It has been surmised that the appeal of Mickey Mouse is due, at least in part, to his round features, which are subliminally appealing because they're reminiscent of babies' behinds and women's breasts. Whether that's true or not, Craig Yoe, a veritable jack of all trades bearing the titles of graphic designer, editor, author and comics historian, has an affection for Mickey but feels more of a kinship with the edgier Felix the Cat.
"I kind of like that rough edge and that pointy-ness and the mystery of this all-black character," Yoe told the Weekender recently. "And he's kind of a rebel. He's not living in some domestic, nice neighborhood like Mickey must live in. He's out there mixing it up and off on adventures and fantasies, and he doesn't answer to anybody, and I guess I kind of identify with Felix the cat, the wonderful, wonderful cat."
Identify he does. Yoe, who runs Yoe Books and Yoe Studios with his wife, Clizia Gussoni, is not just a rebel, but one who has been served well by his lack of convention. Before starting his own companies, he worked for a variety of notable companies, including Jim Henson, Nickelodeon and Disney.
"I think you need to be fearless and be willing to totally take risks," he said. "And don't be pulled back by criticisms or convention, but damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead."
Just chatting with Yoe for a few minutes imparts a sense of imagination, so it's easy to see why he would be a perfect choice to be one of the presenters at the upcoming Creativity Conference at Marywood University on Saturday, April 14.
"For good or for bad, I've never cared what other people think," he shared. "Either in my art or design or the way I dress, I'm not out to offend people, but I'm not out to get their acceptance either. So I like to break the rules and do new things and march to the beat of a different drummer. I have no regrets."
But he later amended that statement, noting that there is one thing he now laments.
"I have created so many toys and things like that … and a lot of them were used to entice kids to eat the crap from McDonald's," he said. "And now I feel like I'm paying back for my sins, making up for those indiscretions, and doing something positive. And you can quote me about McDonald's. They're poisoning our youth, and I helped do it by creating Happy Meal toys. I said I had no regrets — there's a regret."
The way he may be making up for those indiscretions is through one of his current projects, where he's putting his talents to especially altruistic good use.
"We've been hired to teach kids in third-world countries the importance of washing their hands after they defecate and before they eat," he said. "And so they think through the comic books and radio shows and posters and billboards and things we've created, that we're going to save the lives of 5 million kids over the next five years."
Yoe, who is 61, seems to have reached a level of contentment in his career, especially as a comics historian.
"I was just reflecting today, over the last two years, my wife and I have produced 20 books on the history of comics and cartoonists," he shared. "I'm just really loving that because I think that comics, the integration of words and pictures, is just such an exciting medium. And I love the rich history of them and the brilliant geniuses that did them, often for little money and recognition at the time. But now I'm … trying to give them their due, and it's a great satisfaction to me."
Creativity Conference: Sat., April 14, 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m., Marywood University (2300 Adams Ave., Scranton). Fees vary, visit marywood.edu