Alex Norris interview

Alex Norris’ Dorris McComics is one of the strips on Doug Savage’s reading list. I’m please to present Alex here today.


(from Dorris McComics)

BC: Who are you?
AN: I am Alex Norris. I am from the UK. I was born in Swansea in Wales, went to university in Bristol and now I am based in London. I studied English Literature at university, and I suppose that my literary side is definitely lurking in my comics but I think I hide it well. I think growing up in Swansea, a grim seaside city (in the words of Dylan Thomas, an “ugly, lovely town”) formed my love of celebrating crap things.


(from Dorris McComics)

BC: Do you consider yourself an artist, an illustrator, or something else?
AN: I have tried all the names for what I do: when you say “comic writer” people think you write funny articles, if you say “I make comics” people assume you mean superheroes, and if you say “artist” people assume you put a dirty cup in the corner of a gallery and title it “Society’s Womb” or something like that. I’ve started saying “cartoonist” because people tend to understand that right away.


(from Webcomic Name)

BC: How did you get started, and what were your biggest breaks?
AN: I drew my first comics when I was 10, I made a full issue of a comic like The Beano called “Bommynokka“, with all my own characters. One was “Dippy the Bus Kangaroo”, a kangaroo who did bus tours and the bus always crashed in various ways, and one was “The Friendly Bacteria” which was about two cool bacteria with backwards caps and sunglasses, based on an advert I saw for a probiotic yoghurt. I drew compulsively all the way through school, and then did comics for my university newspaper. When I graduated I didn’t want to do anything else so I started updating Dorris McComics regularly and building an audience while working at a science centre. After two years, I quit my job and went full time!

AN: My biggest breaks were probably getting a deal with Webtoon. I have done two series for them: “How to Love“, a love advice comic, and “Hello World” (ongoing) which is a photo-collage travel series. That meant I could do comics full time. Most other things have been more of a slow grind rather than a “break”!


(from Dorris McComics)

AN: Dorris McComics was just a place to dump all the ideas I had, playing with the format of comics and doing visual gags. It was a bit of a mish-mash. There was a joke that I put lots of effort into every comic and updated sporadically, so for April Fools one year I did 8 updates in one day, all very simple relatable humor ending with “oh no”. I was sitting on that idea for over a year before I decided I should make it a bigger project, so I started Webcomic Name.

BC: Which of your works are you happiest with or proudest of?
AN: I am very happy with Webcomic Name– I enjoy making a big solid series that has a strong concept all the way through! That has always been a struggle for me in the past. There are lots of individual Dorris McComics strips that I am also very proud of, because I worked on them one at a time, each one as a separate work, and some of my earlier ones are still very good I think.


(from Dorris McComics)

BC: What do you look for in a comic? Have you met any of the artists? Do you have any dirt on them?
AN: There isn’t one thing I look for in webcomics- I tend to love so many for their own reasons. With both Dorris McComics and Webcomic Name I was trying to improve the webcomic landscape a bit, but I still love the things out there. Just picking a few out of the hat, I love Julia Kaye‘s autobio strips, I love Olivia Walch’s wild threads of logic in Imogen Quest (most underrated webcomic imo), and currently enjoying Poorly Drawn Lines, you never know where the punchline will land! There are so many more I love, and I have met a lot of other artists at conventions. I do have dirt: they are all disgustingly lovely people.


(from Webcomic Name)

BC: Who are your favorite artists/writers?
AN: I don’t consider myself just a webcomic artist although that is what I do now- I want to make plays, television, movies, animation, sculpture, painting, poetry, novels, anything I can! But webcomics are one of the most accessible and small and inexpensive things you can make, so they suit me now. So I get inspiration from lots of places: At the moment I love the silly, cartoonish (yet literary) poetry of William Blake and Emily Dickinson and Ogden Nash, and also silly, cartoonish (yet dark) books by Kurt Vonnegut and Roald Dahl and Oscar Wilde. And this week I am into movies that have a very strong emotional core that let you get away with a wild storyline, like Mrs Doubtfire and Ghost.


(from Webcomic Name)

BC: Have you used Kickstarter or Patreon?
AN: I do have a patreon and it is getting going slowly! It is nice to actually get money for the thing I spend most of my time on, rather than relying on other side-projects for income. It’s at: www.patreon.com/dorrismccomics

BC: Do you have any upcoming appearances or conventions?
AN: I will be at Planet Comic Con in Kansas City (Apr. 28-30), and MCM London (May 26-28).


(from Webcomic Name)

(All artwork here has been reproduced with the permission of the artist. Copyright Alex Norris (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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Eric Salinas interview

Several readers have recommended Something About Celeste, which is also on Amanda El-Dweek’s reading list. I’m happy to present here the man behind Celeste.

BC: Who are you?
ES: I am Eric Salinas, webcartoonist for Something about Celeste. I have been drawing Celeste in some sort of fashion since 1997, but I have only been publishing the strip online since 2015.

BC: What personal details do you think are relevant to readers to know about you?
ES: I was born and raised in Texas. During college I was published in my university publication, my hometown newspaper, and surprisingly also in the University of Hawai’i paper. That was the height of my professional reach. Over the next few years I was rejected by every syndication multiple of times. Eventually I became a school teacher. From 2010-2015 I taught English abroad. I have lived in the Czech Republic for two years and Turkey for three during that time. I am constantly torn between wanting to stay at home & work long hours on my comic strip and between my wanderlust (which never really goes away).

BC: Where are you now?
ES: I am currently in Texas, in a suburb near Austin. I am going back to Turkey soon. I was supposed to be back there last summer, but I had visa problems (The failed coup may have had a hand in making everything so topsy-turvy). In a way, it was kind of good that I stayed a little longer, as I had my best year to date drawing my comics.

BC: Have your travels had much effect on the humor or settings in SaC?
ES: Not really. I wanted to add more traveling stories into my comics, maybe make Celeste and Paige ex-pats in another country, but I have had no ideas as up to yet. However, I do think living in other places has helped me decide to translate my comics into other languages. I get my friends to help me with the translations. I started with Turkish, but then I also made Dutch and Czech translations as well. Right now, it is just a fun side project that I do with them.

BC: Do you consider yourself a cartoonist, an illustrator, an artist, or something else?
ES: I guess I would call myself a cartoonist and a digital designer. I am not much of an artist; I don’t draw any better than my peers. However, I am able to use my skills on Photoshop to hide the limitations of my art (I have even taught myself how to make ‘oil paintings’ on Photoshop). I think I have an eye for layout design. I studied Advertising Portfolio as an undergraduate. Therefore, I am very conscious of the visual elements and I try to make my comic as visually appealing as possible. I consider the overall layout just as important to the comic as the artwork and wordplay.

BC: How did you get your start as a cartoonist? How long have you been at this, and what do you think your biggest breaks were?
ES: I started drawing comics when I was eleven after I stole my brother’s Calvin & Hobbes book. It was a birthday gift he didn’t really care for, so he didn’t notice me pilfer it. After that, I made it a Christmas tradition that I would buy myself a Calvin & Hobbes book. I would even wrap it and sign it to myself. My first comic was about a bratty, spiky-haired kid named Kevin (even then I wasn’t very original). I would show friends and family my ‘Kevin’ comics and even had an exhibit at the local children’s museum my sophomore year. Besides that, I didn’t really do much with that comic.

BC: What led up to your starting Something About Celeste?
ES: I created a new comic strip my freshman year in college, Common Ground, to try to develop my skill as a cartoonist and broaden my appeal. Common Ground was from a feminine viewpoint and had a more popular appeal than my high school comic. It was in this comic strip that I developed Celeste. Early on, I created her as an overly-imaginative person harassed by monsters under the bed, skeletons in the closet, drawings of stickmen coming to life, and talking viruses. Throughout my career I have been very much influenced by Bill Watterson’s work.

ES: After graduation, I knew that of all my characters that I had created, it would be Celeste that I would try to syndicate. So from 2001-2005 I tried to syndicate Something about Celeste. I don’t know if I would call it “my biggest break” but I would certainly say a pivotal moment was when I sent a packet of my comics to Lynn Johnston of For Better or For Worse in the fall 2001. She absolutely hated it, and told me in detail why. After a period of nursing my wounds, I came to see what Lynn saw and was in complete agreement. I restarted my comic from the ground up. I am grateful to her because without her honesty, I would have been stuck on that mediocrity plateau for a very long time. No one likes critiques, but it was the thing that I needed to hear in order to improve.

BC: How would you describe SaC in a way intended to draw in new readers?
ES: SaC is a light-hearted strip about a young 20-something woman who has retained her childlike sense of wonder. Celeste loses herself in elaborate fantasies and daydreams. Sometimes these fantasy stories even surprise me, and her palindrome mirror reflection, Seles, has unexpectedly become one of Celeste’s biggest ‘frenemies’ in the strip. There is a balance between word play, slighty sexual innuendo jokes, colorful pictures, and just plain silliness in the strip.

ES: Lately, I have been using another main character, Paige, to draw more serious introspective strips. Recently, a friend of mine, who I show most of my work before publishing, has said there is a certain ‘yin and yang’ thing with Celeste and Paige. Celeste strips are the silly and light-hearted ones, while Paige strips are more introspective, serious, and sometimes morose. I use Celeste to get rid of all the weird ideas swirling in my head, and I use Paige to help me in my own mental state.

BC: Which of your works are you most happy with, or proud of?
ES: Besides Something about Celeste, I also dabble with the webcomics Pennylicious and Celeste International on Tapastic.com. However, I work almost exclusively on SaC, and it is easy to say that it is SaC which I am most proud of.

BC: What can you tell us about Pennylicious?
ES: A Turkish friend of mine has showed an interest in comics. She fell in love with Calvin and Hobbes after I introduced her to the strip (They don’t have C&H in Turkey). I even mailed all my old C&H books to her for her birthday. Pennylicious is her comic that I help collaborate on. So far it is about a group of 20-something year-old friends who are in love with the concept of ‘love’ but have no idea how to have a real relationship. Unfortunately, my friend has been real busy with grad school, so we haven’t done too much on it on Tapastic.

BC: Do you have any collections on the market yet?
ES: Not yet, even though I have been harassed by a few family members to publish a book. I guess I am waiting to build a larger audience on the various websites that I publish on. I hope to publish a book soon, that’s all I can say for now.

BC: How do you approach that blank sheet of paper when you decide to start your next strip or panel?
ES: I usually get my ideas from hot showers, long walks, or surfing Facebook to look at silly memes that people post up. I jot every weird idea into my notebook. When I am ready to make a strip, I start with the text first. Again, I make sure it is visually appealing with the text being justified and not spilling into the adjacent panels. Besides making sure the text is symmetrical, I make sure I leave enough space in each panel to show the most optimal amount of artwork. I am conscious of the economy of words, or ‘brevity’, and try to tell my story in the least amount of text as possible without losing the meaning or humor. After that, I am ready to add the artwork. I could spend hours scouring Pinterest, Google Images, or other webcomics to give me inspiration or guidance to help me illustrate my strip. I used to physically draw my panels on separate pieces of paper, scan them in, and then digitally connect the separate pieces of art into a single comic strip. However, as of the past two years, I just do everything in Photoshop; I draw directly with my computer mouse.

BC: If your strip had a soundtrack, what would it be?
ES: Since SaC is a comic strip about a young, naive woman straight out of college, I would think that No Doubt’s ‘Just a Girl’ would be a great song on Celeste’s soundtrack. However, lately I have been drawn to the performer Grimes. I think her song “Kill v Maim” perfectly captures the erratic energy of Celeste and her daydreams.

BC: Who are your favorite artists/writers?
ES: I am a fan of the artwork by Tom Bancroft and Gisele Lagace. I study their sketches and character poses when I draw my own characters.

BC: Do you follow any other comic strips right now?
ES: Besides Bill Watterson and Lynn Johnston, the few newspaper comics I read are Dana Simpson’s Phoebe and her Unicorn, Rick Detorie’s One Big Happy and Bill Amend’s Foxtrot to name a few. But I spend more of my time reading webcomics than the ones in the newspaper. I follow almost all of the Sherpa cartoonists like Amanda El-Dweek, Jordan Smith, Francis Bonnet, Jose Sepi, Jason Platt, Bob Murphy, Alan Archer, Andrew Pilcher, Ed Owens, and Val Wares. I am also a fan of DrawWritePlay, C. Cassandra and Lunarbaboon found on various places on the internet.

ES: I like C. Cassandra as the only slice-of-life comic which I don’t find trite and IS well-drawn. I also like Christopher Grady’s work Lunarbaboon in that it is a comic that isn’t always trying to tell a ‘joke’. Humor isn’t the only emotional response that a cartoonist should strive for and we shouldn’t limit ourselves by always trying to be funny.

BC: Any idea what’s going on with Comic Sherpa now? Has GoComics been keeping the artists in the loop in any way, shape or form?
ES: I’ve gotten one or two emails since January. Who would have thought it would be so hard to add a Sherpa page to the GoComics website. Unfortunately, I don’t know what is going on there, so I have been focusing on my reach with other websites.

BC: What do you look for when you read someone else’s strips?
ES: Initially, I look for something short and sweet; something I can read in 30 seconds or less. I don’t want to read a whole novel when I view my comics. If there is too much text, I skip it. I want a comic strip to be clean and simple without too much text or overly busy artwork. I am very impatient so I look at the layout to see if it is visually clean and symmetrical before I continue reading. After I’ve invested in a comic strip for years (like with C&H), I am willing to spend more time looking at every detail and nuance in it.

BC: What do you think makes for a good comic?
ES: I prefer character-driven comics more than simple visual gags. The thing that makes a great comic is Honesty. Sure they are silly characters in silly situations, but they have to be as real as possible for the reader to get emotionally invested in them. A comic must be more than a funny pun or silly picture; it must tell a truth in a way that we had never thought about but we can all agree with. A good stand-up comedian does the same thing; show us a mirror to our own follies and faults.

ES: What makes a very good comic strip? Be really funny. Simple as that. What makes a great comic strip? Be really, really sad so that the reader has no choice but to laugh. I have seen comics that I would put in that ‘great’ category. The cartoonist does not have to make the whole comic strip in this way but just have certain individual strips that are honest and profound (remember the dead bird in the Sunday strip of Calvin and Hobbes?) But, this should be done carefully. A cartoonist shouldn’t try to be melodramatic and try to pull the emotional heart strings. If the reader feels they are being emotionally manipulated, it would backfire.

BC: Do you use Patreon or Kickstarter?
ES: No, not yet.

BC: Do you want to plug your site?
ES: My website is www.somethingceleste.com. Besides having all my SaC comics in the archives section, I have also included every other comic I have made since 1997, so there is a lot of content to see there that a reader couldn’t find anywhere else. I am also a Sherpa cartoonist, but unfortunately the Sherpa page is down on GoComics.com. I am on Tapastic, BeComics, and Comx Box Syndicate.

BC: Do you have any other projects you are working on?
ES: My Celeste International comic on Tapastic is a multi-lingual comic strip featured there. I have some of my old SaC comics translated into Greek, Turkish, Arabic, French, Czech, German, and Dutch. I have my comics translated for no other reason than ‘why not?” Right now, it is more a conversation piece than an actual draw to attract new readers. Despite its lack of numerous subscribers, I am constantly looking for new translators who would help me with that side project.

BC: If Celeste were here, what would she say are her best and worst features? What else would she want to add to the interview?
ES: Haha…what a fun question! Let’s see, I would think her best and worst feature would be the same thing. Her bubbly personality brightens everyone’s day, but that same ‘bubbliness’ is the reason no one takes her seriously. She would say “I am not just a dumb blonde. I read books. I know Isaac Newton invented the fig newton.” Whether she was joking or not, even I don’t know, but she is fun to have around.

BC: Anything else you’d like to add?
ES: I just want to thank you for giving me an opportunity to talk about my comic. Even though I have been drawing for decades, I am only a recent entry to the world of webcomics. I’m pretty much a small fry in a business that is very crowded with many talented artists and writers. Hopefully, as many people as possible would become aware of Celeste and see the same thing that I see in her. This interview has been fun for me.

(All artwork here has been reproduced with the permission of the artist. Copyright Eric Salinas (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.)

Congrats to Greg Cravens!

Reprinted from the Hubris site with permission from the artist.

Memphis Cartoonist Named to Board of National Cartoonist Society (NCS)
Memphis, TN: The National Cartoonist Society (NCS), formed just after WWII by cartoonists returning from USO tours to entertain U.S. troops overseas, has named Memphis-based cartoonist Greg Cravens to their incoming board of directors. The decision comes after Greg was the local coordinator of an NCS/St. Jude event last May. The event brought more than 200 internationally known cartoonists to Memphis to draw for St. Jude patients and to fundraise through a series of cartoon art auctions and live events.

Greg’s artwork is familiar to residents of the Memphis area over the past twenty-five years. He has illustrated advertising for FedEx, The Memphis Flyer, The Peabody, Rock 103, The Grizzlies, Redbirds, Shoney’s, Perkins, The Memphis Zoo, Jack Pirtle’s Chicken, Keras Chevrolet, and hundreds more businesses. Because of his work on the syndicated comic strip The Buckets, he was allowed to join the NCS in 2002, and shortly after was nominated for a Silver Reuben award for his work on the Memphis Flyer.

His duties for the NCS will involve screening new member applications. He will also take on duties for the NCSFoundation, which will involve more work with their children’s hospital program and their “Cartooning For Kids” events. He says, “I’m looking forward to more NCS events at St. Jude, and other children’s hospitals throughout the Southeast. Also, since I’m the only NCS member for a couple of hundred miles in any direction, I’m especially looking forward to seeing more members come here more often.”

Steve McGarry, president of the NCSFoundation, said, “He did a really great job with (NCS/St. Jude) logistics in Memphis and I’m sure we (the NCSF) will keep him busy.”

Information about the National Cartoonist Society can be found at www.reuben.org.
Greg’s syndicated comic strip can be seen in newspapers in the U.S., Thailand, Australia, and at www.gocomics.com/thebuckets.
Webcomic Hubris! is at www.hubriscomics.com.
Advertising portfolio is at www.cravenscartoonist.com.

Ed Power interview

Reprinted from the intro for the Melissa DeJesus interview, “I’ve read My Cage on GoComics off and on, so I was familiar with the names Melissa DeJesus and Ed Power. When the GoComics editors announced that Ed and Melissa’s graphic novel, Santa versus Dracula was going to run a couple pages a week, I was interested to see what was going to unfold. Eventually, I bought the ebook for SvD, and it’s a good read. The idea is that Dracula wants Santa’s ability to enter people’s houses without needing an invitation, so he collects a bunch of other monsters and makes a raid on the North Pole. The artwork is anime-influenced, but there’s a lot of western cultural references, including Twilight, and Teen Wolf. My Cage is more of a gag-a-day strip where humans have been replaced by anthropomorphic animals that are now doing all the office work. Completely different [approaches], but both are good in their own ways.” Today I’m pleased to be talking with Ed, the writer side of the duo.


BC: Who are you?
EP: My name is Ed Power. Mostly, I’m a dad and husband, but for this I’m sure you mean the fact I’m the writer and co-creator of the formerly syndicated comic strip My Cage (now on gocomics) and the graphic novel Santa vs Dracula, which I pray every night gets made into a movie. 😀

EP: My Cage was a comic about a world of anthropomorphic animals and a platypus living in it with a mundane job he hates while trying to become a writer. It ran from 2007 – 2010 for King Features, and is now in reruns on gocomics, with new strips on patreon.

EP: Santa vs Dracula is a suburban coming of age story of…jk…its Dracula invading the North Pole. Chaos ensues.

BC: What personal details do you think are relevant to readers to know about you?
EP: I’m from New Jersey. When I was in the Army I found out most people think 2 things about NJ: 1. It is a city in NY (it is not) and 2. It is a series of small cities built on toxic waste dumps. This is also not true. I come from a lovely, little, idyllic suburb built on a toxic waste dump.

EP: When I was a kid, my grandfather lived with us and he was my hero. He read the comics to me out of something called a “nooz paypar”. This turned into a lifelong love of comics, superheroes, etc., as well as the reason why I didn’t date until several years later than most kids start to. Thanks Grandpa!

BC: Do you consider yourself cartoon writer, an illustration writer, an art writer, or something else?
EP: A writer. Although I always loved in the comic strip Bloom County when Opus became a cartoonist and called himself a “stripper”, so I rip that off a lot. Oddly, I love writing, but have no inclination to write anything that wouldn’t have drawings with it. Is that weird?

BC: How did you get your start as a writer?
EP: Hmm. Jeez. I mean, I read comics and comic books from an early age and hence I was writing and drawing my own stuff since shortly after that. I broke off more into writing because in High School I had a supportive writing teacher who sent me to an ‘Arts High School’ program for playwrights, where as my art teacher banned me from the school’s art show. 🙂

EP: When I was a teenager though, my mom died and I decided after all the drama of such an awful event that I wanted a ‘normal life’ so I never pursued writing professionally… then I realized normal lives with no creative outlets suck so I submitted a very badly drawn (I used MS paint) proposal for a comic strip and submitted to all the comic syndicates that were around at the time (6-8 back in those heady days!)

EP: When I researched comic strip submissions I noticed a lot of people who posted their rejection letters online had the same basic theme to the rejections: “Your art is great! Work on your writing.” I was hoping to get a rejection letter saying “Your writing is good. Your drawings look like something that was banned from a High School art show” and use that to coax an artist into working with me.

EP: Then King Features Syndicate called back and said they liked the proposal enough they’d team me with an artist.

BC: How long have you been at it, and what do you think your biggest breaks were?
EP: Wow. Hmmm. I sent the proposal out in…2005? (adds number in his head) Yep. 2005. Wow. Holy shit!

EP: The biggest break was the fact the legendary Jay Kennedy was the editor at King Features at the time. He really took to My Cage and was INSANELY supportive. He also teamed me up with my artist/collaborator, Melissa DeJesus.

EP: Sadly, Jay drowned while on vacation a month before the strip premiered in newspapers. We lost a truly great person, and the real champion of the strip. 😦

BC: What led up to your starting My Cage, then moving to Santa vs. Dracula, etc., and do you have any other pokers in the fire right now?
EP: I hated working in an office, and it got even worse when I got a job doing programming for automation programs that the company I worked for was putting in place to replace actual workers. So, my job was to go to all these different sites, meet all these people, learn their jobs, and create a program to get rid of them. And they knew it. It was REALLY depressing.

EP: Oddly, when I started the job, I had a boss who hated anyone taking vacations and then the project was switched to a boss who insisted everyone use all their vacation days. I had a backlog of a month of vacation days, so I spent all of one December putting together the pitch for My Cage because I knew I had to try something big to get out of that job.

EP: Once My Cage got cancelled, Melissa and I decided to work on something else together. I pitched her a million different ideas, and Santa vs Dracula was the one she liked.

EP: As for ‘pokers in the fire’, I’m always working on something (still plotting my escape from Planet 9-5). Hopefully if all goes well, there will be an announcement soon. But then again, that’s always the case. 😀 😀 😀

BC: What do you do now?
EP: I work as a telecommunications engineer. That’s not what Norm does though. Had the strip run 10 years like I wanted, I would’ve revealed what McGuffin, inc. does in one of the final strips.

BC: Which of your works are you most happy with, or proud of?
EP: I am very proud of Santa vs Dracula. I wanted it to be the Evil Dead 2 of Christmas stories, and I think we succeeded.

EP: Also, after watching Melissa cram her art into tiny panels for three and a half years of syndication, it was great to see her be able to really go to town and blow the roof off the place with SvD.

EP: I’m also very proud of several of the arcs we did in My Cage, the ‘Norm and Bridget break-up’ (pictured here) and the series where our lead, Norm Platypus, gets replaced by a plant at work and no one notices are 2 of my faves.

BC: Where can readers find your collections?
EP: My Cage: On-line @ gocomics.com/mycage, and there is a b&w collection of the first year available on amazon.com

Santa vs Dracula is currently available at amazon.com and at comixology.

BC: How do you approach that blank sheet of white paper when you decide to start your next strip?
EP: I heard this story that when asked how long it took to write the screenplay for ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’, the writer, William Goldman, said something like “I thought about it for 8 years and typed it in 3 months. You tell me”.

EP: That’s how I write.

EP: The characters of whatever I’m working on are constantly chattering in my head. When I have enough chatter for a strip, I sit down to write it. With longer narratives, I write when I feel scenes are done, and when there are enough scenes I begin ‘writing to them’. i.e. I start writing scenes or dialogue that bridge those larger scenes together.

BC: If your strip had a soundtrack, what would it be?
EP: For My Cage? Fountains of Wayne’s “Bright Future in Sales” and “Hey Julie”. Dated? Yes. But I brought both songs with me to a meeting with King Features Syndicate back in the day to help explain the tone I wanted for the strip. That seems kind of weird as I type it now. 🙂

EP: Santa vs Dracula? Weird Al Yankovic’s “The Night Santa went Crazy”. Santa doesn’t go crazy in our story, but if SvD could be a movie with Weird Al doing the soundtrack and Bruce Campbell as Santa, Nic Cage as Dracula, I could die a happy man. 😀

BC: Who are your favorite artists/writers? Have you met any of them? Got any dirt on them?
EP: LOL! I have dirt on 2 cartoonists, and it will go to the grave with me. 😀 My favorite writer is the comic book writer Grant Morrison. I love how nuts and over the top his stuff is, while never forgetting to add character moments. My favorite ‘non-illustrated’ writer is John Updike, although my favorite book is ‘A Confederacy of Dunces‘. I love stand-up comedy, and consider them some of my favorite writers, too. My favorites are George Carlin, Bill Hicks, and Chris Rock out of that group.

BC: Do you follow any other comic strips right now?
EP: So many…I’m actually afraid of forgetting something. My head is swimming.

EP: I will say this, my favorite comic of the past several years was one called Gentle Creatures by Mel Henze. It was the first strip I read and immediately wrote the writer a fan letter (well, ‘fan e-mail’). The fact he isn’t doing it right now makes me very sad, but things happen. I think it had the potential to be the next Pearls Before Swine. Check it out, then bother Mel. 😀 Tell him Ed Power sent you. 😀 😀 😀

EP: There was also a great webcomic from Superfogeys creator Brock Heasley called Monsterplex that I swear if I ever become famous I will make into a movie! It was set to run on DC Comic’s old Zuda Comics website before that sadly shut down. Still, bother Brock about it and tell him I sent you, too. 😀 😀 😀

BC: What do you look for when you read someone else’s strips?
EP: A combination of bizarre going’s-on/happenings, but with real characterization.

BC: What do you think makes for a good comic?
EP: I don’t think there is a formula. Although, Bloom County creator Berkeley Breathed wrote this AMAZING essay in the front of one of his compilation books about how ‘Truth of character’ is the most important thing for a comic. It’s one of those things that has stuck with me my entire life and changed both how I write and how I read… how I watch TV… you name it. I couldn’t answer it better, so I guess my answer is find that essay and read it. 😀 😀 😀

EP: Am I the first interview to assign homework? 😀 But seriously, anyone who finds it, I’d love to hear your opinions on it. If I could find it I’d provide a link.

BC: Do you use Patreon or Kickstarter? Do you want to plug your site?
EP: We used kickstarter for Santa vs Dracula, but that’s long past. Currently we create the new My Cage strip on patreon. The site is: www.patreon.com/mycage

BC: Do you have any projects coming up? Appearances scheduled for conventions?
EP: Again, I always have something that seems to be on the verge of its tipping point. One thing in particular is pretty far along. If all goes right, you should hear about it by summer. If it doesn’t…well, you won’t hear about it, I suppose.

EP: I’m too poor to go to conventions. 😀 If you see me at one, you’ll know things are picking up for me.

BC: Do you have any strips or artwork you’d want to accompany the interview?
EP: Does it have to be mine? I love this. I saw it waiting for my parents in a store as a kid once and then spent decades trying to find it again: link to desired pictures.

BC: What kind of copyright statement do you want to use to protect the artwork? (“All artwork here has been reproduced with the permission of the artist. Copyright ______ (c) 2017.”?)

EP: DAMN IT! Aw well. Worth a shot. 😉

EP: In closing: READ SUPERFOGEYS AND ANYTHING BY NORM FEUTI!!!

(All artwork here has been reproduced with the permission of the writer. Copyright Melissa DeJesus and Ed Power (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.)

Olga Makarova interview

Olga contacted me through the Basket Case About page, and I started reading “Gifts” shortly afterward. The concept behind this Russian webcomic is as fascinating as the person herself. I’m pleased to present Olga here.

BC: Who are you?
OM: My name is Olga Makarova. I’m making a sci-fi webcomic Gifts of wandering ice about curious things people find in ancient icebergs.


(from Gifts of wandering ice.)

BC: What personal details do you think are relevant to readers to know about you?
OM: I live in Ufa, the capital of Bashkortostan, one of the republics inside Russia. I’ve never had a chance to travel and see the world, so that must be where my love for sci-fi, fantasy, and adventure stories comes from: I just travel in my imagination.


(from Gifts of wandering ice.)

OM: I was born in 1985, grew up as a shy bookish kid, got interested in sports as a teen (I began with bodybuilding, then have been studying Aikido for 12 years, and have recently started Muay Thai). I have a degree in biology and was on my way to becoming a geneticist after Uni, but didn’t get my PhD due to financial problems in my family. I still love science, though, and all my stories are full of that. Right now I’m a 32 year old woman, married, with a kid, and work in a small animation studio. I’m a 3D artist there. What I do is mostly shading, sometimes also sculpting and modelling. The best job I’ve ever had.

BC: Has the animation studio you work at produced any works that westerners may have heard of?
OM: I guess not. But maybe they heard about comics this studio (“Muha”, it means “fly”) used to make in 90’s. I heard some were printed in other countries.

BC: Why Muay Thai? It’s one of the more painful martial arts to learn, isn’t it?
OM: I fell in love with Muay Thai after I saw people spar in a gym my husband goes to. In Aikido you don’t spar ever. You may train for years and years and not know whether you’re worth anything in a fight. After 12 years of Aikido it became to get to me. I realized I wanted to fight, wanted to know whether my skills were worth something. I chose Muay Thai over classic boxing because of how beautiful and effective it is. And, as I said already, I fell in love with it at the first sight. All martial arts are painful to learn. I just don’t care about pain much. I’ve been like this since I was a kid. I fought a lot and got beaten a lot. I guess I’m less sensitive than an average person. Bloody nose and bruises are not a big deal for me, and it’s the worst you can get when you spar, because sparring is never done at 100% strength. You can get seriously hurt only in a ring. I’ve never fought in a ring before (I’ve been practicing Muay Thai for only 4 months yet), but I’m looking forward to it.

BC: Do you consider yourself a cartoonist, an illustrator, an artist, or something else?
OM: I’m a storyteller. Writing, drawing, conversation – these are just different ways to share a story with other people. I don’t feel like I’m actually creating stories. They already exist in my head and I can watch them just as I watch movies. What I do is adapting them to the real world so that somebody else would experience them, too. I used to write stories for most of my life, but during the last three years I’ve been drawing one.


(from Gifts of wandering ice.)

BC: How did you get your start as a storyteller?
OM: My parents told me I’ve always been a storyteller, since I learned how to speak, and they have several written books with illustrations I made in my preschool years in the family archive.

BC: How long have you been at it, and what do you think your biggest breaks were?
OM: Well, all my life, I think. My best years were at the Uni. Happy time, many friends, big dreams, lots of inspiration, to make the long story short. I wrote my best books in these years. After that I faced some real life problems, got depressed and stopped writing. I decided to learn to draw somewhere at that point. My initial goal was to make decent covers for my books since I was too poor to hire an artist, but it went further.

BC: With working at an animation studio, studying Muay Thai and raising a family, when do you have time to draw? How do you manage your time?
OM: I work 8 hours a day, 5 days a week and have 28 days of vacation each year. I draw 1 hour a day from Monday to Friday (usually in the morning before work) and 2-3 hours a day on Saturdays and Sundays. It’s enough to produce 2 comic pages per week. When I’m on vacation or have a day off because of some holiday (we have a lot of these in Russia) I can draw extra art for Patreon. I started Muay Thai too late to become a professional fighter, so there is no point of sacrificing everything to it and training like twice a day. I go to the gym 3-4 times a week, just like most people who only want to stay fit do. Each class lasts for an hour and a half, and the gym is only 5 minutes walk from my home. As to raising a family, I’m not doing it alone. There are four adults in my family: my husband, my parents, and me. We help each other a lot and are very close. It is common in Russian families and really does make everything easier: raising kids, caring for seniors, paying bills, etc.


(from Gifts of wandering ice.)

BC: What led up to your starting Gifts of wandering ice, and do you have any other pokers in the fire right now?
OM: When I was a kid of 17 I wrote a short story Gifts of wandering ice. It was rather shallow and not particularly exciting, but it had an interesting idea: melting icebergs with artifacts of a dead civilization inside them. After many years I decided to make a comic based on that story, just for practice, since it was short. It was meant to be only 20 pages long. But as I began sketching it I realized that the idea about icebergs and artifacts deserved a much better story, and then I saw it in my mind, an opening scene of a long black and white movie, and it was breathtaking. It had huge icebergs looming on the horizon, little islands of columnar basalt connected with shabby cableways, and beautiful people who survived the apocalypse without turning to barbarism. I was speechless. I don’t remember much of that day. I guess I just watched the movie and paid little attention to the real world. That’s how the new story of Gifts of wandering ice was born.

OM: As to the other stories, I have two unfinished books. They are on hiatus until Gifts of wandering ice is finished.


(from Gifts of wandering ice.)

BC: Which of your works are you most happy with, or proud of?
OM: Omnis Trilogy (three parts: Cold obsidian, Hot obsidian, Smoky obsidian), a techno-fantasy (sci-fi with a few fantasy elements) I wrote in my best years. It’s a story of a world with originally unstable magic which was stabilized by technological means. The balance is fragile at best, though, and allows multiple anomalies to exist. We follow two characters here: an outcast guy who becomes an apprentice of the creators of his world, and a boy who was raised by a rebellious order of magicians and scientists with the purpose to destroy or exile the creators. Reincarnation and genetics both have a say in this story.

OM: I dream of translating Omnis Trilogy into English one day. I could’ve started now, but, damn, it has several poems in it (they are essential to the plot and cannot be omitted), and I’m helpless at translating poems.

BC: Can you share part of one of the Omnis poems in the original Russian?
OM: Sure. There is a legend about two brothers: a tyrant openly hated by everyone and a power broker unknown to common people. Its title translates as “The second one”. This poem was the key to a riddle in part three (Smoky obsidian). And yes, most poems in Omnis Trilogy are long 😦

Второй

Есть мир далекий, мир иной,
где в небе две луны.
От моря там подать рукой
до сказочной страны.

И ту страну в недобрый час
увидел я во сне:
там о беде пророк кричал
и дело шло к войне.

Как две луны на небе том
восходит из-за гор,
так правили страной вдвоем
два брата с давних пор.

Я их имен до сей поры
не вспомнил наяву.
Я лучше Первым и Вторым
двух братьев назову.

И если Первый был король
и правил на земле,
то незаметен был Второй –
как тень при короле.

Да, был тираном первый брат,
но тот, кто из теней
смотрел, опасней был в сто крат,
коварней и страшней.

Страна такая – злой сосед;
пришел войне черёд.
И Первый на виду у всех –
в бой армии ведет.

Громит чужие города,
пленит детей и жен.
Он на виду у всех всегда
и всеми проклят он.

Дела Второго не видны,
как смертоносный яд.
Шпионы, воры, колдуны
ему благоволят.

Они являются везде,
где их никто не ждал.
Не раз в ночи такой злодей
ворота открывал.

Врывался враг, и град тонул
в безжалостном огне…
Казалось, как плохому сну,
не знать конца войне.

Меняли облик колдуны;
царил повсюду страх.
Бывало, другом в дни войны
прикидывался враг.

Но вот в печальный год потерь
нашелся свой герой,
в бою безжалостен, как зверь;
фанатик и святой.

Он королю другой страны
на верность присягнул;
переломил он ход войны,
надежду всем вернул.

Златой грифон всегда при нем –
зверь множества легенд.
Сияет меч его огнем;
он сам – оживший свет.

Крушит врага в бою герой,
могуч, непобедим.
И той же раненых рукой
врачует паладин.

Но смерть оставила печать
на благостном челе;
ему жизнь мирную начать
нет права на земле.

Гадалка молвила, смотря
в огромный черный шар:
«Цена победе – жизнь твоя,
несчастная душа».

«Что ж, я готов,» – сказал тогда
герой, потупив взгляд…
И вот уже недолго ждать,
последний замок взят.

Встречай последнюю зарю,
осталось жить чуть-чуть…
Не внемля страху, к королю
он прорубает путь.

Сражен в бою грифон златой –
сей знак несет беду.
Речами же гадалки той
надломлен гордый дух.

Он молод, он дитя еще,
как можно не жалеть
о том, что дням подходит счет,
что скоро умереть,

что, кровью землю и траву
своею напоя,
он сложит светлую главу
за злого короля…

Он принял бой, и в том бою
сражен им был тиран.
Герой же, кровь пролив свою,
погиб от страшных ран.

Его народ в тот славный день,
ликуя, горевал.
И, неприметен, словно тень,
Второй на то взирал.

«Что ж, ведьма верная моя, –
он обернулся к ней;
та, хладнокровна, как змея,
смотрела из теней, –

Сыграла ты гадалки роль
Прекрасно. Что ж, виват!
Свершилось: мертв святой герой,
и мертв мой старший брат.

Глупцам недолго пировать
на выжженной земле.
Я – Тьма, а Тьма умеет ждать.
О новом короле

пророки скоро закричат,
и я верну свой трон.
Настанет, ведьма, день и час
нам править здесь вдвоем.

Так выпьем вместе за войну,
что я так долго ждал!» –
сказав так, ведьме протянул
Второй вина бокал.

Кроваво-красное вино
та испила до дна.
Но, знайте, с темным колдуном
не стоит пить вина…

Смертельный яд был в чаше той,
и ведьма умерла,
и тайну страшную с собой
в могилу унесла.

Погиб злодей. Что впереди?
В земле почил герой…
А меж тенями, невредим,
момента ждет Второй.

BC: Do you have any paper or e-book collections on the market yet?
OM: E-books can be bought on Gumroad.
Paperbacks can be bought on Lulu.
Alas, everything is in Russian for the moment, but I’m working on the translation. Once Book One of Gifts of wandering ice is finished, it will be available in both languages and will cost just a dollar.


(from Gifts of wandering ice.)

BC: How do you approach that blank sheet of paper when you decide to start your next strip or panel?
OM: I have a movie for every story in my head already, so the first step in making a new page is usually just watching references with poses and landscapes to get the details right.

BC: If your strip had a soundtrack, what would it be?
OM: Gifts of wandering ice would have a lot of Celtic music in it. It suits this world.

BC: Who are your favorite artists/writers? Have you met any of them?
OM: No, I haven’t met anyone.
My favourite novels are The Book of Atrus, The Book of Ti’ana, and The Book of D’ni (the “Myst” trilogy) written by David Wingrove with assistance from Myst’s creators, Rand and Robyn Miller. These books have just the right mixture of everything I love: science, exploration, world traveling, magic (or technology that looks like one), selfless people who love learning, exploring, and very believable strong and clever female characters. My favourite movie is Joss Whedon’s Firefly (+Serenity). It’s very well written and well played. As to other things, I haven’t found my absolute favourites among them yet.


(from Gifts of wandering ice.)

BC: Do you follow any other comic strips right now?
OM: Yes, I follow some.
O human star“, a great geeky sci-fi comic with big heart.
Mare internum“, sci-fi comic about Mars (and I love everything about Mars).
The book of Atrus“, a comic based on one of the “Myst” books, drawn in perfectly Myst-like sketchy style. Unfortunately, it’s on hiatus now.
Camp Weedonwantcha“, a comic about kids abandoned by their parents in a camp. It’s both sad and funny.
Bicycle boy“, a post-apocalyptic comic with lots and lots of strong and charismatic female characters.

BC: What do you look for when you read someone else’s strips?
OM: The strips that are perfect when looking at them make me see the story as a movie in my head. It doesn’t happen often, so when I find a comic that does it I follow it.


(from Gifts of wandering ice.)

BC: What do you think makes for a good comic?
OM: A good story. Good art is important too, but the story comes first.

BC: Do you use Patreon or Kickstarter? How do you think they are changing the face of webcartooning? Do you want to plug your site?
OM: I use patreon. Here is my page: www.patreon.com/mildegard.
I often see that patrons’ support allows people to quit jobs they don’t like and start earning money by doing what they love (be it comics, music or other stuff). I think it’s wonderful!


(from Gifts of wandering ice.)

BC: Do you have any projects coming up? Appearances scheduled for conventions?
OM: There’s going to be a convention in Samara (the city not far from Ufa) in May. I don’t know yet whether I’ll be able to attend it, but I’m going to send a poster there.

BC: Do you have advice for any other Russian readers who might want to start up their own webcomics?
OM: My advice is to make webcomics bilingual with both Russian and English versions. Comics and webcomics are not popular in Russia at all. Only a tiny fraction of people reads them, so even if your webcomic is super cool you’ll never have a big audience if you don’t have an English version.

(All artwork here has been reproduced with the permission of the artist. Copyright Olga Makarova (c) 2017. For non-commercial use only.)
(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.)