20 Questions with Comic Creators: VJ Billingsley of It Could Be Worse

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     Welcome back True Believers, once again we are here at The Root Beer Party Headquarters is an undisclosed location of a far away land in an undiscovered country.  Today we have with us Vinnie Billingsley of It Could Be Worse Which can be found here:   https://stormrookstudios.com/home

     VJ Billingsley is a jack of all trades ranging from Author, musician, artist, cartoonist, soldier, and even fitness instructor.  VJ refers to his comic as an “abstract satirical parody,” but it is also highly autobiographical.

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So let’s get to know the man behind the comic:  

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Question 1: What got you started in doing a comic series?
A: I was in the military and going through a pretty rough patch at that time. Cartooning initially was a way t escape the real-life drama I was enduring and from there I figured I keep it going. My current strip was initially called “In The Army Now,” but changed to “It Could Be Worse” upon my discharge.

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Question 2: Who was your greatest influence?
A: Berkeley Breathed, Lynn Johnston, Gary Larson, Bill Waterson and Jim Davis, as far as Cartooning goes.

Question 3: What is your favorite root beer and why?
A: I drink Faygo Arctic Sun, lol.

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Question 4: What do you hope to accomplish with your comic?
A: To pass it on to my children who are talented artists in their own right.

Question 5: Do you have any other artistic interests outside of comics?
A: Music and writing. I have a TON of stuff going on, which can be seen at http://www.stormrookstudios.com.

Question 6: Do you see yourself as a professional cartoonist, or is this just something you do for yourself?
A: Professional. I’m currently working on getting admission into the National Cartoonists Society. I still love what I do though and if I didn’t make a dime, I’d still do it.

Question 7: What type of subject or humor do you consider out of bounds for your strips and why?
A: Not much, but I’d do taboo subjects tastefully and with a point or leading up to a point. I’d never do shock for the sake of shock. What’s the point in that?

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Question 8: What kind of equipment or style of drawing do you use?
A: Equipment – Samsung Galaxy Note Tab 10, Surface Pro 3 and Galaxy Note 9. Apps I use are Artflow (Pencils), Autodesk Sketchbook (Inks), Clip Studio (Colors/Letters), Photo Editor (Post Process). My style is a blend of Berkeley Breathed, Lynn Johnston and Bill Waterson. The premise of the strip can be best described as an adult-oriented warped version of Peanuts.
Question 9: what sort of training or academic program did you pursue to become a cartoonist?
A: I attended what is now Saginaw Arts & Sciences Academy for 2D/3D Visual Art, but for the most part, I’m self-taught in regard to cartooning/comics.

Question 10: What has been the highlight of your cartooning career?
A: Getting love from big time musicians and artists on my strip ranging from Rafael Sadiq (Tony, Toni, Tone) to Ice T.

Question 11: What has been the lowest point in your cartooning career?
A: Having to suspend production due to trying to secure a second job to pay bills.

Question 12: Are collections of your work available beyond the web? If So where?
A: Working on that now.

Question 13: Are there any other web comic artists that you really admire?
A: Dee Parson is future God (Pen & Ink, Rosebuds, Life With Kurami), George Gant (Beware of Toddler, The Reset Button), Bill Abbott (Spectickles, The Percenters), Laura Yang (Yin & Yangster), George Ford (Addanac City) & Ervine Johnson (Single Dad Diaries)

Question 14: What kind of impact has cartooning had on your life and could you ever see yourself not doing it?
A: It increased the size of my network ,gave me a stress release and nope.

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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.)
A: What’s the point? If YOU can do better – DO BETTER. Do your own strip and prove us wrong.

Question 16: Do you set yourself any deadlines or other tricks to keep yourself motivated?
A: Yep. Timer Apps. Plans, schedules and seeing my increasing fan following is motivational enough.

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Question 17: Apart from root beer, what is your favorite drink?
A: Arctic Sun and Zimas

Question 18: Are you already a member of the root beer party and if not, what is the matter with you?
A: Yes. Just have to wait till Facebook lifts their restrictions on me and you’ll see me interact with you all.

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Question 19: What is the most challenging aspect of cartooning for you?
A: Finding time to do it amongst the other stuff I got going. But it’s the number 1 priority, so it’ll get done regardless.

Question 20: What are your future plans involving web comics or anything else going on in your life?
A: To make Stormrook Studios a household name and leave an empire for my children and retire before 50…hopefully, lol.

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     So there you have it True Believers, another glimpse behind the curtain of the world of comics.  Only here at the Root Beer Party do you get to know the creators of all the comics you love and enjoy everyday.  VJ is now taking the private Root Beer Party jet back to StormRookStudios to create more great comics for all of us to enjoy.  

     So stay tuned for more exciting exclusive interviews and news from all of the amazing Root Beer Party Members, and as always True Believers, May your mug always be frosted and your root beer always foamy.  

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20 Questions with Comic Artists: Sean Boley of The Brothers Bob

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     We are back here once again True Believers, at the top secret headquarters of the Root Beer Party, nestled away in an undisclosed location in a far away land in a secret region of an undiscovered land.  We look out from the veranda over the fields of vanilla beans at the vast, flowing, Root Beer Party Estates.  The dedicated Root Beer Monks are preparing for the harvest, so we can make this years vintage of the elixir of life that is root beer.  

     Today we have flown out, at no small expense, Sean Boley of The Brothers Bob comic strip which you can find here: https://www.facebook.com/thebrothersbob/

    A long time dedicated Root beer Party member, Sean has finally found time in the jet setting lifestyle of a cartoonist to sit down with us for an exclusive interview.  So lets get to it.  

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

It all started many years ago as a one-time random gag cartoon that I had drawn, about two worms opening a can of beer. I liked that one so much that I drew another one, of two worms debating over who’s pulling whose finger. I didn’t think much of it after that, until right when Former President Obama got into office, and I then wondered if I could do an actual series of these worm ‘toons….and strangely enough I did! After having successfully completed my “test run”, that’s when I decided in 2013 to start up the series again, and am still at it.

So technically, “The Brothers Bob” was born long before the worms or myself even realized it.

Question 2: Who was/were your greatest influence(s)?

There’s quite the handful here that has inspired me in some shape or form, ranging from the likes of Jim Davis and Charles Schulz to Berke Breathed and Bill Watterson. I hold Gary Larson responsible for making me realize that animals can talk just as well as humans can. The sarcastic, smartass humor, though, comes from my family, which I tweaked to make it a brand of humor all my own….bad puns included.

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

My favorite root beer is A&W. Mug is o.k. and so is Barq’s, but I thought A&W just always tasted better.

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

To enlighten and entertain the masses. I mean, sure it would be nice to gain some fortune and fame for my comic, but that’s not what motivates me to keep drawing. Everyone and everything around me serves as inspiration for my cartoons, so if I can at least bring laughter in a world that’s too damn serious anymore these days, then I’m doing a good job.

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

I like doing logo designs, which I seemed to have become a natural at. I also enjoy drawing caricatures, which I’ve turned that into what I call “cartoonitures” per se — once you see one of those masterpieces, you’ll see what I mean.

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

Well, to me “professional cartoonist” means you’re getting paid for your craft, you’re syndicated in newspapers, you’ve joined the NCS, etc. But in my head, I’ve been a pro at it since birth, as this is something I’ve been doing for decades. I refuse to believe this is just for me, for S’s and G’s.

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

Nothing and no one is safe from my pen and ink, but I try to steer clear of stuff like religion, politics, and things of that nature. Not that there’s anything wrong with drawing cartoons about said subjects, but it would have to be something really funny to me in order for me to even consider it. People have gotten too sensitive in this day and age…my purpose is to entertain, not to offend. The way I see it, you believe in what you choose to believe in, and you vote for whoever you wish to vote for.

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

I’m very old school with my approach. I use a regular ball point pen to sketch my idea, and then I use a Sanford Expresso medium point pen to do the actual inking…I’ll go over my lines a second time for a much bolder look. If there’s any coloring to be done, that’s when I bring out my Sharpies.

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

It was all self-taught discipline at a very young age. I was enamored with the idea of there being cartoons/comics in the ‘funny pages’ of our newspaper — I wanted to be that person. I wanted to be “a famous drawer”, as I called it when I was kindergarten. And as I got older, I practiced religiously of learning how to draw Garfield, Snoopy, and the like, before later discovering my own brand of humor and drawing my own characters.

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

It’s more of a personal highlight, if nothing else, and that would be me creating my own characters that have come across uncharted territory. I wanted to create something that nobody has done yet, and begin carving my own little niche in the process. If that isn’t highlight reel material, then I don’t know what is!

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

Not being able to draw as much or as often as I used to.

Question 12: Are there any collections of your work available beyond the web? And if so, where?

Well, technically yeah. My collection of “The Brothers Bob” cartoons is ever-growing, as I crank out each cartoon when the opportunity strikes. A while back, I did a very limited trial run of an unofficial self-published book titled, “A Buck Late & A Day Short”, just to see what some friends thought. Since then, I decided to not try the book thing again, until my comic and myself are a bit more known. Like, I don’t want to produce a bunch of books, and people are like, “Who the hell is this guy? Never heard of him…” Sounds silly, I know, but it’s a personal thing for me.

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

Oh wow, the list is long here! I’m just going to drop some names, but in all reality, there are so many of my fellow comic artists that I truly admire. So please understand that if you don’t see your name mentioned here, it’s nothing personal and doesn’t mean I think of ya any less. So…who does come to mind? Let’s see, there’s folks like Bill Abbott, Phil Juliano, Brad Perri, Mike Wilke, Bret Juliano, Steve Ogden, Tim Winstead, R.F. Tame, Amanda R. El-Dweek, Kim Belding, James Boyd, Nick Seluk, Laura Yang, Alan Archer, Saad A, Fox Layng, Jon Esparza, Chris Grabowski, and many, MANY others!

 

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

Cartooning is what I eat, sleep, and breathe. It’s what keeps my mental gears turning at any given moment, processing what I should draw next. Could I ever see myself not doing it though? Absolutely not! It’s a talent that I’ve been blessed with, and I don’t want that to go to waste. Cartooning is my way of sharing my twisted mind with the universe.

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

Get a fucking job (or life). Seriously. If you used that energy for something constructive, instead of giving us shit for something that we put our souls and endless hours into, just imagine what your own life — and attitude — could be like. But, alas, haters are gonna hate, potaters are gonna potate…

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

I’ve tried that, but when you have a full-time job and a household to help run & maintain, you just do the best you can. Just make sure to remind yourself of that, before your brain has you thinking otherwise.

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

I have many favorites, and Pepsi is like numero uno to me. I also like milk, orange juice, hot chocolate, and a whole slew of alcoholic beverages.

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

Of course I am! Next question, por favor.

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

Time and life in general. Between work and home, I’m almost always “on the clock”. Because of that, my drawing time is very limited at best. But now that I’ve created space for myself, a place for me to escape to as needed, I hope to be cartooning more frequently again.

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

Right now it’s just onward & upward for me. I recently got a new job that pays me decently, am about to be a grandpa again, and I’m getting my home office organized. I’m going to try to develop more of a balance that’ll give me more free time, which in turn will hopefully get me to drawing more. And my endgame of course is to make “The Brothers Bob” a regular feature.

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So there you have it True Believers, another peek behind the curtain of the artists who make all the comics that you enjoy everyday.  Sean must be off again, back to the hectic life of a modern day cartoonist.  He has temporary clearance to fly out of our personal airport through the restricted airspace since he is a long serving member of The Root Beer Party in good standing.  

     We hope you enjoy our little interviews and I hope they encourage you to check out some great new comics and the amazing artists behind them.  So until next time True Believers, as always, May you mug always be frosted and your root beer always foamy.  

 

The Root Beer Party Celebrates 100 Years of Barney Google & Snuffy Smith with Creator John Rose

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We are back once again True Believers, but not from our super secret headquarters in a far, distant and unknown land, today we have sent our field correspondent Bubblefox from Jon Esparza off to the legendary Hootin’ Holler to talk to our good friend and Root Beer Party Member John Rose on the One Hundredth Anniversary of Barney Google and Snuffy Smith this year on June 17.  Catch up with the latest Snuffy Smith and Barney Google here:  

https://www.comicskingdom.com/barney-google-and-snuffy-smith

Over to you Bubblefox:  

Bubblefox:  “We are live here at Hootin’ Holler awaiting the arrival of Barney Google who is expected any day now for his annual visit to his good friends Snuffy and Loweezy Smith.  We are talking today to the man behind the mythos, a third generation comic creator John Rose to find out all about the planned festivities.”  

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Question 1: Can you tell us about your personal journey in taking over Barney Google & Snuffy Smith back in 2001?

I had been Fred Lasswell’s inking assistant for three and a half years. When Fred passed away in 2001, I was offered an audition by Jay Kennedy, the late, great longtime editor at King Features. He auditioned four or five other people and apparently liked my work the best. Jay offered me the job to be the cartoonist for Barney Google and Snuffy Smith and with that, he made all my professional dreams come true. With this job came the responsibility to carry on a tremendous legacy that I do my best to uphold each day, while also injecting a little bit of myself into it as well. I am bodaciously thankful for the two giants that came before me, Billy DeBeck and Fred Lasswell, and I will also be forever grateful to Jay Kennedy for the opportunity he and King Features gave me.

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(Fred Lasswell with Ol’ Snuffy)

Question 2: What can you tell us about Billy DeBeck and the creation of the comic strip?

When DeBeck created the comic strip in June of 1919, it appeared in the Chicago Herald and Examiner newspaper. It was picked up for syndication by King Features later that same year. Initially it centered on Barney and his wife, and the strip was successful. But the comic strip began to soar in popularity after Barney’s wife sued him for divorce and DeBeck introduced Spark Plug the horse. At that point, the strip became a continuity as well, and I’ve heard that readers sat on the edge of their seats waiting to read about the adventures of Barney and Spark Plug in the newspaper each day! Then in 1934, when the strip began to drop a bit in popularity, DeBeck introduced Snuffy and Loweezy Smith, and over time, Snuffy’s popularity eclipsed Barney’s.

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(Billy Debeck hard at work and looking out for his fans.)  

Question 3: What can you tell us about Fred Lasswell and his time creating the strip?

Fred was a great man, an incredibly talented cartoonist, a wonderful teacher and the guiding force behind Barney Google and Snuffy Smith for 55 years (not counting the many years he worked as an assistant to Billy DeBeck). He really developed Snuffy Smith and created almost all of the residents of Hootin’ Holler that are still so popular today. He had a wonderful sense of humor and could really light up a room with his personality. He was a brilliant artist and inventor, definitely a man ahead of his time.

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Question 4: What has been your creative approach towards guiding this comic into the future?

I truly love creating this comic strip each and every day. Creatively, I try to stay true to all the characters and their personalities, most of which were created before me. Having characters that readers can relate to and enjoy spending time with each day is the secret of a successful comic strip in my opinion.

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Question 5: At 100 years old Barney Google and Snuffy Smith have seen many changes. How has the strip adapted over the years to remain relevant to generations of comic fans?

We mention many of the changes here in this interview. For example, it started out as a strip about a man and his wife. It then became about a man and his race horse, and then about that same man and his hillbilly friend Snuffy Smith who eventually became the star of the feature. In addition, for a number of years, it also focused on these two men being in the service — one was in the Army and one in the Navy. It may seem like not a lot changes in Hootin’ Holler, but small, gradual changes do happen over time. One change I did make many years ago was to make the characters literate. I felt that was important in today’s world.

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Question 6: What is your best memory of working with Fred Lasswell?

Even though Fred was an older gentleman when I worked for him, he was very much into technology. In addition to creating the comic strip, he did these wonderful videos for children where he taught them how to draw cartoons. He had several videos, but in 1999 or 2000, he created one in DVD format. He was truly a man ahead of his time because I think this was when DVDs were just starting to come out. He called me and said he had created this children’s DVD and he wanted to send me a copy, have me look at it and tell him what I thought. Then he asked, “You do have a DVD player, don’t you?” And I answered, “Sure, yeah, uh…I have one!” But, of course I didn’t. So, I ran right out that afternoon and bought one. I think we were the first family on our block with a DVD player! Ha, ha! Fred was a great man in so many ways. I am bodaciously blessed to have known him and gotten to work with him. If he liked what I did, he would say something like, “That’s fine as a frog’s hair!” If he didn’t, he’d say something like, “What are you doing? Looking out the window?” Ha, ha!

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Question 7: How are you preparing Snuffy and the whole gang for the next hundred years and the changing place and distribution of comics for the next century?

I think Barney, Snuffy and the gang from Hootin’ Holler will be around for many, many more years and be a part of whatever the popular platform for comics is at the time! King Features has a really great grasp on the digital side of things, and I am very thankful for that. I am definitely looking forward to Barney’s and Snuffy’s next 100 years!

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Question 8: What is your most memorable fan interaction?

Fans of this comic strip are truly wonderful people and they have been very kind to me. I have had many fun fan interactions since 2001, but here are two that stand out. Over the years, I have had many fans tell me that they were nicknamed Snuffy or Tater after the characters in the comic strip. But after doing a Snuffy Smith Chalk Talk in eastern Tennessee several years ago, I had three women come up to me after the presentation and tell me they were nicknamed “Loweezy” after Loweezy Smith! The second interaction I wanted to mention happened when I was doing a book signing in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. An older fan of Barney Google and Snuffy Smith came up to buy a book and told me he had a gift he wanted to give me. He said he was growing older and wanted to pass this item along to me. He proceeded to hand me an old songsheet (still in great shape) of the hit novelty song from 1923 “Barney Google (with the Goo-Goo-Googly Eyes)”. I was stunned! I gave him a signed book with a sketch of Snuffy Smith inside for free, needless to say!

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Question 9: What is your favorite piece of memorabilia that you have seen from Barney Google and Snuffy Smith?

That’s a tough one. I love collecting Barney Google and Snuffy Smith items that I find for sale. It’s tough to choose, but I’ll go with this one–a Snuffy Smith ceramic planter from the 1940s that my wife Karen found on eBay and gave to me as a gift. Instead of putting a plant in it, I put my pens and brushes in it and use it every day.

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Question 10: Since you brought him back, are you planning a return of Barney Google to the forefront of the comic strip or has Snuffy finally won out?

I really enjoy bringing Barney Google and Spark Plug back for visits. These visits occur several times a year and are usually week-long stints at a time, but sometimes longer. I have made him a semi-regular character again and I think it will probably stay that way for a while. Snuffy likes being in the spotlight, unless it’s when he’s trying to steal chickens at night!

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Question 11: Since Barney Google and his horse Spark Plug have song written for them, is there any plan for an updated theme song for Snuffy Smith?

Not that I know of, but that would be fun! Well, it would be fun as long as I don’t have to sing it, of course! Trust me, no one would want to hear that! In 1963 there were some animated Snuffy Smith cartoons produced by Paramount that had a catchy little theme song. It went something like this:
Uh-uh-oh! Great balls o’ fire, I’m bodacious!
Uh-uh-oh! Great balls o’ fire, I’m a fright!
Uh-uh-oh! Great balls o’ fire, goodness gracious!
I’m chop-chop-chop-chop-choppin’ with all o’ my might—YEA!

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Question 12: Will we ever see the return of “The Order of the Brotherhood of Billy Goats” or “The Sisterhood of Nanny Goats”?

That might not be a baaaaaaaaa-d idea! Ha, ha! I will have to think about it.

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Question 13: Now that Snuffy has turned 100, will we finally learn “What did the Doodle-Bug Say?”

I don’t know, I’ll have to check with Snuffy, the Royal Doodle-Bug himself!

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(The famous catch-phrase was an homage to L. Frank Baum’s famous book)

Question 14: Do you ever pay homage to DeBeck’s other comics Bughouse Fables or Bunky in the series?

Not at this time, but I wouldn’t ever rule it out. I do enjoy bringing back characters that appeared in our comic strip long ago and reintroducing them to our readers. For example, in 2018, I brought back Snuffy’s Paw who had not appeared in the comic strip in many, many years. And now he shows up from time to time and has fun being a grandpaw to Tater and Jughaid.

 

Question 15: Is there any plans for a year-by-year collection of Barney Google and Snuffy Smith comics, like they did with Peanuts or Garfield?

As part of the comic strip’s centennial anniversary, IDW is publishing a book entitled Barney Google For President. It will be one of the books in their beautiful Library Of American Comics series. It will come out in December of 2019 and will feature several Barney Google comic strip stories by Billy DeBeck which ran during the height of Barney’s early fame. I was very honored to have a small part in this exciting project. I was asked to write the foreword and also contribute an illustration. Bodacious thanks to Dean Mullaney at IDW for inviting me to work on this with him!

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Question 16: More of a suggestion then a question: In our more family friendly times, why doesn’t Snuffy Smith brew his own root beer? Snuffy brewing a super-secret elixir of life could turn into a great product that would become the official root beer of the Root Beer Party.

Ha, ha! True! I will have to keep that in mind!

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Question 17: Are there any great plans in the works to celebrate the comic strip’s 100th Anniversary?

Yes! I have created a special storyline that will begin on Monday, June 3rd and run through Tuesday, June 19th. Everyone at King Features has been really helpful and enthusiastic about this storyline. I hope our readers will really like it! It was so much fun to create. I actually came up with the story idea a little over two years ago and have been revisiting, refining and working with it ever since. If Barney Google and Snuffy Smith is not in your local newspaper, you can follow the whole series at my website which is: comicskingdom.com/barney-google-and-snuffy-smith. In addition to that, we have the IDW book coming out that I mentioned earlier. Locally, here in Harrisonburg, Virginia, I was invited by the Arts Council Of The Valley to have a gallery show that will open on Friday, June 7th and run through Thursday, June 27th. It is titled “A Bodacious Barney Google And Snuffy Smith Retrospective by John Rose.” It will feature a variety of my work on the comic strip from 2001 to 2019. I have had several speaking engagements and appearances this year and have quite a few others lined up this coming fall at comic cons, libraries and colleges. Hopefully, I will have some next year, too.

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Question 18: As the 3rd generation creator of the comic, how important is it to continue DeBeck’s and Lasswell’s legacy?

I think it is very important. I am so honored to do it and I strive to do my bodacious best at it every day. Creating this comic strip is the true joy of my professional career.

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Question 19: What are the odds of Spark Plug winning the Triple Crown?

Ha, ha! Probably not so great! But he would have a bodacious time trying!

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Question 20: With the success of your “Snuff Out Wildfires Before They Start” campaign, Do you plan on using your platform for other public awareness causes?
That was such a wonderfully worthwhile project! I was very proud to be a part of it. The special ads I created with the Snuffy Smith family appeared first in the Knoxville News-Sentinel and then throughout newspapers in the state of Tennessee. The Tennessee Press Association recognized our PSA campaign with a First Place award. What an honor! Snuffy fit perfectly into raising awareness for “snuffing out wildfires before they start.” I would gladly partner with King Features and do it again with another organization.

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Bubblefox:  “Thank you for giving us this time John Rose.  It has been great talking with you and learning all about our good friends Barney google and Snuffy Smith.  Speaking of which, I think you should call Snuffy and send out a search party for Barney, he might be lost out there?  I hear a witch has been spotted in the area.  Now we go back to Mr. Blob in the studio at Root Beer Party Headquarters.  This is Bubblefox live from Hootin’ Holler signing off.”  

So there you have it True Believers another great interview from our friends here at the Root Beer Party.  Happy 100th birthday Barney Google!  Your legend is still going strong today in the talented hands of John Rose.  Here is a special tribute from our Co-President Kim Belding of Picpak Dog:

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A special thanks to Billy Debeck, Fred Lasswell and John Rose for 100 years of great comics and countless laughs.  Thank you all for a true comic legacy, we raise a frosty mug of root beer in your honor tonight.  Until next time True Believers, may your mug always be frosted and your root beer always foamy.  

(All Banner art is done by James Boyd of Sunny Side Up Comics)

20 Questions with Comic Creators: Alaine Nicole McCurry of The Ecadian Chronicles

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     Welcome Back True Believers to another of our world renowned 20 Questions interviews!  Today we have spared no expense in flying out Nicole McCurry to our top secret location of The Official Root Beer Party Estates.  The weather is finally become welcoming again as winter has receded and spring is in the air.  The Dedicated Root Beer Party Monks are hard at work in the fields planting this years crop of Vanilla, Sassafras, and Birch for the brewing of this years batch of the Elixir of life that is Root Beer.     

     We sit out in the lower veranda overlooking the great fields and our conversation soon turns from root beer to the greatest achievement in all of the history of humanity, our comics.  Nicole is the artist and writer of the Ecadian Chronicles, an epic comic set in the world of Ecadia.

You can read the complete Ecadian Chronicles Here: http://ecadianchronicles.com/

 

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        The story (so far) is an epic quest journey of heroes from all parts of Ecadia to find the Secret Scroll.  It sounds simple enough, but this is only the tip of the iceberg.  Ecadia is home to many different races of people, some native, some alien and some a hybrid between the many different peoples.  This is a story with many layers of social complexity.  We find a higher meaning in the underlying concept of the story which plays out as a redemption or hero’s quest for our protagonists.  It is about more then the redemption of our heroes, it is also about the redemption of the society at large and what is involved in the many facets of conflict underlying the quest for  political and social unity.   

     So let us begin with our own journey and learn of the quest that has brought Nicole McCurry to join us:  

 What got you started in doing a comic series?
I’ve always written stories. Like, even as a little girl, I was always making up stories and that. My first ever comic was angsty gay dinosaur high school drama. I wrote that at, like 5. In my early twenties I tried my hand at writing novels, but I hated it. I started getting really into webcomics and manga at the time (early aughts) and thought, “hey, I wonder if this would be better as a webcomic.” I couldn’t draw for shite. Art wasn’t encouraged in our house growing up. It was a waste of time. So I got an artist. She was paid in stolen computer parts we used to build her her own desktop. But two weeks before we were set to go live, her appendix burst. So I said “Guess I gotta learn to draw in two weeks.” I failed, but not enough to cancel the project.

Who was your greatest influence?
Writing wise, people like Terry Pratchett, Dave Berry, and Nikolai Gogol. Art wise, I learned a lot about facial expressions and posturing from Kate Beaton. I read Scott McCloud’s book on making comics where I learned cinematic paneling and how to draw people in general. I read a lot of manga and studied dynamic posing and effects. I learned how to draw horses and centaurs from doing My Little Pony fanart. Basically, if I liked the way someone else drew something, I practiced it until I could do it well enough that I could put my own spin on it.

What is your favorite root beer and why?
We have a local brew pub here in State College that brews their own root beer. It’s really good. As for more widely distributed root beers, I like Blue Sky and Virgil’s, mostly because I like their business practices but also because they don’t use HFCS. That shit fucks me up.

What do you hope to accomplish with your comic?
I just kind of hope people read it and like it. I’m also hoping to add more diversity to fantasy. There is a serious lack of poc, lgbt, and chronically ill and disabled characters in modern fantasy. I kind of got tired of every fantasy story in history following the same path; Medieval European good guys, elves are beautiful and noble and good, goblins are icky and bad, black people don’t exist except for bad guys from far away lands, and nobody is gay or trans or ill, no one lives under true poverty, just Hollywood Poverty, where you say you cant feed your family but your clothes are clean, your teeth are as straight as your people, and everyone can find time to brush and set their hair.

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Do you have any other artistic interests outside of comics?
I try to find time to draw non-comic related stuff, just for me. But I also really like cooking. Cooking is definitely an art form. Used to want to knit and do blacksmithing and glass blowing and play instruments, but my hands can’t do any of those things anymore. I’m finding it harder and harder to hold a pencil now, let alone something as intricate as knitting.

 Do you see yourself as a professional cartoonist, or is this just something you do for yourself?
Oh I am not a professional. I can’t see anyone wanting to pay me for my work. I definitely just do this for me. I make the kind of content I want to see. If other people also want to read it, cool. But I don’t think I could take having a publisher tell me I need to change this or that to be more relatable to the general public. I’m not good with being told what to do.

 What type of subject or humor do you consider out of bounds for your strips and why?
I will never, ever have a bigoted joke unless it is told by a villain, and the reaction of the main characters is disgust. No fat jokes. No gay jokes. Nothing that takes advantage of or devalues minorities. I will satirize the shit out of the rich, the fascists, the patriarchy, etc. Because the point of satire is to challenge the status quo. Challenge those in power. If your humor is attacking someone who is already oppressed, that’s not satire, that’s bullying.

What kind of equipment or style of drawing do you use?
First I sketch stuff out on printer paper with mechanical pencil. Then I scan it and do line work and colors in Gimp (2.6 I believe??? Maybe???) using a wacom intuos tablet (I think it’s a 5? Intuos 5? I threw away the box). Gimp is a free open-source image manipulation program designed to be a contender with photoshop. And Intuos tablets are pretty cheap. I think mine was maybe 200-300 bucks? I tried doing the linework with copic pens, but at some point my hands got too shaky and I had to switch to digital.  The weighted pen tool is a lifesaver if you have trouble with stiff, shaky, or painful hands.

What sort of training or academic program did you pursue to become a cartoonist?
Absolutely sweet fuckall. As I said earlier, art was not really encouraged in my house. Especially after I had to start being the primary care-taker in my family around 9 years old. I had to focus on getting my dad and brother ready for work and school, feeding them, cleaning the house, doing the shopping, etc. And I still had to make good grades (which I absolutely did not). So doing anything relaxing, or anything my dad thought was a waste of time, was strongly frowned upon. I spent one year in college before flunking out because I chose the stay in my dorm and drink and smoke weed and play video games instead of going to class. It was the first break I’d gotten in ten years. Then I was just working dead-end jobs and drinking and smoking and pretty much nothing else. I tried to keep writing, but it was very hard. Then I got pregnant, which meant getting sober, and only then did I realize that I was sick. Not just the untreated depression and anxiety and ADD I’d always had, but physically, chronically ill. I couldn’t work. I couldn’t go out and hike and sword-fight and rock-climb and all the other things I enjoyed doing. I read a lot. I’d always been a big reader. It was the only thing I was really allowed to do because I could say it was for school. I got inspired to start writing again.

What has been the highlight of your cartooning career?
When other artists I really admire say they like my stupid shit. I am both very easily flattered and also terrified of praise. Thanks anxiety!

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What has been the lowest point in your cartooning career?
The two times I put my comic on reddit and got flooded with negative comments, sexual harassment, and rape threats. For my stupid piece of shit comic. But honestly, if you’re making stupid people mad, you’re probably doing something right.

Are collections of your work available beyond the web? If So where?
No. At first I was gonna wait until people started asking for physical copies or merch. But now I am way too tired to redraw and rewrite the first half of the comic and ready it for print. I looked into how much work it would take and holy shit. No thank you.

Are there any other web comic artists that you really admire?
Holy shit, where do I begin? I mentioned Kate Beaton earlier. As a history and lit nerd, Hark! A Vagrant was an instant hit with me. I loved Dustpiggies when it was still going, and I continue to love everything Mike Bromage has done ever since. Autophobia by GHST, Heartstopper by Alice Oseman, and Tripping Over You by Owen White and Suzana Harcum are three lgbt slice of life comics I’m kinda obsessed with at the moment. I love Jess Fink. I read Chester (18+) so many times, and her autobiographical comics were a delight. Tina Pratt’s Paul Reveres (American Revolution but with punk instead of guns) is so on fucking brand with me. I haven’t read it in a while, I need to catch up. I have met so many good, inspiring artists through Root Beer Party, I literally don’t know where to start. You’re all just out there living y’all best lives and making fun comics, even if I’m having a rough day I can look at what y’all are doing and be like “I need to get my shit together and DRAW! Gotta be part of the Dudes!”

What kind of impact has cartooning had on your life and could you ever see yourself not doing it?
Cartooning has become my only creative outlet. My only social outlet, as well. I have met so many good friends through mutual love for webcomics and I would be so sad if I never got to talk to them again. I am stuck up three flights of stairs, housebound most of the time, in too much pain and too tired to leave. Everything I loved doing is gone for me. Even reading is becoming more and more difficult as my as eyes can’t focus on things for more than a few seconds, my hands can’t hold a book, and my brain just skips over entire paragraphs without holding onto anything. My drawing has been negatively affected as well, which means it takes a lot longer for me to draw than it used to, and more and more mistakes go unnoticed. But I have to keep going. If I stop, then what’s left of me? A pile of fat and pain and neuroses with a head full of stories and no one to listen. SO I keep going. Even though I don’t get paid, I could count the number of readers on one hand, I’m not terribly good at drawing, and I end every day completely exhausted. I’m gonna keep telling these fucking stories until I die or become too crippled to keep going. Then maybe I’ll hire an artist. Maybe we’ll be able to afford it by then.

 Do you have any advice for the Trolls out there who harass content creators? (no need to keep this answer clean.)
Their lives are meaningless. All they have in the world is insecurity and meanness and self-absorption. Nothing we can say or do beyond a doctorate in psychology will fix that. The only way they can feel big is to make others feel small. They have a small, pathetic little world, and they will leave behind them nothing but cruel words and foul air. They are of no consequence.

 Do you set yourself any deadlines or other tricks to keep yourself motivated?
Honestly, it’s my anxiety and my need to feel worthy that keeps me going. I have to get pages out, I have to write script, I have to figure out how I’m going to panel… I have to keep going. I actually have to force myself to take breaks.

 Apart from root beer, what is your favorite drink?
Alcoholic: whiskey; Irish or Scottish. Non-alcoholic: Strong black tea; PG Tips, Typhoo, Lapsang Souchong, English breakfast, etc. I am fueled by tea and nerves alone. And potatoes.

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Are you already a member of the root beer party and if not, what is the matter with you?
I am! I was invited by James Boyd of Sunny Side Up fame. And I felt accepted almost immediately.

What is the most challenging aspect of cartooning for you?
The drawing. Just, like, all of it. Seriously tho, any tiny details. My eyes don’t focus and my hands lock up and scream in pain. I had to draw a skeleton recently and that was all I was able to accomplish that day because it damn near killed my hand. My vision isn’t great, but it’s not a problem with eyes, it’s a problem with my brain. So proportions are often off, perspective is all wonky, I can’t judge distance… it’s like things just start swimming around and then go blurry, and I have to rest my eyes a bit before I can go on. It happens a couple times a minute and it’s really frickin’ irritating.

 What are your future plans involving web comics or anything else going on in your life?
I’m just gonna keep going as long as my health will let me. I have a very supportive spouse and child, both of whom want me to keep going as long I can. My husband is an actual fan, which is nice, and my daughter is laboring under the misapprehension that I am “cool.”

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     So there you have it True Believers, another awesome look behind the curtain of our favorite comic creators.  Comics truly are humanities greatest accomplishment, all we need to do is look at the dedication and suffering which makes our favorite comics possible.  These brief interviews are only a snapshot into the world of comic creators and they really show us a slight glimpse into the real world which makes our favorite fantasy worlds possible.  

     So we say good bye for now to Nicole as she returns to make even more comics for the world.  Check out her comic and you can check out her Patreon here: https://www.patreon.com/ecadia

     Join us again True Believers for more interviews with your favorite comic creators and as always, may your mug always be frosted and your root beer always foamy.  

Comic Collection Review: The Dominic & Claire Funnies by Max West

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     Once more we descend downward into the vast cavernous darkness.  The light from out flickering torch is swallowed by the oppressive inky blackness that swims all around us.  The walls are pockmarked with the chisel strikes of forgotten aeons as these tunnels were hammered out by hand, descending ever downward into the infinite madness of the nothingness that lies beneath us.  Our movements downward seem to go on forever, time has lost it’s meaning in these tunnels which have been hidden from the sun since it was but a starburst in the center of the Milky Way, yet still we sink ever downward.

     The tunnels open up giving respite to the oppressive claustrophobia which had hung over us like a sickening sweat.  Days?  Weeks?  Months?  It has no meaning down here, for the light up ahead burns through the darkness with an intensity of a mouth of madness screaming the echo of the Big Bang and calling into existence the very insanity that is life and death, for we have entered The Official Root Beer Party Comic Archives.

     Today we have brought forth a new offering to collection which houses the greatest achievement in all of human history, our comics.  The dedicated Root Beer Party Monks have prepared a Mylar bag for our latest acquisition.  Since man first scribbled his thoughts upon the cave walls, the Root Beer Party Monks have been here building this collection and today we bring forth a new submission from Max West, a new spin off series from his Sunnyville Stories:  Dominic & Claire.

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     In New Gestad, is Rusty’s cousin Dominic.  Here we have a comic which captures the essence of Max’s previous work in Sunnyville Stories, but in a shorter and more streamlined fashion.  Having established the worldbuilding and the mythos of the Sunnyville Stories, Dominic & Claire brings the same classic style of humor which reminds me a lot of the old Vaudevillian style of clever word play building up to a classic finale.

     The streamlined artwork allows for the classic humor style to really shine through, this comic feels like a loving homage to the Abbot & Costello style of humor while bringing a more inclusive and deeper world into play.  It builds upon the Sunnyville Stories, but brings it’s own style of humor to set it apart as a separate entity.  I can feel this style of humor in the works of Jack Benny or Bob Newhart or any of the classic comedy duos such as Burns and Allen or The Bickersons, but it has a more modern feel.

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In Dominic & Claire we see a modern interpretation of the comic genius’ of the golden era of comedy.  It would fit right along side with Marx Brothers or any of the great comedy teams.  While Sunnyville Stories gave us more of an involved story, much like Archie Comics with a whole world of characters within the confines of a small town, Dominic gives us the fast punchline and the comedy routines that are destined to become modern classics.

You can get a PDF copy at Drive Through Comics Here:

https://www.drivethrucomics.com/product/269169

So we release this first issue into the archival vaults of The Official Root Beer Party Comic Archives and return once more to the world above in our never ending search for humanities greatest accomplishment:  Our comics.

So check back here again True Believers for more interviews and comic reviews from the vaults of The Official Root Beer Party Comic Archives, and as always, May your mug always be frosted and your root beer always foamy.

Comic Collection Review: The Fuzzy Princess Vol. 1 by Charles Brubaker

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Once again we travel downwards into the seemingly bottomless void.  Dust crumbles around us as our torches ignite the passing cobwebs and momentarily illuminate the claustrophobic tunnel before us.  the fire from my torch is but a pinhole of light in the endless curtain of darkness all around me.  The tunnels are textured with the hammer marks made millennia ago by the ancient order of Root Beer Monks, who have created and preserved this passageway since time immortal.  The tunnel grows wider and the steps beneath me are more evenly spaced, Below is a slight blue hue which flickers with green, an eerie effect as the darkness presses in on me and the temperature rises.  The dust clings to my skin and forms an irritable cake upon every pore on my body.  what manner of madness have I stumbled upon?  Why would a man inch ever downward into the endless void of the earth?

The Blue light flickers once more and I extinguish the torch.  I have reached the more modern part of the tunnel and electric lights have been fitted.  The claustrophobic tunnel has given way to a seemingly endless cavern.   I can’t even fathom the height and vastness of this place.  For here, beneath the earth we have come to the goal of my quest, The Official Root Beer Party Comic Archives.  Hidden away and preserved by the dedicated order of Root Beer Monks, they have collected the greatest works of comic art through out the history of mankind.  They scoured the burning libraries of Alexandria in 48 BC, risking flame and death to preserve these treasures and have continued to do so.

Today, I am here to look upon one of our more recent acquisitions.  From our fellow Root Beer Party member himself Charles Brubaker, Who’s 20 questions interview can be read here:

https://rootbeerparty.wordpress.com/2017/11/11/20-questions-with-comic-creators-charles-brubaker-of-the-fuzzy-princess-ask-a-cat/

You can buy his books on Amazon here:

https://smile.amazon.com/Fuzzy-Princess-1-Charles-Brubaker/dp/0998948217/ref=sr_1_10?ie=UTF8&qid=1548656907&sr=8-10&keywords=charles+brubaker

And for the real reason we are here:  A full color edition of The fuzzy Princess Vol. 1 is live on Kickstarter.  Head on over and check it out now.

The goal of The Official Root Beer Party Comic Archives is to preserve the masterpieces of comic art and a full color edition, rendered as the comics themselves were created is a must have for us or any real fan of comic art.  Let me show you some of the work you will be seeing in this modern day masterpiece.  I will start with the first adventure of volume 1:  The fuzzy trio has arrived

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Here we have the main characters of the Fuzzy Princess comic including the Fuzzy Princess herself Kat.  Chiro the bat and Kuma the bear.  Princess Katrina is the princess of St. Paws a land where all animals co-exist in harmony, but today she has chosen to take a trip into another world.  A world we may find familiar.

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Here we have Jackson our human hero facing a common dilemma of life,  the bullies.  (Note the hair reference nod to the 3 Stooges)  Now the Fuzzy Princess is a fish out of water tale, but at the same time it allows a sort of objective observance of the human condition as well.  The story is actually punctuated with not just fantastical elements, but also a sociological and human reference that grounds the story with greater relevance.

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In this panel we are introduced to Jordan, the sister of Jackson, who is the matriarch of the family and brings a realistic foil to counterpoint the fantastical nature of the story. Jordan acts as the everyman, confronted by an unbelievable situation.  She asks the questions one would expect if you found yourself in similar circumstances.  Jordan is also the Pragmatist of the comic in that she views things in a practical and realistic manner.

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Jordan is also the foil for the punchlines and the heroic comic foil in many cases, until newer characters are introduced in later stories.  In the case above, logic meets pragmatism with a sighing shrug.

 

Without giving away too much of the story, we see Princess Katrina coming to the aid of Jackson and dealing with the bullies.  A simple storyline is only the beginning of this tale.  we also must deal with Princess Kat’s friends who were separated from her at the beginning of the story.  The story itself is not overly simplistic, but it does give a great introduction to all of the characters and the basic philosophical premise of the storyline in this first tale.  There is a lot more going on here then just a simple tale of bullies being brought to justice or even lost friends, this story is a hero’s quest, but who is the real hero here?  Is it the Fuzzy Princess bringing her Utopian ideals to a new world, or is it the humanity of Jackson and his involvement and acceptance of the Fuzzy Princess?

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This epic tale has already produced two volumes and now a full color version is being funded as well.  This review is but a snippet of the actual story, You can visit Charles Brubaker’s webpage for the Fuzzy Princess here to check out the full story:

http://fuzzy-princess.com/

I now reseal this masterpiece and return it to the care of the dedicated Root Beer Monks.  It will be cataloged and preserved for future generations.  We look forward to a full color version of the book being produced, so that we may see The fuzzy Princess in it’s full original glory.  So I will leave you now True Believers, to check out this volume for yourselves, and as always, may your mug always be frosted and your root beer always foamy.

 

20 Questions with Comic Creator: Ray Billingsley of Curtis

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     Welcome back True Believers, We are here again live from the Official Root Beer Party Studios with another one of our world famous 20 questions interviews.  Today we have with us, proud Root Beer Party Member and syndicated comic legend Ray Billingsley of Curtis who just celebrated his 30th year in publication.  

     30 years at the top of the industry is an amazing achievement.  Ray is not only a legend in the comic industry, but he is also a renowned humanitarian and advocate for his work in rising awareness for lung disease.

  You can check out Curtis on his official page here:  

http://www.billingsleyart.com/Main-Page.html

     Ray has taken time out of his busy schedule to fly all the way out here to the vast Root Beer Party Estates in an undisclosed location, in an undiscovered region of a long lost country to give us a peek behind the curtain into the inner working of how all of our favorite comics are made.  So let’s meet the man behind the legend Ray Billingsley:

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

I’m not really sure what got me into doing a series. I was brought up under the strict thumb of my father. He did not believe in giving allowances and what money he gave you had to really work for it. I was pretty much a solitary kid, not fitting into the group of people I grew up around, so I spent a lot of time alone. I have an older brother who liked to draw and his materials were all over the bedroom we shared. So I picked up a pencil and some paper and started drawing. It’s all I did. Then at a young age I discovered there were those who paid for artwork. I was extremely lucky to be discovered on the streets of New York and my career blossomed from there. I have done no other job in my life other than drawing.

Question 2: Who was you greatest influence?

Wow, I had a lot of major influences-Jules Feiffer, Hank Ketcham, Mort Walker, Will Eisner and of course, Charles Schulz. But I can’t tell you just who was the greatest. I admired several artists.

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

Favorite root bear?? I suppose A&W. I remember it was the only root beer sold at the local neighborhood store where I grew up.
Question 4: What do you hope to accomplish with your comic?

With my comic, I hope to accomplish a place for my work and to be considered within the ranks of one of the Greats. There were several before me but I wanted to add a little something called ‘diversity’, a theme that is usually overlooked or intentionally ignored. I’m going for longevity as since I started at a much younger age than most, I may have a career that spans way beyond most cartoonists.

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

My artistic interests are many. I like art in galleries, museums and digital art as long as it’s creative. I like those who can offer a different uniqueness. I like the horror genre and put that interest into my strip. I like animation but sometimes I feel the CGI stuff is overdone. It’s done so much that it’s not very different or special. I like photography and try to see things through a photographers eye, setting up shots that I feel are artistic.

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

Oh yes, I’m very much a professional cartoonist. I have little time to just doodle for myself. Everything is drawn for print. When I’m not drawing I’m usually writing or thinking up the next script to draw.

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

)I can pretty much tackle any topic I want in Curtis, but must be extremely clever about it. I get away with saying a lot of things that my colleagues cannot touch, many times because their strips don’t have the characters or situations to handle such subjects. There are many more topics I would like to tap into but in today’s climate would just set me up for a lot of negative comments. I have a lot of topics that landed me in hot water and had to answer questions through interviews. Having a strip like mine I would like to touch upon topics like racial profiling, Black Lives Matter, and the current political scene. But I refrain because there are a lot of Editorial ‘toonists out there who are cracking the whip harder than I could.

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

I’m an old traditionalist I guess you might say. I’m learning ProCreate and an animation app but for the most part I still take to pen, art and paper. I love the feel of drawing by hand this way and I get to have originals left behind that I can share at Comic Cons, gallery shows and appearances.

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

I started my career at such a young age that I didn’t have to pursue any program to become a cartoonist. There were artist teachers in high school that didn’t really like the fact that I was being steadily published and they weren’t. It wasn’t until college that I attended the School of Visual Arts that I met a teacher that would challenge me and work me to broaden my artistic skills. That teacher was Will Eisner.

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

I can’t say which highlight has been the greatest. I have been lucky enough to achieve quite a few although there have been a lot of ‘downs’, from those who tried to hinder my progress. As artists one can expect to run into those. Actually a lot of major things I have wanted and tried to accomplish all my career hasn’t happened. And I’ve heard all kinds of bullshit answers. But still I try and hope.

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

)I think the absolute lowest point has been the fact that I have known some who have pretended to be my friends. They would smile, shake my hand and pat me on the back. But they were only checking for the spot to stab me in the back.

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

No my only books were available only through my site. Amazon charged up whether you sold or not and I felt that was another dirty business. And although the book publishers would tell me how much they love my work, when I would ask them about possibly a book or series I usually got a negative response. Even now the major publishers won’t touch me. Nor the other cartoonists like me. They are incredibly narrow-minded. I also need a new freelance assistant to work on some properties that I don’t have the time for.

(You can get your copies of Ray’s collections here:  

http://www.billingsleyart.com/Memorabilia.html    ) -Editor

 

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

As a matter of fact, there are quite a few web artists that I really like. Some on the Sour Grapes page that I read every new edition. There are some featured on GoComics that I read. I like them for different reasons-some for the art itself, others for their sense of humor. They show a lot of promise. But I don’t think I should point out just who and which. I feel it might make some others feel slighted and I wouldn’t want that to happen. Everyone is trying their best

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

Cartooning has been a way of life for me for many years and I’ve never thought about what I would do instead. Maybe an animation director or producer. I’ve had a great satisfaction from mentoring. It’s nice to feel that I helped so many with their own careers.

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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.)

There will always be Trolls that don’t like or just want to complain about anything. They are very sad people with little going on their own lives. I understand a little constructive criticism but anything negative is ignored. I’ve found that not responding to them makes them even crazier and that makes me laugh. Some are just snide asswipes who think they’re being funny. But I say if you think you can better, then do it yourself. Find out what it’s like to constantly create and find it isn’t so easy. And I mean create at a professional level, also I would invite them to submit gag ideas. Instead of tearing down try to build up!

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

I have lived my life on a deadline. I can barely remember what life what like before having to meet deadlines. But it’s good because I constantly like to put ideas out there, express myself, and share my ideas with the world. It’s still a great feeling. When someone mentions a certain thing they like about the strip I truly appreciate it. When I get compliments from other countries it really hits me

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

Hmm, apart from root beer I guess my favorite drink is Ginger Ale. I’ve never been a drinker, not into beer or champagne. That’s why I grew up feeling distant from most others my age group. They drank and I didn’t.

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

Yes, I am a member of the Root Beer party? I’m watching you all every day!

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

)I’d say the most challenging aspect of doing this strip or any other artwork, is keeping it interesting enough that the readers come back to it again and again. That is the hardest spot. There may be times that you’re personally going through something or just don’t feel like doing it that particular day and it reflects in your work. The readers can see it. I have literally grown up in this industry so many trials and life’s tribulations have been somewhere on the public stage. But I have always strived to keep up a certain high quality in my work. I feel the readers deserve it.

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

There are several ideas that I would like to offer as a web-comic but right now it’s too time-consuming. I would still very much like to get my strip translated to an animated series. You’d be surprised how often I’ve been asked to gear Curtis into a property like Family Guy, but my work doesn’t go that way. I am not sexist or racist, nor do I make fun of sexual preference of religions. I don’t make women bimbos and I don’t portray young people as stupid. I also wouldn’t want my strip just full of hip-hop references and music. I have a lot of ideas. It’s just getting past the very narrow sighted people who brings these ideas to the small screen that hinder my progress. It’s strange how we creative types have to win over non-creatives. No, not strange but sad.

    So there you have it True Believers, A real look at the man behind one of the most influential comics of our day as well as a real look at the industry behind it, warts and all.  It is a great and noble thing to make any kind of art, but the industry that exploits and promotes it is not an easy one to break into.  Most of the root Beer Party members are artists which struggle finding the time to produce art and balance that with finding the time to work at making a living.  Even those who have made it struggle, it is a very real passion which drives an artist to create comics.  

Thanks again to Ray for coming out here to do this interview with us, Let’s all raise a frosty mug of root beer to all the great comic creators out there, and next time you see a comic which makes you smile or think, go ahead and give it a retweet or an encouraging comment.  Now, let’s enjoy some more great comics from Ray:  

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One of the great comics of our time.  Please join us again next time when we bring you another exciting interview with some of your favorite comic creators.  Also be sure to check in with Ray Billingsley for his annual Kwanzaa fable.  every year he does a great comic series highlighting the event:  

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So until we meet again True Believers, may your mug always be frosted and your root beer always foamy.  

 

20 Questions with Comic Creators: Frank Jordan of Company Man Comics

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     Welcome Back True Believers, we are here once again, live from the Root Beer Party Studios to bring you an all new 20 questions interview with Root Beer Party members.  This is where we look behind the scenes at the magic behind your favorite comics.  

    Today we have with us Frank Jordan, the man behind Company Man Comics.  Company Man Comics is about the people employed at the F.R.J. Media Group, this allows Frank to provide a setting for topical humor as well commenting of corporate life and of course, our favorite, Dumb Joke Thursday.  You can follow his strip daily here:  

http://companyman.thecomicstrip.org/

     So let’s get to know one of our favorite Root Beer Party Members, the Company Man himself, Frank Jordan.  

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

I’ve always loved reading the Sunday Comics when I was a kid. One day I told my Mom that I can do that. She gave me some paper and a pencil and let me have at it! I’ve never looked back!
Question 2: Who was you greatest influence?

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

A&W is the bestest! It’s just nice, smooth and creamy!

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

World domination! Nah, just want to put a smile on people’s faces.
Question 5: Do you have any other artistic interests outside of comics?

I like doing Caricatures, but I don’t like showing them to anyone.
Question 6: Do you see yourself as a professional cartoonist, or is this just something you do for yourself?

I see myself as a Professional Cartoonist.
Question 7: What type of subject or humor do you consider out of bounds for your strips and why?

Rape, that’s just not funny!
Question 8: What kind of equipment or style of drawing do you use?

My style is very simplistic, and I’m proud of that!

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

I have a Master’s Degree in Media Arts.
Question 10: What has been the highlight of your cartooning career?

Being invited to San Diego Comic Con as a Professional Cartoonist for the first time!
Question 11: What has been the lowest point in your cartooning career?

No low points!
Question 12: Are collections of your work available beyond the web? If So where?

Nothing beyond the web… yet!

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

Lucas Turnbloom, that dude is funny as all get out!
Question 14: What kind of impact has cartooning had on your life and could you ever see yourself not doing it?

Cartooning has helped me work out a lot of frustration in my life. I can’t see Cartooning as not being a part of me, it’s in my blood!

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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.)

They can all eat a bag of dicks!
Question 16: Do you set yourself any deadlines or other tricks to keep yourself motivated?

My motivation is no buffer, that way my comic stays fresh.

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

Orange Lavaburst Hi-C!
Question 18: Are you already a member of the root beer party and if not, what is the matter with you?

Yup! Already a member!
Question 19: What is the most challenging aspect of cartooning for you?

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

I plan on a book of some sort.

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So there you have it True Believers, another great 20 Questions segment live from the Root Beer Party Studios.  Thanks to Frank for flying all the way out here to our undisclosed location in an undiscovered region of a long forgotten continent.   You can check out more of frank’s work daily on his website, here is just a brief sampling.  

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     We hope that Frank continues to bring a sense of humor and a smile to all the latest world events and pop culture silliness of the modern era.  What could possibly be more absurd than the world we live in and what could possibly be a better source for humor?  So let’s throw back our frosty mugs of the elixir of life that is root beer and sign off, and as always True Believers, May your mugs always be frosty and your root beer always foamy.  

20 Questions with Comic Creators: Peter Delgado of RPG Blues

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     We are back once again True Believers with an all new interview with comic creators brought to you live from the Root Beer Party studios located at the vast Root Beer Party Estates in an undisclosed location of a far away land in an undiscovered country.  Today we have with us Peter Delgado of RPG Blues and he has brought with him a vast photo collection of nuns?  He seems very proud of this collection so we will humor him, but we know that what you really want to hear about is The magic behind the world famous comic RPG Blues.  

     You can catch up with the RPG Blues on his webpage here:  

http://rpgblues.com/

     So let’s get to know Peter and the inner workings of RPG Blues:

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Question 1: What got you started in doing a comic series?
Once upon a time, back it 1997, I was at home reading an issue of Dragon Magazine (if by any chance you just thought the word ‘nerd’ after reading the previous line, I swear to god, I’ll find out where you live and pelt you to death with my sparkly dice…….what?) and thumbed my way to the “dragon mirth” page. After reading a few of the strips I thought to myself that I could do this too and that’s how it started.

Question 2: Who was you greatest influence?
Stephen DeStefano , Wendy and Richard Pini, Sergio Aragone, Stan Sakai, Vaughn Bode, Berni Wrightson and Elzie Crisler Segar.

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

Question 4: What do you hope to accomplish with your comic?
Just to put a smile on someone’s face (cheesy, I know. but true).

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Question 5: Do you have any other artistic interests outside of comics?
Does world domination count?

Question 6: Do you see yourself as a professional cartoonist, or is this just something you do for yourself?
My arts been published a lot over the years. But I don’t see myself as a pro by any means. I b a hack 😀

Question 7: What type of subject or humor do you consider out of bounds for your strips and why?
Politics/current events. It’s the easiest way to lose favor with readers.

Question 8: What kind of equipment or style of drawing do you use?
I’m old school, pencil/paper/inking pens and or color pencils/light box/scanner/photoshop.

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Question 9: what sort of training or academic program did you pursue to become a cartoonist?
I went to The school of visual arts (4 years for cartooning/animation) and New York City College of Technology (2 years for advertising).

Question 10: What has been the highlight of your cartooning career?
The first time my work got published over @ Dragon Magazine.

Question 11: What has been the lowest point in your cartooning career?
The day my dad died back in 2003. On the same month when my first compilation book came out. He was excited about it (more than me) but never got the chance to see it. I stop cartooning for a while and almost gave it up completely because of it.

Question 12: Are collections of your work available beyond the web? If So where?
Rpg Blues ran in several issues of Dragon Magazine before moving on to Knights of the Dinner Table Magazine where it ran for 2 and a half years. It also spawned 2 compilation books published by Wingnut Games.

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Question 13: Are there any other web comic artists that you really admire?
I’ve meet a lot of talented/amazing cartooning peeps thanks to Twitter. And thus, waaaay too many to list.

Question 14: What kind of impact has cartooning had on your life and could you ever see yourself not doing it?
See myself not cartooning??? Blasphemous!! *rage!* But seriously, I never thought about it. I’ll get back to you on that.

Question 15: Do you have any advice for the Trolls out there who harass content creators? (no need to keep this answer clean.)
I don’t have the time to write a 1,800 page essay about that subject.

Question 16: Do you set yourself any deadlines or other tricks to keep yourself motivated?
I use to. To the point where I made myself physically sick. Nowadays, I try not to force it. If the art wants to be done, then it’ll be done and not before. Unless it’s a paying gig, then that’s different.

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

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

(Of course you are, despite your aversion to root beer and your obsession with nuns, we welcome you into our ranks. -Editor)

Question 19: What is the most challenging aspect of cartooning for you?
Trying to come up with ideas for strips that are funny/witty.

Question 20: What are your future plans involving comics or anything else going on in your life?
I try not to make plans (they never work out the way you hope) I just take things as the come and run with it.

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    So there you have it True Believers, a peek into the mind of one of today’s top comic creators.  We are signing off now, but tune in next week for another one of our world famous interview segments.  Until Next time True Believers, may your mug always be frosted and your Root Beer always foamy.  We will leave you with some more of Peter’s great work:  

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20 Questions with Comic Creators: Mat Washburn of Evan Yeti

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     We are back once again True Believers with another episode of our world famous interview segment:  20 Questions with Comic Creators.  Today we are live from the glorious Root Beer Party Estates in an undisclosed location of a far off land in an undiscovered country.  Today we have with us Mat Washburn of the epic fantasy comic Evan Yeti.  You can check out Mat’s website here:  

http://www.matwashburn.com/

     Evan Yeti is a great comic series about a young yeti who is orphaned from his family by a mad scientist and his evil army who capture his family.  Evan sets out to find and reunite with his family with a little help from his friends that he meets along the way.  It is a hero’s quest for the 21st century.  So let’s get to know Mat Washburn.

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

I had always drawn comics as a kid and all through school. After school I mostly worked on music and felt my drawing skills slipping away. I wanted to create a comic that had all the weirdness and rebellious energy from the comics I made as a kid and try to learn how to draw better-er. I decided to make a webcomic because I figured if people would actually read it I would feel obligated to finish it.

Question 2: Who was you greatest influence?

Rob Schrab, Doug TenNapel and Steve Purcell are my top three favorite longform comic artists. If you look at Evan Yeti, I think their influence (along with Matt Groening) on my art is embarrassingly obvious.

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

I’m not too picky about my root beer. I’d have to say Stuarts in the glass bottle is top notch. Goes down smooth.

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

Well the Evan Yeti webcomic has ended (for now). People often ask if I’ll write another Evan story. I actually started writing a second story as I was writing the first one. But I’m more likely to make an Evan Yeti video game before another comic. I felt like I was able to accomplish a lot with Evan. I made a webcomic, printed it as issues and a graphic novel, made t-shirts, minifigures, gave presentations at libraries and still show art exhibits with original Evan art and some large replicas of things in the comic – like the snow rat vehicle. So I haven’t set anymore goals for Evan as of yet.

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

I compose music for commercials, video games and short film and play in a band when I can. Currently I’m on a video game creating kick. I like making games for mobile. I have one published for Android and iPhone called Save Baby James and another game hopefully published by the time this is posted called Spider Rider.

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

I don’t think that’s for me to say. I’ll keep trying to learn and make things I can be proud of and let others decide if they think it’s professional or not.

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

In my personal life humor is king. I will gladly throw my integrity away for a stupid joke. My comics however are pretty safe. I like to make comics that I consider fun and that also have some heart. I don’t like to limit who can join in on the fun by being too crass. So just a little crass.

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

For Evan I would sketch a page on graph paper with a mechanical pencil. Then I lay marker paper over that and ink over a lightboard with a Faber-Castell brush pen. Then scan the inks into the computer and color with Photoshop. I colored over the ink lines with colors because I like the way it makes the characters pop. If I had a tablet it would have speed pages up considerably. Something to consider for next time I suppose.

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

No school. I’m a terrible student. But there are some books that I learned a lot from. Particularly books by Will Eisner and Scott McCloud.

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

All the cool people I’ve met. Fellow storytellers of all types of experience levels and many different styles. Telling their stories and jokes and helping others tell theirs. I’m not good at being part of a community as I’m fiercely independent but the webcomic community has been so supportive and creative and is what I miss the most about working on Evan.

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

Nothing about cartooning has brought me down but when life absolutely sucker punches me in the guts it makes it hard to create work that is fun or has enthusiasm behind it.

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

Outside of the webernet there is just me selling books and stuff at my art exhibits and comic cons.

You can order Evan yeti comics on his webpage.  Get the whole set, they are amazing!  -Editor

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

Yes and I hate to start naming names cause I know I’ll leave out a bunch of great people on accident. However, it’s no secret I’ve been a big fan of Mark Stokes (Zombie Boy), Jazyl Homavazir (The Beast Legion), and Crispin Wood (Small Blue Yonder).

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

It keeps me sane-ish and helps me express things I otherwise don’t think I would know how. I went to school for cosmetology and my instructor saw me drawing in my textbook and said “You love drawing don’t you? I bet you’ll draw no matter what you do in life.” And as usual, she was right.

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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.)

That’s a tough one. I’m all about free speech, but I also don’t like the idea of someone giving up on their ideas just because they were discouraged. So my advice to trolls? Tear artists down all you want, but when you decide to create something we’ll be watching. And your success may depend on our ability to forgive.

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

For Evan Yeti I posted a page every other week. That way I had a free week and an “Evan week”.

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

I had to quit Mt. Dew. I drank it too much and didn’t like the idea that I couldn’t stop. So I stopped. Now I don’t have a favorite drink and that’s a good thing.

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

Yes *glug glug* I am!

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

That first sketch. Everything hinges on all those first calculations and decisions and the mistakes you make if not caught carry on through the rest of the process and get harder to fix as they are integrated. After the initial sketch is done though, each step after that gets gradually easier for me.

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

I’m sure I’ll get around to the next Evan Yeti story eventually. I miss the little guy. I also have another comic idea that is much smaller I might pursue first. Currently though I am developing three mobile games and promoting my game Save Baby James!

You can check out the Save Baby James Video Game Here:

https://www.savebabyjames.com/?fbclid=IwAR2brs6yFqKkP-GoiTcepUu_8HJ5b48SdrC5BO8f4YEdHkcZEXLEk-UQKao

 

So there you have it True Believers, another amazing 20 questions interview and a look behind the scenes at the artists and creators that make it all happen.  Be sure to come back next time for another behind the scenes look at how all your favorite comics are made.  Until Next time True Believers,  may your mug always be frosted and your root beer always foamy.  

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