Every God Has His (Or Her) Day - An interview with Chuck Rowles of The Gods of ArrKelaan
Are there any of your characters you're really fond of? Any that are particularly difficult to use?
I really like the Sharras (Goddesses of Luck), because more than any of the others they seem to maintain a fairly level headed demeanor regardless of the events around them. This is probably because they cause a lot of them.
Ronson is particularly difficult to use because he’s hard to motivate, and his reactions are counterintuitive to what mine would be. The current storyline is a bit easier because he is very motivated (to reunite with his wife who died before he became a god) and is acting differently than he normally would – or will.
Plus I have trouble keeping Bikk’s (the God of Trade) nose consistent.
How would you describe your relationship with your fans? Do you engage in a lot of online interaction with your readers?
Oh, sure. I comment on their comments and occasionally make announcements and blog posts. I have the smartest readers in the world, and the feedback really helps me figure out what is working and what isn’t.
Do you have any long term goals or ambition for the future of the comic?
“Consequences” will be the absolute end of the beginning. I’ll have set up everything I need for the middle events (the oft-alluded to God Wars as well as certain dealings between the Gods of Arr-Kelaan). What I’d like to do after “Consequences” is relax a bit and build up the mythologies with short stories. Then get into some major storylines – including a new one that I am calling “Taro City”, which if I do it will be quite a divergence from the other stories.
I have the end of the whole series in mind, and will probably write and draw it – out of order – in a few years. That way, I can have a beginning and an end and then concentrate on building the middle until I get tired of it or too old and/or feeble to do it.
How do the print versions of The Gods Of Arr-Kelaan do? Any plans for future print collections?
The print versions have always paid for themselves, and have helped support the website. I plan on printing everything that gets posted online – and more. I have been printing my books on a Print on Demand basis at a book printing company up the road from me. I usually only print a few hundred at a time, and usually only have to sell half of them to make my money back.
Currently, I’m wrestling with the problem of color printing. I can’t have that done locally, and I can’t print the books in any affordable way for the small quantities I usually sell. We hope to release “Consequences” completely in color (though Steve has to color the first part still!), but I have no idea how to do it without going heavily into debt. Maybe an online POD publisher is the solution, but then there will be almost no profits to be had, and I do think that an artist should make money from their creation.
Of course, digital downloads will always be available on our online store, with all the added pages that I put in the print editions (plug! plug!)
How do you go about promoting your work? What seems to be most effective at pulling in new readers?
Here’s my method: Steve takes care of it.
Mostly it’s advertising through Project Wonderful, though he has experimented in a few other sites. The rest is just word of mouth and interviews like this. I haven’t really done much as far as announcements or forum plugging for at least a few years. We have a steadily growing fan base, and I really prefer to concentrate on the story.
How has being a part of Drunk Duck been? What kinds of things do you do with DD and how does it benefit everyone in it?
Well, when I found Drunk Duck it was virtually brand new. Because of the relationship I developed with Dylan Squires, I had a lot of input on how it evolved -- though no idea how it all works, as the coding is far above my skill level -- so it really became something that I’ve always been comfortable with. It was always his system, though. I just was happy to be a part of it. And I still am. Even my own site makes use of the comic posting and commenting section that Dylan developed way back when.
I think Drunk Duck brings a lot of traffic to my comic, even now where it has to compete with thousands of other comics. Without it, I think I’d just be some lonely comic artist getting frustrated with HTML. Of course, with things like WordPress, that aspect is starting to change.
I’ve recently resigned as an administrator of Drunk Duck. Mostly this was to concentrate on The Gods of Arr-Kelaan. As a result, I really won’t be too deeply involved with their projects any more. Before Platinum Studios acquired Drunk Duck, I worked on printing the anthologies and helping to prioritize the changes to the Drunk Duck system. Now, I’m just a user who posts comics and gets cranky in the forums.
Currently, Platinum is dealing with a growing database and having some troubles keeping Drunk Duck running quickly and efficiently. They’ve taken a few steps while I was there that have helped it, and I’m sure they’ll do more in the future. It still is one of the simplest and (in my opinion) best ways for an aspiring cartoonist to nearly instantly start posting their comics. The community is still very strong as well. Most of the complaints – specifically about Drunk Duck – are about bugs that need fixing or features that need adding. The core of Drunk Duck – a community for posting comics – is still very strong.
Do you know how large the DrunkDuck community is right now? Do most members just post comics or do most also engage in the more interactive parts of the website (comments, forums, etc)?
I don't know how big it is right now. Most members just post comics, but there's a large minority of people to take advantage of the interactive features.
What does the average member on DrunkDuck make of Platinum's ownershop of the site? Is there any expectation that the association Platinum will provide opportunities or benefits to members beyond Platinum's upkeep of the site itself?
I think that most members don't even know. The ones who do are on the fence about if it's a good or a bad thing. Some artists have gotten some financial deals with Platinum (The Gods of Arr-Kelaan has an option agreement for a possible movie production at the bottom of their filing cabinet somewhere, but I don't know anything about what the chances of that ever actually happening is), and some people have had problems. That's about all I know, actually.
I saw that this year the DrunkDuck community organized the "2nd Annual Drunk Duck Awards" (congratulations on getting two nominations). It's by definition a webcomic-specific award (like the WCCAs) but it's unclear to me how it was run. Who decided the nominations and how did the winners get picked?
I'm a bit unclear on the details as well. It was an honor to be nominated, though.
It was planned here. Basically, the community created categories and then nominations were submitted, after which the community voted for their choices. I hope someday that Platinum creates a system to make contests like that a bit easier on those in charge. In fact, there'd probably be a lot of people who would enjoy some sort of forum-based contest system.
What conventions are your favorites to exhibit at? What advice do you have for others just starting to show their work at conventions? Do you have a favorite convention story? Do your fans bring you cool things at shows?
I have only done a handful of conventions, and no one has any idea who I am when I go. I have to admit that so far my experience hasn’t been spectacular. Part of it, I think, is that I really don’t know where people actually are willing to look at independent comics. I did have a fairly good experience when Platinum was paying for a few tables for Drunk Duck, partly because I was able to meet some folks I had gotten to know online (Hi Nick!)
I think I have to adjust my expectations for conventions and concentrate on getting to know people and not actually getting people to buy (or even look at) my comic. I should also try to figure out what conventions would actually suit my comic better. Kind of like Rich Berlew, who goes to gaming conventions to sell OOTS. That’s a really good fit.
In my opinion, conventions will only work for you if you’re really good at selling yourself and your comic. D.J. Coffman and Rich Berlew, for example, are great at it. I could learn a lot from those two.
I decided a few years ago that I would go wherever I was offered a free table within a 100 mile radius of my house, but the invitations are not forthcoming.
Did you do your own website? What software are you using on it?
Well, Steve and I do it. The last change to the layout we did, I created a graphic image for it, and Steve chopped it up and made it work. The comic system is the old QUACT program that Dylan Squires created quite a while back, with some encryption protection added by Steve. I have no idea how it all works, but I’m quite satisfied with it! I’m quite interested in Word Press, but haven’t quite figured out how it all works or if it would be worth the massive shift to it any time soon.
Anything else you wished I'd asked you about?
Quantum physics. I don’t really understand it, but it could have been fun making stuff up!
Thank you for the opportunity to discuss my comic with you.
Go Obama '08!