“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.

“Truly, My life is a low budget horror movie”- Scott Zelman’s wilde and much missed webcomic

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“Don’t be scared! He doesn’t bite. That’d be gauche”

Scot Zellman’s Buster Wilde first appeared on-line around the mid-nineties back in the prehistoric days of the internet. Following the exploits of our eponymous hero, lover and maybe most importantly, gay lycanthrope as we quickly discover the he twist in the familiar folk tale and pop culture staple. Sinewy, flamboyant party animal by night at sunrise Buster switches back to his beleaguered alter ego, Bernard. Stressed, uptight and again most importantly, straight. As Buster humorously and enthusiastically throws himself into his new life, navigating the gay club scene with its drama and clichés, Bernard struggles with a double life he doesn’t remember and more often than not waking up in other guys beds. It was among one of the first web comics I discovered when I finally got on-line and I quickly made my way through every strip on the now broken and mostly forgotten geocities site.

You heard that right, Geocities. It’s been around fourteen years since the final strip was posted and it’s a testament to both the quality of the strips and Zellman’s considerable skills as a writer and gifted cartoonist that those who saw it at the time still hold it in such high regard over a decade later. Apart from one of two references that date them (Buffy, who Buster declares is a bitch because of her treatment of fellow werewolf Oz) the Buster Wilde strips have a timeless quick paced humour to them that’s still as funny today as when they were first conceived.

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They continued sporadically for four years and fifty two strips until one day they just, stopped. One last strip with the energetic Buster switching the word ‘fetch’ with ‘felch’ and then, nothing. The site was never updated again and still remains, albeit a little bit more broken. If anything it reminds me how easy it was in the early days before social media and constantly online presences for people to simply disappear from the surface of the digital world. Details are still frustratingly few. Beyond a few mentions on forums here and there, the odd broken link, I feel confident in saying this post will be the most ever written about it. In the last few years web comics have really come into their own as something unique and separate from other comics, gaining a lot more attention and exposure in the process. It’s a real shame that in being an early example of the medium that it’s fallen through the cracks when it comes to wider recognition and it feels bizarre to be the first one writing about so many moons later.

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My understanding from what I could gleam from a question here and there on twitter is that Zellman simply moved onto other projects, before eventually retiring from comics completely. It was a pleasant surprise a few years ago to find that a print version of the Buster strips existed, released by Furplanet who now helpfully host copies of the originals online. Alex Vance, writer of the Heathen Cities series and also a fan had reached out to Zellman with the offer to touch up the original artwork and release them on paper and ink “There was a new generation in the furry community and when I was still in publishing I reached out to him and developed scans of his originals into a book,” says Vance on giving Buster a second chance in the spotlight  “They represented a significant work. Drawn and lettered entirely by hand, a vanishing art”. The volume collects all of the original comics, promotional artwork, a fascinating artists sketchbook giving a glimpse into the creative process of the comic. Most tantalisingly it features two partly inked, mostly  unfinished strips both in a larger format with more experimental layouts. One of these featuring Busters strange toilet habits is now among my favourites and gives a fleeting glimpse of what could have been.

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

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“YOU’LL DIE ONE DAY, SO LAUGH IT UP” Jayro Lantigua talks ‘Burnt Comix’

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Hailing from Miami Florida, Jayro Lantigua is a comics illustrator pumping out some delightfully grotesque and disgustingly unhinged comics right now. Burnt Comix is the story of a foul mouthed, shit eating dog who after becoming tired with his soul crushing depraved existence decides to end it all and commit suicide. Hanging,shooting and poisoning just won’t cut if for this canine. He want’s something unique and memorable working his ways through satanic death cults and and drug filled dog pound orgies along the way until he finally gets his wish. Bookending this are two single page stories ‘Father and Comix’, a dispiriting story of being persuaded not to peruse art as a career and a hilariously tongue in cheek ‘About the author.

Jayro’s grotesque and freakish figures bring to mind the gross early nineties Nickelodeon toons such as Ren and Stimpy, farts and fluids everywhere as they delight in every known vice imaginable. No space is wasted on Lantigua’s pages as skulls, genitals and hypodermic needles litter every panel and more often than not the space between them. The copy Jayro sent me was printed on bright lurid pink paper which only added to the experience.

Until recently Jayro has self published his comics on his own ‘Lunchboxed Press’ imprint, however December will see the first issue of an expanded Burnt Comix released through Creature Entertainment. An entirely different beast to the original lo-fi self published comic, the Creature release will be more of a directors cut, a definitive version as he originally intended.  Bumping up the page count from 16 monochrome too 32 colour it will also include more two page stories as well as a variant cover by Juan Navarro.

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Marfedblog: How and when did you start making comics?

Jayro Lantigua: I used to grab a stack of copy paper and staple them together to make comics as a kid in the back of class. Growing up I would continue to draw and write stories but at the time it was more of a hobby. I didn’t start considering making a career with my work until 2012, when I realized it was the only thing I find happiness doing.

MB: Who would you count among your influences?

JL: John Kricfalusi was one of my biggest influences as well as Joe Murray. I used to watch Ren & Stimpy and Rocko’s Modern Life religiously as a kid. Johnny Ryan’s  work was also a big influence as it showed me that there were more to comics than vigilantes beating up criminals while wearing the underwear outside of their pants.

MB: How did working on Burnt Comix with Creature Comics come about, are there any of their comics you currently follow?

JL: Juan Navarro and John Ulloa of Creature opened The Goblin’s Heist, a comic shop in Hialeah, Florida and I would go by and hang out at the shop because they’re friends of mine and we’d joke around and have some beers. I never pitched Burnt Comix to them as I wanted to self publish at first and just get more work done. I gave a few copies to them to sell at the shop and Juan recommended it to John one day, he read it and he asked if I wanted to join Creature. As far as comics I follow goes, I’ve been hooked on “Tommy”.

MB: What are the main differences between the original version and the Creature Comics version? Tweaked or an entirely new beast? How did the experience of working on the two differ?

JL: The original version of Burnt is very different from the Creature release. The self published version is only 16 pages whereas the Creature release will be 32 pages. The extra content features the continuation of the story, as well as more art and a couple more 2 page shorts. Honestly the Creature release is the way I truly envisioned the story and the first issue of Burnt Comix. I couldn’t fulfil it before in the self published version because of costs. The Creature Version  will also have a full colour cover which is sweet. The experience as far as the work itself remains the same, the only difference is that I now have the support of great people with Creature Entertainment and the possibility of realizing my goals with my work are much more possible.

MB: The opening page is close to heartbreaking! Why do you think so many artists have similar dispiriting early experiences in regards to producing comics or art?

JL: A lot of parents don’t understand how lucrative art can be, so when their kid tells them they want to make a career of it, it’s usually discouraged. My parents, particularly my dad was very opposed to the idea and wanted me to be a doctor or a lawyer. Something more conventional that provides a stable income and stability as well as bragging rights to their equally ignorant friends. Yes, a career in comics or art doesn’t always bring a steady check but that doesn’t mean that it can’t.

MB: What’s the best reaction you’ve had with someone picking up your comic and suddenly realizing it’s full of death, swearing and dog pound orgies?

JL: There was a guy that opened the comic and immediately widened his eyes and starting laughing a lot. He really loved the work and later told me how much he wasn’t expecting the comic to be so adult and funny. It was great hearing that kind of positive feedback.

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Jayro Lantigua’s work is collected on his website and can be contacted via twitter. The Creature entertainment release of Burnt Comix is released in December and available via their website

“Isn’t it exciting!”- Comics and Defaced Vinyl from Eryshé Falafe

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Even in a room full of people wearing animal costumes, a guy lugging a box of old vinyl to his table is going to stand out, especially when he starts drawing and painting on them. This is what caught my eye the first time I saw Eryshé Falafe, also known as Joe Meyer, at Pittsburgh’s Anthrocon around 2011. I ended up getting one myself that still takes up pride of place in my office, and eventually ended up carting a not insubstantial pile of vinyl across the pond for him to deface on my pilgrimage to Pittsburgh. One of them was the bawdily British  “Sinful Rugby Songs” which was quickly snapped up by a commissioner who also saw it’s parody potential.

Alternating between his three fursonas, cat-bunny hybrid Eryshé Falafe, red roo Divvy and rabbitdeer Galahad he has been producing comics since he was a kid, discovering furry around 2001, with a number of published works including. Slammin Buneez, the autobiographical In the Meantime and his scathing, satirical and unrelenting look at the fandom, Furry Nuuze Teevee. The strips feature Twiggy, a dumb overly enthusiastic canine TV reporter and host of his own show who diligently reports on the fandom. As a character reserved for lambasting and commenting on internal politics and drama that flair up in the fandom with alarming regularity he usually ends up reflecting the positive side of the fandom while making fun of the negative elements and people.

Running since 2006 and the flip side of the coin to FNTV, Destroying the Illusion is Meyer’s series of diary comics about his daily exploits, conventions and the absurdity of everyday life. Instead of the general drama and negativity this series is more introspective autobiographical comics about Joe’s time in the fandom and goings on in his life. Almost always overwhelmingly positive they often reiterate what anyone will say about the furry fandom and tell you makes for a great con experience: the people. Befitting the immediacy of the travel, diary comic Joe’s art on the strips, mostly in black and white have a cartoony look to them and a sketchy quality.

My favourite of his work though has to be his defaced vinyl’s. Maybe it’s the same feeling that comes from graffiti, that thrill of doing something you’re not supposed too. Don’t worry for the most part the ones he uses are some truly awful records. Inspired in part by a tumblr group featuring vinyl that had been found defaced in simple and random ways. Scribbles, scrawls and misplaced labels from the original owners, the majority of them are ‘found art’ curiosities discovered in charity shops and yard sales. Taking the idea one step further and with more care and attention Joe has altered and tinkered with  them in various ways, reinterpreting them as unique pieces of artwork. Painting over aspects of the cover, usually the figures with a commissioner’s fusona. I love how fun they are and how even within the confines of what’s already on the sleeve he can capture the personalities of the people behind the characters he paints onto them.

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The site hosting the older comics is currently down but newer Destroying the Illusion comics (fondly dubbed DTI2.0) are currently hosted on his own site.

“You let your ghosties get the best of you”- Chatting with Comics creator Mark Kalesniko

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“You can either stay and rot, or you can escape and burn. That’s OK; he’s a songwriter, after all, and he needs simple choices like that in his songs. But nobody ever writes about how it is possible to escape and rot, how escapes can go off at half-cock, how you can leave the suburbs for the city but end up living a limp suburban life anyway. That’s what happened to me; that’s what happens to most people” High Fidelity- Nick Hornby

A few years back, after heavily getting back into comics, I was gifted with the book 500 Essential Graphic Novels and surprised by the breadth and depth of the selection set about bookmarking and ordering a few dozen titles. Amongst them was Mark Kalesniko’s Alex,  A character I instantly fell in love with and creator who’s work I quickly consumed.

Having moved back to his home town of Bandini in Canada, with his tail between his legs, after abandoning his dream of animation at ‘Mickey Walt’, Alex wakes up on a park bench, groggy from another night of alcohol fuelled self destruction. Hungover, high school yearbook in his jacket and with an expressionistic painting of the town he has no memory of.

The frustrated Alex fills his time wrestling with his past, struggling with artists’ block, hard drinking, and Gilligan’s Island whilst avoiding old school friends and facing up to the unthinkable. Having to be an artist, rather than a cartoonist. Freeway, drawn over ten years features a younger Alex in his animating career. Stuck in a seemingly never ending traffic jam he reminisces about his uncertain start in LA , whilst he imagines himself living an idyllic life, back in the golden days of animation.

Although optimistic now, I spent most of my teens and twenties as a shamefully stereotypically moody and sullen sod, even now I’m drawn to characters like Alex. Back then my favourite book was High Fidelity, which is the reason for the quote at the start of the review which pretty much sums up Alex’s story. Both books features a downtrodden lead character, stuck in their ways and unhappy with the way life turned out. Kalesinko’s work is great for wallowing in self pity and misery, in the same way that we’re drawn to sad songs, knowing full well they’ll bring us yet deeper into sadness. Tackling themes of depression, self destruction, inner peace and the death of a dream, they are both hugely moving and funny reads. Kalesinko can tease out the comedy of even the most disastrous and destructive events of Alex’s life, presented with his sparse fine line with the pacing and sense of movement that clearly comes from his own stint in animation.

While a lot of elements are shamelessly autobiographical in his books, after emailing Kalesniko over the course of a few weeks, he’s far from anything like his destructive stand in from his comics, and amongst one of the nicest people I’ve had the chance to talk to since starting this blog. The rest of this article is dedicated to the interview I had with him, I don’t usually say so, but he gave some great answers, and it’s one of my favourite interviews to date.

Marfedblog: I found the short Alex story ‘OCD’ funny, but also touching, it’s odd that on every occasion in other media people who have it are presented as being unaware they are doing it, or at ease with it, whereas you presented Alex as getting annoyed even with himself. Does this come from personal experience, do you share any of these traits with Alex? Are there any other of your traits you’ve imbued him with?

Mark Kalesniko: Yes this does come from personal experience, I do suffer from OCD and find it very frustrating and exhausting especially when leaving the house.  I did exaggerate some of the traits for comic effect and the last  gag with the iron I have never done but wanted to.

I do draw from my own life experiences for my Alex stories but they are in no way autobiographical. First my own life is quite dull so I will incorporate events that have happened to other people just to make my story more entertaining. For example, in my book “Why Did Pete Duel Kill Himself?”, I have a bully who enters Alex’s house and beats him up right in his bedroom. That incident never happened to me but it did happen to a neighbour kid so I incorporated in to my story to show the horror of a bully out to get you. That is the beauty of fiction is to combine different ideas from different sources to make a more interesting story. Also in fiction, the story can wrap up to a conclusion that is both satisfying to both the author and the reader, while reality doesn’t always conclude so neatly.

kalesniko-ocd-08MB: With comics like this do you find it beneficial to tackle the more serious aspects of it with humour? Do you think it’s an important part of getting information across to an audience?

MK: OCD is exhausting and anxiety inducing malady and to show it with humour I believe breaks the stigma. I am not laughing at the person who suffers from it, I laugh with them. I am trying to make the OCD smaller, less brutal, give some one who suffers from it some distance, to see that there are others who are going through it and they are not alone. When we laugh, we can begin a conversation which in turn helps both those that suffer with OCD and those who know people who suffer a better understanding.

Humour and comedy has always been a good way to broach difficult subjects be it race, religion or illness. A recent example is the comedian Tig Nataro who created a whole comedy routine over a series of tragic events that happened to her. By using humour, it eases the pain and makes things more bearable especially for people who are suffering through their own personal problems.

MB: Again in Overpass you write about a difficult subject, Suicide, and inject humour into it with Alex musing over the practicalities of the act. What was your intention with the comic? Similar to making OCD smaller in the other story?

MK: I have written about suicide before with “Uncle Bob” and “Why Did Pete Duel Kill Himself?”. Both stories dealt with the tragedy and confusion of such a desperate act. In “Overpass”, I started thinking of the act itself and how much effort and planning it would take and that Alex is so depressed that even the act is not worth the effort and in turn he actually saves his own life. It’s humour born out of the absurdity of the situation.

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MB: How did the idea of drawing Alex as a dog come about? Is it simply to make him stand out more visually amongst other characters or is there something else behind it?

MK: The dog headed character of Alex is based on a character I created as a child. Originally, Alex had a brother and they went on adventures alone the lines of Carl Barks “Donald Duck.” As I got older, I wanted to create stories with more complex themes and decided to haul out my childhood character and put him in adult situations.I found that using a dog to represent Alex could reflect alienation and loneliness. Although Alex doesn’t actually look like a dog to his family and peers, his seeing himself as a dog reveals the way he feels about himself, that he is different. For the reader, the dog evokes a sense of distance and perspective in seeing elements of the plot, just as animals were used in fairy tales centuries ago to represent ideas or character traits.

MB: The shorts featured on your website, where do they fit into the ongoing story of Alex? Will the next book be set after the events of Alex or do you have another part of his life in mind for it?

MK: The Alex time line is confusing. Originally, “Freeway” was suppose to come before “Alex” and was the back story for why Alex moved back to Bandini but when I completed “Freeway”, I purposely ended it in the mid 90s a few years after Alex’s time period. The reason being, I had more stories to tell of Alex in L.A.  but I couldn’t figure away to tell them if he was still in Canada. Also at the same time I got a germ of an idea for another Alex/Bandini story set after the events in “Alex.” So to solve the problem, I decided to free Alex of the time line.  All the books and stories of Alex stand alone and do not need to be read in any particular order. And I wanted to explore different aspects of Alex’s character that both L.A. and Bandini bring out in him. So Alex is  unstuck in time. As for “Overpass”, “Tarantula” and “OCD” they are all set in L.A. and take place after “Freeway” as does the new Alex story I’m currently working on. If I live to 100 I hope to also draw the Alex/Bandini story.

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MB: Freeway and Alex both tackle the subject of artists working within a strict system and how stifling that can be for creativity , has this been your general experience of certain industries and do you personally see this situation changing at all? 

MK: “Alex” and “Freeway” were both written when I was a young man and express the views that an artist should be free of any constraints and working for himself. At the time, I felt that working in a corporate setting was stifling, political and no way to reach your artistic expression. Now that I’m older, I have a more nuanced view. Working in a corporate setting, an artist can exchange ideas, learn new things and be part of a bigger project that can be satisfying and rewarding. So I see the value in both and its the choice of the artist to balance the two to get the most reward from it.

MB: Who were your inspirations when developing your own unique drawing style?

MK: Egon Schiele is probably my greatest inspiration for my drawing style. I love his lines, the expressionism of his paintings and drawings. The raw feelings he has for his subjects. It is very powerful. He inspired not only my graphic novels but also my personal paintings. In comic books, Guido Crepax  has had a strong influence. His line work is very sensual and I love the way he lays out his pages. Also I love Carl Barks “Donald Duck” and Hank Ketcham’s “Dennis the Menace”, both drew with a strong draftsmanship  that let me the reader go to different places and actually look around. As matter of fact it’s “Dennis the Menace in Hollywood” that was a huge inspiration for Freeway. When I was a kid I loved exploring the detail of each page and how he took me on a virtual tour of Los Angeles. It  inspired me to draw my own tour of downtown L.A. in Freeway.

 

MB: In Alex, he spends the book suffering from artists block, have you ever suffered from it yourself and why do you think it’s a subject that artists tend to go back to and explore in their works? 

MK: I have never had a block that stopped me from finishing a book. I have had blocks in certain sequences of my books where I had to put that section away and hope when I get back to it I’d have a solution. One of the best examples of this was  during the creation of Mail Order Bride, I had a scene where Monty and Kyung were arguing about her art school friends. I originally had a very weak argument that Monty was making and I knew it wasn’t working, so I put it aside. One evening , my wife and I were in Pasadena enjoying these Hurdy-Gurdy street performers who had as part of their act, dancing puppets of a maiden and devil. As Matter of fact, those puppets inspired the  puppets in my book. Talking to the performers later, I said how much I like your maiden and devil but one of them corrected me and said that’s not a devil that’s a fool. That statement inspired me and I was able to rewrite the scene using the devil/fool puppet as a symbol of the foolishness of Monty’s argument with Kyung.

Why do artists explore the artist’s block in there work? I believe  it’s every artist’s greatest fear. What if I can’t come up with a new idea? What if I never create again? For myself, it scares me to death.

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MB: In your research for Freeway and the buildings featured was there anything surprising that came up that made its way into the story? What was your favourite to draw and why?

MK: The route that Alex and Chloe take in present day Bunker Hill is the same route I take when my wife and I go downtown to explore. In researching and drawing the Bunker Hill of the past, I was quite surprised how well the two routes synced up. The Bunker hill of the past is completely gone, not only are the buildings demolished but even the topography of the hill was radically changed. When I did my research I was pleasantly surprised at how the present and the past would lead in and out of each other making the journey through time much more seamless. I could not have planned that.

My favourite structures to draw were Angels Flight and the Bradbury Building because they both still exist. There is nothing like drawing something right in front of you. You can see how the building is built. How it fits in to space. How big or small it is. In a photograph, which in Freeway I needed because so many of the structures of the past are gone, I sometimes had difficulty making out how a building worked. A shadow could be too strong or an angle just a little off and I would have no idea how to draw it or what details were there. I’m grateful to have those photos but it’s easier if you can draw something right in front of you.

MB: Do you have any plans for other graphic novels any time soon?

MK: Yes, I’m working on two books at the same time. One is a horror story and the other is another Alex story. They should be out in a year or two.

Mark Kalesinko’s books can be bought from amazon and most comic stores, his shorts and further information are available from his website.

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Interview: The Opportunity Zoo- Leo Magna discusses his return to the world of Furpilled

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Lately life has been full of these weird little coincidences. Last week I started on what I’ve been jokingly calling a super-secret project for another website at the encouragement from one of it’s other contributors. Part of this was writing about the web comic Furpilled. Drawn by Leo Magna it’s a delightful anthropomorphic slice of life comic featuring a colourful cast of LGBT characters in Santa Monica, California. Focusing on the everyday exploits and romantic lives of this group of friends, it ran for eight years, won an Ursa Minor Award and ended in 2011. In the upcoming article I encourage people to check it out, making the claim that it still deserves some attention after all this time, and sang the praises of his new comic Perception.

The very next day, after a four year hiatus he sends out a message that Furpilled will be back, with both comics alternating and updating once a week. Surprised and delighted by it’s return I got in contact with Leo Magna to talk about the sudden announcement and his plans for the future.

What’s been happening in your own life that has prompted you to revisit the world of Furpilled and How much of this was fans asking for more?

Well, when I decided to end the comic it was because it was at a good point to end it, and my life was about to get hectic. I was about to move across country for school, so I figured that it was time. All of the stories for the characters were converging to a point where it seemed appropriate to stop. Now that I am done with school and I have more time on hand, I figured that it could be a good time to re-start it. I get at least one message a week regarding the comic, so the fans asking for it is definitely a big factor for it.

Did you ever expect there to be such a dedicated fan base for the comic even after all this time, considering that you originally intended it to be only a handful of pages?

Honestly, no, I never thought that there would be such a dedicated fan base. To this day it surprises me. And I am really thankful for them. They are why I’m still drawing.

The series came to an end four years ago and tied up a lot of the loose ends and story-lines. Did you want this to be a definitive ending at the time, or was it always your intention to write more stories with the characters? Will it be picking up where it left of or four years later?

Because Furpilled is a slice-of-life comic, there are always stories to tell. The stories really will never end until I decide to drive all the characters off the cliff.

Time has passed, yes. So there will be a time gap for Husky and the gang. This new series will pick up four years after we last saw the gang, and we get to see where they are now. The majority of the stories will take place four years after, but some of them will be from that gap.The previous ending was appropriate for the problems that the characters were facing then. Andy and Indigo starting up as a couple, Husky and Saetto getting over their exes and start trusting each other, Chris letting go of his past and ending a bad relationship.

Out of all the cast, is there a character you would like to develop more in the new run that you didn’t get a chance to originally? Is there any character you feel more confident in writing after this time away from them?

For this new series I want to focus more on Husky, Andy, and Indigo. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but I think their stories will be interesting because they will be so opposite. I’ve always liked contrast like that.

In Furpilled the characters, although they had difficulties and low points,always had a strong supportive social group. What led you to want to explore the other side of this with Perception? Which side have you experienced the most in your own life?

The strong social circle that all the characters in Furpilled have is based on my own circle of friends. After having moved away from them, and after so many years in the LGBT community, I started to realize just how lucky I was to have them all. I never felt out of place with them because they were all equally as eccentric as I am. Very few of them were “straight” in the strict sense of the term, so my sexuality was never really an issue. When I started Furpilled, they definitely were my inspiration, so while we touched on the subject of coming out, we never really had stories for that.

All the characters in the comic are openly gay (or bisexual) and older in age than the characters in Perception. Perception is meant to explore what it’s like to come out, and discover that you’re not the only one out there that’s different. There is also this added pressure that Joe feels to want to have his fraternity brothers perceive him as a regular guy, because he thinks that they are all just regular guys. But that’s the funny thing, there is no such thing as a “regular guy”. That’s where we start in the story, with Joe waking up from a drunken one night stand with another guy, and immediately regretting it.

The landscape in terms of LGBT in America has changed substantially in the last four years since Furpilled ended. Although still not fully accepted at large, there has been progress with marriage rights and such. Will any of this play into the comic and to what degree? Are there any particular changes you would like to explore?

Oh gods yeah! Can you believe it! four years ago I couldn’t get married, and how here I am thinking about dinner for my husband! It’s crazy! And it’s not just here, all over the world things are changing. It’s a great time to be alive. These new chapters will definitely touch on that. I don’t want to give too much away as far as ideas go, but count on marriage and transgender issues coming up.

The cast is made up mostly of LGB characters, with Ian being non gender binary. Have you ever considered including a trans character in the comic?

Well, I don’t think this was expanded much in the comic, but Ian’s ex (she shows up briefly) is transgender, so the thought was always there. As for these new stories, spoilers, Yes.

What else in terms of mainstream or furry comics are you enjoying right now?

Neil Gaiman picked up Sandman again, and I can’t tell you just how much I love that. As far as furry comics, Circles just ended last January, and it broke my heart. There are a couple of online comics that update on FurAffinity that I like to keep up with, Seattlefur by RainYatsu, and Deceit by Mad-Dog.

As with other story titles in Furpilled this one is derived from a song? Are there any clues we could glean from listening to the Goldfish track?

Yes, Goldfish – Choose your own Adventure. And no, there aren’t any clues, really. I love to listen to music when I draw, so I put on random songs. For every chapter, though, a song will come up that just resonates with the theme of the story. Then I proceed to listen to it on a loop until I’m done with the chapter.

Both Perception and Furpilled will be updating exclusively through Leo’s Patreon Page. The first four volumes of Furpilled can be read online or purchased from Sofawolf Press

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Kickstarter Watch: Orwellian, Nightmarish, Brutal – There’s Still Time To Back The Oink Icon Edition

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“I was born to serve as a cog in a machine, a terrible and awful machine”

With just under four days left, there is still time to back artist John Mueller’s latest Kickstarter project to fund his comic, Oink. His grim and gritty tells the story of Oink, a pig man who resides in a city under the control of religious zealots who control his kind in a hellish Orwellian fashion. Described by the artist as a comic taking in many elements of his own experiences with the education system and how it’s often difficult for anyone who doesn’t fit the strict mould set out by it. The story of Oink is obviously very personal to the artist as it uses the extended allegory of the school system and takes it to screeching extremes making it both nightmarish and brutal.

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First published over twenty years ago, Mueller has spent the last five years working the brutal and oppressively gloomy artwork for the new hardback Icon edition of his comic and from the from the samples shown on the Kickstarter, has developed into a much more confident artist with more ambitious panel composition. Oink is now 200% funded and with the success the artists hopes to fund the second and third volumes of his long running, which Mueller has “had mapped out in my head for the better part of 20 year”, of the series next year.

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Marfedblog: For those who didn’t read it the first time around, what is Oink about and how did the concept start out?

John Mueller: I began working on Oink in 1992. I had become interested in comics after reading Sin City, Judgement on Gotham, and Tell Me Dark. These were the three books that made me realize that I needed to be making graphic novels. I didn’t really think of myself as a ‘writer’ but I wanted to tell a story. The thing that everyone will tell you about writing is to write a story that is personal to you.

Oink is really a story about my experience in the public education system, which I referred to as the Public Slaughterhouse, a system where children’s dreams go to die. We all start out with these great ambitions as young kids and by the time the system is done with us we are trained to make practical career choices and not swing for the fences. What happened to being an astronaut, a president, or a scientist?

The system seemed to be designed to set me up for failure. I was bright, but I was not a math or science kid. I was artistic and a creative problem solver type, but nothing in the system seemed to value that very much. I received a lot of negative feedback at that time, and my grades were pretty terrible. I also had a hard time being contained in a chair for long periods of time, and I’m still that way today. I need to get up and move, moving helps me think and be creative. I spent most of my adolescent years believing what they were saying- that I was a failure. I would put myself in the desk for 8 hours a day and go home really sad and depressed. It’s like training wheels for a prison if you aren’t really succeeding isn’t it? People say ‘well that’s the real world.’ Is it? Is that what we’re teaching, obedience and apathy?

It really messed with my head at that age. Fast forward to Art School and I instantly became a 4.0 student and began feeling confident about my prospects in life. Why did I have to go through 12 years of feeling like a failure? I was just a round peg being jammed repeatedly into a square hole year after year. Under the surface, Oink is about that experience. The bad guy is my guidance counsellor who hounded me to NOT go to art school, he told me I was going to ruin my life.

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First Impressions: Magnetic Press upcoming Releases

First Impressions

It’s telling just how much of the limelight the larger comics companies take up online, that up until last week I’d never heard of Magnetic Press before. Their newly announced titles for 2015 are a strong mix of sci-fi and fantasy with two of them featuring lycanthrophy. Seriously, why have I never heard of this company before? I’m not going to be too hard on myself as this is only the companies second year. Mostly dealing with bringing foreign language and European titles to a wider market, the company has already released twelve titles as well as forty four digital ones in it’s first year alone.

Looking through their catalogue from last year the quality of their hardback editions are luxurious to say the least. Hardback, rounded corner, gloss elements on cover and thick paper stock. Their presentation of the material can only be described as lavish.

Going into it’s second year, it seems the company is extending it’s roster once again with another ten titles. While Magnetic Press has only revealed a few details with the promise of more information in the coming weeks, there are already a few titles that I am interested in and will definitely be checking out when they are released.

Klaw-French Edition cover- illustrated by Joel Jurion and written by Antoine Ozenam.

Klaw-French Edition cover- illustrated by Joel Jurion and written by Antoine Ozenam.

Klaw, illustrated by Joel Jurion and written by Antoine Ozenam.

Teenager Angel Tomassini has been hiding a dark and scary secret: when threatened he involuntarily turns into a violent and vicious Weretiger. He doesn’t know why, how, or what to do, because when he transforms, he loses control and people end up badly hurt. As if this isn’t enough for a kid to deal with, Angel is slowly learning his father is one of the biggest organized crime leaders in the city. And are there more like him? Are there… different creatures too?

Oh please, let there by other creatures too! A showing of An American Werewolf in London at a friends house at an impressionable age means I am forever obsessed with Lycanthropy and shape shifting. Apparently Klaw has been around in French for quite some time now, even the press release describes it as “wildly world-popular”. Which makes it baffling that I’ve never heard of it before. Belonging to a fandom that pounces on anything with even a whiff an anthropomorphism, I’m a little surprised that no one else has pointed this out to me, even more so having attended European conventions before.

From a little scouring about it seems that Magnet Press will be releasing the first five issues of this as a hardback graphic novel. Not speaking any French I can’t comment on any of dialogue from the pages I found online, but the artwork is simply gorgeous, really vibrant and dynamic. With four “tomes” of material already out there, this will hopefully be a series to enjoy for a long time to come.

From the original French language edition

From the original French language edition

From the original French language edition

From the original French language edition

Love: The Fox- French Edition Cover-illustrated by Federico Bertolucci and written by Frederic Brremaud.

Love: The Fox- French Edition Cover-illustrated by Federico Bertolucci and written by Frederic Brremaud.

Love: The Fox, illustrated by Federico Bertolucci and written by Frederic Brremaud.

The second volume in the award winning, lushly illustrated, wordless graphic novel series, Love: The Fox follows a spry, intrepid, one-eyed fox during an average day of foraging when a natural disaster erupts. Readers are taken on a thrill ride as animals of all shapes and sizes react to the danger, but the fox inexplicably runs towards the fire, braving daunting obstacles and even larger predators to reach a desperate location in the heart of the storm

Like Klaw this one’s been available in France and Germany for an age now. This wordless tale is a day in the life narrative following, you guessed it, a fox. Completely without dialogue it’s the breathtaking artwork from Bertolucci that tells the story here and as usual I’m fascinated to see how artists convey emotions in a purely visual manner. As with Klaw and this being the second volume of  this series, it already has the selling point of having more to follow. With the third in the series, Love Lion already completed and the fourth, featuring a T-rex being finished by Bertolucci in the very near future. Even though it doesn’t have the issues surrounding translation it does appear to be out of print. Even if that wasn’t the case, after seeing Magnetic’s website I’d still rather have waited on their plush hardback version.

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Artist Spotlight: Kristyna Baczynski’s ‘Vessel’

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Being of modest means, in the past I have shamefully bought comics due to page count alone. Quantity counts when strapped for cash and I’d usually choose comics with a bit more meat on their bones. Although I’m slowly collecting Hellblazer trades they’d always be at the top of my list when they came out due to their huge wodge of pages and densely written style that would take me a few weeks to chew through. Recently being a little bit more financially relaxed and delving deeper into the small press and independent scene I’m discovering more often that the best comics can be both beautiful and brief.

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Vessel is an independent comic from Leeds artist Kristyna Baczynski. It stars an unnamed protagonist who completes her education and finds herself immediately stuck in an all too familiar procession of banal and ultimately interchangeable jobs. Baczynski captures the feeling of quiet mundanity here perfectly in a series of repeated patterns, her character stood in the same pose and expression in each and every one, with only the hats name badges changing. She finally realises after what could be years of these jobs that her own inaction, that she has to make her life happen as she rushes out into the world. While the subject matter is as well travelled as her heroine by the end of the comic, Baczynski’s unique voice and artistic style ensures she still has something fresh to say on the matter. It’s powerful and deeply affecting, especially to someone like myself who might be realising that life doesn’t happen on it’s own.

Baczynski’s artwork in general is stunning and he unique style and strong playful lines are used to great effect in Vessel. Her pages are both expansive and intricate when needed and filled with delightful little details and flourishes. One element in particular is her use of water to illustrate and express some of her themes. Referring to the title, our protagonist imagines herself as a vessel filling up with knowledge. Eventually the central character finds her own meaning, filling her life up with all the desperate pieces around her to make a whole.The second instance is drawing her character with waves moving around her, brilliantly expressing the idea of life happening and time moving around you, waiting for something to happen rather than living in the now.

Before her travels her life is restricted to single pages and panels before opening up to widescreen, cinematic double spreads. At the start of her escapades, on the first double page spread, our adventurer stands elated, poised and thrust forward at the edge of a cliff. As she leans forward your eye is deliberately drawn across the page to the wide open landscape. It gives the comic a strong feeling of action and forward momentum, conducive to a story about travel and adventure.

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It’s definitely worth noting the clever and effective colouring she employs in Vessel, using a limited palette throughout. The pages are all blue until her epiphany and setting off into the world, when colour is literally added to her life. Subsequent pages limit themselves to three colours per double spread until the very last one showing the traveller with her collection of trinkets which combines all of the colours from the previous pages. It perfectly illustrates the accumulation of her encounters.The physical objects show a patchwork of experiences made manifest in “a collage of passport stamps, trinkets and anecdotes”. Baczynski deftly condenses a sense of a lifetime of travel and experiences into such a short comic, with the last few pages showing objects from her travels, skilfully hinting about unseen adventures.Care has been taken to ensure that Vessel itself could join those prized possessions, being risograph printed on thick glossy card stock, and hand stapled.

Showing it to my partner he enjoyed it and liked the artwork but wasn’t quite as taken with the romanticism of travel or the thought of leaving it all behind as I was. While it’s extensively about travel, I think it prevented him from seeing the much larger point this story makes. The beautiful and touching message at the heart of this comic, of having a rich, full life well lived. I think, giving it another shot, he’d really appreciate what Baczynski depicts here, of being able to look back as this messy, cluttered life and feel content. While the travel and exotic locations give the comic it’s quick pace and momentum, as well as showing of the artists skills, allowing her to draw far flung vistas and even alien looking worlds, it also visually emphasises a point of encouraging us to get out there and open ourselves up to new and enriching experiences. As the protagonist tells us “This might be wisdom, I don’t quite know”.

More of Kristyana Baczynski’s work can be found on her website while Vessel and other comics can be purchased from her Etsy site 

Artist Spotlight: “We’d forgotten what it was like to be kings”- Emily Rose Lambert’s ‘Dreamscape’

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Having spent the last week and a half in daze, both rushing about in the last hectic days of work before summer all the while both simultaneously worrying about having nothing to write about or the time to really find anything, it’s a relief to have a handful of things fall into my lap in the last few days. If anything it reminds me to just ask around and that generally the comics community online, especially on twitter is eager to give you recommendations on new things and promote each other.

One thing I bought on a whim from a chance encounter online was the comics anthology Dirty Rotten Comics. I’d never heard of them before now and needless to say I didn’t expect anything so polished and professional in it’s presentation. It’s a delightful mish mash of comics talent from around the UK that I fully intend to dig into with a full review in the next few days. However I did wan’t to talk one comic in particular separately.

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Emily Rose Lambert, is an illustrator and first class graduate from Loughborough University who works as a greetings card designer. Her work encompasses comics, design and illustration, often featuring repeating patterns, showcasing a preoccupation with indigenous American culture, nature and animals.

Dreamscape is the lovely, achingly cute story of two adorable animal characters travelling through a series of dreamlike vignettes that evokes the ephemeral nature of dreams and conveys that sense of disjointed dreamlike logic as the characters drift between seemingly disparate situations and emotions. The story floats effortlessly from the fantastical, one of the figures breaking into fragments, one lovingly patching up the other with clay and leaves to the more everyday, as the dreamers enter a birthday party late and unable to sing along with the other revellers. From the small embarrassments that gently gnaw away at us in the night to the gentle sense of dread as an unknown figure watches us from afar, each instance captures the moments in dreams where feelings seem always just a little too close to the surface, more immediate and raw.

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On her own blog, Emily briefly describes her process behind the comic revealing an early draft that she had begun creating digitally until, as she puts it a “boost of confidence in using ink and pencil” promoted her to switch over to more traditional methods resulting in the final comic. It’s a decision that definitely works in her favour, as does the restriction to black and white owing to the anthology it’s collected in.

DS page 1The first draft almost seems too solid, too real while the traditional hand drawn panels fit the otherworldly tone of the story perfectly. The final version with the soft pencils and ink give her story a suitably intangible feel in the way that dreams often are. A sense that if you tried to bring it any more into focus, recall it in more detail, it would fade away. The sudden sadness upon awakening as you desperately grasp at details that moments ago seemed so clear become more fleeting and blurred around the edges the harder you concentrate on them. Only half remembered,  leaving you only a feeling or a vague sense of them.

The comic ends where it begins as one of the figures looks out onto the stars once more, again emphasising it’s roots in dream logic and the recursive, circular nature they sometimes taken on, with motifs or events being repeated over and over. Her sparse dialogue has the rhythm and mood of a fairytale. Sweet, whimsical and imbued with both trepidation hope,it manges to cover a complete gamut of emotions in only two pages.