The Readers Have Their Way With Something Positive’s R.K. Milholland

This man needs no introductions.

No, really.

1. What, in the name of all that is un-holy…..inspired Choo-Choo Bear?! Ok so I have to know, even tho I will probably regret it, just what inspired Choo-Choo Bear, Pepito and Nailed? Nightmares? Cute fluffy anime gone wrong? Too much alcohol? A dare? Just because you could? Inquiring minds want to know.reno_lh and Morgaine

Choo-Choo was inspired by a kitten I had the pleasure of briefly knowing about five or six years ago. As for Pepito, I did an entire filler comic on August 21st explaining where the character came from and showing off how I originally designed him. Nailed came from drunken talks with actors. Anyone who's done theatre (especially community theatre) knows that one of the few benefits is post show drinking binges. The most beautiful and bizarre ideas are born – and usually die – in discussions held here. There was a discussion about creating a musical so bad it would dethrone Carrie: The Musical (yes, based off the Stephen King book – and, yes, it was really a musical). Later, I thought about Heresy: The Musical… which mutated to Nailed! Somewhere, I have part of a script I worked on for it.

2. In your faq you say some of your characters are based off your real life friends. When portraying them in the comics, do you ever have to adjust things for particular characters? I.E. Make things they do and say a little more extreme, ease up on them for your readers (though after having read your comic for a few months, I can't see you easing up on anything.) Or do the real life "PeeJee" and "Aubrey" pretty much inspire you the way they are?

Has the real Aubrey, Jason, PeeJee (etc) ever reacted violently to a comic you've put up?
Have the real people ever done something just to see if you'd put it into a comic?
I know you make most of your comics off of events in your life, or the lives of your friends and family. As far as your family is concerned, do they get offended by any of the strips showing them?
Onirenjaaa, Lucabelle, Leah Engemann.and Basia.

The characters, while based on real people, have evolved into their own personalities. Some characters, such as Jason and PeeJee, and moved more and more away from their inspirations (although still very similar). Others, like Aubrey, have stayed a bit closer to the actions and personality of their inspirations.

Neither the real Aubrey or PeeJee have reacted poorly to the comics. I've occasionally asked their permission before doing something I thought might touch a sensitive subject or go in a direction they don't approve of, but they've been open to anything. PeeJee's only rule is that her hair can never, ever be blonde. Or I will be killed.

Many things my friends have done have wandered into my comic. My friend, Claire, has commented on my impressive turnaround time on sticking something embarrassing into a strip (especially if it's something stupid that I've done). Other times, I've taken things said or done by people who aren't in the comic and assigned it to a random character. I've since learned this is not always a wise decision, especially if it's something a person you are seeing romantically said in passing.

Of my family members, only my cousin Nicole and my sister, Rhonda, read S*P. This is more than enough. My sister felt a bit uncomfortable about the character Dahlia (Davan's sister) who is based directly on Rhonda. She has since warmed up to the idea, however, and wants to see more of the character.

3. Yeah i was wondering…since Something Positive is one kick ass comic and all, why you haven't updated New Gold Dream……I found that quite entertaining as well.lydia

I went through a craptacular move and attended two cons (and am about to attend a third) in just the summer, not to mention a two-week stint in the Philippines (where I am as I write this). That cut into a lot of my schedule a tad and it became a choice of bust my ass and get a backlog of S*P strips to post while I'm out of the country or do New Gold Dream strips – and S*P always wins out. It's just more important to me. However, when I return to the states, there will be more New Gold Dream.

4. When you posted the infamous challenge, it seemed as though it were a joke; something I'd never heard of from any comic author before, not as such. At the time, I assumed it was, like many of your statements, a jest to put your update situation in perspective. But people came through, and I don't need to tell you joyously how that went. You know better than I.

Well, okay, I figured it might happen eventually, but not within a month…
So my question is, did you know this could happen? That you might actually get an opportunity to ditch that job, and to devote yourself full time to Something*Positive? Or did the level of response blow your mind as much as it did mine?

Are you kidding? I thought maybe I'd end up with enough to buy a fish sandwich at the creepy sandwich shop near the commuter rail. The challenge was really meant more as a, "I know you won't do it so quit griping." Then I got $2,000 in a day. I was surprised… but not a bad surprised.

I didn't think it would happen but it did – and I'm still having trouble believing it.

5. Are you beginning to have some problems with fans thinking they know you simply from reading your strip? What's the strangest thing that's ever happened when meeting fans/ protestors? Have you ever been stalked?Dicotomygrrl and Lucabelle.

The only people who think I owe them anything, I've noticed, have never donated or bought merchandise. The others are always kind and polite and go out of their way to let you know what they think in a nice, positive manner. And, to be honest, of all the emails, IMs or LJ posts I get, maybe 1% is negative and insulting. I've been very fortunate and I know it.

I've never been protested face to face – just over the web, when a delightful "Pagan" from Mobile, Alabama (certainly the place that springs to my mind when I ponder the fanciful and hypnotic possibilities of the arcane and deep medication of all things within nature) decided to take two strips I did out of context and stomp through the online neo-Pagan/Wiccan community and tell thousands of fellow believers that I was out to "take away their freedom of religion."

What resulted was a boom of twenty complaint emails – ten of which took back their complaints when they actually read my comic. I did receive hundred emails of support and even more new readers. Odd. CeltWiccan never replied to me when I offered him a free shirt for all of his hard work to promote me.

Sorry – tangent. Anyway – weird things that have happened. Two girls in catears stormed up to me, screaming, "GIVE US CATBOY!" They then offered me candy which I promptly misplaced for my own safety. I've been drunkenly hit on by a reader. I've had people ask if they could hug me. And, of course, my favorite: "I thought you'd be cuter."

Thanks. Thanks a lot.

No one has stalked me (this is not an invitation) but, at my previous apartment, readers showed up on my doorstep more often than I liked. I will say each and every one was very polite – but they were always, ALWAYS big, burly men. And alcohol was always involved (either them being drunk or them bringing a few six packs as a gift). I've since moved and have taken steps to prevent this for my roommate's sake.

6. You have a very unique and consistent style of drawing. I was wondering what sort of art background you have. Is it all something you just picked up naturally, or did you have any formal training? Also, how long does it take you to create a strip from idea to posting?

How long does it take you to come up with the finished dialogue for a given strip, and how do you do it? Do you start at the beginning and work forward until you reach a good stopping point (being a webcomic, you don't have any real space limitations), or do you prefer to figure out the stopping point and work backwards? Somewhat related to that, do you consciously try to write dialogues that are one strip long, or is it something that just seems to come naturally in the course of determining what your characters would say?
Kilbia and Vonryler.

I've been drawing since I was a toddler. My mother has many memories (note I did not refer to them as pleasant) of me wobbling up to her and handing over my newest abomination of a monster or doctor implanting clocks in patients for her to tape on the wall near the television. We did not put drawings on the fridge as my father liked to eat without the stare of angry lizard-beasts swallowing unsuspecting puppies while smiling suns glanced on.

At Trinity High School in Euless, Texas, I had a comic strip and drew editorial comics for the school paper, the Palantir. I also drew comics for a Christian magazine aimed at teenagers called TQ from Shepherd Ministries (this is usually the thing that makes most people do a double take) from 1993 through 1995.

Okay – THAT was boring. Now, on to the other boring stuff!

Comics take about four hours to make now. When I started S*P, they only took about one and a half hours. Ah, the pleasures of cut and paste. If it's a particularly detailed comic, it can take more. I start off with a general idea of what I want the punchline to be or where I need the current story to go. Then, on a sheet or two of multipurpose paper, I draw the panels in photocopy blue and ink them with a .01 or .02 tip Micron pen. Characters are normally bordered with .08 tip so they stand out more. Then, I scan the drawings into Photoshop and color them, arrange the panels and add the dialogue. After dialogue, I spot check and ask three to four people to do the same. Sometimes things still get through, but since I've had more time to dedicate to the comic, it seems a lot better than it was.

I went to the University of North Texas and studied drawing and painting, specifically watercolor, until I dropped out in 1999 after being disillusioned with the entire academic process.

I don't really put a lot of thought into the dialogue until the art is done. It's too hard to. I used to take notes of what I wanted the characters to say, but found what I drew called for something else. I try to leave conversations open to be picked up, or at least referenced, in future strips.

7. In your comic, you find humor in suicide, religion, politics, homeless people, violence, alcohol abuse, rape, abortion, cancer and sex slave midgets. Is there a topic to you that is sacred? You manage to produce a comic that is both very, very funny and very moving at the same time. Do you have any of "serious" sub-plots that you were afraid were going to fall flat or any that you haven't had the courage to do? Have you ever decided not to draw a strip idea, because it was just too wrong, even by Something Positive standards?jkdchick, LordLucan and mmsword.

There's been a couple of strips where I worked on a punchline, stepped back and said, "I will be hung by my intestines for this."

Then I post the strip.

Only once or twice have I pulled a comic or storyline. The first time I plan on using in the future after Jon Rosenberg of Goats talked about how he felt on the subject of self-censorship and kind of swayed me to throw more caution to the wind. Prior, I was more aligned (believe it or not) with some of the more conservative cartoonists on what to do with subject matter. The second instance was the "Kim Rapes Davan" storyline which was supposed to be Kim's introduction into the comic. I decided it would work better after the character was more established.

The only thing I generally avoid is politics. If I'm going to put politics in my comic, I want to insult all sides fairly. Sadly, my Nader Scat Porn strip had to be scrapped because I couldn't draw the bastard right.

There's no point in sacred cows. If something is taboo, it's because you made it taboo. If you treat it like any other subject, most people will accept it. The ones who don't will stop reading and, generally, it's better to get rid of those people early on because you're going to lose them anyway. Most people who have been affected by the subject matter of my strips have appreciated it and told me so.

8. How often do you get the inevitable Davan = Randy comparison from readers, and just how accurate is it? Have any women ever actually said that you're not nearly as hot as Davan? Have any men?Goonigoogoo and Bolinbergh.

I generally phase out the sexual advances of men and prefer to do the same with their negative impressions of my physical appearance. In regards to women, a LOT of women have told me I'm not nearly as hot as Davan. I really don't care. There's worse things than to be told you aren't as attractive as a glob of ink. At least it isn't a pile of dung they're comparing me to.

Davan is who I was years ago. I still slip into his tirades, negativity and depression, but there are a lot of differences. There are also a lot of painful similarities. All my stupid mistakes, my regrets and missed chances – that's Davan. But there are upsides to the character few people besides me see. He's a lot more hopeful and caring than he lets on. If he wasn't, things wouldn't bother him so much. He watches the action and his friends and he steps up when he feels he's needed. In that aspect, I suppose he's more what I'd like to be.

9. You tend to generate a goodly amount of controversy… how do you feel about it? (Any publicity is good publicity? You don't care? Poison all critics? None of the above?)

If you could vomit on any person in the world, who would it be?KJC and Whoriental

I've already thrown up on J. Grant's (Flem Comics and Two Lumps) head and kissed Pete Abrams' ear. I don't know I need to pass around anymore fluids.

I don't see this controversy. Most people laugh at my comic. The only people to ever REALLY get themselves in a tizzy are self-serious gamers who can't dislodge the Wand of Whiny Bitching from their rectum long enough to say, "HA! I do act like that! That's funny!" Instead, they send me pissed off emails of how I don't know what it's like to be a gamer and I'm a "poser."

Yeah, because if I was going to be a poser for any clique, it would be for the one that normally entails six to seven men (with the occasional substitution of a very nervous female) sitting in someone's garage, den or basement, throwing dice as they pretend to be elves and battlemechs and quoting the Dead Alewive's D&D routine as if it was still as fresh and funny as it was the first time they quoted it three years ago. And, y'know, if I wasn't a gamer, I'd be able to make references to demihumans and comeliness scores because that's common knowledge to the man on the street.

Sorry. I get a bit cranky when I haven't slept.

10. Now that you achieved the dream of making a living off your work, do you have any more plans for the future? Where do you expect to be, say, five years from now?

Are there any plans to release some (or all) of the comics in book form?Rpin and Sivatonight.

In five years, I hope to have a home and food to eat. I hope to be drawing S*P, although if I stick to my original plan, it will be nearing the end. My big hope is to be self-sustained. I do not EVER want to hope people will give me money for the hell of it again. That's a card you play once and only once. I'm working on some ideas now, actually.

There are plans, although they're still vague, to do S*P compilations. I wouldn't mind doing compilations of all new material, either, for S*P. Maybe monthly titles as Keenspot and Scott Kurtz have done, but that would be more suited to New Gold Dream than S*P.

… so, am I done? Good. I sleep now.

One Comment

  1. This comic was the first webcomic I ever saw, and I thought it was so funny that I ended up getting interested in seeing what else is out there, as well as eventually making a comic of my own. If it weren’t for S*P, my comic very likely wouldn’t exist. I’m really glad he’s done so well.

    I do want to say that I liked it when he inked with thicker pens, though. I’m the only person who cares about that, however, and I fully understand this.

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