Even I, non-MMPORG player that I am, know about the oddly alliterative affirmative, although to me those letters will always make me think instead of Jeff Zugale, illustrator¹, webcomicker, and finest of fine arteests. I had the rare opportunity (seein’ as how he lives in LA and me on the east coast) to catch up with the wonderfully talented Mr Zugs² and see how he’s doing.
See, Zugale had the chance to grow up in northern New Jersey, right around the corner from a comic shop that opened up some twenty years ago and is still owned by a guy who will take any opportunity to throw a party. Twenty years is a long time in the funnybooks business, a long time for a friendship, and a sufficient excuse to bring Zugale back home from the Left Coast for the weekend to hang out with some special guests, run a sound board for contests and interviews and games and such. If you ever watched The Uncle Floyd Show in your formative years, that’s pretty much the feel of what Zugale found himself in this past weekend, and to which he graciously invited me to come and hang out.
Then the sweetener: one of the guests (and, coincidentally enough, the ex-wife of the owner of the comic shop in question) was Amanda Conner, aka My Favorite and the only reason I’ve bought cape comics in the past half-decade or so, if only because (quoting Shaenon Garrity here) she draws everybody like they’re just a little bit drunk and it lends a great deal of humanity to a genre that often lacks it³. So that was awesome.
Along the way, I got to talk to Zugale about some of the work he’s doing on Not Invented Here (loving it), whether or not there’ll be another ClownSweaterUniPegaKitty-like commission anytime soon (Scalzi’s busy finishing his next book, so maybe after that), and about his family (best ever, yours probably sucks by comparison). Through it all, I was struck by how wide-ranging Zugale’s talents, skills, and clients are, which is probably the very best thing you can do in a world where you work for yourself — you might have a client decide not to work with you, but unless they all do, you aren’t officially Out Of Work.
In that way, freelancing is pretty much like the webcomics model; as Dave Kellett (who, living in LA, probably gets to see Zugale a lot more than I do) once pointed out, a syndicated cartooner can be fired by one person (a syndicate rep) or dropped by a, editor (preventing an entire paper’s readership from seeing the strip), but putting his work on the ‘net means tens of thousands of people would all have to independently decide to fire him for the strip to collapse. Not a bad lesson to learn from an odd assemblage of comic-book fans in an American Legion hall who were watching a highly-competitive Rock-Paper-Scissors tournament bracket. Weird times, fun times, best times.
¹ I don’t think I ever followed up on that earlier posting; I read Scalzi’s reboot of Little Fuzzy and although it was a very different book than Piper’s, it was pretty damn satisfying. Congratulations critically- and popularly-acclaimed author John Scalzi! You have earned the approval of a hack webcomics pseudojournalist!
² Not to be confused with Mr Zub; I’d ask what the likelihood of two “JZ”-initialled creators in webcomics might be, but then I remembered the two Chrises Eliopoulos (Chris Eliopouli? Does that work for Greek roots, or only Latin?) and wondered why we don’t have a third JZ creator in the webcomics world.