Jonny Sun has spent a lot of time online since the days of ICQ, MSN Messenger, and AIM. It was on those now-ancient platforms where Sun developed his voice and began to experiment with his sense of humor. Later, on Twitter he channeled his anxieties, sentimentalities, and quippy observations about the world into the form of “jomny sun,” whose avatar showed a cute doodle of a wee extraterrestrial, and whose Twitter bio introduced him as an “aliebn confuesed abot humamn lamgauge.”
Inspired by the writer-illustrators he admired as a kid, like Bill Watterson, Shel Silverstein, and Maurice Sendak, Sun’s feed is full of sometimes-whimsical, sometimes-melancholic, often eerily adorable musings on the often-confusing experience of living on this strange Earth. His illustrations, one-liners, and miniature line poems caught the attention of almost 600,000 followers—including humorists, comedians, and artists like Patton Oswalt, Will Arnett, and Mara Wilson. Last year, “jomny sun” released an illustrated book called Everyone’s a Aliebn When Ur a Aliebn Too: A Book.
Sun’s Twitter feed still has the avatar of an aliebn, but his name is now spelled Jonny. His bio includes useful links for fans, and Sun posts more about his own life, his real world: retweets of videos of Tessa Thompson dancing, support for trans people in the face of a historic rollback of constitutional protections, shout-outs to fellow Asian creatives, thoughts on the challenges of caring for house plants, and, of course, his newest book, made with Twitter-friend-turned-real-life-collaborator Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of the Broadway smash-hit Hamilton. The book, Gmorning, Gnight!: Little Pep Talks for Me & You, is based on a selection of tweeted-out affirmations from Miranda, with accompanying illustrations by Sun. It hits stands on the heels of Sun’s new three-book deal with Harper Perennial, an imprint of HarperCollins. Oh, and Sun is still studying for his PhD at MIT, researching—what else?—social media communities.
It’s no surprise that the artist formerly known as the little alienb jomny sun has a sunny outlook on the internet, where he’s managed to carve out a pocket of mostly-positive, mostly-affirming interactions—and we could really, really use a few pointers on how to do that too right now. Here, Sun talks about working with Miranda, the good that can come of Twitter, and how the youth will save the internet.
HOW DID YOU AND LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA MEET, AND HOW DID YOU BECOME COLLABORATORS?
We became friends through Twitter, actually. I had been following him for forever, since In the Heights. I really look up to him, and at some point he followed me, and we just started chatting. I think it might have been backstage at Hamilton that was the first time we met. But I guess we got to know each other through Twitter mainly. I think there’s an element of Twitter that’s cool because it’s kind of like a bunch of people in a giant room. There are different pockets and corners of the room that you gravitate to depending on what type of person you are and what kind of stuff you’re interested in. And I think Lin and I were just floating around in some other of pockets of that big room, and eventually we found each other.
I’d seen Lin tweeting these “Good morning, good night” tweets for years now, and people on Twitter really, really love them. They had become a staple in my Twitter feed. At some point, I think a lot of people started asking if it would ever become a book. So Lin had tweeted out, “Is this something that we want? What do you think of this?” And I saw that tweet and I texted him and said, “Having just completed a book, here are my thoughts of how you would hypothetically do this, if you did it. Here’s what I was thinking, here are the things I would be worried about, and here are the ways I would do it.” It started out as just giving advice to a friend. One day on the phone, he said, “Why don’t we do this together? Would you be interested in illustrating it?” I thought it would be really great to add something new, some new dimension to make it something other than it was on Twitter.
Read the full interview: https://www.harpersbazaar.com/culture/art-books-music/a24068326/jonny-sun-gmorning-gnight-interview/