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.

Oh cool. What other comic books were you reading at the time?

GUREWITCH: I barely read them. There’s only a few that I really read. Most of them, I just really admired the artwork. The ones that I’ve read and loved have been Sam Kieth’s The Maxx, Scud the Disposable Assassin and Frank Miller’s stuff.

Where along the line did you get interested in doing strip comics, then?

GUREWITCH: It came about as the result of a culmination of a lot of interests. Comic strips are the culmination of words and images, at least as far as the newspaper is concerned. And while at school with a really low budget, you don’t always have the money you need to make a brilliant motion picture about dinosaurs or aliens. It made perfect sense to do a comic strip, especially since the paper was so dang popular.

Did publishing it on the Web change anything about your creative process?

GUREWITCH: I was a little more aware about color decisions, but there wasn’t that much of a change. I had been doing it in the paper for so long prior to the Web.

Perry Bible Fellowship changes art styles from strip to strip, and sometimes panel to panel. When you sit down to do a new comic, what comes first, the joke or the comic? Do you sit down, and be like, “Hey, I want to do watercolors today”? Or do you decide that after you script it out?

GUREWITCH: It definitely fluctuates. Sometimes I know that I’ll want to do something in a certain style before I think of the joke, but most of the time I think of the joke and then incorporate a special style to make it unique and add to the humor.

Did you actually do a wood carving for that comic with the Grim Reaper trying to kill the baby, “Les Douleurs de la Mort”?

GUREWITCH: There’s some trickery involved there. It’s not a real woodcut.

I guess you can let the cat out of the bag. It’s just a pencil, and I drew the negative space in pencil and then a simple inversion on Photoshop will give it the look of having been carved out of something.

That’s really cool.

GUREWITCH: It’s not really cool. It would have been cool if I did a woodcut.

Where have the major benchmarks for the comic been along the way for you that let you know this was what you wanted to stick with?

GUREWITCH: The first benchmark seemed to be the week that it debuted in the [NY] Press and the Baltimore City Paper, which was while I was still at school, and then approximately a year later was the Web site, at which point people all over the world could see it.

You’ve got quite the international syndication now. How does it feel seeing your work get translated?

GUREWITCH: Thanks. It’s something that they’re tackling. I can only trust that they’re doing it accurately. [Laughs]

Where have you found your biggest audience outside of the U.S.?

GUREWITCH: Definitely Europe. I’d cite that as a third benchmark—its publication in The Guardian and Maxim over there. It was refreshing and very vindicating to be accepted by people who do comedy so well.

Do you still actively solicit it for syndication, or has the Internet more or less put that on autopilot since you started doing it as a webcomic?

GUREWITCH: I gave up on soliciting awhile ago. So I guess you can chalk it up to people finding it online. The publisher over there mentioned that he saw it online, so I guess it’s just a matter of sharing.

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