Gisèle Lagacé interview

Yes, I do read everyone’s comments, and I do try to interview requested artists. I’m very pleased to have Gisèle Lagacé here today. Gisèle –

BC: Who are you?
GL: I’m a cartoonist from New Brunswick, Canada. I’m known mostly for my work in webcomics, which started in 2000 with Cool Cat Studio. Since then, I’ve also dabbled in print comics and have worked on a few projects outside my own (Archie, Betty Boop, Jem.) Before that, I was a graphic designer for a good decade, and before THAT, I was a musician in an all-girl band from Quebec called Barbarella. A more detailed about me can be found at my website in the about section.

BC: Do you consider yourself a cartoonist, an illustrator, an artist, or something else?
GL: I generally consider myself a cartoonist. I usually write or co-write my work but I’ve collaborated with writers in the past where my main duty was on the art side.

BC: How did you get your start as a cartoonist?
GL: Online, I got my start with Cool Cat Studio which I created, and wrote and drew until T Campbell joined me on the writing side. This partnership led to more projects. In print, I got my start at Archie Comics. My first big break with them is drawing the full issue of Archie #635 (Occupy Riverdale.)

BC: What do you think your biggest breaks were?
GL: Cool Cat Studio, my first project, was a pretty big break online. It had a pretty good following. My biggest break online, though, is by far Ménage à 3. In print, I’d say getting to draw the Archie Meets Ramones one shot last year.

BC: What was it like working on the Ramones one-shot? Did you need to do any research on the band, or get permissions to use their likenesses?
GL: It was fun working on that. I did a fair amount of research. I wanted to make sure I was as accurate as possible. The Ramones estate was also involved, so yeah, we had permission to use their likenesses. Actually, the closer the better. 🙂

BC: What led up to your starting Cool Cat Studio, and then Sticky Dilly Buns, and along with the Archie Comics work do you have any other pokers in the fire right now?
GL: I just wanted to draw comics, and when I saw other cartoonists bringing their work online, I just did the same. I really enjoyed the immediate feedback. As for Archie comics, I always enjoyed Archie comics growing up, so when I was asked to draw some Archie stories, I jumped at the chance. Other than continuing my online work, I’m finishing up an arc of Jem & the Holograms right now for IDW.

BC: Why adult comics? Or, comics with a heavy R-rated slant? Do you feel any kind of disconnect switching between Ménage à 3 and Archie? Is there much of a desire to sneak in a Ménage style panel in something like Jem and the Holograms?
GL: I never really said to myself “I’m gonna do adult comics.” I wanted to do first and foremost a funny situational comic. I loved Three’s Company growing up, and one day I said to myself “I want to do a fun comic that’s sort of like that.” The name came to me instantly, and within a day, the cast was nailed down. The comic ended up being more risque than Three’s Company but that might just be ’cause we’re French Canadian. I compare it to if HBO had done Three’s Company. Although, I think HBO would show more sex than we do!

GL: In regards to Archie, old Archie comics from the ’50s and ’60s were quite risque. One could say that back then, they were more written for adults than one would think. In the end, for me, it’s all about comedy, whether sex is involved or not.


(from Menage a 3)

BC: Which of your works are you most happy with, or proud of?
GL: Well, I like all of it. However, I do see things I’d do differently now in almost everything I’ve done but I think that’s pretty normal. I guess I’m proud of Ménage à 3’s longevity. I don’t think anyone thought it would last this long. In print, Archie Meets Ramones is a highlight but so is Betty Boop and Jem & The Holograms. All 3 projects revolved around music, but all 3 were quite different from one another on the art side. A nice challenge for me.

BC: How would you label Ménage à 3? Erotica? Underground? something else? You’ve already mentioned it’s NSFW.
GL: I call it an HBO-style RomCom.

BC: Do you have any paper or e-book collections on the market yet?
GL: All of my personal work can be bought in print or as e-books. Best way to get it is to visit the PixieTrixComix store and it can all be found there. The store link can also be found at the ma3comic.com website and all other Pixie Trix Comix properties.

BC: How do you approach that blank sheet when you decide to start your next strip or panel?
GL: On the writing side, I simply write in a Word doc. Not sure where the ideas come from but they do. Collaborating also helps when ideas don’t easily come. On the drawing side, I just try to imagine the acting and the space the characters are in.

BC: Have you found any influences from your print work rubbing off on your online strips? Or, vice versa? Or, influences from your time in Barbarella?
GL: Well, I think one can see the art shift a bit in my online work when I’m working on something for another publisher. For instance, my Dan DeCarlo influences may show up more in my online work if I’m currently drawing an Archie comic, or things may look a bit more realistic if I’m working on something like Jem at the same time. It’s hard to shift gears sometimes. I do the best I can.

BC:If your strip had a soundtrack, what would it be?
GL: I guess it would depend on the property. However, Cheap Trick is a band that shows various emotions in their songs, so I think they might be a good fit.

BC: Who are your favorite artists/writers? Have you met any of them? Got any dirt on them?
GL: Big fan of Dan DeCarlo, Rumiko Takahashi, Uderzo and Jim Davis. Can’t say that I’ve met them, so I don’t have any dirt on them lol.

BC: Do you follow any other comic strips right now?
GL: Not really. Generally too busy to keep up with most ongoing series. At the very moment, I’m actually reading the 2012-2014 Harbinger run from Valiant.

BC: What do you look for when you read someone else’s strips?
GL: First and foremost, the art has to please my eye. Once that’s out of the way, I’ll look for stories that have a nice balance of suspense, action, and comedy.

BC: What do you think makes for a good comic?
GL: Just good storytelling and art that matches what you’re trying to do. If you’re doing a comedy, make sure it’s funny but also that the art sells the comedy.

BC: Do you use Patreon or Kickstarter? Do you want to plug your site?
GL: I’ve only used Kickstarter. Actually planning to do a 3rd one this Spring. And yes, you can visit giselelagace.com to know more about me, and pixietrixcomix.com to see my online work. Right now, Ménage à 3 is the only project I’m currently updating. I plan on returning to Sticky Dilly Buns soon. However, Pixie Trix Comix has other properties that update which I’m not that involved with.


(from Sticky Dilly Buns)

BC: Do you have any projects coming up? Appearances scheduled for conventions?
GL: My first issue (#24) of my run on Jem & the Holograms hits stores March 29th. The Betty Boop mini I drew with writing by Roger Langridge will be collected and released as a trade this May. I plan on doing a few conventions this year. My first being C2E2 in April.

(All artwork here has been reproduced with the permission of the artist. Copyright Gisele Lagace (c) 2017.)
(This interview is the copyright (c) of Curtis H. Hoffmann 2017. It may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the permission of the author.)

Jeffrey C. Wells interview

This is the second half of the Shaenon Garrity/Jeffrey Wells interview. The part that has more Jeffrey and less Shaenon. Well, actually, Shaenon doesn’t show up here at all this time. It’s just the part with Jeffrey. The interview. I mean, the interview part with Shaenon and Jeffrey but without Shaenon. Just Jeffrey. And Basket Case. Yes, Basket Case is here, too. Doing the interviewing part of the interview. That is, it’s not an interview without the interviewing part. Right? Where was I?

BC: Who are you?
JW: Hi. My name is Jeffrey Wells. I co-write Skin Horse with Shaenon Garrity. I also write prose, although it must be said, a lot of that is fanfiction.


(Skin Horse, the “Choose” chapter.)

BC: What personal details do you think are relevant to readers to know about you?
JW: I was born, raised, and have spent the better part of my life in the Midwest, specifically Wisconsin. I have no particular qualifications to work in comics other than the fact that one time I wrote a very long fanfic for Shaenon’s previous major daily webcomic, a strip called Narbonic. For some reason, Shaenon was so pleased at my very long fanfic that she invited me to collaborate on her second major daily webcomic, the ongoing Skin Horse. I am still kind of at a loss as to how that happened.

BC: Do you consider yourself a cartoonist, an illustrator, an artist, or something else?
JW: I am very definitely a writer rather than any form of visual artist. One of the ongoing jokes behind the scenes of Skin Horse is that Shaenon thinks it would be an awesome idea if I were to draw the strip for a week, apparently unaware of the riots that would ensue were I to ever attempt to do so.


(Skin Horse, the “Choose” chapter.)

BC: How did you get your start as a writer?
JW: A couple decades ago now (!) when I was in college, I was working my way through a theater minor with a focus on acting and vocal performance. Unfortunately, the university I was attending did not have very much space in the acting courses they offered, and priority was always given to the theater majors. One semester I was faced with the fact that I was not going to graduate with my minor intact if I did not take an elective course somewhere in the department, and with all acting classes full, I signed up for an elementary playwriting class, thinking that I would tolerate it as a necessary evil in the interest of graduating on time. It turned out I enjoyed the process much more than expected, and started doing hobby work on the Internet in addition to my college assignments. The rest is history, I guess?

BC: How long have you been writing, and what do you think your biggest breaks were?
JW: The incident described above occurred in 1997, and-disregarding dry spells and periods of writer’s block-I’ve been doing it fairly consistently since. My biggest break was, of course, Shaenon’s offering to collaborate on Skin Horse. It’s been an amazing nine years.


(Skin Horse, the “Choose” chapter.)

BC: Which of your works are you most happy with, or proud of?
JW: Skin Horse is pretty much it, for me! I also once wrote a serial novel about a novice superhero who daylights as a barista, and I’ll always have something of a soft spot for it despite the fact that it’s a bit more amateur a work.

BC: Where can readers get your collections?
JW: I imagine that Shaenon has answered this question to everyone’s satisfaction, but you can find collections of Skin Horse at the Couscous Collective store. If you’re curious about my prose work, you can check out my writing blog at Scrivnarium.


(Skin Horse, the “Choose” chapter.)

BC: What’s your process for working with Shaenon on Skin Horse? Do you scratch together some dialog, toss the sheet to her and then disappear for a long coffee break, or is it more interactive than that?
JW: The actual process has changed slightly over the years. At present, it goes a little something like this: one of us pitches a story idea, and we work together on a rough structure of how the story is going to unfold. Then, week by week, I provide a basic script to Shaenon. She takes it, improves the jokes, restructures some bits, and presents me with a series of revised thumbnails for my input if she feels the changes she’s made are more than just cosmetic. On my approval, Shaenon does the final art and ships the whole lot to our invaluable colorist and designer Pancha Diaz for coloring and last-minute edits.

BC: How far do you have the story planned out?
JW: The story has been basically planned out from the very beginning, which is weird because we’ve been waiting on some of these plot points to fire for almost a decade now. There’s been a lot of wiggle room on the path we take to get there, mind you, and the individual storylines are only plotted out before they begin, but to a greater or lesser extent they’ve all been in service of the long-term goal, which has not fundamentally changed.


(Skin Horse, the “Choose” chapter.)

BC: Are there any sub-plots or minor characters that you wanted to use that got cut for some reason?
JW: The one minor character who got lost to the cutting-room floor and who I’d like to see return someday was Tip’s Rumpelstiltskin-esque couturier, a rather sinister man named Mr. Tremotino. He was presented as a character who could work miracles with clothing but whose prices were steep and sometimes very strange. I enjoyed the love-hate relationship he and Tip had, but there just hasn’t been a place for him after he got cut out of the storyline in which he was originally featured.

BC: Do you and Shaenon ever argue about whether a joke is funny, or if the story is going in what seems to be the wrong direction?
JW: Shaenon and I rarely argue. I come from a theatrical background, and tend to treat Skin Horse as one big improv exercise. One of the worst things you can do in improv is say “no” to your partner; you say “yes, and…” instead. Retaining any individual joke or plot point is less important than sustaining the energy and being open to the new ideas your partner brings to the scene. This is not to say that we never go back and say, “argh, this isn’t working, can we re-do this?” to each other, it just rarely results in an actual locking of horns.


(Skin Horse, the “Choose” chapter.)

BC: How do you approach that blank sheet of white paper when you decide to start your next strip or story page?
JW: With an acute sense of low-grade panic, mitigated only by my unwavering faith that Shaenon will invariably fix whatever I screw up.

BC: If your strip had a soundtrack, what would it be/sound like?
JW: Funny you should ask that! Our strip actually has several soundtrack albums. Shaenon makes a habit of compiling a new playlist album every time a new book comes out, and I usually find that the mix is as just as eclectic as you would expect from albums based on a motley crew of semi-competent misfits. Perhaps a disproportionate amount of 1970s funk. Because 1970s funk is pretty great, that’s why.


(Skin Horse, the “Choose” chapter.)

BC: What’s the deal with Tip and weird sexual situations? Is there a contest to see who can come up with the most outrageous situation that Tip would still tolerate as a sex machine?
JW: The joke is that Shaenon comes up with intimate situations that she’d like to see Tip in, and then I try and figure out how to make them happen. I tend to write the situations where Tip can’t make it work. I’m not sure what that says about me.

BC: Do you have any favorite Skin Horse characters? Any of them that more closely reflect your own personality or tastes?
JW: It’s no secret that neurotic little Sweetheart is my favorite character, and the one that I’ve most cruelly shifted away from Shaenon’s original conception. I think Sweetheart was originally intended to be sort of a responsible mother-hen to the others, but I saw “responsibility” and wrote “persnickety” instead, and have been steadily corrupting her into my own in-universe doppelganger ever since. If you see Sweetheart obsessively struggling over something in the comic, it is probably something that I have obsessively struggled over in real life, just magnified. A little. Sometimes not much at all.


(Skin Horse, the “Choose” chapter.)

BC: Are there any backstories still waiting to be told?
JW: Yes, but to tell more would be spoiling.

BC: Have you gotten any negative reactions from readers about the storytelling, character interactions, or the stuff that Tip does? How do you react to those, if they happen?
JW: I mean, you can’t go ten years without getting *any* negative reactions. Most people are pretty approving of Tip. That said, we try to be responsive to user complaints, and if people repeatedly call a character out for behavior that does not match up with the picture we’re trying to paint, we may try and introduce a story element that shows a different side of that character in a future storyline.


(Skin Horse, the “Choose” chapter.)

BC: Who are your favorite artists/writers (any genre)? Have you met any of them? Got any dirt on them?
JW: I don’t tend to have favorite authors as I do favorite individual books. I am a huge fan of Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth, and Peter Beagle’s The Last Unicorn reliably makes me cry. I am very bad at collecting dirt, however, and am not a good source for celebrity gossip!

BC: Do you follow any other comic strips right now?
JW: I regularly read Dana Simpson’s Phoebe and Her Unicorn, because I have a thing for unicorns, and Ms. Simpson does them exceptionally well. I am fascinated by Marigold the Unicorn’s unassailable ego, partially because I wonder what it feels like to be that confident of one’s own inherent quality. Achewood and Homestuck were maddeningly brilliant, and kept me coming back despite their amazingly inconsistent update schedule. It takes a certain genius to accomplish that. With Homestuck complete and Achewood on indefinite hiatus, my webcomic feeds are a bit dry of late.

BC: What do you look for when you read someone else’s strips?
JW: Consistency is key. If I can’t get consistency, I look for people pushing the boundaries of the art form, creating humor in truly unique ways. I am a sucker for an author with a keen eye for finding organic, painfully real relationships in ridiculous contexts.


(Skin Horse, the “Choose” chapter.)

BC: What do you think makes for a good comic?
JW: Strong character voice, and an art style that complements rather than distracts from same. A little audacity. Showing up to the page.

BC: On GoComics, there’s a constant thread about how hard it is to follow the storyline. Is that intentional? Do you have any comments for people that get confused easily?
JW: Skin Horse is something of a beast. It mixes my novice webcomicker’s tendency to go overboard on plotting with Shaenon’s love of obscure detail. We don’t set out to make a strip that’s hard to follow, of course. It’s just that we see the entire months-long arc of each story as a single element in our brains, not as something that unfolds a little bit every twenty-four hours. Unfortunately, this is how everyone else sees it, and by the time some of these plot elements come to completion, many weeks have passed since they were first seeded. It may be easier to enjoy some of these storylines in the collections, where they unfold at a more compressed pace.

JW: I hope it all makes some sort of sense by the end of things.

BC: What kinds of things do you have in store for Skin Horse in the future?
JW: Things start getting kind of weird from this point on, but I can’t say more about it right now.

BC: Will we ever get to learn more about Moustachio’s background? Will he ever get cute little legs to go with the cute little arms?
JW: We sometimes keep character backgrounds in reserve; they tend to make good subjects for Kickstarter bonus material. (Moustachio’s history was fleshed out a bit in one of the bonus prose pieces for Volume 3, for instance.)

JW: Moustachio’s original legs are, as noted, the property of the British government. Even Tigerlily Jones cannot understand his legs well enough to make replacements. I keep wanting to do a leg-retrieval storyline set in the U.K., if for no other reason than to show in-canon that Nigel the ferret (seen only in bonus content) survived Unity’s scouring of the department, but it seems increasingly unlikely. (A), Moustachio has horrible little spider legs on his detachable head now, and (B), his new paramour Hitty is fully motile and he rides around on her all the time. Who needs legs if you have a girlfriend who is also a hammer tank to ride around on top of?

JW: I love being able to write sentences like that.

BC: Or, how about the power cores?
JW: The function of the man-portable fusion reactors is classified. You are not cleared to know about the function of the man-portable fusion reactors.
BC: [garbled response as Nick’s swear filter kicks in.]


(Skin Horse, the “Choose” chapter.)

BC: Will Sweetheart ever be able to go on a full-blown rampage?
JW: This has already happened in canon. She totally disrespected that wet cement down in New Orleans. What more do you want?

BC: What’s the deal with the skin-horse.com URL text fragments (i.e. – “pull-the-intake”) and have they all been collected somewhere for people like the GoComics readers to read?
JW: Glad you asked! The ComicPress platform works best if the filename for each uploaded image is also its post date, but once it’s on the system, inquisitive users can see several strips in advance by just typing in the filename corresponding to that date. In order to prevent this, Shaenon tacks on a few hard-to-guess words at the end of the date, but they’re not random; each new day contains the next few words of a prose piece (written by Shaenon) about the early days of Project Skin Horse’s current staff. These are not officially compiled, but certain fans have taken it upon themselves to gather them up from time to time. At present, www.ci-n.com/~jcampbel/skinhorse.txt is the most complete archive that I know of, but there may be more.

BC: Do you use Patreon or Kickstarter?
JW: We use both Patreon and Kickstarter, and have had good experiences with both. Services like this allow us to continue to produce free content for anyone to see, thus avoiding the commitment barrier inherent to subscription and pay-wall models and the technical constraints of microtransaction models. If someone enjoys our free content enough, services like Patreon and Kickstarter allow them to go the extra step and obtain exclusive perks and content that casual readers will miss out on, but the core strip remains accessible to readers of all levels of commitment. We are very grateful to all our Patreon and Kickstarter supporters. It makes a world of difference to us as creators!

BC: Appearances scheduled for conventions?
JW: My convention schedule is very much in flux at the moment. We’ll continue to announce upcoming convention appearances at skin-horse.com as we know more!

BC: Are you ever tempted to make contemporary political statements in Skin Horse? Why or why not?
JW: Skin Horse is kind of one big contemporary political statement, actually. It just goes down easier when you keep the references a little bit allegorical. I’d like to think that it doesn’t have one specific message that we’re hitting people over the head with; it’s just a metaphorical exploration on what it means to live in a post-millennial America.


(Skin Horse, the “Choose” chapter.)

BC: How would you characterize a typical Skin Horse reader?
JW: A typical Skin Horse reader is TOTALLY AWESOME. Next question.

BC: You have an open soapbox here. Anything you’d like to expound on, re: the current state of comics, web comics, convention goers, your fans? Unity’s inability to keep her hats on her head?
JW: Hats are funny. Fans are great. Friendship is magic. That is all.

(Skin Horse by Shaenon K. Garrity & Jeffrey C. Wells is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.)
(This interview is the copyright (c) of Curtis H. Hoffmann 2017. It may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the permission of the author.)

The Conjurers Artwork

Twice a year, for the last 3 years, I have been commissioning artwork from artists that I really like. A little while ago, I asked for a piece from Brian Anderson, from his webcomic The Conjurers. I now have the art in my hands.

This piece is of Savachia, the first lead character in the graphic novel prequel. It’s for a theater poster, if Savachia were to ever perform magic on stage.

Thanks, Brian!

Shaenon Garrity interview

I discovered Shaenon Garrity’s and Jeffrey Well’s Skin Horse strip in 2013, some time after it started running on GoComics. It was right in the middle of one of the storylines, and took many revisits before the humor started to stick on me (I’m told that was humor…). Then I felt like I needed to go through the archives to try to figure out what was going on in the longer plot. That led me to reading Shaenon’s earlier strip, Narbonic. That’s a lot of reading. And now, here we are. I asked both Shaenon and Jeffrey for interviews, and they both said “yes.” One said “yes” faster that the other, but I forget which one it was. So, “knock knock. Anyone home?”

SG: Okay, here we go…

BC: Who are you?
SG: Shaenon K. Garrity, co-writer and artist of Skin Horse, among other things.


(Skin Horse. Relevant?)

BC: What personal details do you think are relevant to readers to know about you?
SG: I was born in Pittsburgh and now live in Berkeley. My day job is editing manga for Viz Media. I have a two-year old who loves pets, OK Go videos, and books about owls.

BC: In the interview with John Lustig, (Last Kiss), he mentioned doing some work for Viz, but that the two of you met for reasons outside of manga. Do you remember meeting him?
SG: Oh, sure. We run into each other at conventions pretty regularly.

BC: What’s it like working at Viz? Are there any other webcomic artists there you’d like to give a shout-out to? What is a normal day as a Viz editor like?
SG: I’m a freelancer for Viz, so I only go into the office from time to time. But yes, I must shout out to my friend Brandon Hanvey, and to Pancha Diaz, who does the coloring and book design for Skin Horse. There are many talented people there. I love Viz.


(Skin Horse. Bitey hat.)

BC: Do you consider yourself a cartoonist, an illustrator, an artist, or something else?
SG: All of the above! I also do a lot of writing, both comics-related and otherwise.

BC: How did you get your start as an all-of-the-abovist?
SG: I started drawing comics in high school and kind of never stopped.

BC: How long have you been at it, and what do you think your biggest breaks were?
SG: I’ve been making comics on a vaguely professional basis since 2000. Don’t know if I’ve ever had a big break per se, but joining the Modern Tales webcomics collective with my first strip, Narbonic, was a wonderful experience. Modern Tales isn’t around anymore, but it helped launch the careers of a lot of great comics creators, and it pushed me to take my work seriously.

BC: Can you name us a few of the artists you worked with on Modern Tales? Are there any you still keep in touch with?
SG: Oh, sure. My Modern Tales comic, Narbonic, was a solo effort, but I collaborated on comics for the Modern Tales spinoff sites. For Serializer, which was a site for alternative comics, I did a wonderful, weird comic called Trunktown with Tom Hart, one of my indie comics heroes. I’m still very proud that I got to work with him. For Graphic Smash, for action comics, I wrote a superhero college drama called Smithson, drawn first by Bob Stevenson and later by Brian Moore, with special sequences by the legendary Roger Langridge. For Girlamatic, a girl-centric comics site, I wrote a Narbonic spinoff called Li’l Mell, with a rotating roster of artists including Vera Brosgol, Bill Mudron, Neil Babra, Andre Richard, and my husband Andrew Farago.


(Li’l Mell)

SG: All these projects were fantastic to work on, but Girlamatic was an especially great experience. All the artists on the site were very friendly and mutually supportive, and a lot of amazing work came out of it. For example, Raina Telgemeier’s Smile was first serialized on Girlamatic before becoming a mega-bestselling print graphic novel.

BC: What led up to your starting Narbonic and then Skin Horse, and do you have any other pokers in the fire right now?
SG: I started Narbonic because I was graduating college and feeling bad that I couldn’t keep drawing comics for the college newspaper. Some of my geeky friends introduced me to webcomics, and I naively thought, “Hey, I can do that!” I threw together a few ideas I’d been working on, mostly revolving around my love of pulp sci-fi in general and mad scientists in particular.


(Skin Horse, cleaning up messes, one catastrophe at a time.)

SG: About a year after Narbonic ended, I had an idea for a comic about a government agency that has to clean up the messes left by people like the characters in Narbonic. I thought that the staff could be made up of the creations of mad science, and at that moment I immediately pictured all the main characters. Then I talked Jeff into writing it for me because I’m lazy.

SG: I’m writing and drawing various things at all times. I’ve been writing prose science fiction lately; I’ve published about a dozen stories. I’m also working on a book with my husband, Andrew Farago, though it’s still in the early stages.

BC: Which of your works are you most happy with, or proud of?
SG: Narbonic and Skin Horse are both pretty good. I’m never 100% satisfied with anything I do, but I like most of it.


(Sweetheart and Unity, with Tip and Nick.)

BC: Do you have any Skin Horse characters that you feel closest to? Are there any that reflect your own character in some way? Are there any backstories still waiting to be told?
SG: Nick is my favorite. I’m very possessive of Nick and Dr. Lee, and Jeff is very possessive of Sweetheart and Unity. I think those are the characters we each identify with the most. There’s a semi-secret hidden Skin Horse story that goes into the main characters’ backstories a little, if you’re curious.
BC: I’ll let the readers beg for the secret story.


(Narbonic, to the moon.)

BC: Are there any story arcs that stand out for you for Skin Horse or Narbonic, for any particular reason?
SG: Honestly, I can only bear to read the second half of Narbonic; I get embarrassed by how rough the early strips are. I like the trip to the moon and the final arcs. In Skin Horse, I like “Choose,” the Jonah Yu and Nera story based on Choose Your Own Adventure books. I enjoy doing stories about side characters. I’m liking the current story arc too.


(Narbonic Murder-y Dave.)

BC: In Narbonic, there was a lot of play on characters named Dave. Was there a particular reason for that, and were there any side-effects from it that surprised you?
SG: Dave was a character in my college comic strip, where every male character was named Dave because it was such a common name at my college. All the Daves in my nerdy social circle had nicknames to identify them, like Shiny Happy Dave and Crazy Uncle Dave. So that’s where the Dave thing came from. There’s no deeper meaning to it, but it seems to be popular with guys named Dave.

BC: How many Skin Horse wallpapers are there now, and do you have any favorites? (Wallpapers available monthly for a small donation to the tip jar.)
SG: Hold on, let me go count… okay, 53. Three favorites:
SG: November-December 2010, “I’m Science!” It’s based on the 1960s Midcentury Modern artwork on the menu of the Tahitian Terrace restaurant that used to be across from the Enchanted Tiki Room at Disneyland. That may seem kind of obscure, but it’s an awesome menu and I love tiki stuff.

SG: December 2012, “Masquerade.” Based on illustrator Kay Nielsen, one of the great classic illustrators of the early 20th century. Some of the illustrations I ripped off for this wallpaper were also ripped off for the fantasy ballroom sequence in Labyrinth, so if it looks vaguely familiar that’s probably why.


(This is one of Basket Case’s favorite wallpapers. Buy one today.)

SG: February 2016, “Secret Garden.” I did this as a stained glass window inspired by Louis Comfort Tiffany, with maybe a slight nod to the amazing Irish illustrator Harry Clarke (who’s kind of like Kay Nielsen if he did a lot of stained glass, which is obviously awesome). It was a lot of fun to figure out how to get a stained-glass look.

SG: Any time I do a wallpaper in an Art Noveau style it gets a great response. I love drawing in that style, but I try not to go to that well too often. It’s so easy to make an Art Noveau piece look good, it feels like cheating.


(Tip likes to read, too.)

BC: Where can readers get your collections?
SG: At the Couscous Collective online store!
And at the most discerning comic shops. Ask for Narbonic and Skin Horse by name!

BC: How do you approach that blank sheet of paper when you decide to start your next strip or panel?
SG: I sit for an hour and either write or don’t. Usually, before the hour is up, I think of something to write.


(Choose)

BC: What is the process you and Jeffrey go through in making Skin Horse? Are there times when you disagree with how a particular character is supposed to react in some situation, or about the direction the story is supposed to go? How do you resolve that? Are there any minor characters or sub-plots that you wanted to use but got dropped for some reason?
SG: Jeff does the bulk of the writing. For each story arc, we usually start by hashing out a plot together. Then Jeff writes a bunch of scripts, which I mess with and toss out and generally ruin, and some comic strips come out of it.

SG: I don’t think we’ve ever had a major disagreement, although we do run into minor differences on how we imagine different characters. There are certainly plots we haven’t gotten around to. The Jersey Devil story arc, “Can’t Catch Me,” was originally going to be a musical, “Jersey Devil: The Musical!” Jeff was very excited about the idea but ultimately couldn’t figure out how to make it work. I’m still a little disappointed about that.

BC: If your strip had a soundtrack, what would it be/sound like?
SG: I’ve been assembling Skin Horse soundtracks for each volume of the print books. They are awesome. Here they are.

Volume 2
Volume 3
Volume 4
Volume 5
Volume 6

BC: Who are your favorite artists/writers? Have you met any of them?
SG: Too many to list. I learned a lot about writing from the great children’s author Daniel Pinkwater. I was fortunate enough to meet him and his wife Jill a couple of times, and they’re amazing people. My favorite cartoonists… Lynda Barry, Alison Bechdel, and Moto Hagio are the first who spring to mind, so let’s go with them.

BC: Do you follow any other comic strips right now?
SG: Not really. Drawing comics eats up too much of my time for reading comics. I’m behind on all my monthly comic books, too.

BC: What do you look for when you read someone else’s strips?
SG: I like all comics that don’t suck. I look for a lack of sucking.


(Choose. To not be sucky.)

BC: What do you think makes for a good comic?
SG: Skill not just with writing and drawing, but with the combination of the two, which is a third discipline in itself. Strong characters. An original voice. Failing that, kitties.

BC: What’s your favorite kitties comic then?
SG: The untranslated and unjustly obscure manga Atagoul. But my two-year-old loves Chi’s Sweet Home, a very cute manga about a kitten going about her daily life.

BC: Do you see manga as having some kind of effect on your own work in some way? How would you compare the manga you edit for Viz to western comics you’ve read?
SG: Manga tends to be more visual, emotional, and cinematic. Even though I don’t draw in a particularly manga-esque art style, I do incorporate a lot of what I learn from manga into my own comics. I need to show more than I tell, and manga demonstrates how to do that.


(Skin Horse. Something the Japanese dreamed up.)

BC: Do you use Patreon or Kickstarter? Do you want to plug your site?
SG: We use both and they’re essential to our continued survival. I started using Kickstarter as a convenient way to take pre-orders for Skin Horse Volume 2, and it worked so well I’ve used it for everything I’ve published since. Our Patreon has been a lifesaver, too. Both sites are invaluable not just for webcartooning, but for self-publishing in general. They’ve certainly made it much easier and more fun to do what Jeff and I do.

Our Patreon: www.patreon.com/Shaenon

BC: For the kickstarters, have you had anyone take you up on the “Tiki Party at Shaenon’s” offer? How did that turn out?
SG: Yes! Every year one or two people do. My tiki parties are excellent.


(Tiki Party in the house.)

BC: Do you have any appearances scheduled for conventions?
SG: I think the next con I’m doing is the Silicon Valley Comic Con in San Jose next month. Come say hi!

(Skin Horse by Shaenon K. Garrity & Jeffrey C. Wells is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.)
(This interview is the copyright (c) of Curtis H. Hoffmann 2017. It may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the permission of the author.)

Jonathan and Elizabeth interview

I watch my Twitter feed very closely, and when an artist chooses to follow me, I try to find out who they are and to get a feel for their work. That’s what happened with the creators of War and Peas, a very funny, very thoughtful look at our world from various perspectives. I’d like to introduce Jonathan and Elizabeth today.

BC: Who are you?
JE: We’re Jonathan and Elizabeth, the minds behind War and Peas.

BC: What personal details do you think are relevant to readers to know about you?
JE: The most important personal detail is that we’re two different people, with two different styles. But we merged them a while back to create the War and Peas world. You can see proof that there are two of us above (and here www.boredpanda.com/war-and-peas/).

BC: How did the two of you first meet?
JE: At art school.

BC: Do you consider yourselves cartoonists, illustrators, artists, or somethings else?
JE: We usually refer to ourselves as comic artists.

BC: How did you get your start as that?
JE: We started this website in 2011 under the name linsedition. It started as an outlet for our silly doodles and nonsensical comics… and back then most of them were pretty bad, we’re not gonna lie. Then, after some time actual people started responding to it, telling us how funny they thought the comics were. That was really wonderful. So we started to straighten out the concept, both formally and content-wise.

BC: How long have you been at this, and what do you think your biggest breaks were?
JE: We’d say that there were three bigger breaks. The first was to make it a weekly thing and being disciplined about it (thanks to Barbara Yelin for mentoring us in that direction). The second was to limit ourselves to the four-panel format. This in addition to our artstyle make the comics more recognizable. The third was to change our name from L.I.N.S. to War and Peas. We prefer the sound of it and its meaning reflects us in a better way.

BC: What led up to your starting War and Peas, and do you have any other pokers in the fire right now?
JE: War and Peas is definitely our flagship for now but Elizabeth is also responsible for the adventures of Fungirl and is working on a book. Jonathan publishes some doodles and artworks on his Instagram having no idea where it might lead him. He’s also busy teaching comics at Saarland art school.

BC: Which of your works are you most happy with, or proud of?
JE: There are a few good ones that we’re still happy with, mostly the more saddish ones. But like with most people who make stuff, we have a kind of conflicted relationship with our work. Sometimes we’re not happy with a comic at all but we know it’s still important to finish it and get it out there. Every comic is like a little milestone we have to make before going to the next. We just hope to get better again and again.

BC: Do you have any collections on the market yet?
JE: We don’t, but we’re working on a book.

BC: How do you approach that blank sheet of paper when you decide to start your next strip?
JE: We usually start out with a situation. If we don’t have an idea already in mind, we think about our reoccurring characters and as they’re surprisingly eclectic, it’s not that hard to put them in an interesting situation. Most of our comics deal with unfulfilled desires or have some sort of sad-funny undertone. So a character might strive for something, and then an absurd plot twist might thwart those efforts. Usually that plot twist is the last and hardest part.

BC: Americans tend to prefer optimistic, or happy endings to their stories and comics, yet you have sad twist endings. How would you explain the appeal of that kind of ending to an American audience?
JE: There’s an interesting study showing that people prefer brutal movies and books in times when their country is at war or there’s lots of violence on the news. That explains the boom of horror movies during the Vietnam war. Maybe that’s also the explanation for why our biggest audience is from the States. Perhaps Americans are having a sad time at the moment and therefore prefer comics with sad punchlines.

BC: What’s the typical process for the two of you to put together a strip? That is, who handles what tasks, and how easy is it for you to work together? Are there any tasks that are easier/harder than others?
JE: We have different approaches when it comes to making a comic. Mostly it’s that one of us has an idea and we do the fine-tuning together. Sometimes we also start with a blank paper together and start a kind of ping-pong process, throwing ideas back and forth with increasing silliness. The drawing work gets cut in half and we alternate with one another from week to week. Being together on War and Peas is a challenge and an opportunity at the same time. It takes lots of communication and arguing but it works most of the time. It’s also amazing to have someone with the same sense of humour to discuss ideas with.

BC: What’s been the hardest part of producing War and Peas since you’ve started on it?
JE: Probably upholding a certain level of quality and meeting our reader’s expectations. But also managing the different channels we’re publishing on. We always have to keep an eye on messages and developments on each platform. But sometimes we’d just like to slip away and make comics all day.

BC: Do you tackle political or social issues in your strips? Which issues are you most concerned with as individuals?
JE: We had some political strips and stickers but we’re not that hipped to show our sentiment explicitly. Reading between the panels, you can surely see our world view and our opinions on social issues. We’re surely fascinated by topics such as sub- versus mainstream culture and the paradox form of isolation that comes with an increased connectivity in post-modern society. And sometimes it’s just about making a silly joke.

BC: If your strip had a soundtrack, what would it be?
JE: That’s a real good question. We both love music and listen to it frequently when working up a comic. There are several strips we could correlate with certain songs. But if we had to compose a soundtrack that fits all of them, it would probably be a rough mix of the excellent songs “I Like To Stay Home” by R. Stevie Moore, “Hey Moon!” by Molly Nilsson and the Golden Girls Theme.

BC: Who are your favorite artists/writers? Have you met any of them? Got any dirt on them?
JE: Now and then we text with Chris McCoy from Safely Endangered and Alex Norris from Webcomic Name. Alex will be visiting in summer as he’ll be the guest of the Comic Symposium in Saarbrucken. No dirt so far, but ask again when we met in person.

BC: I’m currently interviewing Alex right now. Is there anything you’d like to ask him? Or give him a shout-out?
JE: Just that we will see him. Soon.

BC: Do you follow any other comic strips right now? Why?
JE: We really enjoy the work of Kate Beaton and Nicholas Gurewitch. Obviously we love them because they’re hilarious. Kate Beaton’s storytelling is truly unique, and her facial expressions are the best! Nicholas Gurewitch has such a great sense of which style to choose to perfect each comic in it’s own way. Other than that, we follow several really great artists on our Instagram. They’re all worth checking out.

BC: What do you look for when you read someone else’s strips?
JE: We’re very story-focused when it comes to webcomics. In the end, we always believe story wins over artwork. That doesn’t mean the two can’t go hand in hand. But if the artwork becomes a means of its own, it’s too distracting and hard to really immerse yourself into the storytelling. However, we also enjoy good artwork, but more in the context of an exhibition.

BC: What do you think makes for a good comic?
JE: Another good question, and hard to answer! We think any good content is one that evokes a response. That can be a laugh, being touched, or maybe even mad (we’ve had some haters). In the end, its only credible if you believe your message as well. Just trying to provoke for provocation’s sake is an empty promise. If you can mash a meaningful message and a good punchline in a few panels we’d consider that as a good comic-strip. But if you’re able to combine that with heartwarming characters and your readers follow them and want to know what they’re going to do next… that’s art. We’re a little bit bored by all these flat characters that are considered relatable in this current comic strip trend, but we guess that’ll change soon.

BC: What strips, or topics, seem to produce the greatest reactions from your haters?
JE: We had a sticker once, head-lining “There’s a party in my burka”. It was just meant to be harmlessly silly, but some people didn’t like it. Sometimes the nerdesque community loves to critique our more geeky comics – pointing out little mistakes in the drawing or what not. All in all, you hardly get trolled when you’re writing about a ghost having an identity crisis. At least as long as it’s wearing a bed sheet as cover-up.

BC: Do you use Patreon or Kickstarter?
JE: Yes, we do have a Patreon page but we’re thinking about closing it again. We offer a loveletter service for 5$/month and it’s a lot of fun but also very time-consuming.

BC: Do you want to plug your site?
JE: Sure: warandpeas.com, and here are some social media links:
Instagram
Facebook
Twitter

BC: Do you have any projects coming up?
JE: Just the War and Peas book thing and fungirl of course.

BC: To Elizabeth – How would you describe Fungirl to new readers?
JE: Fungirl is a comic revolving around the eponymous heroine. A girl in today’s postmodern wasteland, Fungirl has no direction, not so many friends, and is not up to much good. Yet, Fungirl seems just fine with how things are going. Every episode revolves around some absurd and unashamed shenanigan where we can watch Fungirl bravely deal with hurdles such as unrequited love, overflowing lust, and becoming a respectable and productive member of society.

BC: Any final words you’d like to add?
JE: Thank you for interviewing us 🙂 It was a pleasure.

(All artwork here has been reproduced with the permission of the artists. Copyright War and Peas (c) 2017.)
(This interview is the copyright (c) of Curtis H. Hoffmann 2017. It may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the permission of the author.)

Kevin and Kell

Basket Case is proud to help support Bill Holbrook’s Kevin and Kell strip. (Bill also draws and writes On the Fastrack and Safe Havens.) I’ve been following all three strips for years, although the local papers in St. Paul and Minneapolis only had Safe Havens “back in the day.” According to the wiki page, On the Fast Track was first distributed in newspapers in 1984, Safe Havens started in 1988, and Kevin and Kell has the distinction of being the longest-running webcomic, since 1995.

Having had to move a couple times between the U.S. and Japan, and having had to travel a lot for business in the middle there, I wasn’t always able to follow KandK consistently. So, a few weeks ago, after having decided to become one of Bill’s patrons, I found myself in need of going back through his archives to find one of the strips I’d want for the original artwork. Think about that – Bill has been drawing Kevin and Kell for almost 21.5 years almost without a break. 365.25 * 21.5 = a number bigger than I can count on one hand. And THAT’S a big number right there. Needless to say, it took least more than an hour to look at all those strips, and it was definitely time well-spent.

If you’re not familiar with this strip, it’s a “furry” comic set in a universe where humans left Earth after trashing the place, and birds evolved to take over and guide the other animals as they achieved intelligence. As such, the inhabitants of the planet have the same quirks and foibles as their predecessors did. The leads are Kevin, a tech-savvy rabbit running his own ISP company, and his wife Kell, a wolf that initially worked at a predation company named Herd Thinners, and is now the president of her own firm, Dewclaw’s Fine Meats. Their’s is a blended family, with a wolf son, Rudy, from Kell’s first marriage; an adopted hedgehog/human daughter, Lindesfarne; and their shared daughter, the carnivorous rabbit, Coney. Lindesfarne is married to the bat, Fenton, and Rudy is dating a fennic fox named Fiona. As such, they’re occasionally confronted by prejudice and hostility by the more close-minded members of their communities that dislike mixed marriages. In addition, Bill isn’t afraid to address other social issues such as transgendering (Bruno, Rudy’s best friend, is a wolf that underwent trans-species surgery to become a sheep).

Kevin and Kell is first and foremost a humor strip, in with the longer, sometimes more serious stories lines. It’s not exactly a “gag-a-day” title, but it comes close. However, there are quite a few pop culture references and pun names, including Trump when he was on Apprentice, G. W. Bush, and even an appearance by M. C. Escher. What I like most are the Sunday special splash pages, where Bill just let’s loose and shows what he’s really capable of as an artist. The best examples are his CD collection covers for Bruce Springsteen, and Big Brother and the Holding Company featuring Janis Joplin. There’s also a Picasso parody, and a scene from Beauty and the Beast. (Occasionally, Bill will team up with Jenner for the coloring.)

While the ideal would be to buy yourself copies of the Kevin and Kell books, you do owe it to yourself to at least read through the full archive from beginning to end to fully appreciate Bill’s intelligent writing and wit. And then drop him $5 to have your name appear as “a sponsor for a day.”

(All artwork is copyright (c) Bill Holbrook 1995-2017.)

K.Garrison interview

I’ve been a fan of Jenner’s Doc Rat strip for several years, and for a while I was active in his comments forums over at The Cross Time Cafe. That’s where I first met K.Garrison, creator of Carry On, the best comic on the net starring hyenas. K –

BC: Who are you?
KG: Wow, going straight for the existential philosophical stuff, huh? Well, let’s see…I’m a farmer, an artist, an arm-chair philosopher, an admirer of animation, a country girl, a gardener, a journalist, an animal-lover, a photographer, a writer… but mostly, I’m a teller of jokes and stories. That’s what I am, a storyteller.

BC: What personal details do you think are relevant to readers to know about you?
KG: I’m a West Virginian who had the bad luck to have been born in New Jersey. That’s not entirely fair, though, because I had an idyllic childhood on the Jersey Shore, but I “grew up” in West Virginia. On one side of my family, we go back to the American Revolution; on the other side, we’re immigrants from Poland and Austria.

KG: I’ve always loved animals; when I was three, I remember being asked what I wanted to do when I grew up, and my reply was “have a menagerie.” That became a desire to become a veterinarian. I couldn’t get into vet school, so I became a farmer instead. So in a way, I’ve realized that childhood ambition, because I certainly have a menagerie now.

KG: My other love was art. I had an early gift for it that manifested itself as three-dimensional finger-painting in kindergarten. I was the prodigy all my teachers loved to show off. It’s not bragging, it’s just the truth. I have to say that my seven-year-old niece has even more talent at her age than I had, so I’m hoping for great things from her. My paternal uncle is a fine-artist who has made a name for himself with his paintings. My mother and her paternal aunt were also talented artists. I have a great-grand-aunt who I’ve been told was a poet laureate of Poland. So I’ve got art in the blood, and as Sherlock Holmes said, it’s liable to take some strange forms.

BC: Do you consider yourself a cartoonist, an illustrator, an artist, or something else?
KG: I’d say I’m an artist, because I’m not restricted to any one form of expression. I’m primarily a cartoonist, but I also do illustrations, sculptures, sewn projects like dolls and doll clothes, miniature furniture, paintings, and sketches.

BC: How did you get your start as an artist? How long have you been at that, and what do you think your biggest breaks were?
KG: I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember. I was a big fan of cartoons and comics when I was little, and created my first comic strip when I was in the third grade. It was based on the adventures of some of my stuffed animals–today it would be called a “Peanuts” fan fic, I suppose, because the main character was a beagle named Henry who was Snoopy’s cousin. I can remember saying that my ambition was to one day take Charles Schulz’ place as a cartoonist.

KG: Cartoons are an ideal medium for me, because they combine illustration with storytelling, and a joke. I have a skewed way of looking at the world, and I almost can’t help cracking a joke, wanting to make people laugh–I got that from my dad–so creating comic strips just comes naturally. I’d have to say that my biggest break was learning that I could self-publish my work on the Internet. Up until around 2004, my audience was myself and a few select friends to whom I’d show my cartoons. But being put in touch with hundreds of people from around the world…well, it’d hard to describe the feeling of knowing I HAVE FANS!! And I really appreciate my fans. It amazes me to know that people in places as diverse as Indonesia, Finland, Brazil, Japan, South Africa, Israel, Australia, and all points in between, read my comic strip. It’s humbling.

BC: What led up to your starting Carry On, and do you have any other pokers in the fire right now?
KG: Before we started dating, my husband, Scott Kellogg, was drawing a comic strip called 21st Century Fox. In his main story line, his character Cecil, a giraffe, was getting ready to marry two lady giraffes and start a herd. I started sending Scott “fan art” and making suggestions for gags, most of which he politely declined to use because they didn’t fit into his concept of the storyline. He did, however, include a cameo of me in the strip–envisioned as a hyena, at my request. That was the first appearance of Kathy Grrsn in print. I then asked him if he would mind if I did a spin-off series using the gags I’d sent him, and he gave me permission to use his characters. That became the original series of Carry On, although at the time it was fan art.

KG: The idea of using a hyena stemmed from the dearth of “unattractive” animal characters being used in the comics of that time. There were plenty of foxes, tigers, lions, wolves, and even skunks, but no scavengers. So I decided that I was going to create a comic strip about a group of scavengers, and make them work at a big-city newspaper. As the comic progressed, Kathy got a sister who worked on a rescue squad, and a dad who was an undertaker. Kathy’s favorite cartoon character, Pepe The Fire Ant, was created because “nobody makes plushies of fire ants.”

KG: The title of the strip is a play on the word “carrion.” I knew very little about spotted hyenas when I first started the strip. I chose that animal because it scavenges stuff and has a raucous laugh–much like myself. Over time I’ve learned a lot about the animal, and despite the fact that they’re weird and kind of gross in their personal habits, I’ve come to love and admire spotted hyenas.

KG: As for other projects…I’ve done several other comic strips, I’ve written novels, and I’ve done some illustrations for other people’s works, but at the present moment, working on Carry On and running my farm takes most of my time. I submit stuff to my DeviantArt account on a regular basis. Coming up with the story for my comic strip, now that it’s changed from a gag-a-day into a serial, consumes most of my creativity. I’ve even stopped reading books in order to keep my mind focused on my own story.

BC: Which of your works are you most happy with?
KG: Probably Carry On. I’m pleased to have the audience I’ve accumulated, and to have placed third in the 2015 Ursa Major Awards, which is a fan-based recognition among the “furry” art community. I have some as-yet unpublished novels, which I’m very pleased with, but I don’t know whether they’ll ever see distribution, because one is based on The Phantom of the Opera and the other is a series using the Russian folklore demon Koschei the Deathless as its inspiration. I’ll probably end up self-publishing them.

KG: I’ve developed an aversion to “fan fiction.” I used to write loads of it, until I found out that it’s better to be original rather than squander one’s creativity by using somebody else’s works. While I include plenty of shout-outs or cameos or homages in my comic strip, the story, the characters, and the general concept are totally original. And it’s letting me do some world-building.

BC: Do you have any collections on the market yet?
KG: I do not yet have any collections available, but I hope to have something put together soon. A dear friend of mine in Germany assembled the first ten years of my comic strip and had them printed and bound as an anniversary gift; he also did the same thing for my husband’s comic strip. The books are beautiful, and as he’s given me the file, I hope to be able to find an American custom printer to publish them on demand.

BC: How do you approach that blank sheet of white paper when you decide to start your next strip?
KG: Usually the ideas come first. I get ideas all the time–it’s like part of my mind is in some sort of continuous stream-of-consciousness state, and suddenly a joke will pop into my head, or a funny turn of phrase, or maybe I’ll walk into a tree or something while working around the yard (that happens surprisingly often to me) and I’ll go in and jot the idea down. Often, one idea begets others, and pretty soon I have a whole series of gags waiting to be drawn. The hard part is reading my own handwriting…or digging the appropriate notes out of the stacks of paper on the desk and kitchen table!

KG: Prior to starting the “Road To Rackenroon” arc, Carry On was a gag-a-day strip based on the daily life of the main character, Kathy Grrsn. She’s only loosely based on me. She lives in New Yak City, and her parents live about an hour away by train in Hyenasport. She has several co-workers with varying personalities, like Helen, the OCD office manager who is a raccoon; Calvin, the loathsome swine sportswriter; Walter, the editor, who is a vulture, gruff but nurturing of talent; and Scooter, her best friend, who was the staff artist and cartoonist for Pepe The Fire Ant. I added a few characters based on some real-life friends of mine. People are either tickled pink to have a cartoon cameo, or never speak to me again.

KG: Coming up with a gag a day got increasingly difficult. There were times when I had nothing at 9 PM the night before an update, so I’d either vamp with any old thing that came to mind, or put up some filler art, like cute pictures of my baby lambs. It was getting to the point where creating the strip wasn’t much fun anymore–it was feeling like work, and I was tempted to close it down. Then I got the inspiration to do a “Road Picture”-type storyline, where Kathy finds out she’s an heiress, travels to a distant country, and…heh, no spoilers. That initial concept was supposed to last only a couple of months.

KG: I had started the set-up, and then my husband had a stroke…which I incorporated into the storyline. I told you, I get jokes from everywhere. Anyway, as it went along, I got more involved in the backstory of this distant land, and of the Lieutenant who was to be Kathy’s unwillingly-betrothed husband. I started to like this new character to the point where he began to take over the direction of the strip, and finally I just handed him the reins and let him go with it. I know some people miss the old format and would like to see the New Yak City cast again, but I feel the strip has become much richer and more interesting.

KG: As for the actual mechanics of drawing the strip…I use regular 8.5 x 11 copy paper. I lay out the border with a .08 Micron archival ink pen and a triangle. Sometimes I make preliminary sketches if I have to work out a pose or an action sequence, but usually I start sketching the strip with a #2 pencil, after I’ve blocked it out in my head, breaking down the dialog into one to four panels. Recently I’ve been experimenting with longer sets of panels if I have too much for one strip with three frames, but not enough for two full strips.

KG: Usually I write out the dialog in script form, then do some editing to get it to fit. Creating a comic strip is like making a haiku–you need to be able to distill an idea to its essence, to pare it down into one to three frames, and still have it be funny. Funny, or thought-provoking. An ironic punch line is just as good as a funny one. Once the strip is blocked and sketched, I ink it with a #03 Micron pen. Then I scan it into Photoshop, clean it up, use bucket fills for the colors, shade and highlight it, add backgrounds, dialog balloons, and the text, and then flatten it, size it for the Web, and upload it to my comic site, Magpie House Design at Hirezfox.com. I’ve got very nice guys who take care of the nuts and bolts of the site for me–James, Carl, and Mako. I couldn’t do this without their help. And of course, my husband has always been there for support and to bounce ideas off of. If a joke makes him laugh, then I know I’ve got a winner.

BC: If your strip had a soundtrack, what would it be?
KG: Funny you should ask–I actually have a Carry On playlist. It ranges from classical music to contemporary pop. The song that changed things with the “Road To Rackenroon” storyline was “Makin’ Love Out Of Nothing At All” by Air Supply. Until I settled on that as the “love theme” for Kathy and Fred, the story as originally planned wasn’t working for me.

(Note: In case you’re interested, here’s the playlist–some of these I use for inspiration, or setting a mood, while others will be part of the storyline:
Just Good Friends, Fish
Storms in Africa, Enya
Raiders Theme, John Williams
The Music of the Night, Andrew Lloyd Webber
I’m In The Mood For Love, Nat King Cole
Makin’ Love Out Of Nothing At All, Air Supply
Duet version with Bonnie Tyler
Footloose, Kenny Loggins
Africa, Toto
The World Turned Upside Down, Coldplay
Incommunicado, Marillion
Fighter, Christina Aguilera
She’s Always A Woman, Billy Joel
The Heat Is On, Glenn Frey
The Glory of Love, Peter Cetera
Pachelbel’s Canon in D, for classical guitar
Two Less Lonely People, Air Supply
What About Love, Heart
Leave A Tender Moment Alone, Billy Joel
Call Me Al, Paul Simon
There Ain’t Nothin’ Bout you That Don’t Do Something For Me, Brooks & Dunn
Hooked On A Feeling, Blue Swede
I Will Always Love You, Dolly Parton
Leaving Port,” “Take Her To Sea, Mr. Murdoch,” and “The Sinking,” from James Horner’s “Titanic” soundtrack)

BC: Who are your favorite artists/writers? Have you met any of them?
KG: I have a long list of “favorite writers” whose works have inspired me. This is only a partial recollection of the people who have inspired me: There’s Marguerite Henry, who wrote the “Misty of Chincoteague” stories, and started me wanting to be a storyteller like her; Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; J.R.R. Tolkein; J.K. Rowlings has my life; James Herriot; George Lucas, who was a brilliant director, until he turned to evil and betrayed and murdered his story; Alex Hirsch, who created “Gravity Falls” and who was born the year I graduated high school, I hate that guy; Derek Dick, who goes by the stage name Fish, whose work with the alt-rock band Marillion improved my writing skills; Steve Smith, aka Red Green; Anne McCaffrey; Bill Watterson, whose brilliant “Calvin & Hobbes” will live forever; Garrison Keillor; Norman Rockwell, who knew how to paint a good story; the guys who wrote “Back To The Future,” which I think is the most perfectly-written movie ever made; Nick Park and Aardman; Walt Disney and Chuck Jones, for inspiring my artistic style; Charles Addams, Dik Browne, Charles Schulz, Frank Cho, Gary Larson, Gary Trudeau, and Phil Foglio, for inspiring my cartooning style. The only one of these I’ve met is Phil Foglio, and I think he thinks I’m stalking him or something, because we kept bumping into each other at Dragon*Con a couple of years ago.

KG: And of course, there’s my husband, who is my co-conspirator, my sounding board, and my best friend. Without his patience, hard work, and understanding, I could never have created this comic strip. He not only tolerates me, he aids and abets me.

BC: Do you follow any other comic strips right now?
KG: I have a handful of comics I read regularly, because I admire them, or because I know the artists personally–sometimes, both. I don’t have much time to read a lot of comics these days, and I’m paranoid about lifting ideas from other people–I’m a pretty bad intellectual kleptomaniac. “Great comics steal” and all that. I regularly follow “Freefall” by Mark Stanley, “Doc Rat,” by Jenner, “Girl Genius” by Phil and Kaja Foglio, “The Whiteboard” by Doc Nickel, “NEOCTC” by Sleepy John Reynolds, and “21st Century Fox” by my husband, Scott Kellogg. I contribute ideas and advice to “NEOCTC” and to “The Cross-Time Cafe,” and for the past few months I’ve been helping out my husband by drawing “21st Century Fox” for him due to his schedule at work making it difficult for him to devote the necessary time to it himself.

KG: I’m personal friends with Mark Stanley, who is one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. I greatly admire Jenner’s artwork. Phil Foglio was an artistic inspiration to me back in high school after I saw his work in an anthology book titled “Startoons,” and I’ve been following Girl Genius since the black-and-white line art days. I’ve only recently started following The Whiteboard, after Doc included a cameo of one of my characters, and I thanked him by doing a little filler art for him. As far as syndicated strips go, I’ve been reading “Hagar,” “Peanuts,” “B.C.” “The Wizard of Id,” “Beetle Bailey,” “Hi & Lois,” “Blondie,” and a number of others, for ages. I’ve also recently started collecting the works of Sergio Arragones and Don Martin.

BC: What do you look for when you read someone else’s strips?
KG: Storytelling, humor, and artwork, in that order. Very few comic strips have all three. A badly-drawn comic can make it on a good gag, but a beautifully-drawn comic strip with a poorly-told story will quickly lose my interest. There are several gorgeous strips whose storylines are so convoluted, or so dull, that I just can’t follow them. And I totally don’t get the dark and/or violent comic strips. That’s just not my taste.

BC: What do you think makes for a good comic?
KG: Characters that come to life. A good, solid ability to tell a story, and to make it engrossing enough that I want to come back the next day to see what happens. The ability to tell a joke. A dedication on the part of the artist, not only to his readership, but to the characters he’s created. A cartoonist or a novelist is sort of like a god, calling people into being, breathing life into creatures of paper and ink, and he owes it to them to give them well-written personalities and great stories to tell. Other people won’t love your characters if you don’t love them first. My friend Sleepy John uses stick figures for his comic strip, but he has such a mastery over body language and comic timing that he produces one of the best comic strips around, as minimalist as the art is. His strip’s kind of like xkcd meets Zootopia, only that’s not an accurate description, as his strip is more original than that. Originality also draws my attention. I don’t understand the manga fad–why spend so much time learning how to draw in somebody else’s style, so that your artwork looks exactly like everyone else’s?

BC: Do you use Patreon or Kickstarter? Do you want to plug your site?
KG: I do not currently use either of those, although I’ve considered getting an account with Patreon. To be brutally honest, I’d love to be able to get paid for what I’m doing. I got into comics just about the time when the newspapers and publishing houses were being killed off. Self-publishing allows anyone to get their work in front of an audience, but the Internet has in effect given typewriters to an infinite number of monkeys, and no one has yet come up with anything close to Shakespeare. I’m grateful to my fans for the gifts they’ve given me over the years. Perhaps their greatest gift has been their dedication and friendship. But dropping a buck in the jar once a week would help a lot, too! 😉

KG: I’m a lazy cartoonist–I could be doing a lot more to promote my site. Currently I’m on a small server. I’ve looked at trying to get onto an aggregator like GoComics, without much progress so far, mostly due to a lack of follow-up. I’ve gotten a Deviant Art account (kdnightstar) and have used it to post drawings, writing, and photographs. You can find my comic at www.hirezfox.com/km/co/index.html.

BC: Do you have any projects coming up? Appearances scheduled for conventions?
KG: No. I’ve attended a few conventions, but I find the thought of attending as a behind-the-table personality to be daunting to the point of terrifying. I’m not ruling it out, but the logistics (I have a farm, remember) and the expense has put me off. Some projects I need to get to are, creating a searchable archive for my comic, and making up some new art to use as “thank you” gifts for donations, as well as finding out how to get some paper copies of my comic made available via print-on-demand.

(All artwork here has been reproduced with the permission of the artist. Copyright Kathryn Garrison Kellogg (c) 2004-2017.)
(This interview is the copyright (c) of Curtis H. Hoffmann 2017. It may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the permission of the author.)

In search of good webcomics.