Since I'm at Anime USA this weekend (and if you're within reasonable distance of DC, stop by and say hi!), I thought I'd take a different tack this time around and put up an interview I did with one of my fellow webcomics creators: Brock Heasley, creator and writer of the series SuperFogeys.
The oldest of four brothers, Brock grew up in Fresno, the “road to everywhere/destination of no one” of California. Growing up, he was a member of such prestigious organizations as “The Nerd Herd,” “The Last Picked for Teams” and “They Who Eat Alone.” During high school, he drew cartoons for the school paper and then got delusions of grandeur and began writing articles as well. After graduating from California State University Fresno with a degree in graphic design, Brock combined both skills to launch the online comic The SuperFogeys, published by Th3rd World Studios, in order to save the world. Has the world ended yet? No? Then it’s working. In 2010, Brock co-created the online comic Monsterplex, which went on to win DC Comics’ Zuda competition. Brock’s greatest accomplishment remains tricking his gorgeous wife Erin into marrying him in 2000. Together with their three daughters Elora, Campbell and Violet, they live in Fresno and enjoy Pixar movies, dancing in the living room to good music and eating breakfast for dinner.
I had a chance to talk to him recently, and here's what he had to say.
Rob: Tell us what your work is about and what gave you the idea to do it.
Brock: Well, like all great ideas in the history of the universe, the idea for The SuperFogeys wasn’t mine to begin with. Back in the Summer of 2006 I had been doing some experiments in comicking on my then moderately successful and now defunct MySpace Blog that was getting some nice responses (kids in the room: MySpace was like Facebook, but even uglier). One day my fake internet friend Tad made an idle comment that went something like this: “What if you did a comic about something stupid like old superheroes in a nursing home?” We laughed, he moved on. I guess I didn’t. The more I thought about, the richer the idea seemed. Aging is something we all have to deal with. The loss of power and ability and reflecting on one's life is something we will all have to face one day. I thought superheroes would have to deal with the same issues, but in a much more fantastic way.
Is there a favorite character, strip or story arc that you have for your series, one that really made it all worthwhile?
One of the things I took great relish in was starting SuperFogeys out as strictly a humor strip with a few mystery elements. Slowly but surely, I ramped up the mystery and the mythology until the central question of the story became: who is the villain and what does he want? When that question was finally answered last year at the end of Chapter 9, it blew the doors off the story and blew the readers' minds. That was a hugely satisfying moment for me. I'd laced clues all throughout the story, from the very beginning, and it was hard to keep the secret going that long. Things that on the surface looked like jokes were really these huge neon flashing signs pointing to to the reveal. Many of my readers went back and read SuperFogeys all over again from the very beginning just to see what they missed and to see if the logic held. I'm happy to say it did!
What got you into comics, and webcomics in particular?
I've been a comics reader since I was very young, but I didn't really try to "break in" until my late 20's. Initially, I wanted to be an inker. I had the skills, but there weren't really any jobs available and the hours seemed ridiculous. Webcomics were a way of creating something, getting feedback and keeping my own schedule. I can do this and hold down a 9-to-5 to support my family. I may not be making a ton of money off my comics, but I do it for the love.
What's your workflow/work schedule like?
For the first 300 strips, I was a solo act on SuperFogeys. It wore on me though. I was spending several hours each night drawing and I kind of grew to loathe drawing. That's not a good place for an artist to be in. Plus, I was getting much more satisfaction from writing the comic and straight prose. I started writing a book (now completed and being shopped out to agents) and a change was needed. Enter Marc Lapierre, who took over art duties with strip 301 and is twice as fast. Now, there's new SuperFogeys every Monday and Wednesday, and new pages from its spinoff, SuperFogeys Origins, every Friday. I'm enjoying it now more than ever. It helps that Marc is a better artist than me. He's really opened up the world of SF in a way I never could.
What's your rig? Do you have a preference for or recommend any particular piece of equipent, tablet, etc.?
Back when I was still drawing the strip (and I do still pop in occasionally to handle art chores on special occasions--like this one posted on 11/2--I would pencil the strips on typing paper before going to inks. 9 inches wide--which is fairly small for what I'm doing. From there I'd lightbox the pencils onto Bristol Board Smooth and ink with Micron pens, all widths. I've never been able to wrap my brain around brushwork. Then I'd scan in the inks to Photoshop, color it with a Wacom tablet, and then pop the strip over to Illustrator for lettering. I know a lot of artists talk about how much faster going all digital is for them, but I'm old school and have never been able to get the tools to work right for me. I can use a tablet just fine for imprecise actions like coloring, but for the tight control and quality I demand of linework, I haven't been able to beat what I can do with pen and paper.
What's your plans for the future of your series and beyond?
Right now all the major storylines are coming to a head. The current chapter is almost over and we're gonna see a big shakeup by the end of it. We've been dealing with the fallout from the big villain reveal last year and his plans are about to be revealed in full. He will either succeed or not and whichever way it goes, it will mean big changes and a perfect jumping on point for new readers. From there, a huge threat introduced earlier this year will finally rear its ugly head as the Fogeys deal with a massive alien invasion and the death of one of their own.
Any other artists out there whose work you like or who you recommend?
Any advice for the starting webcomics folk?
Don't. There's too many webcomics and most of them are awful. If you think you've got something to say and a way to say it and you didn't just pick up a pencil for the first time yesterday, then by all means, join us! But... the rewards are few and there's only one Axe Cop. It's not as easy as it looks. Do it only if you love it, and not for any other reason.