David Wright checks into Brad Guigar’s Greystone Inn for an Interview

Brad Guigar is the creator of Greystone Inn, a daily comic strip published online by Keenspot. Greystone Inn is about a fictional comic strip and the crew that produces it on a weekly basis. It features a cast of colorful characters including Argus the gargoyle and recovering super villainess, Lightning Lady. Guigar is also one of the founders of Alternative Brand Studios, and has organized two webcomic “telethon” fundraisers for MDA. More recently, Guigar designed the new Keenspot logo. He took some time out of his busy schedule to chat with Comixpedia.

I know Greystone Inn is in a few papers now, have you submitted to the major syndicates? If so, what has the response been like?
Greystone Inn gets sent out to the Philadelphia Daily News (approximate daily circulation 150,000), the Centre Daily Times‘ Blue Edition (distributed on the Penn
State campus), the Stanford Daily (Stanford University), the Maine Campus (University of Maine), and the South End (Wayne University). However, some of the above are college newspapers that don’t run the comic continually. The Centre Daily Times, for example, replaced GI with a syndicated panel at the beginning of the current semester, but has not (to my knowledge) officially cancelled the strip.

I sent GI off to the syndicates before I started posting them online in February 2000. Their rejections inspired me to self-publish GI as a webcomic. I’ve never seriously considered submitting GI to the syndicates since self-publishing on the Web.

A couple years ago, I tried to submit a GI spin-off to the syndicates. It was rejected as well, but I got a very friendly e-mail from one of the syndicates offering encouragement. The spin-off was based on a secondary character in the strip – Trever – and his personal life. It was aimed at the “boomeranger” demographic (people who move back in with their parents after graduating college). My four-week submission was part of the regular GI continuity and starts here.

Given the tame nature of most syndicated strips, do you find yourself self-editing yourself a lot? Do you find yourself having to scrap really good strips because the content might be too risky?
Not really. For starters, I don’t write dirty jokes or adult situations well. It’s just not my strength. Believe me, if I tried to do an R-rated comic, it would be pathetic. However, every once in a while, I’ll change the wording for the strips before they get printed in the newspapers. The online strip is quite loose, but I’m somewhat more careful of the version that gets printed. That happens pretty rarely, though.

What do you do at your day job (at the paper)?
I am a graphic artist / page designer.

Being a cartoonist and working for a newspaper gives you a somewhat unique perspective. What do you think of the current trend of hype saying that the printed newspaper is on its last legs? Do you think this endangers comic strip artists’ careers?
Newspapers are definitely in decline. A publishing business such as this simply cannot survive year after year of dwindling circulation and ad revenue. They’ll cut costs to make everything look good on paper, but every year it will get more difficult until it’s
simply impossible. I have very little hope of retiring from this industry. Comics, clearly, will survive – and thrive – on the Internet and in other electronic media.

My full rant on the newspaper vs. Internet comics issue was the subject of a guest commentary I did for Comixpedia.

What inspires you?
In terms of humor writing, I’m most inspired by stuff that angers or annoys me. I think my best humor has come from issues and topics that truly ticked me off. My funniest stuff has been a result of my getting myself whipped up into a froth over something and then mentally stepping aside and laughing at myself.

One example is the stress and anxiety caused by planning a wedding. I think the whole exercise is ripe for ridicule. It’s supposed to be a happy occasion, but every wedding-related service is overpriced and every emotion is overblown. This is a typical response
from a man. From the time they’re little girls, most women fantasize about the Big Day in intricate detail, planning and dreaming and sighing. How uninvolved are men? CLUE: WE RENT OUR CLOTHES! All I have to do is remember my own wedding (and I’ll be honest. my wife planned 95% of it and did waaaaay more work on it than I could EVER have done) and I can feel my chest tighten and my pulse thunder. In my own COMPLETELY detached opinion, I wrote some GREAT stuff about wedding planning. 😀

The story arc starts here, continues here and here, and concludes here.

When I’m not foaming at the mouth, my favorite topic is relationships. Two people in love are innately funny. Some of my favorite moments from GI involve simply looking at the situations that a loving relationship puts people in. Here are a few standouts:

  • Almost popping the question;
  • Mac’s proposal;
  • Loving a powerful woman, part 1 and part 2; and
  • Break-up clichés.
  • Can you describe the process of making the comic?
    I work in the evening, so I have about four free hours every morning. I generally use Tuesdays and Wednesdays for writing. I try to start penciling on Thursdays. I don’t work Fridays, so I have the entire day to finish penciling, inking, and final processing. I work on the comics one week at a time.

    I draw each original at 13″ x 4″. I pencil using a mechanical pencil with .5mm blue leads. I ink the comic with Pigma Micron pens leaving space for the dialogue. I scan the originals in at 600 dpi. I import the TIFFs into a Quark Xpress document, where I
    compose the strip and add the words. I export each strip from Quark Xpress as an EPS. I save each strip in three versions: one full-sized 600 dpi TIFF in bitmap mode; one 600 dpi TIFF scaled down to 6″ wide (also bitmap mode); and one 72 dpi GIF file that gets
    uploaded to my Web site. The master gets stored as an ultimate backup, the 6-inch TIFF gets sent to Plan Nine to be distributed to newspapers and later accumulated into books, and the lo-res GIF gets uploaded to the Web site.

    How has Greystone Inn changed since its inception?
    Greystone Inn started as my reaction to the state of popular comic strips in the late ’90s. Larsen, Watterson and Breathed had left and people like Aaron McGruder and Darby Conley had yet to arrive. Aside from strips such as Foxtrot and Zits, the funny pages were terribly unfunny to me.

    In the beginning, most of my humor came from poking fun at comic strips in general. Needless to say, that got boring fast. These days, most of the humor comes from the cast I’ve developed. I have a wide array of characters with well-defined personalities and
    histories. I can put any of them into almost any situation and find plenty of inspiration for humor.

    In a way, the comic has become anything but the comic-within-a-comic that it started out as. But I like the concept so much – and it allows for an additional layer of storytelling – that I keep it.

    What are your other interests/outside hobbies/activities?
    I’ve been re-discovering my inner comic book geek. I have a subscription to Wizard magazine and a pull list at Atomic City Comics on South Street in Philadelphia. I don’t have much time for any other hobbies that might require more investments in time than that. I used to golf sporadically, but nowadays, that’s been limited to vacations. No big loss; I’m an awful golfer.

    How do you balance work, the comic, and spending time with the family?
    I have a beautiful wife and a wonderful 23-month-old son. Obviously, my comic takes up a ton of time that would normally be spent with my family. Luckily, my wife is the Most Supportive Woman in Webcomics. Without her pulling for me, I’d never be able to do
    this stuff. It’s been even worse for the past year because I’ve taken on another major project that I’ve been working on in my spare time and she’s going back to grad school. But I can proudly report we’re making it work. It ain’t easy and it takes a lot of cooperation and communication, but we’re truly living the best days of our lives right now and we’re both determined to get the most out of this time.

    You have 3 books out, how much work goes into these on your end? Are they selling well?
    Since I prepare six hi-res TIFF for Plan Nine every week, the strips are all ready to be assembled into book form. All I have to do is design a cover and a short full-color story for the back of the book. I really try to challenge myself on these short stories. For example, the bonus story in Book Two tells the origins of a popular secondary character, Lightning Lady, the receptionist who is a recovering super-villain. The origin is one of three stories that are told concurrently in this six-page bonus story. They’re selling very well. It’s a very satisfying feeling. My local comic shop (the aforementioned Atomic City Comics in Philly) even stocks all three GI books in the store.

    I love having the strips in book form. For starters, it’s the only way some parts of my family would ever be able to read it. My parents in Michigan, for example, aren’t very computer-literate, so they don’t read it online. Secondly, it’s the very best format to
    read my strip. This material reads much better when it is taken several months at a time. When you read one after another, the storylines become that much more vivid. I have this habit of introducing a character as a background figure in a few strips and then bringing
    him in months – even years – later as an important plot device. When you read the books, these subtle threads become much more apparent. Finally, the art looks way better in hi-res than it does on the screen.

    A while back you started Comics in the Classroom. What was it, and are you still doing it?
    “Comics in the Classroom” was a project that tried to examine the teaching possibilities of comic strips. With the visual and verbal aspects of cartooning, I think comics could be used as powerful teaching tools. I’ve made the program available to a few groups of
    kids and the results were very positive.

    I’ve been approaching it in a passive way. If a teacher expresses interest, I become involved in another program. I haven’t been updating CITC lately because I haven’t been approached by a teacher who wanted to use it in his or her classroom. However, I do have long-term plans for it. I just have to find the time.

    What are your favorite/least favorite storylines?
    Here are some of my favorite storylines:

  • TV Horror Hosts;
  • Keagan Newborne, Super Villain;
  • Transylvania University;
  • San Diego Comic Con;
  • The Obligatory Janet Jackson storyline; and
  • Life of a Graphic Designer;
  • .

    I must be really stuck on myself. I don’t have any least favorite storylines. What a conceited jerk, eh?

    David Wright is a contributor-at-large for the Comixpedia. you can check out his own work here.