“I only want to do good things”- Gerard Way is rebuilding the Doom Patrol, Brick by Brick..

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“Your head’s like mine, like all our heads; big enough to contain every god and devil there ever was. Big enough to hold the weight of oceans and the turning stars. Whole universes fit in there!-

Grant Morrison

Three months into the new Gerard Way penned Doom Patrol and issue one still seems to be kicking around the place with it’s peelable, Warhol inspired gyro sticker still clinging defiantly to the front cover, taunting me. I can’t help but fret over what’s underneath? Am I missing something vital? Pealing it off seems obvious, right? One flick of the wrist is all it takes, and yet..surely Gerard knows the average comic readers mentality? No  matter how cool and hip you make your new imprint, the strongest instinct is to store these away like priceless artefacts, bagged and boarded, catalogued and cared for. Not very rock and roll is it? Not exactly what a ‘dangerous human’ would do. A dangerous human would have stepped out of the comics store, peeled it off immediately without even a second though and months later found it at the bottom of an increasingly precarious pile of these beautifully inspiring but ultimately disposable objects, the delicious sticker stuck onto the fridge among crappy takeaway menus, gig tickets and terrible snapshots. Fuck it! I’ll probably just go and buy a second copy…

I only mention this because looking back it seems the perfect representation of his Doom Patrol work, even for a series only on it’s third issue. From to this little hoarding, compulsive tic, Way knows how our minds work, how His mind works. He knows us, he is us. It’s been clear from the get go, issue one, the cover, that he’s going to use all that against us. It’s not going to be an easy ride. “Think you know the Doom Patrol?” you can almost hear Cliff Steele snarling from the page “think again, Jerk sauce!” In any given issue Way can take a Morrison idea, turn it through itself  and twist expectations, your own preconceptions against you.  Just in case you thought you’d got a grasp on Doom Patrol, he makes what at first seems familiar into the unfamiliar again with a few simple twists and tweaks into a different directions. A lot of the imagery might seem similar with its stylistic callbacks to iconic Morrison moments almost as a stepping on point, but the delivery and pacing is pure Way. It’s the Doom Patrol at a breakneck speed with a rock star sneer, lyrical dialogue and confident cocksure attitude. It’s the comics equivalent of a dizzying wall of feedback buzz, the clatter of drums and hum of guitars as he splices in the DNA of a fizzling, defiant two-minute-something punk-pop song onto the printed page with the pure unbridled energy you’d find in any of his music.

“I’m going to put it in a fucking blender” claimed Way before the first issue when asked about the Doom Patrols history and legacy and three issues on he’s not shied away from this claim as we enter issue three, as questions are answered while more sneak up behind your back. No matter how far into weird and experimental areas of comics writing Morrison’s went into during his tenure, the book always had a solid anchor in the characters he explored as part Doom Patrol roster, all with bizarre, grotesque yet simple origins and ultimately relatable drives and personalities. It’s a trick that Way has continued here to great success already. In this respect this issue is perhaps the most conventional and straightforward of the new Young Animals incarnation, not to say that the easy read makes it any less creative when this issue turns out to the be super secret origins issue of new protagonist, Casey Brinke in more ways than one. It’s an origin story told perfectly in step with the Doom Patrol style.

dpa_3_2Last issue Casey found herself face to face with the man of muscle mystery, Flex Mentallo and we pick up with the Hero of the Beach welcoming her through the Perpetual Cabaret and on to Danny Le Street as she reluctantly and irreversibly throws her lot in with the still disparate Doom Patrol, her strange origin finally revealed to her. Taken on a “it’s a small world after all” ride in Danny-Land, he introduces her and new readers to the team of misfits greatest hits album, The Scissormen, The Painting that ate Paris all rendered like cheap, wooden  carnival dressings for her to walk around. Elsewhere we get caught up with Cliff and Larry dealing with Way’s new spin on the negative spirit with some terrifying and stunning panels courtesy of artist Nick Derrington, who brings a sharp visual style to the title. Some pieces fall into place at least thematically this issue, as we start to realise the small  touches that make this such a fascinating read. At first it seemed Flex Mentallo showing up was a welcome, if random callback, while this issue reveals why Danny felt it best for him to the be the one to usher her towards joining the team as she reluctantly and irreversibly throws her lot in with the still disparate Doom Patrol.

Storywise, this series third issue once again goes a long way to re-introducing elements of the Doom Patrols now pureed ‘legacy’, establishing it’s own idea and also firmly re-cementing the team’s roles as DC’s finest band of outcasts as they both deal with the sorts of threats that would send the average hero mad and provide refuge and a purpose once again for the misfits and outcasts. Like Danny-Land this comic is one hell of a ride. Chaotic, confusing, and gloriously silly.

Also posted to Graphics Policy

“Doom will consider your request!” -Victor Von Doom suits up as the Infamous Iron Man

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Tony Stark is dead. Sorry, spoilers I guess. Although considering this is only one of two Stark-less Iron Man books hitting the shelves it should hardly be a surprise that everyone’s favourite playboy, billionaire, philanthropist would be taking time off from heroics and calling in dead for the foreseeable future. Along with the invincible Iron Man Riri Williams, longtime villain Doctor Doom on a questionable path of redemption after Secret Wars will be filling the shell head’s Iron shoes as a more, infamous hero.

It’s a headline grabbing premise and one with a proven track record, even as recent as Doc Oc becoming the Superior Spider-man and now as Doom becomes the latest of the Marvel rogues gallery to start “breaking good”.  Although here it somehow doesn’t feel as natural a fit as Slott’s tale. Whilst ‘rescuing’ Sheild’s Maria Hill and demonstrating his own brand of heroics, Victor gives a brutal  verbal strip down of a c-list science villain and whilst it’s a cool moment in a book sorely lacking them it does highlight why this first issue lacks any real conflict or excitement. Stripped off all the bombastic, larger than life theatrics Doctor Doom comes across as creepy, rather than menacing. Bendis sets Doom up to be an intimidating presence even in a regular business suit but it feels like we are the ones who are following a c-list bad guy rather than one of the companies most feared and wildly popular characters.

While Bendis has always had his fair share of detractors from his pacing and decompressed style, this issue feels almost glacial in it’s pacing. Opting to spend the bulk of the issue reiterating Victor’s desire to atone for his past, moving along slowly until a first reveal of him suited up in new Iron Man armour. Considering the character has spent the majority of his time already encased in metal, what should have been a jaw dropping final page feels decidedly underwhelming and doesn’t have anywhere near as much punch as I suspect the creative team intended. While Doom’s debut as Iron Man sets up some interesting ideas with his struggle to prove he can do good in the world whilst struggling with and exploiting his reputation and could make this an interesting series, the sheer lack of exciting moments and it’s slow pacing left me without any real interest or indication where the story might lead.

Picks of the week 19/10/16

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Even a few titles in, Gerard Way’s ‘Young Animals’ is already proving to be a shot in the arm for DC’s comics line, with the My Chemical Romance front-man and his team embracing the weird and cherry picking the most obscure and weird characters from the company’s vaults.They don’t come any more obscure than Cave Carson, the one with the cybernetic eye, first appearing in four issues of the ‘Brave and the Bold’ in the 60’s before making his way onto the aptly named “Forgotten Heroes” along with Animal Man in the 80’s.

“Inspired by the visionary work of DC’s experimental past, but shaped and focused on the absurdity of today” is the imprints mission statement and it would seem that Way and Rivera are taking the spelunking hero down a psychedelic, self exploratory path as he struggles with his grip on reality after his wife’s death.

Following in the footsteps of Doctor Octopus as Superior Spider-man, this month Iron Man becomes infamous as the leader of Latveria dons Stark’s armour. One of two characters taking over the Iron Man Mantle along with Riri Williams it remains to be seen if Bendis and Maleev’s Victor is truly on a path to redemption or working an angle to a new devious master plan.

While his last big plan saw Doom elevate himself to the status of God of the newly formed battleworld, can one of the biggest and most complex villains of the Marvel Universe really step up and become a true hero? With the series’ second issue featuring long time adversary and sure to be sceptical Ben Grimm, it’s sure going to be an interesting look into an already layered character.

‘For the usual fee–plus expenses’- Bendis and Gaydos are back with new Jessica Jones series

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“Everybody feels beleaguered at some point, That’s the universal truth of punk, that you are going to feel, in whatever role you’re living, that everybody is against you”

– John Darnielle

Say what you like, Jessica Jones is a character who is at her most compelling when beleaguered, set upon and troubled. Alias reveled in seeing her overcome great odds and her own actions and although her appearances since her own title had her finding some semblance of peace and happiness it’s clear that on returning and picking up her story after over a decade away, Bendis isn’t interested in a happy Jessica either. With original artist Gaydos back on board as well we find our reluctant heroine, with a few tweaks here and there, pretty much back where they left her all those years. This issue finds her fresh out of prison and stubbornly dodging questions about the mysteries mounting up in her own life, her marriage, her incarceration and most importantly what, if anything has happened to her daughter, Danielle.

Barely skipping a beat, Bendis drops us back into her world weary frame of mind as if we were picking up the story from last month, never mind over ten years ago. His characters voices are all distinct and sharp, never more so than when they are giving a knowing wink to the changes in the Marvel landscape since Alias wrapped up. Although it’s comforting to once again to hear Jones’ jaded inner monologue, this time we can most definitely see where it might trip her up. Over the years she’s tussled with superheroes and seen incredible things, but when her new client mentions her husband’s unusual behaviour and outlandish claims of having lived another life, started “eight months ago”, dismissing the obvious answer and leaving us on the edge of our seats as Bendis teases us with a mystery of a character who is either on the con, or an unwitting casualty caught up on the wrong end of Hickman’s recent cosmic reshuffling. Reminded in part of the classic Astro Cities storyline, “The Nearness Of You”, with average citizens caught up in universe altering events they can scarcely comprehend, let alone react against, it sets up one of the books many, many mysteries.

Gaydos’ art for the first issue is as despondent and melancholy as it ever was. His tired and worn out characters set against his un-superheroic, washed out New York City managing to feel both fresh and familiar, emphasising just how unusual his style and tone is to comics even on the second time around. It’s thrilling to see the recently formed Champions striding through New York in Gaydos’ gorgeously grimey and downbeat style as Jessica sits on, suitably nonchalant at the public posturing and heroic antics around her.

“Is she a big deal or not?” asks a prison guard early on in the book, with some firmly tongue in cheek Bendis dialogue, daring the reader to answer. While the more cynical might point out his earlier remarks on having written everything he wanted with Jessica, or the success of this years Netflix show for his  sudden return to the world of Alias Investigations. Let’s face it comics are based on “never say never” and this issue seems almost genuinely reluctant to trade on the success of the TV show or even show off about getting the band back together, so to speak, lest the book stray too far from it’s scrappy underdog roots and with a subtle first issue might have just pulled it off. While some might be put off by Bendis’ deliberately slow pacing or knocking Jessica down once more for the sake of restoring her status quo somewhat,  the first issue sets up some intriguing conflicts and mysteries, all with the chance of her coming back stronger than ever.

 

“You’re a Dublin Aunt!”- Looking back on ‘Roasted’ and Andy Riley’s coffee shop wasters

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More widely know as the mind behind the winningly inventive self destruction of lapins in the hugely popular Bunny Suicides,  Andy Riley also charted the minutia and obsessions of the world as it stumbled blearily into the early noughties in the weekly comic strip Roasted and the venomous wit of reluctant Barista, Karl. On cold Sunday mornings delivering papers (good lord!) it was the one strip I’d read, before eventually chancing upon the neat little collected hardback. It’s an overlooked gem that I’d been looking for an excuse to write about for a while now. Riley’s new book and a recent craving for cereal finally gave me the perfect one!

Originally running in the Observer Magazine for a whopping eight years, Roasted follows the lives of three “coffee shop wasters”. Karl, sardonic, beleaguered and firmly on the wrong side of his thirties and his long suffering co-workers the dim but amiable Nev and the overly anxious Lottie. All three work, or more accurately, have found themselves stuck in a boring but comfortable Coffee Shop gig as they work their way  through the early 2000’s zeitgeist with it’s complicated coffee, charity wristbands and iPod inadequacy.

The excuse for this little look back at Roasted is the main reason I finally got around to writing it. It’s funny, I mean really funny. Going out for cereal recently I was encouraged by a health conscious husband to buy Muesli, Bran Flakes or Weetabix, basically anything that wasn’t “choconut choc frosted sugar nut choc loops” in reference to Lottie’s shocking choice of breakfast foods and my own struggle to stay on course and act like an adult in the cereal aisle. It’s unsurprising really, with Riley having worked on Black Books and a number of comedies that Roasted has all the punch of a great sitcom and the same instantly memorable, laugh out loud quotability. For me at least they have wormed their way into my brain alongside all the TV, film and pop culture references and  after years of living on my coffee table a lot have become in jokes with friends whenever confronted with similar situations as Riley’s trio.

While it’s only been a scant six years since Roasted ended a lot of the strips are almost cringe inducingly perfect time capsules. “It looks like some mind control device from some nightmare future society” comments Karl on Nev’s Bluetooth headset “It makes you look like an agent from the Matrix” and he’s right. Looking back on these strips in particular it was particularly hard to remember a time before all of these devices became ubiquitous and became socially accepted rather than looking, you know, weird?  Ultimately it’s the reliability of the characters and their situations from the bad jobs, terrible life choices and bewilderment at popular culture that still makes it so funny and darkly humorous.

While working on screenplays, pilots as well as his second book in the more kid friendly and brilliantly titled, King Flashy Pants and the Creature from Crong, Andy found time to answer a few  questions on the days of Roasted.

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Are you ever tempted to revisit the Roasted cast and see what they are up too, or do you think it’s better to leave things rather then revisiting them?

I have drawn them for my own amusement once in awhile, but after the strip ended, I never considered carrying them on somewhere else. I decided I would leave them there, still in that coffee shop. However! I have adapted the face of Karl for the villain in my new children’s book, King Flashypants and the Evil Emperor. It’s an entirely different character though. But you’d recognise the beard.

Reading Roasted back a few of the strips are almost time capsules. The mention of flash mobs made me visibly cringe! Are there any strips in particular looking back that make you despair at the early 00’s?

When you look back at a different time period, it’s always interesting to see how quickly an amazing new thing becomes an accepted part of life. Maybe the second or third strip that I did – So this would be 2002 – was about camera phones. The observation was to do with how sending pictures around really meant that we were all expected to be CCTV cameras aimed at each other, so we would inevitably sacrifice our privacy. And that is more or less what has happened since.

It was the decade when digital technology became something which surrounded us, rather than something which you turned on and off as and when you needed it. I’m still not quite comfortable with that fluffy digital cocoon. Mostly if I look back at these strips, I keep thinking: why didn’t you draw that one better? It took me about two years to really get the hang of drawing the characters. Even then I seemed to get Lottie wrong more times then I got her right. To my eyes anyway. If I cringe its at my own line work when it gets shonky.

The larger strips not included in the book is one of my favorites, what brought about the idea of doing something more epic in terms of the story and the layout with that one?

The Observer magazine gave me extra pages for Christmas and I jumped at it. This happened a few times over the years, but the first one, where Karl goes home for Christmas and meets an ex-girlfriend, then nearly gets hit by a train, is my favourite. They were too big to fit in the compiled book though, sadly.

Do you still prefer to “kick it old school” now in terms of your comics work or do you find yourself using technology in your art since Roasted finished. Why do you think inking and painting works more for you and why did you choose it for Roasted?

I only got a tablet at the beginning of last year. Until then I had never drawn anything on a computer at all. At a young age I learned to draw with pen and ink – the kind of spidery nib which you dip into a pot of Indian ink. I enjoyed it so much, I just couldn’t understand the impulse to draw on a screen. As time went on I rationalised it in a couple more ways: I noticed that The technology was de-skilling parts of the cartoon business. You know, the kind of web comics where people draw the head of the main character, and then just paste that same picture file in again and again with different speech bubbles. That drives me up the wall. Some people won’t even draw heads any more, just letting the machine draw a circle for them. Ugh. So, I thought: I will carry on drawing by hand, and my characters will continue to be expressive from frame to frame, thank you very much. Anyway, i’m not drawing manga where everything must be smooth: I like my style to be a bit blotchy and rough around the edges. software will militate towards making things clean looking, so blotchy stuff actually takes longer on a tablet because you have to add it in on purpose.

At the beginning of last year I made a concerted effort to learn how to draw using Manga Studio, but in the end real pens and paints were getting me the effects I wanted quicker. And here’s the thing I discovered: digital is not necessarily quicker. When I am doing the grey wash on the cartoons for my children’s book, I just use a single number five brush, and I can get so many different effects with just a split second flick of the wrist. On a computer, I would have to scroll through lots of brushes to get all these variations. Drawing on a computer means you can keep taking back what you do. So it opens up a terrible vista of fiddling, fussing, adjusting. I like drawing in a decisive way where you really commit with each line. It’s more visceral. So I don’t use the tablet much. Except for cleaning up the artwork. Removing unwanted smudges, adjusting a tiny line in the wrong place, that sort of thing: infinitely quicker on a computer. Saves me a lot of time with tippex and white paint.

I’m 46, so old enough to have learnt about drawing when digital drawing didn’t really exist. I was just drawing, using physical tools, the way that people had since the dawn of time. It’s how I learnt, and I like it. Back then it wasn’t something I had to justify. In The 21st-century, just carrying on like that has become a stylistic decision as far as the world is concerned. I knew I was out of step when, a few years ago, I did an email interview for a Belgian comics website which asked me, regarding the Bunny Suicides: “do you draw the whole thing on the tablet, or do you sketch with pencil, then scan it in and just do the inking on the tablet?” The idea that I did the entire thing on a sheet of paper, with no tablet involved, simply hadn’t occurred to this person.

The Pull List 31/08/16

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Art Ops 11 (Vertigo Comics)

Guest artist Rob Davis pits the Art Ops team against a centuries old monster, from a legendary artist rumoured to have painted deaths very essence into a painting in “The Boy Who Painted Death”.

My interest in Vertigo’s Art Ops waned for a few issues when Mike Allred’s art was restricted to him contributing covers, and this months inclusion of Warhol’s Silver Clouds means two of my favourite pop artists in one. This might not be a problem for everyone, but I’m a sucker for Allred’s insane pop art style so the change was slightly jarring at first. Even with Brundage taking over full time art duties, bringing a much rougher hewn style to the page, Art Ops continues to be inventive both in it’s storytelling and visuals to bring us a true sleeper hit.

Howard The Duck 10 (Marvel Comics)

The penultimate issue before we have to say goodbye again to the avian detective and Chip Zdarksy’s hilarious run before he heads off to more cosmic affairs with Star Lord later this year. Last issue saw Howard deep in full meta commentary territory, with ratings chaser Mojo addressing his sporadic appearances in the Marvel Universe over the years. Issue ten promises the reveal of the mastermind behind the ducks most recent series of misadventures. A series that’s continued to be both hilarious and subversive, so let’s hope we aren’t waiting as long for another writer to realise Howard’s potential.

All New Wolverine Annual 1 (Marvel Comics)

In the wake of Logan’s death  readers saw Laura Kinney, formerly X-23 taking on the mantle of Wolverine, seeking out clones of herself and aiming to help them whenever possible. An exciting series from the start, Marvel have cemented her as the new Wolverine by embedding her deep into the post Secret Wars landscape with Laura joined by a number of allies this year from Doctor Strange, The Wasp and even Old Man Logan as she unravels the mystery behind her “sisters”. The first Wolverine Annual is no exception, with fan favourite Spider-Gwen swinging in for an all new Freaky Friday-esque story with the character find of the year, Jonathan: Actual Wolverine.

 

The Pull List 20/07/16

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She Wolf #2 (Image Comics) – Last month Rich Tommaso’s gorgeously illustrated and written take on the horror genre, She Wolf introduced us to gabby (her of the title) as her life was thrown into turmoil and intrigue after she is involved with the death of her boyfriend on the schools grounds. Reluctantly returning to classes under the cloud of the entire schools suspicion and fear, she tries to hide a bigger problem and the truth behind that night, lycanthropy.

That is if we are to believe the newly turned teenage shape shifter, as issue one delivered a story that blurs the diction between waking and dreaming, truth and lies. Tommaso’s She Wolf has a completely compelling narrative and structure as he begins to tell Gabby’s story through a dreamlike feverish flow of flashbacks and horrifying imagery. Soon neither reader nor Gabby can tell between the two, demonstrated by the beautifully drawn chase scene that incorporates this slip between states effortlessly. Hopefully issue two will build upon the first foundations as we begin to peel away the layers and discover the truth at the heart of the She Wolf‘s Tale.

Rumble #12 (Image Comics) – Arcudia, Harren and Stewart’s frenzied tale of the undead barbarian Rathraq rolls on into its third arc with its trademark nonstop action and it’s onslaught of punches both physical and emotional. Rumble is the sleeper hit of the year for sure with its frentic fight scenes and deep mythology, with Rathraq finding the modern world filled with shadows and grey moral areas as he fights on for his body and soul.

The Pull List 27/01/2016

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Island #6 (Image Comics) – Even with the ever so slightly reduced page count, you can still count on Island to be the greatest anthology out there in terms of casting its net far and wide to bring attention to new and unheard of comics talent on a monthly basis. The highlight this month is the story “Badge of Pride” featuring a group of young anthropomorphic guys as they navigate the social minefield of their local Pride event. Having followed his work on and off for years now it’s thrilling to see Onta’s work shown to a more mainstream audience and I was fortunate enough that he had time to answer a few of my questions last week about his new, more personal and story driven outing for Island.

This month also presents work from Gael B as well as a recoloured, reprinted sci-fi classic in the form of Fil Barlow’s Zooniverse.

Saga #33 (Image Comics) – Thirty Three issues in and Vaughan and Staples sci-fi epic shows no signs of slowing down as it continues to shock, thrill and delight in equal measures. Staples beautiful cover shows that the adorable journalistic couple Upsher and Doff are back after being warned off reporting on the story of Marko and Alana way back in the books second arc. While only briefly touched upon I look forward to seeing how Vaughan develops the relationship between the pair as they become embroiled deeper in conflict and conspiracy. It’s been briefly hinted that the pairs society doesn’t look kindly on same sex couples and it will be fascinating to see what the writer has to say on the subject in a series that really pulls no punches with its social commentary.

“Chasing something hungrily”-Taking a look back On Buster Wilde with creator Scot Zellman

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Whilst writing my recent post on the excellent Buster Wilde comics I found myself in the middle of a twitter conversation with writer and published Alex Vance and eventually asked him some more formal questions for the piece. Alex was responsible for the printed Buster Wilde collection a few years ago and I inquired if it might be possible for him to reach out to the man responsible for the strips Scot Zellman in the hope that he might answer a few lingering questions I had about his creation.

He graciously obliged but I honestly didn’t expect a reply, it has been over a decade after all. A few days later however Scot shot me back a message and took time out his schedule to indulge me with rather a long interview. I’d like to thank him again for taking the time to answer me and give a wonderful insight into what went into the making of a comics classic all those years ago.

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Marfedblog: The first boring, obvious question a lot of people must have asked. Why did the Buster Wilde strips stop, was it simply a desire to move onto other projects, lack of time and interest in it or something else?

Scot Zellman: I think I lost interest mostly due to frustration. I’d hoped the strip would reach a wider gay audience, especially through the gay-interest newsweeklies I was sending copies to in the hopes they would run it, but I quickly found the strip and Buster character made a much bigger impression on a gay furry community. That was an education because at the time I had no idea there was such a thing as “furries” gay or straight.

My education in furry fandom was hard and fast and while the specific trappings were never of personal interest I certainly appreciated the enthusiastic response even if I did have to turn down a large number of requests for commissioned pieces featuring a much less G-rated version of Buster.

I saw the strip as a slapsticky, funny animal, Warner Bros.-style cartoon antidote to the gay strips I was seeing at the time, most of which looked and sounded the same and featured no talking animals, something mainstream comic strips were full of. It was pretty easy, actually, to end the strip. I needed to focus on my “real” job and I wasn’t really interested in being a niche cartoonist with a small audience. After a couple years I thought “Okay, playtime’s over. Time to move on.”

 

Mb: It’s unusual you made the comic and it caught on with furs, an audience you didn’t even know was out there, did it lead you to look into what other anthro comics were popular with them or artists who considered themselves furs?

 SZ: I did look around a bit, especially when I’d get fan mail from other artists or from folks who’d recommend other artist/cartoonist sites.  The only anthro comic/character I really eventually found interesting and still follow these days is the Blacksad series. And that’s mostly because I love hard-boiled detective stories and film noir. Plus, the artwork is beautiful.
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Mb: Why do you think the gay weeklies and such were so reluctant to run the comics? The comic itself or partly the attitude towards LGBT at the time?
SZ: Most gay weeklies weren’t really reluctant to run the strip, they were reluctant to pay me to run the strip.  I think the ones that were reluctant to run it for non-financial reasons wanted something a little less slapsticky and a little more mature and thoughtful (Dykes To Watch Out For, Curbside, and The Mostly Unfabulous Life of Ethan Green were big back then.) Or whoever was in charge of picking the comics to run just didn’t think it was funny. That happens, too.

Mb: The comic debuted around 1997, was it difficult working with the limitations of the internet back then in terms of storage and bandwith?

I know nothing of computer tech and wouldn’t know where to begin in setting up my own website, especially in 1997. I had a tech-savvy friend do all that for me. I had been a cartoonist for my college daily newspaper, so I was well-versed in the process of keeping artwork looking good when it’s reproduced/reduced for the printed page.  As for the original website, I supplied my webmaster with good-sized, pristine copies and let him do his best with the internet limitations of the time. 

Mb: What attracted you to the idea of showcasing Buster Wilde online as a webcomic? What was the reaction of other artist or those around you to adopting such a new medium in terms of comics?

I never really heard from others about the novelty of being online. Mostly people sent me emails telling me how much they liked Buster and the strip. I actually forget sometimes that the strip is still online these days. I usually just think of it as a book.

Mb: What was the audience and there reaction like at the comics peak? Was it difficult to find an audience in a time when comics online were not as recognised

The reaction was uniformly positive. In fact, I can’t remember getting any negative email at all.  As for my expectations, I had none.  I assumed people were seeing it and the ones who really loved it were the folks sending me the fan mail.

JK: Buster Wilde now seems like a snapshot of, albeit a humorous exaggerated one, gay club culture at the time. Is that how you saw it and how do you think the strips might differ if they were coming out now? Would any characters differ or just settings and such?

I haven’t been out clubbing in ages, but I don’t imagine things have changed too much. Going out will always be about the same things:  fun, excitement, adventure, and the giddy hope you’ll meet someone thrilled to meet you no matter how sceptical or clumsy or overexcited or over it all you may be.

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Mb: The printed book shows a few iterations of Buster before the one you settled on. What was the original idea and how did that develop into what you eventually drew? What was the eureka moment when it all fit together?

SZ: I was trying to come up with a gay-themed “funny animal” comic strip for my local gay paper and at one point I thought that a straight man who turned into a gay werewolf would be funny and allow for a lot of opportunities to poke fun at both gay and straight people. The eureka moment came when, after some time trying to come up with a name for the character, the name “Buster Wilde” popped into my head after Oscar Wilde, of course. Once I had “Buster Wilde” the rest just poured out of me.

Mb: How do you feel about webcomics becoming a lot more established since Buster Wilde and do you ever follow any at the moment? Do you think you would have an easier time building an audience now?

It’s a logical technological progression, so I’m not surprised and it certainly makes it easier to get your work “out there.” I still worry that books will be marginalized to the point being hard to find or disappeared entirely. That said, I do have the book versions of my favourite online strips. I follow Bob the Angry Flower, Poorly Drawn Lines, Scenes from a Multiverse, and Doonesbury regularly. That’s about it.

I don’t know. Probably, but I’m still pretty disconnected from what’s going on online.

Mb: Are there comics that inspired the humour and structure in the Buster Wilde strips? Are any of the events (obviously not the lycanthropy) inspired by real events or people?

I’d say the primary inspiration were the old Warner Bros. cartoons, especially the Chuck Jones Bugs Bunny, Wile E. Coyote and Daffy Duck cartoons. Plus, I’ve always just loved slapstick and pratfalls.

The personal inspiration was just my years going out, my friends, and my love of good-natured, accepting straight people who are easily unnerved and exasperated by gay people.

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Mb: The Unfinished strips included in the print version have a more experimental panel layout than the other strips, would this have been something we would have seen more of if the strips had continued? Did you ever find the regular format limiting in any way?

SZ: That was an experiment in longer-form  storytelling told in a comic book page format that, because I’m a comic book reader, thought I’d try just for fun.  The regular format I’d already been working with didn’t feel limiting in any way since I felt like I could do whatever the gag called for.  That said, I do like the inherent restrictions of the “Sunday comics” format.
Mb: Did you have an overarching story or a direction the strips were going in?

 SZ: Sort of, but not really. The goal was to cram as much humor into each “episode” as I could without overloading it to the point of incomprehensibility. As for the overarching story, I just knew that the character’s stories would continue to unfold and more characters and adventures would be introduced as time went by.

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Mb: Are you surprised that people like myself, still talk about and hold it in such high regard after all this time and Do you have a favourite strip out of the bunch?

Not really. Once people find something they love it usually sticks with them. I’m the same way with older comic strips, TV shows, movies, comic books. The ear-piercing strip. The bare minimum amount of dialogue, the right amount of slapstick, and a funny the turnaround/topper.  The strip still makes me LOL as they say.

Mb: Overall what do you think the appeal of Buster is?

The exact same appeal of the friendliest, sweetest Golden Retriever you’ve ever met. He’s just happy all the time and you’re his best friend

 

Mb: Raspberry Flan. Are there any other suitable bathroom foods?

Baked Alaska Flambe.

Buster Wilde can be read in it’s entirety here. The printed version can also be purchased here or from amazon.

“This weirdo parade”-Furry artist makes it ‘Onta’ the cover of Island issue 6

anthro, anthropomorphic, artist spotlight, interview, Uncategorized

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New to readers of the Island anthology, but well known in the Furry subculture, is an artist usually featured in Hard Blush; a series releasing extensively gay furry comics, Onta. Whilst he’s associated more with pornographic and adult comics, his entry into Graham and Rios’ anthology series Badge of Pride will be a more slice of life offering, as the artist delves deeper into the lives of his cast of characters. Marty, Taylor, Jessie and Mu show their wildly different experiences and expressions of sexuality during a local gay pride parade. Showing that even now Pride is an important part of LGBT life, meaning different thing to each person, whether they love it or loathe it.

I found myself drawn to, and feeling sympathetic towards, the quiet and retiring lion, Jess portrayed as finding it particularly difficult to identify with the more flamboyant carnival atmosphere he finds himself caught up in. He bemoans “I can’t relate to any of this shit” and finds himself “sulking like an idiot” while others throw themselves into the party with more ease and gusto.

With Island issue 6 out next week I finally got a chance to ask Onta a few questions about his newest comic.

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Marfed: How did you first discover the furry subculture and were you already drawing by this point? What lead you to want to draw comics, especially furry ones?

Onta: I discovered it as many do, through erotica. Specifically Japanese gay kemono artist. There where many inspiration but Aoi Takayuki and Poju’s entry where a really big deal for my entry into furry.

I had slacked around for a while trying to commit to various projects but could never fully commit to something. I felt if I created a persona and boxed myself into a small limited area my mind would do better. I had been trying to make comics for years and had failed quite often. Miu asking me to do a page for the first edition of Cocktails was really my first major completed comic’s work which was pretty late in my career as an artist. I didn’t have fully formed characters and story, even if only porn prior so it gave me a big boost. I felt very weird after completing it as it was a new sensation.

M: How did working on Brandon and Emma’s Island anthology come about? Were you a fan of either of their work before hand and have you been following the issues of Island up to now?

Onta: Brandon approached me a year and some change ago. I believe he was introduce to my work through Fangdangler (Adriel Forsythe). I used to be pretty big into indie comics back in the day following Derek Kirk Kim and similar artists and I gradually fell out of that sort of thing as work in animation industry and later games industry took over. I have become a fan of both Brandon and Emma since my involvement.

M: Can you tell us a little bit behind the story you have in Island and what lead you to write it? What was the best part of working on this story for Island? How did you tackle including characters from your previous work that readers might be unfamiliar with?

The creation of this story was not simple and actually require a lot of outside help including reviews and feedback cycles. Understand that although I’ve made quite a few comics they all heavily rely on adult scenes to fill out the whole thing. Having to make a story that relies nearly 100% on interactions is new territory for me. , I’m having to introduce my characters to new readers meaning I couldn’t rely on previously established character elements. I wrote the story and somewhat over emphasized their characters as to catch everyone up with this entry hopefully it pays off and people get the archetypes. As for the story itself I wanted something that would both satisfy furry fans and attempt to mirror gay acceptance with furry acceptance. Hopefully the irony of hating furries but enjoying the message of gay tolerance isn’t lost on most readers. I also had to work on facial construction on Jessee as his face has always been a loose cannon as far as structures go.

The best part was honestly getting it done. It was very, very hard work. I think this is the most professional I’ve even been on a project because I feel these characters are on the end of their lifecycle with me so a lot of pushing was needed to get the story out.

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M: Not only are you in the issue, you drew the cover too. How did that come about and how does it feel that in January Marty and company will be rubbing shoulders with the likes Spider-man and Batman on comic shelves?

Once again that came out of the blue when I was asked. To be frank again, it was just a “do the work and make it nice” scenario. I think 21 year old me would be handling all of this a lot differently. As an older feller I feel It’s more of a “do a good job and don’t fuck up” feeling.

M: Are there any other furry artists’ work you could see fitting into Island in future issues?

Onta: I definitely think Miu (creator of duo Peaches and Cream), Seel and Rikose would do great in Island.

M: Were you at all worried about the perception of your work with a non furry audience with a lot of it being very adult in its art and themes?

I’m only worried about Brandon book doing well or not and I’ll be working hard to get furry fans to purchase and offset sales slump from those uninterested. I’m in too deep to worry if people will respect me or my art or the adult themes. I never anticipated any serious published work ever so it showing up out of the blue is a nice treat but it’s so far off from my mind I’m in it to do the work and hopefully make Brandon happy. If it does well and people like I’m excited but I have zero expectations from my work in Island beyond doing a good job for my employer.

M: Do you feel that furry is slowly becoming more mainstream and the public more accepting of works like yours that would at one time have been considered exclusively for a furry audience?

Onta: I think as time goes by and people deal with the fact that everything is up for grabs as far as sexualizing stuff, people will learn to deal with furry as two distinct things. The Disney movie coming out won’t hurt and will probably spawn a huge new group of furries.

M: I found myself identifying with Jess a lot and his feeling of not fitting in with the rest of the Pride attendees or the typical Gay identity. Is this something you that comes from direct experience yourself or from other people you have met? Which character, if any do you feel you identify with the most?

Onta: I think the majority of gay people are completely underrepresented. I also believe there is a strong “Full gay or get out” sort of mentality from both the gay scene and in general. No one wants anything but very clear sexual labels and it just doesn’t work that way. I think Jess’s position is the first baby steps for a lot of people. Someone who doesn’t aggressively hide their sexuality but also doesn’t reveal or revel in it.

Each character represents a part of me. Not equally or even in the same way. Some characters represent desire or wishful thinking others are more mirroring my personality or thoughts.

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M: The idea of Jess coming to terms with his own sexuality has been subtly hinted at in your adult work, what made you want to pick up on this thread again? What interests you about it?
Onta: I think the furry fandom has a unique appeal to people who are taking their first steps into exploring the sexuality as gay males. Furry’s and furry conventions are sort of a microcosm. A lot of niches, interest and kinks sort of converge under this one major theme and since Anthro fans are pretty much used to being social pariahs, grouping with similar folk sort of soften how much you stick out from normal everyday life.

Since my work is directed at the furry fandom to some extent I felt I should include a swathe of personality types with varying levels of sexual and emotional maturity. Jess, although my least popular character and more popular with woman was the best angle to allow new readers and furry fans in general entry into the story I wanted to present without alienating them.

M: Do you still think Pride is important even in 2016 and why?
Onta: I’m not sure. The internet is doing a lot of good (and some bad) where visibility is concerned. I think pride is more of an event for many people then a social cause at this point as it’s often presented with some level of showmanship over any real attempt to present or solve issues that non-hetero folks deal with. I wanted to present something a bit more realistic with the way I’ve noticed the crowds interact with the parade without getting too catty/snide about it.

M: Badge of Pride raises some interesting points as well as being fun, could you see yourself doing more works of this type for a mainstream audience that deal with topics like sexuality and identity as well as your adult work?
Onta: This comic took a lot out of me. I don’t know. I didn’t want to indulge in a dark, self-hatred, depressive style slice of life comic though was my first kneejerk response when asked to make a story. I felt I should focus on entertaining the people first and get my messages across somewhat subtly. I have people who have read the script and given feedback to thank for that. If the reception is good and people genuinely like it and Image doesn’t get mad and numbers are good on sales it would be a good serious consideration.

Island issue 6 featuring the ‘Badge of Pride” by Onta is released on January 27th while his adult works can be found in pages of Hard Blush available here.