Ramon Perez and Rob Coughler of Butternutsquash have been delighting readers with their highly-caffeinated comic strip for a while now. They were nice enough to grant Comixpedia an interview.
Okay, exactly WHAT does your title mean? How did you come up with it?
RAMON: There is a stupid little story involved in why Butternutsquash is named as it is. We plan on touching on it eventually – so I can't really divulge much more. But somehow this bizarrely named vegetable aptly describes the lives we lead encapsulated in a comic strip.
ROB: I can't take credit for it. The title has been around for many years. Mr. is used as a courtesy title before the surname or full name of a man. Until about 1990 I went by master Robert Coughler. Upon turning 16, I thought it would be appropriate to go with a more recognizable adult prefix.
One thing for sure—you're the only webcomic I know where both Cola and Coffee play such a part. (Cola being the dog, of course.) So, how do you two like your coffee? (Besides being served by the Coffee Goddess.)
RAMON: It all depends how bad the coffee is – if the coffee is good I drink it black, the more bitter it gets I balance it out with milk or cream. I'm really not that particular as long as it's not artificial white stuff that is made from things that I cannot pronounce. That aside, I also loooooovvveee a good cappuccino.
ROB: I'm a MILK and sugar man myself. But none of that flavoured shit.
The comic has beautiful, clean clear art. Your coloring is especially good, the palette very unique and subtle. What process do you go through to create your comic?
RAMON: After working out the idea over a coffee (the dialogue, pacing etc.) I go and draw and ink the strip at a size of 4x13. Once that's done I scan in the work at 600-800dpi as line art. Then in Photoshop I convert the file to a 300dpi RGB file.
Rob then takes over and lays in the flats and colour choices. Once he's done I go in and lay in any shadows he hasn't done and tweak the over all image. We then do the dialogue using Illustrator and then place the said file over the original art file. Flatten, reduce the dpi to 72 and then upload the strip and hope for the best. All in all it's about a full day or two to do the work.
Who are your artistic influences?
RAMON: Stylistically I admire the work of people like Mike Mignola, Kevin Nowlan, Arthur Adams, Chris Sprouse … I could go on and mention many more. In terms of the classic comic strip artists I admire the work of Bill Watterson, Berkeley Breathed, Jim Davis and Dave Cooper. There are probably a few more, but my brain's asleep right now.
Storytelling, there's a strong "Slacker" feel…who do you admire in storytelling/humor?
ROB: Brian Michael Bendis, George Carlin, Kevin Smith, Terry Pratchett, Judd Winick, John Hughes, and that guy who wrote the Bible, what a hoot!
RAMON: Same as above â€“ Iâ€™d also add the fine fellow who does Mother Goose and Grim. I love such funny men as George Carlin, Bill Cosby, Jerry Seinfeld, Louie Anderson, John Candy and the rest of the SCTV gang. As far as storytellers Iâ€™d have to say Kevin Smith, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Luc Besson as well as many writers of the printed mediums whose names escape me at the moment.
How do other people react to your comic, especially those you put in there? (I'm especially wondering about Ramon's Mom and the wanking sleeve incident.) How about Evan? Or is it a guilty secret?
RAMON: So far weâ€™ve received nothing but love from people who come across our strip. Our friends are waiting to appear, and tend to bitch when they havenâ€™t showed up yet! We often get remarks such as "Hey! I knew you before he did, how come heâ€™s already in the comic strip and Iâ€™m not?" Itâ€™s all in good fun. Weâ€™ll actually be introducing a couple of new friends/characters in the near futureâ€¦ they just give us such good material! God bless â€˜em!
As for my mom â€“ sheâ€™s seen the strip but is unaware of her appearance! Iâ€™ll probably show her eventually â€“ itâ€™s not like itâ€™d shock her or anythingâ€¦ sheâ€™s lived through it all 😉
Evan loves being in the strip and will often sit down and make suggestions when weâ€™re trying to figure out what direction to take things, or just a good way to word a punch line.
ROB: There is actually a queue of people waiting to get in there. They act all worried about what we might make them do, but they all harbor a secret delight about showing up in the annuls of indecency.
Which Butternutsquash comic strip is your personal favorite–and why?
RAMON: Thatâ€™s kinda tough. A few of my favourites are "Flavour Land", "Ghettoccino", "Booyah!", "Wingman", "Decaf Doom", "Love Hurts", "Sweet Horror", "Squeaky Clean" â€¦ there are different elements that make different ones stand out for me â€“ whether itâ€™s the art, punch line, or how we tackled the idea/event â€“ such as "Love Hurts" where we incorporated the music as a mini soundtrack.
ROB: The "Bacon Dream", because I wish it could really happen, but in my dream version there are also many beautiful women and I have hot grease protection on my trumpet and skittles.
Is it difficult to collaborate? Or do you find it very easy?
RAMON: the main factor is finding the time to get together and work through our stories and ideas. When working on ideas things run pretty smoothly â€“ weâ€™ll usually tell each other how not funny something is if we think itâ€™s a dud. Other times weâ€™ll butt heads over ideas till someone wins or gives in!
ROB: Oh the collaborating is easyâ€¦ itâ€™s finding the time in our hectic schedules to do it, there is the rub.
What are your backgrounds? Did Ramon really remain unnamed for three months?
RAMON: Yep, my parents were really lazy when it came down to naming me. Iâ€™m a first generation Canuck. My father is from a village in central Spain and my mother is a big city girl from Poland. Strange I know. Go figure. I know thereâ€™s a joke in there somewhereâ€¦
Actually I know there is. A lame one at that â€¦ so youâ€™ll probably see it show up in Butternutsquash eventuallyâ€¦
ROB: My Mom is from Denmark and my Dad was a mix of French, Irish, Scottish, and German.
RAMON: I guess weâ€™re both some good old fashion mongrels!
What are your future plans for Butternutsquash? Graphic novels? What do you think is the future of webcomics in general?
RAMON: Iâ€™d love to collect the strips in print. Going in and adding extra strips to fill in storylines as well. Since we only update once a week I we dragged out storylines to long theyâ€™d drag on for months.
Iâ€™d also love to do a monthly comic of all original material where each issue would be like a sitcom episode. And unlike the PvP or Liberty Meadows comics â€“ do the comic in a classic comic book format where we take advantage of having 22 pages to tell a whole story in varying panel sizes and layouts rather than just a keeping the online format.
Iâ€™d also love to see a cartoon or action figures â€“ I mean really, who wouldnâ€™t want an action figure of themselves! I kinda picture them like the clerks "inaction" figures.
ROB: World domination or a fully pose-able multi-articulated action figures with kick ass accessories. Of course a weekly cartoon would not be unwelcomeâ€¦ hint, hint FOX Network.