Comic Collection Review: Unshelved – Overdue by Gene Ambaum, Bill Barnes & Chris Hallbeck

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It is with a sad heart that I bring this volume to The Official Root Beer Party Comic Archives.  Whenever a comic comes to an end, the Archive springs into action and begins the ceremony of preservation.  So today I bring to you the final volume of the Unshelved comic series.

For 14 years we followed the antics of Dewey and the gang of The Mallville Public Library, created by the duo of Gene Ambaum & Bill Barnes in 2002, Unshelved led us on a comic journey, taking on issues such as consumerism and public service to the modern loss of civility and the entitlement of our consumer culture.  We followed our Librarian hero’s as they tackled the mechanizations of government bureaucracy and economic ups and downs.

It was a humorous glimpse at a changing world from the anachronism of the old library systems to the many attempts to keep this essential community function relevant in an ever changing society.  In the end we learn that it is not the books of the library or the technological search engines that drive information, it is the people, the librarians themselves which are the gatekeepers of civilization.

While being a humorous comic strip, Unshelved never lost sight of this core value.  It was always focused on the characters both in front of and behind the counter which are the essence of the institution.  Even in the age of ever changing technology we still have a dire need for those who can find and distill information and give context to flood of data which assaults our senses everyday.

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The library is more than just a collection of informational tools and reference materials, it is a modern community center of sorts, providing much needed guidance and relief to people from all walks of life.  even today, the library is still the most democratic of institutions.  They are open to everyone and forgiving of all sorts of social anomolies.

Unshelved captured all the chaos of the library and showed both it’s strengths and it’s shortcomings.  With gentle, albeit sarcastic wit, it showed us that even in our most sacred of collective institutions the human condition is still the focal point of everything that we do.

Dewey has grown from a sarcastic kid to a responsible father, bringing along with him the whimsical and the weird co-workers and patrons and growing together as a community and as a family.  From the perch of his information desk in the cultural hub of civilization, Dewey reflects on our modern culture and shows us an optimistic view of life in the face of absurdity.

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It is with great melancholy, that we retire this series to our own library, and the Root Beer Party Monks take this volume and admit it to the vast, cavernous collection assembled through the history of time of all the greatest works of sequential art ever assembled, and this volume reminds us of the generations of people before them who risked everything and dedicated themselves to this most important endeavor, The Official Root Beer Party Comic Archives.

Even as we nod our respect to the men and women of the library system, we are given a new hope.  For Gene Ambaum and Chris Hallbeck, who came in to help with the art in the final year of the strip, have joined forces to bring us a new comic.  A Library Comic which you can find here:  http://librarycomic.com/

So as we read the final strip and Dewey and his friends go on with their daily lives at the Mallville Public Library unobserved by us, a new group of heroes has risen to the challenge to find the humor of life in the very heart of civilization, the library.

So check out the new comic and read through all the volumes of Unshelved many times in the years to come and keep in mind those who help us to find what we are all searching for, be it information, a timeless work of art, a sense of community or even just a laugh.

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You can find copies of Unshelved collections as well as merchandise in their store here: https://topatoco.com/collections/unshelved

So until next time True Believers, go down to your local library and just browse around for awhile, remind yourself what this institution really is.  It is a repository of information, a vast collection of the greatest works in human history, but more importantly it is a home to your community.  Until next time True Believers, may your mug always be frosted and your root beer always foamy.

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20 Questions with Comic Creators: Scott A. Jenkins of Madbury

Welcome once again True Believers to the vast estates of the Root Beer Party, It is now December and the first batch of the elixir of life, Root Beer, is coming of age.  from the fall harvest the Root Beer Monks have Harvested the crops and began the brewing process for the coming year.  The smell of Vanilla, Sassafras, and Anise fill the air, the sweet scent of raw sugar being boiled out of the sugar cane heightens the senses and promises delights to come.  It is a truly amazing time here at The Official root Beer Party Compound in an undisclosed location of an unknown country in an undiscovered land.  Here we dedicate ourselves to the true calling of human life, comics and root beer.  

Today, we have with us for another of our world famous 20 questions segments is none other than Scott A. Jenkins.  A world renowned comic genius which has taken a break from the hectic life of a jet setting, playboy cartoonist to meet with us here at The Official Root Beer Party Compound for an interview.  The Official root Beer Party Bartender brings us two frosty mugs of the elixir of life, the standard ceremony of a meeting between any member of the Root Beer Party.  We trade small talk, something about the exotic life of a cartoonist in the outside world, but I put aside the common banter and proceed to get down to business.  

You can find Scott at the following sites:

Scott A. Jenkins “jynksie” on Twitter
http://www.madburycomic.com
http://www.norsetales.com
http://www.jynksiecomics.com

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

This would take us back to the year 2000! I came across webcomics.com, which was a webcomics portal for cartoonists back then and was unaffiliated with how we know it today. People displayed their works in the forums, which led me to their websites and I eventually decided to throw my hat into the ring and give this “webcomics” thing a try. I was rusty, so my work was awful, but knowing there was a platform outside of syndication intrigued me then and still does now. The first online comic I ever read was Goats by Jon Rosenberg of Scenes From A Multiverse fame. The first online comic I ever created was “Committed For Life” and it was horribly done.

Question 2: Who was you greatest influence?

The most influential, would be Charles M. Schulz. Charlie Brown was a blockhead and so was I! I may still be, but no one will say so out loud! In fact, my main character in Madbury is, in many ways, an adult version of Chuck. Hodge is a blockhead as well!
It was actually cartoons that influenced my drawing and anything Hanna Barbera had my full attention. Flintstones, Scooby Doo, Top Cat, Yogi Bear, the Jetsons etc.

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

I grew up on A&W Root Beer, it was sold in glass bottles at the Granite State Potato Chip Factory we used to go to every Saturday morning to buy fresh hot potato chips buy the bucket, ahhh childhood! It was a thick tasting root beer, I can’t think of another kind that ever came close and it still tastes the same today.

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

I simply want the ability to share my comic with whomever wants to peek over my shoulder and check it out. I’d also like to see my work, printed out in a tangible, touchable book one day! Even if it’s one copy and it’s mine!

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

I dabble in landscape photography, living in New England, there’s always a view you want to capture and keep.

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

Well, the definition of professional, I imagine, means it’s a paid gig and something you have on the ole’ resume. I’ve only made hobbyist money from my cartooning, so I don’t consider myself a professional. I don’t have a body of work that has developed enough to qualify, so, at most, I’m a professional at being an engaged hobbyist!

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

I do a slice of life comic strip, so subject matter is all inclusive. What I consider out of bounds for me, is being overtly raunchy. I prefer suggestive, you know, show a little butt cheek, so to speak!

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

I use a Miscrosoft Surface Pro Laptop w/ pen and I use photoshop elements 14 to digitally create my work.

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

I went to art school in college, but I majored in art history. My art teacher said my artistic abilities were mundane, so I never pursued drawing after that in a trained environment. I would say I am self-taught.

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

I am always humbled with any attention my creative endeavors are given. So, the highlight comes with every interaction one chooses to have with whatever I put out there in a positive way.

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

I have perfectionist issues and in the past it has hindered my ability to grow as a creator. I spent a lot of time reinventing a wheel that wasn’t broken. In the process of reinventing, I had to accept I may have damaged my original product beyond repair. I’m only recently coming out of that low point, with the reprising of my comic strip, Madbury. The original recipe didn’t need reinventing, but I needed to go through this process in order to see it. Hindsight is 20/20 and I was wearing a blindfold.

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

Everything is on the web. The digital age gives one the ability to just lay our creativity on our digital desk [website] for people to paw through at will.

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

There are a few creators who’s word I value and respect and others who’s work I simply admire beyond words. If I’m going to drop a single name, it would be Mark Stokes. Mark creates Zombie Boy, which has this visually enjoyable and playful design to it. His writing, it’s simple, yet engaging and it tickles at the inner child. To write an all ages type of comic, it requires a sort of intellect I don’t have and it’s an intellect I admire. He should be syndicated; his body of work belongs with the best of the syndicated comic strips.

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

I love to draw, I would imagine if I weren’t drawing as I do now, I’d be fiddling w/ a pencil on a napkin somewhere. It’s an outlet that is as innate in me as breathing. Until my inner child moves on, I’ll be doodling something.

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

For their opinion to matter, one has to care. Trolls don’t do a good job of masking themselves, so when one starts spewing their negativity, just remember, trolls suffer from having a small wee-wee and it’s why they must project negativity.

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

At this time, where my work doesn’t demand deadlines be met, I usually allow motivation to push the creativity out of me, so that when a low point comes, I’ve got some equity in that creative bank. I don’t do well with forced creativity, so when it wanes, it needs to wane.

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

A dirty martini, because life is messy! [grin]

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

I am not currently a member of this party. I’m going to “assume” the invitation was lost in the mail!  (You are now. Welcome to the Party! – Editor)

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

I’ve been drawing a long time, but hands… hands and perspective still allude me. How can one draw hands, day after day, after day and sit down to a brain that thinks it’s never drawn them before?
The other challenge, is the isolation of comic creation. I tend to thrive in a more collaborative environment, so making comics can be frustrating for me in this regard. I’m someone who likes feedback and I like to flush out ideas with more than just myself.

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

I’m not much of a planner, but I do like seeing a plan come together. When that day comes, I’ll have a much better sense of what my future plans have in store for me. That’s my standard answer for everything, except planning for retirement.

In the more immediate future however, I’m trying to migrate to new social media platforms for my creative projects. While Twitter has been good to me, I need to engage in a less volatile atmosphere, as it is hindering my creative flow. What you’ll see from me in 2018 is a continuation of me building a thicker archive of work, while drinking root beer and looking for that lost invitation!

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And  there you have it True Believers, another in depth interview with the people making the comics of our age.  These are the legends of tomorrow who we will speak of in hushed whispers in the future.  The people who are making sure sequential art is still relevant in the too much information age.  These are the pioneers of new technology and the lawmen that will tame the wild lands of the new frontiers and make comics once again the premier form of communication in the new enlightened age.  we lead the charge here at The Root Beer Party and we welcome you to come along for the ride, and as always True Believers, may your mug always be frosted and your root beer always foamy.   

Comic Collection Review: The Fuzzy Princess Volume 1 by Charles Brubaker

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Once again we descend into the sacred repository of The Official Root Beer Party Comic Archives.  Today we will look at one of our latest additions to the greatest collection of human achievement, our comics.   I was notified from our illustrious Co-Presidents of the arrival of a new submission and immediately leapt into action to archive and review our latest acquisition.  This masterpiece of comic art comes to us from one of our own Root Beer Party members Charles Brubaker.  This is his third collection of comics, but the first in this series.

The Fuzzy Princess Volume 1 is sort of an innocuous title, at first glace one might mistake it for the usual sort of kid literature that one dismissively walks by everyday.  The art of the cover reflects this sort of childish innocence that one would expect to find in the Pre-teen section of any bookstore, but this deceptive packaging hides a much more subversive truth.

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We are immediately thrown into the action of the story as Katrina or Kat the Fuzzy Princess of St. Paws, a kingdom where all animals live in harmony,  crashes to Earth to the surprise of Jackson, who is about to be attacked by “Bloated Whale.”  Bloated Whale is the preferred nickname of the bully in this story.  It is also an allegory of a much larger symptom, Bloated Whale represents the manifestation of life or at least modern life, which at this moment in the action is about to crush our protagonist Jackson.

The Fuzzy Princess is a humorous moral tale of modern society.  We get the removed perspective of the alien princess in Kat, but also the wide eyed innocent view of Jackson as well.

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Here we have the introduction of the alien perspective to the apathetic view of life in the form of Jackson’s sister.  Her role in the tale is to represent the normal view of life, she is sort of the baseline of the average joe in this world.  Unlike Jackson, she has learned how to cope with the world and has found the key to co-existence even in the face of the Bloated Whale of life.

Her responses to the absurdity of the new found situation is a sort of litmus test for Jackson and Kat’s challenging of the societal norms.

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We find that Jackson is not alone in his opposition to the social norms, we also have Gladdie and her sister the “Weird Princess.”  The Weird Princess is sort of a human counterpart to Kat’s disruptive and challenging view.  She is more of a thrill seeker looking at the bloated Whale of life and finding the absurdity of it all amusing.

Kat is also not without her own problems as a political element is introduced into the story in the form of a rat spy from another alien kingdom.  He will later align himself with the Bloated Whale in order to attempt to stamp out the challenge to the conventional societal structures.

Kat also has her consorts, Kuma a solipsistic bear who is easily distracted and Bat who is the voice of reason reigning in the chaos of Kat’s personality while maintaining a royal decorum.

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This comic has far more going for it than you would first imagine by glancing at the cover.  It is an engaging tale of challenge and acceptance in the face of the overwhelming pressures of life.  Everyone is weird in their own way, and the connection between us is ultimately what allows humanity to overcome the obstacles of life.  The Fuzzy Princess is at once an engaging tale of comic frivolity and at the same time a biting social satire on the importance of friendship and family in staving off the cold reality or Bloated Whale of life.

I would highly recommend this work for your own collections and you can find it on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/Fuzzy-Princess-1-Charles-Brubaker/dp/0998948217

You can also check out his web site her for the latest comics: http://fuzzy-princess.com/

The Fuzzy Princess is a comic which can be read for the fun of a engaging story and hilarious hijinks, or you can delve in deeper to find the deeper meaning of our universal connection in life, our humanity.  Sometimes it takes an alien to point it out to us.  Check it out.  So until next time True Believers, may your mug always be frosted and your root beer always foamy.

Comic Collection Review: For Better or for Worse the Complete Library Volume 1 by Lynn Johnston

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I sit before a wooden table, handcrafted centuries ago by a dedicated Root Beer Monk and positioned here back then to bear the weight of the study and knowledge of mankind’s greatest achievement:  Comics.

All around me are shelves which reach beyond sight packed with volumes from time immemorial, from the cave sketching’s of our primitive ancestors to the modern masterpieces of the enlightened age.  It is humbling to be a Root Beer Party Member and have access to this vast collection of comic art.  For centuries the dedicated Root Beer Monks have dedicated themselves to preserving these great treasures of human accomplishment.  There are pieces from all over the world, from the Maya codices of the Yucatán to the Library of Nishapur, the dedicated Root Beer Monks rescued the comic manuscripts from lost libraries throughout the history of the world.

Now only the esteemed members of the Root Beer Party may enter this sacred repository and partake of the true history of comics, for this is The Official Root Beer Party Comic Archive.

Today we look at a new entry into the sacred halls of comic history.  For Better or for Worse volume one covers the beginning years of one of the most popular comics in modern history.  This is the volume which defines the world created by Lynn Johnston in this classic series.  It would expand in the years to come and tackle topical issues and even be nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, but that was to come much later in the series.  This volume covers and defines the spirit of the strip and introduces the main characters which will be the focal point of the decades to come.

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They say that to be a powerful artist one must be willing to speak truth to power and Lynn Johnston did just that, her comic spoke truth to a world which was in the waking period of a social revolution.  The old classic values are strongly represented in this work, but the are constantly being questioned, not through any great historical moment, but through the day to day drudgery of family life.  Real change in the world does not come from the protests in the streets or the ivory towers of academia or even the hallowed halls of power and politics, it comes from the ordinary people who live their lives day by day and how they change their view of the world.  History does not happen in a moment, it is a long slow process of acclimation and progress and For Better or for Worse is the perfect example of modern values and ideologies coming into conflict and being adapted to the traditional views.

Life is the same process for everyone.  There are the same events which we all share in our lives as we are born and raised and finally go off into the world, this comic represents a generation where these same societal rites of passage occur, how they change and ultimately how they stay the same.

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What on the surface looks like a gag a day strip of family life is really a snapshot of the world of the 1980’s and 90’s.  The major events argued about by historians are glossed over without hardly any mention, but the important things, the memories of family and friends and all of our daily struggles and triumphs are front and center in this comic.  This is what is remembered by people, these are the humorous stories told over the holiday tables and passed down from generation to generation.

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What appears to be a comical aside is in fact a true historical marker that you will not find in any history book.  The personal injustices which define one’s character growing up are looked back upon with humor as the characters develop and mature through the passage of time.  Lynn Johnston wrote a comic about family life, but in the end, that is really all there is to humanity.  Our families are not always defined by marriage certificates or bloodlines, but rather by the people who were there for us at those pivotal personal historical moments which defined who we were to become.

For Better or for Worse was a comic which explored the changing family dynamic, from it’s very traditional roots to the evolutionary state of flux that it would eventually become.  It is written in real time, meaning the characters age and progress along with the passage of time and is strongly based on the life of Lynn Johnston.  Lynn Johnston did more than speak truth to power as an artist, she spoke truth to herself, and that is what makes this comic and this collection an important work in the history of comics and a worthy entry into The Official Root Beer Party Comic Archives.

So I turn this volume over to the Root Beer Party Monks which tend to the archives and return once more to the world above.  A frosty mug of the elixir of life, root beer awaits as I make my way through the labyrinth of tunnels which lead upwards to the surface.  I highly recommend this collection for all of you True Believers out there, it will become a welcome and treasured addition to your own comic archives.  Until next time True Believers, may your mug always be frosted and your root beer always foamy.

Webcomic Spotlight: Sunny Side Up By James Boyd & Saad Azim

One of the great things about webcomics that puts them over traditional newspaper comics in my opinion is the almost instant interaction that you can have with your fans.  In a newspaper comic it may be months before an artist gets any feedback from their readers, but with webcomics, the feedback can hit you moments after the comic is posted.  Some of the comics can even take on a life of their own and become greater than the sum of it’s parts just be association.

This is just such a story.  It began with a comic post from James Boyd of the latest Sunny Side Up comic.

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It is a great strip referencing one of the greatest movies of all time.  Planes, Trains & Automobiles.  James employs his artistic style of making each panel a mini punchline leading up to the ultimate punchline at the end of the comic, breaking with the tradition of the three panel format made popular in the 1980’s by strips such as Dilbert and Garfield.  It is a classic in the making, but then another great comic creator Neil Brun formally of Fat Bassist Comics now of Neil’s Comics came across James’s comic and replied:

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The comment is reference to the famous speech made by John Candy in the climax of the third act of the film.  It is a clever and inventive response to someone who has truly embraced the gag.  Then the comment became a part of the gag and the joke went even further:

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Now the gag has grown from the movie reference in the comic to referencing the movie director to now referencing  the comment of the commenter of the comic.  It is the wonderful story building that can only happen on the internet.  The legendary Mark Stokes of Zombie Boy Comics once made reference to this phenomenon in an interview, saying that often time comic fans would try to out due the punchline gag of the comic in the comments and make the joke even funnier.

This is the sort of interactive engagement that any artist lives for.  To see their art not only reach an audience, but inspire them to continue on with the comic even after the artist has finished with it.  These sorts of positive, creative comments are what drive webcomic artists as they toil away in what seems like obscurity.  It is proof positive that people are reading their work and it is making an impact on them.

So when you see a webcomic in the daily scrolling of the web that makes you laugh or strikes a cord, be sure to send a little comment back to the artist.  With all the negativity and hate on the web, a positive comment goes a long way and a funny and creative comment is more valuable than a six year syndication deal.  So think about it next time your scrolling along on your phone or killing time on the company computer, take a sip of your favorite root beer and make a positive difference in an artists life.  Until next time True Believers, may your mug always be frosted and your root beer always foamy.

Comic Collection Review: Molly & The Bear by Bob Scott

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Welcome back True Believers as once more we descend down through the seemingly endless tunnels that make their way downwards into the womb of the earth.  Our single torch seems a feeble match against the oblivion of blackness that surrounds us.  The only thing we can see are the earthen walls all around us and the hand hewn steps beneath our feet.  The steps have been worn smooth from the countless pilgrims that have trod upon this path.  As the world above disappears the tunnel engulfs us with a sense of claustrophobic nightmare as the feeling of being buried alive washes over us.  Only our unwavering faith in our destination drives us on, for we are bound for the most holy of all sites, we are drawn ever downward towards the greatest collection of mankind’s greatest achievements.  We are going to The Official Root Beer Party Comic Archives.

Hidden away in an undisclosed location in an unexplored region of an unknown land secreted away miles below the surface of the earth lies the total accumulation of mankind’s greatest achievement, our highest form of art, the comic strip.  Within this repository are the greatest accomplishment of civilization.  Here are the forgotten treasures from the Maya codices of the Yucatán, Imperial Library of Constantinople, and the Glasney College, long thought lost to the world.  The comics survive here in The Official Root Beer Party Comic Archives, preserved for time immemorial by the dedicated Root Beer Party Monks.  Today we bring another volume to add to this esteemed collection Molly & The Bear by Bob Scott

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Molly and the Bear is a comic strip created from Root Beer Party member Bob Scott, who began his professional career working for Jim Davis and doing pencils for one of my personal favorite strips US Acres.  He also went on to work on other projects like Muppet Babies, Cat’s Don’t Dance and the animated movie, The Incredibles.  If that wasn’t enough of an accomplishment for one life he also began a webcomic called Molly and the Bear.

Molly is an 11 year old girl who comes home one day to find a bear in her house.  With the optimistic innocents of youth, she befriends the bear and the two become an inseparable duo.  Bear is a anxiety ridden animal which is scared of everything including fear itself.  He is insecure and neurotic and the perfect foil for Molly and her family.  We have Molly’s mother and father, Molly’s mother falls for the bear and convinces the father, Dean to allow Molly to keep him.

The comic is a warm family strip which is a sort of homage to the classic strips such as Dennis the Menace or Marmaduke.  The strip has a classic style of art which is reminiscent of Pogo, especially in the retro-newspaper prints that Bob does for Sunday comics.

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It is definitely a feel good strip, but it does have moments of introspection and drama and can also be read as an allegory for facing your fears and overcoming them with the help of true friends and family.  There is a feeling of genuine love that comes through in the comic as well as tributes to classic comics which creep into the strip from time to time.  Those who are in tune to the history of comic strips will greatly appreciate the subtle notes Bob Scott adds to the comic.  I would highly recommend this collection to anyone who is a fan of comics.  It will soon be considered one of the classics of it’s own era and reside in the elevated esteem of the great comic strip artists of history.  You can find the collection on amazon Here: https://smile.amazon.com/Molly-Bear-Bob-Scott/dp/1937359859/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1511578430&sr=1-1&keywords=molly+and+the+bear

I offer this collection to the head librarian and Root Beer Monk, so that it may forever be preserved among the hallowed halls of posterity and be forever available to future root Beer Party members as they search through and discover for themselves the great treasures of The Official Root Beer Party Comic Archives.  So until next time True Believers, may your mug always be frosted and your root beer always foamy.

20 Questions with Comic Creators: Dee Parson of Pen & Ink

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Welcome back True Believers, we are here once again with another of our world famous segments, 20 Questions with comic artists.  We are coming to you from the world renowned Root Beer Party estates from an undisclosed location in an unexplored region of an unknown land.  We are here today with Dee Parson of Pen & Ink comics which you can find here:  https://www.penandinkworkshop.com/, or on twitter https://twitter.com/pennyandinkara

or on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/penandinkstagram/  

So without further ado, let us get to the star of the show.  

 

Question 1: What got you started in doing a comic series?
Reading a lot of comic strips in grade school and trying to mimic them. There was never a time when I wasn’t making cartoons or comics. So I guess I knew what I wanted to do from the get go.

Question 2: Who was you greatest influence?
There’s four: Jim Davis, Pat Brady, Dav Pilkey, and pop singer Rachel Platten.
Jim Davis and “Garfield” taught me to work for what I wanted.
Pat Brady and the Gumbo family of “Rose is Rose” taught me to enjoy the simple things in life.
Dav Pilkey and “Captain Underpants” taught me to never be afraid to be myself, even when others try to make you be someone else.
And Rachel Platten and her music as taught me to always put passion in everything you do. Because eventually, with enough perseverance, the spotlight will shine on you.
Question 3: What is your favorite root beer and why?
I don’t frequently drink root beer, but if I had to choose, it’d probably be A&W.
Question 4: What do you hope to accomplish with your comic?
The thing I want to set out to accomplish with the rest of who I am: Make people smile.
With Pen & Ink, the whole concept of their work and who they are is related to art. So they have the capabilities to work in single panel comics, full page comics, story driven graphic novels, children’s books, animations, and more! The possibilities are endless and I can’t wait to see where they go next.
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Question 5: Do you have any other artistic interests outside of comics?
I love to do animations, and whenever I get free time, I love doing mini ones for the heck of it. I also play lots of video games.
Question 6: Do you see yourself as a professional cartoonist, or is this just something you do for yourself?
I do consider myself a professional cartoonist! Before “Pen & Ink”, I did a published daily newspaper comic strip for almost three years called “Life With Kurami”. The comic followed Ana Kirkland as she went through her daily life as a single mother with her infant daughter, Kurami.
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It recently ended October 28th to focus full time on “Pen & Ink”, which these two have only been around for 5 months and are really picking up traction.

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

Anything that would provoke controversy or give people negative feelings. My only goal is to give people a smile or warm-hearted feelings, and I can’t do that if my work has them thinking about some political party or the recent publicity scandal.

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

I do both digital and traditional work. A lot of my stuff I sketch out first, but then I draw it out digitally using a Wacom Cintiq 13HD.

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

I have zero to none. I barely have any college education on me, either. All my training literally came from reading lots and lots and LOTS of Garfield/Rose is Rose comics. Reading up interviews from the industry giants of yesteryear and just overall practicing constantly. My “Life With Kurami” comic strip went into publication when I was 19. From then on, everything I learn about art and writing and the comic/animation industry came from my exposure to doing that daily comic strip everyday.

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

Jim Davis inviting me to PAWS, Inc. to meet with him. Twice.
 
The first time was with the help of my friend David Reddick, who helped me introduce him to the newspaper comic “Life With Kurami” that I wanted to get into print and to see what advice he had for me. He was very informative and told me what worked, what didn’t work, and what I could do to improve on what didn’t work. After our hour-long conference in his office, I asked him how did he feel about the comic being in print. He said that the comic would be a perfect learning experience for me and that no matter what happens to it, it’ll always be a success. So with his blessing, he helped get the comic into our newspaper. He also drew me a picture of Garfield and a picture of Kurami.
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The second time was just this past October. We spent almost an hour in the conference room at PAWS talking about the end of “Life With Kurami”, what worked, what didn’t work, and the stuff I can look back on as experience. The big majority of the time was mostly spent on talking about “Pen & Ink”, sharing comics and getting more informative advice from him. He had really nice and supportive things to say, and can’t wait to see where they go next. He has even drawn Pen & Ink for me, too!

The greatest thing about these two visits is that I got to spend time with and have support from one of the people who have shaped me to be the person I am today.


Question 11: What has been the lowest point in your cartooning career?
The lowest point for me was ending “Life With Kurami”. After almost 3 years, towards the beginning of this year, it got harder and harder to work with, and after receiving some very critical criticisms from industry professionals about the comic plus realizing it wasn’t really going anywhere, I thought the time to move onto something else was upon me, It hasn’t helped that too many people have tried to put too much thought/input into the comic, and it became something that didn’t feel like it was my work, but just work I did to impress other people. but I didn’t take it lightly. I had to ensure ending the comic was the right decision. I had good feedback and not-so-good feedback from the people I’ve asked about the decision, but at the end, I knew it was for the best.

Question 12: Are collections of your work available beyond the web? If So where?
For “Life With Kurami”, unfortunately not. At least not yet. I’d love to make a book compilation for them including all of their strips from its run. But that won’t be from the far future.
 
Pen & Ink, however, are in the start of getting their first book self-published called “Pen & Ink: Perfect Bind”. The book is being funded though kickstarter (with the goal of $300 being raised in under an hour and having $1.3K funded in less than 5 days). The book is a 60+ page perfect bound paperback that will compile their first 25 single panel comics, including bonus behind the scenes work, and special guest art from a bunch of their friends (and artists you may admire!) 
 
Also, Ray Billingsley, the creator of the King Features Syndicate comic strip “Curtis” (and one of my mentors!), is doing the foreword to the book.
Mini Comic Cover
 
 

The point of “Pen & Ink” is that they are sisters that make autobiographical comics together about their life and the residents they’re around in their hometown Matte, Canvatia. Everything you see related to Pen & Ink is about them made by them, which is also why Pen & Ink comics are signed by them and are the authors of their books.

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

I admire just about anyone who is passionate about their work. I try to be as supportive to everyone as possible.

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

It’s affected my life in ways I never would have imagined. It’s become who I am. I don’t know who or what I’d be if I wasn’t doing this.

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

If anything, I’d say that content creators would appreciate feedback from others if people would be willing to give more sincere and constructive criticism.

Comic Panel 1

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

I sit down and do work until I get done with what I want. I don’t do anything until the main objective is complete.

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

I really like Pepsi and Sprite!

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

Of course! I don’t remember how I became one because I’m sure someone bonked me in the head to become one. (Dee was inducted into the Root Beer Party by Co-President Kim Belding of Picpak Dog Comics – Editor)

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

My confidence. My confidence in my work is beyond anything you could imagine and is a big driving force into my work, I’m probably the most confident artist you will ever meet, but my confidence in myself in terms of how to approach big opportunities and things that could positively benefit me needs work.
Comic Panel 2

Question 20: What are your future plans involving web comics or anything else going on in your life?
The plan is to do what I want when I want to and to trust my instincts and heart more. And to start looking into conventions and other ways to get my work out there.
So there you have it True Believers, another epic interview with one of the many great Root Beer Party members.  Dee Parson will also be appearing in the 40 anniversary book of Garfield cementing the professional relationship with Jim Davis that began all those years ago.
Be sure to check out the Kickstarter and as we add our official copy of Volume 1 of Pen and Ink to the Official Root Beer Party Comic Archives and get your own copy today, and as always True Believers, may your mug always be frosted and your root beer foamy.  

#TurkeyloonDay on Twitter

Welcome back True Believers.  November 13th was the day of a cartoonist challenge set up by Our Illustrious Co-President Jon Esparza to create a Thanksgiving themed comic with a turkey-loon.  Inflation gags are a specialty of Jon and he is always ready to break out the helium and make the world laugh.  Here is this years collection of comics from all over the Twitter-verse.

 

James Point du Jour, http://pointdujourart.com/

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Michelle Reuster, https://twitter.com/ArtZshel

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Josh Davenport, http://rgbros.com/

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Josh Davenport’s daughter

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Wendy Caston, http://www.windycomics.com/

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Andrea K. Doodles, https://www.etsy.com/shop/AndreaFutrelle?ref=hdr_shop_menu

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Victor Chombeau, http://www.littlelety.com/

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Jon Esparza, http://bubblefox.thecomicseries.com/

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Geoff Smith, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC916Ow1paAtMy6mDfrtW7jA/videos

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Pearl de la Motte, https://twitter.com/pearldelamotte

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Garnet Lynne, https://gypsieotteranime.deviantart.com/

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Steve Gibbard, http://jeggle.co.uk/

t4

RPGBluesguy, http://rpgblues.com/

t5

Donna Marie Strachan, http://dmstrachan.co.uk/

t6

Neil Davison, https://twitter.com/neildavison1969

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Keri Johnson, https://www.zookiecartoons.com/

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Chani Demuijlder, https://chani-demuijlder.pixels.com/

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Josh Cooper, https://www.redbubble.com/people/joshcooper

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Vicky Dupuis, http://vickydupuis.com/

t2

Tony Bayer, https://www.instagram.com/tonybayertoons/

t3

Sam Shaw, http://sunandmoonstudios.co.uk/

t4

Leslie Wren Vandever, https://rheumablog.me/

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Eline W, https://elinew.com/

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Tim Green, http://www.vinniethevampire.com/

t7

Ian Martin, https://twitter.com/iawima

t8

Aaron Stines, http://airbearentertainment.com/

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Weird Bean, https://twitter.com/WeirdBean

t1

David Buist, http://cartoonme.net/

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Lisa Poggioli, https://twitter.com/caseybella3

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Warren Frantz, http://offseasoncomic.webcomic.ws/

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Torben Christensen, http://www.torbentegner.dk/

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Nora Surojegin, http://www.coroflot.com/hazytale

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J, https://twitter.com/jayceek33

t7

Stacey Pritty, https://twitter.com/StaceyJPritty

t8

Peter Rasmussen, http://badlydoodled.com/

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Alison Rasmussen, https://drawingpaynes.wordpress.com/

t1

Andrew Fraser, http://www.cartoonsidrew.com/

t2

Valentina Bandera, http://entart.it/

t3

Jason Roache, http://www.jasonroache.com/

t4

Bert Schaafkaas, http://www.schaafkaas.nl/

t5

Paul Murphy, http://paulmurphyonline.com/

t6

Dave Windett, http://www.davewindett.com/

t7

Kim Belding, http://picpak.net

t9

20 More Questions with Comic Artists: Jon Esparza of Bubblefox

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Greetings True Believers! Today we have a treat for you, as your Co-President Kim Belding conducts a second interview with the one and only President of the Root Beer Party himself, the great Jon Esparza. Across the Internet and towards the Twitterverse, you will find no one more dedicated to the craft of cartooning than Jon. In all of his creations you will see the result of hard work, passion and a love for all things CRAZY. His current project is Bubble Fox, which you can read at http://bubblefox.thecomicseries.com, and his past comics include Mike & Mindy, Mushrooms, and Peppertown, which can be read at http://jonscrazystuff.blogspot.com, and http://peppertown.thecomicseries.com respectively. It can’t be stressed enough that without Jon, the community we’ve created today would be non-existent. So, without further ado, let’s dive into the questions!

Question 1: During your last interview, most people in the Root Beer Party knew who you were. However, the Party has grown substantially since, and those reading this may not be familiar with your work. Could you quickly tell us a little bit about yourself?

 

But of course! I’m Jon and I draw! Hope that explains things.

 

Just kidding, I am in fact Jon though and I created the web comics Mike & Mindy, Mushrooms, Bubble Fox and Peppertown. I also do the CRAZY Toons found on my blog. Outside of that, I was born and raised in San Diego and work as a stagehand when I’m not drawing.

Question 2: Continuing with the Party’s growth, I’m sure many readers are unfamiliar with its origins, such as the tweets that started the Root Beer Wars, and the formation of the Party with you as President and I as Co-President. Would you be willing to give us a brief history?

 

Yes, as the history is indeed very brief. You and I were arguing about root beer, which led to a hilarious series of drawings I penciled and you inked that somehow led to a peace between us and then the formation of the root beer party. And oddly enough, everybody got a kick out of it and wanted in too!

 

Okay, that was a bit longer than brief, but you get the idea!

 

Question 3: The collection of all your works past and present (Bubble Fox, Mike & Mindy, Peppertown, Mushrooms) is referred to as the CRAZYVERSE. What made you decide that your comics should be…CRAZY?

 

When I was creating my blog, someone had already taken the name “Jon’s Stuff.” So, I decided to make it “Jon’s CRAZY Stuff” to set me apart! There’s the big reveal. I picked a word at random and it actually worked!

 

As far as the “CRAZYVERSE” name, my dear pal Mark Stokes had taken a look at my toons one day and said “Gee Jon, you got your own little crazy universe here! A CRAZYVERSE if you will!” Mark knows best, so I ran with it!

 

Question 4: What was the inspiration for Bubble Fox? What inspires you today?

 

Bubble Fox came about by chance. I had already planned on ending Mushrooms and M&M to launch Peppertown. One day, my friend Erika Meza had said she was bored with an assignment and wanted to draw foxes and bubbles instead. I told her why not a fox IN a bubble? Then we both started spouting off ideas for bubbles and foxes and drew them all! The reaction my art got was amazing! I took it as a sign from God that this fox was meant to be, so I created a comic!

It helped that ideas just kept coming to me for more things this goofy fox could get into! The CRAZY fans kinda named him. All the replies from the initial art I posted usually said “That Bubble Fox” or “The Bubble Fox,” so I just let it stick. I think the name has worked out for him so far.

 

Question 5: You and I go back several years, but one of the most defining moments between the two of us is the comic I submitted for your very first “Crazy Cartoon Experiment”. In it, my character Picpak inflates himself with helium and accidentally flies to Cactus World. Since then helium has become an institution of the CRAZYVERSE. Where does your love for helium jokes come from?

 

Aw, good old helium. The one thing that keeps the CRAZYVERSE afloat. All cartoonists seem to have trademark gags, although I didn’t actively try to have one at first. I will admit, the old Balloon gag is the funniest of all cartoon gags because it’s the most surreal. As for as how it became my trademark, much like everything else in my career, totally happened by chance! The first couple M&M strips didn’t really get much traction. Then I did one where Mike inflates, and my views, no pun intended, blew up! People really seemed to dig it, so I just kept throwing them in there!

 

Of course, this leads to the downside of having a trademark gag: Everybody wants it all the time! Fan demand has to win out in the end, but if something’s used so much that it’s no longer funny, then why bother? That’s why I keep bathroom humor to a minimum. Has nothing to do with morals. A fart joke should never feel stale! You probably even noticed I’ve cut down on certain gags in the last two years, including Helium. I never want the funniest bits to get old!

MikeAndMindy

Question 6: Expanding on that (no pun intended), where do you get your ideas? Do you look for ideas or do ideas come to you?

 

Ideas just hit me. I wish I could say there’s a process, but more times than not, a situation will just present itself and I’ll say “Hey! This’d be great for Bubble Fox!” With M&M, it was usually a punchline that would come to me and I’d just work back to the setup, same with Mushrooms. Peppertown is a little more personal. I had no social life as a teen, so I was always the babysitter. A lot of Peppertown is just gross exaggerations of my encounters with my cousins when they were little.

 

Question 7: One of the best qualities of your work, in my opinion, is the heart of it. It always feels genuine and not saccharine. Where do you feel the heart of your stories comes from? How do you maintain its integrity?

 

I think it’s because I just keep things simple. A lot of comic characters today always seem to wanna benefit. Mine just wanna go about their business. Then things happen. They’re victims of circumstance, which, really, is a lot of us.

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Question 8: What can you tell us about the creation process of your strip? Panels, characters, lettering, etc.?

 

All analog! I pencil, ink, scan, correct and post! Very little digital work is done! I do trace my pencils during inks using a light box because I was fed up with my pencils gumming up my pens and not erasing. It’s really streamlined things!

 

Question 9: You’ve long since been an advocate for traditionally drawn work. What advantages do you feel it has over modern techniques?

 

It just looks better, especially on colored work. When I see a comic at the comic shop, I can tell that every last pixel was done on computer because no human being can paint like that. It all looks so manufactured. Traditional art has so much more heart to it. It’s sad to see so many abandoning it. And I know time plays a big role too, but it’s still a bummer.

 

Question 10: Which products would you recommend for cartooning? Why?

 

I like the Staedtler pens I’ve been using since 2014. Great pens. Honestly, it really is a matter of personal choice. What feels right to me, may not feel right to others.

Question 11: Do you feel you have progressed as an artist over the years? If so, how?

I do actually. If you look at those early M&M and Mushrooms strips, they had a very angular look to them. Over time, I think my art has gotten a rounder feel to it, almost like 30’s and 40’s animation, which I love. Think my line work has also gotten more fluid over time.

 

Question 12: Have you thought of releasing Bubble Fox in color? Do you feel it would add or distract to the strip?

 

I think about it everyday! M&M and Mushrooms were in color, but they were also monthly. BF’s in black and white because I just don’t have the time to color them. Once Peppertown returns, I’ll be dropping the gray tones for the same reason sadly. I suppose if cartooning were my actual job, I’d be willing to reconsider. Having grown up on old school MAD Magazine and manga, I really dig B&W comics. They leave a lot to the readers’ imagination!
Question 13: Smaller artists like us have to “go on their own” and self-produce much of our content, such as books, merchandise, etc. What is the hardest part of self-publishing? What is the best part? Hardest part is primarily promoting your work. Too much promotion, you look like spam. Not enough promotion, you look like you don’t care. It’s a tricky balance to find. It’s also hard convincing folks to give your art a shot, especially at cons and shows. To the casual reader, if there’s no affiliation, i.e., no Marvel/DC/Hollywood tie in, it must not be special. That isn’t to say nobody will take a look. It’s happened to me and several pals many times where a kid will walk up to our tables showing interest, and their parent will grab them and say “Oh no son, you don’t want that. Come over here, this guy draws Batman.” Its crushing and frankly, kinda rude. It is what it is though. Those that have taken the time to read our work appreciate it, and that matters the most. The best part really is being your own boss. You set your own deadlines, take your own time and just plain have fun with it. POD services make self-publishing so much more affordable. I like that I don’t have to print 1,000 copies. If someone wants it, it’s on Amazon! I also like the creative freedom that comes with self-publishing. I don’t deal with an editor breathing down my neck demanding things. I work on my terms and that’s pretty damn rewarding to be honest. As cool as it would be to see BF or M&M go mainstream, I fear what would happen to them if they got picked up by a major network. For now, I’ll enjoy my freedom to create.

 

Question 14: Let’s talk about conventions. How many do you attend in a year? Do you feel they help gain you fans? Why or why not? I used to table at three shows a year, but now I only do one, which is San Diego Comic Fest (SDCF). I still attend WonderCon, San Diego Comic Con (SDCC) and Long Beach Comic Con (LBCC) as a pro. But I just walk around at those. They’ve helped me gain some fans, but overall, not a ton. Cons can be great but soul crushing for a small timer like me. As I said earlier, not having any connections to a big publisher is almost like a repellent to some attendees. But sometimes, you do get some traction. In the last three years, my sketch cards have become a huge seller for me. They’ve also killed book sales! But hey, income is income!

Question 15: Bubble Fox is currently your breakout strip, but many of your old-school fans love and remember Mike & Mindy. Lately the two have been creeping into more and more of your sketches. Are there any plans in the future to give them another full-fledged strip? Are there other works of yours you wish to bring back?

Aw Mike & Mindy. It’s fun to toss them in every now and again, but for now, they’re gonna stay retired. Trust me, they enjoy not being trampled! As far as other works, I do plan on bringing Peppertown back at some point in the very near future. With PT being a long form comic, it’s tougher to find the time to work on full pages. But I have MANY stories already scripted, including the next five chapters. Just need the time! I also have a couple projects on the back burner, including a picture story using Warren Frantz’s Green 3 characters that I promised him years ago! I haven’t forgotten Warren, I swear! I also plan to do a graphic novel based on Jack and the Beanstalk, CRAZY-style! Outside of that, there’s a few other projects in development including animation and live action films!

 

Question 16: You’ve gained a reputation as one of the nicest and most active people on Twitter, sharing other artists’ work, leaving compliments and organizing some amazing collaborations and fan art. Unfortunately, Chris migrated the Root Beer Party over to Facebook, which you aren’t a member of. How has this affected you? Have you considered joining because of it? I was very hurt by this move. Twitter deserves its RBP representative! I will not be joining FB. Not a fan of its policies. Besides, I spend enough time on Twitter as it is! Chris can always just come back where he will clearly be welcomed back by all!

 

Question 17: What does cartooning mean to you in 2017, versus decades past? (Laughs) I’ve only been a cartoonist for a decade, so I don’t really have any experience to go off of with this one! If anything, it means a path with less obstacles because you can do it all yourself now.

 

Question 18: In what ways have webcomics changed your life for the better, or worse?

 

Web comics opened up a whole new world to me! Made me realize that Indy comics doesn’t mean “Adult” or mature comics. It also opened up new avenues. That I have a following in the U.K. and Holland is mind blowing! Seem to have a lot of fans up in Canada too, which is a huge thrill! Web comics gave me friends! Despite being a comic Mecca, the San Diego comic scene isn’t all that inclusive if you don’t have any accolades. In web comics, we accept everyone.

 

Question 19: What has been the biggest change in your life since your last interview? What plans do you have in the future for your comics, or for anything going on in your life?

 

Well, sadly, my dad passed away at the end of August, so that’s a pretty big change. Seen a lot more action at the day job which takes away time to work on other things, but hey, bills gotta be paid! Biggest thing for me right now is to just stay the course for now and keep BF going for as long as I can. I also hope to get Peppertown back on track soon. I just need the time to work on it.

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Question 20: Sorry for your loss, Jon. One final question: are there any webcomics you really enjoy and would recommend for our readers? How do I only name a few? There are hundreds! Zombie Boy, Crunchy Bunches, Lunarbaboon, Picpak Dog and Galactic Dragons are my top 5, just best of the best! Don’t Pick The Flowers, Pirate Mike, Snarty, Tales Of Absurdity, Red’s Planet, Off Season, Max Overacts, Oops, Untold Tales Of Bigfoot and Mister & Me are also incredible reads! These comics ended their runs, but I’m always happy to go back and read Zorphbert & Fred, Gracieland, Tales Of The Brothers Three and Caaats! Vinnie The Vampire, Skitter and L’il Lety are also amazing web comics! Why they aren’t syndicated is anyone’s guess. And one more shout out is in order here for Bug Pudding creator, JP Keslensky. He tirelessly promotes so many other comics and since the start of Bubble Fox has posted an original poem for almost every strip in the comments box! He’s an amazing guy and I admire him to death! There are so many more out there though. I feel so bad for not being able to list them all, but my list is literally in the hundreds! Eh, I guess one more wouldn’t hurt! Austin’s Inferno is a hilarious strip put out by the Crown Prince of Web Comics, Austin Verburg. He’s the future of Web Comics! To all my pals I couldn’t get to, know that I love all your comics and I urge readers to give all Web Comics a chance! You never know when you’ll find a hidden gem!

 

That’s it from me, folks. I’d like to thank Chris for giving me the opportunity to conduct this interview, and to thank Jon for taking the time to answer these questions. It was great chatting with you and we are honored to have you as our faithful President. While the rest of you fill your mug with your favorite root beer, I recommend you buy Jon’s Bubble Fox comic book at http://www.amazon.com/Classical-Gas-Bubble-Fox-1/dp/1508525668/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1465255320&sr=8-1&keywords=jon+esparza, and Mike & Mindy’s collections at http://www.amazon.com/Fork-Road-Crazy-Collection-1/dp/1479148032/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1465255320&sr=8-2&keywords=jon+esparza, http://www.amazon.com/Bird-Bush-Crazy-Collection-Vol/dp/1482552523/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1465255320&sr=8-3&keywords=jon+esparza, and http://www.amazon.com/Blame-Dog-Crazy-Collection-Vol/dp/1495459306/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1465255320&sr=8-5&keywords=jon+esparza. As for me, you can check out my comic Picpak Dog at http://picpak.net. Until next time, may your mug always be frosted and your root beer always foamy.