The Readers Interview’s Sam Brown

You may remember that Comixpedia called for questions for Sam Brown late last year. Well, Sam recently came through with the answers. The slightly eccentric but wildly popular creative force behind has been marvelling the Internet droves with his art, and producing his work through a very interesting relationship with his audience – readers submit titles, and he draws pictures to fit them.

In this reader-led interview, he offers creative sequential words to illustrate our own interrogative titles. Read on, and don’t worry – no dogs are harmed in the course of the interview, even if one may explode just a little.

1. Does the practice of having other people come up with titles free you creatively, provide inspiration, or sort of create limitations/walls for you to bounce off of? (Or all of the above or none, of course…) -kjc

I get enough titles that it is not a limitation. It is often very helpful. Even if a few days' worth of titles are not interesting there are still many that are interesting. I think it is a waking up [of] my creative side. And it is part of the reason I am still doing explodingdog.

It also helps to have an audience. If I was just making images for my own input, I might end up spending all my time exploring the subtleties of the color blue. And as we know that could get dull for the audience.

2. Where did you come up with 'Exploding Dog' as the title of your site?David Wright
I had been making animated videos of dogs doing different actions, such as driving a car, walking, and watching television. I made about ten [in] total, [and] one was [of] an exploding dog. So when I needed a name for a website, I used explodingdog.

3. How did you come to be involved with the Dumbrella crew? -ShamZmam
rstevens of Diesel Sweeties, Collin from Songfight, and I were all making websites at the same time and thought we would all work on a website together, but the three of us are all pretty lazy and when we all try to do something together you get three times the laziness. So nothing ever really happened with Dumbrella other then the message boards. And even the message boards we had someone else doing at the start. But Dumbrella was going to be the best website ever, if we did half the things we had planned for it, it would be amazing.

4. Where did you come up with your style – have you been drawing this way for a long time or did it evolve out of particular influences on you? -xerexes
I have been drawing some variation of the stick figures for years now. They evolved from drawing people every day. I would sit in class or somewhere around school and would do quick sketches of people around me and would often write down words or phrases I would hear. So the pages of my notebooks would be filled with drawn figures and phrases that were unrelated but would often be amusing when viewed with the drawings on the page. Somewhere along the way the figures evolved into stick figures.

5. Exploding Dog continues to be one of the most widely read webcomic sites – did you work on promoting your site? Why do you think Exploding Dog is so popular? -xerexes
I never did much to promote explodingdog. Rstevens, who taught me how to make a website, was proud that I made a halfway amusing site and showed it to everyone he could (this was before he really had a site of his own to promote).

But also I don't think that explodingdog is that popular. Almost anything people know from the Internet is not that popular. Even if a few thousand people a day see your website, most of those people are the same people over and over every day. And my website is available to anyone on the Internet for free, but millions of people would rather see porn or sports scores.

I am not complaining at all; I am very thankful for everyone that visits explodingdog and enjoys it. I just hate when people who think they are special because a few thousand people visited their website. More people see that crazy bum in Times Square that does that funny thing everyday than see my website. It gets worse for the individual (but maybe better for the whole creative ecosystem) in the future. If you want your website to be preserved, you have to figure out how to do it. Most of us, when we get too old or lazy or whatever happens, decide to give up our website [and] it will be gone and within a few months it will be forgotten about.

Think of how many websites you have seen in your life and how many would you remember if your bookmarks were erased. If you were a painter or writer of books or somehow made physical objects, you left your presence for people to see. Even if one generation ignored it or did not understand it, it was available for another to rediscover it. But with the Internet, that doesn't happen. I know this sound[s] negative, but I think it is exciting to see what will happen in the future. Right now, there are hundreds of websites that we see that are based on websites we will never see or even hear of.

6. Taking seemingly random input and making cartoons out of them appears to be a totally chaotic methodology… but you're gathering these quotes from a fairly defined sub-group of people (comics-savvy Internet users). Do you feel that, over time, your body of work is starting to represent something about them – or about you – that's bigger than your surface intent implies? -shepherd
I do think that there are some themes that have presented themselves in explodingdog that might not have if I was not gathering quotes from people off the Internet. Themes like all the office- and work- related drawings.

But I don't think most of the people the are into explodingdog are "comic-savvy Internet users"; I do think [there are] many, but there probably are common interests that could be seen in people that enjoy my website.

7. How was the experience with the book? How did you put it together and how has it been received by readers? What were you looking to do in print that is different from the website? -xerexes
Doing the book was fun, and definitely worth doing. The readers have liked it. One of the main reason[s] I wanted to do the book was to have something solid in my hands that I had made. I like making things, but after doing explodingdog for about 2 years I realized that most art I was creating was on a single hard drive. And while the Internet is great for showing off what you make, there is no commitment to it.

8. I'm amazed that you've stuck to the same format for so long – lots of one-off comic artists feel irresistibly drawn to continuing characters, storylines, etc. Do you ever feel compelled to try some longform comics? -shepherd
I have made books which contain longer stories. But I have never really seen explodingdog as a comic, so I think [that] many of the devices that comics use, such as continuing characters, word balloons, and panels, I never thought of using. With explodingdog, I want to create a collection of drawings th[at] make sense [whether] seen together or as individual pieces.

9. How long before RED ROBOT takes over the WHOLE WORLD!? -kjc
He already has; that is why you don't know about it.

10. Do you see yourself drawing Exploding Dog art for years to come? 5 years? 10 years? life? A legacy left to your children to continue when you're with that great red robot in the sky? -damonk
I have no idea. At least once a month, I contemplate stopping explodingdog. But somehow I never do.

It will probably limp along this way for at least a little while. I don't know. If I have children, it will probably be hard [to] explain to them that daddy draws stick figures for a living.