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Updated: 5 hours 42 min ago

“If an idea resonates with you, as a creator, there’s absolutely an audience for it” -The world of furry cartoonist Lobst

Sat 16 Sep 2017 - 07:27

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Growing up on a diet of sci-fi and fantasy, transformation stories were the ones I loved and could always rely on the writers of most shows to fall back on one of it’s most loved tropes. For me they were always the most frustrating though, as characters spent their time trying either freaking or trying to change back, usually both. Frustratingly they almost never explored a person staying that way, gaining a new perspective on the world. It’s something I’d find renewed interest in when encountering the Furry Fandom and finally found quite literally in the works of Lobst, a furry comics artist who uses their anthropomorphic characters and an individual take on magical realism to express their unique experiences as a trans person.

As with the bulk of their work two of my favourites, both adult comics, prominently feature transgender characters and story lines. A Slightly Different Role follows the exploits of two huskies, Connor and Alex, the latter of which with the aid of a suitably gothic book of curses, magically endows the other with a vagina. The second, more science-fiction orientated That Curious Sensation takes the subject in an entirely different, rarely explored direction. Distracted from work by unwanted erections red panda Clover strikes upon the idea of nullification, quickly achieving his goal with an easily obtainable injection. In both instances the initial transformation is dealt with quickly and often humorously, instead shifting the focus onto how characters react and adapt to the changes, rather than the change itself as a way to explore other parts of a trans individuals experiences and struggles beyond the post surgery aspects that a lot of mainstream representations fixate upon.

Lobst tells stories and presents her trans and gender fluid characters in an interesting and entertaining manner without the fetishization often present in a lot furry comics staring trans characters. Their artwork explores them in entirely different ways ,and using the fantasy elements as a springboard to ask more intimate and rarely asked questions about individuals in the trans community through anthropomorphic characters. Despite the ears, tails and fur, her extended cast appear on the page fully rounded and human. Ultimately what sets Lobst’s work apart is the warmth and tenderness it exudes in both the ways their characters interact and the playful way they write about a complicated and multifaceted subject, tackled both playfully and honestly.

Has art always been a part of you life or something picked up later? How did your art change after coming into contact with the furry fandom?

I’ve always drawn artwork, although it took quite a while for me to start developing original ideas that spread out into stories.  I was a furry-in-denial for a very long time, since the “mainstream” of it — at the time, comics like Sabrina Online and Jack — either seemed too cloying or edgy for my tastes. It took a long time for me to realise that like any other fandom, furries comprise a wide spectrum of interests, so there was a gradual shift from anthro-animal comics like Cigarro & Cerveja/Living In Greytown to Gene Catlow/Kit & Kay Boodle to Associated Student Bodies, Circles, and the webcomics by my friend Moult, after which I spent yet another very-long-time producing furry media “ironically” in groan worthy “extreme” ways. And I think it was only around 2007 or so (yes, seriously) when I started actually looking at furry art, that I learned how to successfully draw furry snouts; until that point a besnouted face was seriously just a box in front of the standard comic-artist human face shield.


When you first started out making comics did you feel there was a lack of them out there for, or about trans and non-binary genders? Do you feel there are more online webcomics than in mainstream comics?

Oh, one of my first inspirations was about the wealth of gender swap story arcs in webcomics, and how I felt they handled the subject inappropriately. Not that I considered them trans-phobic (even though many if them, in retrospect, probably were); it’s just that I was baffled at why none of the characters, at all, wanted to stay in their altered state. So I made my own story, which ended up being a total mess, but it also ended up inspiring my real-life transition in the first place, so.

When I first started my transition in 2004, I remember being severely disheartened at the apparent lack of trans voices in webcomics, considering how accessible the storytelling format is to anyone with pencil, paper, and a scanner. Thankfully, these days there are trans-assembled webcomics everywhere you look, due in no small part to how gender is discussed today compared to back then.

There are more trans-focused stories in webcomics today than there ever have been in mainstream comics. I don’t follow comics very closely, but you just have to look at the rest of media to see where depictions of trans people are at in the public consciousness. Netflix, the only major studio I’m aware of which hires trans actors to play trans people, focuses exclusively on the post-surgery experience of trans women who pass, when — compared to the rest of the trans experience — not only is it just one small part of a trans woman’s overall journey, but it’s also a situation most often occupied by trans women who can afford surgery, voice lessons, facial feminization, laser hair removal, and so on. And this isn’t to trivialise the struggles those women face, of course; it’s just one of the few pieces of transness that holds appeal for cis people. Compared to the proliferation of stories by and about trans/nonbinary people (like Drop-Out, Crossed Wires, Electricopolis, and Go Ye Dogs!), there’s really no contest.

What reaction do you get to your own comics either within the furry fandom or from readers in general?

I’d call it generally positive, with the caveat that I’ve long since stopped seeking approval from non-furry spaces, and even from furry spaces where trans-phobic language isn’t frowned upon; I essentially only post my art to my website and a few Twitter/Tumblr accounts: some private, some not. I’ve never been a popular artist, but I’ve gotten comfortable enough with occupying my specific niche that I’m fairly sure at this point I’d reject popularity if it was thrust upon me. (My chronic anxiety is a pretty big factor in this, too.)

My self-promotion skills are virtually nonexistent, but through sheer word-of-mouth I’ve gotten a couple of diehard fans, which — considering it’s been multiple years since I’ve committed to an ongoing webcomic project — is baffling to me. I was approached for the first time by one at BLFC this year; they requested an autograph, much to my surprise. I was so taken aback I responded by writing my name alongside “thanks for the company!”, which, in retrospect, is ludicrously depressing — but we laughed it off immediately afterwards, thankfully.




A few of your more recent comics, definitely “Adjustment to an Emulated Brain” have felt very personal. Do you find making these kinds of stories to be cathartic for yourself?

Oh, catharsis is the main reason I produce media these days. The inspiration for the main character of that comic — my main fursona, these days — was my persistent desire, as a heavily dysphoric genderless trans person, to find some practical way out of the ill-proportioned body I’ve been stuck occupying for my entire life. Not that I consider myself a diehard transhumanist or anything; this fantasy has also been explored (in other media I’ve privately written and not fully developed yet, all starring different self-inserts) in the forms of virtual reality, magic bodyswapping rituals, reincarnation, and good old-fashioned TF.

An aside: Since Moments From My Adjustment is one of my most viral comics to date, I think I should note what I consider one of the most important rules of storytelling: If an idea resonates with you, as a creator, there’s absolutely an audience for it. Everything I’ve written and drawn since 2010 (and there’s a lot of stuff that doesn’t make it out) has been for one reason: “This is a neat concept, and I want to draw it.”

Although your work has strong fantasy elements such as magic and TF triggers etc, the reactions and situations your characters find themselves in are often very grounded, what appeals to you about this when you are writing?

Magical realism has always appealed to me far more than fantasy or sci-fi settings, mostly because as fictional worlds get further removed from modern society, they start feeling smaller to me. There’s also a believably factor: setting a supernatural story in a realistic world begs all sorts of questions about why/how the supernatural elements are able to remain hidden, especially in the modern world where information is so easily spread. This sounds like a drawback, but if you’re able to pull off a convincing explanation, presto: the possibilities within your fictional world have suddenly expanded dramatically!

Settings like these also allow for your characters to undergo realistic struggles. The Persona series of videogames, for instance, make it a point to keep their protagonists as ordinary as possible, in the process incorporating fantasy-scary story elements like angry gods, shadow dimensions, and arcane magic (all of which are too heavily-caricatured to take seriously), side-by-side with actually-scary situations like family drama, academic success, and financial trouble. Even non-magical sci-fi benefits heavily if it takes place in the very near future, I think.

A lot of your characters come into contact with each other in various comics or pictures, how important is world building to you in this way and how do you go about it?

It’s important for me that internal crossovers remain plausible, by which I mean that there can’t be more than one connection between previously-separate groups of people, and multiple separate connections (e.g. people getting married) cannot form between those groups afterward — otherwise you run into the small-world situation I described earlier; where everyone’s related to each other and meaningful character change is impossible.

An example: I don’t think this has been formally revealed yet, but Grace (from FoRC) lives in the house That Curious Sensation takes place in. Supernatural stuff briefly happens in what little of FoRC I produced, and TCS hinges on the existence of a unique machine which, setting aside that it’s in a silly sex-comic, harbors significant implications for the fate of gender and physical sex in human society. For Grace to be present during both events, those two situations have to be connected for a narratively consistent reason, related to her in some way; otherwise, it’d be just too much of a coincidence to take seriously.


What would be your fave TF trigger? Do you have a preference for technology or magic or does it all depend on the story and characters?

As far as TF triggers go, a couple of favorites come to mind: first, the idea of being surrounded by people with body shapes that you either explicitly or implicitly desire for yourself, having them overwhelm you, and when they pull back, you’ve somehow become one of them. Another comes from a novel I read last year, “The Showroom: Relationships and Robotics”, where no physical shapeshifting takes place; rather, the person realizes they experience life more vividly with their consciousness processed through a robotic shell, which casts doubt on their own identity as a person. That kind of character dynamic and the internal identity struggle is what I love most about TF as a concept; without it (and there’s more than plenty of TF art that assumes watching the TF sequence itself is enough), TF isn’t nearly as interesting to me.

As for my own work, I definitely prefer technology to magic or spirituality, if only because sci-fi pop culture is in the DNA of actual scientific advancement. Not that I expect my work to play any kind of role in the development of real medical techniques, but well, it couldn’t hurt for an amateur like me to put the ideas out there in a format people might want to read, could it?

A few of your comics have characters only expressing themselves in pictographs, did you find it challenging to convey a story and characters reactions using only them? Were there any first draft ideas that you decided would be too difficult to express in this way?

Pictographs are a great way to set your storytelling apart from others, and a fun challenge; primarily in how it encourages you to tell your story economically/with as few word-balloons as possible. I have an awful habit of getting wordy with my dialogue, so it’s refreshing every now and then to pull away from a panel and see a critical concept expressed in a word balloon people can process in half a second.

I will say, however, that reader feedback is essential for this. That Curious Sensation features a moment where Clover is rejecting being touched; apparently a pictograph of a stop sign comes across as more playful (which is what I was going for) than a hand miming the “stop” signal.

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  Beyond your Patreon comic, are there any ideas you have for the future in terms of comics? Are there any subjects or ideas you’d like to explore in the future?

Oh, plenty! The most important thing I want to do in the future, however, is give people the tools and vocabulary to deal with various kinds of dysphoria; to let people, if they feel out-of-place in uncommon ways, know that it’s OK to explore, soak into, and even publicly express those feelings; that if this world feels like it wasn’t built for you, you’re not alone; you can find friendship and comfort in the company of others who feel the same.

Lobst’s art can be found at lobstworks.com
Categories: News

Wednesday Adventures 9th August

Wed 9 Aug 2017 - 09:34

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A brief weekly rundown of recommendations of new releases I’m intrigued by, excited for and will be grabbing off the shelves to curl up with every new comics day before delving into them later in the week! Have you hugged your comics store owner today?

 

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“The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.” – Marcus Aurelius.

Mister Miracle 1- DC Comics

From the unravelling of the best made plans or mice and sythanoids, deep dissections of the inherent darkness of Batman’s sprawling playground to the horrors or armed conflict, Tom King has quickly proven himself to be one of the comic industries top talents. This time he delves back into DC’s roster for a politically charged take on the master of escapism, Mister Miracle.

Part of Jack Kirby’s sprawling Fourth World saga, the future Mister Miracle, Scott Free is imprisoned on the tartarus planet of Apokolips before escaping to the sanctuary of New Genesis. This twelve issue series promises to explore Mister Miracle, still haunted by his time on Apokolips and take the cosmic grandeur of Kirby to tell a trademark personal King story. Early previews show Mitch Gerads, artist on King’s Sheriff of Babylon, using an impressive and immersive range of comic visuals from Ben-Day dots, watercolours and other visual distortions to give Miracles adventures a rougher, grounded feel.

King is a master of heady yet accessible storytelling and his new series is already garnering a lot of pre-release buzz and should be a great entry point for readers like myself who have yet to full dive into the world of one of comics true greats.

 

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“They don’t even know what it is to be a fan. Y’know? To truly love some silly little piece of music, or some band, so much that it hurts” -Sapphire (Almost Famous)

The Wicked and the Divine 30- Image Comics

Magic, music and mayhem continue to lead the cast of Gillen and McKelvie’s Wicked and Divine on a merry and mystical dance. Continuing the pairs Imperial Phase arc the focus this issue is on Dionysus. Drawing on Gillen’s obvious passion for music with knowing nods with musical archetypes and subcultures, the series has offered a real world hook before Gillen lays his deeply intricate mythos of gods, humans and the music that irrecoverably ties their fates together. 

Wicked and Divine is akin to falling in love with the music again, each and every issue and like the rest of his comics perfectly capture the energy, pain and passion of loving a band or song.

 

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The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 23- Marvel Comics

Although solicitations, especially Marvel ones, are usually the place for hyperbole, bombast and grandiose statements, describing North and Henderson’s Unbeatable Squirrel Girl as “the complete package, really” rings true! Come on folks, stop being so self deprecating, it really does have it all! Friendship! Fun! Computer Science! Dinosaurs?

Yeah, if you expected fourteen years of hilarious Dinosaur comics to have gotten giant reptiles out of his system, then think again as this issue continues Doreen and Nancy’s trip to the Savage Lands (that of X-men and big freakin’ dinos fame!) after taking a break from school and thankfully the off putting events of Marvel’s Secret Empire. Brilliantly presented as a pun filled Dino theme park, the pair are tasked with saving it and all it’s Triassic glory. While Henderson’s art ranges detailed to deceptively simple when letting a joke or scene breathe, last months issue really let her indulge with spreads and spreads of squirrel and giant lizard fun!

 

 

 


Categories: News

“A power pad is not a thermal blanket!”-Tim Weeks’ furry video game webcomic, Savestate!

Sun 7 Aug 2016 - 15:31
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My relationship with games could be described as patchy, at best. As I kid I all but destroyed my much loved Megadrive from constant play, but beyond the warm nostalgic 16-bit fuzz I’ve rarely picked up a joypad since. I even had to ask my husband if ‘joypad’ was still a legitimate gaming term just now, deciding on it over ‘controller’. Having played only a handful of games since; Max Payne, Starfox Adventures, and Bit Trip Runner, a video game per generation give or take I’d defiantly not fit anyone’s idea of a gamer. Which is weird, considering that Tim Weeks’ Savestate is currently one of my favorite furry webcomics. In case the name didn’t give it away, the motley crew of Savestate really, really love their video games! Centering around siblings Nicole and Kade regularly joined by their friend Rick ,Elder god Harvey and the demonic entity, Ness on their gaming misadventures. Weeks’ artwork really shines when he draws his characters in the game worlds themselves, showing off well known favorites like Mario Kart in his own charming and polished style, even incorporating animation, such as his crossover with gaming webcomic, Gamercat.

Last year saw another major milestone for Savestate when it was nominated for the comic strip category of the Ursa Major Awards, which are voted upon yearly and intended to award and highlight “excellence in the furry arts”. Although Savestate ultimately came in second it was to Housepets, a comic that has itself been running four times as long and won the category for seven years, consecutively. Moving up from third place the previous year and vastly outstripping much more established furry webcomics, it’s a testament to how well the mix of humor, positivity and gaming culture has built up such a strong and loyal fan base in it’s first two years.

The very first strip found Kade porting over the now infamous glitch Pokemon, ‘MissingNo’ (the easiest glitch to catch, an integral part of Pokemon lore although still considered by Nintendo as simply “a programming quirk”) proving from day one how deeply passionate Weeks is about gaming culture and how central it is to his comic. This last months strips have seen Savestate returning to it’s roots somewhat with the rewed interest in the now 20 year old franchise that came the release of Pokemon GO has started, rekindling the franchise once more. As you’d expect Kade, the consummate gamer lives up to every online scare story by getting himself into places he shouldn’t in order to catch them all!

Again, the highest praise I can personally give Savestate is that even as someone who isn’t a gamer, at all, it still has me engrossed and eagerly awaiting a new strip every Wednesday. Playfully incorporating pop culture and gaming staples in new ways, the comic exudes Week’s passion for video games and why it has quickly become and furry favorite.

  2015-07-01-victory2015-08-05-harviplier2015-09-02-until_morning (1) Okay, so some basics first, what is your favorite game and console?

Game: Ocarina of Time. It was the smoothest transition from 2D to 3D ever and had a huge “wow” factor in terms of graphics and gameplay. Console: Either the Genesis or SNES, I love 16-bit games. If I had to pick one then SNES, with classics like Star Fox, Final Fantasy III (VI), Chrono Trigger it edges out the Genesis.

How did it feel to come 2nd place in the Ursa major awards, especially very close behind a comic that is now in it’s 8th year? Does it help knowing you’ve built a strong fanbase like this in such a short time, what do you think has captured furries and gamers about your comic?

That was crazy! I thought Savestate could avoid last place, but never to come in second on it’s second year. Now I’ve got to work extra hard to keep that second place. I don’t think anyone is going to dethrone Housepets until Rick chooses to decline his nomination. It’s amazing how quickly the Savestate fanbase grew. When I started the site I was getting something like 300 hits every time I posted a comic which seemed like a lot. What’s most impressive, to me, is that before Savestate I had never really posted any of my art online; so all the hype was generated purely by the comic itself.

I think gamers enjoy the comic because Kade embodies a more child-like sense of gaming. Back when it was more about showing your friends your Pokemon rather than trying to beat them in a battle.I think furries are drawn to the comic because of the art style. I tend to draw things in equal parts cute and cool. I also hope people are enjoying that the comic is PG (or maybe PG-13 when Harvey gets angry). There’s just so much adult material in the furry universe that it starts to drown everything else out. People seem to forget that the furry fandom really started with children’s characters like Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny.

Is there any direct analogue of yourself in the comic in terms of characters, if not who do you think you identify with more?

Kade and Nicole are a split of my personality. Nicole was based on our family dog, Mandy. Any personalities I shared with Mandy went to Nicole and what was left over went to Kade. If you combine the two you basically get my messed up brain

.What drew you to using anthropomorphic characters in Savestate?

I’ve loved anthro since Rescue Rangers! Games like Sonic and TV shows like Swat Kats further embedded that fandom. I actually wasn’t even aware “furry” was a thing until I randomly found Havok, Inc in my local comic shop. Even then I thought Chester was a girl for the longest time. :3

2014-11-05-experience A lot of comics like yours heavily reference video games to the point of the characters being shown in the game.Visually are there any game genres of games you wouldn’t include in Savestate or would be too difficult to accomplish?
I won’t do anything adult, so AO rated games are out.  If I ever used something violent like Gears of War 4 I’d just limit myself to blood and leave the gore out.  I suppose the only other thing I wouldn’t do is a game with extremely simple stylized graphics, like Limbo.
What are your favorite game elements or characters to draw?

Sonic.  I could never count how many times I’ve drawn Sonic.I also like drawing the Savestate characters in different game character outfits.  It’s fun to try and modify clothes to fit a furry build.
 How did including animated elements in certain strips come about? Was it something you were familiar with before or learning as you went?
Animation has always interested me.  Mostly traditional animation or the old hand drawn 2D sprites.  I love doing facial expressions and animation let’s you really play with that. I’ve dabbled with various forms of animation over the years, but the idea to put in a web comic came from GaMERCaT.  That’s why I had to make sure the guest appearance with Gamercat was animated.
What was your experience like working on the recent Starfox strips for Nintendo Force?

Nintendo Force is the spiritual successor of Nintendo Power and that comic was a lot of fun. Since the magazine is done by fans I could really do anything, like mention characters from the canceled SNES Star Fox 2 game. The original plan was to print the comic in the December issue which was going to be Star Fox themed to go along with the release of Star Fox Zero, but Nintendo pushed the game back a few months. Since the magazine is crowd funded we decided to print in the December issue anyway since there was no guarantee it would continue. Regardless, it was a lot of fun and I’m really excited that I got the chance to do it. My favorite part of EGM was reading Hsu and Chan. I really miss that comic. 2014-12-03-i_am_modem

 

Savestate is updated every Wednesday. Tim also has a gallery of his other work over on his deviant art page and can also be found on twitter.


Categories: News

The Pull List 27/01/2016

Tue 26 Jan 2016 - 19:10

Island #6 (Image Comics) – Even with the ever so slightly reduced page count, you can still count on Island to be the greatest anthology out there in terms of casting its net far and wide to bring attention to new and unheard of comics talent on a monthly basis. The highlight this month is the story “Badge of Pride” featuring a group of young anthropomorphic guys as they navigate the social minefield of their local Pride event. Having followed his work on and off for years now it’s thrilling to see Onta’s work shown to a more mainstream audience and I was fortunate enough that he had time to answer a few of my questions last week about his new, more personal and story driven outing for Island.

This month also presents work from Gael B as well as a recoloured, reprinted sci-fi classic in the form of Fil Barlow’s Zooniverse.

Saga #33 (Image Comics) – Thirty Three issues in and Vaughan and Staples sci-fi epic shows no signs of slowing down as it continues to shock, thrill and delight in equal measures. Staples beautiful cover shows that the adorable journalistic couple Upsher and Doff are back after being warned off reporting on the story of Marko and Alana way back in the books second arc. While only briefly touched upon I look forward to seeing how Vaughan develops the relationship between the pair as they become embroiled deeper in conflict and conspiracy. It’s been briefly hinted that the pairs society doesn’t look kindly on same sex couples and it will be fascinating to see what the writer has to say on the subject in a series that really pulls no punches with its social commentary.


Categories: News

“Chasing something hungrily”-Taking a look back On Buster Wilde with creator Scot Zellman

Fri 22 Jan 2016 - 14:00

Whilst writing my recent post on the excellent Buster Wilde comics I found myself in the middle of a twitter conversation with writer and published Alex Vance and eventually asked him some more formal questions for the piece. Alex was responsible for the printed Buster Wilde collection a few years ago and I inquired if it might be possible for him to reach out to the man responsible for the strips Scot Zellman in the hope that he might answer a few lingering questions I had about his creation.

He graciously obliged but I honestly didn’t expect a reply, it has been over a decade after all. A few days later however Scot shot me back a message and took time out his schedule to indulge me with rather a long interview. I’d like to thank him again for taking the time to answer me and give a wonderful insight into what went into the making of a comics classic all those years ago.

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Marfedblog: The first boring, obvious question a lot of people must have asked. Why did the Buster Wilde strips stop, was it simply a desire to move onto other projects, lack of time and interest in it or something else?

Scot Zellman: I think I lost interest mostly due to frustration. I’d hoped the strip would reach a wider gay audience, especially through the gay-interest newsweeklies I was sending copies to in the hopes they would run it, but I quickly found the strip and Buster character made a much bigger impression on a gay furry community. That was an education because at the time I had no idea there was such a thing as “furries” gay or straight.

My education in furry fandom was hard and fast and while the specific trappings were never of personal interest I certainly appreciated the enthusiastic response even if I did have to turn down a large number of requests for commissioned pieces featuring a much less G-rated version of Buster.

I saw the strip as a slapsticky, funny animal, Warner Bros.-style cartoon antidote to the gay strips I was seeing at the time, most of which looked and sounded the same and featured no talking animals, something mainstream comic strips were full of. It was pretty easy, actually, to end the strip. I needed to focus on my “real” job and I wasn’t really interested in being a niche cartoonist with a small audience. After a couple years I thought “Okay, playtime’s over. Time to move on.”

 

Mb: It’s unusual you made the comic and it caught on with furs, an audience you didn’t even know was out there, did it lead you to look into what other anthro comics were popular with them or artists who considered themselves furs?

 SZ: I did look around a bit, especially when I’d get fan mail from other artists or from folks who’d recommend other artist/cartoonist sites.  The only anthro comic/character I really eventually found interesting and still follow these days is the Blacksad series. And that’s mostly because I love hard-boiled detective stories and film noir. Plus, the artwork is beautiful. buster025.gif
Mb: Why do you think the gay weeklies and such were so reluctant to run the comics? The comic itself or partly the attitude towards LGBT at the time? SZ: Most gay weeklies weren’t really reluctant to run the strip, they were reluctant to pay me to run the strip.  I think the ones that were reluctant to run it for non-financial reasons wanted something a little less slapsticky and a little more mature and thoughtful (Dykes To Watch Out For, Curbside, and The Mostly Unfabulous Life of Ethan Green were big back then.) Or whoever was in charge of picking the comics to run just didn’t think it was funny. That happens, too.

Mb: The comic debuted around 1997, was it difficult working with the limitations of the internet back then in terms of storage and bandwith?

I know nothing of computer tech and wouldn’t know where to begin in setting up my own website, especially in 1997. I had a tech-savvy friend do all that for me. I had been a cartoonist for my college daily newspaper, so I was well-versed in the process of keeping artwork looking good when it’s reproduced/reduced for the printed page.  As for the original website, I supplied my webmaster with good-sized, pristine copies and let him do his best with the internet limitations of the time. 

Mb: What attracted you to the idea of showcasing Buster Wilde online as a webcomic? What was the reaction of other artist or those around you to adopting such a new medium in terms of comics?

I never really heard from others about the novelty of being online. Mostly people sent me emails telling me how much they liked Buster and the strip. I actually forget sometimes that the strip is still online these days. I usually just think of it as a book.

Mb: What was the audience and there reaction like at the comics peak? Was it difficult to find an audience in a time when comics online were not as recognised

The reaction was uniformly positive. In fact, I can’t remember getting any negative email at all.  As for my expectations, I had none.  I assumed people were seeing it and the ones who really loved it were the folks sending me the fan mail.

JK: Buster Wilde now seems like a snapshot of, albeit a humorous exaggerated one, gay club culture at the time. Is that how you saw it and how do you think the strips might differ if they were coming out now? Would any characters differ or just settings and such?

I haven’t been out clubbing in ages, but I don’t imagine things have changed too much. Going out will always be about the same things:  fun, excitement, adventure, and the giddy hope you’ll meet someone thrilled to meet you no matter how sceptical or clumsy or overexcited or over it all you may be.

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Mb: The printed book shows a few iterations of Buster before the one you settled on. What was the original idea and how did that develop into what you eventually drew? What was the eureka moment when it all fit together?

SZ: I was trying to come up with a gay-themed “funny animal” comic strip for my local gay paper and at one point I thought that a straight man who turned into a gay werewolf would be funny and allow for a lot of opportunities to poke fun at both gay and straight people. The eureka moment came when, after some time trying to come up with a name for the character, the name “Buster Wilde” popped into my head after Oscar Wilde, of course. Once I had “Buster Wilde” the rest just poured out of me.

Mb: How do you feel about webcomics becoming a lot more established since Buster Wilde and do you ever follow any at the moment? Do you think you would have an easier time building an audience now?

It’s a logical technological progression, so I’m not surprised and it certainly makes it easier to get your work “out there.” I still worry that books will be marginalized to the point being hard to find or disappeared entirely. That said, I do have the book versions of my favourite online strips. I follow Bob the Angry Flower, Poorly Drawn Lines, Scenes from a Multiverse, and Doonesbury regularly. That’s about it.

I don’t know. Probably, but I’m still pretty disconnected from what’s going on online.

Mb: Are there comics that inspired the humour and structure in the Buster Wilde strips? Are any of the events (obviously not the lycanthropy) inspired by real events or people?

I’d say the primary inspiration were the old Warner Bros. cartoons, especially the Chuck Jones Bugs Bunny, Wile E. Coyote and Daffy Duck cartoons. Plus, I’ve always just loved slapstick and pratfalls.

The personal inspiration was just my years going out, my friends, and my love of good-natured, accepting straight people who are easily unnerved and exasperated by gay people.

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Mb: The Unfinished strips included in the print version have a more experimental panel layout than the other strips, would this have been something we would have seen more of if the strips had continued? Did you ever find the regular format limiting in any way?

SZ: That was an experiment in longer-form  storytelling told in a comic book page format that, because I’m a comic book reader, thought I’d try just for fun.  The regular format I’d already been working with didn’t feel limiting in any way since I felt like I could do whatever the gag called for.  That said, I do like the inherent restrictions of the “Sunday comics” format. Mb: Did you have an overarching story or a direction the strips were going in?

 SZ: Sort of, but not really. The goal was to cram as much humor into each “episode” as I could without overloading it to the point of incomprehensibility. As for the overarching story, I just knew that the character’s stories would continue to unfold and more characters and adventures would be introduced as time went by.

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Mb: Are you surprised that people like myself, still talk about and hold it in such high regard after all this time and Do you have a favourite strip out of the bunch?

Not really. Once people find something they love it usually sticks with them. I’m the same way with older comic strips, TV shows, movies, comic books. The ear-piercing strip. The bare minimum amount of dialogue, the right amount of slapstick, and a funny the turnaround/topper.  The strip still makes me LOL as they say.

Mb: Overall what do you think the appeal of Buster is?

The exact same appeal of the friendliest, sweetest Golden Retriever you’ve ever met. He’s just happy all the time and you’re his best friend

 

Mb: Raspberry Flan. Are there any other suitable bathroom foods?

Baked Alaska Flambe.

Buster Wilde can be read in it’s entirety here. The printed version can also be purchased here or from amazon.


Categories: News

“This weirdo parade”-Furry artist makes it ‘Onta’ the cover of Island issue 6

Wed 20 Jan 2016 - 09:00

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New to readers of the Island anthology, but well known in the Furry subculture, is an artist usually featured in Hard Blush; a series releasing extensively gay furry comics, Onta. Whilst he’s associated more with pornographic and adult comics, his entry into Graham and Rios’ anthology series Badge of Pride will be a more slice of life offering, as the artist delves deeper into the lives of his cast of characters. Marty, Taylor, Jessie and Mu show their wildly different experiences and expressions of sexuality during a local gay pride parade. Showing that even now Pride is an important part of LGBT life, meaning different thing to each person, whether they love it or loathe it.

I found myself drawn to, and feeling sympathetic towards, the quiet and retiring lion, Jess portrayed as finding it particularly difficult to identify with the more flamboyant carnival atmosphere he finds himself caught up in. He bemoans “I can’t relate to any of this shit” and finds himself “sulking like an idiot” while others throw themselves into the party with more ease and gusto.

With Island issue 6 out next week I finally got a chance to ask Onta a few questions about his newest comic.

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Marfed: How did you first discover the furry subculture and were you already drawing by this point? What lead you to want to draw comics, especially furry ones?

Onta: I discovered it as many do, through erotica. Specifically Japanese gay kemono artist. There where many inspiration but Aoi Takayuki and Poju’s entry where a really big deal for my entry into furry.

I had slacked around for a while trying to commit to various projects but could never fully commit to something. I felt if I created a persona and boxed myself into a small limited area my mind would do better. I had been trying to make comics for years and had failed quite often. Miu asking me to do a page for the first edition of Cocktails was really my first major completed comic’s work which was pretty late in my career as an artist. I didn’t have fully formed characters and story, even if only porn prior so it gave me a big boost. I felt very weird after completing it as it was a new sensation.

M: How did working on Brandon and Emma’s Island anthology come about? Were you a fan of either of their work before hand and have you been following the issues of Island up to now?

Onta: Brandon approached me a year and some change ago. I believe he was introduce to my work through Fangdangler (Adriel Forsythe). I used to be pretty big into indie comics back in the day following Derek Kirk Kim and similar artists and I gradually fell out of that sort of thing as work in animation industry and later games industry took over. I have become a fan of both Brandon and Emma since my involvement.

M: Can you tell us a little bit behind the story you have in Island and what lead you to write it? What was the best part of working on this story for Island? How did you tackle including characters from your previous work that readers might be unfamiliar with?

The creation of this story was not simple and actually require a lot of outside help including reviews and feedback cycles. Understand that although I’ve made quite a few comics they all heavily rely on adult scenes to fill out the whole thing. Having to make a story that relies nearly 100% on interactions is new territory for me. , I’m having to introduce my characters to new readers meaning I couldn’t rely on previously established character elements. I wrote the story and somewhat over emphasized their characters as to catch everyone up with this entry hopefully it pays off and people get the archetypes. As for the story itself I wanted something that would both satisfy furry fans and attempt to mirror gay acceptance with furry acceptance. Hopefully the irony of hating furries but enjoying the message of gay tolerance isn’t lost on most readers. I also had to work on facial construction on Jessee as his face has always been a loose cannon as far as structures go.

The best part was honestly getting it done. It was very, very hard work. I think this is the most professional I’ve even been on a project because I feel these characters are on the end of their lifecycle with me so a lot of pushing was needed to get the story out.

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M: Not only are you in the issue, you drew the cover too. How did that come about and how does it feel that in January Marty and company will be rubbing shoulders with the likes Spider-man and Batman on comic shelves?

Once again that came out of the blue when I was asked. To be frank again, it was just a “do the work and make it nice” scenario. I think 21 year old me would be handling all of this a lot differently. As an older feller I feel It’s more of a “do a good job and don’t fuck up” feeling.

M: Are there any other furry artists’ work you could see fitting into Island in future issues?

Onta: I definitely think Miu (creator of duo Peaches and Cream), Seel and Rikose would do great in Island.

M: Were you at all worried about the perception of your work with a non furry audience with a lot of it being very adult in its art and themes?

I’m only worried about Brandon book doing well or not and I’ll be working hard to get furry fans to purchase and offset sales slump from those uninterested. I’m in too deep to worry if people will respect me or my art or the adult themes. I never anticipated any serious published work ever so it showing up out of the blue is a nice treat but it’s so far off from my mind I’m in it to do the work and hopefully make Brandon happy. If it does well and people like I’m excited but I have zero expectations from my work in Island beyond doing a good job for my employer.

M: Do you feel that furry is slowly becoming more mainstream and the public more accepting of works like yours that would at one time have been considered exclusively for a furry audience?

Onta: I think as time goes by and people deal with the fact that everything is up for grabs as far as sexualizing stuff, people will learn to deal with furry as two distinct things. The Disney movie coming out won’t hurt and will probably spawn a huge new group of furries.

M: I found myself identifying with Jess a lot and his feeling of not fitting in with the rest of the Pride attendees or the typical Gay identity. Is this something you that comes from direct experience yourself or from other people you have met? Which character, if any do you feel you identify with the most?

Onta: I think the majority of gay people are completely underrepresented. I also believe there is a strong “Full gay or get out” sort of mentality from both the gay scene and in general. No one wants anything but very clear sexual labels and it just doesn’t work that way. I think Jess’s position is the first baby steps for a lot of people. Someone who doesn’t aggressively hide their sexuality but also doesn’t reveal or revel in it.

Each character represents a part of me. Not equally or even in the same way. Some characters represent desire or wishful thinking others are more mirroring my personality or thoughts.

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M: The idea of Jess coming to terms with his own sexuality has been subtly hinted at in your adult work, what made you want to pick up on this thread again? What interests you about it?
Onta: I think the furry fandom has a unique appeal to people who are taking their first steps into exploring the sexuality as gay males. Furry’s and furry conventions are sort of a microcosm. A lot of niches, interest and kinks sort of converge under this one major theme and since Anthro fans are pretty much used to being social pariahs, grouping with similar folk sort of soften how much you stick out from normal everyday life.

Since my work is directed at the furry fandom to some extent I felt I should include a swathe of personality types with varying levels of sexual and emotional maturity. Jess, although my least popular character and more popular with woman was the best angle to allow new readers and furry fans in general entry into the story I wanted to present without alienating them.

M: Do you still think Pride is important even in 2016 and why?
Onta: I’m not sure. The internet is doing a lot of good (and some bad) where visibility is concerned. I think pride is more of an event for many people then a social cause at this point as it’s often presented with some level of showmanship over any real attempt to present or solve issues that non-hetero folks deal with. I wanted to present something a bit more realistic with the way I’ve noticed the crowds interact with the parade without getting too catty/snide about it.

M: Badge of Pride raises some interesting points as well as being fun, could you see yourself doing more works of this type for a mainstream audience that deal with topics like sexuality and identity as well as your adult work?
Onta: This comic took a lot out of me. I don’t know. I didn’t want to indulge in a dark, self-hatred, depressive style slice of life comic though was my first kneejerk response when asked to make a story. I felt I should focus on entertaining the people first and get my messages across somewhat subtly. I have people who have read the script and given feedback to thank for that. If the reception is good and people genuinely like it and Image doesn’t get mad and numbers are good on sales it would be a good serious consideration.

Island issue 6 featuring the ‘Badge of Pride” by Onta is released on January 27th while his adult works can be found in pages of Hard Blush available here.


Categories: News

“Truly, My life is a low budget horror movie”- Scott Zelman’s wilde and much missed webcomic

Mon 18 Jan 2016 - 07:00

 

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“Don’t be scared! He doesn’t bite. That’d be gauche”

Scot Zellman’s Buster Wilde first appeared on-line around the mid-nineties back in the prehistoric days of the internet. Following the exploits of our eponymous hero, lover and maybe most importantly, gay lycanthrope as we quickly discover the he twist in the familiar folk tale and pop culture staple. Sinewy, flamboyant party animal by night at sunrise Buster switches back to his beleaguered alter ego, Bernard. Stressed, uptight and again most importantly, straight. As Buster humorously and enthusiastically throws himself into his new life, navigating the gay club scene with its drama and clichés, Bernard struggles with a double life he doesn’t remember and more often than not waking up in other guys beds. It was among one of the first web comics I discovered when I finally got on-line and I quickly made my way through every strip on the now broken and mostly forgotten geocities site.

You heard that right, Geocities. It’s been around fourteen years since the final strip was posted and it’s a testament to both the quality of the strips and Zellman’s considerable skills as a writer and gifted cartoonist that those who saw it at the time still hold it in such high regard over a decade later. Apart from one of two references that date them (Buffy, who Buster declares is a bitch because of her treatment of fellow werewolf Oz) the Buster Wilde strips have a timeless quick paced humour to them that’s still as funny today as when they were first conceived.

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They continued sporadically for four years and fifty two strips until one day they just, stopped. One last strip with the energetic Buster switching the word ‘fetch’ with ‘felch’ and then, nothing. The site was never updated again and still remains, albeit a little bit more broken. If anything it reminds me how easy it was in the early days before social media and constantly online presences for people to simply disappear from the surface of the digital world. Details are still frustratingly few. Beyond a few mentions on forums here and there, the odd broken link, I feel confident in saying this post will be the most ever written about it. In the last few years web comics have really come into their own as something unique and separate from other comics, gaining a lot more attention and exposure in the process. It’s a real shame that in being an early example of the medium that it’s fallen through the cracks when it comes to wider recognition and it feels bizarre to be the first one writing about so many moons later.

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My understanding from what I could gleam from a question here and there on twitter is that Zellman simply moved onto other projects, before eventually retiring from comics completely. It was a pleasant surprise a few years ago to find that a print version of the Buster strips existed, released by Furplanet who now helpfully host copies of the originals online. Alex Vance, writer of the Heathen Cities series and also a fan had reached out to Zellman with the offer to touch up the original artwork and release them on paper and ink “There was a new generation in the furry community and when I was still in publishing I reached out to him and developed scans of his originals into a book,” says Vance on giving Buster a second chance in the spotlight  “They represented a significant work. Drawn and lettered entirely by hand, a vanishing art”. The volume collects all of the original comics, promotional artwork, a fascinating artists sketchbook giving a glimpse into the creative process of the comic. Most tantalisingly it features two partly inked, mostly  unfinished strips both in a larger format with more experimental layouts. One of these featuring Busters strange toilet habits is now among my favourites and gives a fleeting glimpse of what could have been.

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Buster Wilde can be read in it’s entirety here. The printed version can also be purchased here or from amazon.

&nb


Categories: News

The Pull list 06/01/16

Wed 6 Jan 2016 - 17:19

Howard the Duck #3 (Marvel) – Zdarsky’s second run of Howard comics definitely improves and builds upon excellent foundations and it wasn’t surprising that my one of my favourite series also had one of my favourite issues of the year by far. Finally Howard and Tara come to face to face (or more accurately Bill, face, muzzle and bill) with Shocket and Linda and I can’t wait to see the interactions between them as they try and shake off the annoying advances of The Wizard and the ever looming threat of The Collector. This title along with Squirrel Girl, which it will soon cross over with, always deliver the prefect mix of humour and heart. Once again the talented Mr Quinones is back to regular art duties after the wonderful single issue by guest artist Veronica Fish last month.

Doctor Strange #4 (Marvel) – Continuing a whole week gorging on All New All Different Marvel is issue four of the Bachalo and Aaron’s run on the Sorcerer Supreme. While last issue felt like somewhat of a re-tread of the first issue in terms of plot it’s still a series I’m enjoying. The slow burn of the whole science versus magic story that the duo have been building over the last three issues, with Strange discovering in the last issue that fellow Sorcerer’s are being killed along with places of magical power. Bachalo’s artwork is gorgeous, in particular the way he presents the astral planes and Strange’s unique view of New York City, teaming with mystical parasites. The washed out planes with splashes of colour are simply striking and hint at even greater artistic flourishes to come.

Rocket Racoon and Groot #1 (Marvel) – Spinning out of the pair’s excellent solo books the gung-ho raccoon and his monosyllabic companion are finally back together in one book, once again written by Skottie Young, also contributing covers for the series. The addition of new artist Filipe Andrade made me sceptical at first after seeing his one off issue from the last volume. The previous two volumes divided art duties between Young and Jake Parker, both of whom did a delightfully adorable Rocket!

It was the only issue I didn’t like, and for me the artwork seemed jarring against the other two artists more cutesy and cartoony take. While a great style in its own right it was just too serious and seemed out of sync with Young’s quick paced, witty script. However I’m big enough to admit when I’m wrong and Andrade seems to have tweaked and softened his style slightly for the new series bringing back in some of the cute. The preview pages have definitely renewed my interest in the title. I eagerly look forward to seeing the mix of his art and Young’s comical hijinks as this issue opens with the pair being mourned by their fellow Guardians!

The Vision #3 (Marvel) – King and Walta’s eerie look at the Vision and his new family continues to spiral out of control as they struggle to stick together as a ‘normal family’ despite the secrets that threaten to tear them apart. Truly the strangest and most gripping book that Marvel are putting out at the moment, even with the post-secret wars shake up putting the Vision in suburbia to explore humanity and normality is really bold and it completely pays off. Despite the title, the standout character of this series for me is Virginia. While all this is going on she battles with her own identity and place in the world. Haunting and shocking in equal measures.

Also posted on Graphic Policy


Categories: News

“Why build one when you can build two for twice the price” First contact with fandom in Associated Student Bodies and Fur-Piled

Sat 12 Dec 2015 - 16:31

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It was at a convention, talking about comics that a friend of mine suddenly declared to some dismay, “Wow, there’s probably furries now who didn’t start out by reading Associated Student Bodies”. It was funny at the time but since then I’ve heard a few people echoing the sentiment. It made me wonder if with the constant influx of new and younger furs if the things we held dear are even still relevant? It’s the way it should be and new ideas, books and shows are the lifeblood of any community to keep it thriving. Everyone has their own story of how they discovered and engaged with the fandom. For myself after finally stumbling upon the fandom and discovering that this strange collection of interests had a name, Associated Student Bodies was one of my first experiences of anthropomorphic fiction that wasn’t connected to a TV show or a movie. The college based coming of age story told from the point of view of Daniel, a young lion away from home for the first time and discovering himself and reconciling his faith with his sexuality. In the early days and the rush of finding this new community it felt thrilling, exciting and deliciously naughty to read. I’d be the first to admit that it seems innocently and oddly quaint by today’s standards as well as indulging in a lot of tropes. It’s a little dated and my fondness for it stems from mostly nostalgic reasons and it doesn’t help that is once again out of print.

 

Leo Magna’s Furpilled and recently the more launched Perception feel like the natural, modern successors to Associated Student Bodies and definitely present a more updated take on the slice of life style it was famous for. Furpilled itself was completed and is a few years old by now but despite winning a few awards, I feel like it didn’t get the attention it deserved at the time and that Magna isn’t as well know as he should be. His comics almost always centre around LGB relationships with Furpilled following the escapades of a group of such friends, revolving around Arthur Husky and his burgeoning relationship with the mysterious Saetto. Through five volumes Magna charts the ups and downs of LGB life in California and while other works featuring a lot of the cliches that come with the genre would have put me off, it’s his strong grasp of characters and their motivations that takes them beyond this, slowly revealing the casts deep and rich inner lives.

His latest comic Perception is once again concerned with LGB relationships, but whereas Furpilled starred a group of out and proud character’s, Perception is the opposite. Joe is a frat boy, in deep turmoil over his sexuality and constantly on edge over being discovered by his homophobic, hyper masculine fraternity brothers. Both comics have LGB lives at their core, while approaching them from two completely different perspectives. While it’s not as instantly likable as Furpiled ,perhaps because of it’s uncomfortable subject matter and so far dislikable frat boy cast, it is showing itself to be a little more broad and complex. Dealing more overtly with the homophobia still experienced by many even now, it already feels like it’s the perfect companion piece and thematic sequel to his Furpilled run.

Since writing this Leo has restarted Furpilled and did a wonderful interview with me . It’s still free to read in it’s entirety online or available in five volumes from SofaWolf Press. The print versions to lose points for not reprinting a colour element on one page of the comic, taking away lot of it’s impact. Trust me you’ll know it when you see it. Perception is being funded exclusively through Magna’s Patreon site from as a little as $1 per month.


Categories: News

“YOU’LL DIE ONE DAY, SO LAUGH IT UP” Jayro Lantigua talks ‘Burnt Comix’

Sat 5 Dec 2015 - 13:58

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Hailing from Miami Florida, Jayro Lantigua is a comics illustrator pumping out some delightfully grotesque and disgustingly unhinged comics right now. Burnt Comix is the story of a foul mouthed, shit eating dog who after becoming tired with his soul crushing depraved existence decides to end it all and commit suicide. Hanging,shooting and poisoning just won’t cut if for this canine. He want’s something unique and memorable working his ways through satanic death cults and and drug filled dog pound orgies along the way until he finally gets his wish. Bookending this are two single page stories ‘Father and Comix’, a dispiriting story of being persuaded not to peruse art as a career and a hilariously tongue in cheek ‘About the author.

Jayro’s grotesque and freakish figures bring to mind the gross early nineties Nickelodeon toons such as Ren and Stimpy, farts and fluids everywhere as they delight in every known vice imaginable. No space is wasted on Lantigua’s pages as skulls, genitals and hypodermic needles litter every panel and more often than not the space between them. The copy Jayro sent me was printed on bright lurid pink paper which only added to the experience.

Until recently Jayro has self published his comics on his own ‘Lunchboxed Press’ imprint, however December will see the first issue of an expanded Burnt Comix released through Creature Entertainment. An entirely different beast to the original lo-fi self published comic, the Creature release will be more of a directors cut, a definitive version as he originally intended.  Bumping up the page count from 16 monochrome too 32 colour it will also include more two page stories as well as a variant cover by Juan Navarro.

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Marfedblog: How and when did you start making comics?

Jayro Lantigua: I used to grab a stack of copy paper and staple them together to make comics as a kid in the back of class. Growing up I would continue to draw and write stories but at the time it was more of a hobby. I didn’t start considering making a career with my work until 2012, when I realized it was the only thing I find happiness doing.

MB: Who would you count among your influences?

JL: John Kricfalusi was one of my biggest influences as well as Joe Murray. I used to watch Ren & Stimpy and Rocko’s Modern Life religiously as a kid. Johnny Ryan’s  work was also a big influence as it showed me that there were more to comics than vigilantes beating up criminals while wearing the underwear outside of their pants.

MB: How did working on Burnt Comix with Creature Comics come about, are there any of their comics you currently follow?

JL: Juan Navarro and John Ulloa of Creature opened The Goblin’s Heist, a comic shop in Hialeah, Florida and I would go by and hang out at the shop because they’re friends of mine and we’d joke around and have some beers. I never pitched Burnt Comix to them as I wanted to self publish at first and just get more work done. I gave a few copies to them to sell at the shop and Juan recommended it to John one day, he read it and he asked if I wanted to join Creature. As far as comics I follow goes, I’ve been hooked on “Tommy”.

MB: What are the main differences between the original version and the Creature Comics version? Tweaked or an entirely new beast? How did the experience of working on the two differ?

JL: The original version of Burnt is very different from the Creature release. The self published version is only 16 pages whereas the Creature release will be 32 pages. The extra content features the continuation of the story, as well as more art and a couple more 2 page shorts. Honestly the Creature release is the way I truly envisioned the story and the first issue of Burnt Comix. I couldn’t fulfil it before in the self published version because of costs. The Creature Version  will also have a full colour cover which is sweet. The experience as far as the work itself remains the same, the only difference is that I now have the support of great people with Creature Entertainment and the possibility of realizing my goals with my work are much more possible.

MB: The opening page is close to heartbreaking! Why do you think so many artists have similar dispiriting early experiences in regards to producing comics or art?

JL: A lot of parents don’t understand how lucrative art can be, so when their kid tells them they want to make a career of it, it’s usually discouraged. My parents, particularly my dad was very opposed to the idea and wanted me to be a doctor or a lawyer. Something more conventional that provides a stable income and stability as well as bragging rights to their equally ignorant friends. Yes, a career in comics or art doesn’t always bring a steady check but that doesn’t mean that it can’t.

MB: What’s the best reaction you’ve had with someone picking up your comic and suddenly realizing it’s full of death, swearing and dog pound orgies?

JL: There was a guy that opened the comic and immediately widened his eyes and starting laughing a lot. He really loved the work and later told me how much he wasn’t expecting the comic to be so adult and funny. It was great hearing that kind of positive feedback.

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Jayro Lantigua’s work is collected on his website and can be contacted via twitter. The Creature entertainment release of Burnt Comix is released in December and available via their website


Categories: News

“Our World” Touching and heartfelt story from Zdarsky and Fish

Sat 5 Dec 2015 - 08:28

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last issues surprising finale saw the unexpected arrival gender swapped counterparts of both Howard and his one-time cell mate Rocket Raccoon, this along with the success of other gender swapping titles such as the hugely popular Spider-Gwen made had me expecting writer Chip Zdarsky to take a few well intentioned and light hearted jabs at this popular but not unwelcome recent trend in Marvel comics. Instead he continues to constantly surprise, this month crafting the most heartfelt, touching and utterly captivating issue of his Howard the Duck run so far. Instead of the titular fowl, Zdarksy instead centres the action on his new creations Shocket and Linda and delves into the pair’s back story.

This being a Howard-less issue is perfectly conveyed by regular collaboratorJoe Quinones beautiful cover, and with the artist on a break this month art duties fall to Veronica Fish who will also be lending her considerable talents for two issues of Robbie Thompson’s Silk in February. Coming in at a point in the story with new characters and a flashback in makes perfect sense and feels like a natural move to include a guest artist and her cartoony style is a lovely fit for both the characters and the story. Bold and expressive she draws an achingly cute Shocket and Linda in all their short, adorable glory and small moments like Shocket reassuring her sister, muzzle full of corn on the cob make for some amazingly cute and emotional moments. Just when the pages start to seem too regimented and strict in their panel layout, some subtle tricks and touches such as skipping twenty-five years over three panels and literally breaking the borders of the panels shake things up. Although next month marks the return of Quinones, I hope it doesn’t mean the last we will see of Fish on Marvel titles in the future.HOWARD2015B002-int3-3-d8bf5HOWARD2015B002-int3-4-05089Steeped in Marvel lore and featuring clones and time travel this is pure comics. Inventive, silly and funny but with a real heart and emotional pull, in equal parts from Zdarksy’s writing and his new created characters. Introduced last issues for a brief single page shock ending, Linda and Shocket are a big reason that this book is so wonderful. The pair’s entire back story is told in this single issue and yet it never seems rushed or cluttered, despite the number of things thrown into the mix. Taking time to define them as unique characters in their own right he develops the sister’s personalities and fleshes them out beyond their seemingly simple gender bent origins, emphasizing both the similarities and differences to their male counterparts. A lot of the issues sweetest moments are to be found in the girl’s unusual but loving family unit with initially reluctant father Dee, who quickly falls for the strange duo. I found myself completely invested over the course of a handful of pages and was left looking forward to seeing their interactions with Howard and Tara next issue. As a writer Zdarsky has become more ambitious in his storytelling and writing. Later in the story, on meeting a younger, angrier Silver Surfer Dee calms the Herald with an impassioned and honest speech about his future, some of the best he has ever written not to mention the issues heart-breaking conclusion.

Between them Fish and Zdarksy have put together an amazing and sweetly touching issue filled with perfect character moments. Howard the Duck continues to be a series I am completely in love with. Both funny and smart, Howard and companies adventures continue to consistently strike the perfect balance between humour and heart.

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Also posted on Graphic Policy


Categories: News

“Fashion is for fashion people Get out there now and break the rules”-Leon Rozelaar’s “Sick Threads”

Tue 1 Dec 2015 - 07:27

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Sick Threads is a delightful little eight page, done in one comic by Leon Rozelaar. Described as “a short comic about aesthetics”, I was lucky enough to pick one up at Thought Bubble earlier this month. Part comic, part fashion spread it stars a style tribe of hip young animal characters in adorable and stylish outfits out shopping as they trawl the racks, hunting down the perfect ensemble.

It’s a really cute, clever little comic and Rozelaar conveys entirely through images the importance that clothing can have, what they say about a person and the importance of finding something that’s just right for many people to either express their individuality or declare their alliance with a certain subculture. His figures move between clothing displays, the rails running along the panels as he deftly incorporates them into the layout. He has an eye for detail in both the items of clothing, detailed with patches, buckles and spikes as well as the way they are shown in close ups on high end shop displays. Later, our fashionistas are shown customising their finds and wearing them in distinct ways. Cutting up jeans and rolling up sleeves for unique details, rather than sticking to the generic off the peg look. As with the comic itself, little touches say a lot.

Rozelaar has a style that instantly reminded me of two other artists who use both use anthropomorphic characters and street fashion into their comic work, Jim Medway with his story of bored inner city kids, Playing Out and Louis Roskosch, creator of the aimless duo Leeroy and Popo. The full comic is still available to view in it’s entirety online for free, but its well worth your time and money to contact the artist to check if he has any copies of the wonderful printed version he produced for Thought Bubble.

More of Leon Rozelaar’s work can be found over on his art blog and he is currently available for commission work.


Categories: News

“Isn’t it exciting!”- Comics and Defaced Vinyl from Eryshé Falafe

Thu 29 Oct 2015 - 06:37

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Even in a room full of people wearing animal costumes, a guy lugging a box of old vinyl to his table is going to stand out, especially when he starts drawing and painting on them. This is what caught my eye the first time I saw Eryshé Falafe, also known as Joe Meyer, at Pittsburgh’s Anthrocon around 2011. I ended up getting one myself that still takes up pride of place in my office, and eventually ended up carting a not insubstantial pile of vinyl across the pond for him to deface on my pilgrimage to Pittsburgh. One of them was the bawdily British  “Sinful Rugby Songs” which was quickly snapped up by a commissioner who also saw it’s parody potential.

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Alternating between his three fursonas, cat-bunny hybrid Eryshé Falafe, red roo Divvy and rabbitdeer Galahad he has been producing comics since he was a kid, discovering furry around 2001, with a number of published works including. Slammin Buneez, the autobiographical In the Meantime and his scathing, satirical and unrelenting look at the fandom, Furry Nuuze Teevee. The strips feature Twiggy, a dumb overly enthusiastic canine TV reporter and host of his own show who diligently reports on the fandom. As a character reserved for lambasting and commenting on internal politics and drama that flair up in the fandom with alarming regularity he usually ends up reflecting the positive side of the fandom while making fun of the negative elements and people.

Running since 2006 and the flip side of the coin to FNTV, Destroying the Illusion is Meyer’s series of diary comics about his daily exploits, conventions and the absurdity of everyday life. Instead of the general drama and negativity this series is more introspective autobiographical comics about Joe’s time in the fandom and goings on in his life. Almost always overwhelmingly positive they often reiterate what anyone will say about the furry fandom and tell you makes for a great con experience: the people. Befitting the immediacy of the travel, diary comic Joe’s art on the strips, mostly in black and white have a cartoony look to them and a sketchy quality.

My favourite of his work though has to be his defaced vinyl’s. Maybe it’s the same feeling that comes from graffiti, that thrill of doing something you’re not supposed too. Don’t worry for the most part the ones he uses are some truly awful records. Inspired in part by a tumblr group featuring vinyl that had been found defaced in simple and random ways. Scribbles, scrawls and misplaced labels from the original owners, the majority of them are ‘found art’ curiosities discovered in charity shops and yard sales. Taking the idea one step further and with more care and attention Joe has altered and tinkered with  them in various ways, reinterpreting them as unique pieces of artwork. Painting over aspects of the cover, usually the figures with a commissioner’s fusona. I love how fun they are and how even within the confines of what’s already on the sleeve he can capture the personalities of the people behind the characters he paints onto them.

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The site hosting the older comics is currently down but newer Destroying the Illusion comics (fondly dubbed DTI2.0) are currently hosted on his own site.


Categories: News

Something Awesome: Catching up with comics

Wed 14 Oct 2015 - 11:29

This is something I’ve been thinking about doing for a while now. At first I was worried about revisiting certain comics or artists so soon after I’d first written about them. However I’ve always believed that it’s important to offer continued support and exposure rather than covering something once and leaving it to twist in the wind. So, here are three comics I’ve written about this year that need updated information or other small things that are interesting, but don’t necessarily warrant a full post in their own right.

“The roadside weeds became part of them”- Nonsense’s new home

If you’re looking for Francis Marshall’s comic Nonsense that I covered early this year, then it is indeed back and being updated regularly! The first arc is now complete with Marshal having gone back and redrawn the original handful of pages, with a few tweaks in the story. While it omits a character I talked about originally, it does make the story a lot more focused. Showing the effects of anxiety with an unmistakably dour British outlook, it’s definitely worth catching up on.

Be sure that you update your bookmarks as it now resides on it’s own tumblr rather that the site I originally listed. My previous pieces on Nonsense and the short comic Solstice can be found here and here.

tumblr_nscsuu9Uzj1sq0cjso1_r1_1280 tumblr_nscsvjt93b1sq0cjso1_r1_1280

“Something sensed but unseen”- Emily Rose Lambert’s extended Dreamscape

At the start of July I covered a small comic I became quite enamoured by, Emily Rose Lambert’s Dreamscape. In time for the Shake Bristol ‘zine fair last weekend Emily drew and printed an extended version, now eight pages long with a thick cardstock cover.

She was kind enough to send me a copy in the post this week along with a very touching note and a copy of her adorkable teeny-tiny mini comic, Feel Better. This cute little comic stars a melancholy elephant as he seeks the aid of others to, well, feel better. Both will soon be available, so keep an eye on Lambert’s site over the next few weeks.

feelbettercolours2side cover

“Heelface turn. Between the rowdy randles”- Wrestling with Rory Morris and J Bearhat’s new comic, Small Teeth

I have a tendency to over think the majority of my articles or go overboard and write way, way more than anyone would reasonably expect. So with the post about Rory Frances’ “Boys Are Slapstick” I wrote it over an hour one afternoon, said all I had to say about his comic and posted it before I had a chance to worry about it. The post has literally had more views than most of the other posts combined and has been viewed at least once a day since it was posted, go figure.

While I still intend to write about his longer ongoing comic, Big Teeth when he returns to it I’m still thoroughly enjoying the shorter comics he’s producing in the interim. Little Teeth is Frances’ latest comic scripted this time around by ‘zine maker J Bearhat. I’m reliably informed by Rory that the ‘teeth’ connection in the title is purely coincidental and the comics unrelated beyond featuring another cast loveable, anthropomorphic, unlucky in love slackers. Rendered in reds and blacks it’s another example of Morris’ eye-catching art style.

hazlitt_p2_page2_0


Categories: News

Something Awesome: Catching up with comics

Wed 14 Oct 2015 - 11:29

This is something I’ve been thinking about doing for a while now. At first I was worried about revisiting certain comics or artists so soon after I’d first written about them. However I’ve always believed that it’s important to offer continued support and exposure rather than covering something once and leaving it to twist in the wind. So, here are three comics I’ve written about this year that need updated information or other small things that are interesting, but don’t necessarily warrant a full post in their own right.

“The roadside weeds became part of them”- Nonsense’s new home

If you’re looking for Francis Marshall’s comic Nonsense that I covered early this year, then it is indeed back and being updated regularly! The first arc is now complete with Marshal having gone back and redrawn the original handful of pages, with a few tweaks in the story. While it omits a character I talked about originally, it does make the story a lot more focused. Showing the effects of anxiety with an unmistakably dour British outlook, it’s definitely worth catching up on.

Be sure that you update your bookmarks as it now resides on it’s own tumblr rather that the site I originally listed. My previous pieces on Nonsense and the short comic Solstice can be found here and here.

tumblr_nscsuu9Uzj1sq0cjso1_r1_1280 tumblr_nscsvjt93b1sq0cjso1_r1_1280

“Something sensed but unseen”- Emily Rose Lambert’s extended Dreamscape

At the start of July I covered a small comic I became quite enamoured by, Emily Rose Lambert’s Dreamscape. In time for the Shake Bristol ‘zine fair last weekend Emily drew and printed an extended version, now eight pages long with a thick cardstock cover.

She was kind enough to send me a copy in the post this week along with a very touching note and a copy of her adorkable teeny-tiny mini comic, Feel Better. This cute little comic stars a melancholy elephant as he seeks the aid of others to, well, feel better. Both will soon be available, so keep an eye on Lambert’s site over the next few weeks.

feelbettercolours2side cover

“Heelface turn. Between the rowdy randles”- Wrestling with Rory Morris and J Bearhat’s new comic, Small Teeth

I have a tendency to over think the majority of my articles or go overboard and write way, way more than anyone would reasonably expect. So with the post about Rory Frances’ “Boys Are Slapstick” I wrote it over an hour one afternoon, said all I had to say about his comic and posted it before I had a chance to worry about it. The post has literally had more views than most of the other posts combined and has been viewed at least once a day since it was posted, go figure.

While I still intend to write about his longer ongoing comic, Big Teeth when he returns to it I’m still thoroughly enjoying the shorter comics he’s producing in the interim. Little Teeth is Frances’ latest comic scripted this time around by ‘zine maker J Bearhat. I’m reliably informed by Rory that the ‘teeth’ connection in the title is purely coincidental and the comics unrelated beyond featuring another cast loveable, anthropomorphic, unlucky in love slackers. Rendered in reds and blacks it’s another example of Morris’ eye-catching art style.

hazlitt_p2_page2_0


Categories: News

“You let your ghosties get the best of you”- Chatting with Comics creator Mark Kalesniko

Tue 29 Sep 2015 - 17:14

alex

“You can either stay and rot, or you can escape and burn. That’s OK; he’s a songwriter, after all, and he needs simple choices like that in his songs. But nobody ever writes about how it is possible to escape and rot, how escapes can go off at half-cock, how you can leave the suburbs for the city but end up living a limp suburban life anyway. That’s what happened to me; that’s what happens to most people” High Fidelity- Nick Hornby

A few years back, after heavily getting back into comics, I was gifted with the book 500 Essential Graphic Novels and surprised by the breadth and depth of the selection set about bookmarking and ordering a few dozen titles. Amongst them was Mark Kalesniko’s Alex,  A character I instantly fell in love with and creator who’s work I quickly consumed.

Having moved back to his home town of Bandini in Canada, with his tail between his legs, after abandoning his dream of animation at ‘Mickey Walt’, Alex wakes up on a park bench, groggy from another night of alcohol fuelled self destruction. Hungover, high school yearbook in his jacket and with an expressionistic painting of the town he has no memory of.

The frustrated Alex fills his time wrestling with his past, struggling with artists’ block, hard drinking, and Gilligan’s Island whilst avoiding old school friends and facing up to the unthinkable. Having to be an artist, rather than a cartoonist. Freeway, drawn over ten years features a younger Alex in his animating career. Stuck in a seemingly never ending traffic jam he reminisces about his uncertain start in LA , whilst he imagines himself living an idyllic life, back in the golden days of animation.

Although optimistic now, I spent most of my teens and twenties as a shamefully stereotypically moody and sullen sod, even now I’m drawn to characters like Alex. Back then my favourite book was High Fidelity, which is the reason for the quote at the start of the review which pretty much sums up Alex’s story. Both books features a downtrodden lead character, stuck in their ways and unhappy with the way life turned out. Kalesinko’s work is great for wallowing in self pity and misery, in the same way that we’re drawn to sad songs, knowing full well they’ll bring us yet deeper into sadness. Tackling themes of depression, self destruction, inner peace and the death of a dream, they are both hugely moving and funny reads. Kalesinko can tease out the comedy of even the most disastrous and destructive events of Alex’s life, presented with his sparse fine line with the pacing and sense of movement that clearly comes from his own stint in animation.

While a lot of elements are shamelessly autobiographical in his books, after emailing Kalesniko over the course of a few weeks, he’s far from anything like his destructive stand in from his comics, and amongst one of the nicest people I’ve had the chance to talk to since starting this blog. The rest of this article is dedicated to the interview I had with him, I don’t usually say so, but he gave some great answers, and it’s one of my favourite interviews to date.

Jason Karlson: I found the short Alex story ‘OCD’ funny, but also touching, it’s odd that on every occasion in other media people who have it are presented as being unaware they are doing it, or at ease with it, whereas you presented Alex as getting annoyed even with himself. Does this come from personal experience, do you share any of these traits with Alex? Are there any other of your traits you’ve imbued him with?

Mark Kalesniko: Yes this does come from personal experience, I do suffer from OCD and find it very frustrating and exhausting especially when leaving the house.  I did exaggerate some of the traits for comic effect and the last  gag with the iron I have never done but wanted to.

I do draw from my own life experiences for my Alex stories but they are in no way autobiographical. First my own life is quite dull so I will incorporate events that have happened to other people just to make my story more entertaining. For example, in my book “Why Did Pete Duel Kill Himself?”, I have a bully who enters Alex’s house and beats him up right in his bedroom. That incident never happened to me but it did happen to a neighbour kid so I incorporated in to my story to show the horror of a bully out to get you. That is the beauty of fiction is to combine different ideas from different sources to make a more interesting story. Also in fiction, the story can wrap up to a conclusion that is both satisfying to both the author and the reader, while reality doesn’t always conclude so neatly.

kalesniko-ocd-08

JK: With comics like this do you find it beneficial to tackle the more serious aspects of it with humour? Do you think it’s an important part of getting information across to an audience?

MK: OCD is exhausting and anxiety inducing malady and to show it with humour I believe breaks the stigma. I am not laughing at the person who suffers from it, I laugh with them. I am trying to make the OCD smaller, less brutal, give some one who suffers from it some distance, to see that there are others who are going through it and they are not alone. When we laugh, we can begin a conversation which in turn helps both those that suffer with OCD and those who know people who suffer a better understanding.

Humour and comedy has always been a good way to broach difficult subjects be it race, religion or illness. A recent example is the comedian Tig Nataro who created a whole comedy routine over a series of tragic events that happened to her. By using humour, it eases the pain and makes things more bearable especially for people who are suffering through their own personal problems.

JK: Again in Overpass you write about a difficult subject, Suicide, and inject humour into it with Alex musing over the practicalities of the act. What was your intention with the comic? Similar to making OCD smaller in the other story?

MK: I have written about suicide before with “Uncle Bob” and “Why Did Pete Duel Kill Himself?”. Both stories dealt with the tragedy and confusion of such a desperate act. In “Overpass”, I started thinking of the act itself and how much effort and planning it would take and that Alex is so depressed that even the act is not worth the effort and in turn he actually saves his own life. It’s humour born out of the absurdity of the situation.

freewai-1

JK: How did the idea of drawing Alex as a dog come about? Is it simply to make him stand out more visually amongst other characters or is there something else behind it?

MK: The dog headed character of Alex is based on a character I created as a child. Originally, Alex had a brother and they went on adventures alone the lines of Carl Barks “Donald Duck.” As I got older, I wanted to create stories with more complex themes and decided to haul out my childhood character and put him in adult situations.I found that using a dog to represent Alex could reflect alienation and loneliness. Although Alex doesn’t actually look like a dog to his family and peers, his seeing himself as a dog reveals the way he feels about himself, that he is different. For the reader, the dog evokes a sense of distance and perspective in seeing elements of the plot, just as animals were used in fairy tales centuries ago to represent ideas or character traits.

JK: The shorts featured on your website, where do they fit into the ongoing story of Alex? Will the next book be set after the events of Alex or do you have another part of his life in mind for it?

MK: The Alex time line is confusing. Originally, “Freeway” was suppose to come before “Alex” and was the back story for why Alex moved back to Bandini but when I completed “Freeway”, I purposely ended it in the mid 90s a few years after Alex’s time period. The reason being, I had more stories to tell of Alex in L.A.  but I couldn’t figure away to tell them if he was still in Canada. Also at the same time I got a germ of an idea for another Alex/Bandini story set after the events in “Alex.” So to solve the problem, I decided to free Alex of the time line.  All the books and stories of Alex stand alone and do not need to be read in any particular order. And I wanted to explore different aspects of Alex’s character that both L.A. and Bandini bring out in him. So Alex is  unstuck in time. As for “Overpass”, “Tarantula” and “OCD” they are all set in L.A. and take place after “Freeway” as does the new Alex story I’m currently working on. If I live to 100 I hope to also draw the Alex/Bandini story.

alex41

JK: Freeway and Alex both tackle the subject of artists working within a strict system and how stifling that can be for creativity , has this been your general experience of certain industries and do you personally see this situation changing at all? 

MK: “Alex” and “Freeway” were both written when I was a young man and express the views that an artist should be free of any constraints and working for himself. At the time, I felt that working in a corporate setting was stifling, political and no way to reach your artistic expression. Now that I’m older, I have a more nuanced view. Working in a corporate setting, an artist can exchange ideas, learn new things and be part of a bigger project that can be satisfying and rewarding. So I see the value in both and its the choice of the artist to balance the two to get the most reward from it.

JK: Who were your inspirations when developing your own unique drawing style?

MK: Egon Schiele is probably my greatest inspiration for my drawing style. I love his lines, the expressionism of his paintings and drawings. The raw feelings he has for his subjects. It is very powerful. He inspired not only my graphic novels but also my personal paintings. In comic books, Guido Crepax  has had a strong influence. His line work is very sensual and I love the way he lays out his pages. Also I love Carl Barks “Donald Duck” and Hank Ketcham’s “Dennis the Menace”, both drew with a strong draftsmanship  that let me the reader go to different places and actually look around. As matter of fact it’s “Dennis the Menace in Hollywood” that was a huge inspiration for Freeway. When I was a kid I loved exploring the detail of each page and how he took me on a virtual tour of Los Angeles. It  inspired me to draw my own tour of downtown L.A. in Freeway.

JK: In Alex, he spends the book suffering from artists block, have you ever suffered from it yourself and why do you think it’s a subject that artists tend to go back to and explore in their works? 

MK: I have never had a block that stopped me from finishing a book. I have had blocks in certain sequences of my books where I had to put that section away and hope when I get back to it I’d have a solution. One of the best examples of this was  during the creation of Mail Order Bride, I had a scene where Monty and Kyung were arguing about her art school friends. I originally had a very weak argument that Monty was making and I knew it wasn’t working, so I put it aside. One evening , my wife and I were in Pasadena enjoying these Hurdy-Gurdy street performers who had as part of their act, dancing puppets of a maiden and devil. As Matter of fact, those puppets inspired the  puppets in my book. Talking to the performers later, I said how much I like your maiden and devil but one of them corrected me and said that’s not a devil that’s a fool. That statement inspired me and I was able to rewrite the scene using the devil/fool puppet as a symbol of the foolishness of Monty’s argument with Kyung.

Why do artists explore the artist’s block in there work? I believe  it’s every artist’s greatest fear. What if I can’t come up with a new idea? What if I never create again? For myself, it scares me to death.

freewayMautnercov

freewayMautner3

JK: In your research for Freeway and the buildings featured was there anything surprising that came up that made its way into the story? What was your favourite to draw and why?

MK: The route that Alex and Chloe take in present day Bunker Hill is the same route I take when my wife and I go downtown to explore. In researching and drawing the Bunker Hill of the past, I was quite surprised how well the two routes synced up. The Bunker hill of the past is completely gone, not only are the buildings demolished but even the topography of the hill was radically changed. When I did my research I was pleasantly surprised at how the present and the past would lead in and out of each other making the journey through time much more seamless. I could not have planned that.

My favourite structures to draw were Angels Flight and the Bradbury Building because they both still exist. There is nothing like drawing something right in front of you. You can see how the building is built. How it fits in to space. How big or small it is. In a photograph, which in Freeway I needed because so many of the structures of the past are gone, I sometimes had difficulty making out how a building worked. A shadow could be too strong or an angle just a little off and I would have no idea how to draw it or what details were there. I’m grateful to have those photos but it’s easier if you can draw something right in front of you.

JK: Do you have any plans for other graphic novels any time soon?

MK: Yes, I’m working on two books at the same time. One is a horror story and the other is another Alex story. They should be out in a year or two.

Mark Kalesinko’s books can be bought from amazon and most comic stores, his shorts and further information are available from his website.

Page-1-copy-A_2 Page-2-copy-A (1) Page-3-copy-A


Categories: News

“You let your ghosties get the best of you”- Chatting with Comics creator Mark Kalesniko

Tue 29 Sep 2015 - 17:14

alex

“You can either stay and rot, or you can escape and burn. That’s OK; he’s a songwriter, after all, and he needs simple choices like that in his songs. But nobody ever writes about how it is possible to escape and rot, how escapes can go off at half-cock, how you can leave the suburbs for the city but end up living a limp suburban life anyway. That’s what happened to me; that’s what happens to most people” High Fidelity- Nick Hornby

A few years back, after heavily getting back into comics, I was gifted with the book 500 Essential Graphic Novels and surprised by the breadth and depth of the selection set about bookmarking and ordering a few dozen titles. Amongst them was Mark Kalesniko’s Alex,  A character I instantly fell in love with and creator who’s work I quickly consumed.

Having moved back to his home town of Bandini in Canada, with his tail between his legs, after abandoning his dream of animation at ‘Mickey Walt’, Alex wakes up on a park bench, groggy from another night of alcohol fuelled self destruction. Hungover, high school yearbook in his jacket and with an expressionistic painting of the town he has no memory of.

The frustrated Alex fills his time wrestling with his past, struggling with artists’ block, hard drinking, and Gilligan’s Island whilst avoiding old school friends and facing up to the unthinkable. Having to be an artist, rather than a cartoonist. Freeway, drawn over ten years features a younger Alex in his animating career. Stuck in a seemingly never ending traffic jam he reminisces about his uncertain start in LA , whilst he imagines himself living an idyllic life, back in the golden days of animation.

Although optimistic now, I spent most of my teens and twenties as a shamefully stereotypically moody and sullen sod, even now I’m drawn to characters like Alex. Back then my favourite book was High Fidelity, which is the reason for the quote at the start of the review which pretty much sums up Alex’s story. Both books features a downtrodden lead character, stuck in their ways and unhappy with the way life turned out. Kalesinko’s work is great for wallowing in self pity and misery, in the same way that we’re drawn to sad songs, knowing full well they’ll bring us yet deeper into sadness. Tackling themes of depression, self destruction, inner peace and the death of a dream, they are both hugely moving and funny reads. Kalesinko can tease out the comedy of even the most disastrous and destructive events of Alex’s life, presented with his sparse fine line with the pacing and sense of movement that clearly comes from his own stint in animation.

While a lot of elements are shamelessly autobiographical in his books, after emailing Kalesniko over the course of a few weeks, he’s far from anything like his destructive stand in from his comics, and amongst one of the nicest people I’ve had the chance to talk to since starting this blog. The rest of this article is dedicated to the interview I had with him, I don’t usually say so, but he gave some great answers, and it’s one of my favourite interviews to date.

Jason Karlson: I found the short Alex story ‘OCD’ funny, but also touching, it’s odd that on every occasion in other media people who have it are presented as being unaware they are doing it, or at ease with it, whereas you presented Alex as getting annoyed even with himself. Does this come from personal experience, do you share any of these traits with Alex? Are there any other of your traits you’ve imbued him with?

Mark Kalesniko: Yes this does come from personal experience, I do suffer from OCD and find it very frustrating and exhausting especially when leaving the house.  I did exaggerate some of the traits for comic effect and the last  gag with the iron I have never done but wanted to.

I do draw from my own life experiences for my Alex stories but they are in no way autobiographical. First my own life is quite dull so I will incorporate events that have happened to other people just to make my story more entertaining. For example, in my book “Why Did Pete Duel Kill Himself?”, I have a bully who enters Alex’s house and beats him up right in his bedroom. That incident never happened to me but it did happen to a neighbour kid so I incorporated in to my story to show the horror of a bully out to get you. That is the beauty of fiction is to combine different ideas from different sources to make a more interesting story. Also in fiction, the story can wrap up to a conclusion that is both satisfying to both the author and the reader, while reality doesn’t always conclude so neatly.

kalesniko-ocd-08

JK: With comics like this do you find it beneficial to tackle the more serious aspects of it with humour? Do you think it’s an important part of getting information across to an audience?

MK: OCD is exhausting and anxiety inducing malady and to show it with humour I believe breaks the stigma. I am not laughing at the person who suffers from it, I laugh with them. I am trying to make the OCD smaller, less brutal, give some one who suffers from it some distance, to see that there are others who are going through it and they are not alone. When we laugh, we can begin a conversation which in turn helps both those that suffer with OCD and those who know people who suffer a better understanding.

Humour and comedy has always been a good way to broach difficult subjects be it race, religion or illness. A recent example is the comedian Tig Nataro who created a whole comedy routine over a series of tragic events that happened to her. By using humour, it eases the pain and makes things more bearable especially for people who are suffering through their own personal problems.

JK: Again in Overpass you write about a difficult subject, Suicide, and inject humour into it with Alex musing over the practicalities of the act. What was your intention with the comic? Similar to making OCD smaller in the other story?

MK: I have written about suicide before with “Uncle Bob” and “Why Did Pete Duel Kill Himself?”. Both stories dealt with the tragedy and confusion of such a desperate act. In “Overpass”, I started thinking of the act itself and how much effort and planning it would take and that Alex is so depressed that even the act is not worth the effort and in turn he actually saves his own life. It’s humour born out of the absurdity of the situation.

freewai-1

JK: How did the idea of drawing Alex as a dog come about? Is it simply to make him stand out more visually amongst other characters or is there something else behind it?

MK: The dog headed character of Alex is based on a character I created as a child. Originally, Alex had a brother and they went on adventures alone the lines of Carl Barks “Donald Duck.” As I got older, I wanted to create stories with more complex themes and decided to haul out my childhood character and put him in adult situations.I found that using a dog to represent Alex could reflect alienation and loneliness. Although Alex doesn’t actually look like a dog to his family and peers, his seeing himself as a dog reveals the way he feels about himself, that he is different. For the reader, the dog evokes a sense of distance and perspective in seeing elements of the plot, just as animals were used in fairy tales centuries ago to represent ideas or character traits.

JK: The shorts featured on your website, where do they fit into the ongoing story of Alex? Will the next book be set after the events of Alex or do you have another part of his life in mind for it?

MK: The Alex time line is confusing. Originally, “Freeway” was suppose to come before “Alex” and was the back story for why Alex moved back to Bandini but when I completed “Freeway”, I purposely ended it in the mid 90s a few years after Alex’s time period. The reason being, I had more stories to tell of Alex in L.A.  but I couldn’t figure away to tell them if he was still in Canada. Also at the same time I got a germ of an idea for another Alex/Bandini story set after the events in “Alex.” So to solve the problem, I decided to free Alex of the time line.  All the books and stories of Alex stand alone and do not need to be read in any particular order. And I wanted to explore different aspects of Alex’s character that both L.A. and Bandini bring out in him. So Alex is  unstuck in time. As for “Overpass”, “Tarantula” and “OCD” they are all set in L.A. and take place after “Freeway” as does the new Alex story I’m currently working on. If I live to 100 I hope to also draw the Alex/Bandini story.

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JK: Freeway and Alex both tackle the subject of artists working within a strict system and how stifling that can be for creativity , has this been your general experience of certain industries and do you personally see this situation changing at all? 

MK: “Alex” and “Freeway” were both written when I was a young man and express the views that an artist should be free of any constraints and working for himself. At the time, I felt that working in a corporate setting was stifling, political and no way to reach your artistic expression. Now that I’m older, I have a more nuanced view. Working in a corporate setting, an artist can exchange ideas, learn new things and be part of a bigger project that can be satisfying and rewarding. So I see the value in both and its the choice of the artist to balance the two to get the most reward from it.

JK: Who were your inspirations when developing your own unique drawing style?

MK: Egon Schiele is probably my greatest inspiration for my drawing style. I love his lines, the expressionism of his paintings and drawings. The raw feelings he has for his subjects. It is very powerful. He inspired not only my graphic novels but also my personal paintings. In comic books, Guido Crepax  has had a strong influence. His line work is very sensual and I love the way he lays out his pages. Also I love Carl Barks “Donald Duck” and Hank Ketcham’s “Dennis the Menace”, both drew with a strong draftsmanship  that let me the reader go to different places and actually look around. As matter of fact it’s “Dennis the Menace in Hollywood” that was a huge inspiration for Freeway. When I was a kid I loved exploring the detail of each page and how he took me on a virtual tour of Los Angeles. It  inspired me to draw my own tour of downtown L.A. in Freeway.

JK: In Alex, he spends the book suffering from artists block, have you ever suffered from it yourself and why do you think it’s a subject that artists tend to go back to and explore in their works? 

MK: I have never had a block that stopped me from finishing a book. I have had blocks in certain sequences of my books where I had to put that section away and hope when I get back to it I’d have a solution. One of the best examples of this was  during the creation of Mail Order Bride, I had a scene where Monty and Kyung were arguing about her art school friends. I originally had a very weak argument that Monty was making and I knew it wasn’t working, so I put it aside. One evening , my wife and I were in Pasadena enjoying these Hurdy-Gurdy street performers who had as part of their act, dancing puppets of a maiden and devil. As Matter of fact, those puppets inspired the  puppets in my book. Talking to the performers later, I said how much I like your maiden and devil but one of them corrected me and said that’s not a devil that’s a fool. That statement inspired me and I was able to rewrite the scene using the devil/fool puppet as a symbol of the foolishness of Monty’s argument with Kyung.

Why do artists explore the artist’s block in there work? I believe  it’s every artist’s greatest fear. What if I can’t come up with a new idea? What if I never create again? For myself, it scares me to death.

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JK: In your research for Freeway and the buildings featured was there anything surprising that came up that made its way into the story? What was your favourite to draw and why?

MK: The route that Alex and Chloe take in present day Bunker Hill is the same route I take when my wife and I go downtown to explore. In researching and drawing the Bunker Hill of the past, I was quite surprised how well the two routes synced up. The Bunker hill of the past is completely gone, not only are the buildings demolished but even the topography of the hill was radically changed. When I did my research I was pleasantly surprised at how the present and the past would lead in and out of each other making the journey through time much more seamless. I could not have planned that.

My favourite structures to draw were Angels Flight and the Bradbury Building because they both still exist. There is nothing like drawing something right in front of you. You can see how the building is built. How it fits in to space. How big or small it is. In a photograph, which in Freeway I needed because so many of the structures of the past are gone, I sometimes had difficulty making out how a building worked. A shadow could be too strong or an angle just a little off and I would have no idea how to draw it or what details were there. I’m grateful to have those photos but it’s easier if you can draw something right in front of you.

JK: Do you have any plans for other graphic novels any time soon?

MK: Yes, I’m working on two books at the same time. One is a horror story and the other is another Alex story. They should be out in a year or two.

Mark Kalesinko’s books can be bought from amazon and most comic stores, his shorts and further information are available from his website.

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Categories: News

Webcomic Spotlight:  Skin Deep and the hidden world of Kory Bing’s beloved monsters

Fri 25 Sep 2015 - 17:15

“All over folklore and mythology you find dragons, sea serpents and ghosts. Nessie, Mermaids, bigfoot, The chupacabra. Did you think people just made those up for fun?”

Shy college freshman Michelle Jocasta is away from home and out on her own for the first time. Quickly becoming fast friends with some unusual residents of her dorm, the unfeasibly tall and green haired Jim, the perpetually sullen Greg and bubbly roommate Merial. Settling into a routine of study, deadlines and essays it’s an encounter with a mysterious hooded figure that changes her life in more dramatic ways as she is thrust into a world she never knew existed, one which is hidden between the cracks of our world, or more often in plain sight. One filled with magic and danger, hidden cities, punk rock pegasuses and rockabilly wolves. With medallions and ‘super advanced magic’ the magical citizens of Skin Deep stay hidden amongst humans. Even within this strange world Michelle is still unique, discovering her ‘turning’ has revealed her to be the last of the sphinxes, a race that along with dragons were once believed to be extinct.

sdo4pg4 sdo4pg1

Visually wonderful and filled with fascinating characters and backdrops, Bing’s sense of wonder and love of mythology is clear in every panel as she populates her world with creatures and drawn from every corner of fantasy, and a wide rang of mythologies, revelling in the unique and the obscure. It shows an astounding amount of research and appreciation of the subject as Skin Deep has so far featured a whole bestiaries  worth of mythical beasts ranging from well known ones; your dragons, satyrs and centaurs to the more esoteric such as totem animals of the Native American and African myths or harpies from classical greek legends. Some such as the creepy yet lovable bugbear Alex, whom I was convinced had to be an original creation turns out to be a form of Hobgoblin from English myths, only slightly tweaked  and expanded upon here. The rules of of her setting, with the medallions the characters wear allow characters to use midforms, a form anywhere between their real and illusionary forms which  gives some truly imaginative and unique designs with a combination of features. Many often appear in human-ish forms like Jym, gangly green haired with a gryphons beak and paws.

sde1pg6

One of the many joys of independent webcomics is witnessing an artist’s skills develop over time. Bing has been nothing more than exceptional over the comics nine year run. While the design of Skin Deep has always been strong as a new artist it’s first arc started out with charming but rough inks. The art style quickly became more refined and polished as she hit her third arc and found her own unique style with more defined lines and gorgeous intricate backgrounds. I liked Skin Deep from the very first page, but it was Exchanges where I  fell in love with it. Set over a matter of a few days and over two years for Bing to complete, Exchanges is a stunning achievement in terms of both art and storytelling. Breathtaking in it’s scope and vibrancy of the characters. As well as the more confident art, with her fluid cartoony style Bing really hits her stride in terms of storytelling and narrative,  finding her own voice which giving each of her characters a distinct one of their own with the funny and witty dialogue.

sde3pg1

Set in Liverpool, an anxious Blanche ‘comes out’ to his long friend Tony, revealing that he is in fact, not gay, but a white stag and after the initial shock introduces him to his home, the Liverpool Avalaon. Concealed within a crumbling Liverpool warehouse, a whole city and it’s inhabitants live away from the human world. Through the first part of the arc, like Tony, the reader is treated to a tour of the Avalon as the perspective drifts between groups of characters following them for a while until it lights upon something more interesting and picks up with that thread, weaving together many ongoing narratives happening in the same places and giving the places a sense of complexity and liveliness.  The device of moving around the Avalon with characters crossing paths feels almost filmic and feels like a natural and flowing way to introduce the reader to such a huge number of characters in a matter of pages.

The arc ultimately culminates in heartbreak, with recently stirred up feelings of rejection as jym prepares to leave for America leaving his long time friend and ex-boyfriend Lorne behind in the Avalon. Lornes internal conflict is played out against the spectacular backdrop of a showy ‘fight scene’ between two of the Avalon’s colourful residents. Forbidden from fighting , they engage in a rythmic, no contact ballet. As a heartbroken Lorne looks across the combatants to a unfazed Jim before walking away. One page shows the fighters in a simplified, almost chibi form before the action explodes back in a flurry of detail and colour. The sense of pacing and pathos is masterful.

sde3pg18

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With two main casts and such a complicated lore heavy story Skin Deep could easily become claustrophobic and unwieldy but in her expert hands she uses this all as an advantage giving the world a wonderful fleshed out, lived in feel. The two main casts are only just meeting now as certain storylines begin to converge. It’s all the more satisfying for the time spent with these characters. After all the meticulous development, they feel like old friends and the groups finally meeting is a delight. The relationships between the characters are wonderful as Bing crafts a narrative in parts about friendship, family and acceptance. About being comfortable with yourself and finding your place in the world. With a gigantic cast Skin Deep explores this from several different angles with the recently turned and reluctant Michelle wanting at first to return to normality, those who grew up within the Avalons and even those like Sam who appear ‘normal’ but crave the weird and wonderful life of those around him.

Skin Deep also has some deep and meticulous world building behind it, with a few hundred extra pages of material and lore, with it’s own wiki including a bestiary with details of the myriad of creatures included. Every detail has been thought out yet seems spontaneous and fresh. A particularly memorable example is the Liverpool Avalon’s resident medical practitioner, a peculiar mix of vet and doctor. Glimpsed only in extra material Bing has produced for her eager and inquisitive fans. Even with only two drawings his character is well defined, scared and world weary you instantly get a sense of the responsibility he carries, caring for the Avalon’s magical residents, very few of them alike. The humorous aside of him debating the merits of live gryphon birth vs egg birth, decked out in thick protective gloves all the while, gives us a glimpse into his character and the daily obstacles he faces. Having never appeared in the comics, it’s just another example of the level of detail and depth Bing strives for and lavishes upon her already layered and fascinating world. It’s a comic that rewards it readers and encourages engagement with the creator. With so much backstory and lore to delve into Skin Deep isn’t a quick read but is never less than engrossing, presenting a rich world you’ll find yourself wishing you could escape too.

Between Skin Deep, cosplay construction, contributions to anthologies and the inking of the excellent Eth’s Skin, Kory found time via email to talk about creatures, world building and her comic.

Jason Karlson: So, Why did you start writing/drawing Skin Deep?

Kory Bing: I had been working with the Skin Deep world and characters for years before I actually started drawing and posting it. It was something I started playing with during High School and by the time I finally started drawing it, it had become something I couldn’t NOT draw. Does that make sense?

JK:  The architecture in your comics seems very solid, real and drawn with beautiful intricacy, Are the buildings and locations based on real life locations, imagination or combination of both?

Gosh, thank you! A lot of the buildings are based on real places. The Springfield Avalon is inside a theater-turned-radio station in Springfield, Missouri, and the Liverpool Avalon is inside a real abandoned warehouse in Liverpool. I don’t like stating its name directly, I think it is fun if people have to sleuth that out themselves. Michelle’s mother’s house is a house from my hometown that I’ve always liked, and the inside of that house is the inside of my Grandmother’s house.  World building is something I really love, and the comic came directly out of years of building this world and wanting to share it.

Most of the places are either based on real locations or take details from real buildings. Most of the Liverpool Avalon’s buildings have elements from real buildings, mostly because I find it is easier to make convincing looking buildings if I use reference. There’s a lot of fun little details that are easy to overlook if you’re drawing by memory! I get to draw all my favorite parts of places. I love architecture, but I’ve never considered myself very good at drawing buildings, so Skin Deep is kind of my chance to get better at that. Since moving to Portland, Oregon, I’ve thought up of places that could be good Avalons, but whether they’ll show up in the comic or not I haven’t quite decided yet!

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JK: A lot of the American casts locations seem to be rural (cabin etc) while the “English” Cast is in a more urban environment? is there any significance to this or simply to set the two apart?

I intentionally set Michelle’s part of the story in rural Missouri because that is where I grew up and I could never find stories set in such a place. I thought it would be a lot of fun to show off my neck of the woods. The purpose of the Liverpool cast was to give a different perspective from Michelle’s, so instead of a rural environment full of people who don’t know what they’re doing, it’s an urban environment full of people who live in the mythical community to the point where they find it blasé.

JK: While I love the first arc, the second, “Exchanges” is simply stunning in terms of artwork. There is a huge change in the artwork between the first two arcs, Does this just come from the plain fact of drawing so much to update the comic once a week?

KB: Completely. Nothing forces you to improve quite like needing to have a comic page done every week. Most of Orientations was done on twice-a-week updates and I was experimenting a lot to figure out how to make comics, which I’m sure is the reason for the dramatic art shift. It wasn’t intentional!

JK: A great deal of characters and creatures were also created by Sfe, how did this collaboration come about and how important is it to the comic?

KB: It’s incredibly important. I doubt Skin Deep would even be a thing if it weren’t for Sfé’s help and contributions. Back when I was still toying with the idea, he would ask me a lot of world building questions that would help me think about different aspects of the world I hadn’t thought of before, and talking about how various characters would react and interact really helped me flesh out the world. Over the years he created characters to live in the world and I loved them enough that they became pretty interconnected with the story I was creating.

JK: Are there any other creatures from mythology that you would love to use in Skin Deep, but don’t think you would be able too? If so, how come?

KB: Jeeze. Basically any creature that hasn’t already been in the comic. There are SO many good creatures out there to pull inspiration from, I can’t even start naming them

sde1pg5 sdnpg2

JK: Reading the comic a few elements reminded me of parts of X-men comics, with characters representing gay/trans issues and narratives (having multiple forms etc) is this an aim or am I inferring to much into it?

KB: The main “moral” of Skin Deep, I suppose, is that the idea of what is ‘normal’ is completely subjective, and to embrace that and try to understand that rather than being afraid of it. The allegory to those issues are intentional, although it’s also important for stories to actually include those issues and narratives without turning to allegory. I don’t want to imply that minorities are “mythical creatures” while the majority is “normal humans” and that sort of storytelling can be very problematic. In that regard, Skin Deep hasn’t done a great job of being diverse, and it’s something that I would like to improve on.

JK: Jim for instance is presented as being bi-sexual, do you think the magical characters having many and often fluctuating forms themselves would make them more open minded towards sexuality?

KB: The mythical community in Skin Deep likes to believe that being close-minded about sexuality is a strictly human problem and they have much more to worry about, but there are issues sometimes, especially with individuals who were raised outside of the mythical community.

JK: Which musicians do you yourself suspect of being a bugbear? What’s your evidence!

KB: Tom Waits. The Residents. Thom Yorke. Man Man. Primus. My evidence is “I want them to be and it’s my world so I can make it so!”

JK: There doesn’t seem to be any black and white easy answers in Skin Deep, and it’s fully fleshed out. For instance Michelle and Sam, one character wanting to “go back to normal” and run away from this world and the other desperate to join it…Did you set out to show the wildly differing  views and reactions to this secret world rather than just one side?

KB: I don’t want there to be any easy black and white answers in Skin Deep because there aren’t any easy black and white answers in the real world. Perspective is an important element of Skin Deep, and I want to show that individuals are varied, and personal experience differs wildly from one person to another. What one person wants won’t be what another person wants, and to be able to empathize with people who want different things than you want is an important part of living in the world.

Kory Bing updates Skin Deep at http://www.skindeepcomic.com/, while her personal blog featuring Skin Deep sketches and inspiration can be found at http://skindeepcomic.tumblr.com/.


Categories: News

Webcomic Spotlight:  Skin Deep and the hidden world of Kory Bing’s beloved monsters

Fri 25 Sep 2015 - 17:15

“All over folklore and mythology you find dragons, sea serpents and ghosts. Nessie, Mermaids, bigfoot, The chupacabra. Did you think people just made those up for fun?”

Shy college freshman Michelle Jocasta is away from home and out on her own for the first time. Quickly becoming fast friends with some unusual residents of her dorm, the unfeasibly tall and green haired Jim, the perpetually sullen Greg and bubbly roommate Merial. Settling into a routine of study, deadlines and essays it’s an encounter with a mysterious hooded figure that changes her life in more dramatic ways as she is thrust into a world she never knew existed, one which is hidden between the cracks of our world, or more often in plain sight. One filled with magic and danger, hidden cities, punk rock pegasuses and rockabilly wolves. With medallions and ‘super advanced magic’ the magical citizens of Skin Deep stay hidden amongst humans. Even within this strange world Michelle is still unique, discovering her ‘turning’ has revealed her to be the last of the sphinxes, a race that along with dragons were once believed to be extinct.

sdo4pg4 sdo4pg1

Visually wonderful and filled with fascinating characters and backdrops, Bing’s sense of wonder and love of mythology is clear in every panel as she populates her world with creatures and drawn from every corner of fantasy, and a wide rang of mythologies, revelling in the unique and the obscure. It shows an astounding amount of research and appreciation of the subject as Skin Deep has so far featured a whole bestiaries  worth of mythical beasts ranging from well known ones; your dragons, satyrs and centaurs to the more esoteric such as totem animals of the Native American and African myths or harpies from classical greek legends. Some such as the creepy yet lovable bugbear Alex, whom I was convinced had to be an original creation turns out to be a form of Hobgoblin from English myths, only slightly tweaked  and expanded upon here. The rules of of her setting, with the medallions the characters wear allow characters to use midforms, a form anywhere between their real and illusionary forms which  gives some truly imaginative and unique designs with a combination of features. Many often appear in human-ish forms like Jym, gangly green haired with a gryphons beak and paws.

sde1pg6

One of the many joys of independent webcomics is witnessing an artist’s skills develop over time. Bing has been nothing more than exceptional over the comics nine year run. While the design of Skin Deep has always been strong as a new artist it’s first arc started out with charming but rough inks. The art style quickly became more refined and polished as she hit her third arc and found her own unique style with more defined lines and gorgeous intricate backgrounds. I liked Skin Deep from the very first page, but it was Exchanges where I  fell in love with it. Set over a matter of a few days and over two years for Bing to complete, Exchanges is a stunning achievement in terms of both art and storytelling. Breathtaking in it’s scope and vibrancy of the characters. As well as the more confident art, with her fluid cartoony style Bing really hits her stride in terms of storytelling and narrative,  finding her own voice which giving each of her characters a distinct one of their own with the funny and witty dialogue.

sde3pg1

Set in Liverpool, an anxious Blanche ‘comes out’ to his long friend Tony, revealing that he is in fact, not gay, but a white stag and after the initial shock introduces him to his home, the Liverpool Avalaon. Concealed within a crumbling Liverpool warehouse, a whole city and it’s inhabitants live away from the human world. Through the first part of the arc, like Tony, the reader is treated to a tour of the Avalon as the perspective drifts between groups of characters following them for a while until it lights upon something more interesting and picks up with that thread, weaving together many ongoing narratives happening in the same places and giving the places a sense of complexity and liveliness.  The device of moving around the Avalon with characters crossing paths feels almost filmic and feels like a natural and flowing way to introduce the reader to such a huge number of characters in a matter of pages.

The arc ultimately culminates in heartbreak, with recently stirred up feelings of rejection as jym prepares to leave for America leaving his long time friend and ex-boyfriend Lorne behind in the Avalon. Lornes internal conflict is played out against the spectacular backdrop of a showy ‘fight scene’ between two of the Avalon’s colourful residents. Forbidden from fighting , they engage in a rythmic, no contact ballet. As a heartbroken Lorne looks across the combatants to a unfazed Jim before walking away. One page shows the fighters in a simplified, almost chibi form before the action explodes back in a flurry of detail and colour. The sense of pacing and pathos is masterful.

sde3pg18

sde3pg19

sde3pg20

With two main casts and such a complicated lore heavy story Skin Deep could easily become claustrophobic and unwieldy but in her expert hands she uses this all as an advantage giving the world a wonderful fleshed out, lived in feel. The two main casts are only just meeting now as certain storylines begin to converge. It’s all the more satisfying for the time spent with these characters. After all the meticulous development, they feel like old friends and the groups finally meeting is a delight. The relationships between the characters are wonderful as Bing crafts a narrative in parts about friendship, family and acceptance. About being comfortable with yourself and finding your place in the world. With a gigantic cast Skin Deep explores this from several different angles with the recently turned and reluctant Michelle wanting at first to return to normality, those who grew up within the Avalons and even those like Sam who appear ‘normal’ but crave the weird and wonderful life of those around him.

Skin Deep also has some deep and meticulous world building behind it, with a few hundred extra pages of material and lore, with it’s own wiki including a bestiary with details of the myriad of creatures included. Every detail has been thought out yet seems spontaneous and fresh. A particularly memorable example is the Liverpool Avalon’s resident medical practitioner, a peculiar mix of vet and doctor. Glimpsed only in extra material Bing has produced for her eager and inquisitive fans. Even with only two drawings his character is well defined, scared and world weary you instantly get a sense of the responsibility he carries, caring for the Avalon’s magical residents, very few of them alike. The humorous aside of him debating the merits of live gryphon birth vs egg birth, decked out in thick protective gloves all the while, gives us a glimpse into his character and the daily obstacles he faces. Having never appeared in the comics, it’s just another example of the level of detail and depth Bing strives for and lavishes upon her already layered and fascinating world. It’s a comic that rewards it readers and encourages engagement with the creator. With so much backstory and lore to delve into Skin Deep isn’t a quick read but is never less than engrossing, presenting a rich world you’ll find yourself wishing you could escape too.

Between Skin Deep, cosplay construction, contributions to anthologies and the inking of the excellent Eth’s Skin, Kory found time via email to talk about creatures, world building and her comic.

Jason Karlson: So, Why did you start writing/drawing Skin Deep?

Kory Bing: I had been working with the Skin Deep world and characters for years before I actually started drawing and posting it. It was something I started playing with during High School and by the time I finally started drawing it, it had become something I couldn’t NOT draw. Does that make sense?

JK:  The architecture in your comics seems very solid, real and drawn with beautiful intricacy, Are the buildings and locations based on real life locations, imagination or combination of both?

Gosh, thank you! A lot of the buildings are based on real places. The Springfield Avalon is inside a theater-turned-radio station in Springfield, Missouri, and the Liverpool Avalon is inside a real abandoned warehouse in Liverpool. I don’t like stating its name directly, I think it is fun if people have to sleuth that out themselves. Michelle’s mother’s house is a house from my hometown that I’ve always liked, and the inside of that house is the inside of my Grandmother’s house.  World building is something I really love, and the comic came directly out of years of building this world and wanting to share it.

Most of the places are either based on real locations or take details from real buildings. Most of the Liverpool Avalon’s buildings have elements from real buildings, mostly because I find it is easier to make convincing looking buildings if I use reference. There’s a lot of fun little details that are easy to overlook if you’re drawing by memory! I get to draw all my favorite parts of places. I love architecture, but I’ve never considered myself very good at drawing buildings, so Skin Deep is kind of my chance to get better at that. Since moving to Portland, Oregon, I’ve thought up of places that could be good Avalons, but whether they’ll show up in the comic or not I haven’t quite decided yet!

sdbtpg1 ktwk1a

JK: A lot of the American casts locations seem to be rural (cabin etc) while the “English” Cast is in a more urban environment? is there any significance to this or simply to set the two apart?

I intentionally set Michelle’s part of the story in rural Missouri because that is where I grew up and I could never find stories set in such a place. I thought it would be a lot of fun to show off my neck of the woods. The purpose of the Liverpool cast was to give a different perspective from Michelle’s, so instead of a rural environment full of people who don’t know what they’re doing, it’s an urban environment full of people who live in the mythical community to the point where they find it blasé.

JK: While I love the first arc, the second, “Exchanges” is simply stunning in terms of artwork. There is a huge change in the artwork between the first two arcs, Does this just come from the plain fact of drawing so much to update the comic once a week?

KB: Completely. Nothing forces you to improve quite like needing to have a comic page done every week. Most of Orientations was done on twice-a-week updates and I was experimenting a lot to figure out how to make comics, which I’m sure is the reason for the dramatic art shift. It wasn’t intentional!

JK: A great deal of characters and creatures were also created by Sfe, how did this collaboration come about and how important is it to the comic?

KB: It’s incredibly important. I doubt Skin Deep would even be a thing if it weren’t for Sfé’s help and contributions. Back when I was still toying with the idea, he would ask me a lot of world building questions that would help me think about different aspects of the world I hadn’t thought of before, and talking about how various characters would react and interact really helped me flesh out the world. Over the years he created characters to live in the world and I loved them enough that they became pretty interconnected with the story I was creating.

JK: Are there any other creatures from mythology that you would love to use in Skin Deep, but don’t think you would be able too? If so, how come?

KB: Jeeze. Basically any creature that hasn’t already been in the comic. There are SO many good creatures out there to pull inspiration from, I can’t even start naming them

sde1pg5 sdnpg2

JK: Reading the comic a few elements reminded me of parts of X-men comics, with characters representing gay/trans issues and narratives (having multiple forms etc) is this an aim or am I inferring to much into it?

KB: The main “moral” of Skin Deep, I suppose, is that the idea of what is ‘normal’ is completely subjective, and to embrace that and try to understand that rather than being afraid of it. The allegory to those issues are intentional, although it’s also important for stories to actually include those issues and narratives without turning to allegory. I don’t want to imply that minorities are “mythical creatures” while the majority is “normal humans” and that sort of storytelling can be very problematic. In that regard, Skin Deep hasn’t done a great job of being diverse, and it’s something that I would like to improve on.

JK: Jim for instance is presented as being bi-sexual, do you think the magical characters having many and often fluctuating forms themselves would make them more open minded towards sexuality?

KB: The mythical community in Skin Deep likes to believe that being close-minded about sexuality is a strictly human problem and they have much more to worry about, but there are issues sometimes, especially with individuals who were raised outside of the mythical community.

JK: Which musicians do you yourself suspect of being a bugbear? What’s your evidence!

KB: Tom Waits. The Residents. Thom Yorke. Man Man. Primus. My evidence is “I want them to be and it’s my world so I can make it so!”

JK: There doesn’t seem to be any black and white easy answers in Skin Deep, and it’s fully fleshed out. For instance Michelle and Sam, one character wanting to “go back to normal” and run away from this world and the other desperate to join it…Did you set out to show the wildly differing  views and reactions to this secret world rather than just one side?

KB: I don’t want there to be any easy black and white answers in Skin Deep because there aren’t any easy black and white answers in the real world. Perspective is an important element of Skin Deep, and I want to show that individuals are varied, and personal experience differs wildly from one person to another. What one person wants won’t be what another person wants, and to be able to empathize with people who want different things than you want is an important part of living in the world.

Kory Bing updates Skin Deep at http://www.skindeepcomic.com/, while her personal blog featuring Skin Deep sketches and inspiration can be found at http://skindeepcomic.tumblr.com/.


Categories: News

Interview: Ryan Browne Blast Furnace: Recreational Thief kickstarter

Tue 1 Sep 2015 - 14:00

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Ryan Browne comes up with more idea in an hour than most of us will in a lifetime. Don’t believe me? Blast Furnace: Recreational Thief is the unfiltered and unedited product of an offkilter creator working at full tilt. One page an hour, five days a week with zero planning and definitely no script has lead to the unhinged “stream o’ consciousness lunacy” and contender for number one book you can never read in public that Browne is now kickstarting after reaching blasting past it’s initial goal of $15,000 in under three days.

More familiar to most as the mind behind the wildly inventive insanity of God Hates Astronauts, which is just wrapping up a successful ten issue run over at Image, his improvisational dogme cinema style webcomic project MANAGES to somehow be more creative and frenzied. Loosely centred around the wild capers of handlebar mustachioed Ernest Furnace, a recreational thief who as the title implies will steal anything for the fun of it. Often derailed by bonkers flashbacks and tangents and filled with “hideously deformed men who look just like a horse, lil’ Draculas, and electricity shooting handlebar mustaches”. Brownes cast of colourful cast of creatures and animal people return ensuring an visually arresting read.

Along with the first volume of God Hates Astronauts, Browne has also previously kickstarted Blast Furnace three years ago in a black and white edition. This time around the comic has been updated with six more issues of frenetic madcap action and has been glorious coloured for all of the expanded 208 pages. Appropriate for a comic about a thief, the rewards here as equally enticing with. Ranging from $10 for the PDF, $25 for the physical book up the higher tiers which include multiple copies of the book, t-shirts, action figures and signed pictures of Browne’s already comic book famous cat.

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Jason Karlson: Crab Headed people! In both comics! What is it with crabs? Should we be worried?

Ryan Browne: Maybe? I think I’m a little worried myself! Crabs are just so fun to draw, but on Blast Furnace, I kind of regret incorporating them. Since I only have one hour to write and draw each page, it makes really hard to draw crabs without going over on time. Way too many legs!

JK: What’s prompted you to carry on Furnace and kickstart a second expanded colour edition?

RB: Everything with God Hates Astronauts was extremely labour intensive. With Blast Furnace, the finish level in the drawings takes a back seat to the immediate storytelling. It’s considerably more relaxing to just make stuff up and not have to worry about how cool it looks. After ten issues of writing, drawing, and designing GHA on a monthly schedule, I returned to Blast Furnace because it is mainly focused on the joy of making comics and telling stories.

JK:As an artists who has ran a fair few successful kickstarters now, does it get any easier or less worrying with each one? Surely being funded in three days must be a confidence booster?

RB: It’s extremely scary. You never know if something is going to hit with your fans and what your expectations should be. With Kickstarters, there is soooo much that can go wrong in the process that it will never be a relaxing experience–but so far it’s be extremely rewarding and flattering. I love being able to connect directly through my fans and that’s something you just don’t get through a big publisher.

JK:Was there a point in the creation of Furnace that your self imposed strict rules started to grate on you at all? Are there any parts of Furnace you enjoyed drawing the most?

RB: No, the rules make it liberating and stress free. The one thing that bogs me down is the length of it. 262 story pages is intimidating as hell! I really like drawing Blast Furnace as a character. Flaming ties can be really dynamic and fun!

JK:God Hates Astronauts already feels pretty unfiltered, how does coming up with ideas,  the writing and drawing process differ between the two?

RB: Well GHA has a lot of going back and forth and refining the story. Really working hard to make things line up and click into a fun narrative. With BF, the whole attitude is “let’s try this and I’ll figure out how it ties in later.” At first that was scary, but now I have enough faith that I’ll figure it out somehow.

Blast Furnace: Recreational Thief is still available to fund for another month at kickstarter and can be read for free on tumblr.

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Categories: News