Warmoth on Webcomics: Jonathan Rosenberg

[Editor’s Note: This is the fifth in a series of some of my favorite webcomics creator interviews that previously ran on WizardUniverse.com and were a part of the site’s archives that are no longer hosted there. Jon Rosenberg’s Goats is one of those webcomics that could really have only been born in webcomics. He’s also one of my favorite individual creators in the webcomic world. Hearing that the strip is getting released in 2009 in a series of print volumes from Del Rey made me really happy. This interview was originally posted on September 25, 2006.]

Jonathan Rosenberg’s webcomic Goats has been raking in the hits since he first launched it 1997. Nine years later, the creator is making a living off of his surreal fantasy strips that shift settings and characters as often as he pleases and long ago dumped his daily journal format for outer space, demonic chickens and extra-dimensional exploits.

BRIAN WARMOTH: Goats started off as an autobiographical strip and morphed into something else all together. What changed along the way, and why did you change creative gears so drastically?

JONATHAN ROSENBERG: One of the things I hate about newspaper comics today is how static they are, how unmoving the styles and characters and plots can be. An audience can tell when an artist is uninterested in their work, when they’re phoning it in. So you’ve got to keep the work interesting, keep creating fresh challenges for yourself. If you’re not learning and growing then it becomes this repetitive, pointless exercise. After ten years I’ve found a way to integrate change into the nature of the strip, so that it becomes a part of how the strip functions. These characters have a literally unlimited universe to play in and/or kill each other. Anything can happen. It’s always new for me, so I’m having fun with it, and I hope that makes it more fun for a reader as well.

This isn’t the sort of thing that would fly in a traditional newspaper environment, but as an independent artist I don’t need to appeal to the same aunts-and-uncles demographic that a newspaper does. Aunts and uncles always want to see the same thing on their comics pages. They feel safe from Soviet attacks when they see good ol’ Dagwood eating one of his large sandwiches. They love consistency above all.

My life is far too boring for me to take the sort of interest in it that a daily comic strip would require. It would mostly be a strip about me running out of breakfast cereal. I prefer fictional autobiographies to the real ones.

Read moreWarmoth on Webcomics: Jonathan Rosenberg

Warmoth on Webcomics: Nicholas Gurewitch

[Editor’s Note: This is the fourth in a series of some of my favorite webcomics creator interviews that previously ran on WizardUniverse.com and were a part of the site’s archives that are no longer hosted there. What Gary Larson Far Side was to me in fifth grade, Nicholas Gurewitch’s Perry Bible Fellowship is to me now. It’s definitely one of those webcomics that’s jumped the planet into the larger awareness of comics. More and more are doing it every day. This was originally posted on January 3, 2007.]

Nicholas Gurewitch squirms a bit when you try to pigeonhole The Perry Bible Fellowship as a webcomic. The comic creator got his start at Syracuse University with the campus newspaper The Daily Orange. Gurewitch has long since taken his comics to the Web and expanded across the globe on the Internet and in print, landing spots in Maxim and The Guardian. We pulled Gurewitch away from his craft for a few minutes to talk about his vast arsenal of art styles and the year ahead, which he says will include his first full book of PBF comics.

BRIAN WARMOTH: You’re slated to introduce a screening of Jim Henson’s “The Dark Crystal” at a local theater next week. Is it one of your favorite films?

GUREWITCH: I don’t know if it’s one of my favorites, but I’m really attracted to the techniques involved, and they were looking for someone to introduce the flick, and I said I’d love to.

Is filmmaking something you’d be interested in pursuing?

GUREWITCH: I’m always writing scripts. I’m trying to crank out a feature [length] right now.

I’m trying to expand some things into a longer form, and I guess one way of doing that is by writing a movie. I’ve always been interested in film, though. It’s what I went to school for.

What areas did you focus on? Writing, production or directing…?

GUREWITCH: All of it. Production.

Neat. I guess that begs the question of what else you’re into. Are you spinning anything else on the side right now?

GUREWITCH: Not a ton. I’ve always been drawing pictures, and I dabbled in superhero comics in my youth. I actually had a piece in Wizard [issue #88] at one point. It was one of the envelope art things. I really liked it. It had Scud the Disposable Assassin on it.

Read moreWarmoth on Webcomics: Nicholas Gurewitch

Warmoth on Webcomics: Randall Munroe

[Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of some of my favorite webcomics creator interviews that previously ran on WizardUniverse.com and were a part of the site’s archives that are no longer hosted there. This was one of those chats that was almost intimidating to gear up for, being that xkcd’s Randall Munroe may be one of the smartest webcomickers out there. It was originally posted on July 27, 2007.]

It’s really easy to make a bad comic out of stick figures. I’ve been churning them out and handily irking authority figures with such images since preschool. Randall Munroe, by contrast, has elevated stick-figure diagrams to high and hilarious art. If there’s a genre in which to pigeonhole xkcd, the comic belongs atop the heap of nerdy jokes doodled every day during boring physics lectures around the world which, unsurprisingly enough, is how xkcd got its start.

It’s hard to imagine a cooler job than testing out cutting-edge robots for NASA, which Munroe freely admits, but imagining another job is exactly what he did, and now he has a fulltime gig as a webcomicker. Munroe took a break from work for a quick “Cursory Conversation” about which is cooler: making robots or making comics; as well as to talk about how xkcd got to where it is now and, thankfully for xkcd readers everywhere, how one is supposed to pronounce its title.

BRIAN WARMOTH: When you say your webcomic’s name in conversation how do you refer to it?

RANDALL MUNROE: I say “X-K-C-D” and I’ve noticed sometimes when I try to say it fast I often skip over the “C” and so it’s like “X-K-D” or something like that.

I read the description of the comic’s name on your site and you said it’s not supposed to be an acronym for anything. So how did you put those letters together?

MUNROE: I was sitting up very late one night. I was trying to pick a screen name on AOL or one of their related services and I was trying to come up with a text to represent me unambiguously. So I thought, “Okay, I want a short group of letters and nothing with meaning or nothing with any obvious interpretations,“ and so I just started picking letters that I kind of liked that couldn’t be confused with other letters and that looked good together without any pronunciation. I wanted the “L” in there, but “L” can be confused with “I,” like a lowercase “L” and a capital “I.” So I went through a number of them that were already registered screen names until I finally hit “xkcd.” The whole plan was to do it unambiguously representing me, and then I ruined that by making it into a comic, so now it’s not clear whether “xkcd” means me or my comic or what.

Read moreWarmoth on Webcomics: Randall Munroe