This is the first of a series of forum interviews with questions taken from our readers. R Stevens, the creator behind Diesel Sweeties, has combined the extreme look of pixelation with the bizarre concept of a former porn star dating a robot. The cast has expanded since those first strips about Clango and Maura, including people R Stevens has admitted are based on real life people. Since starting, he’s had a brief try at a strip on Modern Tales (Kid Clango), started a monthly club for goodies (the Clango Club) and self-published his archives as a paper book with a shiny, shiny cover.
1. What happened with the whole Kid Clango thing on Modern Tales? Was starting a second series on MT too much for your schedule or did you just change your mind as to wanting to do it? (Xerexes)
Two major reasons: I guess I’m spoiled as far as readers go … the amount of money and traffic coming in from that kind of group project didn’t really make up for the sheer number of people I’d be preventing from reading those particular strips. I liked dealing with the MT crew quite a bit, but I’m used to giving away my content for free and making my money out of merchandise and books. I sympathize with the sheer number of people pit there with inter-net that don’t have credit cards, but will become loyal readers and eventually contribute if included at this point in time. I call this the "John Allison Effect." That led me to my other problem … time. I was starting work on a small original book, working full-time and teaching in the evenings. I had to prioritize my time a lot more than before and the free daily strips read by the vast majority of my readers had to stay my main online comic priority. Apologies to anyone annoyed or inconvenienced by the rise and fall of Kid Clango.
2. Mr. Stevens, do you have any plans to do a non-pixelated project at any time? I’ve seen some of your wonderful pen ‘n’ ink-based work, and I think it would be sad if you deprived the world of your inky goodness forever. (Rosenberg)
[and a related question: Have you ever not been able to do a certain joke because of the limitations of your pixelated style? Have you ever felt limited by that style in any way? (Boxjam)]
I’ve always got *plans* to do another project. I’ve got about 3 strips/book ideas floating around in my head right now just waiting for some free time. I’m seriously debating rethinking how I make my merchandise and shipping work … might even get an intern or something. I do still practice with pencil, brush and marker at least every other week. Once in a while I come up with a gag that needs more body language or action than I can pull off in pixel form. I’m so used to this style that it rarely ever happens anymore. (Shit, I can practically letter the damn thing in my head and tell if dialog is going to fit in the tiny space allotted.)
3. I liked the Indy Rock Pete miniseries. Do you have any plans (tentative or concrete) for other spin-off efforts with some of your characters? Oh and what’s the deal with Space Mummy? (Xerexes)
I’ve got the bare minimums of plots in my head for some possible stories starring Metal Steve’s band and/or possibly something about Pale Suzie. Nothing concrete right now! I’d love to have Jason Alderman pick up and do IRP2, but apparently there’s some war going on. (He’s in the army) Space Mummy (or Spummy as we say it) is my dream comic book hero. He’s a hard-drinking, pissy-assed Mummy with amazing powers who lives in space and VERY reluctantly saves the world a lot. He’s *my* Superman.
4. What would it take to get you to join Keenspot? (Crosby)
A hell of a lot of money on a regular basis. I’ve mused about how cool it might be to join a group that size, with some actually advertising resources but I’m really worried about how that might change how the strip is perceived. I’ve also heard there’s a lot of bickering between cartoonists in KS. To be totally frank, the ones I hear offering up the most bile at one another’s content are the ones that I’d say aren’t quite qualified to give anyone else a critique. (Shockingly, the best cartoonists in KS are the ones who waste the least time being dorks. This is where I shout out to Tats, Boxie, Bob & Ryan in my best Biggie Smalls voice) I would be a lot more open to putting a new strip on KS.
5. Are any of the robots actually diesel-powered? (BoxJam)
Menace-11 has a back-up diesel generator for when his tritium isotope power source fails.
6. How long does it take you to do each individual comic, both coming up with the idea and then setting it up? (Evander)
It can take me anywhere from 20 minutes to a week.
7. Why don’t you ever wear that wig I bought you? (BoxJam)
It really only looked good with that bra and panty combo that you REFUSE to admit you borrowed from me.
8. What stuff were you doing before you started doing Diesel Sweeties? (anon fan boy)
I’d done a bunch of very forgettable semi-autobiographical romance/crime comics before DS. I did a really short-lived college paper strip too.
9. Which of your entrepreneurial endeavors has been the most lucrative? T-shirts, books, the fan club? (anon fan boy)
Probably the t-shirts. They’re the most consistent things I put out and they take the least amount of energy away from actually drawing comics. (Plus, I *love* wearing them) Neil and Kurt are my shirt guys and they are simply amazing. Neil handles distribution and Kurt does screenprinting. These guys probably handle as many shirts a month as Cafepress and their work is impeccable. (dominationtshirts.com and brunettotshirts.com)
10. Who are your favorite webcomic creators currently and why? (Xerexes)
Everyone knows I love John A, J. Ro and Jon Rosenberg. Lately I’ve been becoming a much huger-er fan of really off-the wall, slightly cruder strips. Ryan Duchane’s Hounds Home, Chris Crosby’s Superosity and Mitch Clem’s Nothing ice to Say are impressing me a lot lately with some amazing timing and really silly gags. These are strips with actual CHARACTERS!
BONUS: Where do you envision your main DS characters winding up if you (hypothetically) were to end the series in the future?
I’m of two minds right there. I don’t want to pull a M*A*S*H and tie up all the loose ends and dump a pile of character changes into the last episode, but I do see the value in some closure. I have some definite "CHILLING FINAL FATES" planned out for some of the characters, but I don’t ever want to close the door on them completely. The cast members of my comic are some of my best friends and I always want the option to come back to them in one form or another. Don’t give this paragraph another thought, OK? I’ve got at least a few more years of DS comics in me.