20 Questions with Comic Artists: James Florence of Jay Unplugged

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We are back once again with our world famous segment here at the Root Beer Party, It’s time for 20 Questions.  (Crowd goes wild)  Yes, that’s right, you demanded it and once again, we deliver.  Today we bring you the embodiment of the Evil Dead himself James Florence of Jay Unplugged which you can check out here:

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Here we have a man who has serious issues with his computer so we’ll get right down to business:

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Question 1: What got you started in doing a comic series?
I’ve been interested in doing comics for pretty much my whole life; as a kid, I used to daydream about having my own little studio with the drawing table and everything. Alas, by age 30, that dream had still not come to fruition. It wasn’t until a couple years ago, when my wife took me to see a special screening of the documentary “Stripped,” that I realized I needed to buckle down and make it happen. I had these characters I’d conceived of a couple years prior—a guy, his laptop and radio—so I picked them back up and the rest is history.
Question 2: Who was you greatest influence?
Without a doubt, my number one influence was and still is “Calvin and Hobbes”. I spent countless hours reading it during my childhood, and still revisit it regularly. In particular, I admire how Bill Watterson uses the comic medium to express not just humor but deep emotion and profound truth. His depth, versatility and tonal balance are what I strive to replicate in my own work.
Question 3: What is your favorite root beer and why?
Usually, I go for good old Mug root beer. I also remember Henry Weinhard’s being really good, but it’s been a while since I’ve had it.
Question 4: What do you hope to accomplish with your comic?
My goal is to build an audience and get as many people as possible to read my stuff. Heck, I’d like to one day do it for a living, of course. However, in the end, I think my personal satisfaction in my work is the most important thing.
Question 5: Do you have any other artistic interests outside of comics?
I love music and movies. Before I got into comics, my main artistic outlet was music: I’ve played both guitar and drums in several bands and even produced my own solo album. I still enjoy jamming with friends and hope to do more recording in the future.
Question 6: Do you see yourself as a professional cartoonist, or is this just something you do for yourself?
Definitely not a professional. Maybe when someone offers me a large sum of money to do this, I’ll consider myself a pro.
Question 7: What type of subject or humor do you consider out of bounds for your strips and why?
None, really. I generally keep my strip pretty clean, just because I prefer it that way, but I also don’t mind pushing the envelope if the joke is there.
Question 8: What kind of equipment or style of drawing do you use?
I draw on a large 14”x17” pad, starting with non-photo blue lead and ending with black ink. I use two pens for inking: a 0.8mm Uni-Ball Vision Elite (I like the hard tip) and a Micron 0.25mm for finer lines. I draw my boxes with a 1.0mm pen. I also use an Ames guide for lettering, so the lines are straight. I do all my coloring in Photoshop.
Question 9: What sort of training or academic program did you pursue to become a cartoonist?
None whatsoever.
Question 10: What has been the highlight of your cartooning career?
Recently, I had the opportunity to be featured at the Charles M. Schulz Museum in my hometown of Santa Rosa. While I was there, Jeannie Schulz (Charles’ window) stopped by to say hi and asked me for the lowdown on the world of webcomics. It was quite a treat for me; I even got to give her a signed print.
Question 11: What has been the lowest point in your cartooning career?
About 3 or 4 months after I started “Jay Unplugged,” I hit a dry spell. I thought it was all over, and I moped and whined about having no good ideas and how I was doomed to fail at everything I attempted, blah, blah, blah. About a week later, I was back on the upswing, working on an inspired three-part arc. This taught me a crucial lesson about creating art: there will always be ups and downs, floods of inspiration and dry spells. The key is to hold on and ride through the tough times. Never give up.
Question 12: Are collections of your work available beyond the web? If So where?
Currently, no, but I’d love to do a print collection one of these days.
Question 13: Are there any other web comic artists that you really admire?
Oh yeah, a bunch, too many to name. Some of the stand-outs would be Poorly Drawn Lines, Lunarbaboon, Awkward Yeti, Fatherhood. Badly Doodled., Fat Bassist Comics, and Dogs, Ducks & Aliens.
Question 14: What kind of impact has cartooning had on your life and could you ever see yourself not doing it?
After dreaming for years about being a cartoonist, it’s very fulfilling for me to actually be doing it. Can I see myself not doing it? Sure. Would I be happy? I doubt it. While it’s often challenging and frustrating, in the end, making comics just makes me feel good – like I’m doing something, you know?
Question 15: Do you have any advice for the Trolls out there who harass content creators? (no need to keep this answer clean.)
Go find something you love.
Question 16: Do you set yourself any deadlines or other tricks to keep yourself motivated?
Keeping a regular update schedule is helpful, but I don’t give myself a hard time if I miss. The fact is, I’m not getting paid to do this and I have a lot of other responsibilities, so I’m not going to make a big deal about staying on schedule. One of the best motivators for me is having a continuing story arc, because the story kind of propels itself. Other than that, I just do my best to put out content regularly, whether once or twice each week.
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Question 17: Apart from root beer, what is your favorite drink?
Regular beer—preferably a craft-brewed IPA.
Question 18: Are you already a member of the root beer party and if not, what is the matter with you?
I think this questionnaire is my initiation. So… yes, yes, I am. I would’ve gotten to it sooner, but hey, I’m a busy guy.
Question 19: What is the most challenging aspect of cartooning for you?
Well, I’m not much of an artist, so it’s probably just drawing in general. Especially if I have to veer outside of conventional motif of Jay standing in front of a counter.
Question 20: What are your future plans involving web comics or anything else going on in your life?
I’m just gonna keep at it, and we’ll see what happens next.
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So there you have it True Believers, you heard it here first.  We have introduced you to the newest member of the Root Beer Party, so check out his comic and make him famous so he can work harder and make more comics and possibly afford more root beer.  We here at the Root Beer Party know that nothing pairs better with root beer than comics, both are things that make us all happy, so thanks to James for this introduction and welcome to the party.  And as always True Believers, May your mug always be frosted and your root beer always foamy.

20 Questions with Comic Artists: Neil Brun of Fat Bassist Comics

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We are back once again True Believers with another legendary 20 questions segment.  Today we have none other than Neil Brun of Fat Bassist Comics. You can check out his site here.  http://fatbassist.com/

Neil Hails to us from our friendly neighbor to the north, O’ Canada, much like our highly esteemed Co-President Kim Belding of Picpak Dog Comics.  Those guys up there are putting out some first rate comics so do yourself a favor and check out some of our international comic artists from here at the Root Beer Party.

Neil at won the famous dance off against our fellow Root Beer Party member James Boyd of Sunny Side Up comics by making what has become one of my favorite comics of all time.

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The execution of this gag is just perfect.  Well done Neil and now let’s get on with what you came here for, the interview with Neil Brun.

Question 1: What got you started in doing a comic series?
One fateful day while caring for my son back in April 2015, he jabbed my in the eye with a plastic giraffe. Being the modern parent that I am, my first thought was to make a post about it on Facebook, when it occurred to me that it would be much funnier if I had an illustration to go with it. That’s basically where it all began. By Xmas that year, I had made around 25 strips, and so I decided to start up a website and started doing 5 strips a week (spoiler alert: I no longer do 5 strips a week).
Question 2: Who was your greatest influence?
My favourite comic has always been Calvin & Hobbes. I also loved The Far Side and Herman. That being said, my older brother, who goes by the handle Electric Gecko and does the webcomic Puck, has definitely been my biggest influence. Watching his humour and characters develop over the years has been very inspirational.
Question 3: What is your favorite root beer and why?
I’d probably go with Dad’s root beer. It isn’t easy to find up here in Western Canada, so whenever I do see it in a store I have to buy it because it’s such a rarity… like a frothy, malt-flavoured unicorn.
Question 4: What do you hope to accomplish with your comic?
I’d love to eventually have enough strips to self-publish a collection. I just think it would be a cool thing to have and to be able to give away as gifts to my family and friends that have supported the comic. Until then, I just hope to make a few people laugh and form some friendships with other like-minded cartoonists.
Question 5: Do you have any other artistic interests outside of comics?
I work for a small architectural firm which is fun, creative work. I also (as the name suggests) play bass in a number of bands, and have been performing all kinds of music for over 20 years. Fat Bassist originally was going to be a music-based website (which would have made more sense, really) and I parked the domain with that intention. I ultimately gave up the idea and started making stop-motion cartoons on Youtube (most of which I’ve taken down because they’re terrible) and eventually started drawing comics under the handle “Fat Bassist” and it just kind of stuck.
Question 6: Do you see yourself as a professional cartoonist, or is this just something you do for yourself?
I’m just a hobbyist. I’m far from a professional anything.
Question 7: What type of subject or humor do you consider out of bounds for your strips and why?
I decided when I started out that I would love for my son to one day be able to read my comics so I try to keep it pretty PG-rated for the most part. I basically avoid content that I wouldn’t want a child to be reading (even though most people not born in the 1980’s or earlier probably wouldn’t get most of my jokes anyway).

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Question 8: What kind of equipment or style of drawing do you use?
I draw everything on my old iPad Mini using an app called “Sketch Club”. I originally downloaded it just to have something to doodle on to teach my son numbers, colors, etc. but I’ve actually found it to be more than adequate for my simple, cartoony style.
Question 9: what sort of training or academic program did you pursue to become a cartoonist?
Apart from reading a lot of comic strips and taking the odd cartooning class as a kid, I don’t really have any training to speak of.
Question 10: What has been the highlight of your cartooning career?
This one time I did a strip about Hawkins Cheezies (a Canadian version of Cheetos that I love dearly) and I emailed it to their head office. A week or so later they sent a reply email which could be paraphrased as “Um, yeah… thanks for that. We’re, um… glad you like our product enough to make a weird comic about it.” I also just recently did a comic about Reading Rainbow and the official Reading Rainbow Twitter account actually liked it. These are the moments I live for.

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Question 11: What has been the lowest point in your cartooning career?
I started out doing 5 strips a week plus a bonus voting incentive comic for Top Web Comics, so really 6 strips plus working full time, playing in a bunch of bands and raising a family. After 4 straight months of trying to keep that up, I had completely burned out and almost quit altogether. Thankfully, I ended up just taking a couple weeks off, and since then I’ve slowed down my update schedule to around two strips a week, and I’m happier and healthier for it.
Question 12: Are collections of your work available beyond the web? If so, where?
None so far.
Question 13: Are there any other web comic artists that you really admire?
Too many to list here… if you visit my website (shameless plug) I have links to a bunch that I really enjoy. My very favourite webcomic is Poorly Drawn Lines by Reza Farazmand.
Question 14: What kind of impact has cartooning had on your life and could you ever see yourself not doing it?
Architecture and music, while big parts of my life, mostly involve working with others. I love making comics because they are a reflection of myself as an individual. In that sense, the webcomic gives me a unique feeling of accomplishment and fulfillment I don’t get from my other pursuits. I have no plans to stop anytime soon.
Question 15: Do you have any advice for the Trolls out there who harass content creators? (no need to keep this answer clean.)
In the immortal words of Matthew Wilder, “Nobody gonna break-a my stride. Nobody gonna slooowww meeee dowwwwnn… OH NO… I got to keep on mooooovin”. I’m pretty sure Mr, Wilder had web comic trolls in mind when he wrote that song.

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Question 16: Do you set yourself any deadlines or other tricks to keep yourself motivated?
After burning out a couple months ago I’ve been hesitant to commit to a fixed update schedule. My day job provides me with plenty of stress and deadlines so I don’t feel the need to inject such things into my webcomic – I want it to remain something I do for fun and only for fun. I find the best motivation for me is just reading comics that are way funnier than mine, which is great because there are literally thousands to choose from.
Question 17: Apart from root beer, what is your favorite drink?
When you live in Canada, something you learn to get used to is falling in love with American food and beverages, only to have them suddenly discontinued and taken from you in a sudden, traumatic fashion. The worst case of this I’ve ever experienced was with Tahiti Treat. Growing up there was a vending machine at the art school my brother and I went to that had Tahiti Treat, and I have strong, fond memories of drinking it while playing with clay and watching National Film Board cartoons***. Then, one day…. it was gone. Just… torn from my life. I’ve been trying to to fill that void with inferior fizzy beverages ever since.
***Note to American readers: I highly recommend checking out the NFB as a hub of great Canadian animators and cartoonists. Richard Condie is one of my favorites.

 

(You can check it out here: https://www.nfb.ca/  – Editor)
Question 18: Are you already a member of the root beer party and if not, what is the matter with you?
I am happy to say that I am indeed a member of the root beer party! In fact The Old Man in my Stomach now makes a appearance on the latest version of the party collage! Thank-you for welcoming me!

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Question 19: What is the most challenging aspect of cartooning for you?
For me it’s my own limitations when it comes to drawing. I’m particularly bad at drawing facial expressions and often feel like the words coming out of my character’s mouths don’t match their faces. It can be frustrating when I have an great idea for a gag, but the punchline is visual in nature and I know before I even start that the end product will be disappointing. Simply look at my brother’s comic (www.puckcomics.com) and then mine… it doesn’t take a genius to see who got all the artistic talent in our family.
Question 20: What are your future plans involving webcomics or anything else going on in your life?
I feel like the gag-a-day format works well for me right now, as it gives me the freedom to try tackling different subjects and scenarios to see what clicks with my sense of humor. Eventually, though, I’d like to work towards trying a story-based humor strip with a cast of characters to explore.

And there you have it True Believers, another 20 questions interview, the Root Beer Party brings you all the information that you want to know.  You demanded it and we deliver.  Check out Neil Brun’s webcomic as well as his brother’s comic Puck http://www.puckcomics.com/

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So until next time True Believer’s may your mug always be frosted and your root beer always foamy.

Big News: Zombie Boy Comics

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One of our own members here at the Root Beer Party has been nominated for a Harvey Award.  That’s right none other than Mark Stokes of Zombie Boy Comics.

Now we have known for years what everyone else is just finding out, Zombie Boy is one great comic.  Mark began doing this comic back in the 1980’s before there even was a world wide web for web comics to be on, and has been tirelessly forging ahead with one of the best comics out there.  I would put his work among any of the classic syndicated cartoonists and he would surpass most of them with his improving quality and consistency.

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He has garnered tributes from all of us here at the Root Beer Party for years, this one from our Co-President Kim Belding of Picpak Dog Comics.  Mark has been a constant source of inspiration both directly and indirectly to just about every comic artist on the web today.  He takes time out to encourage people just starting out and offer any advice, he was more than generous with me when I was starting out, and it speaks to the quality of his work that we all turn to him for advice.

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A tribute from our other Co-President Jon Esparza from a few years ago.  But like any group, our admiration was not one sided.  To show the generosity of spirit from the man himself we need only look to his involvement with other members of the Root Beer Party.

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This is Mark’s contribution to one of Jon Esparza’s CRAZY cartoon experiments.

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This was a clever gag done for a webcomic chat podcast with Daniel Barton of Goober & Cindy fame.

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And here we have a classic gag from Tim Green from his world famous Vinnie the Vampire comic.

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These are just a few of the memories and interactions we have had with Mark over the years and sometimes it takes an achievement like this to make us look back and realize how lucky we are.  We are all supporting you here Mark and we hope you finally get some of the recognition you deserve.

Our admiration of Mark Stokes and Zombie Boy Comics was here long before the Harvey Award people recognized him and here at the Root Beer Party he will always have a home away from home.  Best of Luck Mark, we will all be voting for you.  Check out Zombie Boy Comics for yourself here: http://www.zombieboycomics.com/

You can vote on the Harvey Awards ballet here:  http://www.harveyawards.org/

We will reserve a bottle of Jon Esparza’s special home-made root beer just for you Mark, and as always, may your mug always be frosted and your root beer always foamy.