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Little Robot Blogtour: Q&A With Ben Hatke

Dashing superhero by day, at night Ben Hatke becomes a mild-mannered creator of children's graphic novels.

As mentioned previously, Fleen is happy to contribute today to the ongoing celebration of Ben Hatke’s Little Robot, a wholly delightful book you may recall from our review.

Gina Gagliano at :01 Books was kind enough to arrange for Mr Hatke to answer some questions, which we present below; as the questions touch on specifics of things that happen in the books, be away that here be spoilers.

Fleen: The first thing that struck me about this book is how vocally quiet it is — there’s very little speaking out loud and barely any dialogue. What was the motivation to approach the story this way, and what were the challenges in telling a story this way?

Ben Hatke:Yes! that was one of the goals I had in mind: telling a story with very spare or pared-down text. I wanted this book to inhabit a space between a completely silent comic and one with a lot of dialogue — a space where you can read the entire story and get it, more or less, without the words but for which the dialogue and text adds an additional layer of depth.

I tend to write for everyone rather than focusing too heavily on a target audience but that being said, this book was made with very beginning readers in mind.

Fleen: The second that that struck me (it took longer to realize than the quietness) is that there are no names in the story. What led you to that decision? And how do you identify the characters yourself? (I named each of the gizmos after their signature sounds.)

Hatke: I started working with the Little Robot through newspaper-style comic strips, and I never named the little guy. Nothing I thought of fit, and in the end it was never needed. So it ended up making sense to do the same thing for the girl in the longer story. Plus I think it makes it a wee bit easier for a reader to identify with her. It’s a very immediate and experiential type of story (I think) so I hope the idea of unnamed protagonists works!

Fleen: Speaking of the little girl, she’s unlike almost any other children’s book main character I’ve seen: she’s female, brown, rural, and if not in outright poverty, certainly lacking economic privilege. Where did she come from in your creative process, and why did she insist on being the POV character for this book?

Hatke:I drew her dozens of times and in many different ways and watched her gradually take shape and become herself. Early versions were lighter skinned with dark hair and, frankly, looked a little too much like Zita. But also as she took shape visually her personality grew into this tinkering, shy, mechanically-minded introvert. There’s a lot there that I personally identify with.

And as for the setting … visually this story takes place more or less in my backyard. For this book I literally went out for walks with a sketchbook and pulled most of the locations directly from life.

Fleen: There’s a great message about friendship in Little Robot, but it’s the most mature and evolved one I’ve seen in a children’s book. How do you see children reacting to the message that friendship is wonderful, but also messy and filled with stumbles, missteps, betrayals?

Hatke: I wonder how they will react? I don’t know! I hope they nod knowingly and say yes, that is what it is like. Children are wise.

Fleen: There’s a big contrast between the environments in the story; the little girl is able to move between them, but which is the one that feeds her curiosity the most? The natural world, the high-tech robot facility, or the junkyard (which is what happens when technology gets set aside and nature goes to work on it)?

Hatke: I think the junkyard is probably her natural habitat. For her it’s like having a fully-stocked workshop where everyone else probably mostly leaves her in peace to tinker.

Fleen thanks Ben Hate, Gina Gagliano, and everybody at :01 Books for helping put this conversation together. If you haven’t gotten a copy of Little Robot for the kid(s) in your life (or yourself, that’s allowed), please do so. It’s a delight. The Little Robot blogtour concludes tomorrow at Cuddlebuggery.

Spam of the day:
We’re giving spam the day off, seeing as how Hatke’s book has put us in too good a mood to deal with spammers.

Last Men

So hands up if you like insane fight-tournament manga — everything from Dragonball to Yakitate!! Japan¹, where the plucky [young/orphan or semiorphan] hero survives against all odds and the individual fights consist of endless posing and mystic mumbo-jumbo, for hundreds and hundreds of pages (or entire seasons of the tie-in TV series).

Yeah, Last Man ain’t like that.

It’s taken from the model of the insane fight-tournament manga, but the creators are French; the visual designs are halfway between manga and ligne claire, and our POV character isn’t the plucky kid, it’s the ne’er do well from out of town that shows up and grabs the plucky kid for the tournament because the rules say he needs a partner and there’s nobody else around.

That’s Richard; he doesn’t know squat about the town he’s landed in, the nature of the tournament, or the local fighting style; he just heard there’s a tournament and he wants in for his own reasons. He appears to be a man out of time, referencing modern (technological) items that fly over the heads of the pseudo-middle ages locals. And the first time he sees an opponent start to marshal his mystic energies with endless posing, Richard calmly decks him to the shock and consternation of all present. It’s just Not Done!

Furthermore, the story moves fast; in Book One (The Stranger), Richard shows up, partners with young Adrian, puts the moves on Adrian’s mom, and makes it all the way to the quarterfinals. Book Two (The Royal Cup, out tomorrow) continues where the first left off and ends on a cliffhanger indicating that the tournament was not the important part of the story — and that Adrian’s mom is more worldly than she ever let on. Books Three and later will presumably alter the insane fight-tournament manga model further, as that little town and the all-important tournament recede in the rear-view mirrors of a pair of motorcycles² heading out to a world that Richard knows better but which is as mysterious to Adrian … and us. It’s a great read.

Thanks to Gina Gagliano at :01 Books, we were able to send some questions to the creators of Last Man — Bastien Vivès, Michaël Sanlaville, and Balak — and are happy to bring their answers to you now.

Fleen: What was the motivation to do a manga-style tournament story in a European-style visual approach?

Last Men:
We wanted to make a big, epic adventure with action, humor and drama. The three of us love the manga format and storytelling, and it’s the most appropriate one to do that kind of story. You can take the time to focus on the characters, say close to them, while creating a big universe. And about the European art syle, well, being European certainly has something to do with it, but … our art is naturally at the crossroad of many influences, Japanese, French, American, etc., since we love artists and comics from different origins. Actually, we often sum up Last Man up as the exact kind of comic book that made us want to pick up a pencil and start to draw when we were kids.

Fleen: Richard is a fish out of water — the locals don’t know about bikes or cigarettes, he doesn’t know about their system of magic or the rules of the tournament. Is he from a far place, a far time, or a far reality?

Last Men: We wouldn’t spoil too much here, but yes, he’s not from the neighborhood. You won’t have to wait very long to find out more about Richard’s past. [Editor’s note: the previews of Book Three, due out in the fall, indicate we’ll learn quite a bit; like I said, this is moving at lightspeed compared to equivalent manga.]

Fleen: [Local tournament impressario] Lord Cudna hints at the tournament having a larger purpose — does it have a place in the magical system of the realm, or does he just take things too seriously?

Last Men: Kind of both. The tournament is really important in King’s Valley, and in later books we will learn more about where the schools and the tournament come from. It’s all fun and games for now, but things are gonna get a little bit ugly….

Fleen: [Adrian’s mom] Marianne recognizes Richard as foreign, but she isn’t shocked by his ways like the other townspeople; is she (or perhaps the missing Mr Velba) from somewhere similar to Richard, or is she just very adaptable?

Last Men: Haha, yes! Marianne is a woman full of surprises! Let’s say that she knows way more things than Richard, or even her own son think she knows.

Fleen: Following up: the little kingdom appears to be static, with little changing from year to year, and even the people staying the same: Gregorio is a jerk, Elorna is a caretaker, Master Jansen’s full of himself, Vlad is sickly, the same champions vie in the tournament every year, which itself is based more on ritual than anything else. But the Velbas change before our eyes — how much of this is because of who they are (where she’s from, how she’s raised Adrian), and how much because Richard is a catalyst for them?

Last Men: Richard is certainly the game changer here. All of his actions are gonna leave marks on Marianne and Adrian, but on every other person in King’s Valley and beyond as well. Elorna, Gregoria, Jansen and everybody who’s gonna cross Richard’s path … they won’t be the same, for better or for worse.

Our thanks to Gina Gagliano at :01, to Balak, Sanlaville, and Vives, and to everybody that helped bring Last Man to these shores. You can read more about the series (and Book Two, go get it) at the other entries of Last Man Blog Tour, which continues tomorrow at Graphic Policy.

¹ Or even sports manga; if you haven’t read Cross Game you really should, but a single baseball half-inning can take dozens of pages. Then again, other games slip by between panels.

² In a pseudo-middle ages setting, whaaaa?

He Promises, No Dogs Will Be Made To Fight Dragons

Okay, disclaimers out of the way: the comics-making duo known popularly as Becky [Dreistadt] & Frank [Gibson] are practically family; despite the fact that they went to art school with a niece who is totally my dogg since small times, I believe that I would have found my way to their work in any event. Dreistadt’s paintings are whimsical and achingly beautiful at the same time, and Gibson’s command of language is playful and erudite in equal measure.

Their latest project, a comic book adaptation of a 151-painting series in tribute to Pokemon, releases in a few weeks, and Gibson was kind enough to take some time out to talk to me about it. As an added bonus, Gibson sent along a four page preview of the first issue, which you can see below.

Fleen: Thanks for taking the time to talk to me today.
Gibson: Thanks for having me!

Fleen: So tell me how the Capture Creatures comic book came about. Natural outgrowth of the art project? Shannon Watters¹ come to you with a request for a pitch and an offer of 6 issues minimum?
Gibson: We were thinking about a Capture Creatures comic before we even did our 151 project. It was originally the name of a comic series that we felt like we would never have the time to do. The 151 series was our way of making a creature project “manageable” aka 2 years of constant painting, a Kickstarter etc, etc. We’d been working with Boom on a bunch of projects, doing short stories for Adventure Time. Then they asked if we had ideas for a Capture Creatures book. Which of course we did. They pitched us ways to make the project manageable, since we’re a little busy these days, and it’s worked!


For The Next Little While We’re Going To Be All Watterson, All The Time

Yeah, didn’t think you’d have a problem with that.

  • Thing the First: In conjunction with the news about the STRIPPED poster, the Washington Post actually spoke to Bill Watterson about his decision to do the poster.
  • Thing the Second: Filmmakers Freddave Kellett-Schroeder have spoken with admiration about how the first Machine of Death collection hit #1 on Amazon for one day, and are trying to pull off the same trick with STRIPPED on iTunes. And heck if it doesn’t look like they might do so:

    Guys! You guys! Now @strippedfilm is #7: … JUSTIN BEIBER IS #15! This is the sweetest plum!

  • Thing the Third: The Dave Kellett half of Freddave Kellett-Schroeder was kind enough to answer some questions from me in addition to the first, brief response he gave yesterday. The interview is presented here for your edification:

Fleen: Okay, so Watterson does the first piece of art for public consumption in 19 years apart from Petey Otterloop for the Cul de Sac benefit book. When did he offer to draw this for you?
Kellett: I think we first approached him about it in December. Possibly … November? I’d have to check. It was cheeky of us to even ask, but as he’s been time and time again, he was kind and gracious and said he’d be flattered to do it. He’s a good man, and I’m eternally grateful to him for his kindness.

Fleen: Seriously, do you have an original [Watterson] now?
Kellett: I do not. It was a running joke, while it was in LA for super-high-rez-photography, that Fred would jokingly say “Can we keep it? Can we keep it?” But we never considered it. It’s such a gift that he’d even draw it, we couldn’t ask for anything further. So it sits happily now in the OSU archives.

Fleen: How long have you been sitting on this news?
Kellett: Since Nov/Dec, when we asked.

Fleen: Can I fly to LA and see the original if I promise not to steal it?
Kellett: [no reply; possibly wondering if I am capable of comprehending that he doesn’t have the art in his possession]

Fleen: Who the man? Okay, it’s you and Fred, so Who the men?
Kellett: [no reply; I imagine at this point he’s looking at his watch, wondering if he should maybe be talking to somebody more important]

Fleen: I promise I won’t even breathe near it if you let me see the original.
Kellett: [no reply; it is painfully obvious that Kellett is strongly considering asking me to lose his number after all this idiocy]

Fleen thanks Kellett for his time, and we completely believe that what’s in the OSU collection is the original and not a clever duplicate, leaving the actual original in a secret, climate-controlled room at Casa de Kellett. We at Fleen are also totally not planning a way to find into that secret room which clearly does not exist and stare at the original which is not there in a state of rapture until they take us away with tears streaming down our faces. Honest.

Aarne-Thompson Class #130: Karl Kerschl on Fairy Tale Comics

Karl Kerschl is pretty much universally praised for his comics art — from superhero work for the major publishers to videogame tie-ins, to the critically-acclaimed, Eisner-winning The Abominable Charles Christopher — and is constantly in demand for various projects. The latest of those will see release next week in the form of Fairy Tale Comics from :01 Books, edited by Chris Duffy and with a couple-dozen of the greatest talents in comics contributing. Kerschl was kind enough to take time away from his newborn daughter to talk about how he almost passed on Fairy Tale Comics, a shift from his usual artistic style, and the stories that grab us.

Fleen: When Chris Duffy invited you to be a part of Fairy Tale Comics, what made you decide to contribute?
Kerschl: I wasn’t going to, initially. I really liked the concept but I was extremely busy and I think I actually turned him down. Chris eventually badgered me into it by extending the deadline. I like Chris a lot and it’s really hard for me to say no to things, even when I probably should.

Fleen: What was it about fairy tales that intrigued you? Something made it different than, say, a miniseries tied to a videogame.
Kerschl: Fairy tales have always resonated with me; the structure of them and the lyrical quality. It’s much closer to my heart than working on traditional superhero/action stuff. And I also really liked that they’re open to so much interpretation. You can read the same fairy tale told by a dozen different people and they all differ in some way — some quite drastically — as they’re retold over the years. That’s one of the fun side-effects of an oral tradition, I guess. So it was an interesting challenge to try to adapt one with my own spin and contemporary sensibilities.


Talk Time With Tavis Two

Welcome back to Part Two of our talk with Tavis Maiden; yesterday we talked about his upcoming project, Tenko King, and how Kickstarter fit into his launch plans. Today we’ll be discussing how most people came to know him and his work, Strip Search, the nature of being around creative people, and how facial hair is critical to marital stability.

Fleen: Mind talking about Strip Search?
Maiden: Not at all.

Fleen: Looking back on it, what did you get from the show. In the sense of “If I hadn’t gone on the show I never would have ______ .”
Maiden: Swung for the fences. Strip Search taught me to swing for the fences.


Talk Time With Tavis

One of the more gratifying aspects of Strip Search has been watching a pretty significant explosion of creativity from the Artists; while they surely would have continued on their individual trajectories of comic-making, that period of time when they were cooped up together in a luxury mansion and able to resonate off each other has produced a lot of interesting work, not all of it seen yet. So when Tavis Maiden offered to talk to me about his plans for his next comics project, I was happy to do so.

The back-and-forth that we had was so extensive, I’ve had to split it into two parts. Today, Maiden talks about how being a father has influenced the forthcoming Tenko King, what he wants to achieve with it, and his thoughts on Kickstarter.

Fleen: So tell me about what you want to do with Tenko King that’s different from what you’ve done in the past. You’re the master of the BEAST AURA, so why do you want to launch a new project?
Maiden: I wanted to write a letter to my kids. What it’s like to grow up and what it means to be a parent watching from the outside. Tenko King is the culmination of my childhood, and my perceptions of life as an adult for me. It’s a way to understand that life is a Journey, not a destination.


Making That Thing

The incidence of conventions delayed things a bit, but we at Fleen were finally able to carve out a niche in the very busy schedule of Holly Rowland (VP of Kicking Your Ass at TopatoCo) to Gchat about their new venture, Kickstarter fulfillment service Make That Thing. Some of the assumptions I made about MTT were borne out in our conversation, some weren’t, and in any event it’s going to be a damn interesting service to watch grow, evolve, and brutally destroy all competitors. Along the way we talked about real estate, the similarities of comics conventions and cater-waitering, and yurts.

Fleen: Let’s start with some background facts: how did you and Jeffrey [Rowland, founder of TopatoCo] come up with the idea for Make That Thing?
Rowland: About a year ago we started noticing that more and more of our friends/clients/colleagues were using Kickstarter and completely blowing their goals out of the water — then being faced with the task of fulfilling all of the backer rewards. Some people were having a really hard time with it — it’s why people hire TopatoCo to do their regular merchandise production and fulfillment after all.

Some people even asked us to help them with fulfillment, so I turned to Jeffrey and said, “Look, this is kind of our wheelhouse. We’ve already got the skills and contacts to get things produced and to ship them out. Why are we not offering to step in and take care of this stuff?”

Then we shelved it because running the business, having a family, planning a wedding and buying a building is EXHAUSTING.


To Get You Excited For Coming Things

In the short term, you’ve got this year’s Toronto Comic Arts Festival, kicking off tomorrow at the Toronto Research Library. In the somewhat longer term, you’ve got Marceline and the Scream Queens, set for monthly release starting in July. The common thread? The supremely talented Meredith Gran, who took time out from drawing Octopus Pie and packing for the trip to TCAF to talk to us about Adventure Time, her own comics, and the importance of having a dog in the house.

Fleen: Ready to start?
Gran: Yup!

Fleen: Awesome. Let’s begin with Adventure Time; you’re about the 87th person in webcomics that’s found herself associated with AT in some way (and that’s not counting the people that work on the actual show). What do you think the appeal of working on somebody else’s creation is for all of these creators that have their own characters and stories?
Gran: Adventure Time is just so appealing to kids and adults. It’s very much an artist-driven series, and that really shows. I think the process itself is why so many artists want to be a part of it.

Fleen: So it’s like getting to do the biggest, bestest guest strip for a peer, instead of playing with a corporate character that’s been around since before you were born?
Gran: Yes, that’s a fair comparison.

Fleen: So how different is it doing a four-issue miniseries from your usual work patterns? Aside from the fact that you have an editor/checker making sure that you stay sufficiently on-model?
Gran: I believe it’s actually 6 issues [with 15 pages each] right now … unless I heard wrong.

Fleen: So 90 pages that make up one story — you’ve done Octopus Pie story arcs that have gone for a few months worth of updates, but no single story that long. How much of a shift is it to work with that much more story? Is it a matter of stretching or a matter of trying to fit all the ideas in?
Gran: Given the nature of the issues, it’s not too long of a story. The panel layouts will be less dense than my usual pages, and there’ll be lots of recapping. I’m also kind of splitting it into smaller episodes with a few ongoing plot threads, so it won’t be too epic, lengthwise.

Fleen: Do you think that your existing audience and your soon-to-be Adventure Time audience are going to overlap significantly or will these be two different sets of people? What will feel weirder —
if you get a student from your [upcoming] class at SVA saying, “I love Octopus Pie”, or “I love your Adventure Time comics”?
Gran: There’s inevitably going to be a lot of overlap. Most of the people who found out about the series off the bat knew about Octopus Pie. But Adventure Time will no doubt be more popular, and there’ll be more kids reading it. I’ll probably feel a little weird if someone under 13 reads both.

Fleen: Mind if we talk some more about that class you’re going to be teaching?
Gran: Sure.

Fleen: What’s the scope of the class — comics as independent creator in general, webcomics in particular? Focus on the artistic side only, or also talk about the business/strategy decisions that you have to navigate ?
Gran: It is a webcomic-specific class, and I intend to go very light on the business/strategy. My goal is to get people starting good webcomics and updating them, and ask questions about strategy when they actually need to.

Fleen: How long do you have to work with the students — how many hours per class, how many classes in the term?
Gran: I’m pretty sure it’s a 3-hour, once a week course, for 1 semester.
Fleen: Been practicing your “professor voice”?
Gran: Haha. I’m not fooling anybody.

Fleen: I imagine one nice thing about the class will be it puts you around other artists on a regular basis. Has it been a transition for you since Pizza Island closed up shop to work more on your own?
Gran: Oh, yes. I work in my room a whole lot these days. It’s fine mostly, but the company of artists will be nice.

Fleen: It’s all just rappers¹ and dogs for days on end, huh?
Gran: Yes, we all play tug o’ war.

Fleen: You got the rights back to your first three books recently. With There Are No Stars In Brooklyn [published via Random House, incorporating the first three books] pretty close to sold out, what’s next for you on that end of things? Get the original three books back into print, or the stories since the end of Listen At Home²?
Gran: That’s something I’m currently working out. In all likelihood No Stars will find a new publisher. I’m definitely anxious to get it back into print.

Fleen: One of the things I really like about Octopus Pie is the sense that while characters are doing things, the other members of the cast aren’t static. It’s all well and good for Eve to spend a couple days getting thrown out windows by espresso cultists, but at the same time, Will and Aimee are having a quiet moment to themselves. Which characters are we going to get a peek in on next? Who’s demanding screen time in your head?
Gran: They’re all demanding screen time! And it’s a challenge deciding what to do next, because I want to keep the stories varied. I think Puget Sean and Marigold will be getting a story pretty soon.

Fleen: I’ve always wondered if Puget Sean had any stories in him. How about Manuel? Will we ever get a story entirely from his POV?
Gran: Probably not from his POV, since he doesn’t really have any brains. But there will be a story where Manuel’s role is pretty significant.

Fleen: Any other things that you’re waiting to get to? If there was a magic wand that you could wave over yourself and get the time each week to do one more project, what would you want to work on?
Gran: I’d definitely do some more animation. It takes so long, but I love making it, and start to miss it after a while.

Fleen: That’s everything in my notes. Anything that you wanted to bring up or promote?
Gran: Nah. You’ve covered the two things I do all day!
Fleen: Comics and playing with Heidi?
Gran: Yes, thank god for that dog.

Fleen thanks Ms Gran for taking the time to talk with us, and for revealing her secret to success: make comics all day long and play with your dog.

¹ Gran’s housemate is noted nerdcore rapper MC Frontalot.

² Comics from August, 2010 to the present day are not yet collected in print.

I’m Like A 13 Year Old Girl: The Brad Guigar Interview

I have a question for you: Who’s the webcomicker with the tricks that’s a sex machine to all the chicks?


Ya damn right. Brad Guigar is well known in the world of webcomics, and having recently made the jump from working for The Man, we at Fleen sat down with Guigar (via Google Chat) to talk about how he made the shift, what he’s doing now, and what we can expect to see from him in the future. First thing he did was to find the smiley functionality:

Fleen: Of course the first thing you go for is a smiley. You’re laughing out loud right now, aren’t you?
Guigar: HA! I am now! I’m like a 13 year old girl. I can’t text without a smiley.

Fleen: Okay, first question: you’ve been in newspapers for essentially your adult life, so you’ve been through newsroom reductions in the past, and knew that your shift out was coming sooner or later. When did you first start making concrete plans for the jump to full-time cartooner?
Guigar: About the time my older son was born. He’ll be ten in June. I had a serious setback at the Daily News, career-wise, in 1999. It kinda snapped me out of the “I’m going to be a career newspaper artist” mode I had been in. I was so furious¹ about what had happened, I dusted off my old comic-strip submission to the syndicates I had shelved years earlier. Four months later, I posted Greystone Inn4 on the Web for the first time.

Fleen: So when did Angry Young Brad figure the jump would be? If you started laying groundwork 10 years ago, it wasn’t with the intent to jump ship right away.
Guigar: Ten years ago, that wasn’t even really a possibility. But it was easy to see that it wasn’t that far off, either.
I’m an optimist. I figured it would be one of those inevitable conclusion things and I’d just quit work and become a cartoonist.

Then, my wife5 and I decided to start our family. That changed things. I could have made the argument to leave the newspaper years ago, but that would have meant two things: Less security for my boys and no health insurance. So I decided to figure out a way to do both.

Fleen: I don’t remember if you made it public knowledge that you were basically one person away from a layoff last year? Is that when the active planning started? A The next time this comes around, I’m going to be ready sort of thing?
Guigar: Oh yeah. It got real then. The conversation between my wife and I stopped being daydreamy and started becoming more actual preparation for the inevitable.

Fleen: So you started making family-related plans, but you also would have been making cartooning plans: With more time, I can do x, y, z to grow my business. Anything from that side you can share?
Guigar: I’ve known for a while that I wouldn’t be able to grow my business further until I was able to spend more time on it. For the foreseeable future, that’s going to mean a stepped-up presence with things like the new monthly download I launched this [past] week. Down the road, definitely more merchandising than I’ve been able to do in the past. By summer, a stepped-up book-release schedule, and maybe a couple of new things.

Fleen: Let’s talk about the monthly download thing. A couple of years ago, a number of webcomickers were flirting with premium content (like through [the now-defunct] AssetBar) so that you could see development sketches, or watch strips being drawn a day or two early. These days, that’s all gone away, and even more will ‘cast their drawing of the strips.

This is different — you pay a small amount, you get a full month’s worth of strips up to a month before everybody else. We’re about four days into the experiment, how is it working?
Guigar: Well, first off, I don’t see the online offering of my daily strip as the core product. The core product is the strip itself. The Web site is the engine that makes everything possible. Everything else are profit centers — books, downloads, merchandise, etc. So as long as I keep the engine going, as long as my revenue streams don’t interfere with one another, I can put together a business.

Fleen: So you see it as less “premium content” and more (as Howard Tayler might say) “get paid twice or three times for the same drawing”?
Guigar: Absolutely. This is not premium content. This is content.

This is not premium content. This is content.

Fleen: So how is the experiment working? You had a number in your head as to how many people would go for it, and how quickly.
Guigar: Not only have I hit the “magic number” in my head, but orders have continued to come in after the initial-day offering. That’s what sealed it. I unveiled this on April 6, six days into the month, and the response was still strong. Next month, when I’m able to offer it at the end of April, going into May, I’m hoping to see an even stronger response. Not only from the people who perceive a better value, but from people who didn’t quite know what to make of this thing when I first announced it.

This is something that no one has ever launched in webcomics (that I know of). I’m offering the entire month of Evil, Inc in advance. People that don’t want to pay aren’t penalized in any way … their reading experience is unchanged. But people who DO buy it, get to read my strips the way they read best — in a continuous narrative.

Oh… and I don’t want to say another word before I take time to praise the unsung hero in all of this … Ed Ryzowski, who colors Evil, Inc, did double-time on several weeks of strips to make this happen. The man is a phenomenal talent, and I’m extremely lucky to have him working with me.

Fleen: Let me spitball here for a second, because you said “continuous narrative”, which is how you’ve always pitched your printed collections. I can imagine Brad Guigar looking at the continuous narrative of the monthly downloads, and the continuous narrative of the annual collections. I can imagine him looking at the income from the monthlies as free money that wouldn’t have existed otherwise. And I can imagine him setting that money aside and not touching it until it’s time to pay the printer for that next annual collection.

Did you just invent a self-Kickstart mechanism?

Guigar: That’s an awful good spitball you got there. Depending on the strength of the response, that could be completely possible. But I want to make this point: I don’t want the digital download to fund the books. I want the digital download to be its own thing, and I want the books to be their own thing. And Kickstarter has become something that has evolved way beyond funding a project. It has become a community experience. I don’t know that it could be replaced very easily just yet.

Fleen: Interesting take. So what are you spending your additional time on? You left the 9-to-5, got on a plane to Seattle the next day, and have just wrapped your first Monday-Friday working solely for yourself. What are you spending all those additional hours on, aside from having actual evening times with the wife and sons?
Guigar: Oh, man, I can’t even explain how awesome it has been to sit down to have dinner with my family every night. This week has been a tremendous joy. Wednesday night, I came home at 6, had dinner, watched TV with the boys and fell asleep on the couch. It was bliss. Thursday, I snapped out of it, and made sure I got work done after dinner.

As far as getting extra stuff done, I haven’t experienced that yet, but that’s mostly because I’ve been trying to catch up with the stuff that I fell behind on doing Emerald City Comic Con.

Fleen: So what can we expect to see from Team Guigar this year that those additional 1500–1600 hours will let you develop?
Guigar: I have tons of ideas that I’ve been trying to get to for the past few years. I have a concept for a graphic novel aimed at children, I have ideas that I want to implement at Webcomics Dot Com, and I have a few thoughts on how I’m presenting my work overall on the Web.

Fleen: I was watching your status shift from typing to entered text and back again — how much did you end up deciding to redact there?
Guigar: HA!6 Caught me! I just don’t want to tip my hand too much at this stage of the game. Some of the stuff I have in mind simply might not work. Some of it might evolve. And some stuff might die on the vine.

Fleen: And, fundamentally, you’re not much of a LOOK AT ME I RULE kind of guy.
Guigar: I guess that depends on who you ask. But it’s not exactly something that I’m very comfortable with.

Fleen: You and Scott Kurtz caught some heat back in December when you made an open offer to consult with comics syndicates on The Future, then amended the offer to offer your ideas to the highest bidder. When can we expect to see that?
Guigar: That kinda fits right into this conversation, doesn’t it? I mean webcomics have been around for better than ten, twelve years now. And, aside from the influence of new tech (social media, digital tablets, etc.), webcomics haven’t really changed in their approach to a significant degree during that time. This whole conversation is about an innovation that I’m introducing that’s — to the best of my knowledge — unseen in webcomics at large. It’s a very simple thing, but it’s also a completely new way to envision a webcomic.

Take a look at how Scott has re-purposed his Web site. If you look closely, you’ll see some very important changes in how he’s positioning himself to his readers. He’s not just a webcartoonist. He’s pushing towards something greater than that. And that’s exactly the kind of thinking that we were offering the syndicates. And, yes, it’s been pointed out to us countless times that we didn’t submit our offer in triplicate on notarized, cotton-fiber paper. We get that. Needless to say, we weren’t able to get anything started. And I’m kinda disappointed about that, because I would have loved to have been able to delve into that particular puzzle.

Fleen: Okay, one more question, which brings back an old controversy. A couple years ago during a recording of Webcomics Weekly, you were interrupted by your son, who’d been in a fight with a friend over whose dad could draw Martian Manhunter better. Now that you have time, will you be settling that My dad can beat up draw Martian Manhunter better your than your dad argument once and for all?
Guigar: Oh yeah! Y’know, we never did have that showdown, did we? He’s an abstract painter in real life. I think it would be a pretty cool competition. Luckily, he works in oils. And oil-based paint and J’onn J’onz share a rather unique Achilles heel.

Fleen: You’ve got to resolve this, Brad, or risk disappointing your son for life. I can already hear Cat’s In The Cradle in the background.
Guigar: God, I hate that song.
Fleen: Now I know what to get your for your birthday7 .

Fleen would like to thank Brad Guigar for taking the time to talk with us. As a final note, please enjoy this entirely out-of-context quote that didn’t make the final edit:

Fleen: You’re stroking your beard right now, aren’t you?
Guigar: Full-on mustache-twirling

¹ They say this cat Brad is one bad mother …²

² Shut your mouth!³

³ I’m talkin’ ’bout Brad.

4 Not to be confused with the Greystone Inn.

5 He’s a complicated man, but no one understands him but his woman.

6 For the full effect, readers are encouraged to click here and skip to about the 7:40 mark.

7 I didn’t get it for him for his birthday.