Cat Garza Chats With Scott "PvP" Kurtz (Part 1)
Scott Kurtz is the creative force behind PVP, and Wedlock, his brief stint with an autobiographical comic on Modern Tales. Kurtz, known for being one of the few webcomics creators able to actually live off his comic, recently started a print run of PVP with Image Comics. Often surrounded by controversy, Kurtz tells Cat Garza what he was really thinking when he did his infamous “guest week,” about his real reason for quitting Modern Tales, about his "indie comic" Graphomaximo.
[This is part 1 of a two-part interview with Kurtz. Part two will arrive next week on Comixpedia.]
catgarza: Tell me a little about some of the storylines you've come up with that have incited controversy.
catgarza: Were these conscious decisions on your part?
catgarza: …or were you just wanting to riff on something that was pissing you off or interesting you at the time, and people's reactions made them "controversial"? Take the GRAPHOMAXIMO storyline, for instance.
Kurtz: Okay...now we’re getting deep.
Kurtz: I've only created a storyline for the express purpose of pissing someone off ONCE.
Kurtz: And that was the strip where I did the fake guest week.
catgarza: Were you trying to get the "artsy fartsy" crowd's panties in a bunch?
catgarza: Or was it a reaction to the cliquish nature of artsy comics?
Kurtz: I did a series of strips where I drew PvP in the style of other webcartoonists who in the past have annoyed me or said things about me that I thought were unfair. And I let em have it. I really tried to sock it to them and get them mad. And hey, guess what? They got mad. So, mission accomplished. In retrospect, it was stupid. My readers aren't looking for that. And I might not have realized at the time just how strong I was when I started that wrestling match. And feelings got really hurt. So all in all, bad idea.
catgarza: The power of art... Still, you wouldn't have done it if it weren't for a reaction to something… tell me about that...
Kurtz: Well, the bulk of negative comments I get are from people with their own webcomics.
catgarza: Well, then tell me about where you see yourself in this big mess called "webcomix"?
Kurtz: One day, I did a search on Google search on my name and found all these posts on various message boards where people just fucking hammer me and hate me. And I'm like, damn. I didn't know that guy hated me. Why does he hate me? He doesn't even KNOW me. And it was a lot of that. And I think that was when I decided to do the fake guest week. I was really hurt and I just lashed out because it was all webcomic people. Not readers or fans. Other creators.
catgarza: What do you think spurs these people on, though, in your opinion? Is it jealousy over your success in webcomix? Is it a creative difference?
Kurtz: That question is a trap. I don't know I can't say what other people think. Now, don't get me wrong. Some people might have a specific and legitimate grievance against me. Maybe we had words or I didn't respond to an email they sent three times.
catgarza: (and try not to pay ***too*** much attention to the other ears in the room. We all love you here)
Kurtz: I think that people expect more from you, once you reach a certain position. So maybe people just expect more from me and I don't live up to that.
catgarza: Sure, I can see that... I've experienced it myself... Do you think there's a lot more pressure to live up to expectations once you've reached a certain level of visibility? Or, rather, is there a LOT of that pressure you're having to deal with? Is it affecting your work at all?
Kurtz: Sometimes I don't feel that I'm allowed to state an opinion anymore because it's now a public opinion and it magically carries all this weight with it. Which I don't get. It doesn't affect my work. I've never compromised the strip or said "I can't write about that, people will get mad."
catgarza: Sure, nature of the beast, I suppose...
Kurtz: I did a strip last month where I said the word penis once in each panel because it was funny that way. It had to be in each panel to be funny. And no one had a problem with it. But I make a news post about disliking chocolate milk, and POW!
catgarza: Did that surprise you?
Kurtz: With the strip, my target audience is me. I write to make myself laugh. period. And sometimes people get it, and sometimes they don't. But I always laugh.
catgarza: Tell me a little about the gaming community, who I think is probably the BIGGEST [group of] supporters of your strip, and probably the most influential in your success thus far...
Kurtz: Well, it's huge. It's this billion-dollar industry and it's growing every day. But, there are sub-categories of the community and I think PvP falls into a certain category. I have a lot of older gamers, female gamers, reading the strip. I get email a lot from people who say "I don't play games, but I love PvP." I've never tried to make it a gaming comic. But it needed to be that from time to time, to keep going.
catgarza: Do you think you get "ghetto-ized" by the comics community at large for being so huge in the gaming community?
Kurtz: It's an easy way for other webcartoonists to excuse my success.
Kurtz: One time I read someone saying "Well, Scott Kurtz has ads in his comic book." And the response was "Yeah, but they're all gaming companies." And I was thinking..."DUH!" That's like someone saying "Man, Cosmo has ads in it because they cater to those cosmetic companies."
catgarza: So, do you think that there's a negative aspect to your being involved with the gaming community for fans that aren't involved in it?
Kurtz: These are the clients who approach me. This is the demographic they want to reach. and it works, so why is that bad?
catgarza: Why do you think that is?
Kurtz: No. Not at all. None of my fans have a problem with my writing about games. Because they identify with that. They, like my characters, grew up with Atari and Colecovision and Sega and they play games. The strip is about 30 year olds who never grew up. This isn't Shakespeare. And no one in the comics industry has a problem with it, either. They love it. Grayson, who write a bunch of Batman books, is a HUGE Everquest player. Kurt Busiek considers himself an honorary troll. So, don't let a few web comic artists beefs against me, paint this untrue picture of my public opinion.