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Interview: Genius Animals? creative team talk conspiracies, making comics, and pink dolphins

Genius Animals?
Genius Animals?

During the 1990’s, conspiracies were living the dream (mostly in basements with good internet connection and without the distractions of Tik Tok videos). A lot of it was owed to the cultural shifts that series like The X-Files and Unsolved Mysteries inspired in the minds of those who had an informational itch that could only be scratched with a good conspiracy theory.

Vali Chandrasekaran and Jun-Pierre Shiozawa have a clear understanding of that itch, and by tapping into something of a love story wrapped up in disappearances, talking animals, and conspiracy theorist radio shows, this creative team have come up with one of the most unique and strangely funny comics to have come out in a long time. It is called Genius Animals? The question mark is important.

The comic follows Alexandra Lakshmi and her search for her missing boyfriend, Todd. None of this information prepares you for what the book dives into after the initial setup. Alexandra’s journey leads her into a world of privileged information and conspiracy-making that she’s largely introduced to by an octopus holding a flash drive.

The best way I’ve found to describe the book is as a spiritual successor to The X-Files’ funny episodes. Fans of the series will remember that the show had a set sequence of episodes lined up to keep the story from being overwhelmingly lore-heavy. It had a creature-of-the-week episode, main story episode, and sometimes there would a comedy episode that poked fun at some of the show’s more serious elements.

Genius Animals? embodies that type of episode by expanding it into an entire comic book series, keeping the comedy present all the way through. This isn’t to say the book takes itself less seriously because of it. Much like the funny X-Files episodes, Genius Animals? approaches lore and world-building with jokes, with an odd sense of goofiness and satire propping everything up. Each instance of funny adds to the narrative and colors it.

Visually, the book takes a few stabs at wordless sequences to play up some of the absurdity and some of the comedy behind the premise and it succeeds in very unexpected ways. The lack of text in these sequences means there’s no written punchline. Each panel, each movement, has to be capable enough to carry the comedic rhythm of the story. Shiozawa takes full advantage of these sequences and makes them dynamically approachable. You’ll want to look at every panel carefully to spot any other jokes or visual gags that makes the sequences even funnier.

Chandrasekaran’s script is surgical with its jokes, especially because there’s so much going on behind each one. It’s as if every joke in the book is a world unto itself. They’re less about the punchline and more about how they can help explain the conspiracy-ridden world Alexandra and her friends navigate. They’re storytelling jokes.

I sat down with the creative team behind Genius Animals? to talk about the good old days of conspiracy and why Warner Herzog should be in more comics. It follows below.

Genius Animals?
The Creative Team

Ricardo Serrano: I actually wanted to start with how you guys got into comics in the first place. Have you been lifelong fans or was it something that you’ve always been interested in and just decided to jump into?

Jun-Pierre Shiozawa: I think the first time I actually saw a comic, held a comic in my hands, I just saw the potential of what could be done with it. I was struck with how much drawing could be done. I was always drawing as a kid. And I could see that comics were an outlet for somebody who, like me, just loves to draw continuously. I remember I would go into art classes (from high school into university), into fine art classes, and it was mostly about abstract and conceptual work, not so much straightforward rendering and drawing of figures, spaces, and environments. People would come up and say your work is more illustrative, you know, as kind of a diss. It was a little bit pejorative. I was actually told that by my high school art teacher, that my work was a little too illustrative. And I was like, that’s kind of cool.

Vali Chandrasekaran: He got it! Great!

Shiozawa: But the thing is, where else does an artist just have this freedom? The freedom to say and draw what you want in such and extended way. It takes a high degree of discipline and range of knowing how to draw different things. Looking at that as a kid, looking at the way that cars are drawn, how figures are drawn and facial expressions or fights, planets even, it really inspired me growing up. When I got to university, that’s where I started meeting other people like me that were interested in comics. They were submitting and just doing their own comics. I was like, okay, maybe I can make my own comics.

Chandrasekaran: I came to comics from the side of loving jokes. Like from when I was a kid, I always loved jokes. I loved comedy. So I was really into the funny pages and my era of that was Calvin and Hobbes and The Far Side. To this day, I think The Far Side is the funniest thing in the universe. I mean, I think there’s a lot of it in the DNA of Genius Animals. It’s both weirdly philosophical and very childish at times, which I really love. But it wasn’t until college when I started looking into other comics. I didn’t really read superhero comics that much, but then some friends gave me alternative comics where I got to read Daniel Clowes and Chris Ware, and later Sam Henderson’s Magic Whistle.

I was suddenly into this new kind of comedy I’ve never even seen before. These guys were highlighting the absurdity of everything in a tone I’ve never seen before in my life. So I started getting into it as a different form of comedy, more of an outsider alternative comedy, which was taking hold when I was in college in the late 90s and early 2000s.

Genius Animals?
Genius Animals?

Serrano:. Both of you know how hard it is to pull off comedy. In TV and movies you have the benefit of movement and sound. Not so much in comic books, where everything on the panel gains movement and sound in the reader’s mind, to a certain extent. You might have some very funny jokes written down, but you have to find a way to both textually and visually make them funny. So, what’s it like to write comedy for comic books?

Chandrasekaran: That was the biggest things we had to learn while doing this, because the comedy of it was very important to me. And I had no idea how to do it in a comic book. Jun had a way of delivering jokes visually that really worked. We continued to refine it in a way over time, because sometimes I would get panels and pages back and I would say “Jun, this looks great. Everything is right. I just don’t know why it’s not funny.” Jun would say let me try one more thing or let me try something else and then we would get to where we wanted.

I would say an example of this dynamic can be found in how Alec Baldwin and Ed O’Neill approach comedy. These two comic actors do something with their performance that’s called ‘throwing away a joke.’ They don’t really try to nail the punch line to tell you like this is a joke. I remember being in script readings where one of them would turn around and reach the punchline without anyone seeing their face, which many people think is key when telling a joke. The joke is almost always funnier when you’re in somebody’s face. But no, they’d play around with the delivery. What they were doing was creating a real comic persona, over time, rather than just delivering jokes.

And so one thing Jun and I would talk about is whether there’s too much pressure on a particular line on any given panel and is it sustaining the panel or not. We then figure out a way to make it work. Jun would either reorganize the panel or he would have the bubbles from coming off the panel as if from another page. It was a fun process because I didn’t have the language for it. I would just kind of say what I’m saying now and then we’d figure it out.

Serrano: I can see how setting up a punchline can basically telegraph the joke way before it has the chance to be funny. In film, the camera stays with the person saying the joke and if that person’s facial reaction isn’t too funny it kind of gets ruined. That’s not a problem Jun has with his characters’ facial expressions, which are hilarious when they need to be, even if it’s in the case of a dog looking at you the wrong way. So how did you approach that, Jun?

Shiozawa: Well, I found that a lot of times I wouldn’t really know how hard to get the punchline across. Sometimes the joke would be just in the text, right? The text is there, you see it, and it’s just a funny line. But then in other cases I had to think about the timing in the visuals or the delivery, all these other things that might be a little bit more elusive or a little bit more subtle. In those cases I actually found that often it would be necessary to push the joke to make things a little bit sillier.

Sometimes you just have characters that are saying things that are funny enough and then what you have to do is give them a design that looks like the jokes have been specifically written for the type of people they are. A lot of it is in their facial expressions. You have to basically know when to let the text just do its job knowing your character designs will do their part.

Chandrasekarana: I specifically remember a scene where we kept working the comic rhythm of it. Eventually, what we landed on was having the speech bubbles strung together in a way where they overlapped each other, a lot. So you’ve got the sense that they were talking in rapid fire. It was fun to work on because by changing the image and the way the text was presented in it, you could hear the joke differently.

Genius Animals?
Genius Animals?

Serrano: Okay, let’s talk about Werner Herzog. He’s in the comic, under the name Werner Notzog, and he is hilarious. The line between reality and fiction blurs with him because of his own abstract and cryptic ways. If you’ve ever seen a Herzog documentary or have just listened to him talk, you’ll know Herzog in Genius Animals is the real deal. How did he make it to the story?

Shiozawa: I have to say, the Herzog material totally came from Vali’s script. When I read the words in the very beginning of the story I was like, man, this is hilarious. And so specific. There’s a scene where we’re in his office and there are all these different things in the background. It looks like a volunteer put it all together. A lot of it was just like, we need to have this and that because it’s all part of the total ambiance of the character. And I love his films, but I think I wouldn’t have had, frankly, the courage to actually put him down on paper like that unless he was the driving force behind the story and have to just go for it. So I just was like, alright, here we go. Let’s put him in the forest, put him in the Amazon jungle, and just get him to come in as like a superhero basically.

Chandrasekarana: In the beginning of chapter two, when we see him first in the forest, that’s one of my favorite images. And then one of my favorite jokes is, when he’s in his office, he’s sitting at his desk and behind him there’s a photo of himself wrapped by a boa constrictor and one of his assistants is about to shoot the boa constrictor.

Serrano: I noticed! And then having him end almost all his interventions end with “humanity must embrace madness.” Stuff that you hear him say over and over. It’s just a very unique source of comedy. In fact, it speaks to one of the other strengths of the comic: its unpredictability. Genius Animals was described to me as a mix of The Big Lebowski and The Crying of Lot 49. But then I start reading and I see that it’s a kind of love story functioning as a metaphor for relationships and secrets.

And then every page turns into something completely different that I couldn’t have ever imagined. There’s some X-Files stuff in it, the funnier episodes where all types of odd and weird things are played for smart laughs. In some parts, even, it also felt like The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror stuff had made it in too. What was the thought process behind this story? When did you start writing something and only to say ‘you know what, this needs conspiracy theories and talking animals or else it’s not going to work?

Chandrasekarana: You know, there were a couple things coming together at the time, when I was coming up with the story. One was I was working on 30 Rock. And I loved that show. We did something on that show that was very specific. I met Tina Fey and she knew she didn’t an a normal TV show. You know, Jack and Liz aren’t going to end up together, things like that. We didn’t want to know what the show is about on purpose. So I was playing at subverting expectations.

As a result of that I had spent a lot of my professional career writing jokes, but I never wrote about people in love, really. I was almost running away from it. So I thought, this is the major emotion people feel and chase. I’ve been wanting to come up with something funny and strange in that world.

I was also at the time really obsessed with the very notion of narratives, like why human beings need narratives. I like the idea of trying to come up with a scenario where narrative is important to the characters themselves. If you get into reading about mindfulness, the main thing they get at is we need narratives, because it’s what gave us an evolutionary advantage. If you see some mammoths coming towards you, for example, you think “Oh, this is going to be a bad area for us to set up camp.” See that’s the idea behind it. But because of that, it also creates the problem of consciousness, which is like our brains are constantly trying to string together narratives to justify why we need to do certain things. And it makes us crazy.

Over all of recorded human history, there’s always been mindfulness movements that are basically about stopping us from getting too much information, be it from radio or the internet or TV. You know, things like looking at the stars will make you lose your mind and then you’ll never get it back. It makes you crazy to have this overwhelming stream of information all the time. So I wanted to come up with a story that was like, “Well, what would you do if you can’t or don’t want to believe your mind?” That means accepting that you’re crazy. Or if you do believe your mind, it’s the craziest thing in the world. I was interested in what happens if you don’t like any of the two choices. What then?

Genius Animals?

Serrano: And the art captures this so well in the process. In fact, Jun’s visual style also taps into the type of weird and odd storytelling bits that you would see more of in 1990’s film, TV series, comics, and so on. Was that something that was in in your mind a lot in terms of imagery for the Genius Animals?

Shiozawa: I think I was trying to definitely get some Big Lebowski into the overall vibe. There’s Coen Brothers imagery where it’s kind of like the real world but it’s also a little bit off and maybe a little bit ominous around the corners. But then it’s also really funny as well, like silly and absurd. I wanted there to be this feeling that this is our world. But if we really take a good look at it, like, everything is a little bit off. I was going for things that were a little off kilter.

In a way, I wanted the comic to come off like this odd black and white world that’s anything but black and white in the story, but I just felt like color and facial expressions and jokes and humor and all of that were part of the fabric of the story. I felt like that whenever I would just read the lines from the script. It’s what it evoked for me. So I said to myself that I shouldn’t fight it too much. It was all so well imbedded in the script.

Serrano: Moving on to conspiracies. Your approach to conspiracies in the book forces your characters to go through a lot of fantasy in their pursuit of the truth, to try and see what sticks as truth and what doesn’t. It’s a bit old-school 90’s in that regard.

In today’s world, where we have QAnon and Pizzagate and all of these other full-fantasy conspiracies making the rounds, where do you think Genius Animals? stands in light of them. Is there such a thing as a good conspiracy? Can they still be a source of some truth or are they just all populated by people who pee on bunny skeletons?

Chandrasekarana: It’s interesting because Genius Animals? came up a while ago, when it felt like the more silly conspiracies were slowly disappearing. We took it as a return to the idea of narrative and how we try to find meaning and explanations of the world.

I was always fascinated with that Art Bell radio show Coast to Coast (paranormal-themed deep dives into conspiracies and unexplained phenomena). That show came up with the craziest explanations possible for what was happening behind the scenes. People really bought into it. I mean, you have those very classic UFO abductions stories that gave people a burning desire to know everything about it. We need to explain stuff! It’s like non-negotiable.

I was just reading about a South American legend of the pink dolphins the other day. Apparently, there are these pink river dolphins that live in this like sort of mystical, magical underwater city underneath the Amazon river. According to legend, at night they’re supposed to turn into very dapper handsome fishermen and seduce women, and then go disappear back into the river. And so if someone has a baby, and they don’t know who the father of the child is…it was a pink dolphin.

So you have this lie, basically, that people came up with that we as a society all decided like, okay, we need that in our lives because it creates a social explanation, a social function, and we’re going to all publicly believe it. I find that to be sort of fascinating and very fun.

Genius Animals?

Shiozawa: That’s exactly how I felt when I was going through the script and trying to capture that old-school conspiracy look, where radio shows and Bat Boy was what was on everyone’s minds. These were the conspiracies we grew up with. Mom and pop conspiracies with the Roswell UFO mystery leading the charge. There was a point when we were making revisions where we discussed not making our characters look like they’re QAnon enthusiasts or anything we’re explicitly seeing today. The closest we got was we ended up putting in the Men’s Rights activists in the bar scene, where every conspiracy group meets for a drink in their own little tables.

Chandrasekarana: And even then we wanted to make sure they looked like losers.

Serrano: And that’s, I think, a great closing remark to cap off this conversation. Moral of the story? Return to the conspiracies of the 1990s. Get some X-Files in your system and believe responsibly. Thanks for the time, guys!

Chandrasekarana: Thank you!

Shiozawa: Thanks!

Genius Animals? can be read in its entirety online at https://geniusanimals.net/.

Johnny Bullet Begins a Silent Comic Adventure

The adventures of Johnny Bullet, comics’ favorite street and drag racer continue in a new story set in 1969, and rendered as a silent chapter, in his weekly webcomic.

Following the explosive revelation about Johnny Bullet in strip #132, this week’s strip (#133), explores the hero’s life five years in the past at the height of his glory and in the middle of muscle car madness in America.

In the release, creator Hervé St-Louis said:

Regular readers of Johnny Bullet already know that I have always been cheap with words, sometimes with just one per strip. Much of the action in the comic has always been visual. I am simply pushing things to their logical ends with this 22-page flashback. It is a challenge to tell such a story but I bet that readers will enjoy the ride.

Cartoonist Larry Hama wrote the first silent comic in G.I. Joes #21. Since, silent comics have become a favorite of readers and for cartoonists, a way to express the essence of comic art.

Strip #133 of Johnny Bullet starts a new chapter in the life of the 1970s professional racing driver originally inspired by Steve McQueen and Frank Frazetta’s Johnny Comet. The silent story continues weekly at Johnny Bullet’s home where Johnny Bullet chases beautiful women and outruns shady characters.

ComicBookBin publishes Johnny Bullet every Sunday as a free black and white retro web comic strip.

The spirit of Shaka Zulu possess Chicago teen in new webcomic Zulu from Afropunk.com

Afropunk set to publish a new webcomic called Zulu. Created and written by Alverne Ball, Zulu follows the life of Lazarus Jones, a 16-year-old boy who becomes possessed by the spirit of warrior king Shaka Zulu while visiting South Africa with his father. Back home in Chicago, Lazarus finds himself navigating through the turbulent streets of Chicago with friends when he discovers that a big corporation is behind the endless gang violence and disintegration of his neighborhood.

The webcomic features art by Michael Watson of Legacy Publishing, lettered by Jaymes Reed, and edited by Chakira Lane.

Ball said in a release:

“Zulu’ is a story that blends a mixture of hip-hop culture, break dancing martial arts (Capoiera), history, and snippets of social commentary into a heralding coming-of-age story that portrays the “Hero’s journey” in a modern day tale of friendship, family, love, loss, and redemption.

Afropunk will publish a new chapter of Zulu every Tuesday starting on Feb. 7th.

Fresh Romance Launches as a Webcomic!

fresh-romanceEmet Comics LOVE webcomics! The company has launched a new website with the goal of bringing you new, exciting, and diverse webcomic content. In January 2016 they launched their first webcomic, Finding Molly: An Adventure in Catsitting. You can read their latest webcomic, Zanaon their website or on Webtoons! At the end of November, the publisher announced it had acquired Rosy Press and would now be publishing Fresh Romance.

So, are there plans for a Fresh Romance webcomic?

Fresh Romance will be an ongoing webcomic, meaning they plan to keep it going FOREVER! Their vision for Fresh Romance is that it will be a mix of original content that they create and redistributed content from beloved creators around the world. They want the Fresh Romance tumblr to showcase the best of romance comics. And the aim is to offer inclusive and diverse stories that delight new and existing “Fresh Romance” readers!

fresh-romanceWhat will happen to the single issues of Fresh Romance?

The publisher is moving away from single issues to bring content you love both on the web and in printed volumes. This way, fans can read free webcomics online and they can focus on creating and delivering the stories you love.

For those who have purchased a 1-year subscription, they will receive a free digital version of Fresh Romance Volume 2 once it is complete!

Already existing stories from Fresh Romance Volume 1 released as a webcomic will introduce new readers to the Fresh Romance library and help build the audience later resulting in better sales down the road.

And volume 2 is coming! Emet Comics will be picking up right where Rosy Press and the creators left off and will be spending the coming year developing and completing new Fresh Romance stories!

We’ve got more details coming in an interview with Emet Comics publisher Maytal Gilboa.

Webcomics Weekly: Olympus’ Forgotten Children

Welcome to Graphic Policy’s spotlight on webcomics, where we take a look at one of the many comics available online every Monday: Webcomics Weekly (but don’t be fooled by the “weekly” part of the title; the feature may happen more or less frequently than that). We’re defining webcomics as any comics published online for free consumption by the general public that doesn’t require a  subscription service.

This week we’re taking a look at Olympus’ Forgotten Children. The strip is created by former Graphic Policy contributor Kenny Coburn, who was kind enough to answer a few questions for us about the webcomic below.

Graphic Policy: In a nutshell, can you tell us what the strip’s about?Cover

Kenny Coburn: Olympus’ Forgotten Children is an ongoing full length 22 page web comic that takes an honest look at the superhero trope that there are people with god like powers who are above corruption. The world of Olympus’ Forgotten Children is much more honest in how it views humanity than anything you will see at DC or Marvel. The world is not perfect and neither are the people with the most power.

The United States government had finally created a superhero serum to use in war. But, because of crippling debt caused by funding the research necessary to create the serum, the government was forced to sell it to the highest bidding civilians. After a year, those who purchased the serum began to fight back and war began. Fifteen years later, the former superheroes, now known as the Power Cartel, rule the planet. The only other survivors are those working for the Power Cartel or those that have gone into hiding.

It is in this world that three longtime friends, Monya, Kiarynn, and Baxter, begin to try and take the world back from the Power Cartel by any means necessary. Their journey takes them from their underground home through the wastelands of the former United States with only the faint hope of a better future driving them.

GP: How often do you update?

KC: The comic will be released quarterly as currently constructed. We are already hard at work on issue #2. For anyone who does enjoy the project and wants to support it, you can donate to our crowd funding page which will help us fund the project and greatly shorten the timeframe between issues. Every dollar is greatly appreciated.

GP: How long have you been producing the strip?

KC: The first issue has just been released for free in its entirety. Currently, there are thirteen issues in total planned for the project so the series still has a long way to go before it is complete.

GP: Where did the idea for the comic come from?

KC: The idea for Olympus’ Forgotten Children came after watching Captain America: The First Avenger. The premise that a serum that turns a basic human being into essentially a god happened to go to the kindest person in existence just seemed ludicrous. The world doesn’t work that way and I wanted to explore the finer nuances of what would really happen if a superhero serum was created.

It isn’t exactly a pleasant conclusion that I came to, but I think it is an infinitely more interesting one. People don’t normally fit perfectly into the categories of good and bad. This is the idea I wanted to explore. Once I had that premise, I just continued to build logically into the way I saw the future shaping out.

The idea was very simple, but I think the results have been extraordinary.

Why it’s awesome: Honestly, anything I say here will just be a repeat of what Kenny had said above. Instead, I’ll just direct you to the introduction below and the first four pages in the gallery underneath the intro and let you see for yourselves.

Intro


If you’d like to have your webcomic featured here, then drop us an email.

Webcomics Weekly: Bun Toons

Welcome to Graphic Policy’s spotlight on webcomics, where we take a look at one of the many comics available online every Monday: Webcomics Weekly (but don’t be fooled by the “weekly” part of the title; the feature may happen more or less frequently than that). We’re defining webcomics as any comics published online for free consumption by the general public that doesn’t require a  subscription service.

This week we’re taking a look at Bun Toons. The strip is created by Ty Templeton, who was kind enough to answer a few questions for us about the webcomic below.

Graphic Policy: In a nutshell, can you tell us what the strip’s about?

Ty Templeton: Bun Toons isn’t “about” anything in particular, except a challenge to my brain:  Every Saturday morning, I wake up and draw a cartoon strip about SOMETHING.  I often don’t even know the subject matter when I go to bed on Friday night, and sometimes wake up without the slightest idea of what it will be.  If there’s something major in the news, either in comics news or real life news, the strip might be about that because it’s where my brain is hanging out…if there’s nothing current happening worth commenting on, I’ll tell a true story that’s amusing enough to share, or I’ll just do something silly and surreal that made me laugh when it crossed my cerebellum.  It’s about allowing my creativity to work without a net on a crushing deadline.  Each strip MUST MUST MUST go up before 4.00 pm no matter what.  (It used to be earlier, but I often get up around noon on a Saturday, and that gives me a little time…).  I allow for about an hour to conceive and write it, about an hour to draw it, and about an hour to colour/letter and post it, and then it goes up online without a backwards glance.  Some weeks I accidentally make something worth remembering, some weeks it’s not funny and best forgotten.  It’s the once-a-week challenge to my creativity that drives it.  I started doing it without any preparation one Saturday a few years ago, and have produced a strip every Saturday I’ve been home ever since then (except a brief hiatus when I was recovering from my heart attack, and my medications left me too spaced out to draw or write with any clarity).   On days when I’m out of town, or attending a store event or a comic convention, I post a re-run, since I’m literally no where near my scanner and computer, I don’t have a choice.  Every Saturday I’m home, it’s my wake up and draw ritual.

There are some Saturdays I grumble about it.  Some weeks I will tell myself “No one is making you do this, you don’t have an idea, just let it slide…” but I get over that in ten minutes and set my mind to SOMETHING.  There have been strips that are read by less than a thousand people, and then there are strips that are read by many tens of thousands of people and get passed around the net virally.  Obviously I prefer it if people read ’em, but in the long run, it’s about a relationship with my own brain, and the concept of “improvisational” cartooning.

Now, if it has any sort of theme or continuity, it’s sort of about what it’s like to be a comic book freelancer.  Many of my strips are about trends in comics, the trouble with deadlines, how my family and I interact.  I show up as a character in about half of them, and when I’m in the story, I appear as a six foot tall white rabbit wearing a t-shirt with my name on it.  But I also DON’T appear in about half of them, which might feature Donald Trump mud-wrestling an alien or something.  I find the ones that feature myself don’t go viral anywhere near as much as the ones that feature Frank Miller, or Batman or something the internet can bite into.  But that’s the nature of spontaneous creativity…I sort of have no control over it, and it goes where it goes.

GP: How often do you update?

TT: As mentioned in the above answer, I update every Saturday that I’m home.  That works out to about 45 a year.  There have been VERY rare occasions when I’ve done two in one week, because something occurred mid-week and I couldn’t help myself and I pipe in.  That’s happened maybe three times in the last few years, so it’s just something when I can’t stop myself.  Normally it’s about the challenge of being clever or worth reading because the clock says I have to.  I always loved the Lorne Michaels line about Saturday Night Live:  “The show goes on, not because it’s ready, but because it’s 11.30 on Saturday night, and we don’t have a choice”.  That attitude informs Bun Toons.  If it’s Saturday morning, I don’t have a choice.  Get creating, mofo.

GP: How long have you been producing the strip?

TT:  I’ve been doing them as a weekly webcomic for about five years …BUT I’ve been doing the self-portrait rabbit cartoon strips for decades now.  The rabbit-icon first appeared in an old Fantagraphics comic series called “Critters” and he’s appeared in various industry newszines like SHOPTALK, REALMS, AMAZING HEROES, THE COMICS JOURNAL, etc.

Whenever I’m asked to do a column or an essay about something, I tend to do the rabbit.  Some of the rhythms of the strip are inspired by Feiffer’s stuff, as well as the basic idea of having a rodent stand in for me coming from MAUS.

GP: Where did the idea for the strip come from?

TT: The very very first rabbit strips came from nearly thirty years ago, when I was just starting out as a cartoonist.  I was married to a model, and she used to take work trips to Europe to do photoshoots, or spend a week or so in Manhattan on a gig, etc, and I used to do these little comic books for her when she got home, each entitled “What I did while you were gone”.  This was so she wouldn’t feel she was missing anything at home…and it made drawing them SO much easier to give all the characters animal totems instead of having to do recognizable portraits each time I needed a character to appear.  So I became a rabbit, and my friend Glenn because a squirrel, and various people because dogs and cats and badgers so that anyone could follow the story without wondering who was who.  The first time a Bunny story was actually published was because of a cartoonist friend of mine named Bernie Mireault, who was staying with me in Toronto for a few days, and he saw one of the little comic books, and asked if he could draw it up on full sized paper and “do it up right” for a story in Critters Magazine (a comic devoted to “funny animal” stories from Fantagraphics).  Bernie was insanely talented, so I said “Sure”…and then Bernie took the story and drew it up WONDERFULLY…except he changed my animal totem into a bear.  When I asked him why, he said I struck him more as a bear than a rabbit.  The story ran in CRITTERS (I forget the issue number, sorry…)…it’s called ‘THE TOTALLY TRUE TO LIFE 11:15 PM McDONALDS DRIVE THROUGH WINDOW CAPER” and you can read it here.

It got a good response from folks who read Critters, so I did a few more for the magazine, returning to being a rabbit in the second instalment, when I started drawing them myself.

Why it’s awesome: Because you honestly never know what to expect. Whether it’s a strip about Bill Finger’s involvement with Batman, or everything you need to know about something in four panels, there’s always something worth reading uploaded to the page. I read the webcomic every Sunday morning, and it never disappoints.

Below you’ll find a couple of Alex’s favourite strips (although it was tough it pick out just two, we stayed away from the Bill Finger strips that we recently linked to back in February for Graphic Policy’s Bill Finger week).

The first was posted to the site in November of 2015.thats-my-sickness.jpg

The second, is from October 2015;

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If you’d like to have your webcomic featured here, then drop us an email.

Webcomics Weekly: Blood Catalysts

Welcome to Graphic Policy’s spotlight on webcomics, where we take a look at one of the many comics available online every Monday: Webcomics Weekly (but don’t be fooled by the “weekly” part of the title; the feature may happen more or less frequently than that). We’re defining webcomics as any comics published online for free consumption by the general public that doesn’t require a  subscription service.

This week we’re taking a look at Blood Catalysts. The strip is created by Griffin Cost, who was kind enough to answer a few questions for us about the webcomic below.

Graphic Policy: In a nutshell, can you tell us what the strip’s about?

Griffin Cost: Blood Catalysts is a magical realist action-crime drama with absurdist undertones, taking place in 2003 in Northern Chihuahua, Mexico. The story follows a “family” of hitmen under the shaky new leadership of their old boss’ daughter, and begins when a young American boy is thrust into their world due to near-impossible circumstances.

I don’t wanna reveal much more, but I do feel compelled to point something out: this is NOT a fantasy webcomic, despite the genre having “magical” in the name. Maybe I’m mincing words, but I’ve had to explain this to almost all of my friends, some of whom were genuinely confused as to the whereabouts of the magic. Essentially, the story itself takes place in a world where the laws of reality still very much apply, save for one or a few exceptions that impact the characters within it. In a lot of ways it’s like a sandbox, or a social experiment in fictional form, where the craziness of one or a few instances help shed light on otherwise foreign and unrelatable human experiences.

GP: How often do you update?

GC: I update chapter-by-chapter on my site, with release dates for each chapter being announced about a month in advance. There’s a lot of reasons I don’t release Blood Catalysts page-by-page or in a similar system, but it boils down to three major factors:

-I’m a full-time college student.

-Some chapters and pages are more difficult/time consuming to draw/write than others. I’d rather build hype for one big release at a time than fuck with people by occasionally changing up the posting schedule.

-Releasing in bulk rather than in pieces lets me edit each chapter up to release, resulting in fewer (or zero) errors, less dead weight in the story, and an all around superior product. Plus, you, the reader, get a full-fledged story with every upload rather than breadcrumbs over the course of weeks.

In spite of this irregular schedule, I still average well over a page per week in terms of actual page count divided by weeks since launch.

GP: How long have you been producing the strip?

GC: Chapter Zero (The prologue to the series/Volume 1) was released on June 16th, 2015, but I went through at least thirty drafts of the script over the course of a few years beforehand.

GP: Where did the idea for the strip come from?

GC: The original idea came when I was in high school, wanting to be edgy as fuck and prove to everyone I was DIFF’RENT.

At the time, I was immature and just kind of angsty and nihilistic about everything. Even though I’ve (hopefully) grown out of that mindset, the underlying sentiment of being angry and confused at a world you can’t understand, of feeling like every time you think you understand something having it blow up in your face, and of being constantly weighed down with fear about what the next day will bring, or even how many days you have left, that sort of adolescent existential crisis and need to matter still comprises the thematic core of the comic. However, rather than being a comic about nihilism and the worst of humanity, and being written by someone who advocates those viewpoints, the story is more or less an treatise on death and decay (moral, mental, physical, societal, etc.), as well as the realities and unexamined shadows that lead some to adopt certain philosophies and lifestyles. It’s less about the politics of Mexican crime and more about the human tragedies that everyone shares, and the ones could’ve been our own had life dealt us a different hand of cards.

Couple that with a personal interest in Mexican art, magical realism, psychology, and my guilty love of late 90’s/early 2000’s action movies, and you can get a decent idea of what Blood Catalysts reads like. If that piques your fancy, give it a go.

If not, do it anyway. It’s free.

Why it’s awesome: Blood Catalysts is a fantastically well illustrated comic that really makes excellent use of both light and dark textures in the artwork. The strip often uses some really interesting story telling methods that combine the art and text into some genuinely fantastic comic strips that give the reader a lot to love. I don’t, honestly, have much to say beyond what Griffin has already said above because I don’t want to simply repeat what he says, but Blood Catalysts is well worth a read when you get a chance. You won’t regret it.

Below you’ll find a selection of strips that originally appeared on the site.

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If you’d like to have your webcomic featured here, then drop us an email.

Webcomics Weekly: Woohooligan

Welcome to Graphic Policy’s spotlight on webcomics, where we take a look at one of the many comics available online every Monday: Webcomics Weekly (but don’t be fooled by the “weekly” part of the title; the feature may happen more or less frequently than that). We’re defining webcomics as any comics published online for free consumption by the general public that doesn’t require a  subscription service.

This week we’re taking a look at Woohooligan. The strip is created by Sam Dealy, who was kind enough to answer a few questions for us about his webcomics below.

Graphic Policy: In a nutshell, can you tell us what the strip’s about?

Sam Dealy: The official tagline for Woohooligan is “Our madness is method free!”

It started out as a variety comedy, in the vein of Gary Larson’s Far Side, just individual, unrelated strips.

Since April, I’m publishing a very tongue-in-cheek, ongoing story about a typical(?) Midwestern girl’s adventures in heaven and hell. It was meant originally as a very loose parody of Dante’s Divine Comedy that started with the premise of reversing traditional conservative Christian ideas about sin, so in this story God is fine with gay people, but you still go to hell for eating bacon. Jesus is black, all the interesting people are in hell and the gods of other religions (Thor, Loki, etc) are also real. More recently, our snappy-dressing, gay Lucifer is more or less date-raped by an unassuming girl from Ohio.

This current story is about half-way through, so I expect to finish it some time probably late this year. It starts here.

GP: How often do you update?

SD: This past year it’s usually at least once per week, but it’s a little more involved than that.

I got a cancer diagnosis a few months ago and it shocked me out of my complacency about a career change I’ve been working on since 2006. So I set a goal for myself of replacing my disability income with my comedy by Jan 1, 2017. That’s a really ambitious goal that means I have to roughly double my income every two months.

Anyone who’s curious about that goal or would like to help can read more about it here. And for those willing to help spread the word about Woohooligan and my goal for this year, I’m giving away free copies of my first ebook, Into Dorkness. More info about that is also on that page.

So realistically to earn a living from my comedy by the end of the year, I have to put in at least 40hrs/week on both new pages as well as a lot of self-promotion and marketing. I’m probably putting in closer to 60 hours a week on average right now, but that also means my earnings are currently a little under $1/hr right now, so I need to improve on that.

My Patreon page promises at least two pages per month once I get to about minimum wage for those two pages (at about ten hours per page), which happens at around $187/mo. My target date for that goal is May 1st. So far I’ve produced a lot more than I’ve promised. So, if it seems like I’m not promising much on my Patreon, that’s because I don’t want to promise more than I can deliver and fall short. I’d much rather make smaller promises and be able to exceed those expectations. So I’m not going to promise to deliver the moon in the early days before I’m even earning minimum wage, and I hope people are happy with me delivering more than I’ve promised. :D

In January, I put out four pages (so one a week), two bonus pages just for my Patreon supporters, and a tribute to David Bowie. Patreon supporters also got access to a high-res copy of that David Bowie tribute, you can see here.

I also publish a progress report detailing all the things I’ve worked on over the previous month and how we’re doing toward the goal. It helps keep me honest with myself and it lets everyone else know what I’m doing to promote Woohooligan! The first update for January showed that we’re ahead of schedule. :D

GP: How long have you been producing the strip?

SD: Man, it’s been a while now. :D I started in 2006, so this is year ten.

I had a couple of stumbles in previous years. I didn’t publish anything in 2008 due to not having the computer equipment I needed (and also still working a full-time job elsewhere).

At the end of 2013, I was in the hospital with the doctors worried I would slip into a diabetic coma and then immediately after that we moved across country to Ohio to the best house we could afford, which needed about $11k in immediate major heating and plumbing repairs, so I had to scramble for software engineering work to pay for all that. So there was another gap through most of 2014.

And then in April is when I started on the current story and have been publishing that consistently several times per month, so if you only counted the current story that’s almost a year now.

GP: Where did the idea for the strip come from?

SD: Depends which idea you’re talking about. ;P

I started in 2006 because I didn’t like where my life had gone. I wanted to do something better and in particular I wanted to make people laugh. That’s still the dream I’m after today. I have this crazy goal to earn a living making other people laugh. :D

The current story started innocently enough… it was an offhand joke about gluten-free diet advocates being zealots, like Jehova’s Witnesses or other missionaries. Once I’d shown someone sent to hell for eating bacon, I thought, “what if God hates bacon, but he’s fine with fags?” (I’m pansexual, I can say “fag”. :P) That led to “what if we just reverse all the rules that conservative Christians have?” So once you start down that road, obviously rich people don’t get into heaven, etc. The rest of the story grew naturally from there.

Why it’s awesome: The mind of Sam Dealy is a hell of a place to visit. Whether it’s his single panel comics (of which you’ll find one below), or the longer form episodic story that he’s producing (two installments are below), his website is one that I was lost in for hours, and his first book literally almost made me late for my day job. His comics are funny, engaging and sometime very thought provoking. Whether you pick up one or two of his books (and they’re all good), or just spend time reading the website, prepare to loose yourself for hours. And you’ll love every minute.

Below you’ll find a selection of strips that were originally posted to the site;

Woohooligan 1.pngWoohooligan 3.png

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If you’d like to have your webcomic featured here, then drop us an email.

Webcomics Weekly: Pirate Mike: Maladjusted Suburbanite

In a new feature here a Graphic Policy, we’ll take a look at one of the many webcomics out there that the staff enjoy each week (but don’t be fooled by the “weekly” part of the title; it may happen more or less than that). We’re defining webcomics as any comics published online for free consumption by the general public that doesn’t require a  subscription service.

This week we’re taking a look at one of Alex’s favourites, Pirate Mike: Maladjusted Suburbanite. The strip is created by Brad Perri, who graciously answered a few questions for us about Pirate Mike below.

Graphic Policy: In a nutshell, can you tell us what the strip’s about?

Brad Perri: Pirate Mike quit his life on the high seas to raise a family in the suburbs. He’s doing a really lousy job.

GP: How often do you update?

BP: New strip on Monday. Archive strips on Wednesday and Friday.

GP: How long have you been producing the strip?

BP: Since October of 2013.

GP: Where did the idea for the strip come from?

BP: The first time I thought of Mike was one morning I was getting for work and putting on a tie when I thought of a pirate talking about how he was ready to do battle but then it turned out that he was just cleaning the gutters. For some reason, this just made me laugh. I didn’t do anything with it yet for maybe another year, though. I was doing a different strip, but then I came down with a good case of tendinitis (which I still have) and laid off on doing comics until  I got it under control. When I started doing comics again, I decided to start drawing strips about this little pirate guy and he continues to occupy my imagination.

Why it’s awesome: Pirate Mike is a strip that you can start reading at any time; there are very few weeks – if any –  where you’re required to have prior knowledge of the strip’s history. Usually, I’ll read the strips the morning after they’re posted with a cup of tea as I get ready for the day, and I’ve  found any day with the lovable scallywag is a good day. There’s something innocently fun about the idea of a pirate settling down in the suburbs with his family, but despite his failings Pirate Mike is a pretty decent guy. Think Homer Simpson with more than a dash of Jack Sparrow and you’re not far off the character.

Below you’ll find two strips that were originally posted to the site in November of 2015. The first is an archive, and the second was new that day. Exact dates are below.

This strip was posted November 18th 2015;Pirate Mike november 18This strip is from November 16th 2015;Pirate Mike november 16


If you’d like to have your webcomic featured here, then drop us an email.

Shinobi: Ninja Princess Announces Free Webcomic

Action Lab Entertainment’s popular coming of age action series, Shinobi: Ninja Princess is well into its run with issue 4 coming soon. Now, Series creator Martheus Wade is introducing new fans to the world of Shianndrea “Jetta” Toshigawa with a new tie in webcomic.

These 1-4 page webstories weave into and out of the existing 6 issue mini series published by Action Lab Entertainment. Each story will give readers more information on the characters and world of this martial arts adventure as well as serve as a gateway for new readers.

The stories mix the lighter side of the series and answers those burning questions fans have been asking for such as “how did the Azumi Ninja Clan get the contract to find Shianndrea Toshigawa in the first place?” and “What do young ninjas do to blow off steam?”

The free webisodes are available at the official Jetta website at http://toshigawa.com/

SHINOBI NINJA PRINCESS WEBCOMIC

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