Talking Comics with Tim: GTAS’ Frankel & Britt
So with the Super Bowl settled some sports fans have moved on to other sports, such as following their favorite NBA team again. Or maybe they want to laugh about their least favorite basketball team. (Honestly, as an Atlanta native, I can say with great authority that for many years with the Hawks, all you could do is laugh . . . or cry). Why am I talking about sports at a comics blog? Well, this interview happens to focus upon the creators of the Garbage Time All-Stars (GTAS) webcomic: Josh Frankel and Mark Haven Britt. As noted here: “Josh and Mark are the cartoonists responsible for the weekly NBA satire of Garbage Time All-Stars. Their comics first appear every week at the Yahoo! Sports Ball Don’t Lie blog, and are then archived here.” This week’s strip (posted on Wednesday morning) aims to welcome NFL fans back with a summary of the NBA season so far. Thanks to this interview, I now want to ask Tom Spurgeon if he thinks the 1979 addition of the three-pointer revitalized or ruined the game.
Tim O’Shea: How did the strip first come about?
Mark Haven Britt: Josh brought it up. He’s a huge NBA nerd. Even bigger than me. He knows the blogs, the sites and the community of NBA fandom. No one was really doing comics about the NBA and that he was sure that there was an audience for it. I thought it sounded like such fun. Josh is hilarious. I had to be a part of it so I weaseled my way into drawing it.
Josh Frankel: It’s true, I am an NBA nerd. I play fantasy basketball which requires total information gathering — stats, injury reports, local dispatches about coach moods — and it leads to long NBA rants in emails to friends. If I’m already doing all of that work I might as well try to get a comic out of it. Of my comics friends Mark is the guy I’ve always talked hoops with. It all fell into place.
Britt: We posted the strip at our site Garbagetimeallstars.com as Josh networked with other bloggers to get the word out. After about a month Yahoo approached us about joining their team then poof! 15 million page views. Craziness.
O’Shea: How do the two of you typically collaborate on a strip?
Britt: We do a ton of *ahem* “research”.
Frankel: It’s a pretty helter-skelter process. We start batting around idea nuggets a few days before the strip is due. I try to figure out what the biggest NBA story of the week is, and if there’s anything funny to say about it. I’ll write a script and then incorporate comments from Mark. He draws it and incorporates comments from me.
O’Shea: Do you ever hold back on the comedy for fear of upsetting the NBA?
Britt: We’re never really afraid of upsetting the NBA because we always create from the perspective of fans. We LOVE the NBA. We never do a strip that’s vicious.
Frankel: No. We’re sometimes critical but we’re not cheap or mean about it. We can’t worry much about people getting upset over legit criticism and fun-poking.
O’Shea: What’s been your respective favorite fan or player reaction to the strip?
Britt: We get a lot of really kind emails just telling us they dig what we’re doing. Those are just awesome. I don’t really have a favorite. Someone would have to do something crazy to be my favorite. No one has yet. I hope we can bring in that key Lunatic demographic some day.
Frankel: The response from fans and other bloggers has been tremendous. One cool thing was when Portland Trailblazer Channing Frye included us on his blog.
Britt: Oh yeah! That was so rad. That gave me hope that some day we’ll score tickets through GTAS. If this gig leads to free tickets to an NBA game, it will be the pinnacle of my artistic career.
O’Shea: Give folks a glimpse of your respective histories as NBA fans, if you would.
Frankel: I’m a Kings fan. I grew up in Sacramento and the team moved there when I was in grade school. A lot of bad years and then those Divac/Webber glory/grief years. I’ve played fantasy basketball for about 5 years now and that’s what really turned me into an obsessive fan of the league, since I have to know about the Rockets backup point guard or who’s useful on the Clippers. And cheer for them if they’re on my fake team. So I root for the Kings and follow them with special interest, but at this point I’m more of a fan of various players throughout the league.
Britt: I’m a long-time Celtics fan. I grew up watching Larry Bird and company. I love Paul Pierce, he’s my man. They’ve been a fun team for awhile but hardly a contender. (I even have a soft spot for ole Antoine Walker.) Then KG came to town and clearly, it’s been a blast to be a Celtics fan.
I never realized how strong of a connection there was between comics and sports until I worked at Image a couple of years ago. There are Warriors and Blazers fans at Image. I know that Tom Spurgeon is a NBA fan. We heard from someone at Dark Horse after a strip about the Trailblazers. It’s not something that comes up a lot. I think everyone assumes if you like comics don’t like sports. It’s totally not true.
O’Shea: Soon after the Super Bowl, you will be doing a strip that summarizes the NBA Season so far for fans who usually don’t start watching basketball until after the NFL season is over.
Britt: Yeah, I think that I came up with this one. Before the strip, I started watching the NBA when the NFL was done. I think a lot of fans do this so I thought it’d be funny to a summary strip.
O’Shea: Do you watch NBA TV–or what are your news sources for strip comedy inspiration
Frankel: I watch a lot of Warriors games since I live in their backyard, and try to watch the nationally-televised games. When I can’t watch a game I’m on the internet where this brilliant, creative NBA blog community has blossomed. My RSS reader gorges on these things, but my “can’t miss” list includes: Yahoo! Ball Don’t Lie (of course), ESPN’s True Hoop, Slam Magazine Online, The Basketball Jones Podcast, Hardwood Paroxysm, Basketbawful, Sactown Royalty, Fear the Beard, Free Darko …
Britt: I don’t see as many games as I’d like but I read a lot. Bill Simmons on ESPN is a big inspiration. He talks about sports intelligently but it also hilarious. The Basketball Jones was huge inspiration for Josh and me. The Jones is a daily podcast that just kills. Skeets, Tas and JD just kill day in and day out. I don’t know how they do it, frankly. My RSS reader is essentially identical to Josh’s.
O’Shea: What strip has gotten the largest response so far, and did the response surprise you or were you expecting it?
Britt: Lebron as Serpentor got the most traffic. Although, y’know, Lebron biggest basketball star on earth right now.
O’Shea: Over time of doing the strip, do you think you’ve gotten a better understanding of the typical NBA fan’s sense of humor?
Britt: I may not know what the typical NBA fan finds funny but I do think I know what’s popular and what gets people’s blood boiling. And those things are Kobe and Lebron.
Frankel: Yeah, not really. I’ve done other humor comics and I’ve learned that if you have 10 gag strips and you show them to 10 different people and ask, “Which is your favorite?” you’ll get 5 to 8 different answers. You just have to do what you think is funny and hopefully enough readers will pick up what you’re layin’ down.
Britt: I think Josh is being modest. He has a good sense for what people are digging. At the beginning of us working together, there were a few times that I thought the script he wrote was too obscure. He would stick to his guns and once we posted, people totally got all the little gags. It’s been a long while since one of our jokes have really clanked off the front of the rim. Josh’s game is getting tighter. I think I need to stop speaking in sports metaphors now…
O’Shea: Would you ever consider doing a baseball or hockey strip–or does your love of sports, storytelling and comedy end with the NBA?
Frankel: These days I love watching basketball and writing about basketball. I don’t want to make myself become a fan of something else just to do more comics.
Britt: I would love to. I want Garbage Time All Stars to be year round. However, Josh is an NBA monogamist. His love is true.