An Interview with David LaMason of Unbearable Bears
Submitted by Xaviar Xerexes on November 30, 2009 - 02:02
David LaMason is the creator of the relatively new webcomic Unbearable Bears and stepped in to do a piece of cover art for ComixTalk this month (Thanks Dave!). Bears is a good-natured humor comic set in the woods, mostly centered around a bird and a bear.
Can you tell us a little about yourself? What's a typical day for you like recently?
Well, I work program managing an elder abuse shelter in Washington, DC. I usually get up real early to get ready for work and commute from Baltimore to the District. That part gets pretty monotonous but you get used to it. I love working where I am, but the distance is killin’ me. It’s just way too expensive in DC and I’ve always lived in Baltimore.
Weekends and evenings are comic time. I tend to sketch out ideas on my lunch break and sometimes even tape record dialogue in the car between cities.
Do you have another job besides working on comics?
My professional training is in social work. For the last 10 years I’ve worked for a slew of non-profit organizations.
Give me the 30 second "convention pitch" for your comic.
It’s a comic about a bear, Oskar, a bird, Bainbridge, and their musings on life. It’s like Abbott and Costello on heavy doses of cough syrup. .. the good stuff… but with more fur and feathers.
What inspired you to start a webcomic this year?
I was starting to read a lot of webcomics and around New Years Day I told my wife that my resolution would be to actually do something creative. I would write music and record with a friend but it never really went anywhere. So I said to myself, "I like comics and I used to draw (a lot more than I had been doing at the time). I need to do something before I regret it." And my professional job can be pretty stressful. It's a great way to relax and I get a huge feeling of accomplishment after each comic is done.
Had you made any other comics before?
This is my first comic, but it definitely won't be the only one I do.
Do you have any long term goals or ambition for the future of the comic?
Definitely! This is my first venture into making comics rather than just devouring them. I really had no idea what I was doing and sometimes I still feel like I don’t know what I’m doing. It’s been an on-going learning experience, and I continue to have tons of help from other comics folks.
Currently, Unbearable Bears is once a week (on Sundays) and I’ve been gathering strips together to start doing three days a week. Two black and white strips during the week and the Sunday color one I’ve been doing. I’m also working on a more people-focused comic I do in my sketch books.
What tools do you use to make comics? Can you give us a brief walkthrough of your process?
Oh, I’d love to! You know, time is such a factor for me that I have to be really efficient. I usually start out with an idea in the car or in the shower and grab my phone or tape recorder to use to record whatever I’m thinking of. Then I sketch out characters in a sketch book – usually at lunch – and when I get home I’ll start with sheets of pre-cut Bristol that are about 13”X4” using a stencil my wife made for me out of this plastic material. Then I will usually sketch out the characters from the rough ideas and will do a pretty basic inking using microns or PITT brush pens. I then scan in what I have and use Photoshop to essentially trace over what I drew.
I was using a Wacom Intuos 3 and then that crapped out and I picked up a small Intuos 4 on the cheap. It sounds crazy tracing over the image – basically redrawing the image – but I find that it comes out a lot cleaner that way. I have, on occasion, sketched right into Photoshop on one layer and then inked over than on another layer, but I can’t seem to get the same control sketching as I do when it’s pencil and ink.
The coloring process is both time consuming and the most fun parts of the process. I swear I could shave off more than an hour if I didn’t color, but it’s so rewarding seeing it finished with a lot of color.
Did you read comics as a kid? Which ones? What are your influences from comics today?
Oh, wow, yes. I was really into Iron Man as a kid. I collected the GI Joe and Transformers comics and some of the odder stuff, like Man Thing and was turned onto Macross from a friend who was heavy into anime or Japanimation as it was called. I then kind of fell out of comics and more into music, but about the time I started graduate school I started frequenting a couple of comics shops in the area. Then it was almost an obsession.
Today I read a lot of Warren Ellis stuff – I love Gravel – I’ve been really digging Jeff Lemire’s Sweet Tooth, and, of course, I still read Batman (love the new Batman and Robin), Invincible Iron Man, and a ton of other titles. There’s this really great indie comic called Cursed Pirate Girl by Jeremy Bastian that’s got the most amazingly detailed work. There are so many books!
As far as webcomics, I have a list that would span volumes.
Other non-comic influences on your art and/or writing?
I watch my share of television and love a lot of older British humor – Black Adder, Monty Python – as well as more current British stuff like manstrokewoman and Spaced. Both of those, by the way, feature Nick Frost, under-rated comic genius.
I’m heavily influenced by music – whether consciously or subconsciously. When I’m drawing at home I tend to listen to a lot of stuff like Animal Collective, Belle and Sebastian, Department of Eagles and older stuff like Big Star and David Bowie.