Whomp! Comic Interview – Richard FilyawOctober 7th, 2011 |
This interview is part of Up Up Down Down’s Associates series. There are a lot of awesome webcomics out there and these are some of the ones we love. You’ve probably seen their banners on our site. There are a lot of awesome webcomics out there and these are some of the ones we love. You’ve probably seen their banners on our site. Check out the full list of comics in our Associates tab. The first comic in our series is WHOMP! by Richard Filyaw.
I told Ronnie (artist and author and creator of WHOMP!) once that he was “the best webcomic creator known to me.” His comic revolves around Ronnie, a quasi representation of himself, Agrias, a fictional female roommate named after a FF Tactics character, Motivation Dude (or M. Dude) a purely evil individual who wears an American flag for shorts and “motivates” Ronnie to draw comics, and recently Mei, Ronnie’s girlfriend (who is bad with homophones).
At times we get one off comics, like his sitcom-esque comics about the sun and the moon as roommates who look after their cute little pet “Earth.” I bought his book and consumed it in one sitting. If you aren’t reading Whomp already take a look. Start by clicking any one of the thumbnails in collage above. Thems are my favourites.
Where did you get the idea for Whomp!? How did you develop the ideas and characters?
I had created a couple of comics before ‘Whomp!’, but they all failed to hold my attention. I was doing the same kinds of jokes as everyone else, and it was boring. Then I discovered KC Green, who had such a unique art style and comedic sense, I was enamored. I had discovered a new side of comedy that I wanted to help develop. I’m certainly not as far in the void as Mr. Green, but there’s only room in there for men as talented as he.
As for the characters, Ronnie of course is based lightly on me. He shares many of my life experiences, but often times he’s an extreme exaggeration of the kind of person I tend to avoid being. The original premise for the Ronnie strips was that he was a professional cartoonist, and he needed an editor. I wanted to use a non-literal representation of an editor and made it the physical embodiment of his motivation, instead. Motivation Dude is the kind of guy who doesn’t care how tired or depressed you are, he will beat a comic out of you three times a week. At first he was just annoyed by Ronnie’s laziness, but later developed his own sadistic nature. The causes are unknown. When M Dude stopped being the regular annoyed-at-Ronnie character (usually annoying him instead), I wanted a voice of reason. This is where Agrias (Li Ming Chiu) comes in. I also wanted some ethnic diversity, which can be fun to write when working with different cultures.
Every character I create is made to be a challenge to myself, to show how people of different backgrounds and opinions affect the world around them.
How do you draw your comics? Tell us a bit about the process and what tools you use to create.
For ‘Whomp!’ I work entirely digitally using a Wacom tablet in Easy Paint Tool SAI. Since SAI has nearly no shape tools (all you can do is straight lines and rectangle selections), nearly everything is done completely free hand. Ronnie looks pretty round, but it’s actually just me trying to draw a perfect circle, for better or worse. SAI doesn’t do text, however, so I bring it into Photoshop Elements to do that part. You might ask ‘Why not do it all in Photoshop?’ There are many answers, but basically I just like how SAI feels. It’s more geared towards the illustrator rather than the graphic designer, and is extremely kind of system resources (and is pretty cheap. About $70, compared to Photoshop CS5 at 10x as much.)
The process is pretty simple. I write the idea down, then I do a very rough sketch in SAI. I then curse at it for not being funny enough, save it, close it, then come up with a completely different idea. After I’ve done this about three times, I give up and start doing the more detailed sketch on a different layer. Then I hand-draw my bubbles, draw a clean ‘inked’ layer, draw in the backgrounds, color, and I’m ready to post it. This all takes about 4-8 hours (usually around 5).
Many of your characters’s actions in each panel are inherently funny beyond dialogue. It makes simple moment visually rich and satisfying. How did you develop this skill?
I would definitely chalk this up to animation in general. I think if anything has been most prominent in my life, it’s been animation (as depressing as that may or may not sound.) Other kids liked cartoons, but I absolutely loved them. I try to make every panel of the comic progress as it would if it were a cartoon. I try to see the comic moving and acting, rather than just have two people talking about something witty. I’ve done a few comics like that, but I try to avoid them. Cartoons have a flow about them that’s very dynamic and attractive, and just because you’re an adult doesn’t mean you can’t be bored by stiff, dull characters. To answer your question, I naturally developed the skill of making characters interesting through watching lots of cartoons.
Where does your urge to be creative come from? Where did it begin? Who put it there?
I was born with it. I can’t even begin to come up with another idea of where it might have come from. I’ve always wanted to draw. I’d record shows on VHS and draw off the TV, shocked that my hands could make lines on my paper that were as interesting as the ones I saw on TV, and I wanted the power to truly create characters like that, myself. I also write short stories, and even wrote a terrible book. Without listing them, I have been through every creative outlet there is (music, sculpture, game/level design, LEGO obsession, etc etc) I just did anything and everything I could to get out that creative urge that was always welling up inside me. And even though ‘Whomp!’ has given me a regular outlet for it, I still want to start a second comic, write more books, develop games and so on. I’m constantly writing down all kinds of ideas I want to make real, and there’s only so much time to do it all. The feeling is quite overwhelming.
Are you a writer or artist first? What’s the work flow of your ideas?
I am an animator first (which is an odd way to answer your question). Even though I’ve never animated anything, I see all of my works as cartoons in my head. I’m just putting them into a medium that is easy enough for me to produce regularly. As for my idea workflow, I have a massive file that holds all my sparks. Something will occur to me as a comic idea, then it’ll go in the file. I’ll then flesh it out into panels, and I’ll let my brain burn until the idea comes to a satisfying completion, or I decide it’s not going to work and throw it out. It’s really straining to conclude a strip satisfactorily. No matter how good the comic is up to the last panel, if the last panel isn’t pleasing, it retroactively ruins the entire comic. This works for the ending of just about anything (books, movies, etc.) It is pretty stressful when you can’t get that last panel to work, but that’s where the rubber meets the road.
Who is your favourite character to write? And why?
I like M Dude a lot. He’s just so evil. He can do anything and get away with it, because we’re not even sure if he’s real. He’s a great antagonist to Ronnie, and conflict breeds interesting writing. M Dude is a guy you love to hate, and even when he wins, you were rooting for him, but you don’t know why.
What previous work inspired you? Online and offline (print, books, tv), or even a person?
I’m afraid I may have answered this prematurely, but early influences were certainly 90′s cartoons, and to a lesser extent, old newspaper comics. No single person or work really inspired me to draw in general, but KC Green’s Gunshow and Horribleville certainly inspired me to make a good comic. While my early strips were kind of imitations of his stylings, I was able to diverge quickly enough to find my own voice. It’s really common, and sometimes even recommended to copy your hero until you find yourself. Yeah, there’s the obvious ‘Draw from life’, but ‘Draw what you like’ has advantages, too.
Favourite Sailor Moon moment? And song?
Ah dangit, you pre-empted me on Sailor Moon. Well, my favorite moment is by far the final battle with Queen Beryl in the English dub. I know now the dub was a poor translation, but I still like it. You can find it on YouTube. My favorite song is the one playing during that battle scene, “Carry On”.
The dream: your dream for Whomp!? What do you wish for your comic? Paint me an ideal picture of your comic’s future.
I think it’s the common cliche to want it to become a cartoon, and while I’m hopeful, I don’t think it would ever get the production love it deserves. It would have to be very fluid and lively, with plenty of slapstick. Shows like Adventure Time have a lot of fun and spirit to them that would just make ‘Whomp!’ come alive. Other than that, I just want to continue to improve my art, and I want people to keep enjoying big dumb Ronnie for a long time to come.
What piece of advice would you give an up and coming webcomic creator?
- Don’t be boring. Your characters are people, and they’re alive. They were born with muscles and faces, so use them.
- Watch cartoons. See how the characters move, how their actions serve the humor.
- Try making comics that have no words that force your characters to do things. You don’t have to post them, but just as an exercise.
- Avoid small fonts, because they just make you more verbose. When I can’t fit enough words in a panel, I know I’ve screwed up. (There are exceptions, but not many.)
- Actively improve your art. I’ve seen people draw the same things for 10 years and not improve one bit.
- It’s okay if two people write/draw a comic, but if you can draw, don’t seek out a writer. If you can draw, you have it in you to make good comics. You just need to tap into that power. (I’m not saying everyone who can draw is a good writer. I am saying they’re smart enough to be a good writer, but they’re probably not trying hard enough.)