Interviews

Creator Interview: Hawk of Culture Shock!
skoolmunkee at 2:43AM, April 16, 2007
(online)
posts: 7,058
joined: 1-2-2006
Comic: Culture Shock
In what part of the world do you live: Just outside of Boise, Idaho. I'm in Utah for college right now.
Are you single/boyfriend/girlfriend/married: Single
Children: zero.
Day job: Animation Lab teaching assistant at college, Freelance animator.

Tell us a little bit about your background- what drew you to comics?

I had an urge to draw ever since I was little. I can remember drawing
all over butcher paper my parents rolled out on the kitchen floor when I
was three. This urge stayed with me and was nurtured by many people.
And then–probably back in 1996–I discovered that Photoshop could be
used for cartooning purposes. I wasn't on the “Information
Superhighway” back then, just the local bulletin boards (look up the
term “BBS” sometime, kids). I started making simple and awful comics
with my scanner and photoshop. Not long after I finally got dialup
internet, I noticed there was a collection of people online displaying
their comics for the world to see. Some folks that inspired me were Tep
Ando, Josh Lesnick, Tang Ho, Long Vo, and others. But back then,
without places like Drunk Duck, you either set up a homepage on the
measly 5mb your net provider gave you, put up with ad-filled free
hosting, or dropped a load of cash on decent hosting. I pushed my 5mb
to its fullest.

I had a few comics back then… but I was a kid and those comics were
terrible. They should never be seen. But they were part of getting
better. I had a lot to learn and I learned through half-baked comics
with generic characters. Eventually I had a comic I worked on with my
best friend Ben Wilcher and it was called Alt-Ctrl-Dimension. I also
helped run the online comics section of Fan Art Headquarters, which was
among the first batch of online artist communities. Communities came
and went, I spent some time in Japan, and that eventually became a lot
of the inspiration for my current comic, Culture Shock. I still have a
lot to learn, but I hope it won't be through this comic's failure.

What is it you like about making comics?

I think most people have an urge to tell a story. So many people
have stories… They just find the best outlet for those stories to be
told. For me, comics became a great way to tell a story. It was within
my grasp and easy to show the world. What's specifically nice about
comics is that they still can be done by one person and they allow for
the reader to enjoy at their own pace.

What is the hardest part? Do you like or dislike it?

Well, there's writing and there's drawing. As much as I love drawing, I
consider it the “work” part, since you can imagine a story in your head
without lifting a finger. As hard as it sometimes gets I still enjoy
it. Specifically, inking is the part that challenges me most.

What is your favorite part of making a webcomic in particular?

Character development. Characters ARE what they DO. I like to come up
with actions for my characters that will prove to readers that these
characters are who I think they are. You can't tell the audience your
character is selfish. You have to show them. And then you string these
actions throughout the comic so people can get to know your characters.
Surprisingly, even a character's pose and posture tells you a lot about
them. If I make a character slouch, readers subconsciously start
figuring out that he's lazy. The character's design and appearance
should support the personality you're giving them.

The more I've learned about designing characters, the more I feel like
my current characters are inadequate. I hope readers don't mind tweaks
to the characters' appearances over time.

Would you be doing your comic at all if you couldn't post it on the web?

I really had to think on this one. Honestly, I don't think I would.
Without the internet there would be all sorts of hoops to jump through
just for people to see your work. And that would mean doing comics
professionally, something that I never really intended. I'm just glad
there IS an internet for all us comic authors.

Tell us about some of your influences - artists, writers, life, anything. Does your animation background have any influence on your comic?

When I was about 12 a very kind lady gave me a cartoonist's starter kit
and several How To Draw books that set me on this path. My parents have
usually been pretty supportive. I think my dad was a bit disappointed
when I wanted to be a cartoonist instead of making oil paintings of
wildlife, but he has more than proved his support by helping me through
college.

Not having comics much while growing up, I tend to draw a lot of
inspiration from movies. Comics and movies actually share a lot of
commonalities, being a visual medium. But I have been inspired by a lot
of cartoonists. I already mentioned a few artists that sparked my
interest earlier. Josh Lesnick once had a funny comic called Bonds that
inspired me. Calvin and Hobbes should be thrown in there as well.
Corey Lewis gave me a figurative slap in the face that still reminds me
to try my hardest. Howard Tayler of Schlock Mercenary has given me some
great pointers. My teacher Ryan Woodward has been one of the latest and
greatest inspirations to me. And my best friend Ben Wilcher is a
constant source of help for ideas and humor in Culture Shock.

Much of Culture Shock's inspiration is drawn from the handful of years I
spent in Japan. I began to realize that there were things in life that
isolate you from others, and yet other things that universally draw
humanity together. I think both of these things make a great subject
for a comic because we're constantly experiencing inclusion and
alienation. How we deal with our differences can be funny, sad, or
inspiring.

While I'd say Animation has been an influence in my work, it has only
been more recently. Things I have learned about storyboarding have
interestingly crossed over into the comic world. A good character
design for animation is usually a good character design for a comic. I
expect that the things I learn will cause big changes to my work in the
future. Readers shouldn't be surprised if my art style changes. I still
have plenty to learn about both drawing and storytelling.

Do you consider yourself more of an artist or more of a writer (or maybe this is an unfair question)?

Definitely more of an artist.

As a webcomic reader as well as a creator, are there any qualities that you feel are consistent among successful webcomics? (Or, what is it about them that you think helps make them successful?)

I think the successful comics are the ones that try something new. We
already have the “two guys talk about videogames” comic, the “anime
derivative” comic, and enough videogame sprite comics to fill a canyon.
If you don't try to make something different, people have no reason to
read your comic.

The comics that define those genres I mentioned are big hits because
they either did it first or did it best. And they worked hard at it.
And they planned ahead! Writing your comic as you go leads to more
generic plots and lost opportunities.

I don't have any hard evidence to back this up, but I think some of the
most successful webcomics come from authors who are willing to accept
criticism and use it to improve their art. One time I was reading
Gunnerkrigg Court and noticed that one particular reader left an
especially scathing comment (one I didn't think was deserved). But the
author Tom Siddell replied in a way that shocked me… he pulled
whatever useful advice he could from the comment and then thanked the
reader! I gained a great deal of respect for Tom that day and began to
realize why Gunnerkrigg Court is my favorite webcomic. Good authors listen.

That said, you have a long-running and popular comic here on Drunk Duck. A lot of people would say you're successful. What would be your interpretation? How do you measure your own comic's success?

Well, even the most successful webcomic on the internet is fairly
unknown in the real world. Culture Shock is still a far cry from even
being huge on the internet. But for one comic in a community, I'm
thrilled that so many people are reading it. The feedback and support
and friends I'm encountering now were unimaginable before Drunk Duck.
Back then I'd get an e-mail from a kind fan every now and then. Now I'm
a functional part of an incredible network of artists.

Culture Shock's success is defined by the people who come back to read
it. It's the people who leave comments about what they're hoping for or
what they enjoyed or even what they didn't like. If I want to be really
successful I need to make it a comic people come back to.

I don't envision Culture Shock to ever become one of the big famous
comics of the internet, but if people can look back on it as something
that genuinely entertained them, I'll be happy.

Let's say your comic was going to be turned into a movie or a TV show. What kind of format would you want, and why?

That's an interesting question. I worry that Culture Shock as it stands
doesn't have a focused enough demographic to make it as either a movie
or TV show. It seems to teeter between something children can enjoy and
something adults would enjoy. I guess I'd simply have to push it in one
direction or the other. Either way, I'd say the idea of seeing Culture
Shock in another medium really interests me.
  IT'S OLD BATMAN
last edited on July 14, 2011 3:40PM
carrollhach at 9:24AM, April 16, 2007
(offline)
posts: 102
joined: 9-29-2006
An excellent interview. I like Hawk's self-effacing style. Culture Shock is a fine comic and deserves the readership it has. I disagree that the demographic is too narrow, too. I think it would play well as an animation.

My favorite quote: “Characters ARE what they DO!” Bravo on that one!
Josh Carrollhach
For profile inormation, other comics and general blog stuff, please check out
http://www.drunkduck.com/Clench_and_Cheese/
The Clench and Cheese Blog
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:36AM
Wazaga at 12:12AM, April 17, 2007
(online)
posts: 6
joined: 1-6-2006
that was a very educational interview, and I really enjoyed it, thanks Hawk for sharing with us your experiences and point of views :)
last edited on July 14, 2011 4:48PM
skoolmunkee at 10:11AM, April 17, 2007
(online)
posts: 7,058
joined: 1-2-2006
I'm just gonna add that I've met Hawk in person and he's a huge sweetie. :kitty: He didn't come with us to sushi though, he missed out. :[
  IT'S OLD BATMAN
last edited on July 14, 2011 3:40PM
Hawk at 10:20AM, April 17, 2007
(online)
posts: 2,760
joined: 1-2-2006
Yeah, my friends roped me into watching that stupid Alien Vs. Predator movie instead. Man was that dumb move. It sure was cool meeting you though. :)

Hey, can I edit out a few of my spelling errors?
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:45PM
teasan at 10:27AM, April 17, 2007
(offline)
posts: 3
joined: 1-8-2006
I always thought Hawk seemed like a good guy, and this confirms it.
last edited on July 14, 2011 4:08PM
skoolmunkee at 3:37PM, April 17, 2007
(online)
posts: 7,058
joined: 1-2-2006
Hawk
Hey, can I edit out a few of my spelling errors?

'course, but I ran it through spell check before I posted it and there aren't any now that I can see. :) Let me know if you see one though.
  IT'S OLD BATMAN
last edited on July 14, 2011 3:40PM
Jimeth at 11:25AM, April 19, 2007
(online)
posts: 128
joined: 3-13-2006
Hawk
Yeah, my friends roped me into watching that stupid Alien Vs. Predator movie instead. Man was that dumb move. It sure was cool meeting you though. :)

Hey, can I edit out a few of my spelling errors?
*Shock* You went to see a movie rather than eating sushi with webcomic artists? *Slaps sense into Hawk*
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:08PM

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