It’s no secret that from time to time we dip our toes into all things comics ’round these parts. Funny thing is, I never thought I’d find myself sucked into the world of all things drawn, but when you marry someone who damn near has an addiction, you wake one day to discover that you, too, have been sucked in.
My husband knew I’d never be compelled enough to read anything less than a half inch thick – smart man – so my gateway drugs were all graphic novels: David Boring, by Daniel Clowes, Alan Moore’s Watchmen, and Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth, by Chris Ware. Now, thanks to Richard at Zeus Comics in Dallas, I’ve become consumed with a variety of authors and illustrators. And I have to take a moment to shout out to my pal and local David Hopkins –( WE LOVE YOU DAVID) – creator and mastermind behind We’ve Never Met, Astronaut Dad, Antigone, Emily Edison and Karma Incorporated.
Now word comes this morning, thanks to Jeph Jacques, that both he will be in Austin this weekend for Webcomics Rampage at the Dragon’s Lair. The two meet and greets start at noon Dec 11-12th and will also feature webcomic author Danielle Corsetto of Girls With Slingshots – a favorite of Kurtz’s – and others.
For Part One of this interview with Scott Kurtz, please click here…
So what’s up with the panda? Is there ever going to be another panda strip? Will he ever be able to woo the lady panda?
(laughs) You’re asking all the right questions. It’s funny. We were talking about that yesterday. I was trying to come up with the storyline for the week and I decided to go with female bloggers this week, but I’m trying to debate what happens to the panda because they’re kind of at this uneasy truce, and you know, what’s really interesting is that movie, Kung Fu Panda, came out and so now every time I come up with an idea, I stop myself and say, “No, that’s too much like Kung Fu Panda.” Like I wanted to have this one idea where the panda would, essentially, give notice because he’s going to start his own sushi shop, and then I thought, “Wait a minute, pandas are Chinese and sushi is Japanese, so it can’t be a sushi shop.” And then I was talking to my brother and Kris Straub, a cartoonist friend of mine, and they say, “Just make it dim sum or noodles.” And I had to say, “But then it’s Kung Fu Panda!” Then they say, ‘Alright! Just scrap it! Scrapped!”
But the panda will be back, probably not this week, but next week.
Are there any up-and-coming, new webcomics that you’ve come across lately that you really like?
Yeah. We were discussing that this weekend. It used to be you’d go to conventions and we’d do panels, we usually do panels at all the Cons, and there was always some woman that would stand up and say, “When are more women going to make webcomics?” And we were always saying, “Well, you’re a woman, why are you asking us? We’re men. What say do you think we have in it? When women start making them, I guess.” But in the last year or two years, there’s been three or four women that have just come out of nowhere, and they have the best webcomics, they are, in my opinion, they are the best right now. Meredith Grand has one that’s called ‘Octupus Pie’ that is amazing about life in Brooklyn, Danielle Corsetto has one called ‘Girls with Slingshots’ that’s amazing, then there is girl in Sweden named Rene Engstrom that does a strip called ‘Anders Loves Maria’, and then there is a fourth girl that has just kind of popped up on the scene. Her name is Kate Beaton, and she was a history major or a history buff, and she does these amazing history comics, hilarious, quirky and fantastic…So there’s this huge, female revolution in webcomics that’s just blowing me away.
Okay, cool. So, do you have any exciting plans you want to announce for the future? Do you think the strip will change once you make the move to Seattle?
I think that it will improve, just in the sense that when I move to Seattle I’ll more than likely be sharing an office with the Penny Arcade guys at their offices. So, to get to go in every day and get to be in a creative environment with those guys, I think it will up my game. But other than that, it’s really hard to tell what will happen. Other than that, I don’t have any super-immediate, secret plans coming up about the strip. I’m focused mostly on this move.
Your strips that involve your dad, they’re some of my favorites. Are those real?
Yeah. Yeah. Though I haven’t done any with my dad in them since we got into a big fight one time. He called me up one day, really upset about the strip and just started screaming at me about how Charles Schulz never did this and Charles Schulz never did that…
But you’re not Charles Schulz…
Yeah, that’s what I told him and nor do I want to be and nor would I dare try to be. But yeah, we got into a big fight, he wanted to know, “Why do you have to curse all the time in your strip?” And I said, “I don’t really curse.” Like, growing up, the words ‘damn and ‘shit’ were in my house, but never the really bad ones. So I’m telling him, “I’m only saying what I heard growing up.” And he says, “Well yeah, but that was at home.” So I said, “Yeah, but that’s what I’m depicting, a family, it’s an office family, but it’s a family. When we were growing up, you and mom were so much in love. You’d pinch her, you’d pinch her her ass or something but it was never, none of it was ever to be titillating or to be graphic, it was you guys loved each other and you were in love and I want to put that in the strip, too. And I can do that, because I’m on the web. It’s not like I’m out there just throwing the F-word around because I can or just putting nudity in it.” So I did this strip that made a pop culture reference that he didn’t get. Remember those commercials from the 80s that are like, “Where’d you get these drugs?” and the kid says, “I learned it from watching you, Dad!”?
So it was, “Where do you find these words in your strip?” And I said, “I learned it from watching you, dad.” And he read that and he got super upset, he did not get the joke, and it was bad. I mean bad.
He took it personally…
He really did. He took it personally. It was impossible to explain it to him. So, I haven’t put him in the strip since and I’ve been kind of afraid.
Maybe dad will come back, eventually.
He will. He will.
Ok. So here’s where we do 5 Stupid Questions.
Yes! I love it!
So who would leave the Thunderdome alive: Brent or Penny Arcade’s Gabe?
(laughs) That’s a tough one. Um, I think Brent’s a married man now, but Gabe’s got a kid, you know, ‘cause you’re fighting for your family, too. I’d say Gabe, because Brent’s a little too much of a girly-man and Gabe has had to fight Tycho all these years. So yeah, Gabe would come out of the Thunderdome alive.
If Jeph Jacques (Questionable Content, Indie Tits, Deathmøle) was a tree, what tree would he be?
God, Jeph Jacques as a tree…that’s a tough one, too. Um. Oh, God. I just hung out with him this weekend…He would be a rotting oak and I’ll tell you why. It’s because he’s, he is such an amazing talent, and he has a huge audience, so you’re kind of in awe of him. But when everyone goes home, he’s writing about how terrified he was to be around everybody. He’s got this tough, oak exterior, but then you get up close and you realize he’s dying slowly on the inside.
If forced to choose, for the world’s fate hangs in the balance, which song would you sing at karaoke: Captain & Tennille’s Muskrat Love or Gordon Lightfoot’s Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald?
I don’t know either of those songs. I don’t. Now wait, which Captain & Tennille song?
Oh, I know that one. And what was the other one?
The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. The world’s most depressing song in the history of ever.
No, okay. I’d sing Captain & Tennille.
Ok. Photoshop is to __________ as Corel Draw is to ___________?
Wow. Photoshop is to the future as Corel Draw is to the 80s. I should be able to come up with something more clever than that.
What would happen if an unstoppable force met an indestructible wall?
I KNOW this one! I know this! This was in a Superman comic! They would yield…they would yield. This was in a Superman comic. He saved Lois Lane from a…a Chrono…and Ultra-Sphinx…yeah. I swear to God. You can’t get me with this question. That is the answer, they would yield. Yield.
So, do you have anything else you want to ad before the interview is over.
No, I’m just excited I knew the answer to the question. Wait, what was that Riddle of the Sphinx…what walks on…
Together: Four legs in the morning, two legs in the afternoon and three legs at night. Man!
On March 30th, 2009 at approximately 11:56 a.m., Scott Kurtz inadvertently tried to kill me
“This is the Las Vegas Roll. I always make my friends try it.”
Well, whatever’s in it, it certainly looked beautiful, so I snagged a piece and immediately shoved the top layer of it into my mouth. Suddenly, my mouth was on fire. And I realized I might possibly be dying.
“It’s not usually this spicy. I hope you’re not allergic…”
“Actually, Scott, I am.”
And so begins a lunchtime chat between webcomic pioneer and Player vs. Player mastermind, Scott Kurtz, and yours truly.
To say that Scott is genuine, open and likeable would be an understatement. I knew last week when I called Kurtz that I was in for a treat, our first phone call almost immediately morphed from fleshing out the details of getting together into a discussion about graphic novels, the weather, moving, office leases, traveling, and Batman. If this is what the guy is like on the phone with a stranger, I knew the interview would be a cakewalk. And it was.
Kurtz never hesitated in answering a question over lunch at Ra Sushi on Monday. I learned that he and his wife once battled over middle names, are both into board games, especially Clue, and that they’re looking forward to their big move to Seattle. I learned that a lot of webcomic folks are just as confounded with anxiety and mental health issues as their more creatively recognized brethren in music and visual arts – and are just as afraid of losing their edge if they do something about it. And I also learned more than I could imagine about the virtuous webcomic way of life as opposed to its polar opposite, The Syndicate – whom I now imagine as some sort of Bilderberg-esque organization so nefarious and all-knowing they seem to warrant their own parody comic. But that aside, what I learned most was that Scott Kurtz genuinely cares about his audience and unequivocally respects and admires his peers.
Warr: You’ve been doing this for ten years and going…
Kurtz: God, It’ll be 11 in May…
What’s kept you going and inspired or from saying, “You know what, I’m tired of all this!”?
The fear of knowing that I have no other marketable skills and that I do pretty shitty in the private sector. We were talking about this pre-interview, but I’m horrible in the corporate world. I’m miserable there and I don’t play the game well. I had a big discussion with my wife one time because I’d gotten it into my head that she resented what I did for a living, because it’s very focused on me and running my business and she has her job, too. I asked her if she ever got upset because so much of her vacation time and so much of our free time together is about the business and she said, “Oh God, no! Thank God it came along because it was worse when you were in the corporate sector because you were horrible. I was so stressed out.” So, that’s one big reason. But I’ve always loved doing this, and I’ve wanted to do cartooning since I was in the fourth grade.
I still have nightmares where I wake up and I’m working tech support jobs again and I’m trying to figure out what happened, you know? You spend the dream like, “Maybe I can start the web site up again.” Or, I’m asking everyone in the dream, “What did I do wrong, what happened?” I don’t want to lose this, so keeping going is not a problem… I’m more worried it’ll end, that’s the big fear.
So one of the things I’ve noticed is that you are a big proponent of social media, you’re on Twitter a lot and I know that just recently you’ve started live streaming your daily process. Would you tell me what prompted you to start streaming the drawing process and how the heck you’re able to do that and chat with fans at the same time?
Oh! Well, the only reason that I think my comic succeeds is, and really the reason why webcomics are doing so much better than print comics, is because there’s an immediate interaction with the audience. I mean, it’s not just you draw it and you give it to your publisher and then the readers send the publisher mail and it maybe trickles back down to you. This is more immediate and you’re establishing a personal relationship with every one of your readers.
For example, I sent out a Twitter post this morning that said my internet is still down and I’ll post the strip as soon as it’s back up and when I’m done with my lunch meeting. And that’s 140 characters, but everyone that reads that feels they got a personal message from me. Now they know my internet is down. Now they know that I have a lunch meeting. They’ve just learned two or three personal things about me. And they feel I’m updating them on when the strip’s going to be up because it’s late today. Some might consider that unprofessional, but for me it’s more important to establish a rapport and a personal relationship with your reader to where they’re not just invested in the product, but they’re interested in you and they’re investing in that relationship, too. Read more