From Spork to Undead Romance -- Mnemesis' Sylvan Midgal
Sylvan Migdal. With a first name like this, he almost had to get involved with fantasy. At SYLVAN MIGDAL'S EXTREMELY INTERESTING WEBCOMICS at www.webcomics.org, Sylvan has been pursuing such webcomics as Spork, Carface, the completed graphic novel A God's Life (slacker deities in a creation they inherited), and the current ongoing Mnemesis, an existential afterlife, and has been active with webcomics since March of 2001. He's a 19-year-old junior at The Cooper Union. He's lived in various Brooklyn apartments (with his pet dust bunnies) for 15 years, and has had his ceiling collapse on three separate occasions.
That last bit is no doubt good training for the thankless and often catastrophic job of being a web cartoonist.
Comixpedia: Who influenced you as a cartoonist? Who do you admire?
Sylvan Midgal: Well, as a kid I fell in love with stuff like Calvin and Hobbes, Pogo, Life In Hell and The Far Side, but those comics actually kept me away from cartooning in a certain sense. "Come up with a funny comic every day? And draw all those characters consistently? Are you insane??"
CP: Why in the world did you decide to put your comics on the web?
SM: Prior to that, I had been running a short-lived high school e-magazine that was basically a cheap ripoff of The Onion. I drew one or two embryonic pre-Spork cartoons for it, but I don't think I ever even put them up on the site.
In the beginning of 2001, my friends introduced me to webcomics, and it didn't take much convincing for us to try it ourselves. From our group came Slap, Smack, Thwack, Blackjack, Spork, and several others...most of which died within three months, of course.
Webcomics were a great discovery for me because they proved that you don't have to be perfect â€“ you can do work that's awkward, or unfinished, or utterly atrocious, and it's all okay.
CP: A God's Life and its slacker deities were modeled after a novella you did in high school, and obviously â€“ and delightfully â€“ influenced by a LOT of fantasy reading, which you make fun of, mercilessly. What was the original genesis of A God's Life?
SM: Yes, I am a child of the fantasy novel. If you need any more convincing, look at my first name.
A God's Life actually started in 8th grade, as the plot for an RPG. I was convinced that I was gonna be a big video game designer. A couple years later I had a nice English teacher who put me in touch with my inner writer, and I resurrected that plot as the basis for one of my stories. Shortly after starting Spork, I realized that webcomicdom was my one chance to get A God's Life out there in a form in which someone other than me and my teacher would actually read it.
CP: Perhaps harking back to the "novella" thing, you seem to be more comfortable with the graphic novel â€“ tales that have an ending. A God's Life had one, and obviously Mnemesis is building to one. Are you more comfortable in a story that builds towards a goal?
SM: I suppose so. I've never really been too interested in getting trapped within a never-ending serial. I like closure. And I like getting to start from scratch occasionally. It wards off stagnation.
CP: Mnemesis and its vision of an existential afterlife in "Post York" has been fascinating â€“ especially that glimpse of a gibbering, but happy Hitler watching Wheel of Fortune, ignorant of who he is. What can you tell us about how Mnemesis came about?
SM: Mnemesis appeared very suddenly â€“ I doodled a character in my sketchbook, who turned out to be a very angry, embryonic version of Lily. She looked so pissed off that I decided she must have just found out she was dead. Everything else sort of followed from that. Don't ask me why...
CP: You've hinted at a new series, post-Mnemesis. Anything you'd care to hint to us about what it's going to be about?
SM: I'm working on a story that will, I think, finally resolve some of the ideas I've been blundering towards with A God's Life and Mnemesis. I'd also like to start really taking advantage of the webcomics medium with it.
That's assuming, of course, that I don't get distracted by something shiny and wander off into a completely different story. It's happened before.
(FINAL NOTE: Another hint at the new series---concept art---can be seen here â€“ and doubtless there will be many more projects as time goes on. Sylvan obviously loves the freedom the webcomics medium brings.)