“If an idea resonates with you, as a creator, there’s absolutely an audience for it” -The world of furry cartoonist Lobst

anthro, anthropomorphic, comic, interview

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Growing up on a diet of sci-fi and fantasy, transformation stories were the ones I loved and could always rely on the writers of most shows to fall back on one of it’s most loved tropes. For me they were always the most frustrating though, as characters spent their time trying either freaking or trying to change back, usually both. Frustratingly they almost never explored a person staying that way, gaining a new perspective on the world. It’s something I’d find renewed interest in when encountering the Furry Fandom and finally found quite literally in the works of Lobst, a furry comics artist who uses their anthropomorphic characters and an individual take on magical realism to express their unique experiences as a trans person.

As with the bulk of their work two of my favourites, both adult comics, prominently feature transgender characters and story lines. A Slightly Different Role follows the exploits of two huskies, Connor and Alex, the latter of which with the aid of a suitably gothic book of curses, magically endows the other with a vagina. The second, more science-fiction orientated That Curious Sensation takes the subject in an entirely different, rarely explored direction. Distracted from work by unwanted erections red panda Clover strikes upon the idea of nullification, quickly achieving his goal with an easily obtainable injection. In both instances the initial transformation is dealt with quickly and often humorously, instead shifting the focus onto how characters react and adapt to the changes, rather than the change itself as a way to explore other parts of a trans individuals experiences and struggles beyond the post surgery aspects that a lot of mainstream representations fixate upon.

Lobst tells stories and presents her trans and gender fluid characters in an interesting and entertaining manner without the fetishization often present in a lot furry comics staring trans characters. Their artwork explores them in entirely different ways ,and using the fantasy elements as a springboard to ask more intimate and rarely asked questions about individuals in the trans community through anthropomorphic characters. Despite the ears, tails and fur, her extended cast appear on the page fully rounded and human. Ultimately what sets Lobst’s work apart is the warmth and tenderness it exudes in both the ways their characters interact and the playful way they write about a complicated and multifaceted subject, tackled both playfully and honestly.

Has art always been a part of you life or something picked up later? How did your art change after coming into contact with the furry fandom?

I’ve always drawn artwork, although it took quite a while for me to start developing original ideas that spread out into stories.  I was a furry-in-denial for a very long time, since the “mainstream” of it — at the time, comics like Sabrina Online and Jack — either seemed too cloying or edgy for my tastes. It took a long time for me to realise that like any other fandom, furries comprise a wide spectrum of interests, so there was a gradual shift from anthro-animal comics like Cigarro & Cerveja/Living In Greytown to Gene Catlow/Kit & Kay Boodle to Associated Student Bodies, Circles, and the webcomics by my friend Moult, after which I spent yet another very-long-time producing furry media “ironically” in groan worthy “extreme” ways. And I think it was only around 2007 or so (yes, seriously) when I started actually looking at furry art, that I learned how to successfully draw furry snouts; until that point a besnouted face was seriously just a box in front of the standard comic-artist human face shield.

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“I’m still working on taking my own ideas seriously”- Talking comics and body horror with artist Tessa Black

artist spotlight, comic, Comic spotlight, First Impressions

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One of the biggest pleasures for me reading and collecting comics this year has been the sheer volume of exciting and interesting anthologies that have been released thus far. Between the ones from the major publishers and kickstarters, it’s been really easy to find something inventive and interesting from complete newcomers to more well known names. I’ve sung it’s praises on here before, a lot I know, but for me Image comics Island is still one of most consistently inventive in terms of content and creators as well as being readily available in comic stores. One of the clear standouts for me so far has to be Tessa Black’s “Seawitch” which was featured way back in Islands third issue.A trans Designer, Illustrator and long time artist from Vancouver, Seawitch is surprisingly Black’s first foray into the world of comics and it’s instantly striking in how confident, fully formed and realised the idea and execution is.

Created over the course of a single weekend, this deliciously unnerving and thoughtful comic depicts a woman stood alone on a beach, before entering the ocean as she begins drifting down to the depths and slowly undressing in a slow build of body horror. Clothing and jewellery and even body parts discarded as she descends to the ocean floor.A long dead pilot the only silent observer on this arresting and quietly unnerving, yet intimate scene. Slowly transforming her body to match the environment around her it culminates on the final page with the Seawitch at ease in her new surroundings, undressed and comfortable in the silent watery depths. For me it’s the collection of smaller moments leading up to this. A series of panels depicts a figure gently pulling a pair of socks, each pulled down with the other foot. It’s an every day act but here it is oddly intimate, sensual but uncomfortable.Black reframes this almost crushingly mundane act and make it feel voyeuristic, a far too personal and intimate an act for us to be witness to.

With it’s clean fluid lines and coloured only in minimal blues it captures the solitude and coldness of the sea, adding in alien, oceanic textures to the figures body. Although it works on a surface level as a slow build body horror, after being lucky enough to  talk to Black over e-mail she also expertly uses her first comics creation to communicate her personal experiences of being trans, addressing the idea of clothing as performance and how environment and peoples ideas of us shapes both our identity and form to certain extents.

Before Islands and Seawitch, had you ever considered producing comics before? If so what ideas did you have and what prevented you from making them?

I’ve been around comic artists for a few years, but always felt the burden of their expectations or opinions of certain genres and approaches in the medium. I still don’t consider myself a comic book artist or even an avid reader, but it’d definitely something I’d like to explore.

Did you find yourself changing your approach to drawing a comic rather than single illustrations? How did the idea for the minimalist color palette come about?

I think you can definitely see the change in approach when you compare my regular art with the comic. I was pretty pressed for time, so I would have coloured it with flats in a limited palette if I’d had more time. I still intend to do so when I get some time, so I can re-release it anywhere else. I’d probably add in illustrations on the side, similar to to the work of William Stout, which inspired me greatly as a kid.

On your tumblr, have a run of insect girls, or people with insect parts. What about insects appeals to you? Is it there bodies mostly or also behaviours?

I really like insects for a whole host of reasons. Their anatomy is so different from ours, more similar overall to the things we make than the way we see ourselves as humans. Despite drawing sexy bug ladies, I’m more interested in conforming the layers and segments of insects to conform to a more familiar silhouette.

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Also a series brightly colored goo-girls.  What attracted you to draw them, the malleability of them or some other aspect?

I like goo girls and shape shifting in general. I’d like to play around with the idea of being able to fluidly present your own body based on subconscious thought. Having a form decided by the subconscious, without being predisposed by genetic or environmental (physical) pressures.

You also mentioned you went through a phase of drawing yourself, what broke this series of drawings, or was it just a desire to move onto something else?

I think I started drawing who I wanted to be just after starting my transition. A lot of folks recommended that to work towards feeling comfortable with my body or thinking about clothing styles. I tried being pretty realistic with how I expected to look, and that shape formed the basis for a lot of my exploration of erotic art.It all started with a fairly simple and cartoony bodies but adapted to become softer and more varied as I experienced changes in my own body. I also get bored of things pretty easy and dislike seeing repetition in themes or processes in my art. I never really had much of a signature style and I’m always much more interested in trying new things than sticking to old ways. It feels like the best way to learn is to shake things up and tackle new directions in art, but that’s just me!

“A power pad is not a thermal blanket!”-Tim Weeks’ furry video game webcomic, Savestate!

anthro, anthropomorphic, artist spotlight, comic, Comic spotlight
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My relationship with games could be described as patchy, at best. As I kid I all but destroyed my much loved Megadrive from constant play, but beyond the warm nostalgic 16-bit fuzz I’ve rarely picked up a joypad since. I even had to ask my husband if ‘joypad’ was still a legitimate gaming term just now, deciding on it over ‘controller’. Having played only a handful of games since; Max Payne, Starfox Adventures, and Bit Trip Runner, a video game per generation give or take I’d defiantly not fit anyone’s idea of a gamer. Which is weird, considering that Tim Weeks’ Savestate is currently one of my favorite furry webcomics. In case the name didn’t give it away, the motley crew of Savestate really, really love their video games! Centering around siblings Nicole and Kade regularly joined by their friend Rick ,Elder god Harvey and the demonic entity, Ness on their gaming misadventures. Weeks’ artwork really shines when he draws his characters in the game worlds themselves, showing off well known favorites like Mario Kart in his own charming and polished style, even incorporating animation, such as his crossover with gaming webcomic, Gamercat.

Last year saw another major milestone for Savestate when it was nominated for the comic strip category of the Ursa Major Awards, which are voted upon yearly and intended to award and highlight “excellence in the furry arts”. Although Savestate ultimately came in second it was to Housepets, a comic that has itself been running four times as long and won the category for seven years, consecutively. Moving up from third place the previous year and vastly outstripping much more established furry webcomics, it’s a testament to how well the mix of humor, positivity and gaming culture has built up such a strong and loyal fan base in it’s first two years.

The very first strip found Kade porting over the now infamous glitch Pokemon, ‘MissingNo’ (the easiest glitch to catch, an integral part of Pokemon lore although still considered by Nintendo as simply “a programming quirk”) proving from day one how deeply passionate Weeks is about gaming culture and how central it is to his comic. This last months strips have seen Savestate returning to it’s roots somewhat with the rewed interest in the now 20 year old franchise that came the release of Pokemon GO has started, rekindling the franchise once more. As you’d expect Kade, the consummate gamer lives up to every online scare story by getting himself into places he shouldn’t in order to catch them all!

Again, the highest praise I can personally give Savestate is that even as someone who isn’t a gamer, at all, it still has me engrossed and eagerly awaiting a new strip every Wednesday. Playfully incorporating pop culture and gaming staples in new ways, the comic exudes Week’s passion for video games and why it has quickly become and furry favorite.

 
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Okay, so some basics first, what is your favorite game and console?

Game: Ocarina of Time. It was the smoothest transition from 2D to 3D ever and had a huge “wow” factor in terms of graphics and gameplay. Console: Either the Genesis or SNES, I love 16-bit games. If I had to pick one then SNES, with classics like Star Fox, Final Fantasy III (VI), Chrono Trigger it edges out the Genesis.

How did it feel to come 2nd place in the Ursa major awards, especially very close behind a comic that is now in it’s 8th year? Does it help knowing you’ve built a strong fanbase like this in such a short time, what do you think has captured furries and gamers about your comic?

That was crazy! I thought Savestate could avoid last place, but never to come in second on it’s second year. Now I’ve got to work extra hard to keep that second place. I don’t think anyone is going to dethrone Housepets until Rick chooses to decline his nomination. It’s amazing how quickly the Savestate fanbase grew. When I started the site I was getting something like 300 hits every time I posted a comic which seemed like a lot. What’s most impressive, to me, is that before Savestate I had never really posted any of my art online; so all the hype was generated purely by the comic itself.

I think gamers enjoy the comic because Kade embodies a more child-like sense of gaming. Back when it was more about showing your friends your Pokemon rather than trying to beat them in a battle.I think furries are drawn to the comic because of the art style. I tend to draw things in equal parts cute and cool. I also hope people are enjoying that the comic is PG (or maybe PG-13 when Harvey gets angry). There’s just so much adult material in the furry universe that it starts to drown everything else out. People seem to forget that the furry fandom really started with children’s characters like Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny.

Is there any direct analogue of yourself in the comic in terms of characters, if not who do you think you identify with more?

Kade and Nicole are a split of my personality. Nicole was based on our family dog, Mandy. Any personalities I shared with Mandy went to Nicole and what was left over went to Kade. If you combine the two you basically get my messed up brain

.What drew you to using anthropomorphic characters in Savestate?

I’ve loved anthro since Rescue Rangers! Games like Sonic and TV shows like Swat Kats further embedded that fandom. I actually wasn’t even aware “furry” was a thing until I randomly found Havok, Inc in my local comic shop. Even then I thought Chester was a girl for the longest time. :3

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A lot of comics like yours heavily reference video games to the point of the characters being shown in the game.Visually are there any game genres of games you wouldn’t include in Savestate or would be too difficult to accomplish?

I won’t do anything adult, so AO rated games are out.  If I ever used something violent like Gears of War 4 I’d just limit myself to blood and leave the gore out.  I suppose the only other thing I wouldn’t do is a game with extremely simple stylized graphics, like Limbo.

What are your favorite game elements or characters to draw?

Sonic.  I could never count how many times I’ve drawn Sonic.I also like drawing the Savestate characters in different game character outfits.  It’s fun to try and modify clothes to fit a furry build.

 How did including animated elements in certain strips come about? Was it something you were familiar with before or learning as you went?

Animation has always interested me.  Mostly traditional animation or the old hand drawn 2D sprites.  I love doing facial expressions and animation let’s you really play with that. I’ve dabbled with various forms of animation over the years, but the idea to put in a web comic came from GaMERCaT.  That’s why I had to make sure the guest appearance with Gamercat was animated.

What was your experience like working on the recent Starfox strips for Nintendo Force?

Nintendo Force is the spiritual successor of Nintendo Power and that comic was a lot of fun. Since the magazine is done by fans I could really do anything, like mention characters from the canceled SNES Star Fox 2 game. The original plan was to print the comic in the December issue which was going to be Star Fox themed to go along with the release of Star Fox Zero, but Nintendo pushed the game back a few months. Since the magazine is crowd funded we decided to print in the December issue anyway since there was no guarantee it would continue. Regardless, it was a lot of fun and I’m really excited that I got the chance to do it. My favorite part of EGM was reading Hsu and Chan. I really miss that comic.
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Savestate is updated every Wednesday. Tim also has a gallery of his other work over on his deviant art page and can also be found on twitter.

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

anthro, anthropomorphic, artist spotlight, comic, interview, Uncategorized

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.

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

Uncategorized

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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

“I’m still working on taking my own ideas seriously”- Talking comics and body horror with artist Tessa Black

artist spotlight, comic, Comic spotlight, First Impressions, interview

Sea Wpage 76

One of the biggest pleasures for me reading and collecting comics this year has been the sheer volume of exciting and interesting anthologies that have been released thus far. Between the ones from the major publishers and kickstarters, it’s been really easy to find something inventive and interesting from complete newcomers to more well known names. I’ve sung it’s praises on here before, a lot I know, but for me Image comics Island is still one of most consistently inventive in terms of content and creators as well as being readily available in comic stores. One of the clear standouts for me so far has to be Tessa Black’s “Seawitch” which was featured way back in Islands third issue.A trans Designer, Illustrator and long time artist from Vancouver, Seawitch is surprisingly Black’s first foray into the world of comics and it’s instantly striking in how confident, fully formed and realised the idea and execution is.

Created over the course of a single weekend, this deliciously unnerving and thoughtful comic depicts a woman stood alone on a beach, before entering the ocean as she begins drifting down to the depths and slowly undressing in a slow build of body horror. Clothing and jewellery and even body parts discarded as she descends to the ocean floor.A long dead pilot the only silent observer on this arresting and quietly unnerving, yet intimate scene. Slowly transforming her body to match the environment around her it culminates on the final page with the Seawitch at ease in her new surroundings, undressed and comfortable in the silent watery depths. For me it’s the collection of smaller moments leading up to this. A series of panels depicts a figure gently pulling a pair of socks, each pulled down with the other foot. It’s an every day act but here it is oddly intimate, sensual but uncomfortable.Black reframes this almost crushingly mundane act and make it feel voyeuristic, a far too personal and intimate an act for us to be witness to.

With it’s clean fluid lines and coloured only in minimal blues it captures the solitude and coldness of the sea, adding in alien, oceanic textures to the figures body. Although it works on a surface level as a slow build body horror, after being lucky enough to  talk to Black over e-mail she also expertly uses her first comics creation to communicate her personal experiences of being trans, addressing the idea of clothing as performance and how environment and peoples ideas of us shapes both our identity and form to certain extents.

Before Islands and Seawitch, had you ever considered producing comics before? If so what ideas did you have and what prevented you from making them?

I’ve been around comic artists for a few years, but always felt the burden of their expectations or opinions of certain genres and approaches in the medium. I still don’t consider myself a comic book artist or even an avid reader, but it’d definitely something I’d like to explore.

Did you find yourself changing your approach to drawing a comic rather than single illustrations? How did the idea for the minimalist color palette come about?

I think you can definitely see the change in approach when you compare my regular art with the comic. I was pretty pressed for time, so I would have coloured it with flats in a limited palette if I’d had more time. I still intend to do so when I get some time, so I can re-release it anywhere else. I’d probably add in illustrations on the side, similar to to the work of William Stout, which inspired me greatly as a kid.

On your tumblr, have a run of insect girls, or people with insect parts. What about insects appeals to you? Is it there bodies mostly or also behaviours?

I really like insects for a whole host of reasons. Their anatomy is so different from ours, more similar overall to the things we make than the way we see ourselves as humans. Despite drawing sexy bug ladies, I’m more interested in conforming the layers and segments of insects to conform to a more familiar silhouette.

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Also a series brightly colored goo-girls.  What attracted you to draw them, the malleability of them or some other aspect?

I like goo girls and shape shifting in general. I’d like to play around with the idea of being able to fluidly present your own body based on subconscious thought. Having a form decided by the subconscious, without being predisposed by genetic or environmental (physical) pressures.

You also mentioned you went through a phase of drawing yourself, what broke this series of drawings, or was it just a desire to move onto something else?

I think I started drawing who I wanted to be just after starting my transition. A lot of folks recommended that to work towards feeling comfortable with my body or thinking about clothing styles. I tried being pretty realistic with how I expected to look, and that shape formed the basis for a lot of my exploration of erotic art.It all started with a fairly simple and cartoony bodies but adapted to become softer and more varied as I experienced changes in my own body. I also get bored of things pretty easy and dislike seeing repetition in themes or processes in my art. I never really had much of a signature style and I’m always much more interested in trying new things than sticking to old ways. It feels like the best way to learn is to shake things up and tackle new directions in art, but that’s just me!

Interview: A mini interview with Andrew Fulton of the Minicomics of the month club

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For over three years comics artist Andrew Fulton has been sharing Australia and New Zealand comics talent with the rest of the world through the medium of mincomics. Returning once again for 2015. As well as running the club since 2012, Fulton was originally and continues to be a regular contributor to the project. I emailed him to talk about small comics and the Australian comics scene.

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Marfedblog: How did you get involved with the making of comics and then onto running the Minicomic of the most club?

Andrew Fulton: I’ve always loved drawing, I had a brief period where I tried my hand at animation but comics seemed to fit me much better. There’s this special sort of magic that happens, it’s not just ink on paper. I think it was in maybe 2009 that Pat Grant organised the first minicomic of the month club and asked me to make a comic for it. Before that I had put some things on the internet and been in a few anthologies, but hadn’t actually put together a real life minicomic myself. I had no idea what I was doing, but it was great fun. After a couple of years I decided it was to cool a thing not to keep happening so asked Pat if he minded whether I pick it up again, and here we are.

MB: It’s quite ambitious running even a small subscription service with this many creators involved. Has the number of subscriptions increased with each years club and if so, what do you account to making this possible?

AF: Yeah, the number of subscriptions goes up a little each year, I’d love for it to keep going up, but because it’s focused on these mostly hand-made minicomics and ‘zines there’s a limit to how many stamps you can make a person lick each month. It kind of builds it’s own momentum I guess, and each new lot of artists bring their own readers along. It’s pretty much decentralised too, each artist is responsible for their own printing and distribution. Sometime I help, but mostly they all know what they’re doing.

MB: Were you ever surprised that there was such a large market for something like the minicomics of the month club?

AF: Not really surprised, no – while I’m always delighted with the response, there’s no reason everybody can’t be reading these comics, they’re pretty great. The hard bit as always is getting people’s attention.

MB: You’ve mentioned in the past the difficulties in promotion, do you still find this is the case? Do you feel like small press comics are still difficult to market to a wider audience or the general public? What have you found is the most effective method of getting the word out there about the club?

AF: Yeah, this stuff is super hard. My main “marketing strategy” tends to be Making Dumb Jokes On Twitter and that only gets me so far. The most effective thing is really the network effect of the twelve artists coming together. Comics is a pretty small place, but it’s surprising how often the readerships of any two given cartoonists don’t always overlap. I’ve also tried pretty hard to get this thing out to people that aren’t necessarily “comics people” but might be into small press generally, art, design, storytelling.

In general though I don’t feel like “small press comics” are any harder to market than another thing where your marketing budget is effectively zero. Oh, I promoted some tweets once, that was mostly just throwing money in a hole.

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MB: When people think comics they might not immediately think about Australia, can you give us a little background on the underground scene there in terms of artists and atmosphere? Big question, but how do feel they differ from say English or European comic?

AF: Yeah, boy, big question. In Melbourne in particular there’s a pretty healthy DIY Zine culture, through places like the Sticky Institute, who have a retail space, put on zine fairs and other events. Those guys really hold the room together, at least the room that I tend to be in. Because there are very few publishing opportunities where actual money might be involved everyone tends to be pretty self-organising. I think I said something like this on twitter one time when someone asked about Australian publishers, but we tend to be a nation of anthologisers and printing-bill splitters. I said it much snappier back then though, I wish I could find it. I guess all that could probably be true of most places, though I get the impression that there is a ‘second rung’ in a lot of places that we are still building. Then there are still a bunch of guys that want to go out and draw batman, but I don’t really know that scene as well.

MB:What do you feel the comics being handmade, individual and physical gives to people over say, webcomics and the like?

AF: That’s probably even harder to articulate properly, but there is something super nice about having this object that someone has taken the time to staple and fold (or fold and staple, if you are one of those guys). I like webcomics fine, but they tend to be an endless stream, there’s a completeness to a minicomic that I like, a minicomic is a Comforting Thing.

MB: Any plans for the future of the club and further years?

AF: It pretty much is what it is, would always love more subscribers, to get these great comics out in front of more people, and more of an international reach would be great. We’ve thought about doing a collection at some point, but man, the practicalities of that make me want to go lie down.

You can sign up at the Minicomic of the Month 2015 website.

Interview: Ryan Browne Blast Furnace: Recreational Thief kickstarter

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Ryan Browne comes up with more idea in an hour than most of us will in a lifetime. Don’t believe me? Blast Furnace: Recreational Thief is the unfiltered and unedited product of an offkilter creator working at full tilt. One page an hour, five days a week with zero planning and definitely no script has lead to the unhinged “stream o’ consciousness lunacy” and contender for number one book you can never read in public that Browne is now kickstarting after reaching blasting past it’s initial goal of $15,000 in under three days.

More familiar to most as the mind behind the wildly inventive insanity of God Hates Astronauts, which is just wrapping up a successful ten issue run over at Image, his improvisational dogme cinema style webcomic project MANAGES to somehow be more creative and frenzied. Loosely centred around the wild capers of handlebar mustachioed Ernest Furnace, a recreational thief who as the title implies will steal anything for the fun of it. Often derailed by bonkers flashbacks and tangents and filled with “hideously deformed men who look just like a horse, lil’ Draculas, and electricity shooting handlebar mustaches”. Brownes cast of colourful cast of creatures and animal people return ensuring an visually arresting read.

Along with the first volume of God Hates Astronauts, Browne has also previously kickstarted Blast Furnace three years ago in a black and white edition. This time around the comic has been updated with six more issues of frenetic madcap action and has been glorious coloured for all of the expanded 208 pages. Appropriate for a comic about a thief, the rewards here as equally enticing with. Ranging from $10 for the PDF, $25 for the physical book up the higher tiers which include multiple copies of the book, t-shirts, action figures and signed pictures of Browne’s already comic book famous cat.

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Marfedblog: Crab Headed people! In both comics! What is it with crabs? Should we be worried?

Ryan Browne: Maybe? I think I’m a little worried myself! Crabs are just so fun to draw, but on Blast Furnace, I kind of regret incorporating them. Since I only have one hour to write and draw each page, it makes really hard to draw crabs without going over on time. Way too many legs!

MB: What’s prompted you to carry on Furnace and kickstart a second expanded colour edition?

RB: Everything with God Hates Astronauts was extremely labour intensive. With Blast Furnace, the finish level in the drawings takes a back seat to the immediate storytelling. It’s considerably more relaxing to just make stuff up and not have to worry about how cool it looks. After ten issues of writing, drawing, and designing GHA on a monthly schedule, I returned to Blast Furnace because it is mainly focused on the joy of making comics and telling stories.

MB:As an artists who has ran a fair few successful kickstarters now, does it get any easier or less worrying with each one? Surely being funded in three days must be a confidence booster?

RB: It’s extremely scary. You never know if something is going to hit with your fans and what your expectations should be. With Kickstarters, there is soooo much that can go wrong in the process that it will never be a relaxing experience–but so far it’s be extremely rewarding and flattering. I love being able to connect directly through my fans and that’s something you just don’t get through a big publisher.

MB: Was there a point in the creation of Furnace that your self imposed strict rules started to grate on you at all? Are there any parts of Furnace you enjoyed drawing the most?

RB: No, the rules make it liberating and stress free. The one thing that bogs me down is the length of it. 262 story pages is intimidating as hell! I really like drawing Blast Furnace as a character. Flaming ties can be really dynamic and fun!

MB: God Hates Astronauts already feels pretty unfiltered, how does coming up with ideas,  the writing and drawing process differ between the two?

RB: Well GHA has a lot of going back and forth and refining the story. Really working hard to make things line up and click into a fun narrative. With BF, the whole attitude is “let’s try this and I’ll figure out how it ties in later.” At first that was scary, but now I have enough faith that I’ll figure it out somehow.

Blast Furnace: Recreational Thief is still available to fund for another month at kickstarter and can be read for free on tumblr.

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Interview: ‘I’d love To See Invention Seeping Into Comics’ – Tom Muller On Designing For Wolf, Material, Zero, Valiant, And Vertigo

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The old adage ‘never judge a book by it’s cover’ really doesn’t work in the world of comics. Up there on the shelves among hundreds of titles vying for our attention, it’s the first port of call and important visual real estate for informing a potential reader and giving them a strong sense of just what the comic is all about. It’s surprising then that the role a designer plays in the overall aesthetic of a comic is quite often overlooked when it comes to talking about and appreciating them.

It’s not just the covers but the insides too, with more companies employing the particular talents of designers to give each of their titles it’s own distinct look and feel, unifying it together. Although it’s not limited to the two companies, Image and Boom! are particularly notable in just how many beautiful or eye catching books have been on comic book shops shelves in the last few years, in no small part to work of designs and design teams such asComicraft on Kurt Busiek and Benjamin Dewey’s Autumnlands, Stephanie Gonzaga’s brilliant work on the Adventure Time Mathematical Editions orFonografiks whose work graces the pages of Saga and They’re Not Like Us and gives those books their unique, elegant and instantly recognisable looks.

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It’s with all this in mind along with Ales Kot and Matt Taylor’s new supernatural Image comic, Wolf debuting last week, that I spoke with the designer behind the title, Tom Muller (via email) to discuss his work on Wolf and Material, working with writer Ales Kot, and his particular approach to graphic design within comics.

Marfedblog: You’ve previously worked with Ales Kot on his series Zero. What is it that drew you back to working with Kot again?

Tom Muller: We never stopped working together ever since we started working on Zero. All the series I’m designing with Ales, The Surface, Material, and now Wolf, gestated long before Zero ended, so we never stopped collaborating. We’ve got a great rapport and friendship and Ales’ series allow me to experiment with the medium, which is one of the reasons why we keep collaborating.

MB: Wolf is set in LA with Kot citing it as a definite influence behind the tone of the comic, did that setting have any impact upon the design work on the comic? If so in what ways?

TM: I think when Ales first started discussing Wolf and the setting, and we were discussing visual cues, ranging from David Lynch, Trent Reznor, psychedelia, Witch house, and the neon underbelly of L.A., and obviously the description of the central characters. The idea came to me of designing the logo as something that looked like it was painted on a wall, like a tag. It felt that fits the character and the story well.

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MB: What prompted the idea behind the fantastic internal design with the graffiti, spread over the front and back inside covers?

TM: Since the first issue was double sized with 58 pages of story cover to cover, I felt it’d be an appropriate way to launch a series by going unapologetically cinematic and big with the opening and the inside covers.

MB: How does working on the design of Material differ from your approach on Zero? Which have you enjoyed working on the most, or are most proud of?

TM: The main difference between Zero and Material is that I’m the sole cover artist/designer on Material, instead of collaborating with an artist and remixing their art on the covers for Zero.

From the start we wanted the covers for Material to look much more like magazine covers, something you could envision sitting on a shelf between Wired, 032C, Businessweek, Makeshift and Riposten. We drew inspiration from 80s art publications like ZG. The intent with Material is much more adult and refined, in that we want to reach an audience beyond the traditional comic landscape.

I think it’s too early to say which series gives me the most pride or enjoyment – both are very different in approach – but for what it’s worth, I’m very happy we ended up doingZero the way we did, going against the grain and showing you can push design further than what you usually see in comics.

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MB: Does Ales have much input on work you’re producing for Material or is it left up to you? What about the new series Wolf?

TM: Of course. Ales will always brief me on what the covers should reflect. Sometimes we discuss this at length, or he’ll email me a one sentence description or a single keyword, which I then interpret.

With Wolf my involvement has been quite minimal compared to Zero and Material, because we’re running no ads or editorial/design content; and Matt Taylor’s covers are already so iconic I feel I don’t need to add more than what’s needed. And issues three and four Matt has started to incorporate the logo into his art, taking some work off my shoulders so all I need to do is add the rest of the cover elements like credits and indicia. Generally speaking, with all the books I’m designing for Ales I’m left pretty much to my own devices, but of course Ales will always have input to make sure we’re all working towards the same goal.

MB: How do you think the role of designer is seen in the comics industry in general, do you think it’s an area that is overlooked?

TM: As a designer I’m often equally interested in discovering who designed a particular logo (or series) as who the artist, writer, colorist and letterer are. More often than not designers aren’t credited on series, even if they make a significant contribution which is very different from the rest of the publishing and design industry where designers and design agencies are usually credited, and often it even boosts the visibility and selling power if a client or brand can boast they collaborated with a certain designer or studio; and I’d love to see that happen more in comics. When a new high profile series (re)launches with a brand new logo I think it’s fair to give a nod to the designer of that logo or series and to be fair, I do see this happen more and more, especially within creator-owned comics, and smaller independent publishers.

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TM: The Material #1 cover had originally the very recognisable “Seasons Greetings” photo that became a symbol of the Ferguson riots. We had chosen that photo because it’s obviously a very powerful image, and it reflects one of the storylines in the series. But in this case that photo wasn’t in the public domain (i.e. free to use), so we decided to alter the cover in such a way that we kept the energy of that image, without actually explicitly using it.

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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