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Who Wants A Halfpixel?

Editor’s note: As reported yesterday, three members of Blank Label Comics have struck out into the wilds of Webcomicstan to try to make their fortunes away from the group. Their goal: a new association, Halfpixel, which beckons to them like an oasis in the desert. Will these three plucky upstarts succeed? We asked Brad Guigar, Kris Straub, and Dave Kellett just what the deal was, and how it fit in with Scott Kurtz‘s continuing plans for global domination.

Fleen: Why don’t we start with a bit of background—exactly what change will you guys be taking with respect to Halfpixel Studios?

Guigar: Dave Kellett, Kris Straub, and I will be leaving to form a new Halfpixel group with Scott Kurtz. The new Halfpixel will be much like the current Halfpixel—a place for collaborative efforts among the member artists—but with an added emphasis on comic-convention appearances and our joint projects like the Webcomics Weekly Podcast and the How to Make Webcomics book.

Kellett: With Halfpixel, we’ll all be a bit more independent with our strips and surrounding business. But whenever there’s a group project to be had or a new initiative where two or more of us could collaborate, we’ll be doing it under the Halfpixel banner.

Fleen: … and with respect to Blank Label? Are you guys getting breaking up with BLC, or are you agreeing to see other people?

Guigar: Dave, Kris and I—after an awful lot of discussion and debate—decided that we couldn’t split our energies between the two groups and do well by either. We’re leaving BLC. But we’re leaving as friends.

Straub: Yeah. The webcomic community seems to have collectively settled down from the drama that would have followed an announcement like this. It wasn’t fair to the guys at Blank Label (or the new endeavors at Halfpixel) for us to have our attentions divided. There’s only been well wishes and high expectations from everyone in both groups.

Kellett: One of the core things that’s always made Blank Label work is the idea that “everyone contributes�?. Everyone pitches in, and everyone reaps the benefits. But if we’re putting all of our free energies into Halfpixel, we can’t contribute to BLC … and we really felt it wasn’t fair to ride on other people’s effort.

Fleen: Brad, you and Kris are charter members of BLC, and Dave, you kind of got the whole ball rolling with that cartooning fest at your place. You represent a third of Blank Label, and some of the more public faces of the collective. What’s it like changing your relationship with an organization that you built?

Guigar: BLC was formed on friendship, and that hasn’t changed. We announced our departure to our BLC partners a few weeks ago, and we received support, well-wishes and congratulations. The only thing we didn’t get was Webcomics Drama. I have no doubt they will take the BLC we all helped to build to newer and better places.

Straub: There’s a sadness too, I won’t lie. It’ll really hit home when I’m in the new apartment and BLC isn’t beside me. I would stay awake, just to hear her breathing.

Kellett: Ha! Awesome. But seriously: these are all still great friends of ours. When we need advice or help, we’ll still turn to them first, and vice versa. When we grab a beer or over-priced coffee at a convention, it’ll still be with these guys.

Fleen: What is it about Halfpixel that makes it a better fit for you guys? More manageable size, greater degree of autonomy (or integration), better snacks? It’s the snacks, isn’t it?

Guigar: Scott makes a mean crab puff pastry. Beyond that, it’s not really a question of “better�? or “worse.�? It was simply that the four of us saw ourselves getting involved in some projects that have a tremendous likelihood of long-term success, and realizing that we were going to have to choose between trying to give a half-effort to both groups or give a full effort to one.

Straub: I started the old Halfpixel out of a desire to really push myself creatively and see if I could come up with the next big thing. That philosophy stuck when Halfpixel became me and Scott, and it’ll be a driver for the four of us now.

Kurtz: I think that Webcomic collectives are the new garage bands. Everyone plays an instrument and you look for people to develop a sound with. We all got together and started jamming one a week and realized, “Holy crap, guys … this sounds GOOD. We should take this on the road.�?

Kellett: Since starting in on the podcast and the book, the four of us have been on the phone or iSight nearly all through the day. And for me, something has just been wonderful about that. I laugh more with these three than I do with just about anyone in my life. And when your business is to be funny, make people smile, and spread a little joy around…you could do worse than gravitating toward the people that make you laugh.

Fleen: Scott—you and Kris have been working together on projects for quite a while now. What made you two want to expand the circle to Brad and Dave?

Kurtz: Cartooning is a shaky foundation to build a livelihood on. It’s certainly not impossible, but it’s hard work. So you look for life preservers when you do this for a living. I just found three incredibly buoyant life preservers. I’m not letting go. Dave and Brad have taught me as much in the last year as I’ve learned on my own in the last 10. They really brought me around and helped me refocus on the next 10 years of PvP.

Straub: Working with these guys and exchanging ideas has made the most positive impact on my work of anything I’ve done in the last seven years. It was just a natural fit.

Fleen: Which came first—the idea for a bigger Halfpixel, or the idea for more authors on the book?

Straub: That’s kind of a chicken-and-egg thing. Scott and I have been close with Dave and Brad for a long while, and it really started cementing with the Webcomics Weekly podcast. We never set out saying “Hopefully, by 2008, Halfpixel will grow to four members, and in 2009 we’ll pick up two more.�? It just felt like we were all in the similar place business- and cartooning-wise, and it became very easy to imagine us all working together. And How To Make Webcomics is just going to be orders of magnitude better with Brad and Dave onboard.

Kurtz: Ever since I suggested the book I’ve been thinking bigger. I want to take this beyond the book. I want How to Make Webcomics to be a lecture series, a DVD series of demonstrations, etc. So I always hoped it would expand into something bigger eventually. It’s funny because Brad and Dave wanted to contribute to the book but were afraid to ask and come off as pushy. And I had asked once and they seemed quiet so I assumed they didn’t want to. Finally we all figured out we wanted the same thing.

Kellett: That’s totally true. We were all too shy to ask each other to dance, like seventh graders at the Halloween Dance. But Brad’s already written one book on cartooning, and I’ve done two graduate degrees in the art and history of cartooning … so we’ve been amped to work on this with Scott and Kris. And once it came time to plan out the chapters and who was writing what, we all got very excited.

Fleen: What sort of projects besides your own comics will this new partnership allow for? Kris and Scott already do the PVP series together—will there be larger collaborations from here on out?

Kurtz: I think there will be more “subtle�? collaborations than obvious ones. We’re all trying to help each other improve. I used some imagery in another interview and I’ll repeat it here: We’re all grabbing on to each other’s bootstraps and pulling up at the same time. Dave has already collaborated with us by helping us figure out the importance of setting up and running the store. We help each other through writer’s block, etc. That’s the stuff I’m most excited about.

Straub: I’d like there to be some collaborations, but I won’t think we’ll be announcing that Dave and Scott are doing a new strip, and Brad and Kris are doing one, and Kris and Dave are doing a third. It’ll be more subtle, like me cribbing a whole week of Evil Inc. punchlines. So watch for that event.

Kellett: Aside from the podcast, the book, and the possible book tour, most of the collaborations will be behind the scenes. But if the last few months are any indication, we’ll be inspiring each other a lot on creative, business, and organizational ideas for each other’s individual projects—and that inspiration is worth a lot. Just springboarding ideas off these three—just springboarding, mind you— probably made me an extra $15,000 this year.

Fleen: BLC popped into being one day, with specific members bringing specific skills to the mix. Is the new Halfpixel following that model, or was this more along the lines of, “We work well together, this feels like a good fit, why don’t we make it a little more official?�? What kind of roles will each of you be fulfilling?

Guigar: Halfpixel will be a little less formal than BLC. It’s going to be an entity that facilitates group appearances and group projects, but overall, we’re all focusing a little bit more on our individual comics and using Halfpixel to do group things.

Kellett: Exactly. The focus will be on our own stuff. But the conversations and collaborations and appearances that flow from that will be under the Halfpixel banner.

Straub: Yeah, for me, this is about finding the best way to forward my own work as a business. We’ll figure out whatever needs to get done, but there are no real roles or positions.

Kurtz: Think of Halfpixel as more of a support group than a collective.

Fleen: A lot of the buzz around BLC in the early days was about how various members would be taking the lead on various tasks. Are there any functional holes in BLC left by this change?

Kellett: I wouldn’t think so. These are smart, smart guys … and whatever skillset they don’t know, they’ll master very quickly.

Guigar: This is going to be a tremendous opportunity for some BLC members to step up and do some things that they hadn’t had the chance to do until now. You’re going to see some of those guys in a whole new light.

Straub: Functionally BLC is in good hands with Troy, the server admin. This is not a tight spot for these guys—BLC still has its heavy hitters, the ad network, and the reputation for being some of the classiest webcartoonists around.

Fleen: Is this it for the expansion of Halfpixel, or are there other creators out there that might be a good match?

Guigar: My answer to this is the same as it was when we formed BLC. It’s not a syndicate, so there’s no real upside to adding more members. More to the point, there’s a real detriment to adding more members. The decision-making slows down and gets more complicated, group dynamic shifts, and more variables get introduced to every project.

Straub: There are a lot of creators I like, and would love to work with, but Maybe they should be in Halfpixel! is the last thing on my mind when I think about them. I think four is plenty.

Kurtz: Everyone who buys the book is officially a member of Halfpixel.

Straub: That’s what I meant.

Kellett: If we could, I’d love to make John Glenn an honorary member, in absentia. Because, c’mon, what a great guy. He went to the moon. [Editor’s note: Before you write in, we at Fleen are aware that John Glenn never went to the moon; we believe that Kellet meant Neil Armstrong.]

Fleen: Lightning Round! Each of you finish this sentence as quickly as you can: For me, this new cooperative venture will be …

Guigar: Incredibly fun and professionally satisfying.

Straub: Called Halfpixel. Gary, you need to pay more attention when you’re doing an interview, that was like the first thing we said.

Kurtz: Mustache! Sorry, let me look in the other direction when I answer this. It will be refreshing.

Kellett: Hug-a-licious.

Fleen: Quick pool bet: how long before Brad tires of the constant abuse and snaps, killing the rest of you in an entirely anticpatible spree?

Guigar: Am I allowed to place a bet?

Straub: No more betting with these deadbeats. I won the pool on how many indie comics we’d get handed at SPX and I haven’t seen a dime from these guys. Okay, four months.

Kurtz: Oh crap. Kris won the SPX bet? How much did we all agree on for that?

Kellett: $20. I’ll Paypal it to you now, Kris. Look for that $18.67 (less Paypal fees) in your inbox.

Fleen thanks your four friends for their time, and invites you to check out their ongoing joint venture, Webcomics Weekly.

“Kellett” with two T’s.

Editor’s note: D’oh.
That was my typo in the search-and-replace when changing all the “Dave:” references in the emailed interview answers. Fixed now.

I meant *John Glenn*, Gary! Man, get with the comedy program!

I’m pretty sure John Gleen was the actual first person to walk on the moon, but he didn’t want to make a big deal out of it and let Neil Armstrong take credit for it because he’s such a cool guy.

Also, that wasn’t a typo. His name was originally spelled “Gleen,” but he changed it to “Glenn” later on to further his career.

John Glenn totally faked the whole thing in a studio on Mars.

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