We are back by popular demand with another episode of 20 questions. The people have been going wild over this segment and we here at the Root Beer Party always give the True Believers what they want. Today we have James Boyd of Sunny Side Up. You can check out his world renowned web series here: http://www.boydcomics.com/home.html
I first spotted Sunny Side Up on twitter a few months ago, and since then, Sunny has been a mainstay of my comic reading routine. Can you imagine putting out a strip everyday? That is practically unheard of in web comics today. James keeps up this professional pace with unerring consistency and delivers his strip with the regularity of a syndicated superstar. Be sure to check out his strip and add it to your daily favorites so you can always start your morning Sunny Side Up.
Now on with the interview:
Question 1: What got you started in doing a comic series?
I am graduate student in Astrophysics so I keep a whiteboard on the wall in my dining room. On Easter 2015 I drew an Alien Egg hunting humans on it as a joke for my son. The next day I drew another one and started taking pictures of them. I would draw three or four a day and post them to facebook. My wife decided to make a facebook page for them and called it Sunny Side Up. I eventually figured out that I could load them into MSPaint and clean them up a bit. Now I just draw in MSPaint which is probably the worst drawing software but its free. A couple of months later I found out about tapastic and started posting the colored comics there. I decided to hold myself to a schedule of at least creating one a day and so far I’ve been able to manage that. I’m a few comics away from 365. I never would have believed I would eventually have enough to post a new comic every day for a year and I’m pretty proud to have created that many.
Question 2: Who was your greatest influence?
I am a huge fan of Get Fuzzy. I think people forget what a great strip Darby Conley has made. It’s sweet and funny and occasionally crazy. The influence of Pearls Before Swine (another favorite of mine) shows up all over the place. Sometimes I pull Pastis’ trick of breaking the fourth wall and pretending Sunny and his friends actually just work as characters in a comic and their real personalities are a bit different from what the reader sees most of the time. I just don’t want to ever fall into a rut or have Sunny be pigeon-holed into one type of comic.
Question 3: What is your favorite root beer and why?
I drink A&W but I like all root beer.
Question 4: What do you hope to accomplish with your comic?
I just want to make myself laugh. I hope to one day have the money to get quality books made but for now I am happy they are online. If someone wants to read them they can find them. Would I love to be syndicated? Yes absolutely, but I’m not sure I want everything that comes with that these days. I don’t want to sell at conventions or have to manage book sales and plushy sales. My ideal situation would be to just make comics and be able to support myself doing that.
Question 5: Do you have any other artistic interests outside of comics?
A long time ago I sang for two different punk bands. I also have a lot of bad poetry I’ve written over the years. I’ve thought about trying to do music again. I have also considered writing again – I feel like I’m having just a long period of writer’s block but it looks like I am probably done as a writer. I am a voracious reader. I also get bored easily. When I find new interesting things I pour all my energy into them until I run out of steam and then I move onto something else. I think I may want to paint one day.
Question 6: Do you see yourself as a professional cartoonist, or is this just something you do for yourself?
I am a total amateur but I try to hold myself to certain professional standards. I make myself produce comics especially on days when I don’t feel funny. I make myself produce at least seven new comics a week that feature jokes I actually believe are funny. If I had the money I would buy the best drawing tools or use real pens and ink instead of digital tools.
Question 7: What type of subject or humor do you consider out of bounds for your strips and why?
I hate jokes where the punchline is a horrible stereotype or where the joke is just some vulgar phrase. If your punchline is ‘ha ha this character is homosexual’ I’m probably not reading your comic very often. I try not to use profanity although it is occasionally useful.
Question 8: What kind of equipment or style of drawing do you use?
I draw in MSPaint on a Dell Laptop using the finger cursor. It is quite possibly the worst tool in the world for making comics, but it has been an advantage in that I really have to figure out how to do things in it. For example, when I draw water I really want to blend a lot of blues together to get a nice effect. Paint has a gradient button but it doesn’t blend particularly well. I sometimes look at Art books and try and figure out how they paint things and see if I can apply that in paint in some form or another. The biggest problem is time. I think I could draw so much faster with good software. I spend half my time now trying to fix shaky lines or bad effects. However, Paint is free and you can’t beat free.
Question 9: what sort of training or academic program did you pursue to become a cartoonist?
I was the art editor of my school paper in high school for a year. I also have taken a couple of art history courses through-out my education. I’ve never taken a drawing or painting class.
Question 10: What has been the highlight of your cartooning career?
Meeting so many wonderful people. I have a lot of friends I would never have had if I didn’t make my own comic.
Question 11: What has been the lowest point in your cartooning career?
The weeks where I feel like I’m unfunny and untalented. Those weeks are awful. But every time I have been really really depressed and stuck for fresh ideas has preceeded a few weeks of really great inspiration where it feels like I have more ideas than time.
Question 12: Are collections of your work available beyond the web? If So where?
I printed two hardbound copies of all my strips at Christmas. My mom got one and I have the other one. My first collection is at the printer right now. Its actually been there for a few weeks because there have been some paper issues and technical issues. I don’t know how many copies are being printed or if I will sell them. I will probably just send them to other cartoonists that request them. I wanted to have something to show people if they wanted to help me publish my work.
Question 13: Are there any other web comic artists that you really admire?
Neil Kohney who does the Other End. That comic is my favorite right now. I wish I could steal all of Joe Flander’s Ninja and Pirate ideas. Brad Perri of Pirate Mike and Dana Atnip’s Galactic Dragon’s both should be in the Sunday Paper (well Brad actually is, not sure about Dana.) There are really too many to list. Plus I love all my comic friends strips. Way too many…
Question 14: What kind of impact has cartooning had on your life and could you ever see yourself not doing it?
Cartooning has allowed me to meet and interact with people I never thought I would. I had boxers and stand-up comedians let me know that they like Sunny. One of the actresses who played a dancing slave girl on Star Trek the Next Generation commented on Sunny. That’s just really cool to me. Plus I have been able to encourage and support other comic people as a fellow creator. We all need a kind word every now and then and its nice to be able to give that sometimes.
Question 15: Do you have any advice for the Trolls out there who harass content creators? (no need to keep this answer clean.)
I’m not sure how I want to answer this question. I guess for every wonderful encouraging person out there in social media there is also someone who wants to show the world that they are a cruel and worthless ass-hat.
Question 16: Do you set yourself any deadlines or other tricks to keep yourself motivated?
I make comics everyday if possible. Once they are done they are posted and I move on. Some people like to keep a bank of comics and post on a regular schedule which is probably the way a successful and professional cartoonist would do it but I am too scared that if I had a buffer and didn’t have to make new cartoons for a week of two – I would end up never making them again out of laziness. I have to feel the pressure of the next cartoon at all times.
Question 17: Apart from root beer, what is your favorite drink?
Coffee. I drink way too much and its not even real coffee. I drink the General Mills French Vanilla instant stuff. I think I keep them in business.
Question 18: Are you already a member of the root beer party and if not, what is the matter with you?
I don’t even know what the Root Beer Party is but it sounds interesting.
Question 19: What is the most challenging aspect of cartooning for you?
I tend to imagine these really complex jokes and then realize I can’t draw that. For instance, I would love to draw Sunny as King Kong clinging to the Empire State building but then the rational part of me says ‘You can’t pull that off.’ So I have to think of some lazy or smaller scale way to show what I want to draw. Maybe I just need to become a better illustrator.
Question 20: What are your future plans involving web comics or anything else going on in your life?
Well I just finished my first year of graduate school and it was a challenge. The plan right now is make comics everyday, be the best possible dad I can be for my kid, get better at grad school. By this time next year I expect things will be unexpectedly different, hopefully in a good way.
So there you have it True Believers, The one and only James Boyd of Sunny Side Up. When we, here at the Root Beer Party, want to know about comics, we go right to source, to the people who make them. Until next time True Believers, may your mug always be frosted and your root beer always foamy.