This interview is of Chernobog, whose comics are: Arachnid Goddess and Schizophrenia Bloom!
(interview conducted by Evil_Hare!)
1. Okay, where'd the whole spider thing start out? Why spiders?
Ah ha ha… why not spiders? In a manner of speaking, it's like this. People have their favorites. The usual fantasy schlock is elves, angel/demons, vampires, bipedal cat things, and maybe some dragons. This is how modern society wants its pre-processed fantasy content; I liken it to everyone they envied with in their high school years. The inexplicably popular kids, the beautiful people, the innately charismatic, etc. Vicarious power and beauty fantasies. Maybe we can call it Meg Griffon syndrome. Heck, look at the sheer amount of celebrity worship that exists in American society. “Leave Brittney alone!”
Point being, I find those kind of things typically boring and paint by numbers. If its not a tired anime cliche, or a sparkling sissy metrosexual vampire, then its a third rate Tolkien knock off. These things were good before they were done to death! Vampires were halfway decent at one point before Anne Rice f'ed them up with gaudy but somehow socially approved necrophiliac fantasies. Give me Max Schreck in Nosferatu anyday.
Seriously, why spiders? I don't have a special way to describe it, save this. Where the average person goes into pants messing terror whenever something comes a crawlin', I become completely fascinated. I suppose there's a brain wrinkle missing for me. In a richer life, I would have gone onto higher education to become an arachnologist. I'm also a shaman, with spider as my totem. I've loved them since just past the time I learned to walk.
Anyway, spiders provide an interesting outlook about humanity, if you think about it. Take those people who say they love all animals or the kind who think the best of everyone else. Now add knee jerk revulsion and suddenly all the rules and principles we hold are so much inconvenience. Kill it, smash it, destroy it, it's scary, horrifying, and gonna get me. I've heard it all before.
Spiders are the amongst the ranks of the non-cute animals that are just trying to get through life. Despite these creatures serve a vital purpose in our world, many prefer they didn't exist. And sometimes, some of us play the role of a petty god and remove them from the equation for violating our senses.
Arachnid Goddess' main character, Ahab, is an outcast. She has no friends, her life is going nowhere, and generally, she's not pretty to look at. But at least until provoked, she's not hurting anyone and just wants to be left alone. Over the course of the story, it is shown she has many subtle qualities similar to spiders. She has a right to lead her life as she wants, but she really doesn't fit much with other people.
2. Is Ahab based, in whole or in part, on any real life person? How'd you create ths character?
On the very first page, I wrote the following: “This comic is very personal to me. This is my beautifully hideous darkness, my personal spiraling pit of blackness, put to pixel and word.” Ahab, for all pretensive purposes, is based on myself. I've lived most of my life as a man not generally considered handsome by modern standards, treated horribly by many, and utterly surrounded by the death of others in my formative years. After a while, my sense of humanity and concern just began dying off. I always felt as though I was living in someone else's world. Such alienation can lead to years of soul searching introspection. And like Ahab, I just don't relate much to other people. I remember all the way back in kindergarten, how I would play ‘house’ with the other children. But I was never cast as the father, son, or any normal role. Every time, I had to be the dog.
One night, as I mulled over the growing failure of my first Drunkduck webcomic, Schizophrenia Bloom, I developed a story in my mind of a disenfranchised girl who despite all things, was more or less happy living a life that consciously had nothing to do with the world around her. After fleshing it out some more, I sketched a picture and behold, there she was. I knew I had an avatar of myself. In fact, the picture of Ahab on the front cover is extremely similar to that sketch. So, I decided I would take a lot of the stranger and philosophical elements of my life and put it to pen. It felt good, but I wasn't particularly serious about it in the beginning.
3. Tell us about yourselfâ€¦ any plans for world domination, for example?
Dominate the world? Naaah. Besides, who really controls a kingdom? The king or his adviser? And who tends to survive once it's overthrown?
So, about me. Well, as of this writing I'm in my 30th year. I come from a tiny lower class Semitic family and grew up on the shore. I have a talented younger brother into film making and a mother who until recently, was a pharmacy technician. I work as a nightly janitor in an elementary school in New Jersey. In fact, I've been working since I was about 8 years old. My first job was fetching rubber balls for a batting cage in a swamp for two years. One of my favorite jobs, actually.
Writing is one of my hobbies. I typically stick to the dark fantasy genre. I vastly enjoy nature in all forms, be it hiking, watching strong weather, or observing animals in the field. While I don't get to do it anymore, I enjoy exploration of urban/rural decay. In my downtime when I'm not surfing the new to learn some new obscure piece of information, I listen to music (metal and industrial all the way down to Leonard Cohen and more experimental stuff) or study up on occult lore from my books. I play video games (TF2, Brutal Legend, and Borderlands as of late) and do table top gaming on the weekend. I also watch Adult Swim for The Venture Brothers and Metalocalypse.
And no, I do not keep any pet spiders (not these days, anyway). My apartment is too cold half the year for them.
4. Was the tendency of your pages to have a lot of narration from Ahab a conscious artistic choice? It seems to work well as part of the art, but I'm curious as to whether it happened by itself you wanted to do something different from the standard word balloon thing.
To be blunt: I greatly dislike word balloons and panel format. I don't mind if other people use them, but they feel very restricting for me. I'm much more a writer than a person deeply invested in making art, so I like to have the room for characters to have a more natural dialogue without rushing the point. This isn't everyone's thing, understandably. I've heard the complaints of verbosity. Basically, I made Arachnid Goddess (at least more in the beginning) more to resemble the format of an illustrated book written for young adults. The kind I grew up with! Speech balloons are just so much squashed dead space.
I enjoy writing prose about the introspection of characters (as opposed to having them say everything they think) and as such, I prefer to make thoughtful main characters. Ahab is not the only character written in this distinction, however. I make an intended effort to write Marcus in similar fashion.
5. Who are your major influences as an artist and a writer?
I would say a number of classics have defined how I do my writing style. I grew up reading selections like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Good Earth, and Dr Doolittle. There's plenty of gems in those old pages. I absolutely cannot get into modern writing. While I can appreciate some of the stories an author like Stephen King writes, I find how he actually goes about it to be a complete clusterf*ck. Anne Rice is just unreadable dreck to me.
Albert Camus' “The Stranger” helped define many things for me. While Ahab is not a severe stoic like Mersault from The Stranger, the exploration of amoral behavior is very present.
I don't consider myself an artist and in fact, try to avoid the distinction. Simply put, I have more interest in designing/creating characters and then putting them to a drawn image for recollection purposes, than I have any interest in technical perfection of the image itself. There was a time in my teens when I considered joining the Joe Kubert school of art, but I grew distanced from technical art when I found how shallow and pretentious the underlying scene often was.
I suppose for sake of content rather than feel, Frank Frazetta is my inspiration. The raw untamed qualities he brings in his artistic focus feels liberating and more honest than most. I also have to give it up for Aidan Hughes, for his strong use of monotones.
6. What webcomics do you read, and have you ever been tempted to do any cross-overs?
For my Drunkduck selections, one merely has to check my profile. I tend to publicly list whatever has my eye. There's a lot of good ones here!
Offsite, I read Order of the Stick, PvPonline, Penny Arcade, Looking For Group, Erfworld, Sequential Art, and Legend of Bill. I still follow 8 Bit Theater, but it's more the thing of trying to finish a marathon for having run so far… why stop now? And until recently, I read Bruno the Bandit.
Cross-overs? I don't know. I'm definitely not against the idea, but I don't have much creative contact with other webcomic authors on that level. No one's asked, at the very least.
Dumok, the creator of Warmage, solicited me about an appearance by Ahab and so she made a one panel cameo in that comic. It's always fun to see other people draw your characters, you know?
7. You asked me if black and white was a conscious style choice, so I'd like to know whether it is so for you.
Not really. I'm partially color blind, so a lot of vibrancy of color is lost on me. I prefer strong shades of black, grey, and white. Still, it worked for the most part. Ahab is largely colorless and the setting is often composed of surrounding stone.
Lately, I have infused color based on a review suggestion, but I keep it simple whenever possible. Mostly red mixed with black.
8. I don't know if I should like the Merry Bagman, but he's very entertaining. How'd you come up with him, and will he continue to be an important character?
I'm glad you like him. Bagman's original inspired comes from a villain named Joker in Persona 2: Eternal Punishment. There's just something entertaining about a nutjob with a scary paperbag on his head, you know? Later on, I adopted the look and mixed in some renaissance clothing for a L.A.R.P. I was part of and made a bizarre sycophantic character named Nervous Xians who, appearance wise, would wind up as the model for the Bagman character in Arachnid Goddess.
I didn't feel it was enough to just have him looking strange and walking around, so I made up a strange secret back history and new persona. He's an absolute blast to write for but I try to limit his exposure a bit so he doesn't become a Mary Sue. You can count on seeing far more of Bagman in the future, including his strange origin, why Snausage is his friend, and why, despite everything he's capable of, really just wants to be a black marketeer.
9. Where do you see your comic going in the future?
As of this writing, I'm still on the first storyline, believe it or not. I have no particular need to end it early and I have a lot of story to tell. The line between the comic and parallels to my own life will always be blurred, but prevalent. Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction, no? The underworld adventures have a nice long journey ahead of them. I know some folks don't like long stories, but I'm not here to cater to the low attention theater crowd. If they can read trilogies, prequels, and collections in normal books, they can read Arachnid Goddess. It's a matter of want to. No one is putting a gun to their head to do it in one sitting.
I would love to say Arachnid Goddess gets picked up down the line by a serious distributor or comic publishing house with a talented artist ready to draw the work or gets animated to a late night semi-adult flavored time slot for HBO, but these are all dreams I have little hope for. Maybe someday someone will see what I've been trying to do between the lines with Arachnid Goddess and help me turn it into a greater piece many more people would see.
10. What are your thoughts on the webcomic scene?
I think there's a lot of understated talent amidst the masses of more forgettable titles. While we all like knowing people read our webcomics, there's often a love to be had in doing one's own work. In a perfect world, I'd love to see webcomics get more recognition by their ideas and designs rather than just their artistic flair. I get a little ill when I see a hyped title driven mostly by a strong use of line work and color with an otherwise ho hum story and dull characters. Not to say I won't read something like that if there's at least something entertaining, but I wish the fanbase could take a step back and still realize the comic is not the greatest end all be all thing around. I've often said if I just wanted pretty pictures, I'll surf around Deviant Art a while. There's a lot of nicely drawn designs there, but often times the pictures have no meaning or reason behind them. I wish there was less webcomics out there like that. Artists rarely look for writers, not that I can blame them.
I used to be an online reviewer for webcomics for about three years on a now defunct site. I gained the opportunity to look at a wide spectrum of content out there and in doing so, came to appreciate how vast the possibilities of webcomics can be. All one needs is the self discipline to follow through to make whatever they're working on into something worth reading. Not everyone can be that guy who hits the high note and gets several thousand views at the start, but then again, not everyone needs to be. We must learn to love the work we do, in good and slow times.
Group 10 - Evil_Hare interviews Chernobog of Arachnid Goddess!
skoolmunkee at 1:49PM, Nov. 15, 2009
last edited on July 14, 2011 3:43PM
Gillespie at 6:25PM, Nov. 21, 2009
Nice to meet you. We both seem to like similar mediums, which is pretty cool. I'd read your comic, but I'm arachnophobic. I try to avoid spiders as much as possible, but it's one of those reasonless fears that aren't as bad as it actually is.
This was a very insightful interview. It's great to learn about Drunk Duck's creative people and the crap they go through in their lives.
This was a very insightful interview. It's great to learn about Drunk Duck's creative people and the crap they go through in their lives.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:36PM
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