An Interview with Eight by Xaviar Xerexes
Eight is the creator of several webcomics, the most recognized probably being Road Waffles. Road Waffles is a brilliant mess of sex and violence and random plot devices. Other webtoonists agree:
"You'll never find more conveniently placed objects, characters, or plot devices anywhere other than Road Waffles!" Greg Dean (Real Life)
"Kind of like Natural Born Killers meets Pee-Wee's Big Adventure... Or not." Aaron Holm (Joe Average)
"If Quentin Tarantino made a daily webcomic, this is what it would look like." Josh Phillips (Avalon)
Comixpedia caught up with him to hear what HE thinks of the whole webcomics thing.
How long have you been putting comics on the web? How many webcomics have you created?
I think I started back in 96 or 97, I know that's around when I first started getting online, so I started posting MaxPanic on my site. As far as how many, that depends if you want to include one-shots and mini-series type stuff. I'd have to say I've done more than ten bigger ones since 2000, but only a few are really notable.
How long have you been interested in comics? What influences from comics show through your work?
Since I was a kid. If you mean influences as in other artists I'd have to tell you that Bill Watterson inspired most of my early development, and I really liked the way Walt Kelly managed to capture his characters' speech patterns and accents. Later on I began craving the works of Jhonen Vasquez, imitating what I thought to be his style from one or two snippets and posters... he inspired me without me ever having read any JtHM. (I did later of course.) I also really dug Tank Girl.
How did you come to adopt the name "Eight" for yourself for your comic projects?
That one's a bit of a mystery, but it started back when I was "publishing" MaxPanic under 8ball Comix, but around 1998 I changed it to 8entertainment. When Road Waffles hit the web, I just credited the comic to Eight and went from there. Essentially, "Eight" is my web persona.
How did you come up with the idea for Road Waffles, and how much did
you have planned out when you started it back in 1999?
After a good summer of watching a bunch of good movies, I just one day started drawing a new comic. I hadn't even done any preliminary sketches, no planning or anything. Haley and Bruno were pretty much drawn on the spot. The tradition continues and most of my characters are still introduced on the fly.
If someone had never read RW I or II how would you describe it to them?
I'd tell them it was a comic about random people going around doing things and encountering a good deal of violence.
Did you intentionally try to shock and push the edge with Road Waffles, or did it just come out of the story you wanted to tell?
Sure, I mean why not. All the crap I was reading was tame and I wanted to go somewhere else with my own comic. Well, not really. I dunno. There wasn't really a story to tell, either... the whole strip was just a premise on wheels, and that left just enough room for stuff to happen once in a while.
What led you to end the strip and turn to other projects? Are you still happy with the end to Road Waffles I (with Bruno and Haley holding each other in the desert)?
The strip was actually left floating for several months before I decided I was going to give it a proper 'ending' rather than continue where I had left off as intended. There's an ominous character near the end who meets Sean and Claire who was never explained or included in the next storyline, one which was going to have Sean and Claire crash into Haley and Elegeia and eventually the ragtag bunch would end up in Mexico looking for Elly's mom. I ended the comic with only four strips, and looking back it sort of worked anyway.
What made you decide to return to Road Waffles? The new Road Waffles storyline (Road Waffles II) seems to be completely unconnected to the first plot. Is there any connection or does it just share a title with the first comic?
I decided to fly the new strip under the familiar flag for two reasons. One, I wanted to continue the overall familiar feeling and format of the old RW, and two, I wanted to be able to use some of my old characters as nostalgic value and to add depth to the RW universe. There's an actual timeline in place, so the characters age normally. Max, for instance, has grown up with me since '96, so I thought it'd be fun to update his progress. Vince showed up briefly to assure readers that the unfinished Infelicity had a happy ending somewhere, as he and Nadia bore a child.
Road Waffles II also seems a little more serious, and the sex and violence even more over the top than the first one. Do you see it that way?
As for more serious... yeah, it's half a step off from the old gag-a-day format. Over the years I've become partial to weaving a little more story into the panels. I guess this time around there's been a little more gratuitous violence and nudity, I'm not sure why but there has been and there'll probably be more.
Do you feel you need to top yourself, or is this storyline just going in a different direction?
I'm a perfectionist. It's my job to make the next strip better than the last one, unless of course I'm completely wrecked and it turns out really bad. Then you all just have to forgive me for I am only human. Unless I'm a robot. I'm not sure. Yeah, the story's definitely going somewhere else, although lately I've been wanting to just dump them all in a car and send them off down the highway. Right now the robots are getting in the way. Damned robots. Now they have to fight them all.
Where do most of your ideas for Road Waffles come from? If you don't have the whole strip planned out, how much of the new Road Waffles II do you have thought out ahead of time?
Ideas are spur of the moment, and none of it is planned out ahead of time because I don't enjoy drawing pictures to fill in space for a story I've already written.
You've gained a reputation as a bit of an online prankster both within and without your comics. Why do you set up sometimes elaborate pranks on readers? What's your favorite? What one got you the worst reactions? (One example in the comic I remember was where the comic was just a fuzzy screen.)
Another time, when Blood Lark was running, I had a newsbox (Keenspot promotional thing) which said "click heer 4 topless elves" which brought you to a little flash game in which you tried to outwit Satan in order to expose Zayrie for your viewing pleasure. Should you 'win', your computer would quickly be overrun with various sound clips of laughter and your explorer would open up windows to your hard drives to make you all paranoid that something bad was happening. One person formally complained to Keenspot and I told him he shouldn't have been looking at elf porn. There've been a bunch of lower-scale pranks but for safety's sake I haven't been at it lately.
Did you do anything for April Fools this year?
Nope. Gav disabled my FTP on the 1st, which annoyed me because I had to get them to manually upload the comic for april 2nd, so my April fool's joke this year was not doing comics for a month so keenspot gets less money.
What motivates you to do what you do?
The realization that death is behind every corner, with me wherever I go... and since I've always loved doing what I do, I just keep doing it. I also strive to respond to these delightful email interviews in a print-friendly manner, despite expectations that I should curse wildly or try to appear to be unfathomably witty and superintelligent.
You seem to work solely in pencil with your comics? Is that right? Can you describe your working process for Road Waffles and your other comics?
Well, I use a felt pen to make boxes first. Who needs a ruler? ... then I write all the dialogue (still with felt pen), then I do the word bubbles, and then I fill in all the boxes with my 0.7mm mechanical pencil. This is the format I prefer the most, but I'll occasionally experiment with different stuff. Anyone who's read my comics since the first RW incarnation would have been subjected to many failed experimental comics in the hazy void between then and now.
How has your experience with Keenspot been? What are the positives and negatives for you?
The big positive right now is that KS has finally started making some bling again. I hadn't seen a check since 2000 but I just got a quarterly check for 50 bucks a while ago. If things pick up, I might actually be able to buy groceries!
Negatives, I guess I'd say their lack of scripting support since I'm also a coder, or at least I want to be. I lost my CGI access, but around that time they had put in PHP so I learned that instead. They don't have mySQL yet so I can't really make anything decent aside from my tagboard/webchat Tagger.
Another negative which isn't Keenspot's fault at all, is my tiny little readerbase compared to some of the big titles. I guess it's good though, because a larger fan base means I'd have to put up with large amounts of mindless zombie readers. Right now it's at a good balance between cult status and complete obscurity.
Do you have any hopes of making a living through making comics?
I've been hoping that since I started. I guess progress is slow in the webcomics industry.
Are you making money from Road Waffles or related merchandise and/or print versions of it?
I used to sell shoddy merchandize from CafÃ© Press, but my content isn't desirable on white products. I'm currently surviving off the odd fan donation, each one bringing me closer to finalizing the printed version of the first RW epic.
Besides comics you also make music. What do you play and how much time to do you spend on your music projects?
I've been playing guitar since... I dunno, 15. A little late to start but why not. Besides that I've gotten into playing bass and drums, and the core of my work is programs like FruityLoops 3.56 and Cool Edit Pro. Generally I don't spend more than a few hours at a time making a song, but lately for my Ashes of Dawn venture I've spent more time retouching the songs and adding more to them, turning them into two-day projects. I guess I'm slowly growing an attention span these days.
What is more of a priority for you? Music or comics?
Either one, whichever I'm inspired to work on. I make a lot of stuff, but I guess those two are the big ones.
You've had a lot of projects overlapping with Road Waffles including Blood Lark and Sephen. What are your other major comic projects and what is the status of them right now?
At the moment, nothing. I scrapped my graphic novel due to lack of interest and for compensation to those who preordered it, they'll be getting Road Waffles collections instead, and the current RW format has been expanded to a full page. I have a few really high-priced commissions which have been nagging me for a long time, but somehow I can't get around to doing them... I dunno why. Commissions for me have generally turned out poorly, for some reason I'm uninspired and I end up sketching and re-sketching and not liking the results until I just put it on hold or reimburse the poor reader somehow. I guess I'll just shower them with merchandize one day.
What's going on with Blood Lark and Sephen? Can you tell us a little about each comic and than what your future plans for each comic is?
I stopped working on them, and I have no plans to ever continue them because my drawing style is always changing, and I'm out of touch with the characters. Even the last four strips of the first Road Waffles series weren't quite on the button to button.
Any other comic projects you want to tackle soon or after RW II?
No plans. Whatever happens, happens. (but of course I have some degree of free will in order to modify what happens to my liking)
Xaviar Xerexes is the Publisher and Executive Editor for News.