Lorie Ransom Interview

I first saw Lorie Ransom’s The Daily Drawing when GoComics announced they were going to carry it, back around Jan. 19, 2015. She had a strong, solid art style, which she used to present single-panel gags that required a bit of thought to figure out. That is, she didn’t feel compelled to spell the joke out for the slower readers. I liked it from the beginning, but it wasn’t until the April 18, 2015 panel with the hamster stretching for a run that I really fell in love with the strip. I enjoy the low-key approach to many of the strips, yet she can also be a bit macabre or jabbing when she wants to. TDD runs M-W-F.

(The Daily Drawing.)

BC: Who are you?
LR: I’m a smallish wife with 2 cats and a house in the soggy but beautiful Pacific Northwest. I do web design and development for my day job so I can afford to sit around making silly drawings in the evenings.

BC: How do you consider yourself as an artist?
LR: I consider myself a person who draws (the title “artist” has always seemed pretentious to me unless one is making a living at it), and a moonlighting cartoonist. I’ve always been inclined to make artsy stuff, but I tend to draw one-off, comic-type art because my short attention span won’t let me do anything more complicated. I also like for there to be an idea behind the stuff I create. Nice drawings are nice to look at, but I want it to be interesting, too. And I like to make people laugh, including myself. Comics seem to fit the bill.

(The Daily Drawing.)

BC: How did you get your start as a “drawer”?
LR: I’ve never been super driven to create. I’ve gone long stretches without doing any kind of art. I had one of those stretches about 3 years ago, and decided to try and snap myself out of it by committing (publicly, via Instagram and Facebook) to do a drawing a day for a year. I started doing random pencil sketches, slowly migrated to using ink and incorporating silly ideas. Eventually I started adding dialog. By the end of the year I had amassed quite a few comic-style pieces. I tidied them up and sent them off to the syndicates, and ended up getting signed by Uclick/GoComics.

(The Daily Drawing.)

BC: How long have you been at this, and what do you think your biggest breaks were?
LR: It’s been a little over a year and a half since I started posting on GoComics. That’s been my biggest (and only?) break!

BC: Do you have anything else going on right now?
LR: I would like to try and publish a book – I definitely have enough material at this point. The trick is dedicating the time to pursue it. So far it’s just an idea in my head.

(The Daily Drawing.)

BC: Which of your works are you most happy with?
LR: I like the panels that are equally weird and clever – and that make me laugh. These are usually the ones that are popular with other folks but not always. “The New Culinary Classics” was shared by Alton Brown, so that was pretty cool!

BC: How did you learn to draw? One of my favorite TDDs was the hamster warming up to start running on the little wheel (above). I thought that one was very well-done.
LR: Thank you! I’ve been inclined to draw as long as I can remember. I remember kindergarten teachers oohing and ahhing over my mad Crayon skills. I think I inherited it from my Mom who is a talented painter. I got a graphic design degree in college so I did get some formal art training there.

(The Daily Drawing.)

BC: How do you approach that blank sheet of white paper?
LR: I usually sit down with a sketchbook and just start drawing. Sometimes the ideas come from just thinking about what could be funny, but more often they come from random doodling. The ideas come from me looking at the doodle and thinking “oh this looks like this other thing, which weirdly relates to this other thing. That’s kinda funny!”

BC: If your strip had a soundtrack, what would it be/sound like?
LR: Some 70s sitcom with a bad laugh track.

(The Daily Drawing.)

BC: Who are your favorite artists/writers?
LR: I absolutely love Monty Python. Their ridiculous humor kills me.

BC: Do you follow any other comic strips right now?
LR: I follow a few – B.C. and Pickles are my top 2 favorites at the moment. I’ve been reading B.C. since I was a kid. Pickles is usually reliably funny and reminds me of my parents (hi Dad!)

BC: What do you look for when you read someone else’s strips?
LR: I like simplicity in the drawing style and typography. If it’s hard to read even a little bit I might skip it (going back to the aforementioned attention span issue).

BC: What do you think makes for a good comic?
LR: I think a good comic is reliably funny, and also has a “hook” – characters people love and can identify with, and makes them want to come back and read your strip again. I would hope my work is fairly consistent in the funny category, but I’m still seeking that hook. My panels are pretty random at the moment.

(The Daily Drawing.)

BC: Single-panel strips like F-Minus, the Far Side and Argyle Sweater seem to do fine with unrelated, disassociated gags. Is having a hook necessarily important in this context?
LR: Yes, I think a hook really helps but obviously isn’t necessary for comic rock stars. Gary Larson is an incredibly talented creator who also had the advantage of publishing a strip that was pretty unique for the time period. He did develop a bit of thematic continuity (cows, scientists, bugs) that perhaps helped “brand” his work so installment feels familiar to his audience. I don’t follow F-Minus and Argyle Sweater (I actually try to avoid other panel strips at this point because I’m afraid their ideas will sink into my subconscious and boil back up into ideas that I think are my own), but the panels I’ve seen are artistically wonderful and hilarious – all these artists have talent that I aspire to.

BC: Every so often, someone will come into the GoComics TDD comments, complain about TDD not being “daily” (then leave and never come back). How do you approach replying to this kind of person, and should we really care what the name of strip is?
LR: Ha! That’s hilarious. As a rule I don’t respond to negative comments, but I have seen a few commenters who seem genuinely curious about it. The strip is named The Daily Drawing because I didn’t really think too hard about how confusing it would be if I only posted 3 days a week. It made sense when I was approaching the syndicates, assuming if the strip were picked up then I would do daily installments. I’d love to do one every day but since it’s not a full-time gig, that’s more time than I can invest. My internal reaction to such comments is “Sorry it’s confusing, but oh well, it’s a comic, does it really need to make total sense?”

BC: Has TDD helped you get over not being driven to be creative?
LR: Somewhat – I’m definitely compelled to create now for the deadlines but I wouldn’t say I’m any more driven! The good news is I feel like I’ve honed in on a style and it’s been fun to work and grow within that.

BC: What do your friends and family think of TDD? Do they always get the jokes, or do you have to explain the punchlines to them?
LR: Some think they’re hilarious, others don’t really get them, which is fine. You can’t please everyone!

(All artwork here has been reproduced with the permission of the artist. © 2016 Lorie Ransom. All rights reserved.)
(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: Can you get the joke in the last panel of the interview, without help?


Beutel (James) Interview

Back when Banana Triangle, drawn and written by Beutel (James), began running on GoComics, I had a little trouble getting into the art style, and I really wasn’t sure what to make of the fact that the main characters died half-way through the story and were turned into bony skeletons. Then, about 1 year ago, Greg Cravens mentioned on his site that he’s a big fan of BT, and that got me into going through the full Banana Triangle archives to try to get a better understanding of the comic as a whole.

Basically, we have 3 people, Tom, Scotty and Rosemary, who find themselves on a deserted island, after what seems to be the end of civilization. Initially, the main food source is mangoes, but whatever needs to be used at some point will suddenly be washed up on the beach in a crate. Later, other characters will stagger in (or row up on a raft), and everyone will fight over the limited resources, or the fact that nobody actually wants to do any of the work around there. Tom is the stoic one, and he suffers the most because of it. But, the others get their comeuppances off and on, too. The artwork is good, and the backgrounds will have skulls or bones scattered around sometimes. The gags are dark humored, but usually topical, and the disjointed storylines do make sense if you go back and reread them from the beginning of the arc. Not everyone is going to “get” Banana Triangle, but it is pretty funny if you do.

BC: Who are you?
BJ: I am Beutel (James), internationally famous creator of the webcomic Banana Triangle.

(The first Banana Triangle strip.)

BC: Reveal yourself.
BJ: I feel as though I’ve already said too much.

BC: Why “Beutel (James)”? Are there so many Beutels that you have to serialize yourselves to tell yourselves apart?
BJ: It’s a silly affectation. Nothing more, nothing less.

BC: Do you consider yourself a cartoonist, an illustrator, an artist, or something else?
BJ: A cartoonist mostly. And aren’t cartoonists artists? Sure they are! So I consider myself that too! But you’d never confuse me with an illustrator. Illustrators get paid for their efforts. An artist cares nothing for money!

BC: How did you get your start then?
BJ: I started drawing cartoons & comic books for my own amusement as a lonely 12 year old. A dozen years later I realized that there are people that actually make a living doing such things and became determined to find success in the world of syndicated newspaper comic strips.

BC: How long have you been at this?
BJ: Here’s where I will start to get a little “long-winded.”
Off and on over a period of twenty years I would find myself with bursts of inspiration and optimism. At these times I would gather up the courage to send my work off to be mostly ignored by the cruel, heartless syndicate editors. Despite their tendency towards cruel-heartlessness I would very occasionally find a kind comment scribbled on the corner of a rejection letter.

BJ: The late Jay Kennedy (one-time King Features Syndicate Comics Editor) was actually frequently “kind” in that way but kept trying to steer me towards publishers of alternative comics where he apparently thought my work would find a better fit. Somewhat later John Glynn (Current Comics Editor-God for one of the remaining newspaper syndicate conglomerates) expressed an interest for a while. I was hopeful and encouraged and… but it ultimately turned out to be a dead end.

BJ: BUT THEN!!!! Dut-dut-da-a-a-ah! MY BIG BREAK!
Seriously… I did get a “big break.” I, Beutel (James), was offered a contract to develop a comic strip for The Washington Post Writers Group! Not only that, but I would be working with Amy Lago, one-time “editor” of PEANUTS!! …of Charles Schulz!! …WOW!! My future was SET!!
So, after a brief period of negotiations (I actually engaged the services of an attorney who specialized in newspaper comic syndication. Yes, such a person exists), and when WPWG mailed me my first modest stipend I set to work at developing the soon-to-be-internationally-beloved newspaper comic: Sunny Hamlet.

(Sunny Hamlet.)

BJ: Well, (sigh…) my “big break” turned out to be a big, fat disappointment because after a year and a half I learned my feature was not going to make it to the funny pages. A crushing disappointment that Amy Lago attributed to the current miserable state of the economy (the “crash” of 2008 was in progress) or perhaps she was just making an effort to spare my feelings. (snif! snif!) At any rate I was now free to market my wares if I so chose and I did, sending Sunny Hamlet through the gauntlet once again. Bleh! At the same time I was working on a new (but not exactly new) strip that was by-no-means suitable for the daily newspaper funny pages. And seeing as I was now drawing with a pen tablet and using Photoshop to create what was originally called “The Island” it seemed natural to send it out on the internet. I created www.bananatriangle.com to see if I could find an audience there. Eventually this strip, now titled “Banana Triangle,” made its way to GoComics where it currently updates 3 days each week.

BC: Ok then, what led up to starting Banana Triangle? Do you have any other pokers in the fire?
BJ: Oops! I think I mostly covered this in my response to the previous question. As to pokers, I do have a couple but not much fire. However I would very much like to get my many, many years of Sunny Hamlet out there on the web somehow, but that would require endless hours of tedious scanning. Additionally I hope to wake up one day and discover that someone has made my website look more professional and up to date. I know I can’t do it!

BC: Which of your works are you most happy with?
BJ: Creating Banana Triangle gives me tremendous satisfaction.

(Banana Triangle.)

BC: But, why Banana Triangle (nee the Island)? That is, what was the process that brought you to the conclusion that cannibalism could be funny?
BJ: There was no “process,” per se. The early days of Banana Triangle were all about establishing the personalities and motivations of the main characters and to do so within the confines of the circumstances in which they find themselves. They wake up to find themselves on a small island with limited resources, i.e. food. They’re hungry…starving! Very quickly “what’s for dinner” becomes “who’s for dinner.” The characters are all thinking about it but one of them simply has no filter between her mind and her voice box. Is it funny? Not really but I try to portray it so.

BC: For readers that haven’t tried it yet, what’s your pitch to reel them in?
BJ: I have no idea. How about “You’ll come for the bucolic sunsets. You’ll stay ‘cuz we ate your legs.”

BC: For readers that ran away the first time Tom got killed (or Scotty threw up bad creamed corn), what words do you have for them?
BJ: Metaphor! Metaphor! C’mon… it’s just metaphor!

BC: Do you have any collections on the market yet?
BJ: Nope! However I hope to one day wake up and find…

(Banana Triangle.)

BC: How do you approach that blank sheet of white paper?
BJ: I don’t have a simple answer for this, I’m afraid. I do find that going for long walks (alone) can be very fruitful.

BC: If your strip had a soundtrack, what would it be?
BJ: Actually WordPress/ Comicpress, the content management system I use for my website, has the ability to add a small amount of sound/music but I couldn’t get it to work. The “music” I was attempting to add was the sound of gentle waves slowly lapping the shore of an empty beach.
Perhaps one day I shall wake up to find…

BC: Who are your favorite artists/writers? Do you have any dirt on them?
BJ: So many “favorites.” Too many. I’ve never met any, however. I take it for granted that they are all dirty to some degree. Filthy dirty! Some are dead and literally covered with dirt.

BC: What other comic strips do you follow?
BJ: I always check out XKCD. It makes feel smart when I “get it.” I adore Perry Bible Fellowship. I follow Buni on GoComics cuz’ it’s dark and funny and it was launched there immediately before Banana Triangle. David Malki!’s Wondermark is delightful. And Hark! A Vagrant? So clever! Others too!

BC: What do you look for when you read someone else’s strips?
BJ: Initially I am attracted to and/or intrigued by the “look.” From there the wit, originality and depth will keep me interested.

(Banana Triangle.)

BC: What do you think makes for a good comic?
BJ: See above.

BC: Do you use Patreon or Kickstarter? How do you think they are changing the face of webcartooning?
BJ: I don’t know if I’d recognize the face of webcartooning if it was standing directly in front of me so any changes just confuse me. Kickstarter? Patreon? Could using these “products” result in Banana Triangle earning money for it’s creator? That’d be nice!
BC: No guarantees…

BC: Do you have any projects coming up? Appearances scheduled for conventions?
BJ: I lead a quiet life.

BC: Coming back to Banana Triangle, could you give us an insight to the motivations and personalities of the four main characters, Tom, Scotty, Rosemary and/or the briefcase?
BJ: Ay yi yi! I probably shouldn’t try. Just know that like me Tom is extremely introverted. And I… No! I’ve said too much already!

BC: How far ahead do you plot the stories, arcs, sub-plots, etc.?
BJ: I generally manage to maintain a six month “buffer” but the story arcs are largely unplanned and I pray that readers will forgive the incoherence that results.

BC: How much of what happens to the trio mirrors something happening in real life at the time you draw the strip?
BJ: More than I am conscious of, I think.

BC: Is Banana Triangle farce, parody, surrealism or just really repulsive stuff (like someone that keeps picking their scabs on live TV and the audience is too disgusted to change the channel)?
BJ: I hope it is a little bit of all the first three things. It would make me terribly sad if it were thought to be the last.

(Banana Triangle.)

BC: I gave Banana Triangle a second try because of the recommendations by Greg Cravens (The Buckets, Hubris). Any words for Greg?
BJ: Nothing pleases me more than when someone whose work I admire thinks what I do is worthy of attention. So… Thanks, Greg!

BC: Do you have any long-term game plan for the BT trio?
BJ: Survival. That’s what it’s all about!

BC: How would you characterize your readers on your main site compared with the ones on GoComics? Has their reception of BT been positive on the whole? Neutral? Negative? How do you respond to people that don’t “get” BT and the BT jokes?
BJ: My response to this question is largely based on assumptions I make because I don’t have all that many readers who comment with regularity. With GoComics I can see how many people subscribe to have Banana Triangle emailed to them when it updates (a number that grows very slowly) but I have no idea how many additional eyeballs it gets in front of. Every so often a reader there will leave in a huff and broadcast the fact in the comments section. At those times I will feel a brief pang of disappointment.

BJ: On my own website I can track page views and stuff as well as see what portion of those readers are return guests but I have only a few dependable but intermittent commenters. Fewer still are those that hang with it and make (much appreciated) comments along the way as they follow the strip. What seems to happen more often than not is that someone will find Banana Triangle somehow and consume it in its entirety in one or two sittings. Their comments are generally very positive but I seldom hear from them again and I assume they forget about its existence. I can’t blame them because it’s happened to me with many webcomics I’ve read over the years.

BJ: It seems to me that the most successful (measured by volume of readers) webcomics are those that offer multiple reasons for a person to go and visit their site. Certainly more than simply the latest update of the strip. Some readers really seem to value interaction with the creator(s). I don’t see myself doing more of that sort of thing than the small amount I currently do.

(Banana Triangle. Exclusive to Basket Case.)

BC: Scotty, Tommy and Rosemary vs. Gilligan, The Skipper and the rest?
BJ: Sorry I [can’t] indulge your desire for a Rosemary VS Ginger cage match. I just can’t make it work in my head. I mean… Gilligan’s Island is fictional!

BC: What can we expect in BT in the next 3 months or so?
BJ: Nice try!

(All artwork here has been reproduced with the permission of the artist. Copyright BeutelJames (c) 2016.)
(This interview is the copyright (c) of Curtis H. Hoffmann 2016. It may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the permission of the author.)

Poll question: Would you want live on a desert island and eat bloody bananas?


Brian Anderson interview

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.

(from Dog Eat Doug)

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.

(from Dog Eat Doug)

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: Which of your works are you most happy with, or proud of?
BA: That’s hard. But I’d have to say Prince’s New Pet and Monster Chefs.

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.

(The first Dog Eat Doug)

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.

(The first Conjurers page.)

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.

(from The Conjurers)

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.

(from Dog Eat Doug)

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.

(This is the Dog Eat Doug strip that hooked me.)

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?


Dave Kellett interview

I saw advertising for Dave Kellett’s and Frederick Schroeder’s documentary film about the cartooning industry, Stripped on the GoComics’ blog leading up to its release in 2014. I was in Japan at the time, so I wasn’t able to watch it. Then, on June 8, 2015, Dave began running Drive on GoComics. Because the site only updated on Mondays, I got impatient and went to the official Drive site and caught up on the full archive in a couple days. That was fun, but then I learned about Dave’s earlier strip, Sheldon and that took a lot longer to read through because it’s been around since 1998. It wasn’t until I was part of the way through Sheldon that I realized this Dave Kellett was the same Dave Kellett from Stripped. Dave’s got a very clean, very recognizable art style, and his sense of humor and comic timing is razor sharp. In Drive, his aliens are a lot of fun to study, and the ships look cool. Occasionally he’ll put in large blocks of text that some readers complain about, but I think they add a lot to the background and feel of his universe. I’ve been a fan of both Sheldon and Drive since 2015, and Basket Case is proud to have helped, in a small way, the Drive hardback kickstarter reach it’s final stretch goal of $100,000 (from an initial goal of $35,000) in September. Congrats, Dave!

(Nosh, from Drive.)

BC: Who are you?
DK: I’m Dave Kellett: A Los Angeles-based cartoonist whose work is found primarily on the web. I create the humor strip SHELDON (18 years), DRIVE (7 years), and co-directed the comic strip documentary STRIPPED with Fred Schroeder.

BC: What personal details do you think are relevant to readers to know about you?
DK: I loved cartooning from Grade 3 onward, and basically geared my life toward figuring out how to be a cartoonist. Both my Masters degrees are cartooning focused, in fact.

(from Sheldon.)

BC: Do you consider yourself a cartoonist, an illustrator, an artist, or something else?
DK: A cartoonist. I love that job title.

BC: How did you get your start then?
DK: The San Diego Union-Tribune let me do two editorial cartoons a week, while I was in grad school – and that was a tremendous boost toward my goal. It was an emotional lift to get that chance in a major newspaper at 21.

BC: What do you think your biggest breaks were?
DK: I’ve been drawing in some form of publication or online since 1992. My college paper was my first regular strip, and that solidified that this is what I want to do with my life.

(from Sheldon.)

BC: What led up to your starting Sheldon (and, after that, Drive), and do you have anything else going on right now?
DK: Sheldon originally appeared in that college paper strip, and was the only character to carry over, post-graduation. He seemed interesting enough to focus an entire strip on, so I did. Drive came from a long desire to tell a long-form story…and the complete arc of it popped into my head one day, in 2008. After about a year of futzing around with it, I started it as a “Saturday Scifi” feature on Sheldon. A year or so after that, I spun it out into its own site.

BC: Which of your works are you most proud of?
DK: I love all my children equally. But! Because it’s so different from what I do on a daily basis, I’m really proud that I was able to make a solid documentary film, in STRIPPED. I think it did the cartooning art form justice, which was my biggest goal. I wanted that love of comics to really shine through.

(The first Drive strip.)

BC: Do you have any stories about the making of Stripped that you haven’t bored yourself silly retelling already? Anything you’d like to relate to your fans?
DK: Stripped was the joy of my adult professional life. To meet and talk to all of my heroes was amazing, and inspiring, and grounding, and humbling. I’ll never have anything else quite like it: I’m so, so happy I did it. There was one significant portion of Stripped that we cut, as it was too “Inside Baseball”. It was a lovely section about artists talking about their tools: What they use to make what they make. There was a particularly lovely portion with Meredith Gran (of Octopus Pie) talking about brushes, pens and inks that I was very sad to lose – but for the larger scope of the movie it just made sense.

DK: There were a few cartoonists who could warrant an entire documentary, they were so interesting to talk to. Stephan Pastis of PEARLS BEFORE SWINE, Dan Piraro of BIZARRO, (the late) Richard Thompson of CUL DE SAC, Mort Walker of BEETLE BAILEY – all fascinating cartoonists and histories that it would’ve been fun to delve into more.

BC: Where can readers find your books?
DK: On my site, SheldonComics.com – and in the bathroom book-reading bin next to the john in many fine houses.

BC: How do you start your next strip or panel?
DK: There are absolutely days where nothing comes…and you have to stir the pot by either getting out into the world and listening to voices, trying a new activity, or even reading your own past work to “re-find” your voice.

(Skitter and Captain Taneel, from Drive.)

BC: If your strip had a soundtrack, what would it be/sound like?
DK: DRIVE would be a mix of Holst’s “Mars, Bringer of War” and/or “Daft Punk’s “Tron”…and Sheldon would be something bouncy like Django Reinhardt.

BC: Who are your favorite artists/writers?
DK: I’ve been lucky enough to interact with most of my cartooning heroes: Bill Watterson, Jim Davis, Berke Breathed, Mort Walker, Cathy Guisewite, Bill Amend, Dan Piraro, Sergio Aragones, Mel Brooks….the list goes on and on. I’ve been very lucky to meet and thank so many cool creators. The one that got away, though, was Charles Schulz. Would’ve liked to have met him before he passed.

BC: Do you follow any other comic strips right now?
DK: Not really, actually! I’m a bit too busy for casual reading.

BC: What do you look for when you read someone else’s strips?
DK: Usually: A clear line style, and an ability to make me laugh. Those two rank paramount.

BC: What do you think makes for a good comic?
DK: Joy. If the artist enjoyed doing it, and transmitted that joy well, it comes through. If they hate the title they’re working on, you can absolutely read that, too.

(Torvak, Vulcan party planner, from Sheldon.)

BC: Can you talk about Sheldon a bit more? How has the strip changed over the years, and will Sheldon ever return to his corporate offices again? Has the fate of his parents already been revealed within the strip, or the circumstances leading to Gramps adopting him?
DK: Sheldon has changed dramatically since it’s start, in 1998. For the first 5-7 years, it was mainly focused on Sheldon, as a 10-year billionaire in charge of a software company. But there are only so many times you can have Lucy pull away the football before the same storylines become….stale…so I’ve largely moved away from that. Now it’s focused mostly on Sheldon, Gramp, and Arthur, and the menagerie they share around the house.

DK: The fate of Sheldon’s parents has never been revealed, no, and I don’t have any plans to do so. Although, some of my favorite storylines have dealt with Sheldon and Gramp talking over bits and pieces of it: Such as when Gramp finds the camera with the unexposed family pictures from years ago.

(from Sheldon.)

DK: Sheldon’s incredibly fun to write, as it now has expanded to include one-off jokes, ridiculous storylines, and impossible appearances by pop culture figures and fictional characters. It’s a delightful platform, as a cartoonist – and I was really moved that it was honored as a 2016 Silver Reuben honoree from the National Cartoonist Society. That meant a lot to me.

(Anatomy of a Platypus, from Sheldon.)

BC: What’s the status of the Sheldon “animal anatomy” drawings?
DK: When there’s enough to be collected in a book, I’ll bring it to Kickstarter for a fun, short-run, full-color book.

BC: How about Drive? What can readers expect in the story line in the future? Did you think you’d clear the initial $35K goal for the hardcover Kickstarter?
DK: We’ve just wrapped up Act One of a three-act story, so DRIVE has about 5-10 more years in it. The second act will largely be the build-up of the tripartite war that will come to be known as “The Pilot’s War,” and will feature humanity versus The Continuum of Makers versus The Vinn. We’ve met (most) of the characters we’re bound to meet for the main cast, so now it’s a matter of where they go, and what they do, as chess pieces in this much larger war.

(from Drive.)

DK: As for the Kickstarter, I’m profoundly grateful and moved by the support that folks have shown the story. When you spend most of the year in your studio, alone, creating stories, it’s so wonderful to hear from a mass of people that they’re enjoying what you’re doing. It’s incredibly inspiring, and I’m so thankful.

BC: How do you think Patreon and Kickstarter are changing the face of webcartooning?
DK: They’re really empowering, to an artist! In a world where comic book shops and newspapers fall further and further from their previous perches, it’s so nice to have this direct line to readers, sans middlemen! I find it encouraging and delightful.

BC: Do you have any other projects coming up? Appearances scheduled for conventions?
DK: I think in the coming year I’ll be appearing at Seattle’s ECCC and San Diego’s SDCC – both of which I love. I should have the new DRIVE hardcover book out by then, and will perhaps have my first SHELDON book for many years. It should be a nice year, looking ahead!

(Sheldon and Drive © Dave Kellett. Reproduced with permission.)
(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: What would you do if you had $1 billion?


Shannon Wheeler Interview

I don’t really remember when I first encountered Too Much Coffee Man. Shannon Wheeler debuted him as a mini-comic in 1991, and he started self-publication with Adhesive Comics in 1993 (to 2005, and licensed to Dark Horse from 1994 to 2011). I was in Japan from 1992 to ’96, so I didn’t have access to anything that TMCM ran in. But, I lived in Dallas, TX, for a while, and I’d visit Austin a couple times a month. At some point, I started reading the Austin Chronicle free paper, which carried TMCM, and I was attracted to it right away. Then, Shannon had a new release book signing at BookPeople for Parade of Tirade (Nov. 30, 1999). I went, I bought a copy, I got it signed, and I’ve been hooked ever since. I like the artwork, the characters are oddball while remaining believable, and Shannon’s not afraid to say stuff that offends people that he doesn’t like. I was very happy to see him show up on GoComics. The archive goes all the way back to 2003, and that’s a LOT of Coffee.

BC: Who are you?
SW: I’m an aging white heterosexual male with a reasonably happy childhood.

(Too Much Coffee Man with not so much Coffee Man in it.)

BC: What’s that mean?
SW: I grew up in Berkeley with family in Texas. I was constantly defending each place to the other.

BC: Do you consider yourself a cartoonist, an illustrator, an artist, or something else?
SW: I like cartoonist as a term – that way you don’t have to be a great writer or a great artist.

BC: How did you get your start then?
SW: Before I could read I would look at cartoons in the newspaper. I suppose you could say I read the pictures. I was amazed that a story could be told in 3-4 small drawings. I saw it as magic. I wanted to learn how to make that magic. I’m still amazed by it.

BC: What were your breaks?
SW: My biggest breaks have been getting jobs with deadlines. I got a spot in my college newspaper and I had to draw a comic 5 days a week. I learned to work.

BC: What led up to Too Much Coffee Man?
SW: TMCM came out of a desire to have my comic recognized. I wanted a high-concept character with universal appeal. Before that I was doing autobiographical comics that nobody remembered. I’m currently working on a bunch of autobiographical comics…

BC: How did the TMCM opera go, and is this something you’d like to do more of?
SW: The opera was amazing. It’s been performed dozens of times in multiple cities. We’re looking at a run in Albuquerque soon. I would like to rework it to be a one-act, one-man piece. It’s an enormous amount of work. I’d consider doing an animation to go along with it.

(Too Much Coffee Man)

BC: Has TMCM changed much? Or, have you?
SW: TMCM has definitely evolved. I used to really push a plot. Early on he’d go to Mars, save the universe, go to the future (where everyone was housed/clothed/fed because everyone was in jail), etc. Now he fights a squirrel. It’s gotten more existential. I’ve outgrown him in the sense that I draw stories with him when I’m inspired – but he’s still there. I have a mental theater and when I put Too Much Coffee Man on stage he starts talking like he’s never left. I suppose I have a few more TMCM stories in me.

BC: Which of your works are you most happy with?
SW: Certain comics are tight. I’m finishing a short story about a kid I knew who had a micro-penis. I’m proud of that story. It’s funny and sad in all the right places. A solid single panel comic is always amazing. I like my “help I’ve been stabbed with a pencil,” “Would you like some crap on your salad?”

BC: Where can readers find your books?
SW: I have a couple ‘best-of’ comics with comixology and Dark Horse is about to republish my Too Much Coffee Man Omnibus. Top Shelf is collecting up another set of my single panel comics, too.

BC: How do you approach that blank sheet of white paper?
SW: I start with warm-ups – drawing cats, fish, cups of coffee. My best ideas come when I’m falling asleep and I exist between conscious and unconsciousness.

BC: If your strip had a soundtrack, what would it be/sound like?
SW: Hopefully Dave Brubeck or the Ramones. More likely it’s Kenny G.

BC: Who are your favorite artists/writers?
SW: Duchamp is still my favorite. Yep. I’ve met a lot of the comic artists I admire. Bill Sienkiewicz, Kyle Baker, Crumb, Gilbert Shelton, Sam Gross, Gahan Wilson, Bill Stout, Eddie Campbell. Lots more I can’t think of – great experiences meeting them.

SW: I met Gahan Wilson at the New Yorker offices. Cartoonists meet with Bob Mankoff (the cartoon editor) once a week then everyone goes out to lunch. I met a lot of amazing cartoonists that way.

SW: A friend of mine did a sculpture for Crumb and invited me to dinner. Crumb and I talked about the 60’s, hippies, and parenting. It turns out he visited my dad’s commune back in the day.

SW: The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers comics were around the house when I was growing up and had a big influence on my art. I went to visit a girlfriend in Paris when I was 19. My uncle asked me to bring his friend Gilbert some old photos. It was Gilbert Shelton (Freak Bro. artist) who, unbeknownst to me, was a friend of the family.

(Early Too Much Coffee Men)

SW: One of the few bad experiences I had was when I was a kid (about 18). I took a poster to Stanley Mouse. He was charging $20 for a signature. I didn’t have it. He told me that by signing my poster it would raise the value to $60 and I’d turn a profit. I told him it was for me – that I respected his work and I’d never sell it. He said it was $20 for a signature. I told him to keep his f*cking poster.

BC: Do you follow any other comic strips right now?
SW: I hate to say it but I usually wait for the books. Holy crap – My Friend Dahmer is amazing. Other books I’ve really liked are Couch Tag, Story of My Tits, Bacchus. March is pretty good too.

BC: Is March by Nate Powell; Bacchus by Eddie Campbell?
SW: Yep. March by Nate (and Andrew) and Bacchus by Campbell. I just ordered the Gene Colon Howard the Duck books. They were favorites when I was a kid. It’s the only comic book ever to go down in value when the movie came out. I’ll see how they hold up.

BC: What do you look for when you read someone else’s strips?
SW: Faults. I get jealous easily.

BC: What do you think makes for a good comic?
SW: Surprise and immersion. When I don’t know what will happen next and I’m in their world.

(Too Much Coffee Man)

BC: Do you use Patreon or Kickstarter?
SW: These sites rely on a solid fan base and a lot of maintenance. I’m worried that I’d fail getting enough fans to support me – or if, by some miracle, I got enough fans I’d fail delivering whatever I promised.

(Image from Amazon.)

BC: Do you have any projects coming up?
SW: I’ll be at the Miami Book Fest promoting the sequel to the Bible I cartooned for, Apocrypha Now. The first book, God Is Disappointed in You was a reworking of the Bible (with cartoons) did well (on a 3rd printing).

(All artwork here has been reproduced with the permission of the artist. Copyright Shannon Wheeler © 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: Have you ever had “too much” coffee?


Aaron Neathery Interview

Endtown was another case where I’d been reading comics on GoComics, and one of the “Recent Comics” (I think they were actually using “Featured” at that time) caught my eye. It had a panicked-looking anthropomorphic cat trying to run away from his pursuers in a post-apocalyptic universe. The backgrounds were realistically rendered, and the cat guy (Wally) reminded me of a character drawn by a friend, Reed Waller (creator of Omaha the Catdancer). I went back through the entire archive, starting with the Jan. 19, 2009 strip, and when I got to the (at the time) present, I did two things. I finally got around to creating an account on GoComics, and I contacted Aaron on Facebook to ask if he knew about Omaha (he didn’t). The conversations expanded from there, and eventually I wrote up a big description of Endtown on wikipedia. That article has the distinction of being one of the very few that some “genius” named “10-pound hammer” on wikipedia deleted for having “insufficient reference material” (if that were a real justification, over 50% of the articles on wiki, and nearly 99% of every anime and manga article would disappear overnight.

Anyway, I love Endtown for many reasons. The top three are that the story is great, the jokes are wicked-funny, and the artwork is just really, really good. It’s not for everyone, which is ok. But, if you like darker stories of people trying to survive a blown-out planet, in the veins of Douglas Adams, Tim Burton, Warren Zevon, and Mobius, then you’ll like Endtown. Especially if you like Mobius. The initial plot is simple: In a world not that dissimilar to ours, it’s The End of Civilization As We Know It, as every country with weapons launches everything they’ve got at each other in the shortest of the World Wars so far. This causes what remains of humanity to split into two main factions – the mutants that turned into “anthros” because of the atmospheric miasma; and Topsiders who protected themselves from the mutagen by hermetically sealing themselves up in suits, and are convinced that they can only come out if they manage to kill all the mutants. The story starts with a few characters living in an underground colony named Endtown, and grows from there. Which brings us to Endtown’s creator, Aaron Neathery.

(Kirby and Wally, from Endtown.)

BC: Who are you?
AN: Depends on who’s looking.

BC: What personal details do you think are relevant to readers to know about you?
AN: Not many. The fewer specific personal impressions readers have of the person behind this kind of story, the better. Nothing breaks the spell of an extended narrative faster than the impression that the author has an axe to grind and is gaming every scenario and line of dialogue to get that message across. Better that readers are left wondering what intentions, if any, a writer has, and the fewer personal details, the better able a writer is to recede into the background and let the story take center stage.

BC: Then, are you a cosmic muffin, or a writer?
AN: A writer first, and everything else after. Unfortunately, my ability to draw has severely limited my development as a writer of prose. I tend to think in pictures and dialogue and not in written *descriptors*.. It’s just easier for me to draw a character displaying the correct emotion than it is to *describe* that emotion. But I guess that kind of makes me a cartoonist, so maybe that’s what I am.

(Kirby, Holly, Wally, Chic and the Haints, from Endtown.)

BC: How did you get your start?
AN: I started earning regular money as a cartoonist in college, working for two student publication departments on two campuses at the same time. I drew Albert and a lot of editorial cartoons for both the University of Houston Daily Cougar and the University of Houston-Downtown Dateline, pulling in enough money to pay for one half of an artist’s loft studio in the warehouse district with my friend Jason Clemons. I then did a stint in advertising and commercial animation before the economic bust wiped out the agency I was working for.

BC: What do you think your biggest breaks were?
AN: I’ve been at this since 1993. My two biggest professional breaks have been Shaenon Garrity’s acceptance of Endtown for her Modern Tales site in 2008 and Gocomics’ acceptance of Endtown in 2010. My biggest financial break has been Patreon, without which I wouldn’t be able to make Endtown a proper occupation.

(Gustine, from Endtown.)

BC: What led up to your starting Endtown, and do you have anything else going on right now?
AN: In 2006 and 07, I’d been creating a radio comedy series for the Pacifica network called Electromatic Radio, but after 23 episodes and a lot of work, it was clear that it wasn’t going anywhere. It was running on college stations in the dead of night and no one but the programming directors were hearing it. I sold some episodes in syndication for a few hundred dollars and that was about as much money as I made from it. So after a few years of pretty much not drawing at all, I’d decided to make a last ditch attempt at getting a webcomic off the ground. I didn’t want to go back into advertising so I sat down and brainstormed a kind of dream project where all of my previous comics work could be tied up into one strip. I drew about four or five months’ worth of material without any idea where I was going to feature it online. Fortunately, Shaenon came to my rescue and gave the strip a home.

AN: No other pokers in the fire.. at least, none that aren’t Endtown related.

BC: Which of your works are you most happy with, or proud of?
AN: I’m proud of Endtown and Electromatic Radio because they’re both projects that took on lives of their own. Also, I’m not embarrassed by them.. which is what counts.

BC: Where can readers find your books?
AN: Jarlidium Press is handling the Endtown print editions. Endtown’s third volume was released just last year. Gocomics has also released a few Endtown “sample” ebooks covering a few months’ worth of the strip in each. It’s all available on Amazon.

BC: Endtown has had several major leading characters, primarily Albert and Gustine, Wally and Holly. We’ve also seen Prof. Mallard, Jacob Jackrabbit, Flask, the erstwhile ex-Topsiders Jim and Sarah, and now we’ve been introduced to proto-heroine Kirby. But, I’d like to talk about Al, Gustine, Wally and Holly. Can you tell us your views of who they are? What are their motivations, and how do they see themselves and their places within this Great Waste that they’ve found themselves in?

AN: Al and Gustine are an established couple that are learning how to adjust to new circumstances. They’re essentially unique in the strip as they’re the only couple we’re ever introduced to who made it through WWIII together. Because of this, I’d felt, at the time I’d started work on Endtown, that they’d be ideal characters to introduce readers to Endtown’s post-apocalyptic world. They’re both very, very average people coping with extraordinary, life-changing events, and they’re both rather anonymous as far as their pasts are concerned, which makes them easy for readers to experience events through. But once their story is told.. Gustine’s identity crisis and how the relationship survives it.. there isn’t really much more to be said about them.. at least, not as the leads of the strip. Holly and Wally, on the other hand, drive narratives forward on their own. Readers still learn about Endtown’s world through them at the same time the characters are also learning about each other and themselves. Also, unlike Al and Gustine, Holly and Wally are products of this world, not just survivors. This world changed them physically and mentally and emotionally. They’re a portrait of a crisis relationship, brought together out of a very understandable kind of emotional desperation given the desperate circumstances they’re in.

AN: Al and Gustine just want to get down to the business of day to day life.. essentially maintaining their pre-War lives as best as they can. When I’d first imagined Endtown as a dark comedy with dramatic moments, I figured that would be a good source of material; the former video store clerk who has to forage for canned beans for his mutant girlfriend. That quest for normalcy is ultimately their motivation across the board. Once we catch up with them during the “Milk Trial” story, Gustine is cooking and Al is reading the paper, and their biggest complaint is that their community is becoming as unpleasant as the pre-War world had been. Once Endtown transitions to a dramatic strip with moments of dark comedy, Holly and Wally become the more suitable leads. Their world has been so shaken up that they don’t know what they want from life, at least as a couple. Wally finds himself in Endtown due to his guilt and his need for human contact and almost immediately tries to escape it. He’s former military and has been soured on society because of what he’s witnessed and participated in. Holly has already had her ideal life and had it entirely stripped away from her. She is in Endtown solely because her stepfather was a doctor and his services were needed. Otherwise, it’s more than likely she would have died in the War. They’ve found each other, but what is really at the core of it all? Over time, we’ll find out.

(Jacob Jackrabbit, from Endtown.)

BC: How do you approach your pages?
AN: When you’re telling a story, you pretty much know what’s going to happen on that blank sheet of paper ahead of time. The question is how best to present that next bit of narrative. I usually begin with a concept of what I need to put over, story-wise, and draw a few thumbnail layouts to establish what will work best visually. The dialogue follows, and the layouts are tweaked to make room for the word balloons. It’s only after that that I start drawing the final strip.

BC: If your strip had a soundtrack, what would it be/sound like?
AN: Aboriginal Electroswing. Thumb pianos, didgeridoos, Charlie Barnet, concertinas and Nine Inch Nails.

BC: Who are your favorite artists/writers?
AN: In comics, almost all of my idols have been dead for 70 years. Elzie Segar and George Herriman are at the top followed by Roy Crane, Carl Barks, Osamu Tezuka and many others. Among the living, I really like Bill Griffith, Carol Lay, Chris Ware, and Gilbert Shelton. Film is probably a larger influence on Endtown overall, though, in terms of the layouts and the pacing of the stories as they unfold. Terry Gilliam is a huge influence, and so are Kubrick, Lynch, Tarkovsky, Hitchcock, and Orson Welles.. directors whose visual styles and storytelling styles are actually completely joined.

(Aerial tour of pre-End Endtown.)

AN: As far as writers are concerned, I almost never read fiction.. I have almost a thousand books crammed into my apartment and almost all of them are film reference books, biographies, and history. As a kid, I read everything that H.G. Wells and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle ever wrote, and in high school, it was E. E. “Doc” Smith and his Skylark and Lensmen books, and a lot of Adams, Vonnegut and Ray Bradbury. But ever since, apart from occasionally rereading Catch22, I just haven’t had the impulse.

BC: Have you met any of them? Got any dirt on them?
AN: Carol Lay was kind enough to write the intro for the latest Endtown volume, and she’s very, very clean.

BC: Do you follow any other comic strips right now?
AN: Zippy is a must-read because I share most of Bill Griffith’s obsessions.. Carol Lay has been doing very funny, very fine work with Murderville, also on Gocomics. My friend Craig Hilton draws a great strip called Doc Rat that is kind of a sister strip to Endtown in a way.

BC: Doc Rat will appear here at Basket Case in a few weeks, too. So, what do you look for when you read someone else’s strips?
AN: The artwork has to grab my attention.. the more personal and unique the style, the better. My eye tends to gloss over work that has that cookie-cutter manga influence.. or Marvel influence.. or too much John Kricfalusi styling.. Nothing inherently wrong with any of those influences, but the closer a cartoonist hews to them, the more likely it is that they haven’t begun to make strips that are truly their own.

(Young love, in Endtown.)

BC: What do you think makes for a good comic?
AN: Depends on what we’re talking about. Gags and funny drawings make gag strips. Narrative strips have their own unique demands, the biggest of which is emotional legitimacy, without which there’s nothing for a reader to hold on to. If a cartoonist is aiming for emotional depth, they need to have a solid handle on the artwork. I’ve seen a lot of attempts at depth in webcomics that fall flat because the cartoonist utilizes too much in the way of cartoon shorthand or uses poses that are far too broad. It’s like trying to pour your heart out with nothing but emojis or ham actors. What’s odd is that cartooning should make it easier to portray emotional depth, not harder. Simplified, reflexive designs can actually make a complex emotion “read” better in a strip than more polished and realistic drawings.

BC: Do you use Patreon or Kickstarter?
AN: I use Patreon. Endtown’s patrons are 90% responsible for keeping the strip alive. I literally cannot continue this without them because I’d lose my apartment.

AN: In a very real sense, I think Patreon is poised to keep webcartooning alive, and it needs to be taken very seriously by the artists who use it because I believe it’s going to become increasingly necessary over time. Diversification of your revenue is vital for a webcartoonist, but unless you’re part of a team, you’re going to find yourself stretched pretty thin trying to keep all of those different streams flowing well enough to make a living. Patreon allows you to concentrate primarily on the work. It’s fantastic.

BC: Do you want to plug your sites?
AN: www.gocomics.com/endtown, www.patreon.com/endtown

BC: Do you have any projects coming up?
AN: I’m still trying to figure out how to get Endtown into animation. This may actually happen one of these days.

BC: Appearances scheduled for conventions?
AN: I lost money at the last one! I’m not good at the whole convention thing.

(All artwork here has been reproduced with the permission of the artist. Copyright Aaron Neathery © 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.)