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, – 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?

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.)

Wayno Interview

WaynoVision is another comic that was announced on the GoComics GoComics editor’s blog when it first started running there. The artwork caught my eye, and the gag followed. That was “Peter Parker’s Dirty Little Secret,” (mentioned below) and I’ve been a fan ever since. The artwork is extremely clean, the set-up and delivery are often dead-on, and the humor can range from the gentle to the sublime. The fact that Wayno also replies to comments to his strip makes it easier for readers to relate to him, and to the process behind the making of these panels. It helps, too, that he has good taste in music. WaynoVision currently runs Mondays and Wednesdays.

BC: Who are you, Wayno?
W: I’m from Pittsburgh, PA, and have lived here all my life, except for the first few weeks. Because of some work assignment, my parents temporarily lived in Tennessee, where I was born.

BC: Then, where are you from?..
W: I’ve always been interested in art and cartooning, and have drawn for as long as I can remember. Throughout my childhood and adolescence, my parents and nearly all of my teachers pushed me to pursue a more practical path, and discouraged art as anything more than a diversion, which led me to get an engineering degree. I was never a great student, but showed some verbal and mathematical aptitude, so those more conventionally valued skills were strongly encouraged by most adults I encountered.

W: A formative experience was when my elementary art teacher selected students for a weekly Saturday morning drawing workshop at the Carnegie Museum. I knew I was one of the best artists in the class, but I was passed over for this opportunity. When I asked the teacher why I wasn’t chosen, she told me that I didn’t need it. “You’re going to draw anyway.”
At that moment, a cynic was born.

BC: Did you ever go to Carnegie Museum on your own afterward? Just to show ’em up?
W: I have a hazy memory of sitting in the balcony observing the art class I missed out on, but I don’t recall why I was there. In retrospect, it was probably not all that great. I think there were many dozens of kids in auditorium seats with clipboards on their laps.

W: Aside from the art classes, I’ve visited the museum many times over the years. They have an excellent art collection, and the Natural History section has a terrific selection of dinosaurs. The museum also houses the archives of Charles “Teenie” Harris, a wonderful photographer from Pittsburgh’s past.

BC: Do you consider yourself a cartoonist, an illustrator, an artist, or something else?
W: I consider myself primarily a cartoonist, which requires one to be a writer, editor, illustrator, artist and businessperson.

(First page of The Rock, a story by Dennis Eichhorn and Wayno.)

BC: How did you get your start then?
W: My start was as a self-published minicomix cartoonist. Dale Luciano’s Newave Comix Survey, serialized in four issues of The Comics Journal in 1985, profiled dozens of self-published artists who were producing their own Xeroxed minis, and trading and selling them by mail. That led me to other sources of info on the minicomix network, such as Factsheet Five, Small Press Comics Explosion, and Clay Geerdes’ Comix World.

W: After ordering dozens of minis to study them I self-published for a few years, experimenting with single panel gags, longer narratives, free-form jams with other artists, collage, pure art, and Dada-style cutups. With minimal printing costs and no editorial constraints, minicomix proved to be a great training program for cartooning. I met many artists who are friends to this day, including Mary Fleener, Dennis Worden, Mark Martin, Roy Tompkins, JR Williams (still my favorite minicomix artist), Steve Willis, Jim Blanchard, and many others.

W: Around 1986, Joe Sacco (Palestine) was editing Centrifugal Bumble-Puppy, a black & white anthology comic for Fantagraphics. Sacco had seen some of my minis, and wrote to suggest I try submitting work for CB-P. To my surprise, he accepted some work, and I was emboldened to submit to other anthology titles around at the time. I had work published in Kitchen Sink’s Snarf, Robert Crumb’s Weirdo (under Peter Bagge’s editorship), Rip Off Comix, and Cat-Head’s Buzzard.

W: During that period, I also came into contact with the late Jay Kennedy, who wrote and edited The Official Underground and Newave Comix Price Guide. Jay was an artist, editor, and writer, and a champion of cartoonists. In 1988 he became deputy cartoon editor for King Features Syndicate, and approached me to put together a syndication submission package, which he reviewed and critiqued purely to help me get better at cartooning. He also published a few of my gags in The New Breed, a feature he launched to showcase new artists. Jay bought copies of all of my minicomix, and did the same for many, many other artists. After his untimely death, Jay’s collection was donated to the Billy Ireland Cartoon Museum and Library at Ohio State University.

(Tapas, from WaynoVision.)

W: In the early 1990s, Kevin Eastman (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) founded Tundra Publishing, based in Northampton, MA. I contributed many pages to Tundra’s anthology title, Hyena, and completed three issues of Beer Nutz, a solo comic with continuing characters and longer-form stories. By the time I was working on the fourth issue, Tundra had been sold to another publisher, and almost all of its titles, including Beer Nutz, were canceled. Art directors who saw my comics work began calling me for illustration assignments, and I found that I enjoyed the fast turnaround (and better pay rate), so I went into the illustration world as the alternative comics boom was cooling off.

BC: Ever tempted to restart Beer Nutz?
W: I still have an eight- or nine-page unpublished Beer Nutz story that was intended for the fourth issue, but I never had the itch to restart it. There are certain advantages to having recurring characters, but I don’t like that material as much as I did 20 years ago. It looks crude and unsubtle to me today, and nearly all of the characters are rather unlikable.

W: As an illustrator, I continued to use the vocabulary of cartoons, and didn’t substantially change my drawing style. I produced quite a few single panel gags and full page cartoon stories for Nickelodeon Magazine and National Geographic Kids, so I never really left cartooning. I did illustration work for clients including The New Yorker, The Guardian, Entertainment Weekly, Rhino Records, The New York Times, and Highlights.

W: That’s a rather long-winded answer to the question…
BC: That’s ok. I don’t pay by the word.


(A collage of early work)

W: 800 Legal Notices, 8 pages, 1989, sketchbook drawings. Edition of 75 copies.

Festive Desperation (No Way Comix #7), 8 pages, 1987, Experimenting with a specific drawing style.

Mondo Howie #2 (No Way Comix #12), 8 pages, 1987, Various artists drawing their interpretations of my character, Howie Patterson. Artists in this issue: Wayno (cover), Andy Nukes, Ted Bolman, Mark Marek, Mary Fleener, R.K. Sloane, T. K. Atherton.

Recombinant Timmy (No Way Secret Publication #4), 8 pages, 1989
Dada cutup experiment, made from a Dell Comics Timmy book. Limited edition, not advertised, given away with random mail orders. Probably made 50 copies.


BC: How long have you been at cartooning, and what do you think your biggest breaks were?
W: I’ve been seriously cartooning since 1987 or so.

W: My biggest break leading to WaynoVision was meeting and establishing a collaborative relationship with Dan Piraro. In 2009, Dan visited Pittsburgh to host an event sponsored by the ToonSeum, the cartoon art museum here in Pittsburgh. Bizarro was (and still is) one of my favorite daily cartoons. Dan had recently taken a week’s vacation, and brought in a guest cartoonist during his break. When we met, I told him that the next time he wanted to take a break, he could hire me to fill in. Despite the brashness of my proposal, Dan was very kind and suggested I submit some gag ideas. Shortly after his visit, I started sending him ideas, and he liked some of them enough to use. Although many newspaper cartoonists hire other writers or artists, almost none of them acknowledge the fact. Dan gave me a byline on his cartoons from the very beginning.

(Wayno’s idea, and Dan’s interpretation.)

W: Dan usually made changes to my ideas that resulted in much improved cartoons. Paying attention to the changes he made, and talking about them with him, provided an invaluable education. From 2011 to 2014, I assisted him as the colorist for the daily (Monday through Saturday) panels, after spending a few days working beside him to study and learn his painterly coloring technique. And, I did in fact fill in as guest cartoonist for Bizarro not once but twice.

W: [The panel above] was from my very first batch of submissions to Dan! I had to do some digging, but I found the submission art. In
that first package, I sent Dan finished single panel gags that I’d been
working on for a year or so. They were done in an attempt at the New
style, with a typeset caption under the drawing.

(Hillary Price’s interpretation and Wayno’s suggestion.)

W: Working with Dan also led to a wonderfully satisfying ongoing collaboration with Hilary Price. I still write gags for her comic, Rhymes With Orange, and did a week-long guest spot there too.

BC: What led up to your starting WaynoVision?
W: I started WaynoVision after John Glynn at Universal/GoComics asked me if I’d like to create a new feature which they’d host on the GoComics site. Their only real suggestion was that I somehow incorporate my name into the title, since I’d spent so many years establishing my identity as a brand. WaynoVision was what I came up with, and we launched the feature on December 1, 2014.

BC: Which of your works are you most proud of?
W: One of my favorite assignments of all time was contributing to Rhino’s Weird Tales of the Ramones CD set. The CDs were packaged inside a hardcover comic book featuring 25 cartoonists. I did three pages for the book, along with art for the CD labels. As a long-time Ramones fan, I was thrilled to contribute to a tiny part of the band’s history. When the set was released in September 2005, nearly all of the contributing cartoonists appeared at a signing in Los Angeles.

W: I’m pretty happy with WaynoVision so far, too. My deal with Universal is for one comic per week, but since October of 2015, I’ve been doing two or more per week.

(from WaynoVision.)

W: My favorite individual panels change all the time, but I’m still partial to the very first one (“Peter Parker’s Dirty Little Secret,” December 1, 2014).
BC: This is the panel that drew me into your strip.

W: I was also proud of the April 6, 2015 cartoon, which ran on Merle Haggard’s birthday, and was retweeted by Merle’s son. When I reposted the cartoon on Merle’s birthday in 2016, it was kind of a shock to hear that he died later that day, hopefully not from seeing the comic.

W: Generally, when I look at my cartoons, I only notice things I want to change, or a spot I forgot to color. Two recent gags that garnered a lot of online sharing were the May 11, 2016 cartoon featuring a Russian nesting doll, and a rather silly one from August 22, 2016 (Cro, Micro, Macro).

BC: Do you have any collections on the market yet?
W: No, I don’t have a collection available yet, but it’s on my long-term wish list. I’d like to make it more than simply a compilation of cartoon panels, and would want to include commentary and sketches for some or most of the selected cartoons, similar to the process posts I often do on my blog.

BC: How do you approach that blank sheet of white paper?
W: By the time I approach the blank sheet, I’ve already got a solid idea about what will go onto it. That’s the final part, the manual labor. I’m constantly writing, rewriting, and juggling ideas long before they make it to the “good” drawing paper and ink stage. I carry a sketchbook just about everywhere I go, and jot down ideas, sketches, or just words or phrases that may have potential as cartoons. I’ll settle on a few ideas to pursue for that week’s batch (I try to do enough to keep getting further ahead of deadline as much as I possibly can).

W: My process then includes a number of preliminary roughs drawn in the pages of my current sketchbook. When I arrive at a semi-final version, I’ll scan the sketch, and then lay out the panel in Photoshop, adjusting the size and placement of the art elements, and temporarily setting the text. I’ll then adjust the color so the art is a very pale blue, and will use that as a guide for a tighter sketch. Then I scan the tight sketch, make some final tweaks to the art (size and placement again), and try to settle on the final text. When I print this out, I’ll put it on my light box, pencil the art on Bristol paper with a non-photo blue pencil, ink the text with Micron pens or other permanent markers, and do the final inking with a brush and FW ink. I like to do most of my cleanup on the physical art using white acrylic paint before scanning the art for digital coloring. Quite often, I change the art and/or text as late as the day before the cartoon is actually published.

BC: If your strip had a soundtrack, what would it be?
W: Great question. The answer could change from day to day. Music has always been a huge inspiration to me. I don’t usually listen to music when writing, because I find it distracting in that situation, but for every other aspect, I always have music playing. Jazz, punk rock, Hawaiian, 1940s R&B, soul, garage rock, Italian soundtrack music, etc. Here’s a selection of items from my record collection.

W: If I had to imagine a soundtrack for my comic, I think it would have to be something like a mixture of Nino Rota, Ennio Morricone and Juan Garcia Esquivel.
BC: Ennio gets my vote.

BC: Who are your favorite artists/writers?
W: My favorite cartoonist of all time is Virgil Partch. He was recently the subject of a very fine biography and collection by Jonathan Barli. I’ve managed to collect quite a few of Partch’s books over the years and a few pieces of his original art.

W: I’ve been lucky enough to meet many of my favorite artists over the years, including Cal Schenkel, Gary Panter, Robert Crumb, Sergio Aragones, Mort Drucker, Don Martin, Bill Griffith, and many others.

W: There were a few key revelations in my appreciation of comic art. The first occurred when I was maybe ten or eleven years old. I was collecting MAD paperback books, and I eventually found my way to the Ballantine reprints of the early Harvey Kurtzman MADs. Though the art was poorly reproduced and almost too small to read, I could see they were wildly different from the MAD Magazine I was used to reading. The early comics, particularly Bill Elder’s stuff, made a deep impression on me. They had a feeling of earthiness and anarchy I hadn’t encountered before. Reading Elder’s “Starchie” (a wicked parody of Archie comics) was one of the first things to give me the thrill of knowing I was looking at something my parents would never approve.

W: This is the age when I was getting bored with superhero comics too, which partly explains my glee in making fun of superheroes. In 1967, ads for the album “We’re Only In It For the Money” by The Mothers of Invention began appearing in Marvel comic books. The ad was designed by Cal Schenkel and led to a lifelong appreciation of Frank Zappa’s music.

W: Since I spent a lot of time in record stores, I was naturally exposed to underground comix. Record shops were often the only local outlets for UGs. Again, when I read undergrounds, I knew these were things I wasn’t supposed to have, which made them even more attractive.

BC: What can you tell us about the Mad guys?
W: I only met Don Martin once, but it was a lovely experience. At the 1993 San Diego Comic Con, I shared a booth with my pals Mary Fleener, Dennis Worden, Roy Tompkins, and J.R. Williams. Splitting the cost five ways was the only way we could afford an exhibit booth, which we called Sin Alley. Don Martin and his wife Norma were walking around the convention floor and happened to come to our spot. We all grew up with MAD, and were fans of Don’s. We were thrilled to meet him. We all wanted to talk about how much we loved his work, but he and Norma wanted us to talk about what we were doing, and they insisted on paying for everyone’s books, despite our attempts to give them to him. On top of that he did little drawings for each of us. We talked about that meeting all weekend.

W: Coincidentally, 1993 was the year I first met Sergio Aragones, at the Dallas Fantasy Fair. Sergio is sort of a goodwill ambassador for cartoonists. He’s friendly and outgoing, unlike the typical sheltered cartoonist. We were introduced on the exhibit floor, and I think he remembered my oddball name. The next morning I was grabbing breakfast at the convention hotel, and heard a distinctive voice calling “Good morning, Wayno, my friend!” Sergio is the kind of guy who remembers your name and makes you feel like a million bucks just by saying hello to you. Earlier this year, he gave a hilarious and fascinating talk at the National Cartoonists Society annual Reubens weekend. He’s a beloved member of NCS, and he’s led a crazy life. He’s truly the Most Interesting Man in the World.

BC: Do you follow any other comic strips right now?
W: I read quite a few comic strips regularly, including:
Bizarro, Rhymes with Orange: Because they’re both so great at single panel gags. I read them for pleasure and to study and learn.

W: The Fusco Brothers, Lug Nuts: Two dailies (two!!!) by J.C. Duffy, who also appears regularly in the New Yorker. The guy is incredibly prolific. I really enjoy Lug Nuts, which is sort of an unfiltered look into Duffy’s brain. Sometimes it’s a straight up gag, but it’s often a weird collage or a crazy sketchbook image.

W: Speed Bump, Loose Parts, Half Full, Off the Mark: All very good gag cartoons, which happen to be done by friends. I have to read them carefully to make sure I haven’t accidentally stolen from one of them!

W: Dustin, The Pajama Diaries: Not obvious choices, perhaps. Terri Libenson’s writing is thoughtful, insightful and funny. Plus I like to see her pushing what subject matter she can get away with in a daily comic. I often look closely at Dustin to admire Jeff Parker’s expressive art. He makes it look easy.

W: Mutts, Mother Goose & Grimm: Two cartoonists that I love, taking different looks at animals.

W: Zippy the Pinhead: Because we all need a daily dose of absurdity, and I’ve been following Zippy since before he made the daily papers. Bill Griffith is one of the best artists on the comics page.

W: Editorial cartoonists: Darrin Bell, Matt Bors, Mike Peters, Rob Rogers, Jen Sorensen. Because it’s less painful than reading straight news.

W: I also read the New Yorker every week (not just the cartoons, either). For laughs and to put my brain to the test.

BC: What do you look for when you read someone else’s strips?
W: I do read for pure enjoyment, but also to study other cartoonists’ technique and how they stage a gag. So I look at them with one technical eye and one fanboy eye.

(from WaynoVision.)

BC: What do you think makes for a good comic?
W: The best comics are ones that make the reader laugh by revealing a truth or commenting on the world with a point of view. Of course jokes can just be jokes, and that’s fine, but it’s more satisfying when there’s depth to a gag.

BC: Do you use Patreon or Kickstarter?
W: I haven’t used either (yet). Though I have backed some crowdfunded comics projects, including Vince Dorse’s Untold Tales of Bigfoot, Hunt Emerson’s Hot Jazz, and the Comics Rowhouse Residency project here in Pittsburgh. Kickstarter and other funding sites have certainly put more power into the hands of self-publishers. This process enables creators to pre-sell their books (or records or other projects), so they can avoid risking a big expense that might not pay off.

W: I’m less familiar with Patreon, but I’m intrigued by it. It has the potential for web cartoonists to get support directly from a relatively small but dedicated audience. I’ve heard Keith Knight talk about it, and he’s got a good handle on how it could work.

W: Everyone should go to and click on every cartoon in the archive. Each click from a unique user adds a micropayment to my account.

BC: Do you have any projects coming up?
W: I just uploaded the last WaynoVision panels for 2016, so I’ll get started on next year’s cartoons. I’m trying to concentrate as much as I can on the comic, and to get better at it, although I do have a few semi-regular illustration gigs that I enjoy as a change of pace.

W: Every year I do a silkscreen print and t-shirt for “Hell With The Lid Off,” a barleywine festival in March that takes place at Kelly’s, a beloved Pittsburgh bar. I’m currently working on that for next spring’s festival.

W: I’m kicking around an idea for a non-comics feature that I’d like to place in a monthly forum somewhere. I’ve also got a relatively new musical project going, called the Red Beans & Rice Combo. It’s a fun trio with fellow cartoonist Dave Klug on drums and Tom Roberts on piano. I’m the vocalist, and play harmonica and ukulele.

BC: Are the Red Beans & Rice Combo musicians better musicians than they are cartoonists?
W: Tom Roberts is the real deal; he’s our ringer. Tom’s resume is a mile long, and includes appearances on the Tonight Show and A Prairie Home Companion. He arranged and performed the music for Scorcese’s The Aviator, and was Leon Redbone’s pianist and musical director for six years. Tom may not be a cartoonist, but he does have a wacky (sometimes corny) sense of humor, and is in some ways a living cartoon. Dave Klug, our drummer, is very modest about his abilities, but he’s a rock solid player. He’s maddeningly excellent as both a musician and a cartoonist. I’m definitely a better cartoonist than musician. I’m lucky to be playing with these guys. They make me stretch and try things that are a little beyond my reach all the time. The music is a varied gumbo of New Orleans R&B, obscure rock & roll nuggets, barroom ballads, and a jazzy dash of Tin Pan Alley. I need to come up with a briefer description.

BC: Should visitors wanting to get more of your work go to or Which is the better (more active) of the two sites?
W: is more active than my traditional website, but the best places to see what’s new are Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. My handle on all three platforms is WaynoCartoons.

BC: What does one have to do to join the The Bushmiller Society (unconfirmed or otherwise)
W: The Bushmiller Society is extremely secretive, and may or may not actually exist. Nobody knows who belongs, not even the Society’s members. And you didn’t hear any of this from me.

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

Rich Powell interview

I first learned about Rich Powell’s work when GoComics announced that they were going to start running a new strip – Dixie Drive. I loved the clean, solid artwork, and the off-the-wall, yet down-to-earth panels and punchlines. I grew up in Minnesota, in one of the big cities, so I wasn’t from the farms, but I was still close enough to them that I could appreciate the small-town Dixie jokes. Eventually, GoComics announced the name change to Wide Open, and Rich dropped from 5 panels a week to 1, which is understandable. Reality. But, the change was for the better, I think, because some of Rich’s best work comes from when he really runs with an idea and has the time pour himself into the art. Examples are the Zombie Bass (below) and The experiment by Sir Edward Fisker. And then, when I asked him for a commission, he goes and gives me a virus. Go figure.

BC asks: Who are you?
(and slowly backs away.)

RP: How the hell should I know? I guess I’m a guy trying to figure out how to earn a buck at this illustration thing for years and years. I’m a father, number one. My daughter, Bailey is a talented artist attending University of North Carolina’s School of the Arts since her Junior year in High School. She’s now a college senior majoring in Costume Design. I split with her mom a year ago after 24 years, so I really am focusing on Bailey’s well-being lately.  It’s been a crazy year.

I began my career, after leaving the Marine Corps and attending college, as a conceptual artist for the computer game company Sierra On-Line in the early 90s. After 10 years, and many rounds of layoffs, they shut their doors and I began freelancing full-time. It’s been an uphill struggle, believe me. In 2005 we left our home in the Sierra Nevada mountains and moved here, to Ashboro, North Carolina. I got my first gig with Mad Magazine here and eventually began working for Highlights for Children as well. I guess these are my two “legitimate gigs” and, typically how I tell people what it is I do for a living. I began drawing a cartoon for the local paper, titled Dixie Drive (after a thoroughfare in our town) as a way to get to know the locals and begin to understand my new southern home. Eventually I pitched it to Universal  and they began running it. I switched the name to Wide Open! so the “Dixie” title wouldn’t scare off potential  viewers living….wherever! After a year or two of doing a five day a week thing, I dropped back down to one day a week when I realized the pay was the same either way. If my local paper stops running it  (and paying me!)  I’m not sure it would be worth my while at all. I do love drawing it and coming up with gags that I hope are a little different than your typical cartoon fare but it gets tougher every week as I try to focus on things that will put money in the bank. Reality

I consider myself an illustrator. A humorous illustrator most of the time but not always! My first freelance gig was designing a line of blues shirts for a company out of New Orleans, pre-Katrina. I’ve been freelancing off and on since 1992. My “biggest break” was the first phone call from MAD. It made me realize that I was somewhat legit. Broke, but legit!

I began Dixie Drive after badgering the local paper for a year or so. The local material was just so rich with its own brand of humor, I had a load of ideas I wanted to get down on paper. I guess I always wanted a shot at doing a daily. The legitimacy thing again. I began going to a little coffee shop downtown every morning and hanging with a bunch of old guys. I first met them when I dropped in one morning to meet someone and hung around for a bit after I heard what they were talking about. They were really smart, funny guys. We’re all the best of friends now. The cartoon proved to be very popular locally and it’s still fun to drop local stuff in there now and again. In the beginning, I’d often hide people’s names in the cartoon, like Hirschfeld’s Nina!

I always have other pokers in the fire. I have to. A few years ago I did a line of wildlife shirts in conjunction with a company in New York. It looked really promising and I was so excited about it. Unfortunately, the people I was in business with turned out to be less than truthful about most of what they said and I had to (painfully) pull out. I retained the copyright of the images and I hoped to shop it elsewhere, but I basically threw away any chance of earning some real money with the designs for years. It was rough. Later that year, the designs won the award for Best Product Design at the National Cartoonists Society’s Reuben Awards! Bittersweet. Believe it or not, I’m very close to relaunching the entire line! Send me some good luck!!

I have to say that these designs, the wildlife ones, are my favorite. You can see some of them on my website. Soon, prints will be available.

I had a book I’d put together one year, a collection of Dixie Drive cartoons. It sold out locally but I haven’t had the funds to do a reprint since. I’ve found that most cartoonists are married to someone with a fairly good job! I’m beginning to sell prints of my work from the storefront on my website.

As far as a blank sheet of paper goes, sometimes I have the idea all figured out in my head before I begin, but sometimes… I just start drawing! That’s often more fun because I don’t know where it’s going for a while!

A soundtrack? Spike Jones? The sound of dishes falling out of the cabinet? A lone tuba? Ducks?

Jack Davis was the master. All of the old MAD guys: Jaffee, Elder, Wood, Drucker, Coker. Kliban certainly changed my perspective. Crumb. Dan Collins is certainly one of the funniest gag guys I know. He’s a beast! I don’t have dirt, but I have a Sergio Aragones story: I was invited to Savannah a few years back for an event revolving around MAD. I was in heaven, riding around in a tiny bus sitting next to Al Jaffee and surrounded by Paul Coker, Jack Davis, Sergio… it was surreal. I was speaking to Sergio when I noticed his pencil sticking out of his vest. It was a Twist-Erase, the same brand I use. I said to him “You use a Twist-Erase?? I use the same pencil as the great Aragones??” Now, Sergio is a great joker, a wiseass of the highest degree and he pulls his pencil out and asks me “0.7?” And I say “No, 0.5.” He rolls his eyes and says “Oh, well.”

(One of the Mad panels. Mediafire is acting up. Maybe it will work later. Click on the image to see if it shows up.)

I never know when a MAD gig is coming, it’s been pretty regular lately but I missed out on the last issue. They typically call me and pair me up with a writer. Here’s a post about the process. I love working with Sam Viviano and Ryan Flanders, both really nice guys. Occasionally, I’ll send in my own idea, but I’ve only had one of those published – “The Tough Guys”-  which had very little dialogue and lots and lots of blood!

Now, Highlights has me every issue. I illustrate a joke. I also do the occasional hidden picture. I illustrated an entire joke book for them a couple years ago.

I browse through the comics haphazardly, looking for a good laugh. I don’t have any I read religiously. If it’s in my newspaper, I read it. I do The Jumble. I hate to miss it!  Jeff and I are pals and I’m currently working on a guest Jumble of my own. I’m thrilled!

I love seeing other cartoonist’s techniques. Dave Coverly has a beautiful style. I’m not consistent like that, I switch it up a lot. I should probably try Aderol!

For me, a good comic is Funny. It doesn’t have to be drawn well, it just has to actually make me laugh. I LOVE good artwork but, in the end, it’s the gag.

I’ve been looking into Patreon. I just don’t know what to offer folks for their subscription. I certainly want to plug my sites (Rich Powell Illustration and Wide Open!) Very soon, I’ll be selling shirts and prints from my store! I don’t know enough about Patreon to know how it’s changing things. I’m just learning.

No appearances coming. This divorce thing has consumed my life lately, it’s a real bummer. It’s all I can do to keep plugging along, staying creative. Hopefully this new year will bring good things!

(All artwork here has been reproduced with the permission of the artist. Copyright Rich Powell (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.)

BC: Good luck, Rich! You deserve it.

In search of good webcomics.