This week, I talk to Chris VonGompel, the man behind, in front of, beside, and otherwise fully responsible for the webcomic Hockey Zombie.
Before we dive right in to what promises (and delivers, but not pizza) to be one of my more interesting interviews, I’m going to take a moment to re-extend an invitation to any and all webcomic creators who’d like to be interviewed. I want to talk to YOU.
And now, here’s Chris.
Chris VonGompel: No fuckin‘ clue.
Fleen: A great comedian, when asked “What is best in life?”, responded “To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentation of the women.” How would you answer the same question?
CVG: You got the wrong Conan, duder, but I digress. That’s a tough fuckin‘ question… taking away the easy answers (seeing your kids being born, watching their first steps… fucking) I’m left with two distinct feelings of excitement that are nigh unparalleled. One involves the feeling a fellow has as he skates onto a fresh sheet of ice with a bunch of his hooligan chums for a round of shinny. The other involves being shitfaced on a golf course.
Fleen: Would you be in favor of a National Zombie Hockey League?
CVG: They have enough scoring problems in the NHL that I shudder to think of the amount of overtimes a league employing the undead would have. Not to mention the travel restrictions that would be imposed on a merry band of zombie players. I mean, the implications of a jet full of zombies criss-crossing the country is not something John Q Citizen wishes to contemplate. People have a hard enough time with trainloads of toxic waste chugging through their backyards. You start kiting zombies across the nation, and people will bitch.
Fleen: Are there any sports that you think would *not* be improved by the addition of a few zombies?
CVG: Tough question! I’d wager the biathlon. If we consider that the zombies will be allowed to do their thing in the other sports, itâ€™s reasonable to assume that the biathletes will take the rifles off their backs and plug their competition in the brain pan. Also, swimming, because zombies sink.
Fleen: Lemieux, Gretzky, Orr, or Howe?
CVG: Bobby fucking Orr.
Fleen: Trick question! Those are all Canadians. Why do you hate America?
CVG: Because baseball is the national passtime and I can’t buy beer on Sunday.
Fleen: Can you tell us a little about your creative process?
CVG: The one thing you can depend on is that I’ll always be fuckin‘ with something. Be it the art style, the way I do borders, the text, shading, story, et cetera. I will tweak each and every bit of the comic. There’s plenty of comics out there that don’t seem to be having any fun, and certainly don’t seem to be experimenting whatsoever with their craft. Hell, a few months ago I was doing the strip on paper, now I do it completely digital. As for the story, it is flexible and I refuse to pigeon-hole myself. There are times when I’m getting bored with the storyline (which is unscripted), so I’ll just do something off-topic until I feel like returning to it. Or I’ll kill off a character. Fuck do I care? So many guys out there treat their characters as these cherished things, I say kill ’em all, force yourself to deal with THAT, and watch your work improve.
You want the secret to an interesting comic?
Fleen: How do you react to criticism that your comic is not actually about “zombies” and “hockey”, but is in fact a carefully orchestrated and subtle dialectic about the inherent disestablishmentarianism and the alienation of modern man brought on by the conflict between the natural desire for violence and the materialistic rewards handed out for participating in civilized society?
CVG: Well, I don’t see that as criticism as much as I see it as an incisive analysis with a salient conclusion. The raison d’etre of a professional hockey player is an anomoly in this compromise of instinct that you point out. The brutality encouraged in professional hockey is rewarded handsomely through monetary compensation. Indeed, many behaviors one encounters with the on-ice product would result in criminal prosecution in the realm of everyday life.
What were we talking about again? Fuck it, let’s go get shitfaced.Fleen: What kind of nerd were you in high school?
CVG: A total SNES nerd. Street Fighter: Turbo, Super Punchout, gooble kicks on Mortal Kombat 2… dial-up Warcraft 1 battles against a Bolivian named Roberto Bravo (isn’t that a great name?), ski trips to Battle Creek, Michigan… as far as schooling, I was adept at fuckin‘ around but still having the where-with-all to know what the teacher was talking about. Which is how I was able to spend most of my class time doodling comics in my notebook, and not get in trouble.
Fleen: You started out doing Hockey Zombie as a follow-on to Car vs. Motorcyle. What prompted the change – aside from the death of Chris?
CVG: I wasn’t very fond of the name, and wanted something snappier, something people could actually remember.
Fleen: Why did you start doing comics in the first place?
CVG: I started doing toons back in 7th grade with a mouse named Mr. Fip. It was a simple concept: the first panel would have a greeting by Mr. Fip, and the second panel would be a dead Mr. Fip. So I guess killing off the main character is something you could say i’m comfortable with. But I digress. I continued doing toons all throughout school, until I got to college. I think it was because I had to actually pay attention, but I just stopped completely. No more tooning. That lasted for about 6 years. I started knockin’ around on the Ctrl Alt Del forums in 2004, and started doing forum-specific toons again. I got great feedback, and figured i’d try my hand at doing a webcomic. And there you go.
Fleen: What is it that keeps you coming back to do more?
CVG: Itâ€™s a combination of things. Of huge importance is the fact that I’m still learning. Comic technique with respect to coloring, shading, linework, settings, et cetera. I read the comic forum on Something Awful quite a bit, and the fellows there are a horn of plenty from which I gorge. I knew jack when I started doing webcomics, and I still know very very little. Another huge factor is my forum chums. There’s a great community that I consider myself lucky to be a part of. I don’t want to let those guys down, so if I’ve got time, I crank out strips. Luckily I have time more often than not.
*Editor’s note: Made you count!