This chat took place Saturday, March 29, 2003. Cayetano "Cat" Garza Jr chatted with Scott McCloud, Demian5, and Patrick Farley. In Scott McCloud's second book on the comic medium, Reinventing Comics, he wrote about the potential of digital media for comics. He named several artists already on the web in the book, creating a certain aura of notoriety around some artists who may have gone unnoticed before. Among them were Cayetano Garza, Demian5 and Patrick Farley. Comixpedia had the chance to eavesdrop on a chat between the four about the state of webcomics today.
Cat Garza is the creator of several webcomics including: Welcome to Whimville, Magic Inkwell Comic Strip Theatre, and Cuentos de la Frontera. Scott McCloud is the author of Understanding Comics and Reinventing Comics. Demian5 is the creator of the webcomic classic, When I Am King, and Patrick Farley is the creator of webcomics such as Apocamon, The Spiders, and The Guy I Almost Was.
scott_mccloud: so we're being preserved for posterity?
catgarza: we should go back to what we were just talking about, because i think it's pretty pertinent to what's going on NOW in webcomix with the "worlds colliding" and all…
scott_mccloud: i've never had anything against the strips
catgarza: so to speak…
catgarza: good, now we have it in writing! 😉
catgarza: yeah… me neither..
scott_mccloud: just not a lot to say about design that wouldn't apply to 100 years of printed strips
catgarza: my first comics reading was strips
scott_mccloud: me too
demian5: i'm doing strips right now
demian5: so watch out
catgarza: that's true demian..
scott_mccloud: heh heh
patrick_farley: but what makes a demian 5 strip different from say, Peanuts…
scott_mccloud: i like your strips
patrick_farley: is the fact that you have no brick wall to stop you
patrick_farley: if you need to add extra panels, you can.
catgarza: i liked WEDLOCK back when [Scott Kurtz] first started doing webcomics..
scott_mccloud: i think the lack of content restrictions is fascinating
catgarza: i used to check that site pretty regularly
scott_mccloud: WEDLOCK was fantastic
catgarza: the ORIGINAL one was great…
demian5: don't know it
scott_mccloud: i hope he can return to WEDLOCK
catgarza: the newer one was pretty cool, too
scott_mccloud: Kurtz's strip on Modern Tales
catgarza: yeah, that's a WHOLE nother story….
scott_mccloud: one of the reasons i want micro [payments] to succeed is that i want us to have constant incentive to create
catgarza: and i think a lot of the "strip" online cartoonists felt a little "ignored" in lew of the "artsy fartsy" guys like us…
scott_mccloud: which is funny
patrick_farley: artsy fartsy? hmm
scott_mccloud: because their audiences have always been bigger!
patrick_farley: it's weird, but i actually feel like i'm on the fringe of webcomics now
catgarza: i'm not artsy fartsy…
catgarza: maybe a bit angsty…
catgarza: you're out of your mind, patrick
scott_mccloud: aaah. we're all artsy-fartsy
catgarza: EVERYONE knows your work….
catgarza: a lot of my austin friends that don't even read comics regularly (much less webcomics) have seen e-sheep and rave to me about it
patrick_farley: i've actually seen one of those "What (xxx) Are You?" quizzes that is, "What Webcomic Character Are You?"
catgarza: what were the choices?
patrick_farley: and i realized I had NO idea what any of these comics were, much less who their fanbases are
patrick_farley: a lot of stuff i'd never heard of.
scott_mccloud: there are still a lot of barriers
patrick_farley: comics about sullen young males and female anime cat/android/strippers who dote on them
scott_mccloud: Keens… MT… the manga guys… the artsy ones
scott_mccloud: so many sectors
scott_mccloud: but thats good
catgarza: well, they're starting to intermingle
catgarza: which is the best part
scott_mccloud: real diversity is when you don't even KNOW everything thats out there
patrick_farley: yeah, it's interesting what you were saying at APE last month, Scott.
scott_mccloud: i wish i remember
patrick_farley: noticing that "webcomics" is almost a redundant distinction at this point since pretty much every comics artist has a website now.
scott_mccloud: now its just comics
catgarza: i like "webcomix"
scott_mccloud: it was inevitable
catgarza: terminology is so funny
scott_mccloud: yeh. i used to say online comics
patrick_farley: i prefer "digital stained glass" but that never caught on. 😉
scott_mccloud: but webcomics dropped a syllable which is always a good thing
catgarza: i think also a lot of [people] really wanted to "call the shots" about how the public perceived webcomics
scott_mccloud: claim jumpers. all of us
catgarza: and since scott wrote a BOOK that had a major section devoted to them he gets asked to be on tv and in interviews, etc.
catgarza: which caused a lot of jealousy and tension, i guess…
scott_mccloud: a lot of [people] didn't realize that i'd been blabbing about the stuff since 93.
catgarza: and anyone associated to that or touted by scott became kinda blacklisted by that side of this new "industry"
patrick_farley: why, who the HELL does this mccloud guy think he is?!!!
scott_mccloud: they thought [Reinventing Comics] was my first foray and that wasn't until 2000
catgarza: yeah, scott had been talking up the idea that comics could flourish on the web for a LONG time…
scott_mccloud: but you can't really blacklist someone in cyberspace
patrick_farley: the funny thing is, there have been many ports of entry. i would guess that at least half my audience didn't come to me through the "comics" channel
catgarza: yeah, i think that's the best part, patrick…
catgarza: i'm still trying to figure out how you did that..
patrick_farley: they seem to have come through the "web art" channel, if that makes any sense
catgarza: because we should all try to do that
demian5: same with my site..
scott_mccloud: and new ARTISTS are coming thru the web art scene
patrick_farley: well, there are websites out there like fray.com, and urbandesire.com (don't know if it still exists)
patrick_farley: which are basically online literary magazines plus pictures.
scott_mccloud: the web natives.
patrick_farley: and a lot of the fans of that kind of stuff migrated to e-sheep, back in the day.
scott_mccloud: i've been looking forward to the arrival of young artists with non-comics [backgrounds]
patrick_farley: most definitely.
catgarza: me too
catgarza: and it's happening
scott_mccloud: new blood
catgarza: slowly but surely
scott_mccloud: new ideas
patrick_farley: fewer sullen male anime characters
catgarza: i think a lot of it has to do with how young people perceive what we do…
demian5: but you need some comic [background]
scott_mccloud: a bit maybe
catgarza: i know i had a lot of romantic notions about comics that drove me for years
demian5: just to have an idea how to write them
catgarza: as i tried to "break in"
scott_mccloud: You draw with a mouse demian.
patrick_farley: but demian, do you think there may be a certain crossover between artforms?
scott_mccloud: That's a wonderful digital-native thing to do
patrick_farley: for example, a person who studies film or theater would understand dramatic pacing
demian5: a little bit maybe,
demian5: comics are mostly a first platform, …
catgarza: yeah, i think very cinematically…
catgarza: which i think kinda limits me…
demian5: from which people jump on to film or to writing
catgarza: or at least makes things a little too challenging…
patrick_farley: a sculptor, for example, who migrated that kind of 3-D static narrative onto the web…
scott_mccloud: now some are jumping into comics from film and writing
demian5: sounds interesting
catgarza: and animation…
catgarza: i'm currently a bit skeptical about comic's future…
scott_mccloud: the web encourages cross-pollination
catgarza: given the power of the moving picture…
scott_mccloud: why cat?
catgarza: well, most people would rather watch a film or cartoon
scott_mccloud: that's why i'm into this whole expanded canvas thing
demian5: by the way, I've got a penboard now…
catgarza: they just don't have the patience for pacing
patrick_farley: i don't think of comics as being in competition with that.
catgarza: maybe, but it's so marginalized now
scott_mccloud: i want to empasize what's unique about the form
catgarza: there's so many things distracting would-be readers
patrick_farley: i've always thought of comics as being closer to the reading experience than the sit-on-your-ass-in-front-of-the-screen experience
patrick_farley: uh, i mean..
scott_mccloud: i accept that comics will always be a minority art form
catgarza: it's a bit more interactive…. like reading
catgarza: true, even
patrick_farley: it's more engaging of a medium than simply having the moving pictures pumped at you
scott_mccloud: but [people] need more than one window back into their world
catgarza: i'm just constantly questioning my motivations and where it's all going, don't mind me… lol
demian5: I think comics have the potential to be a bit more
scott_mccloud: i agree
patrick_farley: and this was something i heard often when i went to internet art conferences….
patrick_farley: "when are you going to animate it?"
catgarza: it's like [people] think we're limiting ourselves…
patrick_farley: there's the supposition that a comic is merely a storyboard.
catgarza: instead of pushing a great art form forward…
scott_mccloud: sound and motion can work in comics [though].
catgarza: we've seen that
scott_mccloud: but only in some contexts
patrick_farley: that's what makes it all so exciting, Scott
catgarza: but they just get frustrated and wonder why we don't just do full-on animation…
patrick_farley: we're playing with the borderline between all sorts of perceptions.
scott_mccloud: i'm using some myself now
scott_mccloud: I like seeing something at it's birth like this
scott_mccloud: i've always been more interested in potential than in "state of the art"
patrick_farley: the potential is huge. i only wish i had an army of production minions to make my ideas a reality 🙂
scott_mccloud: me too
catgarza: me three
demian5: ok ok
patrick_farley: it makes me wonder…
demian5: me too
patrick_farley: what if, back in the 1970s, a spontaneous artistic movement arose on the CB radio
patrick_farley: what if there were whole schools of young artists attempting to revive the tradition of oral storytelling on CB radio…?
patrick_farley: and they succeeded, briefly, and are now forgotten because that technology is antiquated?
patrick_farley: sorry, i'm going off on a tangent here….
scott_mccloud: it's all tangents, P!
patrick_farley: but it's something i wonder about, given the transitional nature of computer technology that we work with here.
scott_mccloud: micro [payments] for instance
catgarza: more for you than me, scott 😉
scott_mccloud: but i think we're finally going to see some action in 2003
catgarza: i'm also curious about what i'd be doing now if you hadn't "opened my eyes" back in 97
scott_mccloud: Getting paid regularly
catgarza: man, i HOPE we see some real action soon…
catgarza: moderntales was a pleasant surprise
catgarza: and i was so very gung ho… (still am, to a degree..)
scott_mccloud: And think how young that is
scott_mccloud: how recent!
catgarza: a year old now
scott_mccloud: Things do move fast on the web
catgarza: and there's all these sites now… lol
catgarza: it's the most immediate publishing form to come along in human history
catgarza: and the most accessible
scott_mccloud: and much better quality artwork and writing emerging
patrick_farley: and what's funny is, while the greater commercial Web has sunk like the Titanic, we're still bobbing on the surface paddling along in our little dinghies.
catgarza: that's my main focus now…
catgarza: putting out QUALITY work with real FOCUS and NARRATIVE STRUCTURE…
catgarza: which is very frustrating..
patrick_farley: darn tootin.
scott_mccloud: I was a believer before the crash. I was a believer during the crash. I was a believer after the crash.
catgarza: because my motivation's dwindled CONSIDERABLY since 91-99
scott_mccloud: This is the real thing
patrick_farley: you can do it, cat. you've paid your dues, and you know your craft.
demian5: so, you guys will all stay on the web? Never planning to do a book?
scott_mccloud: Oh I'll still do books from time to time
patrick_farley: actually demian, i am planning on doing two books this year.
catgarza: i've been threatening to, but i think it'd be too big a distraction..
patrick_farley: but *ssshh*, it's a secret
scott_mccloud: Just wrote a Superman graphic novel!
catgarza: i'd rather focus on being CONSISTENT….
catgarza: and prolific…
catgarza: on the web
patrick_farley: rock on, Scott!
scott_mccloud: but if i could just concentrate on the web
scott_mccloud: i would
catgarza: yeah, i can't wait to see that book, scott
patrick_farley: i am going to publish Apocamon as a book later this year
catgarza: i used to love superman and you really handle him well…
patrick_farley: supposedly Cafe Press is going to offer on-demand book publishing services
demian5: i like doing webcomics too,..
catgarza: you demian?
catgarza: more newpaper self syndication?
catgarza: a book collection
demian5: but I just want to make a book
catgarza: i'd love to make a children's book…
scott_mccloud: books can be beautiful
patrick_farley: children's books
catgarza: but not any comics in print i think…
scott_mccloud: you'd make a great children's book, cat
catgarza: lol, thanks
patrick_farley: i have a 3-year-old friend who loves Magic Inkwell
catgarza: i'm still working on it
catgarza: in my spare time…
scott_mccloud: I've been thinking lately…
catgarza: which is RARE these days…
scott_mccloud: What if we "win"
scott_mccloud: what if webcomics takes off
scott_mccloud: if so, we better act to help get [people] back into comics STORES
catgarza: we're still not really doing more than scratching the surface of popular culture, you know?
scott_mccloud: cause i don't think it has to be an either or [proposition]
scott_mccloud: if we get real numbers
patrick_farley: i think this goes back to the way the technology is shaping up
scott_mccloud: we could actually help the stores
patrick_farley: i was saying something about how Generation Y uses computer technology
patrick_farley: the idea of webcomics becoming mainstream doesn't seem that farfetched to me
scott_mccloud: me neither
patrick_farley: there are many cultural/technological trends merging together
catgarza: i guess time will tell, you know?
patrick_farley: webcomics is a part of that, although it may not come out the other side in a form we would recognize right now.
catgarza: i like the idea of diary comics…
catgarza: on the web…
catgarza: like a blog comic…
demian5: I just started doing cel phone comics..
catgarza: where the artist posts comics as they make them each day
patrick_farley: yeah, [cell] phones.
catgarza: about their life and their experiences…
demian5: a whole new world
catgarza: dunno about the cell phone comics…
scott_mccloud: Demian, for Sprint?
catgarza: it *might* work…
catgarza: i just don't have a cell phone…
catgarza: don't like em
scott_mccloud: or another company?
patrick_farley: you know in japan, individual users, mainly teenagers, select their own cartoon-totem-AI assistant?
scott_mccloud: how big are they? (=pixels)
patrick_farley: scott, they are trans-media entities in the Hello Kitty vein
demian5: 160 pixels wide
demian5: you can scroll down…
scott_mccloud: you'll be great at that
demian5: I'll see
patrick_farley: demian: move to japan! you'll make a fortune!
scott_mccloud: 160… whoah
catgarza: that's just big enough
scott_mccloud: make a fortune in japan without moving to japan.
patrick_farley: i think that's great, demian
scott_mccloud: just as easy
demian5: I think gridblock is in japan as well
scott_mccloud: good luck with that, demian
catgarza: they approached me…
patrick_farley: i had the idea of doing all of my comics as two-panel comics in the tradition of "carl"
catgarza: i'm still mulling it over…
scott_mccloud: Sprint contacted me
patrick_farley: small and low-rez enough to be read on PDAs
catgarza: they're outta Austin…
demian5: I don't know yet if it will work out well
scott_mccloud: i go for webcomics because of expanded canvases and fewer middleman.
demian5: but I gave them 5 strips for now, so we'll see
catgarza: there's just so much potential and so many possibilities…
scott_mccloud: cell-phones = small canvas, giant middlemen
patrick_farley: but you must admit scott, there is an exciting challenge in making a comic 160 pixels square
scott_mccloud: so i'm passing for now
catgarza: and no real way to gauge what's "the right move"
patrick_farley: really forces you to hone your visual storytelling skills
scott_mccloud: oh definitely a fun challenge!
scott_mccloud: might try it without the cell phone!
scott_mccloud: it's like those paint-by-logic puzzles
patrick_farley: in fact, at that scale, it becomes closer in craft to needlepoint stitching!
scott_mccloud: technology comes full circle
patrick_farley: hear hear.