20 Questions with Comic Artists: Max West of Sunnyville Stories

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Sunnyville Stories is an amazing blend of classic style comic art with a modern, nostalgic feel to the writing.  It is hard to describe because it is so unique yet feels so familiar to the reader.  It is a classic coming of age story and yet the adventures of Rusty and their gang seem to pair along the side of the classic Disney adventure strips of Carl Barks.  They have a fun, light-hearted feel to them that really draws the reader in and makes them care about the characters.

Max still does his art the old fashioned way with pencils and then pen and ink, allowing for the subtle detail of style much like George Herriman did in Krazy Kat, bringing a sparse yet deliberate stroke to each page that give you only what you need.  The art seems fuller and the world more real by what is left out as opposed to overly complex detail which define every nook and cranny.

Max has been compared favorably to Charles Shultz is his style of “only what is necessary, but his storytelling is more complex.  Max goes for the long view in his stories, if you are looking for the gag a day strip, or the cynical, action packed adventure thriller, then this is not for you.  Sunnyville Stories is about creating a world and inhabiting that world with anthropomorphized characters which reflect the reality of life.

There is an idyllic quality to this world, it is a good world, a world filled with good people who care about one another.  No one is taken for granted and everyone plays a part in the story. This is the kind of world we all want to exist.  There is adventure and excitement, but there is also a great heart to the story lines which make Sunnyville so unique in todays comic world.  There are layers within layers for those willing to look, from cameos from some of Max’s cartoon heroes, to the comical sense of right and justice which pervades every page.

I highly recommend Sunnyville Stories, it can be read by anyone and once you read it, it stays with you, like a comforting thought of the world as it should be.  It can be read by any age, so it is a great read for young kids as well as adults, which will catch some of the obscure and hidden reference jokes that Max hides in his stories, as well as being relevant and exciting to younger readers for a glimpse into a magical world that will always be there for you.

You can keep up with Max here: http://sunnyvillestories.com/ so without further ado, Let’s hear what Max has to say:

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

I loved comics for years. I grew up reading the comic strips in the local newspapers and would read the paperback collections of them in the local library (Peanuts, Garfield, the Family Circus, Beetle Bailey, the Far Side, etc). I also read some superhero comics and manga. The medium appealed to me so much I wanted to make them!

Question 2: Who was you greatest influence?

It’s hard to pick out one specific influence, but it probably has to be Charles Schulz who has influenced me the most. I loved reading Peanuts but what’s more is that it’s deeper than it looks. In spite of the crude art (contrast Walt Kelly and Hal Foster), there was excellent writing. I do that in my own work.

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

I prefer fresh root beer that’s on tap as opposed to a bottle or can (some restaurants have this). I can’t pick out any specific brand like A&W or Mug.

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

I want to express myself and have something to say to the world. It’s hard to say what my legacy will be or if anyone will even notice, but finishing Sunnyville Stories is something I feel compelled to do.

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

Painting in gouache or acrylic is relaxing for me.

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

I consider myself a professional in spite of what some misinformed people and art directors have told me.

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

Sunnyville Stories is meant to be a general audiences title (which does NOT mean it’s for kids only); I avoid profanity as well as sexual humor or bathroom humor.

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

I work traditionally. I draw my comics on Bristol board (usually Strathmore 300 series smooth) using both wooden & mechanical pencils and an Ames lettering guide. For inking, I use a nib pen with black ink. My personal favorite nib is the Speedball 513. It’s my standard workhorse; other nibs I use are the Speedball 512, A5 and C4 points. My style is influenced by newspaper comic strips and Expressionist artwork, especially by Paul Klee.

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

Besides books to learn how to draw like “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain”, I went to night school at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. I really came to life there! Experts like Tom Motley, Matt Madden and Tom Hart gave me such insight and helped me bring Sunnyville to life.

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

The highlight has been seeing my work collected in libraries (which still remains a big goal for me).

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

The low point is not having much recognition or simply not selling much at conventions.

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

Sunnyville Stories has been collected in a first volume (ISBN 9780615653921) and a second volume (ISBN 9780989069601); a third volume (ISBN 9780989069625) is coming out in January 2015

(All Max’s books can be gotten at Amazon here

Sunnyville Stories Vol. 1: http://www.amazon.com/Sunnyville-Stories-1-Max-West-ebook/dp/B00EP51OU6/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1446436278&sr=8-1&keywords=Sunnyville+stories+by+max+west

and Sunnyville Stories Volume 2: http://www.amazon.com/Sunnyville-Stories-2-Max-West-ebook/dp/B00IT8Y9XO/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1446436278&sr=8-2&keywords=Sunnyville+stories+by+max+west

Von Hurling, Vampire Hunter:  http://www.amazon.com/Von-Herling-Vampire-Hunter-West/dp/0989069613/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

The Whimsical World of Max West: http://www.amazon.com/Whimsical-Worlds-Max-West-ebook/dp/B00HWFUA6K/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8 )

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

Besides Charles Schulz, I’m amazed at the work that Dave Sim has done with Cerebus the Aardvark. He not only created a recognizable character and a whole universe but also had complete control over everything; I’ve resented any editors or censors telling me I can’t draw Rusty or Sam doing this or that.

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

Drawing my comics really gives me pleasure and a sense of purpose in my life. I honestly can’t see myself not doing it.

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

Fuck off.

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

I just feel compelled to draw. On top of that, I made a clear commitment to do a total of 50 stories with a definitive beginning and ending to my saga; I will not back out on it!

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

Diet Dr. Pepper.

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

I’m not with the root beer party because I’ve never even heard of it.

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

The big challenge I have is keeping in mind the continuity I’ve established in the past stories; I remind myself (and the readers) by mentioning events that happened in past stories – like Rusty saying “remember that time we had our taxes done by the giant squid”.

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

I want to make Sunnyville Stories more well-known, make more money and get my work into more library collections.

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Although most of the interview deals with Sunnyville Stories, I should also mention Max’s other stand alone comic: Von Hurling, Vampire Hunter.  This is a great send up to Bram Stoker’s Dracula but with Max’s unique touch to the story.  Max once again brings his innocent characters into play in a classic gothic tale for which his artistic style is more than ideally suited.  It is a perfect example of the versatility of Max’s style and storytelling that his characters can transcend genres so easily.  If you love the classic gothic vampire story, than check it out.

Update: since the interview I explained to Max about the Root Beer Party and what it is all about.  He is a member now as well, so until next time True Believers, may your mug always be frosted and your root beer always foamy.

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