Thanks to Greg Cravens, creator of Hubris and The Buckets, and all around great guy, Basket Case now has its own logo button! If you’re an artist that BC has interviewed, and you’re willing to host this button on your GoComics page, linking to your interview, please contact me in e-mail. And be sure to tell Greg how great a guy he is when you see him next time. And buy his books. He likes that when people buy his books.
Dec. 18) Sorry about the lag in posts. Just to keep you updated – I’ve got four interview requests that seem to have disappeared into the ozone, so I have to assume that those artists are busy with their own work and are focusing on that. I’ve got another 4 requests out where I’ve sent the questions, but I’m waiting for a response on three of those. I’m close to posting one interview right now; all I have to do is add the follow-up answers and the links to the artwork, then get the artist’s approval on the final version of the interview. I might be able to post it on Wednesday.
I got swamped with work (which comes and goes, given that I work on contract), plus we’ve got the big holidays coming up and the artists are going to be busy with that for 2-3 weeks. After that, I’ll knuckle down and start sending out mass requests to other artists again. I still want to have a 3-4 week backlog of interviews, but I may drop back to a 2/week release schedule so the readers don’t get swamped with interviews they don’t have time to read.
Plus, I have one announcement for a new e-book release that I’m excited to make, as soon as I get the ok from the artist, which may be in a couple days. Stay tuned.
I know this post is “off topic,” not having anything to do with the interviews, but for anyone that wants to know what the status of the site is, here’s a little background info until things get back up and running.
As I mentioned before, I had a kidney stone back at the beginning of November. As part of the routine follow-up health checks, the doctor discovered that I had a polyp in my intestine, and he “strongly suggested” that I get it removed soon. So, at 8 AM on Tuesday my time, I went back to the hospital to get that done. If you’ve never had a polyp removed before, there are a few steps you need to take to prepare first to thoroughly clean your intestines out, and this takes about 3-4 hours. After that, you’re going to be going without food for about 1.5 days, so the nurses stick a needle in your vein to give you an IV drip (it’s also used to administer the pain relievers and muscle relaxants for during the operation). In my case, the nurse kept missing the vein in the back of my forearm, so he resorted to using the vein in the back of my left hand.
The operation itself went by fast, and I never really felt like the pain relievers kicked in. But, I was a bit punchy after getting off the operating table, and was really low energy for the rest of the afternoon. I was put on the IV then, and I spent the rest of the day in a hospital bed, since the doctor wanted to keep me for one day for observation to make sure the polyp site was cauterized properly and there was no bleeding afterward. I was put in a common room with 4 other guys, so I kept the curtains pulled closed and I spent the time playing Sudoku, reading manga and listening to synthesizer music on my MP3 player.
That evening, the nurse brought in dinner trays for the other patients, while I was left on the IV drip. They turned the lights out in the room at 9 PM, but each bed had an overhead light and a TV. There was NOTHING on TV worth watching at ANY time, so I played Sudoku a bit more and turned the light out to go to sleep. Unfortunately, there were two problems. First, the IV needle was in the back of my left hand. That meant I couldn’t bend the hand at all. This meant that during the entire night, I had to be really aware of where my hand was, make sure that I didn’t roll over on the IV tube, or roll over on my hand. Second, three of the other guys in the room snored. LOUD. All night. I got maybe three hours of sleep, total. When I did manage to drift off, the nurse would come in to change my IV bag, and the movement of the drop tube would wake me up. When I got bored enough of not being able to sleep, I’d play Sudoku some more (I had a magazine filled with Sudoku puzzles), then try to go to sleep again.
At 7 AM, the doctor came into the room, asked me if my stomach hurt, and if there was any blood discharged when I used the toilet. I said “no” to both questions, and the nurse came back to remove the needle from my hand, and gave me a regular breakfast (a small salad, miso soup, a poached egg and a bowl of rice porridge). I was allowed to check out of the hospital at 10 AM, but I had to make another appointment that morning with a kidney doctor to get the test results from the stone (he said it was made up of calcium, which is the most common cause, probably due to bone loss). I got home at noon, and spent the next few hours napping. Then I had to go to the English school to teach two classes at 7 and 8 PM. The rest of Wednesday evening was spent on dinner, catching up on e-mail, and processing photos I took for another blog.
It’s now Thursday noon my time, and I have 3 more classes to teach, at 2:30 PM, 6:30 and 8 PM. The problem is that I have to walk half a mile to the school, and the doctor considers that to be at the limits of how much exercise I can get per day (no alcohol or hard exercise for 1 week). So, I’m not going to be able to return home during the break between classes. Friday and Saturday are going to be similar. This just leaves me with a couple hours a night to keep catching up on e-mail and other things, between now and Sunday (to complicate matters, an on-line translation company wants me to proofread a document over the weekend, due Monday morning).
I’m hoping to start replying to comments here on Basket Case, and to start sending out questions to artists either tonight or tomorrow, but I won’t be able to start posting finished interviews here for maybe another week. Thanks for your patience.
There’s an interesting dichotomy regarding people that read webcomics, particularly with strips running on GoComics. On the one hand, you have readers that go directly to the artist’s main page to see the new strips as they come out, and on the other there are those that refuse to stay up to date, preferring to read the strips on GoComics several months later.
In general, the artists would prefer you to visit their main site(s), to get the latest news and to possibly click on their tip jar buttons. The point though, is that the main sites have a community that’s (emotionally) closer to the artists, and occasionally those artists reward their more ardent fans with things that no one else learns about (such as unreleased artwork, pencil sketches, or discussions of what goes on behind the scenes of the strip).
One case in point is Brian Anderson’s The Conjurers page. Brian is the creator of The Conjurors, and Dog Eat Doug (and, I interviewed him on Oct. 10th). He has a beautiful art style, he loves things like Hell Boy, Pan’s Labyrinth, and Batman, and he sneaks references to what he likes into Dog Eat Doug. It becomes a game, trying to identify which toy Doug is playing with now. You can find his author profile here on Amazon.
(Cover of the Everyday is Sunday ebook PDF version. Copyright (c) 2016 Brian Anderson.)
Now, the point of all this. Brian put together an e-book collection of some of his favorite DeD Sunday strips under the title Everyday is Sunday. These are the really good ones that ran between 2013 and 2016, with the newspaper title panels removed so that you can read the rest of the strip more easily. 72 pages of pop references, alien cats, and hyper-imaginative dog and human babies. Free for a very limited time, to subscribers of Brian’s newsletter.
What are you waiting for?
I love the Perry Bible Fellowship, by Nicholas Gurewitch. The artwork is fantastic, the jokes are completely off the wall, and the humor is blacker than the way I take my coffee. I’ve been following PBF since it first started running on GoComics on November, 7, 2014.
(The first PBF to run on GoComics)
But, you know how when you’re interviewing someone, you sometimes have to just stop asking questions and let the other person do the talking for you? Yeah, that’s why I’m ripping off Nicholas’ GoComics blurbs: “The PBF (for short) first started publishing in Syracuse University’s The Daily Orange in 2001. In the following years, it ran in a number of alternative weeklies, including The New York Press, The Ottawa Xpress, The Portland Mercury, as well as the G2 section of The Guardian. After 3 years of weekly production, Gurewitch disappointed his fans by switching to an irregular schedule, citing mental and physical strain.” And, “Ever since he was little, Nicholas Gurewitch has been told that he holds his drawing utensils in an uncommon way.” Finally, “The origin of the comic strip’s name is completely uninteresting.”
BC: So, sir, what personal information do you think readers should know about you?
NG: Having an audience sometimes means you learn to take a step back and see how other people see you or your work. Sometimes this means stepping so far away that you lose your footing. Sometimes you never regain your footing and start to go mad.
BC: How did you get started cartooning and what have been your biggest breaks?
NG: My biggest break was probably having a wild imagination in a boring town as a kid. Keeping things interesting was kinda like weight-training in high altitudes. By the time I eventually encountered genuinely interesting things, I was prepared to deal with them.
BC: What’s your artistic background?
NG: I went to Syracuse University for film-making.
BC: What artists/writers do you follow and why?
NG: I follow my friend Jackie’s (Evangelisti) webcomic, “Underpants and Overbites“. She started doing comics kinda recently, and it’s fun to see her growth.
BC: What do you look for in someone else’s cartoons?
NG: Strong visual information about a specific topic.
BC: What makes for a good cartoon?
NG: Perhaps the above.
BC: What were your biggest influences?
NG: Artistically, probably Gary Larson, Walt Disney, Stanley Kubrick.
BC: How do you approach that blank sheet of paper when you start a new panel or strip?
NG: I think a blank sheet of paper is practically the last thing I approach. There are shit loads of ideas typed, scrawled, drawn, and sketched in various places. Clean sheet of paper only after those messy pages are seasoned, shaved, primed and timed.
BC: You seem to have a variety of art styles in PBF (comparing the Happy Birthday Miggs strip to the Masculator); What is your approach for matching a style or “look” to a particular gag?
NG: If a gag allows me to journey into a genre, it’s fun to go there. I usually just consider what images I’ve seen associated with the tropes I’m utilizing. Or I’ll just opt for that basic colorless-person style I often use as a default.
(All artwork here has been reproduced with the permission of the artist. Copyright Nicholas Gurewitch © 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: Did you buy a Masculator when you were a kid?
Yes, I do have a Twitter account. If you want to follow Basket Case, my handle is: @ThreeStepsOver
And please feel free to retweet the artist interviews. We all need the exposure we can get! 😉
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.)
When I started sending out emails to the various webcomic artists, I pretty much expected that when I asked for basic personal background information I’d be directed to read some attached press (media) kit. From my point of view, I wouldn’t be wasting the artist’s time having them repeat the same information to me that they’d given to every other interviewer ad nauseum. But, that hasn’t happened yet. I mean, yeah, linking me to an online press kit in the artist’s blog is the cheap way out, but still, doesn’t ANYONE have one?
Anyway, a couple weeks ago, goodreads.com sent me their email newsletter, and their lead story was on the importance of having a good media kit. So, I went to their site just now, and I can’t find the blog article there anywhere. I’ve then been running google searches on media kit articles, and there’s really not that much on the net (beyond a couple companies trying to sell pre-made templates) for instructions on making ago author’s press kit.
I did find one page, though, and I’m going to mention it here. Writing World’s press kit page. Maybe someone will find it useful.
Next poll question: Do you like seeing photos of your favorite writer?
Is it important for you to know what they look like?