Interview with Patrick Alexander (Hilarity Comics, Raymondo Person and Others…)

14 Sep

Like others interviewed, Patrick Alexander has an extremely large body of work to boast of: the extremely funny adventures of a stick figure in Raymondo Person, satire of the gaming community in his work for EEGRA, the far more random and bizarre characters in Hilarity Comics as well as countless other comics. Though famous for often finding humour in the filthy and lewd what demonstrates Patrick Alexander’s skills as a cartoonist is his ability to create characters and settings that are extremely funny regardless of the tone or audience.
WARNING: interview contains some foul language.

The EEGRA Hilarity comics often focused on the gaming community and gaming webcomics instead of video-games themselves. Why did you choose these sources for comedy?
Those comics probably went down well with the many people who love video-games but were tired of being spoken for by a minority of self-identified ‘gamers’ who all too often are frothing half-wits with idiotic views. But it may be that the self-identified ‘gamers’ enjoyed those comics too! It can feel nice to be acknowledged.

Probably another reason I kept drawing strips that had nothing to do with specific video-games is that I couldn’t keep up with what everyone was playing at the time. Doesn’t mean I don’t love video-games! And I expect a big chunk of the EEGRA audience were other people in the exact same position.

Also, browsing old comics I think there was something really fun about portraying video-games as being a pastime for dorks, nerds, losers and idiots. Because most video-game webcomics are created by dorks, nerds, losers and idiots but portraying themselves as the raddest dudes on the block. If I was a dorky kid and I draw a comic about being a dorky kid other people are going to read that and think ‘Haha, oh God, Jesus, yes! That was me!’ But if I then go ‘And then that dorky kid grows up and gets REVENGE!’ I think I would lose that audience except, perhaps, the people who were dorky kids and have not grown up since. And I did a lot of strips about those guys too.

They also acknowledged and avoided cliches frequently found in gaming webcomics. Are there any topics you’d advise a potential gaming webcomic writer to avoid?
I would recommend avoiding being a gaming webcomic writer altogether! Although EEGRA raised my profile a lot and I’m really proud of those comics so perhaps I shouldn’t say that. There’s nothing wrong with having a specific topic for your webcomic – it gives you a starting point, which is nice, and an instant audience, which is nice too.

All I would say is that there’s got to be some honesty in what you do. It doesn’t have to be raw ‘I was touched as a child’ honesty; just your personality coming through. Don’t create a fantasy persona for yourself. Just express yourself, say what you want to say and the rest should come naturally.

I haven’t read gaming webcomics in forever but I always felt that Awkward Zombie was an example of what one ought to be. It’s very specifically about video-games, and yet there’s not a single strip that doesn’t feel like an expression of Katie Tiedrich’s personality. She never drew what she thought her ‘fellow gamers’ wanted to read; she drew whatever was funny to her. And what do you know? It was funny to other people as well! The point is, you should trust yourself.

What was the genesis of Raymondo Person?
I was doodling stick-figures one time and having a lot of fun and thought “this way is better than putting effort in,” and decided to give the stick-figure a name. Of course I ended up putting heaps of effort in anyway. Can’t avoid it.

Tobias and Jube were originally children’s characters yet in Raymondo Person they are found in far more ‘adult’ situations. Why did you make this change for the characters?
The characters didn’t change at all. They express themselves more freely in Raymondo Person. I admit that it was a lot of fun taking my children’s characters and making them swear and fuck and stuff, but at the same time adults speak and behave differently when there are children present. They’re not being fake or dishonest, they’re just being appropriate.

You left Raymondo Person with the possibility you may return to it someday. Do you feel this is likely any time in the future?

Your comics can be quite adult in theme and grotesque in style. What attracts you to these traits?
It’s complicated. I will not deny that I experience a certain glee when I include taboo things in my work knowing how people might react. But at the same time, I didn’t make them taboo. There are gross and bad things in my comics, but there’s also a lot of sweetness and cuteness and joy. Some people only notice the gross and bad things probably because they are less used to such stuff compared to the sweet and cute things. But it’s all the same to me.

Artists should have standards, not limits. Some people seem to have it backwards. I don’t think there’s anything outrageous about diarrhoea or sex or the word ‘fuck’. What really shits me is cartoonists, comedians and others who mock the weak and oppressed and then have this attitude of “Yeah, my comedy’s pretty OUT THERE! Can’t censor me!” when in fact all they’re doing is reinforcing the status quo from a position of privilege It’s not only offensive, it’s boring.

I’m not going to declare that that sort of shit has never slipped into my work. It may have, especially when I was younger. And it may again despite my best efforts. But the point is that it is rarely my intention to offend people: I just do my best to be funny. And when I do try to offend people, it’s people who ought to be offended – the thin-skinned bastards at the top.

I do like the grotesque – I like gross, fat weirdos with funny faces. Even my nice or benign characters (outside of Raymondo) tend to be gross rather than cute. There’s two reasons I can think of for this: firstly, funny faces are funny. Secondly, my deepest instinct is that cartoon characters shouldn’t be cool dudes. Like those fucking Gorillaz. Fuck those laid-back, iconic rockstar bastards; fucking pretend monkeys making more money than I do and driving expensive cars and shit. What the hell is that about?

Why does Garfield appear so much in your work?
Garfield was the first comic of any kind that I was exposed to in a more-than-fleeting way, and probably one of the reasons I decided I was a cartoonist. I was a dedicated Garfield fan throughout my childhood. So Garfield is there in my head. On top of that, he’s such a popular, pervasive and benign cultural icon that he’s fun to fuck around with. I am hardly alone when it comes to playing silly buggers with Garfield.

You have worked for Dark Horse Comics, what was that experience like?
It was very nice, and will continue to be nice in the near future!

Having made comics for both physical publications and the internet do you feel there are any significant differences between the two mediums?
There could be in theory, but generally I think the differences are negligible in practice. Most webcartoonists hold a thought in the back of their heads that says “It would be nice if this were a book one day,” and that informs the way they make their comics. Books are a lot nicer but the internet is a lot more convenient. The two media ocomplement each other pretty well, if you choose to use both as vessels for the same work.

Outside of the US and Canada, Australia seems to have the largest webcomic community. Do you feel there is a strong community of Australian webcomic writers? Do you feel there is anything inherently Australian about your work?
I don’t feel qualified to comment on the existence of an Australian ‘webcomics community’ or any sort of community really. The universe I inhabit is just me and my mates, and some of my mates are cartoonists and a few of them put their stuff on the internet. That’s all I can tell you.

As for the Australian-ness of my work: since it comes out of me, I expect it’s as Australian as I am. But who knows what that means? I don’t make comics for an exclusively Australian audience, but I am an Australian and I don’t make any attempt to disguise that in order to appease some imagined international market or demographic. But then again, some might regard me as an
internationalised or somehow other-than-typical Australian. I don’t think about it too much.

I would like to imagine my comics have universal appeal, but also possess a hard-to-put-your-finger-on-something-or-other that marks them as the work of an Australian. Far more important than that though, I want them marked as the work of Patrick Alexander. Patch did these comics; Patch made them great; Patch gave them their character and appeal and the national culture can get rooted.

Finally, what are your plans for the future?
I’ve heard that if you talk too much about your plans they’ll never happen. Better to get the ideas of your head by doing rather than talking, you know?

But, fuck it: I’m going to print a Raymondo Person book. Stay tuned for the Indiegogo campaign.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: