Monthly Archives: December 2008
It ain’t Christmas unless you’re partying with Kate Beaton.
Admit it, you’ve always wanted to see how Kris Straub (chainsawsuit) would draw Gordon Freeman, Isaac Clarke, Chrono, Portal Girl, the Doom marine, Ness, and the guy from Myst.
The Non-Adventures of Wonderella usually puts out some of the best superhero-related humor on the net. This one is no exception. Poor Bats.
Welcome to “Who Are You?”, the Webcomic Overlook’s first foray into interviewing people involved in the business of webcomics. This feature was actually going to go by a completely different name, but I had The Who on my iPod playlist this morning. You might call it fate.
The husband-and-wife team of Bengo and Pug produce two cartoony comics that are a pleasant mix of humor and drama. Li’l Nyet, which updates weekdays, conerns a feline demon in Soviet Russia. Scratchin Post, which updates weekends, follows the adventures of a group of eccentric, city-dwelling friends. In addition, Bengo manages a directory known as Psychedelic Treehouse (on which The Webcomic Overlook is featured as a link). Both have blogs: Bengo with a webcomic-focused blog called The Floating Lightbulb, and Pug with a more informal blog called Dog Toys and Dried Blood.
On The Floating Lightbulb, Bengo has not been afraid to speak out about several issues in webcomics today. His candor is sometimes confrontational, oftentimes refreshing, and always well researched. I contacted him via e-mail if he and his wife were game for an interview, and he and Pug gladly accepted.
Interview with Bengo and Pug
The Webcomic Overlook: Most people tend to work on webcomics by themselves. So I think it’s a pretty unique situation when there are two people working on a webcomic, and even moreso when the other person is your wife. How did you guys end up doing comics together?
Pug: We just wanted to make each other laugh. We still do. We are our audience. But next thing we knew we had shelves and shelves of sketchbooks loaded with Scratchin Post stories, and we thought, “Hmmm…” We didn’t start out with any sort of plan. For my part, I wasn’t even aware of the whole webcomic phenomenon. Not at all. The idea that we could clean up these drawings and put them online was completely new to me, and I’m not exactly a Luddite where the internet is concerned.
Bengo: We’ve only found about five other webcomics done by married couples, like nemu nemu. But there are of course many partnerships of friends and married couples where one manages the business end. Considering that print comics have pencillers, inkers, colorists, letterers and editors, doing a strip alone is pretty heroic.
We always wanted to collaborate professionally, so we’re pleased to be in a medium we love and which makes good use of our skill sets.
WCO: Looking at both Li’l Nyet and Scratchin’ Post, both prominently feature cats. Are they based on any felines you know in real life, or do you just like to draw cats?
Pug: I like drawing animals generally, but a number of years ago I’d started working on a comic about a whole cat universe after I found myself in accidental possession of 6 cats at once and became fascinated by the complexity of their relationships, and the various equations possible, e.g. take the orange one to the vet and suddenly the white one beats up on the spotted one, that sort of thing. Their universe was in perpetual flux. I called the comic strip “Nine Lives to Live”, since the whole thing was so soapy to me.
The tiniest things make cats SO MAD, and most of the humor was based on this simple truth. One character would, say, move closer to another cat it didn’t like, creating a thrilling cliffhanger. This ridiculous yet reality-based dynamic reminded me of old soap operas, when something bad was about to happen, with the accompanying “duh DUHHH” of an organ playing off camera. In a cat’s mind, sitting closer to another cat is a bold, hostile move akin to aiming a crossbow at their head. As with soap operas, nothing ever actually happens. (Well, mostly.) The downfall of “Nine Lives to Live” was my perfectly insane idea to create it using linoleum cuts. I thought it was genius, and it looked cool, especially hand-colored, but everyone thought I was nuts. You see, you make these linoleum cuts of each character in numerous poses, and you… never mind.
Trixie is based on a Black Lab I loved hopelessly for 14 years. Hence her last name, “Schwartz”, (German for black) even though the character is brown. It’s just about impossible to render a completely black cartoon character. At least it was with Trixie. Believe me, I tried. It could be said that I invented my Lab’s persona, but I think it came about organically. I’d say that’s the case with every pet I’ve had. They tell you who they are, the same way your best characters “write themselves”, as so many artists have observed about their own work. I know that sounds egotistical–or lazy–but it’s true. A good character writes itself, and tells you it would never say that and to cross it out and start over.
Bengo: Yes, some are based on pets, pets past and present. Dogs, too. But others derive from ideas or people. Katrinka of Scratchin Post and Li’l Nyet herself actually trace back to the same willful animal who likes to leave dead voles on our Wacom tablet.
But also, family. My grandmother fought Cossacks, starred in early motion pictures, shared one bed with her entire family, was betrayed by smugglers… She in turn told me many stories about her father, an inventor. That was an unusual vocation for anyone in that time and place. He reminds me of myself. I’ve had only a few real jobs, inventing my own career along the way.
What better way to celebrate the Holidays than random clip-art paired with a snarky caption? That’s what Married to the Sea (i.e., “The Champagne of Comics”) does best.
Francesco Marciuliano (who, and this should never be forgotten, is the writer behind Sally Forth) is probably a huge fan of Christmas. In a case of “Christmas seems to be coming earlier and earlier this year,” he’s been doing Christmas-themed toons on his web-only strip, Medium Large, as early as November 11. They’ve been somewhat hit or miss, though they seem to be picking up the closer we get to the actual holiday. This one, which puts a twist reminiscent of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, is one of my favorites.
Not another piece of wood on that stove, Cratchit! And I’ll see you in hell, Jacob Marley! IN HELL!
I admit it — I’m a big fan of Scrooge, both the Ebeneezer and McDuck variety. And “Mickey’s Christmas Carol” is one of the best interpretations of the Charles Dickens original. So in the spirit of the crotchety old man hoarding gold in Victorian England, I give you this week’s edition of the Joy of Webcomics.
- A big “Thank You” to the Comics Reporter for hosting links to my reviews. Also, thanks to all the sites out there that linked to my “Greatest Trivial Moments of 2008” post. The list, which was meant to me nothing more than trivial (surprise!), got more attention than I’d expected. God bless you every one!
- Who’s Robert Khoo? Only the University of Washington MBA that’s the president of Penny Arcade. You may have heard of him in a recent Webcomic Weekly where the Half Pixel guys longingly asked the question, “Where do I get my own Robert Khoo?” Read about this fascinating man about town, how he broke into the business, and how he managed to separate advertising and editorial in an article printed in the Spring 2008 UW Business Magazine. (And take it from me, I think it’s wise for UDub to be pointing newly-minted MBAs in the direction of webcomics than, say, banking, real estate, or automotive manufacturing. Friggin’ Scrooges.)
- So what’s the Best Webcomic Story this year? Gary Tyrrell of Fleen thinks that it’s goodwill:
…I think the most significant thing that’s happened in webcomics this year is an outburst of collegiality and common good that’s been building. There’s a lot of webcomickers that have gone out of their way to talk about their peers and promote their work, to provide a general “Rah, go Team Webcomics!” feel at conventions, and today, there’s an outbreak of everybody and their dog pointing to webcomics merch made by other creators.
That’s nice. Especially coming from a site that says, right there in the byline, “Enjoy our Semi-Abusive Opinion Mongering.” I guess it’ll be up to The Webcomic Overlook to cover the ill-will deficit. Bah, humbug!
- Incidentally, Domingos Isabelinho has some words about how comics criticism should be conducted in today’s world:
Here are a couple of quotes that may help to explain comics criticism’s place in mainstream media: “”fewer words, more bullets, more lists, more entry points,” tying reviews into the PR cycle for new releases to the exclusion of works that aren’t new or upcoming, tight word counts, limited space for comics coverage” (the inverted commas mean that Collins is quoting Douglas Wolk); “I wish the phrase “the dumbing down of American culture” were removed from this discussion. A look at the top-grossing films and best-selling books during the so-called Golden Age of Criticism indicates that America has always been pretty dumb, a state of affairs not at all unique to America, hey by the way.” PR is the mantis that kills criticism after using it for its personal pleasure. Newspapers have a tough time just keeping afloat these days. Dumbing down is, perhaps, a necessary strategy in order to survive.
Humbug! That’s why I love blogs. You can be as logorrheic as you can! Here’s my pet theory: as mainstream media dumbs down, more an more people will start turning to outlets with any substance.
- Has anyone checked out the Punisher Interactive Comic, an online promotion to tie into the Biggest Flop of December … er, Ray Stevenson’s Punisher War Zone movie? (Link care of Ms. Carlson at Comics Worth Reading.) It’s a fairly unreadable series of flash pages with embedded video… hardly qualifying as a comic in my book.
Man, remember when “interactive” was going to be the future of webcomics? I seem to remember a time when everyone was touting how webcomics would be superior to print comics because of the in-your-face Macromedia gee-gaws. The only examples I can think of where “interactive” is used prominently is the Eisner-Award winning (ugh) Sam & Max webcomic (reviewed here) and the highly experimental Nawlz. The latter does indeed seem interesting, but I find I can barely get past a couple of the interactive blocks before my interest wanes.
- Also care of Comics Worth Reading, there’s a report on the latest indignity between American Dog creator Chris Sanders (of the webcomic Kiskaloo, reviewed here) and the Disney Corporation (owner of what AD would morph into: the movie Bolt). Disney recently released a book of Bolt concept art, but left out anything contributed by Mr. Sanders. Ouch. Tell you what, check out the original art of American Dog. Tell me that Ogo isn’t the most awesome looking cat you’ve ever seen.
- This item has no connection to webcomics, per se, but you might be interested in reading this Wall Street Journal article about a Kuwaiti comic book franchise called The 99 — which features superheroes who have powers based on the 99 attributes of Allah — that’s striving to be the next Pokémon.
That’s all for now. Time for me to get to be and be visited by three spectral hosts. Tune in to this site in a few days, when The Webcomic Overlook conducts its first ever interview!