By Superherologist - October 14, 2009
After Walter Williams, creator of danger-prone clay hero Mr. Bill, became a full-time staff writer for Saturday Night Live, he said writers would arm wrestle to see whose skits would air. Instead of making online cartoonists arm wrestle, each month DC Comics’s Zuda line of online comics pits the creators of 10 different 8-page webcomics against each other in order for one comic’s creator(s) to win a contract to continue that story. The formula by which Zuda calculates ranking is based on direct votes, 5-star ratings, and getting “favorited.”
Writer Gabe White and his artist Matt previously won one month’s competition with their comic Gulch. As Gulch approaches its home stretch, Gabe has a new Zuda entry, the fantasy genre piece Pluck, this time with Matt doing the lettering and John Amor joining them to create the art.
This past weekend we asked John and Gabe about the competition, their creative process, and things yet to come.
Llama: You’ve won one Zuda competition, Gabe. So far you’re on track to win another. Zuda’s competition-based model for selecting webcomics seems to be working for you. Are there any changes you’d like to see Zuda make?
Gabe: I’m happy with the competition as is. That said, I’m hopeful that as Zuda continues to grow the impact of outside marketing on the competition will continue to decrease. Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with marketing, but I hate to see really great comics stuck in 9th or 10th simply because the creator doesn’t have the time or inclination to market heavily.
Llama: Having gone through the competition before, what are you doing differently this time?
Gabe: Not much different so far. A little less panic, perhaps.
Llama: Collaboration can be tricky. How does the creative process work for you guys?
Gabe: I send John the scripts and he sends back beautiful art.
John: Madlibs. No, Gabe tends to write his scripts fairly tight, sometimes even indicating panel shapes on certain pages — this is a big help, considering Zuda’s landscape format can get a bit tricky at times. I then do rough thumbnails and mull them over with Gabe via email, with a revision here and there. And then – but ONLY IF if I really really really feel like it – I’ll watch an entire season of House or Entourage, just to worry Gabe a bit. Then I’ll pencil and ink each page and send the scans off to Gabe for lettering.
Gabe: Really, he’s been amazing, and very easy to work with.
Llama. How did you guys wind up working together in the first place?
John: Like many artists, I was pimping over at Digital Webbing and showcasing some more work on my personal site (www.johnamorartist.com – plug plug), and I guess being a loudmouth on the internet paid off. Gabe sent me an email with the project pitch, and things just went forward from there.
Llama: Well then, have you guys met face to face?
John: Haha…no, we have not. The magic and wonder of the interwebz. Pluck was like starting a family without the joy of childbirth.
Llama: Why are you doing fantasy this time?
Gabe: I’ve always loved fantasy. I grew up on it. I guess I just wanted to dip my toe in, create my own world and monsters and myths — while at the same time keeping the whole thing very personal and character based.
Llama: Fantasy tends to be colorful. Why are you doing Pluck in black and white? Is it for artistic reasons or practical ones (like saving time)?
Gabe: I think any genre can be done in black and white, including fantasy. There’s a particular crispness to John’s art that works well in b&w, I think, especially in the outdoor scenes. The trees and landscape on page 6, for example.
Llama: In Gabe’s previous comic, Gulch, the art changes over the course of the story, particularly in your use of color. Much of that appears to be intentional storytelling technique. Have unplanned changes crept into the art or story along the way?
Gabe: There are definite color motifs related to Clarabelle’s state of mind. As far as unplanned changes? There’s a few departures from the original script, but nothing major, and the season still ends in the same place. It’s wrapping up soon, by the way. And I gotta say, the final few pages are stunning, some of Matt’s best work.
Llama: If Pluck wins, what will we see on page 9?
Gabe: I don’t want to go into too much detail at this point, but we’ll certainly be meeting the king.
Llama. What fantasy stories are most important to you – i.e., those that influenced your work and/or those you most enjoy?
John: Honestly, I’m not a big reader. Well, not of novels anyway, I’m very juvenile. But I played a lot of Magic: The Gathering when I was in high school, and I really enjoyed the art on books like Battle Chasers and Tellos. I don’t know if that carries over in my art or anything, but there’s definitely a subconscious desire to bring that level of originality to the work.
Llama. What part of this story are you most looking forward to?
Gabe: I’m looking forward to continuing to develop the characters.
John: The creatures. I’m a big concept and creature design buff, so the potential for creating monsters and races was a big draw for me when this project was still coming together.
Gabe: The monsters and adventure are fun, sure, but it all comes down to Pluck and Dreda for me.
John: Pluck himself is also very fun to illustrate though, because I actually really enjoy playing with expressions and such, so this comic’s rich comedic flavor certainly lends itself to that sort of experimentation.
Llama: And what are you most looking forward to (in any area of anything whatsoever) that has nothing to do with this comic?
John: Off the top of my head? Cameron’s Avatar, working with my girlfriend on possibly another Zuda entry, Christmas, the collected editions of DC’s Wednesday Comics, Jeeves and Wooster DVDs from a cousin, the third Evangelion Rebuild movie, Crossed #8, New Avengers #58, dinner…
Gabe: I hope to get back to work on one of my (many unfinished) novels very soon, hopefully after this month.
John: … and whatever Ellen Page is doing next.