Comic Sherpa is the site GoComics uses to let upcoming artists test their chops. I’ve sampled it occasionally, but there’s nothing there that I read consistently (although, a few of the Sherpa strips that DID make it to GoComics, such as Ryan North’s Dinosaur Comics, have become favorites of mine). I had seen Dog Eat Doug a few times before, and it seemed to be a nice, simple story about 2 parents with a baby (Doug) and a dog (Sophie). However, in 2013 (and I really can’t believe it’s been that long now), GoComics in its Recent Comics section on the main page ran one of Brian’s DeD strips with Sophie commenting on some neighbors that like recreating Japanese rubbersuit movies (see below). Because the science kit publisher, Gakken, had just released a close-up webcamera for making forced-perspective shot movies, the timing was perfect. I went back through the archives, and now I’m a fan of Sophie and the techno kitties. The artwork is much more solid now, the timing and pacing of the jokes are dead-on, and Brian’s love of pop culture (especially regarding Hellboy and anything by Tim Burton) shines through most of the strips.
Additionally, in 2013, Brian started running a second strip on GoComics – an illustrated prequel to a novel he’s working on, called The Conjurers. Conjurers is set in its own universe, where stage magic was developed to disguise the fact that real magicians live among us, but they have been hiding in the shadows because of constant persecution. Brian uses a completely different style for the character designs and backgrounds, and his monsters and other-worldly creatures could easily come from Burton’s nightmares. It’s very well-done, and I am looking forward to the book release.
BC: Brian, what’s your line?
BA: Storyteller, martial artist, magician. With dreams of becoming a real puppet.
BC: What should we know about you?
BA: Oooo. Not sure what would really interest people. Spent most of my life in Mass. Picked up and moved to NC four years ago. Love dogs, cats, have a bunch of both. Addicted to pens and notebooks that fit in my pocket.
BC: Do you consider yourself a cartoonist, an illustrator, an artist, or something else?
BA: I think I’m a storyteller. I just let the story pick the right medium.
BC: How did you get started?
BA: Started drawing when I was 2. My dad was a great cartoonist and my mom was artistic. It’s something I always did. My dad never did anything past high school and college strips, though.
BC: How long have you been at that, and what do you think your biggest breaks were?
BA: Basically been at it since as long as I can remember. Biggest break was really never giving up.
BC: Is there much of a difference between being on Comic Sherpa and the main GoComics site?
BA: That’s a hard one. I’m not sure. Both are great exposure if you interact with your readers. Personally, I read a ton on both, don’t really notice the division. I ended up leaving Sherpa because Dog Eat Doug was picked up by Creators. So it made it’s way to GoComics that way.
BC: What led up to your starting Dog Eat Doug (DeD) and The Conjurers?
BA: DeD was inspired by my dog, Sophie. I was working on developing two other strips, not feeling either. Looked at my dog and the whole concept popped into my head. The Conjurers comes from my magic background. I’ve been practicing and performing since second grade. Always wanted to tell a fictional story about magicians that was based on real magicians and magic. Something that was far removed from wizards and spells.
BC: Initially, DeD seems to have been simply a “cute” baby plays with puppy story. Then, suddenly Sophie becomes a big fan of popular culture and Doug plays with Hellboy figures. What brought about the expansion into pop culture?
BA: That came from me. Initially I started dropping in Neil Gaiman easter eggs. Then added some for Clive Barker and Hellboy. Now, all my favorite geek references find their way in someway.
BC: Where can readers find your books?
BA: Everything available is listed on my site. But, with the advent of ebooks, I hope to release a lot more smaller projects.
BC: Could you talk a bit more about each of these titles?
BA: Dog eat Doug – My syndicated strip based on my real dog, Sophie. Been doing it for ten years, and recently started publishing my own collections.
Prince’s New Pet – Probably my favorite published work so far. A mostly black and white, slightly gothic picture book.
The Conjurers – This is a three book series coming out from Crown at Penguin/Random House. It’s been a trying project as I was doing something different with illustrated novels. So me and my editorial team were learning as we went. The companion webcomic came out of the desire to do another comic. Couldn’t justify putting the time into a separate project so I decided to have it tie in with the books. This way I can tell stories related to the Conjurers between book releases.
BC: I’ve seen Monster Chefs mentioned on Goodreads. What do you want to tell your readers about it and Prince’s New Pet that could convince them to go buy the books?
BA: Always hard to talk up your own books. I never do preachy books, or talk down to kids. I let the characters have their day and do what they’re going to do. I’m certain readers get a sense of the theme though, but it’s never done in a heavy-handed fashion. If you control the story, your characters never come to life. The best way to describe them is a mash up between Tim Burton and a Pixar movie.
BC: For The Conjurers – what’s the basic plot?
BA: I’ve been a magician since second grade and no one had created a fantasy world based around actual magicians. Then I thought, what if the sleight of hand and gimmicks were created to hide the real secret – that magic was real. Magicians have been prosecuted throughout history across all cultures. So what if they came up with ways to explain their powers and avoid the executioner? From there I created the Conjurian, a sanctuary world for magicians. Lots of references to real life magicians and actual tricks.
BC:How does the comic tie into the book(s)? How much longer do you expect the comic to run?
BA: Savachia, the main character in the comic, is featured prominently in the book series. His story will pick back up with book one. I have to say, the comic has been an experiment, mostly in the art department. I couldn’t spend more than an hour on each page. I think I have a good feel for the style going forward. This upcoming story arc will switch over to other characters, both of whom appear in the first book. The comic will run as long as the books.
BC: What are the skull-head creatures Scarface keeps as guard dogs, and when are you going to release plushie versions of them?
BA: Now that’s a great idea. They are called Rag-O-Rocs and you’ll have to wait for book one to find out more.
BC: What can you tell us about Stephen (supporting character in The Conjurers)? What are his motivations and background? He looks very Victorian – has he been around on Earth a long time? (Yes, he’s one of my favorite characters.)
BA: Stephen was a surprise to me too. He has a slightly shady background, which I think will be explored in the next story arc. So he will be the only character that crosses over.
BC: How do you approach that blank sheet of paper?
BA: I never leave it blank. Doodling, both with drawings and words. Eventually something takes shape.
BC: If DeD or Conjurers had soundtracks, what would they be?
BA: That’s really hard. 90% of what I listen to are soundtracks. DeD would probably be composed by Jim Dooley. I would have to go with a mosh-up of Hans Zimmer and Danny Elfman for the Conjurers.
BC: Who are your favorite people?
BA: Favorite writers are Neil Gaiman, Susan Hill, and Clive Barker. Haven’t met them but have gotten to chat with a couple of them online.
BC: Do you follow any other comic strips right now?
BA: Lots. Many on GoComics and Tapastic. Imagine This has always been a favorite. Vinny the Vampire is a new strip I’ve been reading. Everything by Gary and Glen McCoy. Imy is always great.
BC: What do you look for when you read someone else’s strips?
BA: Usually I don’t know what I’m looking for until I find it. By that I mean I’ll read anything. Some things click, some don’t. But when a cartoonist has a true passion for their work it comes through.
BC: What do you think makes for a good comic?
BA: Lots of things. It’s about the whole package. Doesn’t always have to have great art. But the best are the ones where the characters come alive. That’s hard to do.
BC: Do you use Patreon or Kickstarter?
BA: I haven’t used either, except as a backer. I love both. I’ve discovered things that I would never have come across without those sites.
BC: Do you have any projects coming up?
BA: Right now, The Conjurers is on the front burner. I should have the official publication date for book one soon.
(All artwork here has been reproduced with the permission of the artist. Copyright Brian Anderson © 2016.)
(This interview is the copyright © of Curtis H. Hoffmann 2016. It may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the permission of the author.)
Poll: Do you read comics on Comic Sherpa?