Basket Case is on Twitter

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! 😉



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.

Greg Cravens Interview

One of the nice things about the GoComics site is that they display other strips at random on the entry page. Occasionally, I’ll see a strip that I hadn’t been following, click on it, and get completely swept up by it. That’s what happened to me with Hubris. Suddenly, I’d found a comic whose main character likes a lot of the things I do – going outdoors, hiking, cycling, and rock climbing. Plus, he has his own equipment store, which I’m jealous about. The artwork is clean, the characters are easily recognizable, and the jokes are funny, and often downright hilarious. On the other hand, Hubris, his half-brother Paste, and his girl-friend Kara Biner, are all clumsy in their own ways, and when they take a spill, you have to cringe and say, “ooooh, that’s GOTTA sting.” Later on, I discovered that the artist, Greg Cravens, also draws and writes The Buckets (having taken the strip over from Scott Stantis). Since I live in Japan, and the English papers don’t run many of the American newspaper comics, I wasn’t able to read The Buckets until I found them on GoComics. I read them now, though. (Oh, and a Disclaimer: I show up in the pages of the Great Stanky Creek Snake Oil Outdoorfest. I’m the guy that never gets to climb the rock wall. See below.)

BC: Please introduce yourself.
GC: My phone answering message used to (and should again) start with “Hello, I’m Greg your cartoonist.” That says it all, really.

BC: What personal details do you think are relevant to readers to know about you?
GC: Eergh. Probably nothing that can’t be immediately understood after reading a couple of weeks of both my cartoons.  Husband, Father, Mortgage Payer, who would really, really like to be riding a bike or skating instead of most things that I actually do.  I’m from Tennessee, which doesn’t help because the image people have of Tennessee isn’t usually any more accurate than the image people have of any other time or place.  I might take a leaf out of Frank Buckets’ book and just say, “I’m from the 70’s”.  That’s probably more helpful.  My background is that I grew up comic-book and comic-strip obsessed.  It’s what I wanted to do for a living, and I had no idea I was staring down the barrel of a cartooning world that was about to break down and reassemble itself.

BC: What do you consider yourself as?
GC: Cartoonist. All the way.  When I first graduated, I entered a work environment where other freelancers in my area were actively denying they were cartoonists.  They insisted on being called ‘Illustrators’, because that was how things worked then.  So I had cards (and rolodex cards – remember those) made up with “Cartoonist” all over them.  I wanted the ad agencies to think of me first when cartoons came up.

BC: But…?
GC: Comic strips were a dear love of mine, and I didn’t want to spend my career not having broken into that field somehow.  Also, advertising cartoons don’t belong to you.  I’d been doing good work for years that all belonged  to companies here and there.  None of it was ‘mine’ to reproduce or carry on with or build on.  Unfortunately, I got into The Buckets as the field was faltering.  I got into Hubris because the Web seemed to be where the field was going and I didn’t want to miss out on that.  Having done both projects for years now, I miss the money and the constantly changing challenges of advertising cartoons – bright, shiny new projects every few days is very engaging, and the business part of it isn’t MY part, really.  Hubris is probably a better business than I’ve made it, and I think Webcomics are just waiting for our William Randolph Hearst – the guy who turned newspaper comics into a powerhouse industry a century ago.

BC: How did you get your start then?
GC: I moved to Memphis to go to school (Graphic Design Degree), without a lot of plans on where to go next.  To pay for school, I started airbrushing Tshirts, which was a big deal in 1983.  They sold well back then, and University didn’t cost actual body parts back then.  By the time I graduated, the folks that owned the stores where I airbrushed shirts had opened a screen print operation to supply the shirt stores, and I was doing their artwork.  Upon graduating, everyone I had been to school with went off to become art directors at the various ad agencies around town, and I started getting phone calls from them. Also, a new tabloid/free press paper started up and a friend landed me some freelance work with them.  So, suddenly, I’m a cartoonist doing advertising cartoons, which I hadn’t known existed before.  The alternative involved Hallmark Cards and a move to Kansas City.  I still wonder how that would have turned out.

BC: What do you think your biggest breaks were?
GC: It was in 1991 that I finally took all the money I had in the bank, bought enough equipment for a PMT darkroom (people still wanted ‘camera ready’ art back then. Computers weren’t ubiquitous yet) and quit my day job to go draw advertising work every day all day.  That was a good break.  I landed a couple of good gigs – a series of posters got me enough money to ditch the darkroom and buy my first computer (back when a decent setup was $10,000 or more), and I started doing Shoney Bear (restaurant character) activity book/menus.  That was tremendous.  Lotta good stuff going on back then.

BC: What do you see as the future of The Buckets and Hubris, and do you have anything else going on now?
GC: The Buckets is primarily a ‘newspaper’ comic, so its future isn’t entirely in my hands.  Hubris has another four years planned out in general, at which point I have a spectacular final story laid out.  Honestly, the final story arc will probably take so long to spell out cartoon by cartoon that I should either start on it now and take four years to tell it, or assume that I’ll be doing Hubris for another ten years.  The only other pokers in the fire now are to shift a little back toward ad agency work.  The money is better and the day-to-day challenges of totally different, shifting, styles and messages are really exciting to me.  I love me some advertising cartoons.

BC: What are you most happy/proud of?
GC: I’m proud that I’ve made a career out of cartooning.  It’s encompassed a lot of jobs, like any career will.  I think right now I’m most pleased with what Hubris has become.  I’ve discovered a facility for stringing stories out that I like, but I’m least proud of how I’ve handled the business side of my comic strips. 

BC: I know you have books out. Where can readers find them?
GC: There are two Hubris books (I Meant To Do That and Stanky Creek) and one Buckets book available.  I have the cartoons for another Buckets book ready to go, but I don’t like the cover design I have, and I can’t manage to make time to fix it and get the book out.  Soon, though.

BC: How do start your next strip or panel?
GC: Wooo, don’t start with a blank sheet of paper.  I have, literally, boxes of notes that I jot down on all kinds of things – Post-It notes, legal pads, Moleskine notebooks, sketchbooks, my kids’ music lesson notes.  Grab up double-handfuls of those notes, re-arrange them, and let your mind wander over them. 90% of them are trash, but once you stumble onto that theme that you like the sound of or that one gag that suddenly lends itself to two or three strips, things gather momentum.  Then the characters voices pop into your head, saying lines that you don’t feel like you wrote.  It really is like hearing people having a discussion and you’re transcribing.  Then you edit and draw.

BC: Could you talk some more about your comics? I know you took over The Buckets from Scott Stantis, and that he also made the suggestion that resulted in the creation of Hubris. What else would you like to add about both comics?
GC: Yep, I was hired by Scott Stantis to do the art chores on The Buckets.  I think that was 2001.  It was on a trip to Birmingham to meet with him that he saw my Suburban stuffed with camping stuff, a bike, a kayak, a cruiser skateboard and a few other toys.  He told me that one of the syndicates was looking for an ‘Outdoors’ strip, and so I created Hubris with stars in my eyes.  I thought, “Not only will I be drawing The Buckets, but I’ll land this other syndicated strip!” Turns out the “Outdoors” strip the syndicate wanted was more hunting and fishing than kayaking and rock climbing. So Hubris was not syndicated.  Seeing where the writing and characters are now, and then seeing the original sales pitch, it’s easy to see how the syndicate wouldn’t draw a straight line between the two.  Of course, even if I offered Hubris as it is now, if the newspaper market hadn’t faltered, they still might not have wanted to syndicate it.  Who can say?  Syndication was King when I was younger – people used to devote endless hours of speculation and strategy to meticulously working out “What the syndicates will want, and how to get the editors to take a chance on it.”  Imagine a million comic book kids working out how they’re going to break into the ranks of Marvel and DC to become superstar artists.  Same thing.

BC: Have they changed much over the years? Do you feel that Buckets is “your” strip now?
GC: Oh, yes. They’ve both changed.  Scott and I agreed when I took on the art chores that I’d start off drawing as close to his style as possible and try to keep it there, with the understanding that the artwork would evolve. It has, and of course, now that I’m writing and drawing it, it’s changed even more.  Not dramatically, I think.  But if I went back and read some of the things I did ten years and more ago, I might say differently. The Buckets is definitely MY strip now.  I’ve said and done things with it that Scott wouldn’t have, and that I’m proud of.     Hubris has changed, too.  Not just the storytelling, or the format, or the character descriptions… well, I’ve been the sole creator from ‘go’ on that one.  Believe me, things have changed.

BC: Do you identify with the characters? Do the characters identify with anyone else?
GC: I think any writer has to identify with the characters he or she is writing.  It’s easy to say that all the characters in The Buckets are me – some aspect of my head fits neatly in each of their personalities.  Some of the Hubris characters, however, are drawn from farther afield. The people you meet on the trail or on the river or in a campground are easily seen in the peripheral characters in Hubris.  I’ve got to have a handle on the little stuff – their motivations and their quirks – those things are the bits that are me. But other aspects are drawn from chance acquaintances, friends, family, and random people I’ve happened across over the years.

BC: Is it difficult maintaining two different drawing styles? Do you expect that someone else will take over Buckets some time in the future?
GC: No, the two different styles are part and parcel of their own things.  I tried drawing The Buckets with a brush, which is my preferred tool to work with.  This was after I’d learned to draw like Scott, and hopefully no one noticed the transition.  That was the plan.  Anyway, having learned what The Buckets was, and what style it was in… I couldn’t make the characters look like themselves with a brush.  Everyone looked and felt wrong. So, back to the pens and everyone was themselves again.

GC: I doubt anyone will take over The Buckets, or could afford to. The Buckets is tied to the newspaper industry, I think. If the Decline of the Newspapers suddenly becomes the Resurrection of the Newspaper Industry in some unforeseen fashion, it’s generally possible that someone would want to step into that place. More likely, though, young creators with family would rather create their own family strips than take over another one that’s 25 years and more old.

BC: If you were to start cartooning today, from scratch, what advice would you give yourself?
GC: That’s a hard one to answer.  I’d have been financially wiser to avoid steering my career toward comic strips, but the joy and fascination with them would still be here.  If I hadn’t turned toward newspaper, and then web, comics, I’d have been miserable for not having given it a shot.  My advice might have been to do more, business-wise, with both – though I don’t know where the time would have come from.  The advertising cartoons, though?  My advice would have been to do it the way I did it.

BC: If they were to start cartooning today, what advice would you give someone else?
GC: Be a business professional about it.  I’ve been complimented that I see my cartooning as a career and a small business.  It’s probably the reason I’ve had the career I’ve had so far.  A young cartoonist can’t treat cartooning as a hobby or obsession that you’ll dabble at until someone comes along and makes you famous, and they make you more money than your ‘day job’… that’s not likely to happen.  You’ve got to fight to make cartooning your job, and look for the opportunities and education that’ll get you to leaving that paycheck from another business behind.  YOU’RE the person who’s going to come along and make you a cartoonist.  And if you “don’t like all that business stuff, and going to meetings and accounting”? Tough.  It’s part of business.  Knuckle down and learn it.  Do it.  You’ll be proud and profitable when you do.

BC: You have the Hubris website, and the Gocomics site. Why do you think people prefer to stick with one site over the other, and which would you prefer people to visit?
GC: I’d much prefer that folks visit the Hubris site because that one makes me more money, but I’m perfectly happy to have the page views at GoComics rise, too.  Ideally, everyone should obsessively visit and click on all the ads, and read all the backlog of comics and funny stories and photos, and then all those people should tell all their friends and family to visit Hubris comics at the main site and again at, and, and share links to all their acquaintances on social media.  And buy the books.

BC: Has switching from a horizontal to a vertical panel format affected your storytelling process for Hubris?
GC: Yes, but it’s up to somebody else to say if it’s affected it for the better or worse.  The art seems to take longer, the conversation seems to flow better, the reveal of the story seems to work better, and I haven’t yet discovered how editing the panels for a book will affect anything.

BC: Have you gotten any push-back from readers on the change? Are there times you wished you still worked in a traditional 4-panel horizontal strip for Hubris? Why the change, and why did Hubris turn into a long-form story strip when The Buckets hasn’t?
GC: Mostly I seemed to hear good stuff about the change of format.  People said it’s easier to read.  Of course, I may have only remembered reading the ones that supported my decision to change and forgotten the ones who had points against it.  Hard to be objective, isn’t it?  Sometimes, when I’m running late, I wish I still worked in the smaller, horizontal format. It’s faster, and lends itself to quicker, less wordy gags.  The change came from me hearing a talk that Wiley Miller gave at the National Cartoonist Society’s SouthEast Chapter meeting a couple of years ago.  It’s the format his Sunday cartoons are in, and he said it lent itself to the web better than traditional comics, which is true.  Hubris turned into a long-form story strip when a singularly outraged young reader posted a rant in the comment section of the website.  After the apoplectic language was removed, what he was saying was, “I don’t like you doing gags, I like story arcs.” and my wife said she did, too.  So… The Great Stanky Creek OutdoorFest story arc kicked off, and I’ve enjoyed doing stories, so I continued.  There are gag strips sprinkled throughout, though.  I mean, it’s still a comic strip.

BC: If your strips had soundtracks, what would they be/sound like?
GC: If there are any sound editors reading this, and they know the answer, and they’d like to soundtrack Hubris, I’m all ears.

BC: Who are your favorite artists/writers?
GC: Artists… woo, well, that’s probably got more to do with when I grew up and my own nostalgia than anything.  I like old John Byrne, Michael Golden and Mike Mignola comic books.  I like Alphonse Mucha’s advertising and theater posters.  I like Masamune Shirow’s manga.  I like Hirshfeld’s caricatures.  I like some of Walter Anderson’s earlier stuff that looked Minoan or Etruscan, but not enough to pursue prints.  I like Peter De Seve’s advertising cartoon art.  I like Chris Sanders’ character drawings.

GC: I haven’t met any of those guys, but I’ve met some people I respect like crazy.  Mike Ramirez, Sergio Aragones, Nick Meglin, Hy Eisman, Roy Doty, Jeff McNelly, Will Eisner… I could name a huge number of people in the NCS (and nearly did) and not have any dirt on any of them.  Though I did hear a good one about Mike Peters in the Middle East.

BC: Do you follow any other comic strips right now?
GC: Lots. Nearly forty on, and maybe twenty-five more that are all on their own sites on the web.  For the same reason anyone follows them.  I love reading comic strips and they make me laugh, or think, or both.

BC: What do you look for when you read someone else’s strips?
GC: The ideas behind the gags, mostly.  The deeper meanings.  Jimmy Johnson’s Arlo N’ Janis is great for that.  There’s a little thought you have to put in, sometimes, in order to see where the humor came from and what it leads to.  In a harder, snarkier way, Nick Galifianakis’s panels are like that – you almost have to stop for a second and let the situation gel before the familiarity of the humor snaps into place.  I like that a lot.  Plus, it leads me to the notepad because seeing which direction one or two cartoonists go with an idea just highlights for you how you would have handled it differently.  Suddenly, you go from reading a comic strip someone else did about how hot it is outside to writing your own comic strip about a kid covered in red popsicle, looking like an accident victim.

BC: What do you think makes for a good comic?
GC: Creativity in Point of View.  I’d have a better answer if I was the originator of The Buckets – the characters were there and their voices were provided to me when I was hired onto that one.  I think if I’d started it, there’d have been a different creativity to the situation … possibly one the syndicates would never have accepted.  Hubris is the strip where my own sense of what’s supposed to be there is cleanest.  If you see anything lacking or anything stupid or anything admirable in that strip, you can blame me and what I think makes for a good comic.

BC: Do you use Patreon or Kickstarter?
GC: Yes, Patreon!  They’re changing the face of web cartooning by supporting it, or at least giving the creators and readers the means to support it.  We don’t yet have the William Randolph Hearst of the Web, suddenly turning web cartooning into a powerhouse industry.  Patreon allows people like me to get a few bucks every month and say, “Yeah, okay… my comic strip can continue for a while longer under these conditions, and maybe next month, it’ll be even better!”  Everyone please, please, please go to and peruse the cartoons there! You might want to click the big ‘back’ arrow and start at the beginning.  I understand that jumping into the strip now is more difficult because characters talk about and react to other characters by name without them even being in-panel, and it takes reading several strips to get a handle on things.  Sorry about that.  Biggest disadvantage of doing long-form comics.  Also, rush over to and check out my family comic.  There’s a new comic there every day of the year!  Yes!  Every Single Day!  Weird, huh?

BC: Do you have any projects coming up? Appearances scheduled for conventions?
GC: I need to find the time to do the next Beta test for the Hubris board game.  I got spectacular notes this last test, and the fixes will take a few days that I don’t have to give right now, but I’m looking forward to that.  I’ve only got local conventions on the list right now. The farthest afield I’ve traveled with my over-the-top Hubris booth is Charlotte NC’s HeroesCon.  It’s a good show, but comic strips are kinda tough in a comic book show, y’know?  I’d love to do more, but it’d take a re-tooling of the booth. (It’s actually TOO elaborate, and I’ve gotten great suggestions about it from nice people at cons who stop and chat about Hubris.  Apparently it needs MY name on it, too, which somehow I hadn’t realized when I designed it.)  I’d love to do some neat-looking Cons – Salt Like City, Emerald City… half a dozen more, but selling books doesn’t quite pay for the trips, and the bumps in readership aren’t as high as they need to be.  Doing caricatures helps, but I need to put more effort and time in to put it past the tipping point and into a money-making prospect.  Doing it as an advertising expense is okay for a Con or two, but the numbers aren’t supportable.  Hey, anyone want to set up and pretend to be me at your local Con?

(The Hubris cast.)

BC: Do you have new plans for Team Us in the future?
GC: Not yet, but I should start building that in.  And when I do, I’ll have to be much more organized about using them (us) effectively in the comic strip, so I don’t have to do all the extra content for the book collection.  That last one really got bogged down.

BC: When do you work on each strip?
GC: They each have their own time/space.  The Buckets goes on all the time with note-making, and script writing and all.  Also, I tend to write The Buckets in two and three week blocks.  Hubris is much more an evening project that tends to get plotted waaaay out in advance, then written in tiny bites, may be three or four days ahead.  Both systems have their benefits and detriments.

BC: How do you research stuff for Hubris? (climbing gear, cycling parts in the store, outdoor locations for camping or hiking, skylights?) You have a lot of really detailed artwork in Hubris. How do you keep making it come out looking realistic and convincing?
GC: Does it look realistic and convincing?  Oh, good.  It all comes out of me buying or trying out stuff over the years.  I’d probably be better at drawing a complete whitewater get-up from the nineties than a current set up, but there you go.  The tennis shoes I draw are probably from the late seventies.  I hung out in a bike shop for nearly a month once, doing a mural.  That probably shaped a lot of background elements.  I’ve watched a local outdoors store go from one location to five over the years of spending money with them.  I’m sure I’m still putting things in the strip that fell into my head while there.  I’ve outfitted boats and dis-assembled bikes and all the usual stuff you do.  Camped well and camped poorly.  All of it becomes shapes and ideas in your head.  It’s a pleasure to let them fall from there onto a page.

BC: Where do all the ideas for Hubris’ and Paste’s crazy stunts come from?
GC: My head. And from other people’s ideas, actions, and suggestions. For example: I used to ride either bikes or unicycles all over a great urban park we have here with a buddy.  Some days, the buddy’s fifteen or sixteen year old son would join us.  And once, the buddy’s son’s buddy comes along.  The two guys have a child’s bike that a neighbor was throwing out.  They resurrected it, patched the tires, got the chain moving again – little sixteen inch wheel thing for an elementary school age kid.  Aaaaand they took turns riding these mountain bike trails in the park with us.  It was hilarious – these guys were doing something so dumb.  Fun, but dumb.  The average person wouldn’t consider it.  You’d be exhausted, your knees would be banged up, you couldn’t keep up, which would piss off your riding partners… it’s just one of those ideas that you’d either have to be oblivious and stupid to do – or a sixteen year old boy who’s willing to give it a shot and see what happens.  They did, and we two adults egged them on.  “Hey!  Ride off that embankment into the lake!” and the kids didn’t say, “Oh, no, I wouldn’t want to ride the rest of the way with wet shoes and socks.  My feet would blister.”  They rode into the lake.  And they stayed wet after jumping into the lake over and over.  And they got blisters.  Why not? Everyone who spends any kind of time outside has stories like that, and they lend themselves to other stories or reinterpretation for variations on the stories. There’s always material for Hubris and Paste and stupid stunts. Years and years worth of good stories.

BC: What can we expect in the next year or so for either strip? Is Hubris ever going to go wildernessesing (it is a word, and it gets triple word score in Scrabble) outside the U.S.?
GC: I keep thinking Toby is going to be the main character for more stuff in The Buckets.  He’s at that age.  And so are my kids, more to the point.  I want to send Hubris far out into the crazy, but it’s going to be tricky – the more I try to write outdoors strips, the more I seem to spiral back indoors for the story lines.  Nekkid bicycling coming up, though.

(The guy that never gets to climb the wall.)

(All artwork here has been reproduced with the permission of the artist. Copyright Greg Cravens (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.)

Berger and Wyse Interview

One of the other things I like about GoComics is that they’re constantly signing up “new” artists and strips to the site, and they announce the new ones in the editor’s blog. (I say “new” because B&W had been doing work for the Guardian for years before licensing with GoComics.) The best part of this is that I can immediately sample the strips and decide whether I want to follow them or not. So, when Berger&Wyse was announced, I was floored immediately. The art style is extremely clean and polished, and the jokes are wicked clever. Initially, they ran their food gags, but eventually we’ve been getting more of the other Guardian panels, too. Generally, they post on GoComics weekly, but there have been rather long gaps between updates, which are still well-worth waiting for.

BC: Expose yourselves.
We are Joe Berger and Pascal Wyse. Joe knows what he is – an illustrator and author. Pascal has spent many years doing many things, but has finally settled on creating music and sound for a living. Over the 15 or so years we have been working together, there have been a variety of projects for us, including animation, sketch writing and giving workshops on cartooning – but the constant over all that time has been a comic strip for the Guardian newspaper in the UK.

BC: What personal details do you think are relevant to your readers?
Pascal: I’m tempted to say very little, to be honest! I suppose it is worth admitting that I was never steeped in comics. I did love 2000AD as a kid, and avidly consumed Peanuts in the Observer, but as a grown up I never really bothered. Then I met Joe, and he put a Robert Crumb book in my hand, as well as introducing me to Alan Moore and others. In a sense I feel almost more interested in the mechanics of how comics – especially humorous ones – work than actually consuming them. Oh dear, I’d best get my coat…

BC: Don’t panic. The pillaging of your offices comes later.

Covert from Blackwatch Media on Vimeo.

Joe: I have always loved comics and cartoons. I grew up in Bristol UK in the 1980s, reading 2000AD, Mad Magazine and lots of Marvel and DC comics. So writers like Frank Miller and Alan Moore made a big impact on me. As well as strips like Peanuts and Calvin and Hobbes, and Gary Larson’s Far Side cartoons. In my mid-teens I discovered the underground and indy side of comics; Crumb, Peter Bagge, Dan Clowes, Love and Rockets. My eyes were opened to what the humble comic book medium could aspire to. I really wanted to draw long-form comic stories, but I found the writing really hard, and usually gave up after a couple of pages. In my twenties I moved to London, and self-published a couple of comic books, before getting ‘sidetracked’ into freelance illustration and animation work. Pasc and I started the first incarnation of our Guardian slot around about 2000, so that was the point at which I could confidently call myself a cartoonist and comic strip creator, without the ‘aspiring’ prefix.

BC: Do you consider yourselves cartoonists, illustrators, artists, or somethings elses?
Pascal: I can’t draw to save my life. I think for me this is closest to writing, in micro form.

Joe: I consider myself a cartoonist for the Berger & Wyse cartoons, and a writer and illustrator at other times, because I also write and illustrate children’s books.

(The Pitchers)

BC: How did you get your starts then?
Pascal: I was working at the Guardian newspaper as a subeditor on the arts desk, on a supplement that was then called Film and Music. There was a comic strip in the section, which I heard was coming to an end, so I approached the editor and said, can I pitch something in that slot, and asked Joe if he fancied trying something. It needed to be related to film or music. What became of that was The Pitchers – a four panel strip based on the failing exploits of two enthusiastic but broadly rubbish Hollywood script writers called Chet and Foley. At first it was just them pitching awful movies, in the X-meets-Y formula, but it grew in to an ongoing soap with a whole cast … And ran for seven years.

Joe: Yep, that was our first foray into doing a four panel strip, and getting paid for it no less!

(The Pitchers)

BC: What were your biggest breaks?
Pascal: That was the break, getting in to the Guardian. It was also the first time I had ever tried writing a strip!

Joe: After seven years, the Guardian moved us into the magazine and we began doing a single panel cartoon about food. The work we put into the Pitchers really helped pave the way for doing a one panel, I think, which is a very different discipline. With the four panel strip, once we’d worked out the gag we’d have to write and draw up to the punchline, so the joke was often a little laboured. It was a real breath of fresh air doing the food cartoon, because once we had the gag, there was no extraneous dialogue or build up. It’s an even more distilled form of writing; like poetry, in a sense – pretentious as that might sound.

(This is where Basket Case started reading B&W on GoComics.)

BC: What led up to your starting Berger & Wyse, and what else do you have happening now?
Pascal: As a partnership, at the moment we have one poker in the fire: the weekly strip. Partly that is because we are both very busy with other projects, myself with music and sound. Over the years we have done title sequences, short animations and other kinds of writing, and hopefully we’ll do more of those other things if the diary frees up.

Joe: We’ve always wanted to do more as Berger & Wyse, and a lot of the other projects we’ve worked on have involved coming up with ideas together – that’s our main crossover. But as Pasc says, we’re both busy with our own work. I have a fantasy that we will one day be old men in Manhattan, publishing in the New Yorker. I haven’t shared that with Pasc, he might have other plans.


Pascal: I can’t believe you chose such a public forum to reveal this wish.

BC: Which of your works do you like most?
Joe: I love the immediacy of the single panel cartoons – when we come up with a good one it’s hugely satisfying. And then it’s gone. The title sequences we did for the BBC drama series Hustle, and more recently Ambassadors, were a huge effort to produce, and I’m very proud of the results. I also periodically re-read the Pitchers strips and I really enjoy what we managed to create there, despite its (perhaps) more limited appeal than the food cartoon.

Pascal: It is always peculiar looking back over the work. Strips I thought were good at the time sometimes fall flat; others reveal aspects I hadn’t appreciated at the time. I’m with Joe on the single panel toons, plus a miniature spy animation we made called Covert – which we wrote together, and became my first wobbly steps in writing music for animation. Although it is long gone, I’m proud of the body of work the Pitchers represents. I got fond of those characters.


BC: Do you have any paper or ebooks out? Where can readers find them?
Pascal: As Joe mentioned, for a while our cartoon was based exclusively on food, and a collection was made from that range, published in book form by Bloomsbury/Absolute. I’m afraid it is no longer in print … So harass the publishers! We also have an arrangement with a great card company in the UK called Woodmansterne, who make greetings cards of some of our toons.

BC: How do you approach that blank sheet of white paper when you decide to start your next panel?
Pascal: With caution and a sawn-off shotgun … That, of course, is the most interesting question, and the one that weighs down the shelves of self-help writing manuals. I think for me it is about resisting the idea of any such formula, and withstanding – even relishing – the discomfort of not knowing if an idea is going to arrive. The last thing you need, if you reach crisis point, is to tense and lose mental flexibility. We have the benefit of being able to bounce ideas off each other. It’s amazing how, when you relax the thinking muscle and, say, go to the toilet or make a coffee, a solution will pop into your head – but it seems you have to have had that uncomfortable mental workout first. There’s an interesting little publication called A Technique for Producing Ideas, by James Webb, that I think makes a similar point about how ideas come when you look away. I always have to work at persuading the editor or censor in my mind to just go away for a while and let ideas at least stand a chance. When it works, it is fab, but not being able to come up with a single idea that you like, when you know the paper is waiting, is quite a horrible sensation that can easily tip towards self loathing. Still, it is a deluxe problem.

(Berger&Wyse. Relax.)

Joe: The idea of ‘relaxing the thinking muscle and going to the toilet’ is a little disturbing – so that’s where ideas come from! But I totally agree – ideas tend to happen when you stop looking for them. I remember, for the first few years of the Pitchers, feeling hugely anxious every single week, thinking we would never be able to write another one. It took a long time to get used to that feeling, and to feel confident that we wouldn’t ever freeze up entirely. It’s still uncomfortable when we do get close to deadline without any inspiration though. I carry a notebook at all times, and try to come to our Monday morning Skype meeting with a few ideas. I often think about the fact that this is the one thing I do that has no editorial input – all my illustration and writing work involves submitting roughs for approval, whereas we are completely free to file whatever we want (within reason). That said, we perform that role for each other – any ideas I bring get parsed by Pasc, and vice-versa. And that keeps us on our toes – we’re neither of us happy to run with an idea that we don’t think is quite right, even if the other is enthusiastic. And that’s important.

BC: If your strip had a soundtrack, what would it be like?
Pascal: To quote Chris Morris, “Like a bomb made of jazz and feathers.”

Ambassadors from Pascal Wyse on Vimeo.

Joe: To be boring and semi-serious about it; last year we made short animations from a number of the single panel strips for the Guardian online, and adding sound to them was a really interesting experience. Just as with the drawing, the sound has a huge influence on the tone of the humour, and you have to work quite hard to avoid things becoming too slapstick or clownish. Generally, the single panel cartoon works by being read quickly, chuckled at and then moved on from. Adding sound and a fixed timing to that experience can labour the joke if you’re not careful.

Pascal: Oh yeah! I forgot about those. Turning a panel into a timed-out sequence is a great challenge, and it really shows you how sometimes the printed, single image is the best delivery for a certain kind of joke. I’m also fascinated by what sounds help humour in that context.

BC: Talk about your favorite artists/writers.
Pascal: I love Peter Blegvad‘s artwork, and he is one of the nicest humans you could meet, so no dirt there I’m afraid. Perhaps a bit more dirty is Modern Toss: when they hit the spot, they are bloody marvelous.

Joe: Ben Katchor (Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer) was a strip that I really loved – recommended to me by Peter Blegvad, in fact. I don’t read much in the way of comics and graphic novels these days (though I am currently writing one), but I love Joff Winterhart’s book for Jonathan Cape, Days of the Bagnold Summer. And he’s working on a new graphic novel which is hugely promising.


BC: Do you follow any other comic strips right now?
Pascal: See Modern Toss. And the New Yorker brigade are always an inspiration. The cartoon compilation books from that publication are never far away.

Joe: I do like Tony Carrillo’s F-Minus on GoComics. It doesn’t always hit the spot, but it’s got a good tone to it – it’s quite a rare thing. I also love Kate Beaton’s Hark, A Vagrant. She’s brilliantly funny, and her more personal stories are really lovely too.

BC: What do you look for when you read someone else’s strips?
Pascal: Something I hadn’t thought of, and which annoys me that I never thought of it!

Joe: Genuine laughs – and they are few and far between. And yes, once you find them, it’s immediately annoying that you didn’t think of the idea yourself.


BC: What do you think makes for a good comic?
Joe: For me the art style is key – it’s the way in, and if I don’t like the drawing style or the characters I often can’t be bothered to get past that. With the exception of something like Doonesbury – despite the weird noses, I like the writing enough to not worry about it.

BC: Do you use Patreon or Kickstarter?
Pascal: We don’t use those platforms, or at least haven’t yet. But you can catch up with us at, and

Joe: Yes I’m not really au fait with those platforms.

BC: Do you have anything coming up?
Joe: My first graphic novel (I’m calling it a ‘cartoon story’ actually, because that feels less grand) is out in January 2017, published by Simon & Schuster in the UK and US. Lyttle Lies, book one: The Pudding Problem. You know, for kids. And Pasc and I are available to talk about the mysteries of cartooning for anyone who’ll pay our travel – shall I say this or is it naff?

Pascal: That’s naff.


(All artwork here has been reproduced with the permission of the artist. Copyright Berger&Wyse (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.)

In search of good webcomics.