I apologize for the lack of interviews for a bit there; RL has been throwing up interference and I ran out of buffered interviews. Today we’re talking with J.T. of the slice-of-life comic Between Failures. Just a quick warning, this review does contain some offensive language which I did not edit out. I apologize if anyone is offended.
Links for the webcomics J.T. reads will be added tonight when I have time. My apologies for not getting them up before scheduling this, but I ran out of time.
Let’s see… I went as far as a few years of community college. I studied fine art focusing on sculpture, because that’s a useful fucking skill… Before that I never really drew much or ever made comics. I dabbled, but compared to now I did almost nothing. I’m still a better sculptor than I am a draftsman, although that’s not saying much.
What are some elements that helped inspire the genesis of your comic?
I’m going to assume by elements you mean things, experiences, or something like that.
The story is inspired by the many years I spent working retail, except not the customer service stuff. It’s mostly the weird day to day shit that we did to entertain ourselves. It started as a movie script that I had written, like, ten years ago but never did anything with.
I actually started drawing it because I couldn’t think of anything else to write and had a new computer drawing tablet. I wanted something that I could keep doing so I could learn to use the damn thing. The webcomics I was reading at the time made me think that any monkey with a scrap of paper and a burnt stick could succeed in that arena, so I just went with it.
Do you read any other webcomics? If so, which are your favorites, and why do these comics stand out for you?
That’s practically asking me to write an essay…
Also, why do these interviews always want you to talk about other people’s work? Isn’t the point of an interview to find out about the person being interviewed? Are my comic selections supposed to bring a greater insight into how I make mine? If so then fair enough, I guess. These things always seem a little like homework. People ask a few short questions then I provide content in the form of interesting words. I’m starting to think these things are a scam to get free content.
[Editor: Actually, that’s fairly close to why I ask this. Another reason is that readers may also be interested in comics a favorite cartoonist is into. ]
Misty The Mouse was one of the first webcomics I started reading. I still think it has some of the most natural dialogue of any comic I’ve read. Sadly it has no real ending, and there’s little hope of one ever coming to pass.
PVP is also one of my first faves, which I still read. It’s improved a lot over time, but it’s always been a really solid traditional comic. I like the dramatic bit’s a lot more than the gamer stuff. My favorite part
is still the courtship of Brent and Jade. It is beautifully written.
Bridgette’s Belly I thought had stopped, but I found it updating again not long ago. It was another one of the first comics I read online. A little more cartoony than I’m usually drawn to, but fun and well written.
Convincing dialogue. Even with the animal people.
Sabrina Online has great dialogue even though the updates are so sparse.
RPG World was a lot of fun. It’s the first webcomic I ever bought a print version of.
I feel like I’ve read Wapsi Square forever, but I’m actually not sure when I started. I’ve learned a lot about how to fake being able to draw hard stuff from it. I lost the thread of the story someplace and have felt a little lost ever since. But hey, giant boobs, right? We can all get behind those… Literally. ZING!
I’m not sure exactly when I started reading Questionable Content, but I know it was after PVP and those others. It’s probably the comic that most made me think that anyone could make a webcomic. There’s just no way to make that not sound like an insult… I wait up to read this comic whenever Jaques posts it. I bought in to the characters when I started reading and never cashed out. I like that it just rambles along with no real point. In that it is like life. QC is also responsible for several of my unwritten rules for making Between Failures.
Murry Purry Fresh And Furry is written by a friend of mine and our senses of humor just click. I also like his cutely disgusting style. Which is odd because I usually find that type of art totally repellant. Maybe I’m just an odd duck, but I don’t understand why more people aren’t in to MPFF. Some of the stuff he comes up with just kills me. He also makes Guttersnipe which I like for more or less the same reasons except for it’s in the olden times when hobos walked the earth.
Ginger’s Bread is also written by a friend, and it’s just a good story about fun people. It’s just edgy enough that it’s not boring to me though. Ginger particularly reminds me of people I know. A little too
old to like what she likes. I identify with that.
Octopus Pie is good, but it skirts the edges of arty douche bag a lot. I still mostly like the characters though. The linework makes me want to print out pages and rub them on my naked flesh. I envy her backgrounds most of all.
Las Lindas I read for the tits. I’m sure there is a plot in there someplace, but I don’t know what it is. I haven’t read part of the archive. I started reading it ages ago and at some point there was a hiatus that broke me of it. I’ve always meant to go back and see what I missed, but the boobs and colors keep me entertained enough for now. I only dream of being able to make something look as pretty as Las Lindas.
One of these days I’ll actually read it and find out what’s going on.
Menage a 3 combines two of my favorite things: Archie comics and porn. The art is immaculate.
Shortpacked I started reading because of the constant Batman references and eventually got fully engrossed in the whole thing. I am sort of a recovering toy addict, and a transformers fan, so I get that level of the humor as well as the other stuff. I also get lots of art tips from looking at it since he rarely drew backgrounds for a long time.
I also like his college comic Dumbing Of Age, because I like reading stuff where people talk to each other. It also takes its time, which I really like.
I was way in to Starslip Crisis until he had some problems that screwed up the posting schedule. It killed the flow so I got out of the habit of reading. Now I’m just waiting for a good time to buy the collections.
Starslip is funny, but the real heart of the comic is the relationship between Vanderbeam and Cutter. Masterfully written.
I used to read Penny Arcade religiously, but now that I’m out of retail a lot of the game news jokes are kind of lost on me. Their expanded content is fantastic though.
I usually go back and catch up on Awkward Zombie every so often because Nintendo jokes.
It just ended a little while before I started reading but I really enjoyed Treading Ground. Lots of people talking. Just what I likes. His new comic The Idle State made up for losing a comic I just found. I like his writing a lot.
Another friend of mine did/does a comic called The Girl next Door, which is, like most of what I like, a sitcom essentially. Mostly funny, but a nice bit of drama too. Lots of people talking and having feelings. I really miss this one when it doesn’t update.
Yet another friend draws Intragalactic, which is a parody of the Star Trek sort of science fiction. Also one whose humor I sync with. I like the way the words are. Likes it real good.
I haven’t gotten through the whole archive but The Lair Of The Dreaded Atrox is really neat. I haven’t seen another sculpted comic. It’s a cool idea and done very well.
I know there are others, but my list is split between devices. That’s more than enough though, I’m sure. I’m also a sucker for advertising and since I use Project wonderful I’m constantly seeing new stuff I want to look at.
It varies from page to page. Over eight hours on a bad day, but sometimes much much less. I start with the script which is usually written well in advance of the page. I ad stuff on the fly though so you never know. I set the dialoged in first and draw the panels to suit that layout. Adjusting as needed. I draw everything in the computer. Then I redraw it. XD After I have the page more or less set up I color it and “ink” the text. The order is arbitrary, but if I can’t finish a page in one sitting I usually do the lettering before the coloring because it’s harder for me.
Apart from actually making the comic there’s the blog post, which is usually whatever random shit I’m thinking about. I didn’t necessarily intend for the blog to be so important, but people get mad if I don’t say anything now that they’ve come to expect it. X3
If you were to take a critical look at your own artistic talents and storytelling skills, what aspects would you consider flawed and how would you go about improving it?
I don’t know. I just try to be better today than I was yesterday. People waste a lot of time worrying about how to specifically improve their art. Just fucking do something. You’ll get better as you go.
The one thing no one was ever able to teach me was to stop worrying about getting things right the first time. It stopped me from acting because I knew whatever I did wouldn’t be perfect the first time. Well fuck perfect. Imperfect is still better than nothing on its worst day.
Have you tried to insert subtle elements into your artistry and storytelling?
What does that even mean? What are subtle elements? Like expressions? Can they really be considered subtle if they carry a joke? Do you mean posture? How the characters hold themselves as they act out a scene? I’m not sure I understand the question, or maybe I understand the subtlety of
it only too well. I submit that the question is flawed.
[Editor: By subtle elements I mean little touches that are not necessarily noticed with a quick reading, but which can be noticed with a more careful reading. One example would be a recent Megatokyo where Dom’s van was deposited on top of a building, though it’s not easy to see due to the sound effect. But honestly, the interpretation of the question is what’s important, so the cartoonist can answer it however they want.]
What are your concerns with increased complexity with the comic possibly cutting into your time for updating regularly?
These questions seem so oddly worded to me… How about saying it like this: Are you concerned that the increased complexity of the comic could keep you from updating regularly?
I do what I can do in the time I have. Increased complexity isn’t the problem. Life is the problem.
If someone asked you for advice on creating their own webcomic, what are a couple specific pointers you’d suggest besides “don’t suck?”
At the very least have a clear outline of what you want to create before you start.
Don’t make one page and then go to every forum to declare your brilliance to the world. Give people enough so that they get an idea of what you’re about when they come to look.
Be patient. Very rarely do you get an audience quickly.
XKCD is poorly draw, about math apparently, and very, very, popular. You can never know what people will dig, you dig?