In the Tentacles of Ghastly: An Interview
Ghastly of Ghastly's Ghastly Comic (link NSFW) is one of the most popular strips on Keenspace, lampooning the more adult themes in Japanese anime and hentai, and now he is moving into Web Comics Nation/Adult Webcomics, flexing his creative muscles in new ways. In a chat, he gave us more information about his current comic and his future projects. (NOTE: most of these links are Not Safe For Work.)
Comixpedia: Appreciate you accepting the interview invite.
Ghastly: Not a problem, sounds like fun.
Well, first off, I know you're a Canadian musician and sound studio engineer, married with several kids. So what DON'T we know that you'd care to reveal?
Hmmm. not much is probably not known about me. I tend to be a rather vocal individual. Although I suppose not many people know I was once a systems engineer, and served in the Royal Canadian Artillery.
Interesting. What does your wife think about your strip?
My wife is sadly geek-deficient, she doesn't watch anime or read comics or surf the net or anything like that so a lot of the jokes that are specific to that sort of culture she doesn't get. But she gets a kick out of the ones she does get. She definitely thinks it's warped and finds it funny I have so many fans.
I was immersing myself in your comics, and your art style has really improved, and the artwork for the upcoming Polly strip is outstanding. What artists influence you, and was it just practice that improved you?
For the most part it was just a simple case of sticking with something for 4 years is bound to make you improve. But I really owe a lot to Hyung Sun Kim (Kung Fool, Etc.) who gave me a lot of pointers on how to improve my work. I'm really quite pleased that I've improved as much as I have and it makes me wonder how much better I'll be in another 4 years.
Me too. It's really improved. Your first Ghastly strip was inspired by a Sexy Losers strip, right? What else influences your humor writing and ideas?
Yes, Clay's "The Lighter Side Of Tentacle Rape" got me thinking about the subject of tentacle hentai from the monster's point of view and Glemph was born from that (with Nort soon to follow in the roll of the more stereotypical tentacle monster). Of course Japanese animation and comics are a huge influence. There are a lot of clichÃ©s there that are ripe with comic potential especially from a western point of view.
Yeah, and you merciless lampoon just about every hentai clichÃ© out there. One thing I do like about your comic that ALL of the characters have weaknesses and unfulfilled desires. It's silly, but they're more three-dimensional than a lot of webcomics characters. Do you have a favorite character?
It's hard for me to pick a favorite character, it's like trying to pick your favorite child. There's something unique that I love about each of them. I really love drawing Freddy when I'm feeling bummed out because her happiness is contagious and I love writing for Kwerki because she's so versatile.
I think that Webcomics Nation and Adult Webcomics will be offering a lot of opportunity that just wouldn't exist for me on Keenspace as well as a lot more automated features. There's things like my fan art gallery and guest strip gallery that I haven't updated in ages just because there's no automation to do it on Keenspace. I'm a lazy-assed bastard and the tools Joey is offering with AWC/WCN are really going to be top drawer. I'm very excited about this new service and I think it will see a pretty big change in the webcomic scene that hasn't been seen since... well since Keenspace really.
Adult Webcomics - is that going to be a pay-per-archives site like Modern Tales and Graphic Smash and Girlamatic? Or will it be a section of Web Comics Nation? If the former, what artists/writers have agreed to join - again, that you can tell us?
No, Adult Webcomics is going to be just like Webcomics Nation except for webcomics with explicit content (although not limited to explicit content). Joey needed to separate AWC and WCN for Pay Pal purposes and use a different payment system for AWC. The comics hosted on WCN/AWC will be subscription, pay, micropayment, whatever based on whatever model the artist wants to use for his comics.
Is the aforementioned Polly comic going to be your first WCN/AWC comic? Or Tentacled Epics? Or are you going to do both at once?
Tentacled Epics is just what I'm going to be calling my own comic publishing endeavors. GGC and Polly will both be Tentacled Epics comics. There will be Tentacled Epics Nice on WCN for the non-explicit content comics (like Polly) and Tentacled Epics Naughty for the more sexual ones like GGC.
You want to tell us any more about Polly? You've dropped a few hints about it, but what is it going to be about?
Well I've been playing my cards pretty close right now, I don't like to give too much away ahead of time. Polly is going to be a little darker at times than GGC, and it's going to be a long form story comic with a science fiction setting. It'll still have light moments but basically Polly's life isn't going to be all that cheery in this comic.
(Nodding.) I THOUGHT it was a sf [science fiction] comic, but I wasn't even sure about that. Good to hear, and look forward to it.
I look forward to it too. I'm really hoping it will be my crowning achievement in the field of comics.
It sounds like you're itching to try a little something - meatier? A little more serious - you're the king of the hentai lampoons, but it sounds like you want something a little more involved.
Yes, I've been wanting to do some more "comic book" type of stuff instead of "comic strip". Before I start Polly though I have another comic series I want to make just to get an introduction to that 9-panel comicbook format. I really want to be on top of my game for Polly so the new series will be my bridge between strips and 9-panel.
Oh? What's the name going to be of that comic series?
The new series is going to be called Apophenia 357.
Apophenia? What... if you can tell without giving away a lot of secrets... does that mean? I'm not familiar with that word...
Apophenia is pretty much the same thing as pareidolia.
It's when you draw connections between things that are in reality unrelated.
Oh. Sort of the opposite of synchronicity?
The sort of thing conspiracy theorists do?
Yes. Apophenia is actually the creative process for this new comic series I'm working on. It'll also be the process by which the reader interprets the comic itself.
You're really stretching the medium, then, ready to experiment. Good. Look forward to it.
On other things... we all get sometimes odd fan mail, although we love getting fan mail... and given GGC, I bet you get odder fan mail than most. What's some of the oddest fan mail (or enemy mail, for that matter) you've received?
Well the oddest e-mails I've gotten would be one of the ones I couldn't tell if it was a fan mail or a hate mail. It was pretty incomprehensible and the word "fuck" was misspelled in it in every sentence. Very odd indeed.
That's pretty bad when you can't even spell one of the most common four-letter words around...
The other was a hate mail where a guy basically said GGC was his favorite comic until he read someone else express an opinion on his/her livejournal that I was an egotistical jerk-ass and then he hated my comic after that.
Ah, well, if he changes his mind THAT easily, you're probably better off without him...
Yeah I wasn't sure if I should send him an e-mail thanking him after that.
The picture of the guy with the pipe... is that really you? You look so... I don't know how to put this... so NORMAL. Like Ward Cleaver's brother.
Oh yes, that's a picture of me. I've never been one to hide behind an avatar or a drawing. I've always felt the more open and honest I am on the internet about who I am the less likely I'll be to attract the kind of creepy stalker types some of the other webcomic artists have complained about. Plus I get a kick out of it when people say "Dude! You look like Smokey!"
*Grin* Yeah, you have almost an elder statesman aura in a lot of comic forums... you look totally trustworthy.
Well I am an old man so I tend to take the "old guy giving out fatherly advice" roll a lot. [laughs]
Hey, I'm older than you... on another subject, I know WCN will allow a wide variety of options from free to BitPass to other ways to make money off your webcomic. I know you're already making some money off your webcomic - I don't want actual figures, but I'm just curious - are you currently making more off selling ads or selling t-shirts and merchandise?
Right now I'm making more off ads than merchandise. You don't have to work much to make money off ads but merchandise requires constant updating and cycling of products to make it pay. I just don't have the time to put into merchandising to really do it properly so I haven't updated my line in ages. I really should get a business manager to do all that sort of stuff some day. [laughs]
Any advice for anyone thinking of starting a webcomic?
Stop thinking, start doing. Don't let anything hold you back just dive right in. A lot of people are worried about making mistakes and crap like that. It doesn't matter with webcomics. It's like the "punk music" of the comic world. Grab your six string and start wanking on three chords. Most people will suck, grow bored of it, move onto something else but some people will find it to be their biggest passion. They'll work at it and their skills and talents will grow. They'll explore and create and have a lot of fun doing it and maybe, just maybe they'll really be able to create something someday that will make themselves proud.
Yeah, the satisfaction of releasing something creative for the world to see at will is one of the best things about the Internet. Obviously you're interested in how webcomics are developing. Do you think in a few years the Bitpass model will rule, or selling ad space, or merchandise, for those who want to get some sort of financial reward from their comics?
Where do you see webcomics going in general?
I don't know if I want to go out on a limb over webcomic business models. Look at the way poor Scott McCloud got dressed up in a frilly french maid uniform and given a bare bottomed spanking over how micropayments turned out (or was that just a dream I had). But I do think that webcomics will begin to become more mainstream in the comic world and probably start to get a lot more corporate attention (for good or for bad) in the next decade and I think a lot more comic artists are going to be able to make, if not a living at least a nice supplemental income off their webcomics especially with the tools that will be available to them on WCN/AWC.
Hey I'm a dreamer.
Al Schroeder is a man of action! Mindmistress is a woman of action webcomics!