The webcomics blog about webcomics

Surely you get it by now…

Well, I’m back from vacation… and I could have picked a better spot to go than Denver just before Christmas… that’s four days of my life I’ll never get back.

In significantly less depressing news, here’s an interview with Ben Stirling, who writes and draws Patrick Grey, Online.

Fleen: Why don’t you start us off with some self-indulgent retrospective commentary about your comic?

Ben Stirling: When I started doing Patrick Grey, my whole original plan was to do up a package of 24 strips, send it off to a major synidicate, get accepted, give a big old finger to my retail job, and go enjoy my cartooning career. Thinking back on it now, that was kinda like walking up to a giant troll named Reality, kicking it in the nuts, and yelling “I’m bigger than you!” After a month of hearing nothing (an outrage in my mind, since I was expecting United Media to specially courier a syndication deal to me, carried by magical fairies or somesuch) I finally started to listen to my girlfriend’s advice about putting my comic up on the web. My usual response to that advice was “Why would I want to do that? Internet comics are crappy!” but desperation was sinking in, so on January 30th, Patrick Grey was released to the world. The fact that I thought my comic about a bitter, angry guy was going to storm the internet with it’s originality just shows that I knew about as much about webcomics as I did about syndicates.
Short version of that story: I really needed a way out of my retail job, and I wasn’t about to let piddly concerns like reality or a lack of talent get in my way.

Fleen: What is the most compelling thing people should know about patrickgreyonline?

Ben: I think it has strong characters. I really try to avoid doing the stereotyped characters, because I have no interest in comics that just throw an angry guy and a stupid guy together in a room, and then just make the punchline some overly creative insult from angry guy to stupid guy. I try to add just a bit more depth to my characters, because it gives a little more varience to the interaction. I also try to keep things pretty gender friendly. There’s quite a bit of sexism in webcomics, and I hate the typical assumption that a girl character needs to be about sex. That doesn’t feel real to me, almost as if some cartoonists don’t get exposed to that many girls (obviously I like picking fights). Although Patrick’s sister is pretty boy-crazy, but that’s more to make a joke about Patrick’s overprotectiveness.

Fleen: Is it fair to say that you try to put more depth into the writing of your characters than the drawing of your characters?

Ben: Ouch, that seemed a little backhanded. It’s true, though. I try to keep the drawings fairly simple, partly to focus on the writing and partly to keep the workload low. I also went to design school, so the phrase ‘less is more’ is kinda seared into my brain.

Fleen: How does it feel to be almost one year old?

Ben: I’m still wondering where that damn syndication offer is. Maybe it got lost in the mail. It honestly doesn’t feel that long. I think most of us in comics don’t even notice the time passing, since we’re all so damn busy trying to meet our deadline. Then we stop, look back and realize “Holy crap, I’ve been doing this for free for that long? And I’ve done how many strips?”

Fleen: What color is your angst?

Ben: Grey, usually. Brown if it’s nice out.

Fleen: How would you describe your drawing style?

Ben: Architectural, I guess. I went to school for Interior Design, and did a lot of drafting while I was there. When I started developing Patrick Grey, I was actually going to have the drawings more like the old Asterix comics, but then I noticed all these straight lines and and crisp angles creeping in. I think the final result ended up looking pretty unique.

Fleen: Tell us about what’s coming in the new year.

Ben: Of the many story arcs I have written and carefully stashed away, this year will probably feature some of the following stories: Tim gets a girlfriend, Abby pulls an all-nighter (for school, not with a boy), Patrick gets dragged to any number of events against his will, and possibly even some heavier, “real life” kinda stuff. Oh, and Patrick and Tim get transported back in time, fight dinosaurs and then get transported to the middle ages, where they are delighted to find out that they get a harem, only to be shocked by how hairy and ugly the women are. I figure I had to eventually do a more “webcomic” plotline. (there I go with the damn fight-picking again)

Fleen: What’s your favorite kind of Dorito? Defend your answer

Ben: Cool Ranch. It makes my taste buds feel complete.

Fleen: What other webcomics do you read regularly? Do you consider yourself to be part of a webcomics community?

Ben: I read Brinkerhoff and A Softer World pretty religiously. I also check out Taking the Bi-Pass and Gingerdead whenever I can, but they’re also friends of mine, so I guess that taints my reasons a bit. For a while I was really trying to become a major player in the webcomics community; I bombarded forums, requested reviews, bought ad space, joined a collective (Hyena Comics), and continuously struggled for a high rank on The Webcomic List. Eventually I became tired, or bitter, and have since stopped trying. My view now is that I sit off in the corner of the class, doing my own thing. If people want to come by and see what I’m doing, that’s cool, but if not I’ll keep doing it anyways. The Webcomic List doesn’t even register when I update anymore, but I don’t even bother submitting any requests to fix it.

Fleen: Are you still working retail?

Ben: No, I’ve since escaped, and now I’m an intern for a video game company. That always makes people think I like gamer comics, which I quickly correct them on. I do still have a lot of friends in retail though, so I like featuring Patrick’s retail job as a laugh for them. (and as a way of purging my own retail flashbacks)

Fleen: Have you changed your mind about seeking syndication?

Ben: Syndication holds no interest for me anymore. When I was originally developing the strip with syndication in mind, I tended to censor myself quite a bit, and was wary of delving too far into storylines or serious topics. I think ultimately that would have limited what I could do with my characters.

Fleen: Do you think you’ll make two years? How is the relationship with the deadline going?

Ben: Yeah, barring total burnout I should make two years. I still have a lot planned for my characters.

Fleen: The majority of your strips are in black and white. What are the constraints you feel preventing you from doing more color work? Have you considered sticking to bi-tone work, but not strictly black and white?

Ben: I honestly just like the black and white style more. Color is fun, but it’s an added layer of work for me, and I don’t feel it really adds anything. I had one strip where I threw in a layer of grey, but I had a good reason to do so.

Fleen: Do they teach you how to paint walls at Interior Design school?

Ben: No, Interior Designers have contractors to do that for them. I?m still getting quotes on contractors to do Patrick Grey for me.

Fleen: Tell us about your fans.

Ben: I think a number of my fans are people who don?t necessarily read a lot of webcomics, or at least those are the fans who contact me more. I know my hardcore base of fans is still the staff at my old job (the Indigo bookstore at the Toronto Eaton Centre). That’s probably pretty lame, maybe one step below ‘My mom is my biggest fan!’ but I don’t really care. Even if my friends were the only ones still reading Patrick Grey I’d continue doing the strip for them.

Fleen: Pei, Wright, Geary or van der Rohe?

Ben: van der Rohe. If nothing else, for the timeless quote “God is in the detail”

Hey, great interview. I love patrick grey because while it does make me laugh, it doesn’t feel so forced like it’s begging for a cheap laugh every week. You can get into the character’s easily and find a little of Patrick in yourself. In my case, maybe a lot.

I would right more but my apathy has overwhelmed me. :P

Here’s to another year!

[…] This week the nominations start for The Cartoonist’s Choice Awards and it looks like GingerDead is getting a few nominations for best newcomer!  We’ll see if we get enough nominations to end up in the running, but even a few nominations is something to be proud of, so yay!  This is an award from peers.  Only other comickers can nominate, so this makes it rather special. In other comic news, FLEEN has a great interview with Ben Stirling of PatrickGreyOnline that you should check out.  I’m doing a guest strip for him in the near future as he is celebrating one year of strips with a week’s worth of guests.  It’s a great comic and I am eager to see where it goes in year two. Congrats Ben! […]

great interview…and an even greater webcomic. gives me a reason to look forward to monday!

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