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Josh Lesnick Interviewed by the Readers

You asked and Josh Lesnick answered. Lesnick's current project is Girly – a sequel of sorts to Wendy and Cute Wendy, yet not a sequel at all. Part of the Keenspot line-up, but also a webcomics entrepreneur in his own right, Lesnick talks about webcomics business, art and INTERWEB drama.

How is the Slipshine (NSFW) subscription model working out for you, has it enabled you to live your dream of quitting your day job? (Oh, and a follow up question. Are you more about the "slip" or the "shine"?) – ghastly
It's doing okay. I've built up to a pretty steady level of 500 subscribers, which doesn't sound like a lot compared to Modern Tales, but it's a completely different business model. It makes enough for me to pay the artists a good but not fantastic amount of money per page... and the amount I pay myself, along with the money I make from girly and various other commissions, ends up earning me just enough to live. Calling it "living the dream" would be a stretch, though. I don't have health insurance, and I have to be pretty frugal, to say the least.

I'd also rather be making a living solely from comics like girly, to be honest. I'm not the least bit ashamed of my work on Slipshine, but there are still a lot of problems with working on adult comics which I could go on about, but won't. It's still more or less a "day job", in that it's something to do to get by while I work on my main projects... and I think most of the other Slipshine artists feel this way too. But it's still a job where we actually put our skills to use, so it's not like working at McDonald's or at an office or something. We still have fun with it.

How many comic pages, on average, do you draw per day? How long does each step take? - kiwi
Lately I've been drawing only the three girly strips per week, which is awful. There are times when the amount of material in a girly strip is equal to two or more comic-sized pages, but this is still horribly, terribly awful in my opinion, and I'll be forcing myself to step it up this summer. The highest I ever got was sometime last year when I drew 5 Slipshine pages, 3 Wendy pages, and a colored page of my "Hyper Lady" miniseries each week. NINE PAGES. And somehow I did that for several weeks in a row. I wish I could remember how! I probably won't reach that amount again anytime soon, but at least 5-6 comics per week would be ideal.

The pencil layout stage of my comics takes about 15 to 30 minutes. This involves simply doing a pencil sketch of the comic on a sheet of paper. For girly, I rarely sketch the comic out exactly as I want to appear; I'll usually draw a bunch of panels, then edit them down and organize them after scanning them in. The layouts are not tight; I've seen artists with tighter thumbnails even. I'm an artist who prefers some spontaneity in the final inking process. After that is the digital layout stage, which takes 30-45 minutes and consists of scanning the comic in, resizing it to 1200dpi, performing the edits on the pencil layout mentioned above, drawing the panels, and adding the dialogue.

Then there's the inking process, which takes anywhere from 3 to 10 hours depending on the size of the comic and what's going on in it. It's done with a tablet, and there's a lot of switching between the pencil tool and the eraser. I'll also occasionally do some resizing, moving selections around, and various other edits. And, of course, if a panel needs ziptones or other forms of shading, I'll add those using the various [Photoshop] techniques I've come up with over the years. Those rarely take up as much time as the inking itself.

What artists and writers influenced you? – alschroeder
My latest influences are Bruce Timm and Shane Glines, two artists who mainly draw sexy cartoon humans. I'm sure a lot of people know Timm as the head artist of Warner Bros's superhero cartoons, and Glines designed the characters for Batman Beyond, though the animated designs everyone saw aren't totally indicative of his work. Glines in particular is really good at giving his characters a lot of style and personality, with dynamic poses and gestures, without going.. uh... overboard, if you know what I mean. It's not so cartoony that the characters start to almost completely lose all form, like in a cartoon from Bakshi or Spumco.

This is the kind of art I've enjoyed lately... The kind that's very expressive and shows movement, while still looking attractive and retaining some form. That is to say, something between a Spumco cartoon and a superhero comic.

Yes, I've been influenced by Japanese artists over the years too, obviously, the two main ones being Ryusuke Mita (Dragon Half) and Takahiro Kimura (Godannar, Variable Geo). If anyone had a look at Mita's comics, they'd probably see the influence right away, especially in the inking style. However, anime in general seriously isn't as much of an influence on me as people seem to think; It was in the past, but not so much these days. Most artists in Japan tend to use a "sexy yet cartoony" style I'm talking about, but the character poses and movements are still pretty static, for the post part, and when they DO go off-model, they always do it following the same standards.

I love the way you draw the female body, and it seems that you do too seeing as almost all your comics feature the always popular lesbians. My friends say you only draw lesbian comics because you can only draw women and not men. Is this true? - Anonymous But Curious
According to testimonials from girls who've read The Pet Elf and girly, I CAN draw guys, apparently, so that's right out. Yeah... who knew? Nobody really knows the real reason my comics have lesbians. "OMG HE'S DOING IT BECAUSE WOMEN HAVING SEX IS HOTTTT" is the knee-jerk assumption, but that's not really it at all. Seriously, nobody knows. Even I don't know. I just like romance stories between two girls, for some reason.

I enjoy the Go-Girly comic as well as Cute Wendy, but sometimes the plot makes my head spin. How can you keep all this stuff linear in your mind? -
Anonymous But Confused

Well, of course the author can do that more easily than the people reading it! If anything, its the author's closeness to their work that causes plots that are needlessly complicated and/or hard to understand, because it'll always make perfect sense in their head no matter what. Even the writer of "Catalina Caper" probably knew what his story was about. Though I'm pretty sure my comics are better than that movie was.

I know this caused some problems with the "android story" in Wendy, but I'd like to think I've gotten better with girly. The stories are a little more self-contained, though I can't resist doing the occasional flashback, as well as character introspection that don't really make any sense until later. I've been getting more into that kind of thing, though I know I'm not all that good at it yet.

How and or where did you learn to draw? If you were self-taught, please give me some pointers, as I am striving to learn how to draw right now... (I can draw something I see very well, but I'm trying to break away from that and draw things from my mind. It's tough) -Anonymous
It's really hard to give a good answer to a question like this in under 200 paragraphs. As a kid, I was really into comic strips like Garfield, so I'd draw my own newspaper-style comics everyday, which were mostly just rip-offs of actual newspaper comics.

Fortunately, the INTERWEB wasn't around at the time, so I couldn't share this awful stuff with thousands of people. All the pain was directed toward my parents, whom I'd hand these comics to every day, who would in turn read and support them. I'm eternally thankful for their putting up with this for so many years. =3

Eventually this stage evolved to me making my own ashcan comic books, and I got into Japanimation and it was all pretty much the same thing... I was just doing rip-offs of different stuff in a larger format now. My work with Wendy was really the first time I started REALLY learning about comics. I started talking with other artists more, and started paying attention to more fundamental lessons like anatomy, consistency, layout, and all that.

Pretty much all of this, the good and the bad, contributed to my development. And that sums it up, really. Just keep drawing comics, and you'll do fine. Except somewhere down the line, you'll have to learn some actual techniques. And communication with other artists helps. And... uh... yeah!

What are five comic series (from anywhere on this planet and Internet) that you think are perhaps the best series out there and why? – Anonymous
I have no idea. I like comics, but I don't have many favorites. The only one I can really name is a Japanese comic called Darkhair Captured by Mita (the artist I mentioned earlier), but none of you have heard of it. Also from Japan was an adaptation of the story of Belle Starr by Ahihiro Itoh, which is as close as a comic is ever going to get to being exactly like a John Woo movie. Comics I've enjoyed lately include Azumanga Daioh... and comics from Oni Press's strong lineup such as Blue Monday, Hopeless Savages, and, of course, the Lost at Sea book, which I have plugged many a time. And I believe all of Jhonen's comics in his "Squee!" collection are worthy of the praise they get; I prefer them over his Johnny comics. Whether these all are "the best" is hard to say.

Seems like the only artists and comics I can talk about are of the printed variety, doesn't it? I do like webcomics, but it can be kinda awkward to talk about them like this, since all the artists around here that inspire or influence me are also artists I'm friendly with. I would say that Our Home Planet is a must-read, though, and everything by Dave Kelly must be paid attention to. The art development of the four New Yorkers Dave McGuire, Ian J., Meredith Gran, and Josh Mirman have all been awesome too. They're all attending the School of Visual Arts and they're making me want to go as well. What? Yeah, technically, I didn't really answer the question. So what? Shut up!

Who would you want to be the voice of Winter and Otra if Girly were turned into an animation? – Anonymous
I don't know. I suppose Tara Strong would have to voice one of the two girls, though. Probably Winter, since her voice isn't deep enough for Otra's. And El Chupacabre would have to be voiced by a Canadian who's good at doing silly accents, so Dave Foley is the only way to go there; that's one casting decision I'm sure about.

Based on recent developments in Girly, and your interview at Sequential Tart, I am drawing some parallels between Otra's life experiences and your own. Specifically, you both worked for minimum wage, quit, and then ended up making a living doing something artistic. Did you use your own experiences in this area as a reference for writing Girly? –Anonymous
I did notice the similarity, though it wasn't consciously based on myself. Since a little of myself goes into all the comics I draw (well, not the adult ones), these kinds of things are bound to happen every once in a while. Funny thing though, is that it's not always just me. There are a couple girls I've known for a while online whom Winter and Otra are similar to, and while this wasn't done on purpose, it probably wasn't a coincidence either. Which goes to show that nobody's safe, I guess!

Are you still bitter? Josh's been involved in a lot of drama over the years. I thought about saying "Are you still bitter about the THING," but decided it would be inflammatory. – Dreamshade
I know saying this will cause a lot of people to roll their eyes in the back of their heads, but I was never really "bitter" per se. I just get frustrated a lot, and in the past I've been too needlessly vocal about it, and not particularly good at explaining my actions. It was never really my intention to blame all my problems on other webcomics and their authors.

Major rants like the one I did last year during the final Wendy comics should be seen only as what they truly are... fits of frustration, and nothing more. And I will never, ever, in a million years consider myself at fault for being frustrated, because anyone in my position would felt the same way. Even if much of Wendy was hardly reward-worthy work, it was still HARD work. When you spend several hours working on something for years, and get minimal support in return, you WILL feel like killing things with hammers.

The problem is, the Interweb makes it to easy for someone to complain to the world -- right on the spot -- when they feel they're getting screwed, so that's what I did. The last time I did this was a year ago during the final Wendy comics. And that's what the real problem was. In the long run, the ranting accomplishes nothing. They may help me blow off some steam, but the readers don't need (or want) to hear about it. This is especially so because I'm not exactly capable of the most rational thought in the world
when I write these rants. There's no time for thoughts like "Gee, maybe I went about this in the wrong way, and should have done this instead of this or... (etc, etc)"... Nope, that kind of thinking doesn't happen until AFTER the rant. The smart thing to do would have wait a month or so, perhaps blowing off some steam somewhere less out in the open, and then put Wendy on "hiatus" on a much less ANGRY note.

No use dwelling on the past, though. Right now I'm working on a comic I feel much more satisfied with, and that alone helps me deal with the frustrations more than ever. Even so, the frustrations will always be there, and there's not much that can be done about it. I'll say for the record that it does seem to me that with comics, the Internet audience does overvalue pop culture gags, and it undervalues art quality. It just makes it a somewhat difficult situation for me is all.

The prejudice against anime-influenced art isn't helping me either. Girly is not an "anime comic", but as long as the art influences are there, people are going to see it as one. With all this, I still have a lot to be frustrated about. But I'm dealing with it. I'm taking it slower, and am not so eager to look for financial support all the time. Even when things go awry -- when my hits start to drop inexplicably, or when there's another failed marketing attempt -- I just have to stop and think about the fact that girly's audience has gotten a lot bigger than I initially expected it to.

I seriously thought my online comic career was over when I put a stop to Wendy. I'm really not doing that bad, so getting angry about things seems kinda silly now.

The readers are guest contributors for the Comixpedia. They are all of you folks, so you should already know all the details about yourselves, no?

Re: Josh Lesnick Interviewed by the Readers

Im a lesbian squid!, 1 thing i want to know, will there ever be a drunken orgy between otra and winter that is indirectly discribed but not actually seen? or better yet, fully animated in flash~Frogz

Re: Josh Lesnick Interviewed by the Readers

...dork...
I just like the zany plot twists!
Keep it up (not that you need my personal encouragement, but every little bit helps!).

Re: Josh Lesnick Interviewed by the Readers

one would hope not, else it would turn out like Ellen--it's funny as long as it's all implied, but as soon as it's obvious, it's no longer funny.

If that makes sense.

Re: Josh Lesnick Interviewed by the Readers

I dont think thats the way he works things