Steven L. Cloud is the creator of Boy On A Stick and Slither (also referred to as "BOASAS"). Dan Carroll talked with Cloud about a boy on a stick, a snake and absurd/silly/philosophical/religious/political satire webcomics.
Q: So, let's talk about the main characters of your comic a bit. As the title implies, they are a boy oÂn a stick, and a snake. Any special reasons for this?
A: No. There is no subtext. Many people have suggested my characters are phallic. I guess that's true, but I didn't intend them to be. I needed two characters and I wanted them to be iconic and easy to draw. I suppose Peanuts was my model. Boy oÂn a Stick evolved from an unfinished doodle in my sketchbook. I drew a head oÂn a stick because I was too lazy to draw a real body. I ended up really liking him and decided to create an equally simple adversary. Thus became Slither.Although, my mom insists Slither was her idea. When I was really young, she used to draw snakes to keep me quiet during Sunday church service. I would get really into it and copy the snakes over and over again. For sentimental reasons I wish she would have saved some of the drawings, but for legal reasons I'm glad she didn't.
Q: So Slither is something of a foil for the boy oÂn a stick, then? I do notice that Slither tends to win out over the boy in most strips. (Or at the very least, the boy tends to be the oÂne who dies or gets beaten or chained up, while Slither stays pretty much unharmed.)
A: I think of Slither as the pessimist and Boy oÂn a Stick as the optimist. It's true that Slither gets the last word most of time, but to Boy oÂn a Stick's credit he keeps coming back for more. Judging from reader response, Slither is the more popular of the two. Personally, I like Boy oÂn a Stick. It's more fun to cheer for the underdog.
Q: Which of the two characters (if either) holds more personal connection to you? In other words, would you consider yourself more the optimist boy, or the pessimist Slither?
A: I guess I identify with Boy oÂn a Stick's optimism. I try to see the positive. You know; can't never could, chin up slugger and all that crap. It's fun to be a pessimist for a day or two, but I wouldn't want to live my life that way.
Q: The humor oÂn your comic tends to be more muted than a lot of webcomics; less outright belly-laughs, more of a chuckle-by-way-of-depressing-sympathy. Was that the intention from the get-go, or is it more just where the chips fell as the punchlines rolled in?
A: Right. You're not going to shoot milk out of your nose laughing at BOASAS. I don't aim for a laugh every time. I can be ambiguous. I don't mind if there isn't a punch-line at the end. I enjoy dark comedy and nuance. Sometimes it's nice to simply express an emotion or be absurd.Occasionally people will tell me they enjoyed a comic for a reason I didn't intend. I love it when that happens. Other times people think BOASAS is stupid or pointless. I'm sure I've been guilty of that more than oÂnce, but most of the time there is a point.I suppose If someone expects BOASAS to be a traditional gag comic (set-up and punch-line) they will probably be disappointed.
Q: Would you say that there's a main point to the strip as a whole, or an attitude you'd like people to take from it? Or should the comic just be taken strip by strip?
A: My gut reaction to say take BOASAS oÂne strip at a time. Looking over my archive I see that my comics fall into about 3 different categories:1. Absurd/Silly2. Philosophical/Religious3. Political SatireSo it's a mixed bag. I draw most of my comic the day before updates. As a result they're usually what I'm thinking about at that moment. Of course, I hope people are entertained by what I do. I try to keep it fun and maybe sometimes people absorb some of my comments oÂn politics and religion. Even if they don't agree with me I hope I occasionally make someone consider a different point of view.
Q: Have you ever had a case where someone's reaction to a strip just annoyed the Hell out of you? I can see there being a couple strips that are vague enough for someone to totally see something that isn't there.
A: I don't get a whole lot of feedback positive or negative. I can't remember the last time I received any hate mail. I appreciate any feedback. I try to be open to other people's interpretation. Many times it's better than what I intended. I'm happy anyone reads my comic at all. If it affects them enough to send me an e-mail, that's even better.
Q: So what would you say the future holds for the tone of the strip? (If that's not too incredibly vague a question.) Obviously religion and politics are going to stay pretty steady sources of parody or commentary for anyone who wants them, but do you see your personal interest in those fields staying steady?
A: My religious and political convictions have changed radically over the years, but I've always been enjoyed debating the issues. I'm pretty sure that I'll continue discussing them in the strip, but who knows what the future holds. I'm always trying to grow and evolve BOASAS. That's oÂne of the best things about drawing a comic. You can look back over the archive and (hopefully) see a progression.
Q: While oÂn the subject of the future, do you have any plans for different BOASAS venues? A print collection, or new web/print source for people to read?
A: My new year's resolution was to self-publish a book of my comics. I'm also pursing print opportunities- newspapers and magazines. Ultimately I'd like to make a living drawing comics. Seems like a fun job.
Q: A little plug time at the end can't hurt… other than the website, where can people read BOASAS if their interest leads them there?
A: Thanks! BOASAS appears every Thursday in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Access Atlanta section).