Greg Poulos and John Chouinard are the creators of the new webcomic Chronillogical, a webcomic about time-traveling graduate students. Greg handles the writing and John creates the art for the strip. It's a relatively new webcomic, but already one I check in on a regular basis. I got a chance to interview Greg and John via email this month.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
John: Just another collegiate great ape, trying to distract myself from the all-encompassing scariness of the real world with chronic beard-stroking. The bassoon was my instrument in high school, and as a child I heard the voice of Harold Ramis in a crowded lecture hall.
Greg: I am tall, and a student concentrating in Computer Science. I have brown hair, two robust legs, and an engraved pocketwatch that was given to me one Christmas by my brother and sister. My least favorite letter is 'I', which is ironic because I am an egomaniacal megalomaniac.
What's a typical day for you like recently?
John: Well, recently it's been midterm season, so I've pretty much split my time between eating, sleeping (miraculously), reading, going to class, and comicking. Things better settle down next week.
Greg: Yeah, mostly busy with classes. Pretty ho-hum stuff, unfortunately. I should probably start working on my grad school applications one of these days.
Where are you located these days?
John: Los Angeles, right now, though I left a part of me in the Midwest when high school ended. Whether I go back to retrieve it, I'm not entirely sure, but it's more than likely.
Greg: Cambridge, Massamachusetts. That's likely to change after I graduate, though to where I do not know.
Do you have another job besides working on comics?
John: Just a full-time college student, though that doesn't really qualify as a "job," does it? So I suppose it's just the comic, then! WOO
Greg: Aside from being a full-time student, I am also a FULL-TIME AMAZING DUDE. It's pretty time-consuming, actually.
Do you read other comics? What are you reading online or in print?
John: Astro City came to my attention a few years ago, and I just want more of it, more more more. Doug TenNapel's Iron West is also a recent favorite. I need more of his work and more of his mojo, wherever he secures it.
In the online world — should I just make a list? I'm leaving a lot out, but the big ones, alphabetically: Anders Loves Maria, Dresden Codak, Girly, Kate Beaton, My Stupid Life, Nobody Scores, Octopus Pie, Penny Arcade (shock!), Sam and Fuzzy, Scary Go Round, and Starslip Crisis (and Chainsawsuit, and F Chords). Haven't put a lot of time aside to go scrounging for unknown gems, I'm afraid.
Greg: To John's list of online thingamajiggers I'll add Dinosaur Comics, GastroPhobia, Gunnerkrigg Court, Kukuburi, Overcompensating, PvP, Three Panel Soul, We the Robots, Wigu, and xkcd.
John: Gahh, I really need to read Kukuburi! Get with the program, John!
John: Grad students travel through time! Hijinks ensue! Here, have a flier. (It's worth noting that we coaxed the comic premise from the comic title and not vice versa.)
Greg: To be clear, we probably wouldn't include that parenthetical bit in our convention pitch.
Do you have a favorite strip or storyline from the comic? Which ones do fans seem to bring up the most?
John: Of the ones we've put up so far, I very much enjoyed a recent strip where Milo conducts an inquisition on a dissenting stuffed animal of his.
Greg: I don't know if I have a favorite, and I agree with John about the inquisition strip, but I'm also fond of one of our early strips where the gang is trying to decide where to eat lunch. They consider a whole slew of oddball establishments, including Razor Burger, a fast food joint famous for having a razor in every burger!
Are there any of your characters you're really fond of? Any that are particularly difficult to use?
John: Mr. Skeleton really needs to be developed beyond the single appearance we've given him. He is just the best and super-cool, and I think we handled his introduction somewhat awkwardly.
Greg: Yeah. You'd be surprised at how difficult it is to fit a walking, talking skeleton with a toupee into a webcomic about time traveling grad students. But rest assured, you haven't seen the last of Mister Skeleton!
Do you have any long term goals or ambition for the future of the comic?
John: Nothing beyond the typical goals of every other webcartoonist — get seen, get money — buy an island. Find Atlantis, maybe, or go to the moon when the price comes down.
Greg: I've heard Mars is lovely this time of year.
Any plans for a print collection?
John: No plans for merch of any kind at this stage, I'm afraid. As I understand it, this won't change any sooner than May.
Greg: Yeah, it's pretty early for us to be thinking about that kind of stuff, and we've still got school to deal with.
How do you go about promoting your work? What seems to be most effective at pulling in new readers?
John: Being such a new strip on the scene, we've mostly relied on word of mouth. Fleen linked to us once, though, which we greatly appreciated! Project Wonderful remains an unending, undulating experiment.
When you create a comic, how do you approach it? Do you start with the words and then think about the scene that should go with it or do you start with more of purely visual approach or none of the above?
Greg: Before writing anything I'll generate a handful of general ideas, run these by John to see what he likes best, and use that as the basis for a first draft. Sometimes the draft is good and only requires a few small changes — more usually we go back and forth on it at least few times. Occasionally the final script looks very different from the draft that got us there.
John: Also, I'd say we've taken more of a words-first approach so far — any direction for images that are supposed to look a certain way are usually vague ("Milo should look funny here") and don't coalesce until I get down to drawing.
What tools do you use to make comics? Can you give us a brief walkthrough of your process?
John: Greg uses TextEdit, I believe, or something similar, and probably bangs his head on the wall a lot. On my end, once I have a script, I usually go straight into Photoshop — lay out the panels, the dialogue, and sketch out some thumbnails before "penciling," "inking," and coloring. I've been using an Intuos, if that's of interest, and I usually pace each comic out over three days — one for each step of the comicking process.
Greg: Actually, since I got my Windows machine I've been using Notepad++ a lot more than TextEdit. BIG DIFFERENCE, JOHN.
John: WHAT HAVE I DONE
Did you do your own website? What software are you using on it?
Greg: Right now I've got us set up using the ComicPress theme for WordPress. It's a lovely, intuitive, flexible system, for which I give the developers a lot of credit. Still, one of these days I'd like to code up my own comics manager. There's nothing quite like rolling your own, y'know?
How would you describe your relationship with your fans? Do you engage in a lot of online interaction with your readers?
John: I haven't heard a whole lot from fans except through the occasional comments on the site, myself, but we interact when we can.
Greg: I would describe it as "familial". Not so much because we're so close to our readers that they're like family to us, but because so many of our readers are literally our family members.
Did you read comics as a kid? Which ones? What are your influences from comics today?
John: Big, big Bill Watterson fan from the days of yore, and how I wish I could stumble over some fresh work of his these days. We had our fair share of Warner Bros. VHS tapes back home, also, and a couple of How to Draw tapes hosted by Bruce Blitz. More recently, I ran into John K's blog, and since then have been slowly dipping into other animators' sketchblogs because they are all delightful and amazing.
Other non-comic influences on your art and/or writing?
John: The two of us were pretty big Monty Python fans back in the day, and I'm sure we'll never be rid of them. Steve Martin's Let's Get Small was a household installation as far back as I can remember paying attention to comedy, and I've recently been giggling like an idiot at Louis C.K.'s routines. Also, I think I had some sort of fascination with Picasso when I was in kindergarten.
Greg: I remember constantly trying to emulate Douglas Adams during middle school and junior high. Between the influences of that and Monty Python I would have all these half-understood Britishisms strewn throughout my writing. It was to the point where I was using spellings like "colour" and "humour" in my essays; my teachers would circle all the extra "u"s and scribble little crimson question marks next to them.
John: Weren't you still doing that in high school? Self-consciously, by that time, but still.
Greg: Actually, yeah, I guess you're right. I MEAN NO OF COURSE NOT STOP LYING
What is it about comics that leads you to pour your creative impulses into that form as opposed to writing or some other art form?
John: A lot of it has to do with the comic's immediacy, I think. I dunno, there's something about prose that prompts me to obsessively scrutinize my words and therefore never produce anything or improve my writing skills at all. It's much easier for me to approach drawing as a learning process somehow.
Greg: Well, I've never thought myself terribly good at writing dialogue, and I certainly have no drawing talent, so… wait, why AM I doing this? John?
John: I mean, the comic was your idea, wasn't it? I can't say whether I would have taken it upon myself to start my own, honestly. You're the ambitious one! Yeah! MOTIVATION, INSPIRATION
Anything else you wished I'd asked you about?
John: You said not a word about my gorgeous, gorgeous facial hair. I am appalled, sir, simply appalled!
Greg: Yes, but it looks like we're OUT OF TIME. If only we had some sort of TIME MACHINE that we could use to TRAVEL THROUGH TIME. Then we could GO BACK IN TIME to answer more questions!