Nick Seluk: The Man Behind “The Awkward Yeti”
“The Awkward Yeti” Lars, with its heart and brain, and all its other organs have become one of our favorite and most
inspirational series of comics that we can both laugh at and easily relate to, in addition to the knowledge of the body’s organs that they enlighten us with in a fun and interesting way. From “Heart” mostly resembling me and inspiring me to go on, explaining my coffee addiction and making my medical field of study seem adorable and funny, to finding a part of me in every comic; “The Awkward Yeti” has become my favorite thing on the Internet. So, with great happiness and pleasure, Persona Magazine was able to interview the man behind all this, Nick Seluk.
1. Other than being the face behind “The Awkward Yeti”, who is Nick Seluk?
A pretty average person who works 6-7 days a week, and spends his spare time with his wife and three kids. I have a surface-level appreciation of a lot of things, but I’m not particularly interesting.
2. What was it that made you decide to take the risk of leaving your graphic designing job and giving “The Awkward Yeti” your full time?
I’ve never been very happy taking direction from people on creative projects. I never understood why as a graphic designer I was taking directions from people without a real understanding of design or marketing. In order to feed my creative side, I dabbled in many creative projects outside of work, as many designers do, but my webcomic fed my real passion of cartooning. I became so obsessed with the idea that it could be a real way to make a living after seeing the success of people like The Oatmeal and Cyanide & Happiness, that I pursued it with great fervor.
I worked mornings, nights and weekends, thought of ideas during my commute (even writing down ideas at stop lights). Things went very well, and three years later I was able to leave my job and allow my wife to continue to be home with our kids full time.
Medical Tales Retold was an exhausting series that I’m very proud of – it’s available from tapastic.com’s app Tapas Media. I went through hundreds of story submissions from fans and chose some of my favorites to illustrate for the series. It combines total ridiculousness with real stories and even some real medical information.
4. Have you thought of turning your characters into a cartoon series or an animated movie?
Definitely. It’s one of my childhood dreams to be the creator behind an animated series, so someday I expect to put some real effort into making that happen. Whether that’s with my current characters or new ones remains to be seen.
5. What was the piece of art that made you earn “The Best Artist” award at Mrs. Wolfe’s third grade class? Would you mind sharing it with us?
My best artist award was a general award given by my peers. Everyone in class got an award like “Nicest” or “funniest” and clearly my artistic prowess was unmatched at the time.
6. You support “NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness” and have created an amazing comic about anxiety and depression that has gotten a lot of appraisal, in addition to studying psychology of course; and so it seems like mental illness is of great significance to you. How can you briefly enlighten those who might be ignorant about it?
NAMI is a great organization with focus on improving mental health awareness and treatment. I donate to them yearly along with a few other medical organizations. I started donating to NAMI after a couple suicides in my family. Mental health is such a confusing, elusive concept for most people, so I’m glad that the story on anxiety and depression I chose for Medical Tales Retold went viral, and I’m glad organizations like NAMI are working to find better solutions for communication.
(click the image for a better view)
7. So how do you come up with the ideas and themes of the comics? Are there any rituals you perform before drawing or do you just draw when you’re inspired?
I try to find inspiration from my own life, the lives of people around me, or in a lot of cases, observations of general
mentalities in society. When I get writer’s block, I force myself to change routine or go somewhere new.
8. Do people recognize you when you walk on the streets or do you prefer to keep your identity a secret?
Haha! No, people don’t recognize me. In fact, I could probably carry a giant sign saying “I’m the Awkward Yeti” in my hometown and people would have no idea what it means (other than I’m a weirdo).
They all kind of do. I relate to all of them in one way or another. Heart is what I aspire to be (confident and spontaneous), Brain represents thoughts that hold me and others back (but also guide us responsibly forward), Lars is an exaggeration of my introversion, even Tongue is a voice of the impulses I struggle to control. Many of my comics are full of total silliness or sarcasm, but there’s some truth injected into a lot of it (just don’t take them literally).