20 Questions with Comic Artists: Erin Gillespie of Erin Gillespie Cartoons

Welcome back True Believers to another entry into our world famous segment: 20 Questions with comic artists.  Today we have flown in Erin Gillespie and we sit perched over the flowing fields of sassafras, fennel and vanilla sipping on a vintage 2015 root beer from our emblazoned Root Beer Party frosted mugs.  As August comes to an end, the Root Beer Monks are silently toiling away in the fields harvesting this years crop for the elixir of life that is root beer.  I can see the look of wonder on my guests face as he takes in the wonders of the Root Beer Party estates.  Very few are privy to these sights, secluded away in a hidden valley in a timeless, yet undisclosed location.  

But we have come here today for Erin Gillespie  and to learn of our newest member and not to extoll on the many splendors of the Root Beer Party estate.  So let’s get to business and greet our most esteemed guest.  You can locate and find him on many social media sites and learn more about this amazing talent here: 

https://eringillespiecartoons.wordpress.com/

https://twitter.com/ErinZGillespie

https://www.instagram.com/ezgillespie/

https://eringillespie.tumblr.com/

Question 1: What got you started in doing a comic series?

Well, in my case I’m in my 40’s and I just made my first “serious” attempt at a regular comic back in late March of this year (2017).  So we’re not going back very far in time.  Ha!  But getting to the point of taking a run at this has been a long time coming.   

I’m a full time insurance professional and so all this is done completely in my spare time.  For years, I wanted to do a comic, start a website, and so on, but it all seemed so impractical and time consuming, when my schedule was already so busy but eventually over time it seemed doable.  I started finding guys and gals more and more often that were doing comics as a sideline and not only finding the time to do it, but really THRIVING.  At some point, I felt like I didn’t have an excuse any more.  Technology has made it much easier to manage.  About ten to twelve years ago, I made a pretty good run at a Christian comic called EZG Toons.  I was only managing one update per week, at times every two weeks.  I had to do everything after work, which eventually wasn’t sustainable for our family.  Now people pass cartoons around through social media like crazy at all hours of the day and update their blogs and social media accounts from their smart phones as they’re walking down the street.  It’s crazy the technology we have access to.  

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Question 2: Who was your greatest influence?

But if I had to name one, I’d probably go with Dan Piraro, just because the guy does everything so dang well.  The ideas are there, the humor is spot on, and the drawings are brilliant.  He also does coloring and lettering at a level that I don’t see people achieving very often.  The lettering style adds a lot of strength to the look and brand also.  Piraro is the consummate single panel guy.

Another big recent influence is Doug Savage, but I’ll speak to that a little later. 

Since people are often interested in other influences, I’ll list a few more: Hilary Price, Oliver Christianson, Bernard Kliban, Glen Baxter, Mark Parisi, John McPherson, Dave Coverly, and a lot of New Yorker cartoonists, especially Matthew Diffee, Charlie Hankin, Zach Kanin, Tom Chaney, Leo Cullum, Drew Dernavitch, Liza Donnelly, and so on…  I also enjoy Liz Climo’s stuff, but she’s more of a “2-panel” cartoonist.

Aside from cartoons though, I love humor in any form.  I love stand-up comedy and funny movies and humorous writings.  I’m far more concerned with the story-telling and humor in my comics than I am in how good or bad my drawings are.

Question 3: What is your favorite root beer and why?

I like A&W or Barq’s, but I wouldn’t call myself a root beer connoisseur, so I’m sure there’s better stuff out there.  Maybe you can provide some recommendations!   

Question 4: What do you hope to accomplish with your comic?  

 -Lift people’s spirits in a bizarre but “family friendly” way

-Make friends throughout the industry

-Inspire others to follow their creative passions

-Inspire my kids to never give up on their dreams

-Build a family legacy of creativity

-Provide additional income for my family

-Stay sane

Question 5: Do you have any other artistic interests outside of comics? 

 I love all kinds of music and I can play around 8 instruments with varying levels of competence.  By far my favorite and best instrument is the guitar. I’m about an intermediate level guitar player when I practice.  I love a host of guitar-driven bands and acoustic solo guitarists.  For a long time I wanted to be a musician, but was never really able to make the sacrifices necessary to be a professional. I’ve come to realize that there is something wired into me that makes it difficult to keep playing the same songs over and over again. The memorization requirement in music is just excruciating. In order to be a musician, this is the price and I could never pay it.  To be a musician, you’ve got to not only have the guts to do it, but you’ve got to enjoy (or maybe put up with) the incredible amounts of repetition.  In short, you’ve got to really love it, and eventually I figured out that I really didn’t, at least not enough.

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The beauty of drawing comics is that you do one and then you’re on to the next one before the ink dries on the other, before you have a chance to get bored.  It’s always somewhat fresh.  Plus nobody is going to make me stand up in front of a bunch of people and draw these things over and over again to shouts of “draw that one that I like,” or “draw me a pony,” or whatever.  This thing lives or dies at my decision.  That’s the level of control that I enjoy.  

 Other than that, I love a good unique TV show or movie with my wife and/or family.  TV and movies have obviously become so much better than they were 20 years ago.    

  

Question 6: Do you see yourself as a professional cartoonist, or is this just something you do for yourself?  

 I think of myself as a professional cartoonist who supplements his income as an insurance professional.  That may seem laughable to the people that know me well enough to know that most if not all the income I presently produce typically comes from the insurance industry, but the reality on a very real and deep level is that I was designed by God to create things in a unique and often bizarre way.  That’s who I am, what I’m wired to do, what energizes me.  Once I’ve done the things I’m blessed to do, if the world decides that’s not worthy of any money, or recognition or I get my tires slit, well then I don’t have much control over that—as long as I’m doing everything I can do on the business side of things to remain viable.  

 For me it’s also important to think of myself as a career cartoonist, since it helps my confidence.  If I thought of this as a “side gig” or whatever, then mentally it would seem “less important” to me.  

 I read a very interesting book once called The Artist in the Office and the author tells the story of how one day she realized that regardless of how much time she spent or how much money she made in her artistic endeavors, it didn’t change the reality of who she was.  This story really resonated with me and that’s a big part of why I’ve begun to think of myself as a professional, no matter what.  Thinking this way has brought me tremendous peace.  

Question 7: What type of subject or humor do you consider out of bounds for your strips and why?  

 

I try not to do anything excessively mean-spirited, profane, or blasphemous.  I don’t do anything political.  Also, I would never draw a donkey ruining a garden while riding an all-terrain vehicle. Wait, actually I did do that one. Scratch that.

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Question 8: What kind of equipment or style of drawing do you use?

 

More often than not, I complete the cartoons – start to finish – on my hour long lunch break at my day job.

 I sketch out the idea on regular old typing paper, using a mechanical pencil and big pink eraser.  There is lots and lots of erasing.  Then, using a laptop for power and a USB light pad, I trace over the pencil in ink, on a new piece of paper. This is usually done with a number 5 Pigma Micron technical pen.  I also have a Tombow paint marker, and some sort of Shutake Asian lettering pan that I use occasionally.  The comic frame is drawn by hand with a Pigma Micron number 8. Then I scan the inked drawing using a USB scanner.  I use an old version of Paint Shop Pro to clean up mistakes, and do some retouching.  I then do several things to the black lines including running a series of filters.   I save raw, print, and optimized web versions of the cartoons, and then email them to myself so that I can send them out to various sites using my phone, whenever I have time.

 The style is a single panel, in a minimal style, with a premium placed on simple line work with very little tones or crosshatching.  Basically, whatever is reasonable for me to complete in an hour, start to finish.  In today’s world, everyone wants information quickly and easily and so I’m trying to create something that can be “digested” instantly.

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Question 9: What sort of training or academic program did you pursue to become a cartoonist?

 I’m entirely self-taught.  I have a pretty good eye for finding educational materials on whatever topic I happen to become interested in.  And I feel like I’ve read some of the best books out there on drawing, cartooning, and so on.  But really, there’s no substitute for just working it out, through trial and error and finding your own process.  The process has never really changed much.  I just attempt to draw something and if it doesn’t look right, I erase it and change something about it.  Then lather, rinse, repeat, until it looks right or I run out of time and make whatever compromise necessary to get the cartoon finished. 

 

Question 10: What has been the highlight of your cartooning career?

 The implication with this question is usually that I’m going to give you a big success story, but I’ll tell you a story that on the surface seems much smaller, but in its own way was a big success for me.  A big highlight was around March 27th of this past year, when I sat in my car on a lunch break and drew a couple of squirrels in a single panel cartoon, scanned them, touched them up in a paint program, and then uploaded them to a blog, all in less than about 45 minutes.  This was my first attempt at creating a cartoon start to finish in a short amount of time.  That day I realized that it was really possible, that I could do a cartoon every day if I wanted to.  100 weekdays later, I had drawn 100 cartoons.  It’s crazy.  

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 Other big highlights have been the many amazing creative people that I’ve met on this journey and all the conversation opportunities that have opened up since I’ve put this “nuttier” side of myself out into the world.  

 

Question 11: What has been the lowest point in your cartooning career?

The many years I spent not drawing cartoons were the low points to an extent.  But I wasn’t living on the streets or anything.  And I wasn’t necessarily unhappy.  It just didn’t seem like the right move at the time and maybe I should have started doing this sooner.   Hard to say for sure.  It was never 100% clear to me what if any artistic endeavor was right.  

 

Question 12: Are collections of your work available beyond the web? If so, where?

I’m way too early in the process on this particular project to already have collections of my stuff out in the world. But I’ve been blessed to be able to create far more content at this point than I thought possible.  So we will see what happens.  At the rate I’m going, it’s not completely unreasonable to think that in a few more years I could be looking at book deals, or regular and varied exposure in print media. Not to get ahead of myself or to think too highly of the effort, but there are fairly well established business models for cartoonists, that work well enough, as long as you put in the time, and find your audience.

Question 13: Are there any other web comic artists that you really admire?

There are many.  A few big standouts would be John Sutton (The Petri Dish), Sarah Andersen (Sarah’s Scribbles), Aaron Caycedo-Kimura (Aka INFJoe), Koen Saelemaekers (Zainy Island) and Sarah Cooper (The Cooper Review).

 I’m ravenous about finding new inspiration, even though it’s hard to find the time to just read comics.  I’ve had a great time meeting people on Instagram.  Instagram is tailor made for finding good artwork, meeting cool people, and getting your stuff out there in front of a lot of eyeballs quickly.

But by far, my biggest inspiration in the past couple of years has been Doug Savage (Savage Chickens).  Doug was one of the first guys I encountered in many years that made me think, “Hey, wait a second…  His stuff is excellent, he’s doing varied and really hilarious material, he’s successful in terms of exposure and income, and I’ll bet it’s not taking him tons and tons of time out of every day to accomplish this either.”   I’ve read interviews he’s done in which he mentions that he could quit his day job, but doesn’t because he likes working both gigs.  I’m not sure if that is still true or not.  I love his stuff.  He gets across this brilliant humor out of such a minimal style; he’s massively prolific, and has consistently kept his material at that same high level for years.   

Question 14: What kind of impact has cartooning had on your life and could you ever see yourself not doing it?

Drawing cartoons has made me feel more mentally engaged and peaceful, more authentic, and more balanced than I have felt in a long time.  I’ve had some confusion in my life, admittedly, about what creative outlets are the best for me and for the people who experience the results of the work. At this particular time, this is what makes a lot of sense to me to do. I can’t imagine doing it any other way. But as I’ve said elsewhere, I’ve gone for years without doing an organized cartoon project.  If circumstances change significantly, I can imagine I’ll find some other creative outlet.  I’m not really the guy that grew up obsessed with comic books.  I do have a fair share of cartoon collections, for sure, but it was never the solitary obsession that I notice a lot of cartoonists have.  

 

Question 15: Do you have any advice for the Trolls out there who harass content creators? (No need to keep this answer clean.)

Wow, this is where my inexperience shows itself.  I don’t think I’ve encountered these trolls much yet.  But they sound like pesky little creatures.  All I can do is my absolute best to create great content.  I have nearly zero control over what people do with or say about what I do.  Maybe I could offer to buy them a root beer?   🙂

Question 16: Do you set yourself any deadlines or other tricks to keep yourself motivated?

I’m trying to build a significant amount of content, and I already feel like I’m way behind a lot of guys who’ve been doing this for years.  So that’s part of what motivates me, the feeling that I’m behind.  It doesn’t happen overnight, but I have to be consistent if it’s going to ever get done. 

 I suppose I just keep coming back to the reasons (see above) that I started this endeavor in the first place and that helps me to stay focused. 

 Then there’s “streak mentality” or the notion that I’ve got a streak going (of drawing one cartoon every weekday) and I absolutely can’t break streak.  Nobody likes to break a streak. 

 In general though, I typically draw these at lunch.  I have one hour to complete a cartoon.  That’s the deadline.  When one hour is over, I stop messing with the drawing.  For me, since I like a more minimal style, and I don’t have a lot of spare time, one hour is the right amount of time.  It’s rewarding to complete something quickly and move on to the next idea.  I can also easily overwork an idea if I’m given unlimited time.       

 

Question 17: Apart from root beer, what is your favorite drink?

I like a little green tea in the morning. And I like a drink called Triple Berry Oat at Tropical Smoothie Cafe.

 

Question 18: Are you already a member of the root beer party and if not, what is the matter with you?

At this point I’ve been a member for about a week or two and I’m so thrilled to continue to get to know everybody!  Thanks for facilitating such a great group.  
Question 19: What is the most challenging aspect of cartooning for you?

By far the most difficult part is coming up with the ideas, keeping it fresh, and keeping it interesting.  I’ve heard so many cartoonists admit this.  Matthew Diffee says drawing the cartoons is like the “end zone dance” of cartooning.  The difficult part is the ideas.  I go entire days or even a week sometimes without coming up with a single idea. Then, the next thing I know I’m coming up with 10 a day.  There’s no rhyme or reason to it.  No matter how many times I think I’ve come up with the absolute perfect formula for how to keep getting the ideas, it never works and it remains a mystery, and I think it’s supposed to be that way.  

It’s also very challenging to get noticed in the “sea of information” we live in.  It can be challenging to drive traffic to the website.  Tons of people draw comics these days, from guys who’ve been doing it for years and years to guys that started posting them in their spare time.  It’s hard to get noticed.   

 

Question 20: What are your future plans involving web comics or anything else going on in your life?   

 

At this point, since I’m still in the early stages, my plan is to keep doing what I’m doing, draw five cartoons a week, make a few updates to the website here and there, keep building an audience and meeting people, keep improving the craft, keep learning the industry, and just keep having fun with it.  I’m excited about the future and just grateful to be doing this at all! 

 So there you have it True Believers, as we finish off our frosty mugs of root beer, the sun ebbs it’s way down the western sky, casting a golden hue over the fields as the Root Beer Monks return to the mansion for their evening meal.  The helicopter pilot makes his way to the launching pad to return Erin Gillespie back into the real world.  I signal to The Official Root Beer Sommelier for two more frosty mugs of the elixir of life.  One more for the road before Erin Gillespie makes his way back home.  I encourage you to join us and raise a frosty mug to the two things that matter most in life:  Comics and Root Beer, and as always True Believers, may your mug always be frosted and your root beer always foamy.  

 

 

 

 

 

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Comic Collection Review – Marvin Explains the Facts of Life by Tom Armstrong

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Down the treacherous tunnels we travel once again.  The dim light of the candelabra casting dancing shadows along the granite steps hand carved by centuries of Root Beer Monks.  Only the initiated know the way to disarm the many hazardous traps set to deter any infidel who may wander along this path.  We sink ever lower into the bowels of the earth.  The temperature seems to rise as if we are coming upon the very core of the planet itself.

This path could have been the inspiration for Jules Verne’s mad tale and like his famous protagonists, we too seek a prehistory of sorts, for at the end of this long treacherous path lies the repository of humanities greatest endeavors.   At the end of this path…  lies the Official Root Beer Party Comic Archives.

A vast cavern opens up before us as the light of the candelabra is now just an insignificant glow among the enormity of the space before us.  Even the powerful lights which illuminate the library are too feeble to penetrate the darkened corners of the upper reaches where shadows hide the greatest treasures of humanity.

Upon my reading table is the book I have requested.  The Root Beer Monks have preselected it from the seemingly infinite spiraling bookcases which fill the cavern.  No one could ever experience the mass of comic literature which is housed in this temple in a single lifetime.  It is beyond human comprehension, and why it must be preserved in fear that it would be lost forever.

I sit to look upon my selected work and begin my mortal attempt to understand all that is contained in this vast collection.

Marvin is a comic that is both ubiquitous, yet easily overlooked.  He has had his share of popularity in the world at large and has even seen a significant reboot in both style and storyline.  Many people compare him to Garfield and there is a similarity in the self centered nature of the primary character, but Marvin and by association,  Tom Armstrong, have a unique voice all his own.

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In the comic, we not only have the classic dynamic of family in the form of the father (Jeff) and the mother (Jenny) and later the addition of a dog (Bitsy) but we also have the extended family of The grandparents (Bea & Roy) and their dog (Junior).  The comic has taken more of serious tone after it’s reboot, including the extended family moving in with Marvin and his parents.  It is now called Marvin & Family.

However, this volume was before all of those changes as it was released in 1983.  This is the second volume released, so it is still early in the comics history.  The comic centers exclusively around Marvin and while there are many references to food and bathroom humor, there are also snapshots of the societal hierarchy included in these works.

While Marvin is not quite the ideal nuclear family unit of the 1980’s with it’s 2.5 kids, it does follow the established pattern of societal expectations of the family unit during this era.  While Garfield is the poster child of the “Me Generation” of the 80’s, Marvin is very much from the same philosophical mold.  The characters are often backdrops to Marvin’s wit, but we can see them develop and begin to take on a personality of their own.  Just as Garfield has changed with the times, so has Marvin, only more so.  The newer comics have come to represent the evolution of the extended family unit while in these older volumes we see the more traditional model.

Marvin is very much a product of it’s time and unlike a lot of popular comics, it has evolved with the times.  So if you want to take a look back in time to a different world, then this comic is the perfect glimpse into the nostalgic view of societal evolution.  Marvin may not be as popular as many of the great comic strips, but it is very much a reflection of the world we live in through the eyes of our families and the center of that universe has never changed, it is always the next generation which takes center stage and whether in 1983 or 2017, Marvin is the center of attention.

fdd8c1542035e33f228eb54301f72b56So I return this historical marker to the care of the Root Beer Monks and make my way back up to the world of today.  Only through the understanding of the past can we truly appreciate the world of today.  All the dramas and dilemma’s of day to day life are nothing more than footnotes in our history.  What is of immense magnitude today, is tomorrows quaint anecdote.  So never be afraid to look at the old classic cartoons and see them not for the faux pas, but rather as a reminder of how much things have changed.  The old volumes remind us of a simpler time, a time when our generation was the center of the world.

And there you have it True Believers, another look into the great library of The Official Root Beer Party Comic Archives.  Now come and join me in a cold draft from the elixir of life that is root beer, and as always, may your mug always be frosted and your root beer always foamy.

20 Questions with Comic Artists: Vlado Janevski of Babe’s Times

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We are back once again True Believers with our world famous segment 20 questions with comic artists.  Today we have flown in Vlado Janevski from Babe’s Times Comic (and his cat Bromo for some reason) all the way from Australia to the secret Root Beer Party headquarters to show him around the vast palatial estate as the newest member of the Root Beer Party.    You can check out his comic on his Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/babestimes

So now we sit overlooking the fields of sassafras wavering in unison as the breeze blows across the fields.  So I invite all of you True believers to sit back with a frosted mug of your favorite root beer and read along as we get to know Vlado Janevski

 What got you started in doing a comic series

One of the main reasons I got involved with comics was my annoying cat Bromo. That was few years ago. Bromo is still around annoying me and I am still working on my comic. At the time, the comic was called Bromo’s World and it was about my cat and me. With time, without any notice from Bromo, I was replaced with a bear and the comic changed the name to Bear This. Then the poor bear was replaced by a sock and the comic was renamed Almost Happy Sock. More than a year ago, out of nowhere, a baby appeared and gradually, together with few more babes, pushed the sock away. That’s when the comic changed the name again and now it’s called Babes Times. Interestingly, my cat survived all these changes and has been the only constant in the comic. The bloody cat is poised to win Survivor Australia. He even looks younger than years ago!

 

Who was you greatest influence?

I don’t think there was some great influence as such. I just want to find a way to escape the everyday rat-race and mostly create episodes based on my day-to-day life. But, it did help to read good comics like Dilbert, Garfield, Hagar the Horrible etc.

 

 What is your favorite root beer and why?

 I am not a complicated beer drinker, I’m ok with most of the beers, as long as they are served cold. Apart from cold water, beer is my preferred drink in summer.

 

What do you hope to accomplish with your comic?

 I hope the cat will leave me alone and I will maintain my sanity. Each day Bromo wakes me up very early in the morning and plays mind games with me into the night. You can understand then why the comic is my life-saver.

 

Do you have any other artistic interests outside of comics?

 Yes, I am also a published author: one book with awarded short stories and a novel. I am also an artist with quite a few of my paintings and drawings in private collections around the world.

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Do you see yourself as a professional cartoonist, or is this just something you do for yourself?

 Yes. I am the true professional cartoonist. Kidding. I am not sure how that would work. What will happen with the fun and the freedom I have as the author of my comic if suddenly I turn professional? Actually, I think that I will be OK with that. I don’t have a problem to deliver a new comic each day or to prepare comics few weeks in advance. I have them ready, hundreds of them, and heaps more ideas for new episodes.

 

What type of subject or humor do you consider out of bounds for your strips and why?

 I think no subject and humor should be off limits, but to me it is very important not to offend or humiliate or promote hatred and violence.

 

What kind of equipment or style of drawing do you use?

 I use anything I can find, first to scribble the new idea, then to make a quick sketch etc. I am OK with the old school, doing it all manually and the new school, doing it all digitally. Since I am frequently traveling, I prefer the digital equipment. The final result is exactly the same. As for the style, I try to develop my own style and more importantly, to make sure each episode has got a good and clean story.

 

What sort of training or academic program did you pursue to become a cartoonist?

 I am self-taught. I believe that creativity is something that you either have or don’t. The rest is a matter of hard work and a lot of patience, especially if you have around someone as annoying as my cat Bromo.

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What has been the highlight of your cartooning career?

 Highlight? Haha, the highlight most probably is yet to come. But otherwise I can say that over the years my cartoons were published in newspapers, magazines and online, both in Australia and in Macedonia. Personally, a highlight is when someone makes a comment about my comic saying that it made them laugh or think about life.  

 

What has been the lowest point in your cartooning career?

 Some years ago, seeing how badly it was affected by the digital era, I was ready to walk away from cartooning. In the last few years things have been improving.

 

Are collections of your work available beyond the web? If So where?

 If you mean, a comic book in a bookstore, then not yet. I have enough material for several books. But, no rush, to me the main thing is to be creative and have fun and hopefully one day the good stuff will be published. Otherwise, there are few of my e-books, graphic novels, published on Amazon. Here is the link to my author’s page:  https://smile.amazon.com/Vlado-Janevski/e/B01M0A0LV6/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_2?qid=1501219521&sr=8-2

 

Are there any other web comic artists that you really admire?

 I admire the works of Scott Adams, Jim Davis, to name a few.

 

What kind of impact has cartooning had on your life and could you ever see yourself not doing it?

 In my case cartooning is the best medicine to keep me sane, the best escape. Not doing it? Never give up, never surrender!

 

Do you have any advice for the Trolls out there who harass content creators? (no need to keep this answer clean.)

 Get a life!

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Do you set yourself any deadlines or other tricks to keep yourself motivated?

 No deadlines or tricks, just having fun. No problems being motivated as long as my cat is around.

 

Apart from root beer, what is your favorite drink?

 Water, milk and occasionally some red or white wine.

 

Are you already a member of the root beer party and if not, what is the matter with you?

 Yes, few days ago I was introduced to this hilarious party and am loving it.

 

What is the most challenging aspect of cartooning for you?

 To go beyond the creative part of cartooning and try to promote my comic a bit more.

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What are your future plans involving web comics or anything else going on in your life?

 As mentioned above, I need to work more on the promotion of my comic strip. Approaching a publisher or a Syndicate may be the next step. As for other plans, I am also an artist and a writer and hope to sell more of my paintings and publish my next novel soon.

So there you have it True Believers, another amazing interview from the Root Beer Party.  You demand to meet the world’s greatest comic artists and we deliver.  Welcome to the Party Vlado and Just so you know Bromo has been drinking your root beer.  

So we will head back inside and finish our tour, but stay tuned to the Root Beer Party page for more interviews with your favorite comic artists and news and reviews of all the great root beer and comics that the world has to offer.  So until next time True Believers, may your mug always be frosted and your root beer always foamy.  

 

Comic Collection Review – Lame Brains #1 by Karen Schaeperkoetter & Anthony Hunter

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We sit at one of the fine hand made redwood tables reclining back into the oil softened leather of the wingback chairs as we sit surrounded by the monuments of humanity’s greatest gift to the universe.  This is one of the many reading tables that transverse the greatest library ever conceived by man.  This is the Official Root Beer Party Comic Archives.

Hidden away far beneath the work a day world is a vast hand-hewed cavern etched out over the millennia by the dedicated work of a long line of Root Beer Monks who preserve this monument to the world’s greatest treasure.  Only a few people can gain entry to this shrine of artistic masterpieces.  These are the True Believers, the members of the Root Beer Party.

Today we have before us a work which examines the very essence of metaphysics.  The very core of the ultimate mystery of love, life, death and the concept of the human soul.  Today we look at Lame Brains issue #1.

This masterpiece of sequential art looks into the concepts of love existing beyond the grave as we meet Norman Conrad Schmitty just as he returns from the dead, not just as a zombie but also as a ghost.  Here we come to the ultimate duality of the metaphysical conundrum;  is the physical presence of a human the result of a spiritual awakening or is the spiritual self merely a manifestation of accumulated experiences in the physical world?  Are we soul?  Or are we body?  In Schmitty we now have a representation of both halves of the self.  The mindless zombie and the continued existence of the spirit. Each half with a distinctive personality.

Awakening in the world where the Zombie apocalypse has taken hold, Schmitty does in death just as he would do in life, he goes out in search of his girlfriend.  here we see the driving force of life, and in this case, the afterlife, as being a search for love.  Through the madness of his awakening as well as the world torn asunder by flesh eating monsters, Schmitty searches for and finds his true love Becky.

There is a reunion of sorts as Becky tries to kill the physical zombie manifestation of Schmitty, but the higher, spiritual self convinces her not to.  In a classic example of love overcoming fear we have a reunion of life and love in the form of Becky and death and soul in the form of Schmitty.

The comic is a humorous farce with a much deeper meaning as it plays on all the pop culture tropes of zombie movies with the amazing artwork of esteemed Root Beer Party member Anthony Hunter of Silent Sillies fame as well as the well crafted writing of Karen Schaeperkoetter.

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Lame brains is an amazing reminder of the humor to be found in the metaphysical search for the deeper meanings of life, death, love and afterlife.  Lame Brains reminds us that armed only with our uniquely human sense of humor can we stare into the abyss of the grave and laugh.

We look forward to issue #2 which is in the works to continue the story of Becky and Schmitty and find out the conclusion of the ultimate metaphysical question.  They are funding the project on Kickstarter here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/414380438/lamebrains-issue-2

I once again seal the comic into its Mylar sleeve and hand it to one of the many Root Beer Monks to return to it’s rightful place among the history of comic art.  For around us is the true legacy of mankind.  Our comics.

So let us leave this vault of honor and return to the world to partake of the elixir of life that is root beer and as always True Believers, may your mug always be frosted and your root beer always foamy.

 

Comic Collection Review – The Devil & Mr. Gandhi by Pat McCuen

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Once more we make our way down the well worn tunnels to the vast, cavernous library that houses The Official Root Beer Party Comic Archives.  Hidden away in a maze of treacherous underground tunnels lies the bunker in which we preserve the greatest works of human history, the true legacy of the great human endeavor, our comics.

The shelves stand like monolithic slabs in the shadowy depths of the seemingly infinite cavern.  It is as if the works of Jorge Luis Borges have been brought to life and the library of infinity expands and spirals all around us.  Gleaming colors stand in stark contrast to the shadowy atmosphere as a small army of Root Beer Monks scuttle around maintaining the vast organizational system that controls the spiraling shelves of infinity.

Housed in the sealed Mylar bags along the shelf in the independent section lies today’s masterpiece of comic art.  Today, we look at The Devil & Mr. Gandhi by the Root Beer Party’s own esteemed member Pat McCuen.

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The Devil & Mr. Gandhi reminds me of the old underground comics of the 1960’s and 70’s.  The age when Wally Wood, Bill Griffith, R. Crumb & Gilbert Shelton were publishing their own works in defiance of the comics code authority and really expanding the boundaries of what we call comics.  Many people may not recall that comics had gone through a rough period where they were essentially reduced to gag a day newspaper comics and superheroes.  These pioneers broke the mold and reimagined a world where any kind of story could be told through sequential art.  They found a way to make it happen and Pat McCuen is following in that tradition and making his own masterpieces through his own publishing company, Ink Puddle Press.

The Devil & Mr. Gandhi, to me is the essential and never-ending moral debate between good and evil.  What is right?  What is wrong?  One can easily distinguish these things and yet no one can define them.  This timeless debate is set in an entertaining world of humor and along with Pat’s amazing artwork adds to the ongoing moral identity crisis established by Nietzsche in Beyond Good and Evil.

Here, the Devil plays his own advocate and Mr. Gandhi is the long suffering straight man to the Devil’s impulsive whims, but as we discover, the actions of all humanity come from the same whims and impulses whether perceived as good or evil.  Despite the high minded underlying theme, the Devil & Mr. Gandhi delivers a “Hell” of an entertaining story and premise, as we follow them through the perils of pop culture and even a story in issue #2 where we travel through the history of modern comics as well.

vicious_circle You can check out this great comic here: http://www.devilandgandhi.com/ and buy a copy of the comics for yourself.  You will not be disappointed.  In this comic you can find many things, you can read a lot into the pages of dialog and sequential art about the great metaphysical debate or you can just enjoy it as an incredibly funny and inventive comic.  It succeeds as both.  Pat McCuen has created a true masterpiece in this work and I hope to see it continue for a long time to come.

Now, I carefully return the comics to the Mylar bags and hand them over to the nearest Root Beer Monk to be resealed and returned to the spiraling shelves.  I gaze upwards into the blackness of infinity above as the towering shelves reach beyond my sight.   I turn and leave the hallowed halls of mankind’s greatest achievement.  The boundless treasures of the history of humanity are once again left in the hands of the scuttling Root Beer Monks who have a taken a vow to maintain this irreplaceable collection and preserve it as the only true legacy of mankind.  Just as the shelves spiral into infinity, so too will the great works be protected ad infinitum for posterity.

As I emerge from the tunnel system the smell of vanilla, fennel and sassafras are caught in the wind from the flowing fields, ripening under the sun to make the ingredients for the elixir of life, root beer.  I make my way to the brewery, sectioned away on the palatial estates of the Root Beer Party to sample today’s brew.  There is nothing better after a long day of reading comics.  So until next time True Believers, may your mug always be frosted and your root beer always foamy.

Comic Collection Review: Boston Metaphysical Society by Madeline Holly-Rosing

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So now we once again tread the well-worn steps carved into the granite bedrock, down the ancient tunnels, the walls lined with primitive markings of prehistoric relevance.  This is an ancient, and sacred place.  It’s winding path depicts the wonders of the art through the history of mankind, and hidden away at the end of the tunnel is a labyrinth filled with the greatest works in history.  This the home of The Official Root Beer Party Comic Archives.   

Entombed in this vast library are the greatest works ever known in sequential art.  Shelves of Papyrus and stone tablets mark the beginnings of our journey, but today True Believers, we go to the more modern section to the very epicenter of the collection.  This is the members only section of the library, where we house our most sacred of all treasures, the works of Root Beer Party members.  

These irreplaceable masterpieces are protected from light and air in a sealed vault embedded into the granite bedrock, preserved for all time against the ravages of war and weather.  And if you want your own copy you can get it here: http://bostonmetaphysicalsociety.com/steampunk-shop/buy-comics/

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First we are introduced to the Boston Metaphysical Society of Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, Nicola Tesla & Harry Houdini.  Each one of these genius’s seek their own path to uncovering the secrets between the world of the known and the unknown.  But they are not the only group working on this mystery, there is another,  Samuel Hunter, Caitlin O’Sullivan & Granville Woods.  They are a more practical team, sort of a steampunk ghostbusters looking to find “The Shifter” and destroy it.

The comic is very well plotted out with multiple story arcs and character development.  This is not your internet’s version of Tesla.  He is not the hallowed brilliant saint that revisionists have made him out to be.  Each one of the Boston Metaphysical Society has their own motives and ideas concerning The Shifter and what they hope to do with it.  Good and evil are not clear cut and motives are revealed which bring a level of excitement and wonder to fit in magnificently with the steampunk motif.

This comic creates worlds within worlds, where people are bound together by their own selfish means and ends.  There are no shining knights and cookie cutter characters to simplify the world into black and white, this comic is a commentary on many facets of life, from the elitism of the great houses, to the individual ends of the characters which sometime conflict with each other and even the main goal of containing The Shifter in a world of social unrest.

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This trade paperback is the beginning of a series which is intriguing from start to finish.  It is a modern day masterpiece in suspense and a master class in character development.  It captures the flavor and wonder of the steampunk genre in a way few others have ever accomplished.  Steampunk is often a genre over exposed to amateur scribblings and cookie cutter efforts to cut and paste a subgenre onto yet another simple minded storyline, but Madeline shows her true talent and understanding of plot and character driven storylines to make a modern day masterpiece.

So Back upon the shelf and into the vault it goes once again to protect it for posterity.  The handwritten signature glistens on the gloss cover of the book as it disappears into the cavernous vault filled with the treasures of the Root Beer Party.  We turn and gaze upon the greatest works of human history which line the walls of the great cavern, an amazing scene, as history literally unfolds before us and all the secrets of the art are spilled forth from the shelves.  This library is the greatest endeavor in history, the repository of all that is good and great about the world.  This is The Official Root Beer Party Comic Archives. 

So climb the steps once again True Believers, and ascend to the world above for a cool refreshing mug of the elixir of life, and as always, may your mug always be frosted and your root beer always foamy.  

 

Comic Collection Review: The Untold Tales of Bigfoot: Crossing Paths by Vince Dorse

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Once again we transverse down the ancient staircase, the dim illumination of torches flicker from the wall sconces casting macabre shadows that play and dance upon the rough walls cleaved by hand from the granite rock bed.  There are unknown sounds that echo through the tunnels as if originating from nowhere that only heighten the senses and feelings of fear as we proceed down into the bowels of the earth.  Far above the bountiful fields of sassafras, vanilla and fennel are long forgotten.  With unsure step, we trod upon the well worn stones feeling the pressure of gravity shift with every movement.  We persevere, because beneath us lies the greatest treasure in all the world.  At the end of our quest lies the Official Root Beer Party Comic Archives.

Today we look upon one of the Root Beer Party’s own.  Vince Dorse has been a long standing member of the Root Beer Party, one of the select few who have access and know about the secret society of the Root Beer Party.  Our mission is to collect and preserve the great works of sequential art, as well is the elixir of life itself, root beer.  Vince was brought into our fold due to his amazing talent and with help and encouragement from the Root Beer Party, Vince has released his first graphic novel, The Untold Tales of Bigfoot: Crossing Paths.  You can buy a copy here:  http://vincedorse.storenvy.com/

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The story is about the discovery and budding friendship between Bigfoot and his loyal friend, An abandoned dog named Scout.  Bigfoot is the last of his kind, and he leads a lonely existence.  We soon learn about his past as it is uncovered with almost cinematic precision by Dorse.  It is not surprising considering his plethora of awards from The National Cartoonist Society and the Slate Book review and Center for Cartoon Studies.

Vince really has created one of the modern day masterpieces of comic art with this series.  I would not be surprised to see this made into a film or a cartoon series in the near future.  The story is perfect for adaptation into that medium.  The growing friendship as well as the unfolding past history of a creature learning to adapt to being the last of it’s kind.

The comic does more than focus on the history of Bigfoot, it also goes into the history of the woodland in which he lives, as well as the humans who have transversed it for decades.  It really is about the crossing of paths.  The animals, the humans and even the environment all play a factor in this story of brotherhood in the wilderness.  A lonely dog and a lonely bigfoot find each other and find a unique friendship that undergoes all sorts of adventures and surprises.

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This comic has a lot going for it and I hope to see it continue for many years to come.  It is a story that needs to be told in the modern era.  When we strip away the modern conveniences of the world, all we are left with is the primitive notion of brotherhood and friendship the vast array of paths that we cross to achieve it.

Once again we return the volume to it’s shelf and reemerge in the world above.  The fields of fennel toss in unison as the winds flow along the fields releasing the scent of licorice into the air.  We look out from the ancient estate and marvel at the friendship and brotherhood which has brought the Root Beer Party together and kept it going for all these millennium’s.  It is a tale told endlessly through the ages and it gets better with each retelling.  So until next time True Believers, May your mug always be frosted and your root beer always foamy.  

Comic Collection Review: Classic Andy Capp by Reg Smythe

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Once again we travel down into the catacombs, into the ancient cellar filled with it’s casks of vintage root beer, beneath the vineyards with it’s waving plains of  Sassafras and fennel, past the brewing center with the root beer monks silently toiling away in their holy mission to make the perfect root beer, until we come to the very bottom.  The tunnels which are hand carved through the solid granite rock bed and at the end of these treacherous winding tunnels is the vast cavern that houses the Official Root Beer Party’s Comic Archive.  In hermetically sealed perfection, a multitude of volumes lines the shelves which stand like towering monoliths.  A small army of specially trained root beer monks tend to the volumes to preserve them for posterity.  In full sealed body suits they gingerly handle the volumes and scribe them by hand into the great leather bound ledgers.  

From this library which only the Root Beer Party members have access to, I now examine the volumes of Andy Capp.  

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In these politically correct time, one has to wonder how such an anachronism such as Andy Capp can exist.  Well, it has changed over the years, he is still the drunken lay about, but he is no longer the celebrated wife beater he was from his first inception.  The name Andy Capp is actually a pun if you happen to posses an English accent.  Without pronouncing the H, his name is translated to H’andycapp.  While the subject matter of the strip has always seemed odd, it does speak to a certain part of the population in much the same way as Married with Children or other such shows spoke to a population that is often marginalized and unrepresented.

Reg Smythe actually based the strip on the relationship between his mother and father.  A father he rarely ever saw once he left for good.  Flo is actually the name of his mother and was the original title of the comic until he came up with the pun to use as the name for the strip.  While much of the comic is taken to light hearted, it is based upon a very real situation and a part of life which is often overlooked, or goes unspoken in the modern world.

There may be some sociological study based on the works of Reg Smythe that has been done, but if there are, they are not readily available.  But Andy Capp is a humorous look at a very sad and even painful situation and I think it is the reason for it’s continued success.  People can marginalize it as some sort of anti-woman propaganda, but anyone who has read deeply into the comic series can see that Flo, Andy’s Wife, is not only the center of the comic, but the protagonist as well.

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It wasn’t until around the 1970’s that Flo began to actually win the fights and subsequently the physical fighting has all but disappeared in the modern comic.  Once in awhile Andy will fight in the bar or on the field, but there is no longer any physical fighting between him and his wife.

So is Andy Capp an anachronism?  We should ask: has this sort of domestic situation been eliminated in the world?

Smythe, through levity brought attention to a very real part of our world and a very personal part for himself.  Andy Capp has brought attention to a very real situation and should be seen for it’s contribution to the world.  It has been toned down over the years to fit into the modern politically correct attitudes of the world, but is that, in and of itself a problem?  Should we sanitize the very comics that are bringing attention to these issues?  Will that make the problems go away or simply leave the unspoken?

Reg Smythe brought a sense of levity to a situation that was beyond his control.  Maybe it was the only way he could have gotten through it and maybe it was the only way he knew how to communicate it to the world.  This is a comic which can be read many ways, but Smythe made sure, through his immense talent, that it could always be enjoyed as a comic first.  You can read Andy Capp as a sociological study, or a comment on the oppression of women, or even just as a comic on the funny page, but we should all read Andy Capp because however it may speak to you, it is a comic with a lot to say.

So now, we return the vintage volumes to their rightful place upon the shelves as the garbed monks make haste to attend to their rightful position and order along the shelf.  We head back up to world to attend to our duties as members of the Root Beer Party.  To spread the word of the root beer and comics to the entire world.  From our vast estates, we perfect the recipe for the elixir of life and preserve the legacy of sequential art.  From the cave paintings of our primitive ancestors, to the pixilated masterpieces of the digital age, we seek out the best and brightest masters of the art and bring them to you, the True Believers.  So until next time, may your mug always be frosted and your root beer always foamy.  

20 Questions with Comic Artists: Eric Salinas of Something About Celeste

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We are back once again True Believers with another entry into our world famous series.  20 Questions .  Today we have invited Eric Salinas of Something About Celeste to the palatial Root Beer Party compound for an interview.  As we sit overlooking the Sassafras fields, we sip on a frosty mug of A&W and welcome our new member into the ancient and venerated society that is the root Beer Party.  

You can find Eric’s comic on his webpage here: http://www.somethingceleste.com/

So let us begin and welcome our newest member into the party.  

Question 1. What got you started in doing a comic series?

When I was 11, my older brother had a birthday party at our house, and one of his gifts was a Calvin & Hobbes book. I wasn’t invited to participate in the birthday festivities, so I pilfered the book and read the whole thing within the weekend.  After that, I knew I wanted to become a cartoonist. My first comic was about a bratty, spiky-haired kid named ‘Kevin’. Yes, I know, not very original. 

I drew my ‘Kevin Comics’ throughout middle school and high school, showing only my family and friends. In college, I submitted my comics to the university student publication. Because I was too emotionally invested in ‘Kevin’ at that time and I knew I couldn’t handle any sort of constructed criticism, I created a new comic with a bunch of throw away gags that I could draw within 15-30 minutes. That way if the editor didn’t like any particular comic, it wouldn’t be a crushing ordeal for me.  It was weeks after I created the comic that I decided to finally give a name to my protagonist. I thought ‘Celeste’ was a nice sounding name. But I was embarrassed that it was a ‘feminine comic’ so I used the pseudonym “Paige Zuniga”. Later I did other comics under my own name while in college, but ‘Common Ground’ (the comic with Celeste) was the most popular comic. Ironically, I was jealous of Paige because her comic was so much more popular than the comics under my name. 

My last year in university, I created a new comic strip ‘Soliciting Celeste’ (I have no idea where I came up with that awful name) that I planned to send to all the major syndications. After two years of failure, I revamped the strip with the new name of ‘Something about Celeste’. But by 2005, I gave up trying to get syndicated and by 2007 I stopped drawing comics all together. I only restarted drawing my strip when I started to post my comic to Sherpa GoComics in 2015. So long story short, I have been cartooning for over two decades but I have been an amateur webcartoonist for only two years. 

Question 2. Who was your greatest influence?

Oddly enough, I hated reading the comics section in the newspaper because there were too many syndicated comics that I hated, and reading the newspaper only made me angry. Instead, I would just buy the books of my favorite artists and read them and reread them at my leisure. I had all the ‘Calvin & Hobbes’ books, most of ‘Bloom County’, and a smattering of ‘Foxtrot’, ‘Mutts’, ‘Zits’, ‘Rose is Rose’, ‘For Better or For Worse’,  ‘Get Fuzzy’ and ‘Sinfest’ books. 

But by far, the greatest influence was Bill Watterson. I would emulate his work so much during my teenage and early adult years. I think that, now in my 30s, I have finally found my own voice. My favorite thing about the comic was how Calvin escaped into his fantasy world and I often have Celeste doing similar things in my comic. Another thing that I liked was how a mischievous 6-year old (a boy always playing pranks, playing in the mud, and collecting bugs) also had a lexicon of a grad student. I thought that was funny. A comic that I would laugh at when I was a kid because it had a visual gag, I would revisit as an adult and find that the joke really had a play-on-word pun.  Watterson’s comic worked on so many levels and that was the thing that I have tried to emulate the most. 

Question 3. What is your favorite root beer, and why?

I rarely drink any sort of soft drinks, but when I do have an ice cream float, I drink A&W. Also, there is a root beer called ‘The Best Damn Root Beer’. I don’t know if they sell it everywhere or only here in Texas. It is $10 dollars a six pack because it has 5% alcohol per bottle (I think it’s whiskey with the root beer). I have only had it a few times but it has an interesting taste.

Question 4. What do you hope to accomplish with your comic?

Artistically, I hope to learn how to draw one day and not be so dependent on my Photoshopping skills.

Professionally, I hope that I could garner enough readers and subscribers that I could finally open a Patreon account and have some sort of ads on my website. I’m not greedy, I just want enough money that I can pay off the expenses of operating my own website. 

Question 5. Do you have any other artistic interests outside of comics?

I have learned how to ‘paint’ (but only on Photoshop). I have done  few acrylic-like paintings and hope to learn how to make water color-like ones as well. As for the real thing, with real brushes and paint, I have very little skill in that. 

Also, I am not an adept polyglot, but I do like learning other languages. I am not proficient in any other language outside of English and still consider myself monolingual, but I do know the main words and phrases of several languages. Because of this, I have worked to make a few translated versions of my comic, such as Greek, Turkish, Dutch, and Czech. 

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Question 6: Do you see yourself as a professional cartoonist, or is this just something you do for yourself?

I don’t get paid to be considered a ‘professional’, but I work too hard and too long on my comics for it to be considered a ‘hobby’ either. I’m somewhere in the middle. I wouldn’t mind becoming semi-professional and earning some money from my art.

Question 7: What type of subject or humor do you consider out of bounds for your strips and why?

Very little. When I was trying to get syndicated, I would self-censor my ideas. When I gave up on my syndication pursuits, I revisited ideas that I thought were funny but might have been considered taboo for the newspapers. Now, for the internet, I use any idea that I think is funny or interesting. My material is PG-13. I have done sexual innuendo jokes, but I try to make the joke as subtle as possible. I can show the same comic to my 10-year old and 16-year old nieces. The 16-year old will get the joke and laugh, but the joke is so subtle that it flies over my 10-year niece’s head; however she will still laugh at the visual gag (remember how I said I try to emulate Watterson working at multiple levels). But for the most part, my comic is not sexually obscene (I have done partial nudity but nothing too racy), overly violent (cartoon violence is fine), or have swearing (again with a few exceptions, but then I make two versions. The clean version goes to Facebook and other websites I am on; and the dirty version goes straight to my personal website.) I write for an adult audience.

The only thing I avoid is politics. I am not an apolitical person, but I don’t want to make anyone angry by reading my comic. Anything too polarizing, I think should be left for editorial comics. I do touch on religion topics, but I try to be as respectful as possible.

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Question 8: What kind of equipment or style of drawing do you use? 

In the early 2000s, I used to draw on paper and then scan it into the computer and finish it up on Photoshop. I would clean the lines, write the text, do the shading, creating the panels, placing and reorganizing the art into their proper place, and color my ‘Sundays’ all on the computer. It was a 20% by hand and 80% working on the computer. 

Now, I do everything on the computer and my drafting table is left messy in the corner collecting various items on it. 

I work solely on Adobe Photoshop, and I do research on Pinterest or Google Images to help me find simple sketches of body postures, backgrounds, and other visual effects. 

Question 9: what sort of training or academic program did you pursue to become a cartoonist? 

I studied Advertising in college. But besides my internship, I never worked a day in an advertising agency. However, I was required to learn Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, and Quark. It was in college that I learned to have a critical eye to layout. Most cartoonists are conscious about their art and their writing, but I think layout is equally important. I am consciously aware of all the little placements within my panels and I try to direct the reader’s gaze in a certain chronological order as it glances over my comic. 

But besides that, I am self-taught by reading all the comic books I collected. I don’t think there is an academic program out there that can teach how to be a cartoonist, but if there was, I would like to teach it. 

Question 10:  What has been the highlight of your cartooning career?

I have two high points. The first was when I was in high school. The local Children’s Museum had a month-long exhibit of my comics. I did two interviews with the local TV news stations on the day before and the night of opening night. The second was when I was in college. My hometown newspaper decided to publish my comic twice a week. They ran an article of the week I was about to debut. After that, it has been all down hill since. 

Question 11:  What has been the lowest point in your cartooning career?

There is no one defining low point, just several small low points. So many. Lately, I have channelled that dark energy to make comics of a different nature than what I usually do. Instead of silly, light-hearted comics, I have made a few introspective, philosophical, and bittersweet comics. I don’t use Celeste for those comic, but instead, I use my other main character, Paige. These are a sort of spin-off comic within a comic that I call ‘Something about Paige’.

Question 12: Are collections of your work available beyond the web? If So where?

No, not yet. I have created some pdf files that I will use someday to self-publish a book. 

Question 13: Are there any other web comic artists that you really admire?

There are so many webcomic that I read. Mainly, I just follow on Facebook the rest of the other Sherpa cartoonists. Let me name a few: Gravy, Amanda the Great, Pridelands, Speckticles, Candace and Company, My Son is a Dog, In-Security, C. Cassandra,  Smith, Draw Write Play, and so many others. I apologize if I forgot to mention some. 

But I do want to focus on one, as it has influenced my current work.  Christopher Grady’s ‘Lunarbaboon’ is interesting. It shows that you don’t have to try to be funny all the time. His is a bittersweet take of mental illness and depression.’ Lunarbaboon’ has influenced my making of ‘Something about Paige’ to a small degree. 

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Question 14: What kind of impact has cartooning had on your life and could you ever see yourself not doing it?

I gave it up for 8 years. I thought it was a chapter in my life that I had filed away, but wanting to tell stories (however silly as they are) is something that comes back. I know now that even if I never became syndicated, this is something I would do for the rest of my life.

Question 15: Do you have any advice for the trolls out there who harass content creators?  (no need to keep this answer clean.) 

Where are these trolls? I must be so minor league that I don’t have any trolls. I would welcome the harassment of trolls as it means that my comic has reached a wide audience as it has aroused the jealousy a few. If I had trolls, then I can finally tell myself that I have “made it”.

Question 16: Do you set yourself any deadlines or other tricks to keep yourself motivated?

I try to make comics between 2-3 months in advance. But I have taken a few sabbaticals in order to catch up. I try to be ‘quality over quantity’ (since I am not paid) and I try not to sweat over my own personal deadlines. Of course, I would have a different attitude if my income was derived from my comics.

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Question 17: Apart from root beer, what is your favorite drink?

I like fruit-flavored water. Dobra Voda is my favorite, but they only make it in the Czech Republic. I also drink a lot of sugar-free energy drinks, like Monster, to help me focus while I spend hours at a time sitting and working on my computer.

Question 18: Are you already a member of the root beer party and if not, what is the matter with you? 

I’ve been a member of this shindig for about a week now. I’m just waiting for my cases of root beer to come in the mail.  (All root beer is made on site by our root beer monks and never shipped, you must visit the palatial estates that house the Root Beer Party to enjoy all the root beer you can drink, but you are a member now, so stop on by anytime.  The Root Beer Party never stops.  -Editor)

Question 19: What is the most challenging aspect of cartooning for you?

Sitting for hours at a time while working on the computer. 

Also, I try to tell my story in as few words as possible while still being funny or keeping its meaning. It is called ‘The Economy of Words’. I think many new inexperienced cartoonists tend to get overly wordy, and I think with more and practice I am able to edit my writing to make it as ‘streamline’ (for lack of a better word) as possible.

Question 20: What are your future plans involving web comics or anything else going on in your life?

Like I said earlier, I hope to self-publish a book or two sometime in the near future. I just hope it is not too expensive as all my ‘dailies’, and not just my ‘Sundays’, are all in color now. I worry about production costs. I have enough material to make two books, but I don’t know if there are enough readers out there willing to pay for a ‘Something about Celeste’ book. So we’ll see. 

And there you have it True Believers, another member has joined the world esteemed comic community that is the Root Beer Party.  Welcome to the party Eric, get yourself another root beer, and the butler will fetch you another frosted mug.  So check out his webpage and check back every now and again to join the party.  Until next time True Believers, may your mug always be frosted and your root beer always foamy.  

20 Questions with Comic Artists: Anthony Camarota of Plan C

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Welcome back True Believers to the Root Beer Party.  We are back once again with one of our world famous, award winning segments: 20 Questions!  Today we meet one of the newest members of the Root b\Beer Party Anthony Camarota of Plan C.  we invited him to the palatial estates of the Root Beer Party for an interview with a Hires Root Beer so he can fully appreciate the greatness that is Root Beer. 

You can find Anthony’s comic Plan C here: http://www.plancomic.com/

Now let’s meet Anthony and find out how the magic of comics happens.

Question 1: What got you started in doing a comic series?

I’ve wanted to be a cartoonist since I was a kid. In high school I made a comic for my senior art class and did a weekly comic for my college paper when I was an undergrad. When I went to grad school for Fine Arts, I thought I was done cartooning but I always felt that itch to keep going. In my second year of grad school, I watched the comic strip documentary “Stripped” and it really lit a fire in me. The thesis of that movie was “There’s nothing stopping you from doing this but yourself.” I think that was April 2014 and I launched “Plan C” a month later.

Question 2: Who was your greatest influence?

Hands down, Bill Watterson. As a kid, I read and drew “Calvin and Hobbes” compulsively. I remember spending hours drawing those strips, trying to get my pencil lines to look exactly like Watterson’s brush strokes.  Calvin and Hobbes has the perfect balance of everything you need in a comic strip .  They’re hilarious, meaningful without being pretentious or preaching, and are visually stunning.

Question 3: What is your favorite root beer and why?

I’ll drink anything, I’m really not brand specific. With that being said, I did give up soda a few years ago so I’m more of a seltzer person now…

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Question 4: What do you hope to accomplish with your comic?

I’d love to be able to do this professionally but I know how rare that is. With that in mind, I’d love to be able to build up enough of an audience where I know people are getting something out of my comic. A little bit of money on the side wouldn’t kill me though.

Question 5: Do you have any other artistic interests outside of comics?

I got my MFA in Fine Arts with a concentration of Drawing and Painting in 2015.  Since then, I’ve moved to a different city, got a new job, and now I’m engaged and planning a wedding, so there hasn’t been much time for other projects. I’m still very passionate about my fine art and would love to get to the point where I can work on that and the cartoon at the same time but there are only so many hours in the day. If anybody is interested in seeing any of that work, you can find it at anthonycamarota.com. It’s actually very heavily influenced by comics (shocking, right?).

Question 6: Do you see yourself as a professional cartoonist, or is this just something you do for yourself?

At this point I do it for myself. I would love to be able to call myself a professional but I’m just not at that point.

Question 7: What type of subject or humor do you consider out of bounds for your strips and why?

I usually try to keep the comic pretty light. I tend to naturally veer away from any topics that seem taboo or out of bounds, as I feel like I don’t have anything worthwhile to contribute to the conversation.

Question 8: What kind of equipment or style of drawing do you use?

Manga Studio 5 and I switch between an inutos drawing tablet on my desktop and the surface pro 3. I’ve never drawn digitally before starting Plan C so it’s a really new experience. At first I thought I would always go back to pen and paper but I’m starting to appreciate digital as its own medium and really love it for that. The ability to edit on the fly has become a fairly integral part of my process.

Question 9: What sort of training or academic program did you pursue to become a cartoonist?

Like I said before, my undergraduate degree is in art education and I went to grad school for drawing and painting. It’s shocking how little that helps when cartooning though! It feels like an entirely different style of art which has to be developed independent of other training. When I started the comic I felt like I was going back to square 1.

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Question 10: What has been the highlight of your cartooning career?

Any time somebody goes out of their way to say “Hey, today’s comic was really funny.”  I’m also getting a spotlight in the Comic Strip Cartoonist Magazine, which is pretty exciting.

Question 11: What has been the lowest point in your cartooning career?

The days where I think the comic that day is real a winner and I get some rough comments or down voted to oblivion on Reddit. When those days come consistently enough, you start to wonder whether you’re any good at this.

Question 12: Are collections of your work available beyond the web? If So where?

Not yet, but I’m thinking about doing a book compiling the first few years. All the archives are on the site.

Question 13: Are there any other web comic artists that you really admire?

I think Neil Koney, who does “The Other End” is unbelievable. He somehow does a hilarious comic 7 days a week and does these outstanding and detailed illustrations (often in full color). Any time I think about how tough it is to do a black and white strip 3 days a week I remind myself that there are guys doing over twice as much as that.

Also, John Cullen’s “NHOJ Comics.”. He also works 7 days a week and does some of the most surreal and boundary pushing comics out there. It seems like he’s really interested in dissecting the comic making medium and putting it on display, which I love. And they’re visually stunning.

Question 14: What kind of impact has cartooning had on your life and could you ever see yourself not doing it?

Cartooning is more stressful than I thought it would be. I feel like I’m always stretched by a deadline or looking for a new joke. That being said, it’s an incredibly rewarding process.  There’s something special about thinking up an idea and then turning it into something tangible and putting it out there for the world to see.

I could see myself not doing cartooning specifically, but I’ll always be making something.

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Question 15: Do you have any advice for the Trolls out there who harass content creators? (no need to keep this answer clean.)

Find a hobby you like, we’ll all be better off for it.

Question 16: Do you set yourself any deadlines or other tricks to keep yourself motivated?

I’ve gone back and forth between two and three updates a week and I’m starting to get more comfortable with just updating when I have an idea. Having a constant deadline of 3 comics a week stressed me out and had a really negative impact on the work, so now I just try to focus on putting out good work.

As far as motivation, I’m trying to be better about just following my interests. If I want to do a comic that doesn’t take place in Plan C’s “world” I just do it. If I want to write a fantasy storyline, I just do it. I think keeping things fresh is essential to the process.

Question 17: Apart from root beer, what is your favorite drink?

I drink a lot of beer and I’m starting to get into wine. I know absolutely nothing about it, which actually works to my advantage as I can drink the cheap stuff without knowing the difference. I also got a sodastream recently and it’s changed my life. Seltzer for days people.

Question 18: Are you already a member of the root beer party and if not, what is the matter with you?

I’m not! But I’m ready to be inaugurated if it means I get a lifetime supply of root beer. I’m also ready if I don’t get any root beer…

(First you must choose a root beer and be willing to defend it with your life.  Then you will truly be worthy of the Root Beer Party membership.  Or you can just draw a comic.  😀 _Editor)

Question 19: What is the most challenging aspect of cartooning for you?

Definitely the writing. The art isn’t where I want it to be but I think with practice it will continue to grow and get better, with the writing I’m starting at square one. I don’t know anything about character development or story arcs other than what I’ve seen or read myself (and that doesn’t help much).  Also, it’s tough telling a joke three times a week and not know whether or not it’s going to land.

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Question 20: What are your future plans involving web comics or anything else going on in your life?

Getting married/planning a wedding and working full time pretty much sums it up for the “anything else” portion of that question.

As for the web comic, I plan on continuing to just grind out comics for the foreseeable future. On the horizon somewhere is a Patreon campaign and all of that stuff but right now I’m focused on building an audience and trying to reach out more to other cartoonists and colleagues.  I think everything else will just kind of pop up whenever it’s meant to.

And there you have it True Believers, Welcome to the party Anthony.  Another great interview with a member of the Root Beer Party, a collection of the greatest comic talent spanning the entire globe.  We reach out to only the finest comic creators in the world to bring yo the news and insight into the world’s greatest medium of art.  So kick back with your favorite root beer and get to know the genius’ behind the sequential art and as always, may your mug always be frosted and your Root Beer always foamy.