Dave: You are also a writer, what are you working on nowadays?
Lee: Nothing. Actually that’s not true, entirely. I got the go-ahead from Keenspot to put together a book of illustrated poetry, sort of in the vein of Tim Burton’s The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy. Some of it may or may not be CB-related, but it’ll all be whimsically dark stuff. I always have a lot of ideas percolating, but rarely act on them. I have no timetable for this book though, so subsequently haven’t really gotten anything done with it yet at all.
Dave: How much were you involved in the creating of the plush Butch doll? Who actually made it?
Lee: I don’t know who made it. Keenspot did all that legwork. They’ve got other plush toys in various stages of production too, I think. I designed the thing, and the final product looks EXACTLY like my design. On the Keenspot store page, you can see the doll in one of the photos sitting in front of a computer screen, which is displaying one of the design images I did. Really, it’s uncanny. Except that I designed the hand holding the knife to be actually wrapped around the knife handle. But I suppose it was
more cost effective to just make a reverse duplicate of the open hand and attach the knife to that. Oh, and I had envisioned the knife blade as being silver rather than gray. But these are small concerns. The thing is beautiful, and I can’t wait to touch it. If the toy sells well, we may make a b/w version… more in the spirit of the comic.
Dave: Since the book is coming out near Hallowe’en and all, I have to ask some obligatory Hallowe’en-themed questions. What is the Herold house like on Hallowe’en?
Lee: My kids love Hallowe’en. LOVE IT. But really, we don’t do anything to the house. I have the most fun helping them put their costumes together. We were just out at the local SPIRIT Hallowe’en Superstore earlier tonight, looking around. This year I think they’re going with a LOTR theme. Probably going to be Aragorn and Gimli, though Uruk-Hai is probably still in the running. We usually walk the neighborhood with them, so my Mother-in-law comes over and hands out our candy. When they’re older, I’m going to really enjoy staying at home and doing the candy-disbursing. Maybe then I’ll get into decorating the place and getting dressed up myself.
Dave: What scares you? What’s the scariest movie you ever saw?
Lee: What scares me… sharks. Sometimes spiders. Things in the woods at night (though I LOVE camping). Which ties in with the movie question. I know a lot of people have mixed opinions of it, but Blair Witch Project just scared the holy hell out of me the first time I saw it. I think maybe you have to be someone who camps to really get it. Night of the Living Dead scares me too, but in a way that I like. I find the idea of hordes of unthinking, unstoppable creatures converging on me while I’m a prisoner inside a house to be absolutely horrifying. I think it’s the idea of being completely helpless against something while in its element that scares me (sharks, zombies, blair witch, etc) Also, The Exorcist, because I do believe in the devil. That movie makes me VERY uneasy.
Dave: You believe in the Devil, as the bible tells of him?
Lee: Yes. Didn’t you and I have some theological discussions at one point?
Dave: Yeah, but we didn’t discuss Satan too much. A lot of people would probably be surprised that you are Christian. I imagine most CB readers to be towards the atheist side. Given the dark nature of the strip, do you ever find it at odds with your faith?
Lee: Yeah, I think I have a lot of Pagans, Wiccans (is that the same as Pagan?), and Atheists who read. I don’t know much about their beliefs, but I find that I really tend to like them as people when they get in touch with me. I don’t know, I kind of have my own ideas I guess about what the comic is saying sometimes. Sometimes when it appears to be taking a non-Christian stance, it might mean something else to me. I don’t want to preach to anyone, but I use it sometimes to express opinions, even if they’re only clear to me. And I do occasionally poke fun at Christianity. If I didn’t poke fun at myself, how could I justifiably poke fun at others?
Dave: Given what you know now, if you were to go back in time, what would you of done (if anything) differently with CB?
Lee: That’s a hell of a question. I have absolutely no idea. I like to think that everything has value as a defining element in life, so I tend to think that mistakes have a purpose. That without my mistakes, I wouldn’t be exactly who I am. I know some cartoonists are embarrassed by their older archives, and will go back and redo them or erase them sometimes… but even individual comics where I don’t like the art or I think the gag was poorly written, I can’t see myself doing them over. I don’t know, man. Maybe a better answer will come to me later, not that that helps you out…
Dave: I know at one time you mentioned pursuing the alternative weeklies, how is that going?
Lee: Alternative papers: nope. I really, really should. But I haven’t. Story of my life, same thing as posting fanart and answering email. It’s something I really would like to do, but I need to force myself to do it. I’m very anxious to see how the book sells, though. Right now I can concentrate on that as a print credit. But yeah, someday I want to pursue the alternative weekly angle. I need to get Guigar to kick my ass into gear. He’s all over the print thing.
Dave: you tired yet? I’ve got a few more, but I could email them to you if you want…
Lee: Not so much. I’m game if you are.
Dave: K. What is your biggest inspiration from a creative standpoint?
Lee: Well, as far as cartooning I guess the obvious answer would be Gary Larson. I learned how to write a single-panel gag (such as I am able) from him. Some day I hope to actually be able to do it well. Like most other cartoonists of our generation, Watterson and Breathed were huge too. Chas Addams, obviously. Artistically, I derived the style I use in CB by trying to emulate the work of Lane Smith, who has done a lot of children’s books with John Scieszka such as The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs. I love the texture in his work. He uses oils and other media, and I started experimenting with watercolors trying to get similar effects. It occurred to me at one point that the sponging technique would word well with ink to give a nice feel to CB. The comic was originally done in a scribbly, "Callahan" style.
Dave: Is CB your first comic, or had you done some prior? Do you have other comic strips in your head (like the Altbrand feature you did a while back)?
Lee: I started making up cartoon strips when I was a little kid. In college I had a comic called "Angus" about a wise-cracking rabbit in the school paper for about 3 years. I did a local-flavor comic called "Smithfield" for the Pittsburgh City Paper for a few years. I must have sent good dozen or so different features out to the syndicates over the span of a decade, trying to catch on. A few got good, handwritten responses from some editors. One got me an invitation to apply for the Washington Post Writers Group Cartooning Fellowship, wherein I made the initial cut from hundreds of comics down to 50 comics, but got no further. In fact, that comic was Parrot/Normal Investigations, the one I ran as an AltBrand feature. Today, though, I think that CB is the comic I was always meant to do. I can’t imagine doing another one.
Dave: Given that CB is for adults, it is almost destined to never be picked by a syndicate. Does that make you question your choice of sticking with that comic? Or are you moving beyond that route of ‘making it’ onto something different on the web? Where do you stand on the subscription model or micropayment model of selling web comics?
Lee: I don’t know exactly what "making it" as a cartoonist will be soon. I mean, it ISN’T getting syndicated, as I once believed. Hell, I don’t even pick up real newspapers anymore. The only comics I EVER read are online. I’m starting to see some ways that I might actually be able to make some money doing my comic. So who’s to say the chance of "making it" is gone? I’m not living off my comic. I can’t even buy you lunch off my comic. But the chance is there that it could happen eventually. In the meantime, I’m happy to just be on this ride.
I don’t think I like the subscription idea. I certainly am not someone who has these kinds of answers. I don’t even THINK about the business model side of things. I leave that up to people like Chris Crosby and Scott Kurtz and Scott McCloud and Joey Manley
Lee: If I weren’t on Keen, I probably wouldn’t even be doing a comic. I’m not someone who’s equipped to be going indie, and handling things myself. I need to just focus on the comic, and leave the business stuff up to people who can think that way.
Dave: Was it a tough decision to put a tip-jar on your site? How is that working out?
Lee: Yeah, it felt weird at first. I didn’t want to look like a panhandler, and I didn’t want people to think I was begging for money. I certainly didn’t want people to think that I was EXPECTING them to paypal me money. I talked to another ‘toonist who does it, and he said that it’s a nice little boost every month. It pays for all his art supplies. So I thought I’d experiment with it and see what came of it. I figure if some readers would like to throw me a couple bucks as a thank you, then that’s up to them. I wouldn’t ASK them to do it, but I figured I’d give them a way to do so if they wished. People have been generous thus far, and I appreciate it greatly. Though I screwed up with getting my account verified, and a bunch of tips got returned to the people. It was very amusing.
Dave: Do you read many webcomics? Altbranders aside, as you obviously appreciate their work, which are your favorites?
Lee: I don’t read anything anymore. When I first started and was working at the bank, I surfed all day long and read tons of comics. Now, I don’t even read my favorites. I never used to miss BoxJam, but I would have MONTHS to go back and read to get caught up now. I just don’t have time right now, with looking for a job and helping with the baby. The comics on my links page are all ones I would read regularly if I had time. There are more, too, but I’m just as bad updating that page, as I am everything else.
Dave: How are you getting by so far without a job? Is your wife holding down the fort?
Lee: Well, she’s on maternity leave right now. She gets paid through mid October. After that, i *HAVE* to be doing something, no matter how bad it sucks. I’ve been interviewing, and I applied with a temp agency. If it comes down to it, I guess I’ll work at Wal-Mart or something. Whatever I have to do.
Dave: Working in the Hell on Earth environment of a crowded store should provide you with plenty of raw rage for more creative inspiration!
Lee: Well, God willing something decent will come along.
Dave: Good luck.
Lee: thanks man.