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.)

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