Official Root Beer Party Portrait #6 Bret Juliano of the Dust Bunny Mafia

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We are back once again in the new wing for the induction of our latest Official Root Beer Party Portrait.  Today we celebrate Bret Juliano of the Dust Bunny Mafia.  One of the original founding members of the Root Beer Party, in fact he was our first official member, and now thanks to the magnificent skill of out resident portrait artist Kim Belding, Bret’s portrait will hang forever in the Official Root Beer Party Portrait Gallery.  Welcome to immortality Bret.

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20ish Questions with Comic Creators: Kim Belding of Picpak Dog Comics

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Today, True Believers, we have a special treat for you.  It is an interview with our glorious Co-President Kim Belding of Picpak Dog Comics and it is being conducted by our illustrious Secretary of State James Boyd of Sunny Side Up.  It is a high profile meeting of the top brass here at the Root Beer Party.  A top secret summit meeting which we have opened up to you, the True Believers to get an inside look at the inner workings of the Root Beer Party.  So now let us turn this interview over to James Boyd, Secretary of State, Chief Ambassador and Webcomic Crossover King of 2017.  

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Q1 Welcome back Kim! Let’s start off with the Garfield 40th Anniversary Book. Tell us about it. What does it mean to you to be included in such a milestone? What has Garfield and Jim Davis meant to you?
It’s a pleasure to be back James. Garfield was having a contest to submit your artwork to be featured in their upcoming 40th Anniversary book. Needless to say, I submitted my work and made it in! To say Garfield and Jim Davis were an influence of mine would be a massive understatement. Snoopy was the first character I ever drew, and Garfield had to be second. The comic lends a lot of its humor and visual cues from the early Garfield strips. Picpak himself is really just a bigger Odie! And there’s been so many ideas I’ve had where I’ve thought “Man, this would make a much better Garfield strip”. That was actually what I had submitted in to the contest, and I got in! What a dream come true. I couldn’t believe it.
Q2 Speaking of 40 years, how long have you been doing PicPak? Calvin and Hobbes lasted 10 years, Far Side 15, Garfield is going at 40. Do you foresee a time when you will end PicPak or will it continue forever?
Believe it or not, Picpak has been around in one form or another since 1996! So about 22 years. I was only five years old at the time. I started drawing him in comics in 1999. Before that he was just drawn in a sketch or two. The very first comic was actually just him in a variety of styles, because by that time I had forgotten how to draw him!
The secret to Picpak’s longevity is that it’s such an adaptable comic. When I grow, it grows. When I was a younger I would have never thought of doing puns. Now that’s what I’m known for!
Q3 Lorenzo Music, who voiced Garfield on Garfield and Friends, did such a great job that I can’t read Garfield without hearing his voice. If PicPak became an animated cartoon who do you think should do the voice? Who does PicPak sound like in your head?
Are you familiar with the 90s Pink Panther? It got a lot of backlash because he could talk. The parrot Jules was actually an inspiration for the Parrot in my strip. But anyway, he was voiced by Matt Frewer, AKA Max Headroom. I think he has a strong, but playful and friendly quality to his voice that could work for Picpak. Or perhaps I just have an affinity for pink characters.
Q4 What is your absolute favorite PicPak strip you have done and why do you like it so much?

There are so many to choose from! The Good News (http://www.picpak.net/comic/good-news/) is one that comes to mind. But my favorite must be the very first one I ever put online (http://www.picpak.net/comicgenesis/d/20070630.html). The gag is so wacky and right away it introduces you to both Picpak and Wakky’s characters. I’m actually surprised this wasn’t made into a Way Back Wednesday comic!
Q5 One of the best and worst things about social media is interaction with fans. What’s the best comment you have ever received and why did it mean so much to you?
That’s a really good question! I’ve gotten many great comments, especially from Jon Esparza and Chris Gobbett, that always put a smile on my face. One of my favorites is Chris’ review of the first Picpak Dog collection on Amazon. In it he calls Picpak “a new classic comic in the making” and the “Garfield of the new millennium”. It’s always a pleasure to receive comments like this, and the fact that Chris took the time to write this review means a lot me.

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Q6 The RootBeerParty has really grown in the last year. I’m really proud to be part of our community. As one of the founders, what are your thoughts on where we are at and how would you like us to continue to grow?
To be honest, I didn’t really expect the Root Beer Party to grow into anything! XD You can thank Chris for all that. Having a hand in such an amazing community is a great feeling. I personally invited Brett Koth, one of my biggest influences and an artist from Paws, Inc. into the group, and now he posts his comics there. How cool is that?

People just need to find out there’s a place on Facebook without all the politics and fighting where everyone is positive and shares great work. I know it’s helped me out from time to time. The best way for it to grow is simply through word of mouth!
Q7 Since our last interview with you are there new collections of your work available? Do you have any future plans to publish work?
Now there’s the question on everyone’s mind! Picpak Dog Volume 3 exists somewhere in-between Half-Life 3 and Portal 3. While there haven’t been any collections in a while, the comic does appear regularly in Zenith News (https://www.zenithcitynews.com/) in Duluth, MN. Someday I may launch a Kickstarter to produce a third book. That seems to be the thing that’s in nowadays. Someday!
Q8 Your twitter bio says “Currently working on Season 3 of LouisSaysTV and owner of QCIndieDotCom” – what are those projects and where can we find out more?

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Louis Says is a children’s animated series I work on for a Canadian channel called APTN. It’s about a young boy named Randy who tries to help his old friend Louis, but gets mixed up and learns some Cree (a native Canadian language) along the way. There’s more info at http://www.louissaystv.com/.
QCIndie is an Internet radio station I made that airs alternative and indie music. It’s a little different from what you normally hear, and sometimes I just need to remind myself that today’s music isn’t all that bad. You can check it out at http://qcindie.com .
Q9 How do you ‘write’ a PicPak comic? Take us through your typical process? Do you write in batches or do you create a strip or two daily? How long does one strip take to create?
First I jot down the “script” in Google Keep. This is a bit handier than a notebook because I can use it on my phone, laptop, etc. There is where I perfect the timing and the wording. I write when the mood fancies me, but I always make sure I have enough ideas for the upcoming week. I create the strips a day or two before they go up, but occasionally I’ll have a buffer. I start with an initial rough sketch in Photoshop and ink over top that. The whole process for a simple, 3 panel strip is about half an hour.
Other times I like to challenge myself. Recently I did a storyline where Picpak stays in a hotel run by chickens. I had no idea of an ending for this one when I first put it up. I just made chicken jokes until I ran out!

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Q10 How can fans best support you and your work?
Before this week I would have pointed you to my Patreon (https://www.patreon.com/picpak), but their announcement of their new rules (which they ended up going back on) drove everyone away. I suggest buying a t-shirt or book from the shop (http://www.picpak.net/shop/), or using Ko-fi (http://ko-fi.com/picpak).
Q11 What are your thoughts on the various collaborations, guest strips, and art challenges you are involved in? Specifically, the inflation days on twitter and the monthly patreon sketches.

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I love ‘em! The Patreon sketches are always a great way to try something new. The people I draw them for aren’t even patrons anymore. Some of them never were to begin with, I just made them for them anyway!
Picpak is such a simple strip it’s hard to sneak other characters in. But recently I included both Tiffany and Corey (http://tiffanyandcorey.blogspot.ca/) by Max West into some comics. It’s good to do little shout-outs like these from time to time, especially if they don’t feel forced.
Every time I think there can’t be another inflation joke, the Animaloons make you think again! While reinventing the same joke can sometimes be a challenge, it’s always a pleasure to do them. I especially got a kick out of this month’s Reindeerloon! Inflating an reindeer through its nose will never not be funny!
Q12 Are there any comics out there you think more people should be reading?
There’s so many great comics that you can find in the Root Beer Party every day! A few that come to mind are your strip (Sunny Side Up), Jon Esparza’s Bubble Fox, my friend Donna’s Once Upon a Donna, Dana Atnip’s Galactic Dragons, Charles Brubaker’s Fuzzy Princess and Ask a Cat, Crispin Wood’s Small Blue Yonder, PJ Day’s Flatt Bear, Peter Rasmussen’s Fatherhood Badly Doodled, Jim Horwitz’s Watson, Tim Green’s Vinnie the Vampire, Brad Perri’s Pirate Mike, George Ford’s Addanac City, Brett Koth’s Diamond Lil, Bob Scott’s Bear With Me…there are SO many! I’m sorry if I forgot you, but it’s impossible to list ‘em all!
Q13 I’ve heard you also work in animation? Are there plans for any animated projects for PicPak like the feeling groovy video? What animators do you admire? Which ones influenced you the most?
I do work in animation full-time, and while I would love to see a Picpak series come true, it would have to be under the right circumstances. No crappy soulless CGI! My favourite animators are Chuck Jones, Tom Ruegger, Hanna-Barbera, and Jay Ward (Ok, you can question if he counts as an animator or not! XD). Hanna-Barbera has a huge influence on my style. In fact, the logo on my website has Picpak modeled after a Yogi Bear pose!

Q14 Why don’t you use Scraps more in your comic?
Believe me, I think Scraps is a fascinating character and I’d create a spin-off series if I could, but he’s simply too hard to write for! Picpak is much easier to put in a situation and see how he acts out. Scraps is more particular. That and he’s like dessert – if you saw him every day you’d get sick of him! Plus, if he appeared all the time, all the magic when he does appear would be lost.

Q15 You used to like A&W root beer – why do you hate Barq’s?
I still like A&W! XD My hatred for Barq’s ended up creating one of the best comic communities on the web, so I think the ends justify the means here! To me, Barq’s just doesn’t have the “bite” like it claims. Heck, I don’t even mind it THAT much so long as it’s not watered down!
Q16 If you could revive one discontinued comic which one would it be?

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This answer surely is clichéd at this point, but I’d love to see what Bill Watterson could do with Calvin and Hobbes as a webcomic. Or anything, really! He could create something amazing with the unlimited space. The world desperately needs his talent!
Q17 I think I’m out of questions for now. Thanks once again Kim and happy holidays to you and yours!
No problem James, thanks again for the interview! Happy holidays to you as well!

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So there you have it True Believers, a meeting for the ages.  Two of the world leading comic experts meeting up to give you a behind the scenes look into how your favorite comics are made.  Sure, they can’t seem to count to twenty, but heck, Seventeen is close enough.  They can’t give away all their secrets.  

Once again we retire with a frosty mug of the elixir of life that is root beer and gaze out upon the vast acreage of The Official Root Beer Party Estates located in an undisclosed location of a unknown country in an undiscovered land.  We hope you enjoy this peek behind the curtain of the Root Beer Party and as always True Believers, may your mug always be frosted and your root beer always foamy.  

Comic Collection Review: Unshelved – Overdue by Gene Ambaum, Bill Barnes & Chris Hallbeck

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It is with a sad heart that I bring this volume to The Official Root Beer Party Comic Archives.  Whenever a comic comes to an end, the Archive springs into action and begins the ceremony of preservation.  So today I bring to you the final volume of the Unshelved comic series.

For 14 years we followed the antics of Dewey and the gang of The Mallville Public Library, created by the duo of Gene Ambaum & Bill Barnes in 2002, Unshelved led us on a comic journey, taking on issues such as consumerism and public service to the modern loss of civility and the entitlement of our consumer culture.  We followed our Librarian hero’s as they tackled the mechanizations of government bureaucracy and economic ups and downs.

It was a humorous glimpse at a changing world from the anachronism of the old library systems to the many attempts to keep this essential community function relevant in an ever changing society.  In the end we learn that it is not the books of the library or the technological search engines that drive information, it is the people, the librarians themselves which are the gatekeepers of civilization.

While being a humorous comic strip, Unshelved never lost sight of this core value.  It was always focused on the characters both in front of and behind the counter which are the essence of the institution.  Even in the age of ever changing technology we still have a dire need for those who can find and distill information and give context to flood of data which assaults our senses everyday.

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The library is more than just a collection of informational tools and reference materials, it is a modern community center of sorts, providing much needed guidance and relief to people from all walks of life.  even today, the library is still the most democratic of institutions.  They are open to everyone and forgiving of all sorts of social anomolies.

Unshelved captured all the chaos of the library and showed both it’s strengths and it’s shortcomings.  With gentle, albeit sarcastic wit, it showed us that even in our most sacred of collective institutions the human condition is still the focal point of everything that we do.

Dewey has grown from a sarcastic kid to a responsible father, bringing along with him the whimsical and the weird co-workers and patrons and growing together as a community and as a family.  From the perch of his information desk in the cultural hub of civilization, Dewey reflects on our modern culture and shows us an optimistic view of life in the face of absurdity.

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It is with great melancholy, that we retire this series to our own library, and the Root Beer Party Monks take this volume and admit it to the vast, cavernous collection assembled through the history of time of all the greatest works of sequential art ever assembled, and this volume reminds us of the generations of people before them who risked everything and dedicated themselves to this most important endeavor, The Official Root Beer Party Comic Archives.

Even as we nod our respect to the men and women of the library system, we are given a new hope.  For Gene Ambaum and Chris Hallbeck, who came in to help with the art in the final year of the strip, have joined forces to bring us a new comic.  A Library Comic which you can find here:  http://librarycomic.com/

So as we read the final strip and Dewey and his friends go on with their daily lives at the Mallville Public Library unobserved by us, a new group of heroes has risen to the challenge to find the humor of life in the very heart of civilization, the library.

So check out the new comic and read through all the volumes of Unshelved many times in the years to come and keep in mind those who help us to find what we are all searching for, be it information, a timeless work of art, a sense of community or even just a laugh.

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You can find copies of Unshelved collections as well as merchandise in their store here: https://topatoco.com/collections/unshelved

So until next time True Believers, go down to your local library and just browse around for awhile, remind yourself what this institution really is.  It is a repository of information, a vast collection of the greatest works in human history, but more importantly it is a home to your community.  Until next time True Believers, may your mug always be frosted and your root beer always foamy.

20 Questions with Comic Creators: Scott A. Jenkins of Madbury

Welcome once again True Believers to the vast estates of the Root Beer Party, It is now December and the first batch of the elixir of life, Root Beer, is coming of age.  from the fall harvest the Root Beer Monks have Harvested the crops and began the brewing process for the coming year.  The smell of Vanilla, Sassafras, and Anise fill the air, the sweet scent of raw sugar being boiled out of the sugar cane heightens the senses and promises delights to come.  It is a truly amazing time here at The Official root Beer Party Compound in an undisclosed location of an unknown country in an undiscovered land.  Here we dedicate ourselves to the true calling of human life, comics and root beer.  

Today, we have with us for another of our world famous 20 questions segments is none other than Scott A. Jenkins.  A world renowned comic genius which has taken a break from the hectic life of a jet setting, playboy cartoonist to meet with us here at The Official Root Beer Party Compound for an interview.  The Official root Beer Party Bartender brings us two frosty mugs of the elixir of life, the standard ceremony of a meeting between any member of the Root Beer Party.  We trade small talk, something about the exotic life of a cartoonist in the outside world, but I put aside the common banter and proceed to get down to business.  

You can find Scott at the following sites:

Scott A. Jenkins “jynksie” on Twitter
http://www.madburycomic.com
http://www.norsetales.com
http://www.jynksiecomics.com

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

This would take us back to the year 2000! I came across webcomics.com, which was a webcomics portal for cartoonists back then and was unaffiliated with how we know it today. People displayed their works in the forums, which led me to their websites and I eventually decided to throw my hat into the ring and give this “webcomics” thing a try. I was rusty, so my work was awful, but knowing there was a platform outside of syndication intrigued me then and still does now. The first online comic I ever read was Goats by Jon Rosenberg of Scenes From A Multiverse fame. The first online comic I ever created was “Committed For Life” and it was horribly done.

Question 2: Who was you greatest influence?

The most influential, would be Charles M. Schulz. Charlie Brown was a blockhead and so was I! I may still be, but no one will say so out loud! In fact, my main character in Madbury is, in many ways, an adult version of Chuck. Hodge is a blockhead as well!
It was actually cartoons that influenced my drawing and anything Hanna Barbera had my full attention. Flintstones, Scooby Doo, Top Cat, Yogi Bear, the Jetsons etc.

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

I grew up on A&W Root Beer, it was sold in glass bottles at the Granite State Potato Chip Factory we used to go to every Saturday morning to buy fresh hot potato chips buy the bucket, ahhh childhood! It was a thick tasting root beer, I can’t think of another kind that ever came close and it still tastes the same today.

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

I simply want the ability to share my comic with whomever wants to peek over my shoulder and check it out. I’d also like to see my work, printed out in a tangible, touchable book one day! Even if it’s one copy and it’s mine!

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

I dabble in landscape photography, living in New England, there’s always a view you want to capture and keep.

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

Well, the definition of professional, I imagine, means it’s a paid gig and something you have on the ole’ resume. I’ve only made hobbyist money from my cartooning, so I don’t consider myself a professional. I don’t have a body of work that has developed enough to qualify, so, at most, I’m a professional at being an engaged hobbyist!

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

I do a slice of life comic strip, so subject matter is all inclusive. What I consider out of bounds for me, is being overtly raunchy. I prefer suggestive, you know, show a little butt cheek, so to speak!

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

I use a Miscrosoft Surface Pro Laptop w/ pen and I use photoshop elements 14 to digitally create my work.

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

I went to art school in college, but I majored in art history. My art teacher said my artistic abilities were mundane, so I never pursued drawing after that in a trained environment. I would say I am self-taught.

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

I am always humbled with any attention my creative endeavors are given. So, the highlight comes with every interaction one chooses to have with whatever I put out there in a positive way.

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

I have perfectionist issues and in the past it has hindered my ability to grow as a creator. I spent a lot of time reinventing a wheel that wasn’t broken. In the process of reinventing, I had to accept I may have damaged my original product beyond repair. I’m only recently coming out of that low point, with the reprising of my comic strip, Madbury. The original recipe didn’t need reinventing, but I needed to go through this process in order to see it. Hindsight is 20/20 and I was wearing a blindfold.

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

Everything is on the web. The digital age gives one the ability to just lay our creativity on our digital desk [website] for people to paw through at will.

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

There are a few creators who’s word I value and respect and others who’s work I simply admire beyond words. If I’m going to drop a single name, it would be Mark Stokes. Mark creates Zombie Boy, which has this visually enjoyable and playful design to it. His writing, it’s simple, yet engaging and it tickles at the inner child. To write an all ages type of comic, it requires a sort of intellect I don’t have and it’s an intellect I admire. He should be syndicated; his body of work belongs with the best of the syndicated comic strips.

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

I love to draw, I would imagine if I weren’t drawing as I do now, I’d be fiddling w/ a pencil on a napkin somewhere. It’s an outlet that is as innate in me as breathing. Until my inner child moves on, I’ll be doodling something.

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

For their opinion to matter, one has to care. Trolls don’t do a good job of masking themselves, so when one starts spewing their negativity, just remember, trolls suffer from having a small wee-wee and it’s why they must project negativity.

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

At this time, where my work doesn’t demand deadlines be met, I usually allow motivation to push the creativity out of me, so that when a low point comes, I’ve got some equity in that creative bank. I don’t do well with forced creativity, so when it wanes, it needs to wane.

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

A dirty martini, because life is messy! [grin]

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

I am not currently a member of this party. I’m going to “assume” the invitation was lost in the mail!  (You are now. Welcome to the Party! – Editor)

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

I’ve been drawing a long time, but hands… hands and perspective still allude me. How can one draw hands, day after day, after day and sit down to a brain that thinks it’s never drawn them before?
The other challenge, is the isolation of comic creation. I tend to thrive in a more collaborative environment, so making comics can be frustrating for me in this regard. I’m someone who likes feedback and I like to flush out ideas with more than just myself.

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

I’m not much of a planner, but I do like seeing a plan come together. When that day comes, I’ll have a much better sense of what my future plans have in store for me. That’s my standard answer for everything, except planning for retirement.

In the more immediate future however, I’m trying to migrate to new social media platforms for my creative projects. While Twitter has been good to me, I need to engage in a less volatile atmosphere, as it is hindering my creative flow. What you’ll see from me in 2018 is a continuation of me building a thicker archive of work, while drinking root beer and looking for that lost invitation!

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And  there you have it True Believers, another in depth interview with the people making the comics of our age.  These are the legends of tomorrow who we will speak of in hushed whispers in the future.  The people who are making sure sequential art is still relevant in the too much information age.  These are the pioneers of new technology and the lawmen that will tame the wild lands of the new frontiers and make comics once again the premier form of communication in the new enlightened age.  we lead the charge here at The Root Beer Party and we welcome you to come along for the ride, and as always True Believers, may your mug always be frosted and your root beer always foamy.   

Comic Collection Review: The Fuzzy Princess Volume 1 by Charles Brubaker

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Once again we descend into the sacred repository of The Official Root Beer Party Comic Archives.  Today we will look at one of our latest additions to the greatest collection of human achievement, our comics.   I was notified from our illustrious Co-Presidents of the arrival of a new submission and immediately leapt into action to archive and review our latest acquisition.  This masterpiece of comic art comes to us from one of our own Root Beer Party members Charles Brubaker.  This is his third collection of comics, but the first in this series.

The Fuzzy Princess Volume 1 is sort of an innocuous title, at first glace one might mistake it for the usual sort of kid literature that one dismissively walks by everyday.  The art of the cover reflects this sort of childish innocence that one would expect to find in the Pre-teen section of any bookstore, but this deceptive packaging hides a much more subversive truth.

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We are immediately thrown into the action of the story as Katrina or Kat the Fuzzy Princess of St. Paws, a kingdom where all animals live in harmony,  crashes to Earth to the surprise of Jackson, who is about to be attacked by “Bloated Whale.”  Bloated Whale is the preferred nickname of the bully in this story.  It is also an allegory of a much larger symptom, Bloated Whale represents the manifestation of life or at least modern life, which at this moment in the action is about to crush our protagonist Jackson.

The Fuzzy Princess is a humorous moral tale of modern society.  We get the removed perspective of the alien princess in Kat, but also the wide eyed innocent view of Jackson as well.

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Here we have the introduction of the alien perspective to the apathetic view of life in the form of Jackson’s sister.  Her role in the tale is to represent the normal view of life, she is sort of the baseline of the average joe in this world.  Unlike Jackson, she has learned how to cope with the world and has found the key to co-existence even in the face of the Bloated Whale of life.

Her responses to the absurdity of the new found situation is a sort of litmus test for Jackson and Kat’s challenging of the societal norms.

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We find that Jackson is not alone in his opposition to the social norms, we also have Gladdie and her sister the “Weird Princess.”  The Weird Princess is sort of a human counterpart to Kat’s disruptive and challenging view.  She is more of a thrill seeker looking at the bloated Whale of life and finding the absurdity of it all amusing.

Kat is also not without her own problems as a political element is introduced into the story in the form of a rat spy from another alien kingdom.  He will later align himself with the Bloated Whale in order to attempt to stamp out the challenge to the conventional societal structures.

Kat also has her consorts, Kuma a solipsistic bear who is easily distracted and Bat who is the voice of reason reigning in the chaos of Kat’s personality while maintaining a royal decorum.

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This comic has far more going for it than you would first imagine by glancing at the cover.  It is an engaging tale of challenge and acceptance in the face of the overwhelming pressures of life.  Everyone is weird in their own way, and the connection between us is ultimately what allows humanity to overcome the obstacles of life.  The Fuzzy Princess is at once an engaging tale of comic frivolity and at the same time a biting social satire on the importance of friendship and family in staving off the cold reality or Bloated Whale of life.

I would highly recommend this work for your own collections and you can find it on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/Fuzzy-Princess-1-Charles-Brubaker/dp/0998948217

You can also check out his web site her for the latest comics: http://fuzzy-princess.com/

The Fuzzy Princess is a comic which can be read for the fun of a engaging story and hilarious hijinks, or you can delve in deeper to find the deeper meaning of our universal connection in life, our humanity.  Sometimes it takes an alien to point it out to us.  Check it out.  So until next time True Believers, may your mug always be frosted and your root beer always foamy.

Comic Collection Review: For Better or for Worse the Complete Library Volume 1 by Lynn Johnston

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I sit before a wooden table, handcrafted centuries ago by a dedicated Root Beer Monk and positioned here back then to bear the weight of the study and knowledge of mankind’s greatest achievement:  Comics.

All around me are shelves which reach beyond sight packed with volumes from time immemorial, from the cave sketching’s of our primitive ancestors to the modern masterpieces of the enlightened age.  It is humbling to be a Root Beer Party Member and have access to this vast collection of comic art.  For centuries the dedicated Root Beer Monks have dedicated themselves to preserving these great treasures of human accomplishment.  There are pieces from all over the world, from the Maya codices of the Yucatán to the Library of Nishapur, the dedicated Root Beer Monks rescued the comic manuscripts from lost libraries throughout the history of the world.

Now only the esteemed members of the Root Beer Party may enter this sacred repository and partake of the true history of comics, for this is The Official Root Beer Party Comic Archive.

Today we look at a new entry into the sacred halls of comic history.  For Better or for Worse volume one covers the beginning years of one of the most popular comics in modern history.  This is the volume which defines the world created by Lynn Johnston in this classic series.  It would expand in the years to come and tackle topical issues and even be nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, but that was to come much later in the series.  This volume covers and defines the spirit of the strip and introduces the main characters which will be the focal point of the decades to come.

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They say that to be a powerful artist one must be willing to speak truth to power and Lynn Johnston did just that, her comic spoke truth to a world which was in the waking period of a social revolution.  The old classic values are strongly represented in this work, but the are constantly being questioned, not through any great historical moment, but through the day to day drudgery of family life.  Real change in the world does not come from the protests in the streets or the ivory towers of academia or even the hallowed halls of power and politics, it comes from the ordinary people who live their lives day by day and how they change their view of the world.  History does not happen in a moment, it is a long slow process of acclimation and progress and For Better or for Worse is the perfect example of modern values and ideologies coming into conflict and being adapted to the traditional views.

Life is the same process for everyone.  There are the same events which we all share in our lives as we are born and raised and finally go off into the world, this comic represents a generation where these same societal rites of passage occur, how they change and ultimately how they stay the same.

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What on the surface looks like a gag a day strip of family life is really a snapshot of the world of the 1980’s and 90’s.  The major events argued about by historians are glossed over without hardly any mention, but the important things, the memories of family and friends and all of our daily struggles and triumphs are front and center in this comic.  This is what is remembered by people, these are the humorous stories told over the holiday tables and passed down from generation to generation.

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What appears to be a comical aside is in fact a true historical marker that you will not find in any history book.  The personal injustices which define one’s character growing up are looked back upon with humor as the characters develop and mature through the passage of time.  Lynn Johnston wrote a comic about family life, but in the end, that is really all there is to humanity.  Our families are not always defined by marriage certificates or bloodlines, but rather by the people who were there for us at those pivotal personal historical moments which defined who we were to become.

For Better or for Worse was a comic which explored the changing family dynamic, from it’s very traditional roots to the evolutionary state of flux that it would eventually become.  It is written in real time, meaning the characters age and progress along with the passage of time and is strongly based on the life of Lynn Johnston.  Lynn Johnston did more than speak truth to power as an artist, she spoke truth to herself, and that is what makes this comic and this collection an important work in the history of comics and a worthy entry into The Official Root Beer Party Comic Archives.

So I turn this volume over to the Root Beer Party Monks which tend to the archives and return once more to the world above.  A frosty mug of the elixir of life, root beer awaits as I make my way through the labyrinth of tunnels which lead upwards to the surface.  I highly recommend this collection for all of you True Believers out there, it will become a welcome and treasured addition to your own comic archives.  Until next time True Believers, may your mug always be frosted and your root beer always foamy.

Webcomic Spotlight: Sunny Side Up By James Boyd & Saad Azim

One of the great things about webcomics that puts them over traditional newspaper comics in my opinion is the almost instant interaction that you can have with your fans.  In a newspaper comic it may be months before an artist gets any feedback from their readers, but with webcomics, the feedback can hit you moments after the comic is posted.  Some of the comics can even take on a life of their own and become greater than the sum of it’s parts just be association.

This is just such a story.  It began with a comic post from James Boyd of the latest Sunny Side Up comic.

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It is a great strip referencing one of the greatest movies of all time.  Planes, Trains & Automobiles.  James employs his artistic style of making each panel a mini punchline leading up to the ultimate punchline at the end of the comic, breaking with the tradition of the three panel format made popular in the 1980’s by strips such as Dilbert and Garfield.  It is a classic in the making, but then another great comic creator Neil Brun formally of Fat Bassist Comics now of Neil’s Comics came across James’s comic and replied:

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The comment is reference to the famous speech made by John Candy in the climax of the third act of the film.  It is a clever and inventive response to someone who has truly embraced the gag.  Then the comment became a part of the gag and the joke went even further:

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Now the gag has grown from the movie reference in the comic to referencing the movie director to now referencing  the comment of the commenter of the comic.  It is the wonderful story building that can only happen on the internet.  The legendary Mark Stokes of Zombie Boy Comics once made reference to this phenomenon in an interview, saying that often time comic fans would try to out due the punchline gag of the comic in the comments and make the joke even funnier.

This is the sort of interactive engagement that any artist lives for.  To see their art not only reach an audience, but inspire them to continue on with the comic even after the artist has finished with it.  These sorts of positive, creative comments are what drive webcomic artists as they toil away in what seems like obscurity.  It is proof positive that people are reading their work and it is making an impact on them.

So when you see a webcomic in the daily scrolling of the web that makes you laugh or strikes a cord, be sure to send a little comment back to the artist.  With all the negativity and hate on the web, a positive comment goes a long way and a funny and creative comment is more valuable than a six year syndication deal.  So think about it next time your scrolling along on your phone or killing time on the company computer, take a sip of your favorite root beer and make a positive difference in an artists life.  Until next time True Believers, may your mug always be frosted and your root beer always foamy.

Comic Collection Review: Molly & The Bear by Bob Scott

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Welcome back True Believers as once more we descend down through the seemingly endless tunnels that make their way downwards into the womb of the earth.  Our single torch seems a feeble match against the oblivion of blackness that surrounds us.  The only thing we can see are the earthen walls all around us and the hand hewn steps beneath our feet.  The steps have been worn smooth from the countless pilgrims that have trod upon this path.  As the world above disappears the tunnel engulfs us with a sense of claustrophobic nightmare as the feeling of being buried alive washes over us.  Only our unwavering faith in our destination drives us on, for we are bound for the most holy of all sites, we are drawn ever downward towards the greatest collection of mankind’s greatest achievements.  We are going to The Official Root Beer Party Comic Archives.

Hidden away in an undisclosed location in an unexplored region of an unknown land secreted away miles below the surface of the earth lies the total accumulation of mankind’s greatest achievement, our highest form of art, the comic strip.  Within this repository are the greatest accomplishment of civilization.  Here are the forgotten treasures from the Maya codices of the Yucatán, Imperial Library of Constantinople, and the Glasney College, long thought lost to the world.  The comics survive here in The Official Root Beer Party Comic Archives, preserved for time immemorial by the dedicated Root Beer Party Monks.  Today we bring another volume to add to this esteemed collection Molly & The Bear by Bob Scott

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Molly and the Bear is a comic strip created from Root Beer Party member Bob Scott, who began his professional career working for Jim Davis and doing pencils for one of my personal favorite strips US Acres.  He also went on to work on other projects like Muppet Babies, Cat’s Don’t Dance and the animated movie, The Incredibles.  If that wasn’t enough of an accomplishment for one life he also began a webcomic called Molly and the Bear.

Molly is an 11 year old girl who comes home one day to find a bear in her house.  With the optimistic innocents of youth, she befriends the bear and the two become an inseparable duo.  Bear is a anxiety ridden animal which is scared of everything including fear itself.  He is insecure and neurotic and the perfect foil for Molly and her family.  We have Molly’s mother and father, Molly’s mother falls for the bear and convinces the father, Dean to allow Molly to keep him.

The comic is a warm family strip which is a sort of homage to the classic strips such as Dennis the Menace or Marmaduke.  The strip has a classic style of art which is reminiscent of Pogo, especially in the retro-newspaper prints that Bob does for Sunday comics.

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It is definitely a feel good strip, but it does have moments of introspection and drama and can also be read as an allegory for facing your fears and overcoming them with the help of true friends and family.  There is a feeling of genuine love that comes through in the comic as well as tributes to classic comics which creep into the strip from time to time.  Those who are in tune to the history of comic strips will greatly appreciate the subtle notes Bob Scott adds to the comic.  I would highly recommend this collection to anyone who is a fan of comics.  It will soon be considered one of the classics of it’s own era and reside in the elevated esteem of the great comic strip artists of history.  You can find the collection on amazon Here: https://smile.amazon.com/Molly-Bear-Bob-Scott/dp/1937359859/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1511578430&sr=1-1&keywords=molly+and+the+bear

I offer this collection to the head librarian and Root Beer Monk, so that it may forever be preserved among the hallowed halls of posterity and be forever available to future root Beer Party members as they search through and discover for themselves the great treasures of The Official Root Beer Party Comic Archives.  So until next time True Believers, may your mug always be frosted and your root beer always foamy.

20 Questions with Comic Creators: Dee Parson of Pen & Ink

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Welcome back True Believers, we are here once again with another of our world famous segments, 20 Questions with comic artists.  We are coming to you from the world renowned Root Beer Party estates from an undisclosed location in an unexplored region of an unknown land.  We are here today with Dee Parson of Pen & Ink comics which you can find here:  https://www.penandinkworkshop.com/, or on twitter https://twitter.com/pennyandinkara

or on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/penandinkstagram/  

So without further ado, let us get to the star of the show.  

 

Question 1: What got you started in doing a comic series?
Reading a lot of comic strips in grade school and trying to mimic them. There was never a time when I wasn’t making cartoons or comics. So I guess I knew what I wanted to do from the get go.

Question 2: Who was you greatest influence?
There’s four: Jim Davis, Pat Brady, Dav Pilkey, and pop singer Rachel Platten.
Jim Davis and “Garfield” taught me to work for what I wanted.
Pat Brady and the Gumbo family of “Rose is Rose” taught me to enjoy the simple things in life.
Dav Pilkey and “Captain Underpants” taught me to never be afraid to be myself, even when others try to make you be someone else.
And Rachel Platten and her music as taught me to always put passion in everything you do. Because eventually, with enough perseverance, the spotlight will shine on you.
Question 3: What is your favorite root beer and why?
I don’t frequently drink root beer, but if I had to choose, it’d probably be A&W.
Question 4: What do you hope to accomplish with your comic?
The thing I want to set out to accomplish with the rest of who I am: Make people smile.
With Pen & Ink, the whole concept of their work and who they are is related to art. So they have the capabilities to work in single panel comics, full page comics, story driven graphic novels, children’s books, animations, and more! The possibilities are endless and I can’t wait to see where they go next.
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Question 5: Do you have any other artistic interests outside of comics?
I love to do animations, and whenever I get free time, I love doing mini ones for the heck of it. I also play lots of video games.
Question 6: Do you see yourself as a professional cartoonist, or is this just something you do for yourself?
I do consider myself a professional cartoonist! Before “Pen & Ink”, I did a published daily newspaper comic strip for almost three years called “Life With Kurami”. The comic followed Ana Kirkland as she went through her daily life as a single mother with her infant daughter, Kurami.
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It recently ended October 28th to focus full time on “Pen & Ink”, which these two have only been around for 5 months and are really picking up traction.

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

Anything that would provoke controversy or give people negative feelings. My only goal is to give people a smile or warm-hearted feelings, and I can’t do that if my work has them thinking about some political party or the recent publicity scandal.

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

I do both digital and traditional work. A lot of my stuff I sketch out first, but then I draw it out digitally using a Wacom Cintiq 13HD.

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

I have zero to none. I barely have any college education on me, either. All my training literally came from reading lots and lots and LOTS of Garfield/Rose is Rose comics. Reading up interviews from the industry giants of yesteryear and just overall practicing constantly. My “Life With Kurami” comic strip went into publication when I was 19. From then on, everything I learn about art and writing and the comic/animation industry came from my exposure to doing that daily comic strip everyday.

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

Jim Davis inviting me to PAWS, Inc. to meet with him. Twice.
 
The first time was with the help of my friend David Reddick, who helped me introduce him to the newspaper comic “Life With Kurami” that I wanted to get into print and to see what advice he had for me. He was very informative and told me what worked, what didn’t work, and what I could do to improve on what didn’t work. After our hour-long conference in his office, I asked him how did he feel about the comic being in print. He said that the comic would be a perfect learning experience for me and that no matter what happens to it, it’ll always be a success. So with his blessing, he helped get the comic into our newspaper. He also drew me a picture of Garfield and a picture of Kurami.
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The second time was just this past October. We spent almost an hour in the conference room at PAWS talking about the end of “Life With Kurami”, what worked, what didn’t work, and the stuff I can look back on as experience. The big majority of the time was mostly spent on talking about “Pen & Ink”, sharing comics and getting more informative advice from him. He had really nice and supportive things to say, and can’t wait to see where they go next. He has even drawn Pen & Ink for me, too!

The greatest thing about these two visits is that I got to spend time with and have support from one of the people who have shaped me to be the person I am today.


Question 11: What has been the lowest point in your cartooning career?
The lowest point for me was ending “Life With Kurami”. After almost 3 years, towards the beginning of this year, it got harder and harder to work with, and after receiving some very critical criticisms from industry professionals about the comic plus realizing it wasn’t really going anywhere, I thought the time to move onto something else was upon me, It hasn’t helped that too many people have tried to put too much thought/input into the comic, and it became something that didn’t feel like it was my work, but just work I did to impress other people. but I didn’t take it lightly. I had to ensure ending the comic was the right decision. I had good feedback and not-so-good feedback from the people I’ve asked about the decision, but at the end, I knew it was for the best.

Question 12: Are collections of your work available beyond the web? If So where?
For “Life With Kurami”, unfortunately not. At least not yet. I’d love to make a book compilation for them including all of their strips from its run. But that won’t be from the far future.
 
Pen & Ink, however, are in the start of getting their first book self-published called “Pen & Ink: Perfect Bind”. The book is being funded though kickstarter (with the goal of $300 being raised in under an hour and having $1.3K funded in less than 5 days). The book is a 60+ page perfect bound paperback that will compile their first 25 single panel comics, including bonus behind the scenes work, and special guest art from a bunch of their friends (and artists you may admire!) 
 
Also, Ray Billingsley, the creator of the King Features Syndicate comic strip “Curtis” (and one of my mentors!), is doing the foreword to the book.
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The point of “Pen & Ink” is that they are sisters that make autobiographical comics together about their life and the residents they’re around in their hometown Matte, Canvatia. Everything you see related to Pen & Ink is about them made by them, which is also why Pen & Ink comics are signed by them and are the authors of their books.

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

I admire just about anyone who is passionate about their work. I try to be as supportive to everyone as possible.

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

It’s affected my life in ways I never would have imagined. It’s become who I am. I don’t know who or what I’d be if I wasn’t doing this.

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

If anything, I’d say that content creators would appreciate feedback from others if people would be willing to give more sincere and constructive criticism.

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

I sit down and do work until I get done with what I want. I don’t do anything until the main objective is complete.

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

I really like Pepsi and Sprite!

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

Of course! I don’t remember how I became one because I’m sure someone bonked me in the head to become one. (Dee was inducted into the Root Beer Party by Co-President Kim Belding of Picpak Dog Comics – Editor)

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

My confidence. My confidence in my work is beyond anything you could imagine and is a big driving force into my work, I’m probably the most confident artist you will ever meet, but my confidence in myself in terms of how to approach big opportunities and things that could positively benefit me needs work.
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Question 20: What are your future plans involving web comics or anything else going on in your life?
The plan is to do what I want when I want to and to trust my instincts and heart more. And to start looking into conventions and other ways to get my work out there.
So there you have it True Believers, another epic interview with one of the many great Root Beer Party members.  Dee Parson will also be appearing in the 40 anniversary book of Garfield cementing the professional relationship with Jim Davis that began all those years ago.
Be sure to check out the Kickstarter and as we add our official copy of Volume 1 of Pen and Ink to the Official Root Beer Party Comic Archives and get your own copy today, and as always True Believers, may your mug always be frosted and your root beer foamy.