Featured Image by Hal Shinnie/Cover Artwork Provided
Sharing a shelf full of books written by his fellow YouTubers, Joe Sugg has found a way to stand out.
Last month, the 24-year-old Internet celeb (and younger brother of popular YouTuber Zoe Sugg, a.k.a. Zoella) released the graphic novel Username: Evie.
Graphic novels have remained a genre yet to be touched by any YouTuber-turned-author and is one that Sugg was naturally drawn towards. Sugg grew up reading comics and graphic novels ,and even created his very own graphic novel for a school project. Years later, he teamed up with a group of professionals; a writer, a illustrator, a colourist, a letterer — known as the Sugg Squad — to tell the story of Evie, a lonely girl who must save the virtual reality her late father created for her after evil influences it for the worst.
Sugg’s online following (he has almost 5.5 million subscribers on his main channel alone) created such a hype around Username: Evie’s release that his first book signing took place at Emirates Stadium, the home of the soccer team Arsenal F.C.
ANDPOP caught up with Joe over the phone just a week before he was set to crisscross the world for tours that would keep him busy until Christmas. During our conversation, he talks about creating Username: Evie, his upcoming movie with roommate and fellow YouTuber Caspar Lee, and his favourite pranks.
You released Username: Evie last month and the response has been absolutely brilliant. Are you surprised by the reaction, considering this is a very different kind of book than from what other YouTubers put out?
Yeah, I’m mean it’s quite niche—I didn’t realize how niche it was and a lot of my viewers didn’t know what a graphic novel was. When I said I was doing a graphic novel, a lot of them thought it was something quite rude so I had to explain to them what it was. And yeah, I was really, really happy with the response it got because obviously we worked so hard on it and I was pleased that they really enjoyed it. I’ve always been a fan of comics, graphic novels and stuff, [so] it’s nice to do something I have a general interest in.
So you mentioned [in the book’s intro that] you read a lot of British comics like Beano and The Dandy growing up. So what aspects of those comics did you take away and put into your own graphic novel?
I wanted to do [the graphic novel] in the comic-book style but I wanted it to have more of a storyline to it. So we worked really hard on the story and made sure it was very much based around issues and stuff my viewers are going through. We have quite a lot of followers [and] we get a lot of messages through Twitter and our P.O. Box, like letters and stuff, from young girls or guys who are going through a hard time at school or they got family issues, lost loved ones. I thought it would be a nice touch to base the storyline and cover as many of those issues as possible.
At the end of the day, the thing that matters to me is my YouTube channel because without my YouTube channel I wouldn’t be given all these cool opportunities.
What was it like to work with a team on Username: Evie? When you’re doing YouTube videos, it’s a pretty solitary effort.
Yeah! It was a very different feeling. It was quite nice to be part of a team though. I always thought [graphic novels were] done by like one person [and] that was it. I didn’t realize that there was so much work involved. Obviously it’ll go through to someone who takes what you’ve written and condense it down to the space of one speech bubble. And there’s the illustrator, and then you got the colourist and then letterist. I didn’t realize there’s so much that goes into it. It was very different because obviously with my videos I’m used to me editing all my own videos, I film them all by myself and all that kind of thing is done by me. But it did make me think that [working in a team] makes things a lot easier and manageable and you get a lot more done. They’re all so brilliant. We turned it around like in under a year, I think, so to do that with something that looks so great, I am so, so pleased.
And I’ve seen your “Draw My Life” video and you can actually draw! So would you ever try to put out a graphic—
Yeah, I know that’s the thing! They did ask me, they said, “Did you actually want to do the drawings?” I said, “to be honest, I would love to but it would take me a long, long, long [time].” It wouldn’t be out until 2025 rather than 2015 and it would still be nowhere near as good as how the illustrator [Amrit Birdi] did the drawings. I think in that instance it was something to leave to the professionals.
Is that a goal for you, to try and put out a graphic novel with your own illustrations?
After doing the first one, I mean I’d love to—I’m already starting to write the storyline to the sequel and I would love to get into the position where I could just churn out a graphic novel every year like with either the same series or,um, start—I’ve also got other ideas for graphic novels I’d love to do with completely new characters, completely new storylines. If graphic novels are still a thing for me in the future, like maybe when YouTube isn’t as big any more, I would love to spend a lot more time on it and maybe even give it a go doing some of the drawings myself in terms of a “start to finish” kind of thing. I think that [since] we’re so busy, we got so much [going] on and we got so many other opportunities that have been given to us, it’s so hard to dedicate all your stuff to one thing. At the end of the day, the thing that matters to me is my YouTube channel because without my YouTube channel I wouldn’t be given all these cool opportunities. So I think I could never, would never want to take that for granted. As long as YouTube is still around, my main concern is to still put up content for my viewers.
It’s kind of crazy to think that people don’t view it as a fulltime job, just like the pure content creation you put into it is insane and it’s admirable. So another big project you have coming is Joe and Caspar Hit The Road. You’ve already filmed it, so what can fans expect when that drops?
Essentially, it’s a ninety-minute collaboration between me and Caspar. Basically, he’s never had a proper job; he went from school to straight to YouTube so he’s never experienced proper, like, work. So we set him a little challenge [where] we left our credit cards at home, our technology at home—so all our vlogging cameras and our phones because sometimes we use our phones—and we went around Europe in a camper van looking for work. We obviously found jobs in each country and gave it a go. You can expect a lot of mischief, a lot of cringe-y moments, [and] a lot of pranks on the public, which is quite good. Obviously Caspar is used to pranking the public and I’m not used to that; I’m only used to pranking Caspar. That was quite interesting. There’s a scene where we had to be waiters in an Italian restaurant, [and] we had to deliver pizza to people while singing opera. It was in Verona actually, in front of, like, a square full of hundreds of people who would hear our voices. And I had never been so nervous in my life. [Laughs] So you can expect a lot of lawlz.
I love working with Caspar because he’s like one of the easiest people to work with .
In terms of pranking the public, is that something you’re going to do on your own channel now?
I mean would love to but I always feel like you can get away with a lot more when it’s on Caspar because it’s always harmless [and] everyone knows we’re friends. I always worry that [pranking the public] would backfire unless there’s a camera with you and you’re mic’d up and stuff and it’s all legit and proper. I feel like you become a lot more confident [when you have a crew], you find it easier to do what you have to do. So if I could get a crew involved just for my own piece of mind then I would definitely consider some public pranks.
The premise of the movie kind of reminds me of The Simple Life with Paris Hilton and Nicole Ritchie because they had to go around and travel across America and do odd jobs here and there. I just have to know, who’s the Paris of the group and who’s the Nicole?
Who’s the Paris and who’s the… I don’t know because I’ve never watched that show so I don’t really know, I don’t know what they’re like in the show. Um…
I feel like Paris is the one who tried to the do the job and then Nicole would come in and mess everything up and cause a little bit more trouble.
Oh, okay. So out of me and Caspar, before I started YouTube, I had a job as a roof thatcher. I kind of know what it’s like to sort of put the hours and do the hard work. Out of everything we tried, I did try to give it 100 per cent. Some things were difficult and we both completely failed at it. I think out of both of us, I had it in my head more that we needed to earn money otherwise we couldn’t get to the next place. So [now] I think Caspar realized that petrol costs money.
And you and Caspar do so much together: you make videos, you live together, you did voices on a Spongebob movie together and I heard that you guys started your own production company. So what’s it like to work with him on this kind of scale?
It’s really good. I love working with Caspar because he’s like one of the easiest people to work with because his interests are like your interests. We always listen to each other really well and, like, we both have the same goals, the same inspirations. And at the end of the day we like hanging out with each other so it works really, really well.
And in terms of this production company, does this mean fans can expect to see more longer feature films like this or what can we expect?
Yeah, that’s the plan. We have tons and tons of ideas. We’re both quite creative people so we got all these ideas of, like, potential shows we want to do, potential movies we want to do, loads and loads of different content that obviously wouldn’t [work on] YouTube. So yeah, we have tons of ideas and great teams [we want to work with] and stuff. Like the team that we worked with on Hit The Road were brilliant and we would definitely love to work with them again. We’ve started the ball rolling on loads and loads of projects that we’re doing so we’re excited.
So I have to know: what was the best prank you ever pulled on Caspar? What’s your favourite?
Uh, I think my favourite prank I ever pulled on Caspar was the one with the balloons because that took so long. Me and my friend Oli [White, a YouTuber] started blowing up balloons about midnight thinking it wouldn’t take very long but then we realized that 1000 and one balloons takes not only a long time—practically all night—but it also ruins your hands from tying them up. It was very painful and I think it was the most effort that was ever put into a prank. Um, but the good thing is he thought the balloons were the prank in of itself whereas, in actual fact, he didn’t realize that Oli was hidden in the balloons, dressed as a clown. So it was kind of like a two, two-sided prank and it worked out really, really well. It was my favourite one.
Yeah, I saw that and I was really jealous because that was the kind of prank I wanted to pull on one of my old bosses.
Yeah, so I was really jealous when I saw it.
There are so many people from, like, American colleges and stuff that are like, “Oh! I used to do it on my roommates!” or like, “I’m so doing that on my roommates.” It’s really cool because a lot of my pranks are harmless. I love seeing other people trying to do the pranks. It spurs me on to do more.
Okay, what’s the best prank he ever pulled on you?
The best prank he ever pulled on me was, I think, one of his more recent ones where I came home and his mum was waiting there. She gave me a stern talking to on how I’m only hanging out with Caspar because he has more Twitter followers than me and all this kind of stuff. I know [Caspar’s mum] quite well but I would never expect her to be in the prank so it got me straight away. I was looking around for the hidden cameras and stuff but I just couldn’t see them; he actually hid the cameras really well. Uh, yeah, I think that was one of his best ones. And also the massage one, when he put a dog on my back ‘cause the actual masseuse started the massage and I thought nothing could go wrong but you never know with Caspar Lee around.
You guys have the best prank videos, they’re really fun to watch.
And I like to end the interviews on a fun note, so are you ready for a quick question round?
Yeah, of course.
Alright. Which do you like more: cats or dogs?
Ah, ooh. Dogs.
Who would you want to hang out with first thing in the morning: Caspar or Marcus [Butler]?
Um, I’d say Caspar because Marcus would want to take me to the gym or something at the crack of dawn. I don’t think I could handle that.
Would you rather be eating or sleeping?
Spongebob Squarepants or Patrick Star?
Ooh! It’s gotta be Spongebob.
You’re someone with a lot of talents but what’s the strangest talent that you have?
Um, I can make weird noises, like the sounds, and I can put my feet right by my face. I’m quite flexible.
And if you and a bunch of YouTubers somehow in an Anchorman news team battle royale, what would your weapon be?
Uh, that’s a good question. Um, I would say a, like a camera tripod to link it to YouTube.
Oh, did he really?
I would take him out with a tripod because it’s got more reach on it. Like, I would extend it to its full height and swing it around. No one could come near me.