We are back once again True Believers, live from the vast Root Beer Party Estates in an undisclosed location, of a forgotten land in an undiscovered country. We are here with a couple of frosty mugs of root beer overlooking the vanilla bean fields. It is fall harvest time and the Root Beer Monks are busy in the fields harvesting the vanilla for a new batch of the elixir of life that is root beer.
We are here today with our good friend and fellow Root Beer Party member Amada El-Dweek, who has agreed to share her super secret recipe for Hot Dish exclusively with Root Beer Party Members and answer a few questions as well. You can find Amanda’s comic on GoComics Here: https://www.gocomics.com/amanda-the-great
Now lets get to know Amanda El-Dweek.
Question 1: What got you started in doing a comic series?
I was pretty young when I started drawing comic strips. I was given a Garfield comic book one Christmas, and that was it for me. Comics were my true love – I mean, after cake.
Young Amanda, with cake.
Question 2: Who was your greatest influence?
Back when I was younger and learning to draw, it would have been Jim Davis (because Garfield), and the various people who drew Archie comics. Later it would be Bill Watterson, Cathy Guisewite, and then later after college I was influenced by Jamie Hewlett. Man, that guy can draw.
You know whose drawing style I wish I could steal for a day? Jim Mahfood or Kate Beaton.
Question 3: What is your favorite root beer and why?
Hires or 1919 root beer. 1919 is kind of spendy, so Hires is more attainable.
Question 4: What do you hope to accomplish with your comic?
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to win awards and things, but I mean, being syndicated has been a big accomplishment for me. If I don’t ever win an award, I’m not going to spiral out of control. I think? (Haha.) “And the award for ‘Biggest Baby for Not Getting an Award Ever’ goes to…Amanda El-Dweek!”
Question 5: Do you have any other artistic interests outside of comics?
Once in a while, I like to make decorative signs – you know, like a wall plaque. My husband (Dan) will cut out whatever shape of wood I need, and I’ll paint something on it.
I also like to draw other things besides comics, though, my style is a bit cartoon-y. Last year for Inktober, I drew some saints, and various pop culture characters (like from Star Trek, X-Files, et. al.).
I enjoy making posters and things like that. I’m also supposed to be painting a pin-up girl on some motorcycle tanks for my dad, but he is still waiting. Hi, Dad!
I use visual aids when I teach CCD class, so I use my artistic skills there.
(Sometimes the kids are impressed and sometimes not, which amuses me. They got a kick out of how I drew St. Michael’s hair. I called it his “hockey flow”.)
I used to paint, but I haven’t in a few years. My easel is in storage! But even if I had it here, unsure what I’d paint.
I draw stuff to give as gifts to people sometimes. I enjoy that.
I don’t really do much in music anymore, but I used to be pretty proficient at the bass clarinet (and the clarinet family). I can play a little piano by ear, and I can read music. I want to learn a lot of instruments, actually. I kind of miss it.
Question 6: Do you see yourself as a professional cartoonist, or is this just something you do for yourself?
I guess I see myself as a cartoonist. I’ll let someone else decide if I am a professional or not.
Question 7: What type of subject or humor do you consider out of bounds for your strips and why?
It is pretty clean as far as humor goes in my comic strip [Amanda the Great]. I want all ages of people to be able to read it.
I have other ideas for some comics, and I doubt they’d get terribly dicey, but I have limits. I’d never get lewd.
Question 8: What kind of equipment or style of drawing do you use?
I use Strathmore Bristol 300 series – smooth, for paper; pencil (.05 mechanical); Speedball Super Black ink and a Windsor & Newton Cotman series 111 round brush (for inking); an ink wash; a Kuretake brush pen for lettering; and most recently, a Tombow pen when I am too lazy to use a brush and ink.
My dad made me a stencil for the strip itself – it is just some flimsy plastic-y material we found, and he cut it the size of the entire strip. I trace around it, and then use a ruler to mark the panels.
Question 9: what sort of training or academic program did you pursue to become a cartoonist?
I taught myself, mostly, by practicing drawing from other people’s comics. I did go to art school in college, but it was for visual arts (studio art) and not cartooning.
Question 10: What has been the highlight of your cartooning career?
The day Shena emailed me to inform me that GoComics would like to have my comic strip on its main page. I was eating, and I dang near fell off of my chair.
You know the part where Mary Tyler Moore throws her hat in the air? That was me.
Question 11: What has been the lowest point in your cartooning career?
There were some years where I wasn’t drawing much at all. I wouldn’t touch a sketchbook for months and months. I was a little depressed. Maybe a lot.
I have to give credit to Dan (my husband) – he pushed me to get back into it, without being pushy.
Question 12: Are collections of your work available beyond the web? If So where?
No collections of my work (yet) other than on GoComics. Unless you want to go through the totes and boxes in my storage unit. Haha!
I would like to start self-publishing collections, though. I have a lot of material.
Question 13: Are there any other web comic artists that you really admire?
Oh, many. I have made a lot of great friends from Sherpa (on GoComics), and also from being on GoComics, and the cartooning community on social media in general. I really don’t want to list everyone, because if I forgot someone, I’d feel like a heel.
You don’t want me to feel like a heel, do you?
Question 14: What kind of impact has cartooning had on your life and could you ever see yourself not doing it?
It’s had a giant impact on my life. I was always drawing as a kid. In school, I went through many many notebooks, drawing comics. College, same thing. I’d have to imagine it is something I will always be doing.
(In case people think I am a one-trick pony, I do enjoy things other than comics once in a while!)
Question 15: Do you have any advice for the Trolls out there who harass content creators? (no need to keep this answer clean.)
Before my comic launched, I did worry a little bit about how my comic strip would be in a very public forum, at the mercy of critics. I am not a stranger to criticism, but there is a difference between criticism and general harassment.
I always noticed that when people would comment on a comic strip (mine or other creators’ comics), they could get really pedantic about things. And sometimes just mean. Hey, guess what? There is a human being who draws this comic, and maybe they read your comments. But general anonymity of the internet has changed how we have discourse, so people think it is a freefor-all to say anything and everything that comes into their minds. (That is not limited to just the comics page, but that’s another tangent.)
I dislike it when they point out grammatical or spelling errors. Not because they’re wrong (they’re usually right), but they aren’t doing it to help me. They are doing it so they can say, “Look at me and how much I know, and how stupid I can make this creator feel”. I do make mistakes. I don’t enjoy discovering I’ve made them AFTER I’ve uploaded the comic. I used to correct them and re-scan. I haven’t done that for a while, just to be stubborn.
YOU HAVE TO GAZE UPON MY ERRORS FOREVERMORE.
(Also, I don’t think some people understand that my comic dialogue is oftentimes conversational in nature, and not a doctoral dissertation.)
My comment to those who are just dropping by to be rude: Thank you for reading and driving up my page count. 🙂
Question 16: Do you set yourself any deadlines or other tricks to keep yourself motivated?
I don’t know if I have any strict deadlines, other than I need to make a comic strip every day. If Dan and I are going to be gone for any length of time, I have a [self-imposed] deadline to get enough strips drawn and uploaded to cover the time when we are gone. That is motivation.
Question 17: Apart from root beer, what is your favorite drink?
I love love love sugar pop, but I cannot drink it anymore. I drink diet pop, but it is not the same. I love coffee, though. I love it and I dislike it. Figure that out. I enjoy iced tea, and ice water. Super boring, but I like what I like.
As for libations, my all-time favorite is a correctly made long island tea. If you order one, and the person making the drinks asks you what is in it, do not order it. Maybe get a glass of wine or a beer, something that is hard to mess up.
Question 18: Are you already a member of the root beer party and if not, what is the matter with you?
I am! (Right?) (You Are. -Editor)
Question 19: What is the most challenging aspect of cartooning for you?
Some days I can crank out a few comics, and some days it is a challenge. I have a lot of ideas, but I will sometimes get stuck on how to execute the idea. Motivation sometimes escapes me as well! But you know, I enjoy drawing, so most days are pretty great.
Question 20: What are your future plans involving web comics or anything else going on in your life?
I hope to keep going with Amanda the Great for as long as I can, and I also have a couple more comic ideas I am working on. I’d love to be in some papers – we will see, right? Dream the impossible dream.
So there you have it True Believers, another 20 questions interview with comic creators and Root Beer Party Members. As we finish our frosty mugs of Root Beer and look out over the sun streaming through the sassafras trees, we welcome another member into our honored and esteemed group. So tune in next time True Believers as we will return bringing you all the latest in the world of comics and Root Beer, and as always, may your mug always be frosted and your Root Beer always foamy.