Robot 6

Zudist Colony: Talking to November’s Zuda contestants

Zuda

Every month since late 2007, Zuda Comics hosts a competition between webcomics, with the winner becoming a regular strip on the site. In Zudist Colony, I interview the contestants via email, asking each of them the same five questions, which hopefully gives you a little more insight into the strips and the creators themselves.

So here we go …

*****

In Maps & Legends

In Maps & Legends

Niki Smith and Michael Jasper, In Maps & Legends

JK: Please introduce yourself … who are you, where are you from and have you done any other comics work? What do you do when you aren’t making comics?

Niki: My name is Niki Smith, and I’m the artist for In Maps & Legends. I’m a freelance artist right now, just graduated last spring. I’ve had comics published in anthologies both in the US/UK and in Germany, and am currently working on developing some graphic novels of my own. One is out with editors and the other is still in script form, waiting to hear back from my agent. I also just had a coloring book published with Faber Castell.

Mike: And I’m Michael Jasper, the writer for the comic. I’ve published a couple novels and a pile of short stories in places like Asimov’s, Strange Horizons, Writers of the Future and Paper Cities. This is my first comic script, and Niki handled my non-standard scriptwriting skills quite nicely. I’m finishing up a historical baseball novel set during World War I and plotting out a series of young-adult novels, the first of which is currently out on submission to various editors (this series would make a GREAT comic, too, I think). For the day job, I’m a technical writer for a software company.

JK: What’s your strip about?

Niki: An artist who finds her map-making skills in surprisingly high demand… :)

Mike: What she said.

JK: Why did you decide to enter your comic into the Zuda competition, rather than trying to publish it somewhere else or setting up your own site for it?

Niki: Zuda has a great sense of community that can be hard to build when webcomics are otherwise scattered across individual websites. The support behind the imprint is something I’ve admired since the launch.

Mike: I also liked the democratic feel of the site, with readers choosing the comic that gets to continue on. While the competition is a bit stress-inducing right now, it’s been fun getting in touch with readers and following the reader feedback in the comments section.

JK: If you don’t end up winning, do you plan to continue doing the strip?

Niki: We have a few places we plan on looking into, but if things don’t work out, we both have other projects that we can happily move on to. In Maps & Legends was originally one of Mike’s trunked novels and now it’s a full color comic! So you never know when there’s the potential for a drastic rebirth.

Mike: Agreed. I’m really itching to show people where we take Kait and her crew next, so the sooner the better!

JK: If you weren’t in this month’s competition, who do you think you’d vote for?

Niki: That’s tough. I’m an art girl at heart, so that definitely sways me. I love the line work in Brother of the Bronze Hammer and the painterly quality of the art in Little Earth People … I’d probably go with Bronze Hammer in the end.

Mike: I’m actually surprised Little Earth People isn’t higher in the ratings, because the story’s pretty original and unique, and the art knocked me out. And I do have a lot of love for Slam McCracken‘s hard-boiled style.

*****

Peabody & D'Gorath

Peabody & D'Gorath

Mark Penman, Peabody & D’Gorath

JK: Please introduce yourself … who are you, where are you from and have you done any other comics work? What do you do when you aren’t making comics?

Mark: Hi my name is Mark Penman, I’m a freelance illustrator and comic artist based in Manchester, England.
I’ve done bits and pieces of comic work, some self published stuff as well as some anthology stuff such as Pulpo done by the fine folks at entervoid.com.

When I’m not making comics, I like to go out and solve mysteries.

JK: What’s your strip about?

Mark: My strip is about two antique hunters, Remington Peabody ( a reanimated skeleton) and Clancy D’Gorath (deamon bound by obligation to the British monarchy). They go around trying to proclaim esoteric artifacts to determine whether they are a threat to the nation or if they can be used as weapons.

JK: Why did you decide to enter your comic into the Zuda competition, rather than trying to publish it somewhere else or setting up your own site for it?

Mark: It’s 8/10ths liking and respecting what Zuda do ( I like that there’s a nice mixed bag of comics and lots of fresh ideas they’re willing to have on board) and 2/10ths being pretty computer illiterate so doubtless any webcomic site I did make would be atrocious.

JK: If you don’t end up winning, do you plan to continue doing the strip?

Mark: I’ve been asked this by a few people and to be honest, I’m not totally sure. I have other ideas for comics that I’d like to try out, but I can’t see me abandoning the characters, I always grow attached to the comics I create so Peabody & D’Gorath would still be kicking around in some form.

JK: If you weren’t in this month’s competition, who do you think you’d vote for?

Mark: Hmm, probably In Maps and Legends. The arts solid and the story seems like it could go places

*****

Children of the Sewer

Children of the Sewer

Benito Gallego, Children of the Sewer

JK: Please introduce yourself … who are you, where are you from and have you done any other comics work? What do you do when you aren’t making comics?

Benito: My name is Benito Gallego. I was born and live in Spain. Among other things I have been a long time collaborator artist for Sword, a Spanish fanzine turned into pro-magazine that includes articles, comics and pin-ups based upon Conan, the Hyborean age, and REH’s characters and concepts. I have made pencils, inks and a cover illustration for Anthem and Captain Thunder & Blue Bolt, both series created by writer Roy Thomas and published by Heroic Publishing. I have also made a collaboration with new independant publisher A First Salvo and have contributed with a story (pencils and colors) to be published in Danger’s Dozen #6. I have also made a collaboration with writer Brian Azzarello in order to produce the cover and a eight-page comic (pencils+inks+color) called “The Cowl” to serve as promotion for best-seller author Joseph Finder’s new book: Vanished.

And when I don’t do comics I’m a graphic designer at an advertisement company.

JK: What’s your strip about?

Benito: Children of the Sewer is an epic odyssey through the mind of a serial killer in search of the light. Paradoxically, the way he will achieve this is by entering the dark closed sewers of the city and meeting an unknown race of human beings who are born, live, love, kill and die in the sewer. Among those weird people Edmond Ratt will find his place in a human society but truly not without finding his way awash with blood.

JK: Why did you decide to enter your comic into the Zuda competition, rather than trying to publish it somewhere else or setting up your own site for it?

Benito: Mainly because Zuda is exposed to many people and I wanted to test the reaction and know what people think about my comic.

JK: If you don’t end up winning, do you plan to continue doing the strip?

Benito: I have already written more than 50 pages of the strip, and I would love to continue developing it.

JK: If you weren’t in this month’s competition, who do you think you’d vote for?

Benito: Probably Little Earth People is the story that I like the most next to mine.

*****

Slam McCracken

Slam McCracken

Greg Woronchak, Slam McCracken

JK: Please introduce yourself … who are you, where are you from and have you done any other comics work? What do you do when you aren’t making comics?

Greg: I’m Greg Woronchak from a small ‘burb in Quebec, Canada. I started off in traditional animation (I’ve worked on Sagwa The Chinese Siamese Cat for PBS, and Tripping the Rift for SyFy, amoung others), eventually deciding to focus on freelance storyboarding. Animation work in town abruptly dried up, so I’m currently a freelance illustrator (www.comicspace.com/gwor) and independent comic artist (I’ve done work for Argo Comics, Modern Myth Press and 11 issues of Negafighters). I have a drawer filled with scraps of paper, sketches of ideas that just pop into my head; I finally decided recently to develop some of the stronger ones into webcomics (I’m a big fan of the format) and submitted Slam to Zuda. When not at my drawing board, I try to keep my two daughters amused and help out my lovely wife around the house.

JK: What’s your strip about?

Greg: Slam is a hard boiled detective, literally . He’s an egg who takes cases in a film noir inspired city, populated by common household items (his client in my Zuda submission is a toothbrush searching for her missing tube of paste husband). This weird idea came to me years ago when I doodled a quick cartoon of a detective egg standing over a chalk outlined popsicle stick on the ground (I was into The Far Side back then ). I figured the idea of a noir private eye could be a lot of fun, with potential for cute sight gags; I decided to use heavy cross-hatching to replace color, which creates a visually interesting look and mood. My goal was to create something quirky that all-ages could enjoy.

JK: Why did you decide to enter your comic into the Zuda competition, rather than trying to publish it somewhere else or setting up your own site for it?

Greg: I would’ve needed al ot of help setting up my own site; I’m alot more comfortable with the creative side than technical or promotion. I felt that if Zuda would choose my strip to compete, it would provide nice exposure for my work, and I could network with folk who might like my particular style. As I’ve already said, I think the webcomic format has alot of potential for creativity and unique ideas, and Zuda is an extremely high-profile place to showcase one’s work. I’m quite proud to have been chosen to compete this month.

JK: If you don’t end up winning, do you plan to continue doing the strip?

Greg: I have a long story plotted out, so I’d love to continue it. The response has been great so far, and I think I could develop a fan base that may support a self-published version.

JK: If you weren’t in this month’s competition, who do you think you’d vote for?

Greg: I find Brother of Bronze Hammer visually electrifying. The artwork compliments the story well, and I enjoy the overall look.

*****

Model Student

Model Student

Joe Bowen, Model Student

JK: Please introduce yourself … who are you, where are you from and have you done any other comics work? What do you do when you aren’t making comics?

Joe: My name is Joe Bowen, and I’m currently a third year student at the Joe Kubert School of Cartooning and Graphic Art in beautiful Dover, New Jersey. I totally love comics, and when I’m not drawing them, I’m reading them or reading about them or listening to podcasts about them or trying to get my girlfriend to listen to me talk about them. I also watch a lot of TV. If there’s a show about teenagers, I’m probably into it. And finally, I like watching funny videos of pugs on YouTube.

JK: What’s your strip about?

Joe: Model Student is about Kevin Burke, a tough-as-nails high school student at the prestigious Vendrell Academy, who is recruited by the headmaster to infiltrate the school’s seedy underbelly. I tell people that Model Student is The OC meets The Shield. Essentially, Kevin is living the high school life I always wanted to live, with tons of drama and fighting.

JK: Why did you decide to enter your comic into the Zuda competition, rather than trying to publish it somewhere else or setting up your own site for it?

Joe: I entered Model Student in the Zuda competition because I think the concept works well serialized in single pages. The high school drama combined with the undercover student aspect provides a lot of room for regular twists and surprises.

JK: If you don’t end up winning, do you plan to continue doing the strip?

Joe: If Model Student doesn’t make it through Zuda alive, I’ll most likely adjust the format and submit it elsewhere, perhaps as a graphic novel. I have too many ideas for Kevin Burke to let them all go to waste.

JK: If you weren’t in this month’s competition, who do you think you’d vote for?

Joe: The entry I keep going back to is Brother of Bronze Hammer. That artwork is just damn sexy.

*****

Molly and the Amazing Door Tree

Molly and the Amazing Door Tree

Mark Murphy, Molly and the Amazing Door Tree

JK: Please introduce yourself … who are you, where are you from and have you done any other comics work? What do you do when you aren’t making comics?

Mark: I am a Dallas, Texas-based graphic designer. Over the last 15 years i have done comic book work for Caliber Press, NBM (the house of java series) and Slave Labor Graphics (last year’s Tiki Joe Mysteries). When I’m not drawing comics I’m maintaining a full-time job as a in-house graphic designer for a medical company as well has spending time with my family. There’s a lot of reading and guitar playing going on when i can fit it in as well.

JK: What’s your strip about?

Mark: Molly and the Amazing Door Tree is about a seven year-old girl that finds a magical door into another world. Molly quickly finds that her destiny and the destiny of this magical realm are interwoven. Before she realizes it, Molly is embroiled in a quest to both save world of the door tree and make her way back home. This story is a departure for me stylistically. My previous work has dealt more with adult oriented issues such as coming-of-age stories and crime fiction. With Molly I made a deliberate effort to create a kids story that my two daughters would relate to.

JK: Why did you decide to enter your comic into the Zuda competition, rather than trying to publish it somewhere else or setting up your own site for it?

Mark: I’ve been wanting to enter a story into Zuda ever since the competitions started. After working for years on Tiki Joe, the challenge of presenting a story within Zuda’s 8 page format really appealed to me. I also new that Molly had to be in color and the best chance of making that happen was to take it on line. From the get-go, Molly was planned as a Zuda entry.

JK: If you don’t end up winning, do you plan to continue doing the strip?

Mark: Not sure yet, but i would like to. It depends on the level of interest (from the voters as well as my own kids) and the time constraints i have to work with.

JK: If you weren’t in this month’s competition, who do you think you’d vote for?

Mark: There is so much good art competing this month. I think my vote would have to go for either Children of The Sewer or Little Earth People.

*****

Big Ups

Big Ups

Christina Boyce and Justin King, Big Ups: A Space Adventure

JK: Please introduce yourself … who are you, where are you from and have you done any other comics work? What do you do when you aren’t making comics?

Christina: Hello, my name is Christina Boyce. Right now I live in Southern California, where I have been most of my life. I’m a media arts/animation student at the Art Institute of California, but I originally started school in Arizona. My list of comics isn’t terribly big, mostly short ones that can be found here and there online. I do have a short one printed in an anthology, and hoping to have another one in the second installment! I would like to finish something a little bigger, and perhaps have my own little book printed in the near future, and perhaps a webcomic of my own.

Justin: I self-published a comic in 2008 called Physicist Roundtable. I also had my first real pro job earlier this year when I made a comic for a software company. They seem to have dropped off the face of the earth after they paid me, though, so I think I caused them to go bankrupt.

When I am not making comics, I am trying to publish other peoples comics. I started a small web and print publishing company called DAPshow, for which I have published one anthology (The Eternal Sad, which had comics from 30 artists around the world, including me and Christina), and I’m currently putting together the second volume of it which should be published in early 2010 along with a few other comics.

JK: What’s your strip about?

Christina: The strip focuses on the continuing adventures of an alien explorer, and his companion/sidekick. Upsie, the main character, is an official explorer in the name of his home planet. His job is to find new things in space, and report back with his findings. He is very proud of his job, but he is rather new at it. Along the way he runs into another alien, a Nematoid named Neemu. They become pals, and Neemu joins Upsie on his travels. There may be some reoccurring things throughout, but for the most part it is a more episodic sort of thing. Different stories for different adventures they go on.

JK: Why did you decide to enter your comic into the Zuda competition, rather than trying to publish it somewhere else or setting up your own site for it?

Christina: I personally know some dudes who have entered the competition, and have either done well, or have won. I thought it would be a cool thing to try, and I wanted to see if I could produce something that would get in. I’m pretty happy that I got in, as I was doubting myself for while.

Justin: I have thought about entering the Zuda competition a lot, but always had a hard time thinking of a story that would work in only eight pages and show the potential that it could go on for a lot more. So, when Christina approached me about coloring her comic, I thought it would be a great opportunity to be a part of Zuda and get some much needed experience in it’s format. It has turned out to be all of that and more.

JK: If you don’t end up winning, do you plan to continue doing the strip?

Christina: I think I may, actually! I’ve grown attached to my silly aliens, I have to say. I already have some adventures for them sitting around in my head.

Justin: If Christina ever wanted to continue working on it, I would be down for coloring it if she wanted.

JK: If you weren’t in this month’s competition, who do you think you’d vote for?

Christina: Prolly Peabody & D’Gorath. Mark is a cool guy, and I’ve talked to him a couple times prior to the competition. I was actually pretty intimidated when I heard that he was gonna be competing against me, and I was right- his comic is pretty great!

Justin: I would vote for Mark’s Peabody & D’Gorath. I might be a little biased because he is my friend and the cover artist of an anthology I am publishing soon, but his comic is very entertaining and has a lot of potential. I also really enjoy its atmosphere.

*****

Little Earth People character concepts

Little Earth People character concepts

Joe Pekar and Chris Lewis, Little Earth People

JK: Please introduce yourself … who are you, where are you from and have you done any other comics work? What do you do when you aren’t making comics?

Joe: I’m Joe Pekar, from Orlando, Florida. I’ve done a few covers here and there, a couple Grimm Fairy Tales for Zenescope and some for BOOM! Studios Hexed. I also have my own book ‘Brandi Bare’ that may be coming out in some form one of these days (there are some preview pages of that book on my website: www.joepekar.com :) ). When I’m not making comics I’m usually drawing other stuff or dealing with my kids, trying to figure out who started the fighting or who broke what. you know, usual parenting stuff ;)

Chris: I’m Chris Lewis, an Oregonian in Germany (the title of my next work?) working as a translator in an advertising agency. Little Earth People is actually the first story I ever wrote, but I’m hoping to get my next projects to the masses soon. Other interests include baby-raising, book-reading, wife-loving, and love, um…spreading.

JK: What’s your strip about?

Joe: Well Chris will probably answer that better than me, in fact he’s the writer, so he should do it anyway ;). To me, it was the story of trying to draw a boy that always needed to be looking at a tv screen on his wrist, and the trials and tribulations of laying out panels that way. but that’s probably not what you were asking about…

Chris: It’s about people watching people and the effects that this has on watcher and watched alike. For research I was watching as much reality TV as I could stomach and just wondering what could possibly possess these people (or their parents in the case of certain 16 year old birthday divas) to subject themselves to such public embarrassment. Then I got to wondering what effect it had on me, while at the same time asking myself if I really wanted to be a writer, reading a lot of Philip K. Dick and Oliver Sacks, and realizing my passion for meerkats.

JK: Why did you decide to enter your comic into the Zuda competition, rather than trying to publish it somewhere else or setting up your own site for it?

Joe: Actually, I saw a posting on a web forum about someone looking for an artist for a Zuda submission. At the time I was really looking for something to work on that was different than my usual drawing work … pinup girls and stuff like that :).  So I just decided to give it a shot. I sent Chris an email with some of my Brandi Bare pages, showing some sequential stuff. He seemed to like it enough and we were off. After hearing about his story, it seemed the total opposite end of the spectrum of what I usually draw so that got me hooked.

Chris: Because it’s Zuda, man (insert a$$ kissing noises here)! Actually, I had a couple years between finishing Little Earth People and doing anything with it, and after completing two more stories, I realized that nothing is going to happen unless I get some great artists to draw these things. Apparently, dusty scripts in drawers don’t attract big publishers…who knew? I thought online might be the way to go for a first attempt like this, and Zuda just seemed to be the place to be. There’s an active community, intriguing talents, and a big pile of money for the winner. Zuda is my “‘enry ‘iggins, the somewhat-stern-taskmaster-but-he-really-likes-her-anyway-kind-of-thing guy,” who has taught me how to write better.

JK: If you don’t end up winning, do you plan to continue doing the strip?

Joe: Probably not. I mean it was fun to do, but it was a lot of work to get the pages done. I just wouldn’t have the time to do it for fun.

Chris: Joe said it. I was going to ask him to finish the entire 4 issue story for fun (ie. free), but that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen. Like I said, the story is all there and ready to go, but I’ll have to think about what to do with it if my dramatic “please vote so we can all see Joe draw more of Marsha’s fabulous ‘rackatoni’ (user comment)” prayer isn’t heard in time.

JK: If you weren’t in this month’s competition, who do you think you’d vote for?

Joe: Wait, we’re allowed to vote for ourselves?! Actually, I really enjoyed the art style on Brother of the Bronze Hammer the most this month. so if i had to vote for someone else, it would be that one.

Chris: Joe stole my joke with this one. But I’m torn about how to use my vote. Should I vote for our story, loving the art and knowing where the craziness leads? Should I vote for the amazing art style on BOTBH? Or should I go vigilante and specifically use my pea-sized vote against one of the two dark-reigning titans? I’m conflicted.

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