Interview with Ryan Armand (Minus, Great and Others…)

7 Sep

Ryan Armand is the Eisner-nominated creator of several successful webcomics. Minus, for which he received his nomination, Great and many more found on his website, Kiwis By Beat. Though each series differs they are share the wondrous and joyful style which sets Armand’s work out as his own.

What was it like receiving the Eisner nomination for Minus?
It was interesting. I went to the ceremony and sat in the general audience with a friend. When the webcomics nominees came up someone sitting in front of me said “Yeah, Minus!” and I debated whether I should tap them on the shoulder and say “CREATED BY ME.” In the end I decided against it.

It appears that Minus, from it’s beginning, didn’t have any particular arc or end in sight. Why did you make the decision to end Minus?
An ending for Minus was actually one of the first strip ideas I came up with, and it’s why the phrase ‘It’ll be updating every Thursday until I suddenly stop!’ was included in the comic’s description, since it was designed to be inserted at any time. I had never made a series of comic strips before, so the planned length of Minus was relative to how difficult that ended up being: if it was hard to come up with ideas, then I planned on doing about 20 strips; if it was easy then I would do 100, but it was never intended to run for a very long time.

Minus appears to be the only series of yours done in colour, why did you choose not to continue this pattern with your other work?
I’ve worked on other comics in colour, it’s just that none of them ever developed into something that went public. I guess I just have a problem with the way my paintings come out, I’ll probably have to force myself through another colour comic until I’m comfortable enough with it for that to stop happening. Also: black and white is cheaper.

Many of your comics such as Modern Fried Snake feature very minimal dialogue, allowing for the images to tell the story, what is so attractive about this style of storytelling?
Hard to say. I don’t have a special interest in comics with minimal dialogue and I don’t think I’ve made many deliberately silent comics. It’s probably just a side effect of de-emphasizing plots. So rather than being the focus of most events in a story, the plot chugs along silently beneath the surface as time progresses. Along those lines I try to play most scenes evenly to let readers decide on how significant anything is, or maybe get them to stop worrying about trying to figure out how important to the story a given scene of piece of dialogue is at all. So scenes that might be edited to save space in other stories end up being focused on and the camera gets to linger around following silent scenes instead of rushing past them towards the next event.

I have read that Great begun as something to keep you busy until you came up with another idea for a comic. What are the advantages/disadvantages of allowing things to develop as you write instead of planning them out ahead?
There might be a misunderstanding about Great because of that comment: it was planned out almost completely before I started drawing it. When I said that it was something simple to do while I worked on other projects, what I meant was that I could get the pages done quickly, which would let me keep updating the site while working on other things. When I first put it up I had lost a few months work on another comic called Socks, so that’s what I was drawing for the few months of Great’s run. The mistake I made with Great was that I severely misjudged its length. For some reason I thought I could finish it in about 200 pages when it ended up taking over 600.

I don’t know how people can just allow things to develop as they write, honestly. Even if you try to, drawing an idea takes so much longer than coming up with it that after drawing for a few weeks you should already have the comic planned out for the next few months. Maybe it makes more sense with comic strips, or some people are just so focused on what they’re currently drawing that they don’t look too far ahead of themselves until they’re done.

There is a clear Japanese influence on your visual style, is it true to say it has had equal influence on your narrative style?
Absolutely. With comics, art and story go hand-in-hand so being influenced visually is already changing your narrative style. One quick example would be that Great was tremendously influence by Akatsuka Fujio’s comics. He had a way of drawing characters that made them seem like they really enjoyed being in a comic, so I tried to capture that. But influence is like a filter; if you really like Bill Watterson and want to make the next Calvin and Hobbes, rather than reproduce it, you’ll most likely end up making a comic full of what you personally liked about it, which may differ entirely from what went into actually making it or what people liked about it. In that sense, what you’re capable of taking from your influences is more important that what you’re influenced by.

Minus was part of the webcomic collective, Koala Wallop. How important is having a strong community of fellow artists for the success of developing webcomics?
We didn’t really do anything in Koala Wallop, or at least I didn’t. I liked it because I thought it was a set of good comics that were distinct from each other which is what I hope I can eventually do with my own work, but it was also a warning against forming superficial groups. If you’re going to do something with other artists it’s best to have a specific goal or project in mind rather than just a banner.


Interview with Rampaige (Busty Girl Comics)

31 Aug

Busty Girl Comics is a series depicting the problems and perks that come with being a woman with a larger chest by Rampaige (aka, Paige Halsey Warren). The series has grown popular due to it highlighting an otherwise little-known set of issues but mostly because it is consistently funny. In addition to comics, Rampaige’s website also provides a lot of information for busty readers as well as promoting body acceptance and tolerance.

Why did you decide to make Busty Girl Comics?
I made the first comic one night after realizing that none of the cute t-shirts I was looking at online would look even remotely the same once I had them on. I posted it on my personal Tumblr and, after getting a warm reception for it, I kept getting ideas for more. By the next day I started a Tumblr specifically for BGC

It sounds as if it began as a small project but grew into something much larger. Are you surprised by the success it had?
Ooh yes. It started as a way to vent my frustrations and as more people came to me with stories or looking for advice it grew into a community. It’s overwhelming sometimes but it’s been wonderful!

What is your creation process?
I have little scraps of paper and notes everywhere with ideas to get me started. Then I draw the title and start sketching. I use Paint Tool Sai and a Wacom Bamboo from start to finish. Actually, I’ve Livestreamed a few comics if you’d like to check them out here.

The comic is very light-hearted, treating the problems and perks of being busty in good humour. Have you had the idea of body acceptance in your comic and do you feel your comic has contributed towards body acceptance?
Absolutely. Everyone has the right to feel comfortable in their own skin. I like to think (and I’ve received countless messages confirming this) that my comics and the compilation of resources on BGC have helped a lot of people either learn to love the bodies they have or become better informed on how to find their ideal body.

What has the response from readers been like?
Overwhelmingly wonderful. I get lots of messages from people either thanking me, telling me their stories, or looking for some friendly advice. I just wish I could answer them all.

You interact a lot with your readers: listening to suggestions, answering questions, sharing links. How important is it for webcomics to allow for interaction between creator and readers?
Well, my webcomic is anecdotal and references an underrepresented topic so building a network of discussion and resources seemed natural and necessary. I don’t think it’s necessary for all webcomics, though. For most comics, especially long format fictional ones, there’s a special kind of novelty and thrill with finally getting to know the person behind the magic when you do encounter them at conventions and signings.

As a guy, I imagine I am not the intended audience, but I still have found the comic to be accessible and funny despite this. Why do you think the comic has found success outside it’s demographic of busty girls?
Who told you you aren’t the intended audience? Sure, you might not be able personally but you can still appreciate comics and appreciate the situations that the characters get into. Some of my favourite messages are from people who are either small or non-breasted who tell me how much happier they are with their size now or how they finally have an idea of what their larger breasted friends and relatives go through. I love that!

Any comics that have been favourites of yours?
Probably the smelly underwire one and the hands-free towel one. One is painfully true and the other is just plain awesome.

The comic has been running for quite some time now, do you feel you are going to run out of busty girl problems any time soon?
I’d like to at least make it to comic #364 (I’m at #192 today) but I know that I won’t be able to keep this going forever. I’ve been brainstorming ways to at least keep the site alive though, even if I have to post less frequently, so new readers can find the resources and support they never knew they were looking for.

Interview with KC Green (Gunshow, Horribleville and Others…)

24 Aug

I thought the site needed something big to kick off it off and in the world of webcomics there are few bigger than KC Green. Creator of several hugely popular webcomic series, most famously Horribleville – a semi-autobiographical series – and Gunshow – his current project – as well as countless others. As if that wasn’t enough in his time as a webcomic artist he has spawned memes, done guest work for many other strips and inspired budding artists to make webcomics of their own. With the ability to effortlessly draw the crass, the poignant, the grotesque and the funny we decided to ask this master of webcomics a few questions.

You have to be among the most prolific webcomic artists out there. How have you managed to stay so productive after so many years?

I managed to stay productive due to the desire to draw. It’s what I liked doing as a kid and doing growing up and it just became second nature. If I take breaks from drawing, I start to feel bad and useless. So I do it because it makes me happy and worth…full? Full of worth.

Despite a lack of continuity in your comics you have a large cast of characters you like to return to. What characters are your favourites to write?

Favorites come and go. I can never settle on a set of them and I also like to dip back into some old ones sometimes. I am writing a strip called ‘Literally All I Do All Day‘ or LAIDAD for short. Currently, I like writing the two characters in there because they are parts of me that I try to explore and figure out myself. I go back and forth.

You have quite a few finished series of webcomics. How do you know when it is time to end a series?

A lot of old ones aren’t really finished. A handful or less I would say are finished. A lot of them are abandoned but I keep them up anyway to show people that I didn’t start out great and I messed up a lot too. Anyway, I know something is done just by a feeling I get in my gut. It’s nothing I can calculate. Unless it is a story with a predetermined ending, then you can calculate that.

Your work can be found posted on many different sites as well as being used for meme templates. What do you think of people using your comics to create memes? Does it bother you when people post your work without giving you credit?

I think it used to bother me when it first happened with my Dickbutt comic and Dickbutt drawing, but now, like 4 or 5 years later when a number of of other little drawings of mine have become memes, I just can’t care about it. It’s neat I guess, but I am always making new things that interest me so I try not to dwell on the old stuff. I learned that the people on the Internet communities like 4chan and whatnot do what they like and it evolves naturally through them playing with stuff and that’s just how it is.

Unlike most webcomic artists, you are more well-known than your various series. Why do you think this is?

Most likely because I never had one series that I stuck with that people just knew of. Or maybe doing autobiographical things made people know me more than the comic I was in. I definitely believe it has to do with doing autobiographical comics and being put out there for people to get to know through those. Which is fine, but not always the whole picture.

Horribleville has to be the definitive ‘autobiographical webcomic’, a genre that traditionally isn’t too well-received. What do you think separated it from other comics in the same genre?

I’m not sure. A lot of my favourite autobiographical comics are ones where the artist is shown – flaws and all. Maybe people saw that in HV. It is not for me to say because I am on the wrong side of it all. But I know I tried to make it funny too. Slice of life stuff is fine, but I always have a predisposition to make a little joke out of something or myself.

Was Horribleville therapeutic in any way? Have you since resolved any of the anxieties mentioned during that series?

HV may have been a step in the right direction but I don’t think it was that therapeutic in ways some comics I do now are. I think I was just treating the band-aid and not the cut. Then telling people to look at how funny my Hello Kitty band-aid was. But I’ve got better since.

Gunshow was a return to the style of writing you did before Horribleville – less continuity, gag-based – was there a strong urge to return to that particular type of webcomic?

Yes, there definitely was. Before Gunshow became what it was I had a comic called Droop that was essentially what Gunshow is now and what HV morphed out of. But it was also filled with years of old comics from high school that might be a little daunting for new readers to trek through. Gunshow started at the same time I was still doing Droop (later renamed to Bee Power for no good reason). But when I stopped Droop and kept with Gunshow, which at the time was just a three-panel gag comic, I knew I couldn’t just stick with that forever because it was boring. So I made Gunshow become what it has become and made new characters to mess with, stories to tell, and jokes and weird things to draw.

Gunshow has changed quite a lot over the course of its history, has it developed in the way you expected it to?

I don’t think I expected Gunshow to become what it has, but I knew it had to when I was growing bored with the original three panel premise. I don’t have much of a plan when I start things, which is why a lot of the old comics were just abandoned and I moved onto something else. Luckily, Gunshow became something that can definitely thrive for a while.

You often do guest comics for other series. What do you think the advantages of doing guest comics are?

Exploring other people’s characters can be fun, especially if you’re a fan and had ideas yourself for different stuff. It might also be fun to mess with the format or just to help out your friend with a guest comic spot.

Finally, could you tell us a bit more about your recent Kickstarter project, Benign Kingdom?

Benign Kingdom is a publishing house where we print high quality art books from young and talented artists. I was actually dragged into the first one as a fourth member to round out the first art books, but I am technically a founder of the company and have helped on pre-press, layout and such for this next set of books with new artists. It’s an interesting thing that we never would have been able to do without Kickstarter’s platform and all our fans and everyone being so down for the idea of what we’re doing.