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Q&A for may 27, 2012

IN THIS EDITION… swearing, webcomics, the invisibles, the secret origin of scott pilgrim’s giant eyes, my top five NES games, and… did ramona cheat on the twins?

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Q. in lost at sea and some of your shorter comics there’s strong language pretty much throughout. in scott pilgrim and some of your other other comics it’s fairly moderate. is this like a conscious decision you make after you come up with the story but before you start writing dialogue? also are you not cool with depicting nudity?

A. hi… um, so, in Lost at Sea and my earlier stuff there is definitely more swearing. After Lost at Sea came out, i read it and heard back from people and saw it through new eyes i guess and realized it was a LOT of swearing. i mean, me and my friends certainly swore a lot in our late teens and early twenties, it’s not like i was just storing all my swears to put in writing. It’s just how i talked and how i thought.

But anyway, as a personal challenge to myself, i decided to drop the swearing to like a “PG-13” level in Scott Pilgrim book 1. It was really hard at first, but i came to feel that it can be a crutch to use ‘fucking’ all the time instead of the whole rest of the dictionary. Swearing can be creative and fun but other words are important too.

am i not cool with depicting nudity? wha? I don’t see how there would have been a place for nudity in SP or Lost at Sea. But yeah, since you ask, i guess i’m not that cool with it. I like nudity just fine but i don’t like drawing it that much and I will probably refrain from using much of it in my work for the foreseeable future. maybe it’s because i was raised catholic or maybe i’m just bad at anatomy.

Q. Do you read any webcomics? What are your favorites? Also I love you

A. yeah, i like lots of webcomics, and I read these ones regularly:

octopus pie (Meredith Gran)
bad machinery (John Allison)
hark a vagrant (Kate Beaton)
pictures for sad children (John Campbell)
homestuck (i’m kinda 800 pages behind on it right now though which isn’t even that much if you know homestuck)

i also have been reading Achewood since like the very beginning and i still enjoy it whenever he updates. A true modern classic. Also i love you

Q. is some part of you bummed that you wrote sp with an ending? like are there times you’d still like to be working with those characters, maybe telling different, less epic stories? or were you happy to wrap that up and move on

A. hi, i feel like this is a loaded question or something or like you’re trying to trap me somehow.

here’s the thing: no. I am not bummed that the comic had an ending. It always had an ending. the ending was written in the dna of the story. He fights the guy, they figure shit out, the end. it’s just how it works.

that said, yes, i still like the characters and sometimes i have ideas for what i could do with them in a future story. but comics take a lot of time and energy and right now I want to put that energy toward something new. So, like i’ve said here before, i’m doing this book Seconds and then i’m moving on to a completely new different series that won’t be scott pilgrim or seconds or lost at sea or anything else old. It’ll be new. But i’ll try to make it really good and hopefully people will like it almost as much as scott pilgrim.

Q. What is the process of making a comic? LIke how do you get it from your computer to the shelves?

A. ok, I think this is a very complicated question but here’s the one sentence version: I make up a story and draw it on paper and scan it into a computer and send it to a publisher who puts it together in virtual book format and then sends it to a printer where they print real physical books and then they send it to a distributor who then sends it to book stores, which have shelves.

Q. What is the story behind Scott and alcohol? As it’s often mentioned how he doesn’t drink during the events in the books/film, with the exception of a G&T and a couple of beers Ramona makes him drink, yet there was a mention of a drunken experience by Comeau.

A. hm. was that not clear? In the book anyway i intended it to be clear that scott only started saying “I don’t drink” after his drunk fight with Envy on New Years Eve. Like maybe he drank regularly in his dark mysterious past, and everyone kind of rolls their eyes when he says he doesn’t drink, because they all think of him as a drinker. I guess that wasn’t actually clear.

Q. Hello! I’ve been curious for a while as to if there is any real connection between your Gideon, and Gideon Stargraves from The Invisibles. I’d heard you were a fan of the series, and I’d wondered if it meant anything. Also, did you pick up Flex Mentallo? I think it’s Grant’s best meta-work on comics & creativity! Can you dig it?

A. hello. There is no real connection between Gideon from SP and Gideon from Invisibles. I read all of Invisibles a year or two before i started SP, but Gideon was named specifically after a different gideon, and Graves was an homage to Agent Graves from 100 BULLETS, my other favorite Vertigo comic.

i did read Flex, and i love it, it’s really good. I love the Invisibles a lot too and I also love the Filth and i also love Seaguy.

Q. In ‘Lost at Sea’, the art style is obviously a little different to Scott Pilgrim, given that you did it a year beforehand. In particular, the eyes were kind of simplified lines, and it occured to me that they show less emotion than the big SP ones. Was this a decision made to show Raleigh’s detachment from her emotions and the emotions of others? Or are the eyes different by the time SP was drawn simply because of art style evolution? Thanks!

A. well, in high school, I used to always draw round ‘vacant’ eyes like that, like Little Orphan Annie eyes. i dunno why, and people always commented on it. Later on i got into anime and started drawing big anime eyes, and the earliest Lost at Sea sketches had kinda shiny anime eyes, but the more i drew the characters the eyes simplified and became little vacant round eyes. There was no conscious decision as far as i recall.

with SP, i started out drawing them all with little round lost at sea eyes, but they wanted something bolder, and eventually i was inspired by a friend’s obsessive drawings of Clarice, the girl reindeer from the old stop-motion Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer cartoon. Her eyes are big and crazy with all-black irises, and they directly influenced the eyes in SP.

Q. Top five NES games?

today’s list…

megaman 2 (the purest most bestest game)
river city ransom (the most funnest game of all time)
startropics (i still get the music stuck in my head when i think about it)
super mario 3 (all-time ultimate game of my generation)
final fantasy OR dragon warrior 4 (i can’t decide, they both rule)

honorable mentions 6-10:
double dragon 2 (incredibly weird in the best 80s way)
super mario 2 (i was deeply obsessed with it)
battletoads (i really did beat it)
solstice (mostly cause i just heard that andrew hussie hates it; it’s actually amazing)

no zelda. I never owned a zelda game. Link to the Past and the GBA ones were the only ones i ever really played much. i only had startropics :(

Q. Did Ramona really date each of the Katayanagi twins behind each other’s back? This is almost certainly the cruelist and more duplicious thing she ever does or is said to have done, yet it’s completely glossed over? What’s Ramona’s side of that story?

A. there’s a really complicated story there which I really wanted to put in the book but somehow it got dropped. I guess I was scared to say too much about Ramona, but I think i erred on the side of caution. It is my sincere hope to write & draw a new bonus chapter of book 5 dealing with this flashback and include it in the color version (spring 2014).

Q. Do you have predetermined measurements for panels and page layouts? Do you have a set of rules regarding this? I have only created a few pages ever, but when I did I set up a somewhat rigid system where gutters on top and bottom were a certain distance, gutters on either side were a certain distance, and the distance from the edge of the page was a certain length (unless I was letting a panel bleed over. It looked good but it was really time-consuming. Do you think there’s a better approach?

A. the Scott Pilgrim approach was motivated by extreme laziness, but also shrewd cunning. I cut an 11x14 page in half, making two 7x11 pages. I ruled the page at about 1/8 inch on the “spine” side of the page (right side for left-hand pages, left side for right-hand pages) and then i just drew the page and didn’t worry about margins. Scott Pilgrim pages were mostly full-bleed, which meant a lot less measuring, which meant things moved a bit more quickly overall.

I scanned the whole page in my 8.5x11 sized scanner, pasted it in to my existing page size (3150 x 4613 pixels, 600 dpi) and cropped it so the edges of my drawing wouldn’t be visible in print.

Starting with volume 4, i got a big 11x17 scanner and started drawing bigger and let things get slower and more complicated. I do miss the ease of those 7x11 pages but it was hard to get much detail into the panels given how i suck at drawing.

Q. As an artist, would you say it’s better to play to your strengths and work on your weaknesses, or fumble around and try to be at least mediocre in every aspect of art?

A. in case you haven’t noticed, i’m effing mediocre at a lot of stuff. but I think you need a mix of both approaches. I mean, my first weakness was ‘finishing stuff’. that one’s easy to overcome: just finish something!!! and with each volume of scott pilgrim i gave myself new challenges. vol 1, i started tackling photo reference and trying to make things feel grounded. vol 2, i did two fight scenes in real locations (Casa Loma and the Library). vol 3, i challenged myself to draw honest ed’s, that thing is crazy!

anyway, I guess that means I want you to play to your strengths and work on your weaknesses. but work on your strengths too. Work on everything. There’s always room for improvement.

Q. Hey, how come LaunchPad McQuack from the first book didn’t become one of Sex Bom-Omb’s songs in the movie?

A. because it suuuuuuucked and was a terribly dumb song that i made up (for the comic) in five minutes while lying on the floor of my girlfriend’s apartment