anthology (which never happened), but he asked, “Have you thought about doing comics again?” It was for that anthology that I decided to create Finn and Charlie. I had a really hard time coming up with a concept for a comic. It was supposed to be a gay anthology. I don’t know if not having that constraint would have made it easier to decide. They say write what you know, and what I know about is being a gay married couple in a long-term relationship. So I created these two characters.
How did “Finn and Charlie Are Hitched” become a web comic?
First they were created as a full page. Then it evolved into a three-panel newspaper style. The art in those early full pages was a bit rough. I think I only finished two in that style. I put them up on my personal website, and then at some point started to come up with ideas for additional ones. I told myself, “I’m not starting a web comic. I don’t have the time for that right now.” When I got to the point when I had six, I said, “Maybe I will.” So that was about six years ago. I started running them regularly, and got a WordPress installation so it was an individual site, and got more serious about it—but then I didn’t tell anyone about it.
I don’t know. In the world of web comics there are so many people who start and then don’t have the time, never finish, never continue. I wanted to be sure I wasn’t one of those people. I don’t think I told anyone. It was all Google referrals. I mean, I told my parents. But telling people is a good thing because you get feedback.
You don’t comment on political issues in your comic.
I don’t because I think it’s boring. It’s hard to be pissy and political. I just end up ranting, and then there’s nothing left in the comic but a bunch of words. I try to sidestep that. It makes for better comics.
In 2008, though, you did touch on the issue of unemployment—Finn loses his job.
I had so many friends who were losing their jobs. I couldn’t ignore it. The funny thing is right after I had Finn lose his job, I lost my job. It was kind of weird. I thought maybe I should give Finn a job, and then I would conjure one for myself.
It took some time, but you did have Finn find a job and you did too. So maybe it worked.
[Laughs.] I did find work.
When did you get married?
We were married in October 1997. It was just a church wedding. I shouldn’t say just, but to me that was the real wedding. Oddly enough we wouldn’t have had a church wedding if we’d had the choice to have a Justice of the Peace, but you can’t have one do that, so we went to the Unitarians and called our family and all of our friends. It was a great thing. During that period when it was legal in San Francisco, we were taking a trip there anyway, so we said let’s get married again, but this time get the piece of paper. I was visiting a friend there and he said, “Well you know, I’m actually ordained by the Universal Church of Life and I can perform your ceremony.” So he did that and ended up dressing as the Green Lantern.
So that comic is true.
[Laughs.] It is. He actually looks like the guy in that comic, but I changed him to a stranger when in real life he’s one of my oldest friends. In the comic I made him Mr. Fantastic because I didn’t have to put a mask on him. He’d be recognizable as the same guy you’d seen in the previous panels. These are the things I have to think about. The mechanics that go into making a comic work.
Any thoughts on the lawsuit against the Illinois ban on same-sex marriage? It’s interesting that the State’s attorney has decided not to defend the law.
Which is excellent, though I’m trying not to get too optimistic because I know what happens sometimes is that these very conservative organizations will bring in the funds themselves to defend the law. That’s apparently what has happened in other places.
The same thing is happening here. It’s the Thomas More Society gearing up to provide a defense for the law.
Well, I figured someone would. I try to keep good humor about it. It makes me angry and depressed, and what I do in response is the comic. I try to put the comic out there and try to make it interesting so that people read it and see a couple. A non-threatening couple.
Like most couples.
Right. Most couples, it’s just the ordinary stuff. Over the course of the comic I expanded the theme so it was less focused on the couple, because I thought that a person coming to the comic and seeing that it has all these jokes about gay couples, they’ll think, “Well this is a comic for gay people and I’m not gay, so I won’t come back.” But if they come and they see jokes about gay couples, indie-rock jokes, jokes about self-esteem and other universal topics—indie rock may not count as universal—for wanting to belong and finding yourself in a new group… The hope was that it would broaden the appeal a little bit and maybe get the core message out to more people. I feel like I’m giving away my darkest secrets right now. I think the simplest thing anyone can do is live your life publicly and not be ashamed of it.
Tony Breed’s third “Finn and Charlie” compilation, “How Would I Know If You’re Dreaming?” is available at hitchedcomic.com