This interview is of itsjustaar, whose comics are Keeping Up With Thursday and ZombieToons MUST DIE!
(Interview conducted by Armagedon!)
1.Itsjustaar, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Hahaha, well, I suppose we can start with the basics. I'm currently unemployed and living alone in this really ramshackle town called Dos Palos. For the benefit of you, the interviewer, and the reader, let's just pretend this town doesn't exist - it's straight out of Stephen King's books and definitely something you'll either love to hate, or hate to love. With the economy having hit the town pretty bad, entertainment is few and far between; going somewhere requires a lengthy commute. But back to the question on hand, let's say that it being a very ghostly town with some pretty unnerving townsfolk has lead to me to find other means of finding myself someplace: whether it's the internet or otherwise.
I won't get into family relations, but I will say that I kinda live like a hermit. I don't get around much beyond the computer (sad, ain't it?), drawing, or gaming in some form. For awhile I was into the role-playing scene on various websites through the years, with groups usually created by or formed via me and my old buddies from high school. We picked up on that kinda interactive fiction for awhile, starting in a really benign way, before eventually I gradually left that part to explore improving my writing. I can tell you now that's pretty hard to find a decent novella scene around while looking for good places to get my writing grove on. But even then, when there is something comfortable enough to write four to five paragraphs of various NPC to RPer action, it's pretty fun. I'm currently doing a StarFox forum at the moment with some friends.
2. You have two comics currently being updated. The First one is “Zombie Toon’s Must Die”; a comic that works with a unique twist of Hollywood animation history. What compelled you to come up with the idea?
“ZombieToons Must Die” actually started out as a fan-comic made back in 2009 that was going to be a twisted take on the ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’ universe, actually. And even before then, it was based off of a role-playing blog that I wanted to try out on MySpace.
Now, you'd be surprised. I never actually had known myspace to be the “in” scene for that kind of RPing. People making accounts playing as various characters, whether it's Goku or Fievel Mousekewitz, y'know, or say… Akuma from Street Fighter or someone from Guilty Gear. But at the time I was working on the blog, I had been apart of this “ToonTown” RP'ers scene on the site (whether it's still around since MySpace changed, I don't know, actually.) which had it's own canon, storyline, people involved through the years since it's conception in 2006. It was fun for my time there, which was probably two years at the most. Give or take.
But back on the subject, my idea for it back then - I wrote out this lengthy, lengthy storyline pitch on the blogs (I was playing Eddie Valiant, and I had been in crazy storylines featuring him against Batman's Joker of the cartoon, some Darkwing Duck folks, and so on). It was about Judge Doom having left behind this huge arsenal of assorted unfinished weaponry, many of which would have been secondary (I won't reveal spoilers if you haven't seen the film I'm discussing) should his original one. I can't remember all of the ones I put in, as I put them all on my Facebook but ultimately took them down. But one of them actually happened to be this kind of… ‘demented’ ink that he was going to use to turn anyone opposing him into monsterous, like, y'know - H.P. Lovecraft-genuine monsters.
It would have been up to Eddie Valiant to stop the hideous and grotesque versions of Toons, and with the zombie disease taking full swing, ToonTown wouldn't have known what hit it. Fast-forward to the present day, and the actual entrance to the Toon World (along with Cool World, that Ralph Bakshi film, if you've seen it) has been closed off for tourists. A group consisting of a doctor, a retired Hollywood star (which would later become Lenny), an animation historian buff, and another Toon, would have been sent in to investigate. And then of course, there were other things… I mean, I wanted the zombie bits to happen eventually, if not immediately: Danny from Cats Don't Dance teaming up with American Tail II's Cat R. Waul in a Zombieland-style cruise around various worlds in Scooby-Doo, Pokemon, whathaveyou. Maybe have Goku and Superman from the 40's do something.
Eventually that comic fizzled out. I didn't think anyone was reading it.
But let's be honest, it was either my art that sent everyone away or the story might have been too good to put down on MSPaint. That's what I had been using at the time, and I'll be fair to you… It sucks. I definitely am not good to put that kind of a story with something I think I had been drawing which feels like a 3 year old drew it.
So “ZombieToons” is essentially this comic, but with the only references to the Disney film in passing mention. The real focus is on Lenny, his agent, and three other stars who will eventually become the focus of a very hazardous zombie epic. When it's regular zombies, sure - that's scary; when it's superhero zombies, the stakes just got higher; but when we're talking countless, seemingly undefeatable witty cartoon characters over the years - yeah, I'd imagine the human race wouldn't really be able to handle it.
3. Given the feel of Zombie Toon’s, how would you say that classic cartoon animation has influenced your style?
You could say that, yeah. When I was apart of that group, I had actually “grown up”, or rather, lost sight of my childhood. When I was living with my aunt and uncle for the last couple of years in high school - I got kinda poked fun of whenever I happened to see a showing of Darkwing Duck or Looney Tunes showing of Cartoon Network at the time. So it was kinda tough to really explore cartooning as a whole without having to switch back to Survivor whenever I was around them, but whenever I had that chance, I would watch it to get that ‘click’ going again to rekindle that nostalgia.
When I was with that group though, through RPing, I had just then moved out of high school and lived with my mother to help her out financially. Them being historians and knowledgable of cartoons, histories, backgrounds, eventually lead me to go out and discover them again. I guess you could say it was a huge, huge packing trip down Memory Lane - I would spend a lot of time picking up Disney movies or something close, and watching them.
It's such a trip seeing these years later. A lot of them I didn't see, so rest assured a lot of them were all new to me, but for those I did remember - it was pretty cool. I remembered mannerisms, acting styles, faces.
If I had spent a little more time on an actual artistic class, I probably would've faired better doing the comics now, but for what it's worth - at least the story is out. It had been itching in my brain for awhile, but my writing style is too long… probably not good enough, to sit down and write it out without fear that no one is gonna give it ten second's worth.
4. You also work on a comic entitled “Keeping Up with Thursdays,” tell us a little bit about this project.
This too, had it's place on MySpace RP. To spare you the lengthiness I wrote last time though, I'll try and summarize this one for ya.
Me and a friend had been getting into a chat discussing old time literature and films over the summer back in 2009. I don't know whether ‘Great Mouse Detective’ had come into the discussion whether because my friend had signed up as the titular detective and I followed suit by playing his nemesis (on myspace, finding a good RPer who was RPing a character related to yours was like digging for ancients - it often had to require some teamwork, or a little luck and persuasion), or if we just happened to be on the same page. I think it actually started with Holmes and worked it's way down onto that, followed by Disney's GMD, that we finally got some ideas flowing in our heads on where to get that.
During the course of our RPing, I had this set-up where Professor Ratigan (if you remember, voiced by Vincent Price) had actually a version of his own Baker Street Irregulars. They all were various handymen, people who were swindlers, con-artists, assassins, or just the kind of people you'd see on the street and raise a brow. Real shifty folks, y'know? But within reason of the 19th century, at the time it took place. Only one of them, though, named Pat - “Thussday” - was the one that was used the most. In several of his RP's, he hardly got the spotlight: it was either one of the sailor brutes or one of the con-men handling something almost reminiscent of the Italian Job, but this one seemed to be the one people liked the most.
Eventually, as the RP faded away, Pat became his own character. He became less and less associated with being Basil of Baker Street's doppleganger, and just an everyday mouse trying to make a living for himself. Doing crime was only because it helped him get by. Patrick on this comic is now doing it because it give him a drive; “Life's no fun if you're just sitting around watching other people go by.”
Moments before DrunkDuck came into my knowledge, I found it to be rather easy to develop a set of characters for Pat. It was kinda like giving someone their own animated series - his friends, his family, making the character really blossom. He's got Vinnie, an associate from America, who's tagging along and his only sense of reason before Pat gets two excited.
Characters like Cody the steampunk inventor cat, his partial love interest Funday (modelled on the Artful Dodger), Finnigan, Thad “The Bad”, all came into my head immediately from personal experiences and just having fun with the setting and time.
When the comic moves forward, I'd like it to make it tune to the original books without transcending too many boundaries, but I think I'd get a giggle out of adding some of The Mummy or Indiana Jones in it later on… having Patrick tackle some historic artifacts in the mousedom.
5. Both comics do a very good job on focusing on character development. When working on the story, how do you approach your writing?
Every page that people see so far is me continuing from one page onto the other. There are moments in which I've written something down as to who comes in where, who does what when that happens, but I don't put any detail in it. As the comic itself is heavy moderation and alteration of things I've had on linear notes on the past, to make sure they stay as far, far away from notrious bad fan-fiction I've seen on the internet, I try to make sure everything is locked down on my brain. I have pretty bad OCD, y'see, and more often than not - I'll lose something or toss it away for fear that it'll never be liked. At all.
So all in all, I'm actually writing based off of memory, rather than putting down a script to make sure I remember. I keep things like a deviantArt and a FurAffinity as a spare chip on my shoulder in case I lose something, so that's something I can be very thankful for. I run my ideas through my best girl friend Sarah to see what works, and we toss some ideas back and forth to see if we're on the same page mentally, and then I go on to draw it.
Normally anyone would have forgotten those memories and moved on with their lives, but my house and computer are like a containment unit - I can still remember trivial things from years ago, if not the whole way back. It's helped me a lot on the comic.
6. What is your update schedule for the two comics?
As the comics are both in the kind of format seen in a traditional comicbook (or something like it), I've been of the opinion that I should at least try to update frequently or sooner. I tried things like doing it every Friday night, but call me insane for thinking that I would prefer to upload it “as soon as it's one and hot off the press.” This might explain why I get fewer visitors for how irregular my schedule is, but…
I dunno, maybe it's just me. It's both an intuition and a motor drive to be able to get things done in a hurry, both by family's best advice as well as… There'll be a moment when I've got a really funny idea, or a part of the story in my head that's perfect for four-pages to be done. But the thing about that is, if Grouch Marx told you a zinger but it took four days for him to tell it, Would you really want to listen to it at that point? That's another good reason.
My apologies for the scheduling. I'd handle it better if I was actually employed, so I can work it onto a schedule. ;D
7. What inspired you to start making webcomics?
Not long ago, actually. I joined DrunkDuck back in December, uploaded the first couple of pages of ‘Keeping Up’ right off the bat, and then got into the kick of an experimental schedule after that.
I have, however, been toying with comics back in middle school. My first ever comic was a ‘Back to the Future’ comic which was just a time-killer, but in high school - the idea got revamped into “Aaron's Cartoon Adventure.” It was a huge, huge epic set of books spannning three huge episodes, probably at least 1,000 pages, which I worked my butt off to work on. Most people don't even want to do that much and throw away their entire high school memories for that very thing, but let me tell you - if it hadn't been for that, I wouldn't be here right now.
ACA was a weird comic. It was about two guys, Aaron and John, who are in need of a quick fix for their Science Fair project, so they rely on their buddy Ian to help them out. Unbeknownst to them, it's a DeLorean which has access to any cartoon or anime ever made - every episode is listed. References to our favorite cartoons at the time and BTTF were sporadic, from Aaron needing Bulma's help to get back home via lightning on the Capsule Corp. building to saving Ian in Launch and her gang like the gunfight in Tombstone.
8. What are you favorite comics, and how have they affected your work?
I'm partial to things like the Big 2 - Marvel, DC - as well as other known works. Alan Moore is definitely recommendable, Stan Lee, Joe Kirby, the Umbrella Academy is worth a look, and many others. Comicbooks are a dime a dozen where I live, and only Los Banos has a good one (but I can't afford anything they've got, making my trips there moot; but the Dos Palos Town and Country store has some comics out there).
I think Walt Disney and Don Bluth in particular were the bigger influences, even though I think their bigger mold was in the animation side of things. Disney Adventures comics and the stuff being pumped out there by BOOM! comics are definitely commendable for making me do these comics. There are things that some things that books can do, but not enough of, that only comics can do - visually appealing stories that grab you and toss you into it, with designs and worlds so ingenius that it's amazing how the mind works. I grew up with Disney Adventures for so long, owning almost a good portion of the copies, that I used to wish I was apart of it.
9. What do you use to make your comics?
Well, I use Flash MX. GIMP I have on hand to make slight modifications if I need to if I goofed up, or MSPaint if GIMP doesn't appear to be working much. But yeah, mostly Flash MX - and a common computer mouse.
My computer is so run-down over the years that it's a miracle it's still alive and kicking. The monitor? Don't get me started, man, lol - the colors are still off, so red is black and blue is purple. Guesses are very common, I will say that much. Flash tends to crash once the source file gets too big, that editing it becomes a pain in the ass; including animations, too, which I've done for my buddy Ivan on his Kekin X cartoons on Newgrounds. Check'em out.
10. Are there any other projects you are working on at the moment?
Hahahah, no, no… two comics is more than enough.
For anyone who is following along with either ZombieToons or KUWT, then I guess we'll be expecting Miko (from the former) to get the spotlight to see more about her life, and for KUWT, we'll see some more light on Patrick's teenage years at an orphanage. Having been at the Children's Shelter in San Jose, I knew a lot of kids like me who were lost and confused; Patrick himself will find himself in a similar situation (though unlike Patrick, I didn't actually hijack it…)
11. Is there anything else you would like to add that we haven’t talked about?
Nope. Looks like we covered all of it! I hope I didn't bore ya with all my talk. I really did start to like Shadey the Shadow Vampire in it's later strips, so please continue with that! I look forward to it, bud!
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