Scott Kurtz is the creative force behind PVP, and Wedlock, his brief stint with an autobiographical comic on Modern Tales. Kurtz, known for being one of the few webcomics creators able to actually live off his comic, recently started a print run of PVP with Image Comics. Often surrounded by controversy, Kurtz tells Cat Garza what he was really thinking when he did his infamous “guest week,” about his real reason for quitting Modern Tales, and about his "indie comic" Graphomaximo.
Here’s the second installment of Cat Garza’s online chat interview with PvP‘s Scott Kurtz. Read part one here.
catgarza: Tell me about IMAGE… how’s that worked for you so far?
catgarza: Has it drawn more heat from your opposition?
Kurtz: If so, I’m not feeling said heat.
Kurtz: But let me tell you…
Kurtz: it’s so weird.
Kurtz: because I’m this state of flux and transition right now.
Kurtz: I’m DEFINITELY not with Dork Storm Press anymore, but it doesn’t feel like I’m at Image yet.
Kurtz: so I feel a little homeless and like I’m drifting.
Kurtz: and worried.
catgarza: Was the split with DORK STORM amicable?
Kurtz: for the most part.
catgarza: how so?
Kurtz: Well, I never wanted to believe that Image would actually offer me a contract.
Kurtz: So we’re talking and I just don’t want to say anything to anyone about it unless it’s real.
Kurtz: and it’s not real until the contract is signed.
catgarza: Is that what’s worrying you?
Kurtz: It’s signed, I’m in.
Kurtz: What worries me is this:
Kurtz: Timing is everything and you only get one shot at certain things in life. Image is as high as PvP will ever get in the comic company ladder.
Kurtz: so If this isn’t the time for PvP to shine as an Image comic, if the timing is better that I wait a year or two.
Kurtz: I blow it.
catgarza: I know what you mean
catgarza: Still, you can’t predict the outcome…
catgarza: just wait and see what happens, I suppose
Kurtz: which is why when Brandon Peterson suggested two years ago that I approach Image…I said "No way. Not ready yet."
Kurtz: I think it’ll be okay.
Kurtz: fortune favors the bold.
catgarza: You feel ready now?
Kurtz: No. But that’s good. You want to be a little scared, a little hungry. So you know you always do your best to impress. That will yield the best results.
catgarza: Well, you definitely deserve the shot right now…
catgarza: You’ve paid your "dues"
Kurtz: So right now it’s HEY! IMAGE! PvP! COVER OF PREVIEWS! FRANK CHO COVER! POW BANG! PAY ATTENTION!
Kurtz: and the result could be….
Kurtz: YEEE HAWWWW!
Kurtz: or everyone could just stop, look and then go back to their meals.
catgarza: What does the future hold for Scott Kurtz? What’s coming up with PvP? Are you hoping to someday do something a little more personal?
catgarza: Ever gonna get back to wedlock?
Kurtz: The personal expression is in the works.
Kurtz: and depending on how PvP is received, it will be expressed in a year or so.
Kurtz: so you can have pop-culture and fart jokes on the odd month and personal expression on the even month.
catgarza: How did you first come in contact with comics and fall in love with the medium?
catgarza: Who are your idols?
Kurtz: I always enjoyed reading comics. I had all those Peanuts paperbacks.
Kurtz: and I always loved to draw.
Kurtz: since I was a little kid.
catgarza: But what made you first start drawing?
catgarza: (your own comics)
Kurtz: My mom bought me the first Garfield collection.
Kurtz: and I read it cover to cover, over and over.
Kurtz: and I wanted to be a comic strip artist from that day on.
Kurtz: my first cartoons were all Garfield knock offs.
catgarza: So, what was your first comic?
Kurtz: I had a cat comic named Bagpuss.
Kurtz: My first original character that wasn’t a Garfield knock off was called Zach. And he was a dragon.
catgarza: And Captain Napalm? Was that high school?
Kurtz: I started drawing him in high school. Running around blowing up my art teacher.
catgarza: So you kept drawing and drawing all those years?
Kurtz: Oh yeah.
Kurtz: I discovered Bloom County and all my strips looked like that.
Kurtz: and tried to have that sharp wit.
catgarza: Did you?
Kurtz: But I tried.
catgarza: Tell us about high school and college…
catgarza: Did you pursue an arts career? Art studies?
Kurtz: I had a hard time in high school because my teacher hated my cartooning.
Kurtz: I just didn’t want to learn other art.
Kurtz: and I really needed to of course, but I had no interest.
Kurtz: Color theory? Who needed that.
Kurtz: Perspective? Pass.
Kurtz: So I was real smart.
Kurtz: I knew it all back then and my art teacher hated me.
Kurtz: but I submitted this graphic novel, about 20 pages.
Kurtz: for the annual senior art show.
Kurtz: and she didn’t want to put it in, but I argued with her and she put it in.
Kurtz: and it won best of show.
Kurtz: my first artistic victory.
Kurtz: it was very political.
Kurtz: because the teacher had a progeny. A sculptor that she was showing special favor to.
Kurtz: and she had planned for him to win best of show.
Kurtz: So I wanted to go to college at UNT in Denton, but my grades and SAT scores were borderline.
Kurtz: and so another teacher of mine, Mr. Grimm, wrote this great letter for me.
catgarza: Where’re you living in dallas?
catgarza: You a Texas native?
Kurtz: Been here since 1985.
catgarza: Right on!
catgarza: Did grimm’s letter help?
Kurtz: Mr. Grimm told the University that they may never see me on the dean’s list, but I would contribute to the school with my cartoons. I would make the school better. So they let me in and I think that letter made the difference. Because I was totally borderline.
Kurtz: And then I dropped out three years later.
Kurtz: Because again, I was smart. and I knew everything.
catgarza: So what did you do then?
Kurtz: Well, I got a job at a sign company. My brother’s friend had a dad that owned a sign company. And he got me a job so I wouldn’t be destitute. And that’s where I met my wife. So I regret quitting school, but had I not, I would never have met Angela. It’s the great paradox of my life.
catgarza: Were you still drawing comics?
catgarza: When did you get online?
Kurtz: I was drawing until 1996 when my mom died. After that I stopped drawing for 2 years.
Kurtz: I just didn’t draw out of sadness.
Kurtz: and it was miserable and my table was out and gathering dust and I just couldn’t bring myself to draw.
Kurtz: I would sit down and start and then I would just start crying and nothing would come out right.
Kurtz: and eventually, I started doodling again.
catgarza: Is that how you got into gaming?
Kurtz: I played video games. Online games. virtual lives.
Kurtz: rather than just living.
Kurtz: and my wife played too so, it was easy.
Kurtz: and one day, I got upset about the way this company was running the game and I wanted to post about it to the big game website.
Kurtz: So I drew a cartoon, scanned it in and posted that instead.
Kurtz: and POW! Man it was a hit. That whole community went nuts.
Kurtz: and then someone from another gaming website saw it.
catgarza: Ah, cool
Kurtz: and offered me 500 bucks a month to draw a comic that he could have on HIS site.
Kurtz: so he could get that traffic.
Kurtz: and that’s where PvP started.
Kurtz: I took an old comic strip about elementary school teachers, and turned them into the staff of a gaming magazine.
catgarza: A combination of years of perfecting your craft and right place, right time?
Kurtz: well. no.
Kurtz: PvP sucked when I started it. I had no idea what the strip was, where I wanted it to go. I just wanted the cash and I thought it would keep me drawing.
Kurtz: Because I wasn’t inspired. I had no voice or agenda.
Kurtz: I just now had an excuse to draw and it would keep my friends and family from giving me that look.
catgarza: Ah, I see
Kurtz: that "you’re wasting your talent" look.
Kurtz: I was drawing, earning money…so they could back off.
Kurtz: but I got sick of it fast.
Kurtz: and started missing days, losing interest.
catgarza: How fast?
Kurtz: barely the first year.
catgarza: Lot of work…
Kurtz: go look at the archives, that first year is still up.
Kurtz: I was going to quit and my wife begged me not to.
Kurtz: "Please, don’t stop drawing and get miserable again."
catgarza: Thank god you have such a supportive wife!
Kurtz: Yeah, well. She’s the only reason that PvP is where it is.
catgarza: How so?
Kurtz: I would have quit.
Kurtz: I would have started playing video games all day again.
Kurtz: "It’s too much work." I said.
Kurtz: "No kidding. It’s supposed to be." She would reply.
Kurtz: So I went to my dad’s house, into the closet with all my old art, and started leafing through it.
Kurtz: and I was good back when I cared. I was a good cartoonist before I stopped drawing. And it got me charged up and I realized…I have the opportunity and this proves I have the talent. I can make something from this.
catgarza: May 4, 1998
Kurtz: That’s when it started.
Kurtz: and I get sick of it pretty fast.
catgarza: the characters have changed a lot since
catgarza: That’s cool
catgarza: Just like Jim Davis…
Kurtz: and then in June 1999, I start over.
Kurtz: PvP was the first strip that wasn’t some grand idea from my heart. It wasn’t my baby. It was just a job.
Kurtz: so I never cared about it that much at first.
Kurtz: and then going back and seeing when I did care.
Kurtz: Once I started caring. It’s hard to believe that at one point, I was going to quit and leave all these guys behind.