Get Your Words On: A Community Interview With David Rees
We sent your top questions to David Rees, the creator of Get Your War On and My New Fighting Technique Is Unstoppable. All of Rees' webcomics can be found at mnftiu.cc.
Read on for Rees' answers.
1. You've gotten a lot of response to GYWO yet your previous work on the web was decidedly less political in nature. Which do you enjoy creating more and what do you get out of each type?
It kind of depends on what kind of mood I'm in. Obviously, if I read something in the newspaper that makes me really upset, making a "Get Your War On" comic is gonna be more likely to satisfy me than making a "My New Fighting Technique is Unstoppable" comic. The first weeks of GYWO back in October 2001, were really rewarding and cathartic. Similarly, the summer I made MNFTIU, I thought it was the greatest creative triumph of my life. So both types of comics can be fun.
2. I understand you donate the profits from your book to the Afghani Mine Detection & Dog Center Team #5 cuz the comic was originally inspired by the USA's war in Afghanistan. How did you hook up with this particular charity and do you have anything you'd like to say about them?
When I decided to donate the author royalties to charity, I thought it would be appropriate to find a landmine-relief organization that did work in Afghanistan. Like you said, one of the reasons I started the comic was because I was upset about the bombing campaign and food drops in that country. But I didn't know anything about landmine relief or whether there were programs operating in Afghanistan. So I just went on google.com and typed in something like "Landmines+Afghanistan+Relief" and found the web site of Adopt-A-Minefield, who sponsor demining teams all over the world--including Afghanistan. When I called them up to discuss how to donate the royalties, the woman on the phone had actually seen GYWO on the internet and said she liked it... so it seemed like a perfect match. So far GYWO has raised about $40,000 for MDC Team #5. They work in Herat, a province in Western Afghanistan. It costs about $15,000 to sponsor a team for a month. You can find out more info at http://www.landmines.org (That's Adopt-A-Minefield's site). There are pictures of MDC Team #5 at [my website]. It's dangerous work but very well respected in the community because it's vital to post-conflict reconstruction and agriculture. Also, it pays really well in the local currency. A deminer's salary is usually enough to support about 20 people (which for a lot of these guys, just about covers all their kids!)
3. Have you experienced any right-wing backlash from the strip?
Not really, other than angry emails once in a while.
4. Have you ever heard from the person who actually made the clip art you use in GYWO?
No, I always thought about tracking them down though. Clip art is very fascinating to me and I've always wondered what went in to making those images. They are very bland and you aren't supposed to spend a lot of time studying them-- they're not "high art"--but I wonder if I've spent more time looking at those pieces of clip art than anyone else on the planet!
5. After doing the "get your war on" material, is it difficult to go back to your other type of material ("my new fighting technique is unstoppable")? (either from a creative or a fan response standpoint?)
Sometimes it's hard, just because I don't have any funny ideas. But since I keep the projects pretty separate in my mind, and since they satisfy different needs, I can usually switch between them if I want. Some fans of MNFTIU hate GYWO, and some fans of GYWO hate (or just don't understand)
6. The video game for MNFTIU (http://www.unstoppable.com/game.html) - how did that come about?
My editor thought it would be cool to have a video game to promote the book so he found a friend of someone in his office who said he'd make it for cheap. The guy had never made a video game before and when he turned in the first draft, it had something like 43 levels! We told him maybe two levels would be enough for our purposes, and the guy was like, "But that's so easy! I get through two levels in like ten seconds!" Meanwhile, nobody else seems able to beat the second level.
7. You've published a British version of GYWO and now a french translation. How widespread is the audience for GYWO? Do you receive responses from readers for a wide range of countriies? What's the most unusual letter/email you've received?
I got a fair amount of international feedback in the fall of 2001, just because people overseas were surprised to find American skepticism about Bush's foreign policy. I guess the foreign press made it sound like we were all 100% behind Bush. I'm not really sure how well the French and British editions of GYWO are selling, or whether foreigners appreciate it the way Americans do (because of the slang, etc.)
I can't think of any unusual mail other than typical crazy-ass hate mail.
8. How is the Rolling Stone gig going? Is it the same thing as GYWO online or are you doing different things with the magazine?
The Rolling Stone thing is great-- I really like my editor and he basically lets me do what I want. The deal is that they get an exclusive GYWO strip that doesn't appear anywhere else, including my web site. I try to make the Rolling Stone strips a little more journalistic than the strips on the website; sometimes I call offices on Capitol Hill, etc.
9. The GYWO comics seem to come in sporadic rushes of material. Do you try to keep any kind of schedule to creating new GYWO comics or do you wait until inspiration strikes you?
I'm not on a schedule, really. It's just when inspiration strikes (which is rare these days!)
10. Can David Rees rap?
No, but he can sing.