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Courting Success: An Interview with Eisner Nominee Brad Guigar

Last month the nominations for this year's Eisner awards were announced and amongst the nominees for Best Digital Comic was Phables by Brad Guigar. Earlier this month I conducted a short interview with Guigar to get his reactions to the good news and find out more about Phables. In the time between conducting the interview and publishing it here, however, Guigar received another form of recognition for Phables, this time winning "Best Local Column" from the Greater Philadelphia Society of Professional Journalists. It's shaping up to be a very good year for Brad!

First off let me say congratulations for the Eisner nomination for Phables. In this case it really must be great just to be nominated. How does it feel and what does it mean to you so far?

Thanks! To say that I'm overwhelmed by this would be putting it lightly. I really try to push myself with Phables in terms of visual storytelling. I think it's some of my best work, and seeing it given this kind of attention is really gratifying.

How do you describe Phables to those who haven't read it yet?

It's ordinary Philadelphians telling their extraordinary stories. Sometimes I chime in with an opinion or a story of my own, but Philadelphia itself is the main character.

 

You are one of the most productive creators I know doing three regularly updating comic strips simultaneously: Evil, Inc., Courting Disaster and Phables. Are you at all surprised that it's Phables that drew the Eisner nomination?

Well, I guess if one of my projects were going to get an Eisner nomination, it makes sense that it would be Phables. I think Evil Inc is a fantastic comic strip, but there are hundreds of great comic strips on the Web. Courting Disaster stands very well on its own, too. But Phables has some really powerful moments. The storytelling runs the gamut from silly to bizarre to heart-wrenching. It really is a potent example of a full range of sequential-art possibilities.

 

In addition to appearing on the web, I believe (if your wikipedia entry is correct!) Phables appears twice a month in the Philadelphia Daily News. You also work at the Daily News - did Phables grow out of your work for the paper or did you pitch the idea to them?

I pitched Phables to the Daily News for two years before they gave it the green light.

Phables began in 2006 as a twice-monthly feature in the Daily News. It was also simultaneously updated on my Web site on the same schedule. It received such as strong response that it was promoted to a weekly schedule at the beginning of this year.

Both Phables and Courting Disaster grew out of my work for the newspaper. Courting Disaster accompanies a weekly sex-advice column that runs in the paper. Until I'm able to build up to my dream job of doing comics full time, I'm working on turning my day job *into* my dream job. Right now I spend the vast majority of my time at my day job doing comics.

You base Phables on stories emailed to you - do you try to confirm that they're true or do you just run with them? How many of the stories shared with you are you able to use?

With Phables, I am not considered a reporter; I'm considered a columnist. That means conjecture and opinion are part of the gig. All of the stories are presented as stories from a single point of view (sometimes from two points of view, if I add my own commentary).

I'm able to use about half the stories that come in. Some of them are just great stories, but just don't work as a full-page comic. Sometimes a little phone interview turns up material that makes a blah story into a barnburner.

 

Do you have any plans to print a collection of Phables?

Absolutely! I should be releasing it around November.

Phables seems very different than one of your other strips Evil Inc, which is an affectionate parody of superheroes and villians. Do you enjoy making these different comics equally or are you more comfortable with one or the other?

I love using Phables to do all of those complex page layouts that a comic strip doesn't really allow. But the storytelling has to follow a certain path -- whether that's dicated by the person writing in or by the fact that all of the stories have to have a strong Philly hook.

Evil Inc has fewer layout possibilities, but the storytelling is boundless.

What I've found is that doing one started to affect how I did the other. Evil Inc is rarely a four-panel strip. I often include additional floating panels and experiment with pushing the boundaries within that space.

And the storytelling in Phables has gotten more adventurous. I'm popping into the story more often to interject a couple thoughts in a Rod Serling sort of way. In the Phable for May 7, I even do a four panel run-up to the topic that's complete fantasy... leading into the actual story.

Courting Disaster? That's just a good excuse to practice drawing sexy women. :)