Archive | October, 2012

Interview with Rebecca Clements (KinokoFry, Ruffle Hall)

27 Oct

Certain words are often thrown about to describe the style of a webcomic – colourful, vibrant, energetic – to the point where they lose meaning; but the work of Rebecca Clements is one of the few times where such descriptions are spot on. From the Seussian environments and kaleidoscopic characters to the childlike humour of adult topics – her work is nothing short of a joy to read.

You have a unique, vibrant artistic style where every drawing seems to be bursting with life, where did you develop this style?
That’s a difficult thing to answer, outside of saying that it happened and continues to happen over many many years and many many comics. Like anything, it’s a lot of subtle influences working on you bit by bit, some more subconscious than others. I guess it reflects both the typical kinds things that I enjoy in others’ art, as well as a very conscious desire to create expressive comics and illustration. Whether simple or complex, that’s just more fun/interesting/meaningful to look at. Expressive lines, expressive colours, expressive concepts…. I learned more and more what a wonderful tool for storytelling these are.

Perhaps the other reason is that I am an EASILY bored person I have to keep the drawing fun for myself.

How much time would you normally spend on a typical KinokoFry strip?
It varies from a few hours to a few days, but typically around 10 hours on average, I guess.

Many of your strips are experimental, whether in formatting or style, did you intentionally experiment when drawing?
Yes, I am always playing around and learning more. I just cannot stick to the one thing for long, but I think this is the common experience that keeps us all challenging ourselves and excited about getting through life (when we have the chance).

Are there any characters of yours that have been particularly fun to write?
It changes, of course. I definitely really enjoyed writing stories for Nathan (the blue cookie guy), and I really love doing Me and G stories. I like writing my own character, and I guess there are all kinds of factors behind anyone liking writing themselves.

There is sometimes a strange juxtaposition in your work of a childlike and innocent visual style with quite adult themes, such as your guide to drawing ‘you-know-whats’. Is there any reason why this is so common in your work?
Well, I am an adult and these things that are part of my experience in life. And, like most adults, I’m still and will always be a kid too. Or rather, what we associated with being childlike is still very much present in our adult experience. I think only very, very serious people would try to deny that. I think one of the truly wonderful aspects of adulthood is the ability to be all of these things.

What was the inspiration behind Ruffle Hall?
Ah, well… I started writing Ruffle Hall so many years ago now, some of my ideas have morphed a bit, but I wanted to write the kind of story for both kids and adults that I myself wanted to read and thought should exist; with fun and mysteries and imagination for the hell of it, and good humour and charm etc., but also something I wouldn’t get tired of writing (or reading). Something that could always be any story I wanted. And that is still true.

Are there any webcomics you currently enjoy reading?
Right now I don’t read any, my life has been busy with work, study and many many other kinds of life experiences that I wanted to sink into, I just found myself out of the habit, and enjoying the break immensely. I have been mostly reading about urban design and things like that. Now, I look forward to finding some old favourites and exciting new things.

You have previously said that fellow artists such as Patrick Alexander encouraged you and helped you establish yourself. How important would you say having a network of fellow artists is?
Imperative, I think, for at least certain aspects. That said, there’s no reason anyone can’t just create what they want without artistic peers or influence. People make art and always have. People who make things building off of the work of others like most of us will go in certain directions and excel in certain ways, and people who make art in varying degrees of a vacuum are going to make an entirely different, and totally fascinating, kind of art.

You have taken a sabbatical off webcomics recently, can you elaborate on your reasons for doing so?
Will soon, in comic form.

Do you think you will return to making regular webcomics any time soon?
See above. Most definitely.

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Interview with Christopher Reineman (Feel Afraid)

19 Oct

If the title alone doesn’t tell you, Feel Afraid is a comic series in a world which is often despairing, supernatural and unsettling. Yet here the demons are lovelorn and the ghosts are weighed down under the pressures of haunting houses. This is where the strip’s success lies, in creating a disturbing world with characters who are strangely loveable.

The title ‘Feel Afraid’ immediately establishes the darkly comic nature of your series. Can you tell us a bit about how you came up with the title?
The title seems to have caught on well, I didn’t really think much of it when I started making the comic but I’ve never heard anything negative about it so I guess I did well.

Your comic can be very unsettling, often focusing on the supernatural and horrific as well as issues of existence and mortality. What attracts you to these themes?
I’m really into the sort of theme of the realism of being alive and how it can be interesting or boring, and adding an aspect of supernatural stuff to it? Sorry if that might be a boring answer but it’s something that just comes naturally so I’ve never thought about it much.

Many of the typically supernatural characters are portrayed as having everyday problems and anxieties. Why is this such a good source of comedy?
I suppose because there’s something really relatable about everyday anxieties and fears, and when you put those issues into some sort of of creature that’s normally seen as being very removed from real life – there’s a humour to it. Or something.

Are there any characters in your strip that stand out as favourites to write? Any that fans particularly love?
I could honestly write Tiny Ghost comics every day but I don’t really want to overdo that. People seem to be pretty into Tiny Ghost, which is understandable – he/she is pretty cute.

There are hints of other dark writers and cartoonists on your work, a few strips that wouldn’t be out of place in a Lovecraft novel. What are your influences?
As far as dark writing I don’t think I can pick out any solid influences. It’s all about notions really, a bunch of novels and pop culture mixing around in my skull.

The artistic style of Feel Afraid has strengthened as the series progressed, something quite common with webcomics. Is this because you became more confident about your skills and the nature of the strip, or are there other reasons why the style has developed?
Really what I’ve tried to make sure of is that I ALWAYS have fun making the comic, and one thing I don’t find fun is sticking to just one style or not changing for the sake of keeping an aesthetic or something. I’ve also become a lot more comfortable with drawing.

You used Kickstarter to help establish the strip and get it going. Could you tell us a little more about that?
Well, the strip started out on a forum with a pretty limited number of readers and I was strapped for cash so I just made a Kickstarter to get money for a site. It worked out well! Was funded within 24hrs, I’m pretty sure with enough to get hosting for a year or so.

Facebook is not as commonly used by webcomic creators to market their work as other sites. You use it for Feel Afraid however. Are there any advantages Facebook provides that other sites are unable to when it comes to marketing your comic?
Honestly that’s a bit of a mystery to me but people seem to like it. I use rss feeds to follow comics myself, but I just try to make Feel Afraid as available as possible to however people prefer keeping up.

Finally, what is the future for you and Feel Afraid?
We’re going to drive this comic car off a cliff and explode in a million pieces.

Interview with David Malki! (Wondermark)

5 Oct

Wondermark is one of those comics that could only really exist thanks to the Internet. Creator David Malki ! builds up strips from 19th Century illustrations to create it’s complete its unique style of, as the strip’s tagline states, an illustrated jocularity. Though while the style of the strip is what distinguishes it from many other webcomics, the absurdity and comedy that arises from it is what makes the comic such an enjoyable read. Additionally, David Malki ! is head of Publicity and Promotions for the online webcomic publishing site, TopatoCo.

Why did you decide to make a webcomic out of 19th Century source materials?
I wanted to make a comic in a different way! It’s visually interesting and it’s not like most other comics, so I think it captures people’s attention. And I’m a huge admirer of the craft involved. I hope some of my love for the art itself comes through in the strip.

There are hints of steampunk in your work, is this intentional?
I’d never heard the term ‘steampunk’ until after I’d been doing the comic for several years! I think it’s easy to label anything neo-Victorian as ‘steampunk’ but I don’t think that’s always accurate.

Basing your work off material so close to steampunk, do you think you could explain the appeal of it to many people?
There are surely some steampunk fans that might be drawn to the Victorianism of Wondermark, but if that’s all they stay for they must be frequently disappointed, since the point of view of the comic isn’t Victorian at all. Wondermark is set in the modern day, it’s just that everyone has a really good fashion sense.

What are the qualities of a great Wondermark comic?
My favorite strips are when I can marry a good joke or observation to a clever piece of collage. Since I work with collage, I have a different challenge in crafting visuals of the strip than a traditional cartoonist has, and I have the most fun when I can craft visual elements that weren’t in the original, or use the original art as building blocks to create something new. It’s not always possible (or appropriate) to completely tear down and rebuild every piece of art in every strip, but my favorite strips are usually the ones where I’ve had a funny idea and then used pieces of Victorian illustrations like LEGOs to build something unique to illustrate the joke.

Unlike a lot of other webcomic artists you refuse to accept donations from readers, why is this?
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with accepting donations, but I personally prefer to be on the ‘giver’ side of the giver/receiver paradigm. If someone donates, there is a danger they can feel entitled to something or other. It’s only half of a transaction. Through a store, I can accept money, give a product in return, and the psychological balance is settled. I want myself, with my own ambitions and interests, to be the only voice I feel obligated to answer to. I don’t want to take someone’s money and then feel guilty that I did a clunker comic the next day, as if I’m ripping that person off.

Also, if I make a product and someone buys it, I can think “Cool, they like the product.” If nobody buys it, I can think “Okay, this wasn’t a good product, or maybe there wasn’t enough demand for it.” If I have an open door for donations, the ebb and flow of donations is a referendum on my work as a whole, and I don’t need that kind of pressure for the few bucks it might earn me. I like transactions to be compartmentalised and two-sided so they don’t affect how I feel about my work in general!

In your article ‘Comics is Killing Webcomics‘ you criticise how webcomics are often compared to traditional comics as it also associates them with a separate culture many dislike. While there is a webcomic community do you feel a separate webcomic culture has developed?
I hope there isn’t. I think that every year there are more people who pay attention to webcomics, but in large part they are probably people for whom webcomics, or certain webcomics in particular, are simply items on a large list of general things which they enjoy on the internet. Webcomics are broad enough in style and subject matter that it’s very easy for someone to follow one or two or a small handful of comics without knowing anything about other comics. I think that’s okay. Webcomics will be better off if, as a medium, it comes to be perceived like TV – nobody’s a ‘TV fan’ or part of the ‘TV community’. They have favorite shows, or types of shows. The medium itself becomes so unremarkable as to disappear.

I think cross-promotion (“If you like X, you’ll like Y”) is a big part of what helps webcomics grow, for sure, but that is by no means limited to webcomics. That’s how the Internet works in general, and webcomics are part of it! Webcomics are a Member State of the Greater Internet.

What was the impetus behind TopatoCo?
TopatoCo was started by Jeffrey Rowland as a way to help out some of his friends and fellow creators, who wanted to sell merchandise but weren’t able to do it themselves (usually due to living in a different country from the majority of their readers). Jeffrey began offering a shipping service just as a favor to them. Over time, he found that by putting all the items from multiple creators on a single website, everyone benefited from the cross-promotion and the ability to bundle multiple items together in a single order. And as it continued to grow, he began publishing books as well, in many cases helping creators who otherwise wouldn’t be able to have a book collection. I work with TopatoCo, primarily these days editing and art-directing the line of books.

How do feel TopatoCo has benefited webcomic artists?
The cross-promotion is a huge deal. Someone coming to see a product of mine might see something of another artist’s, or vice versa. So sales go up across the board.

Also, TopatoCo frees artists from having to handle merch production, shipping etc. which can eat up a lot of time (and capital!). That means more time to make comics!

On sites such as TopatoCo one can see the same comics and authors appearing again and again. Do you feel there is a possibility of the webcomic community becoming insular and excluding new artists?
I don’t know if it seems like TopatoCo is some kind of gatekeeper. TopatoCo isn’t a publisher in the traditional sense, where a property can be pushed out to people and an audience created that doesn’t already exist. It’s actually the other way around – TopatoCo won’t take someone on as a client unless they’ve already got a fanbase behind them. Even better if they’ve been creating merch independently and it’s just getting too big for the artist to handle! That is where TopatoCo can step in and streamline the process.

So if you see the same artists again and again, that’s probably because they’re popular. Their affiliation with TopatoCo is a consequence of their popularity, not the cause.

And the internet is a meritocracy! Every year I see one or two new artists really break out and seem to be everywhere. Nobody is holding anybody down. Everybody I know who does or loves webcomics LOVES seeing exciting new voices doing amazing work. We love seeing it and we talk about it when we do!

I hope that makes sense. I have seen this in book publishing as well. People tend to think they are being excluded from some sort of club, not realizing that what the people IN the so-called ‘club’ want more than anything is to find new people doing incredible work that can’t be ignored. Also, there is no club, just a bunch of people with their noses to the grindstone doing the best work they know how. Sometimes it works out well, sometimes the stars align (or don’t), sometimes people get lucky (or don’t), sometimes the work strikes a chord in an audience (or doesn’t). All you can control is the work, and putting in the time, and doing your best.