Lar was right! Having webcomic friends DOES pay off! With my various connections, I was able to track down former artist on The Pet Professional and current artist on the recently relaunched The Sophisticated Pig, Chad Diez for an interview! Amidst fairly regular updates on the Pet Pro site, the news came suddenly that the strip had lost yet another artist, leaving myself and countless, loyal fans to wonder just what was going on over at the home of the greatest threat the animal kingdom has ever seen.
Chad was kind enough to sit down, via AIM, and chat with me about a situation much worse than I figured, on the possible extinction of Pet Pro, and the future of his own endeavors. So join me for an interview that nearly turned into an intervention…
Digital Strips: First off, if there’s any bad blood and/or controversy behind-the-scenes of this whole thing, feel free to enumerate on it here.
Chad: Right on.
DS: The whole thing being your leaving The Pet Professional, of course.
Chad: Yeah. My point here isn’t to stir up any controversy, just tell the truth.
DS: Fair enough. So you are the second artist to leave Pet Pro in as many months. Is the position cursed? Is creator Jason Salsbury that hard to get along with? Or do you have other legitimate reasons for leaving?
Chad: No, Pet Pro isn’t cursed. I can only speak for myself and I know that this could have been avoided. And it’s not that Jason is hard to get along with because I feel as if him and I became good friends through this process. The other projects in my life are definitely NOT the reason I left. Jason knew about my other ventures and was completely fine with it as long as I kept my obligation with Pet Pro. Which I was ready to do.
DS: Then why the split?
Chad: First off, I want to say that Jason is a really cool guy. I have all the respect for him as a person. Like I said we had become friends while working on Pet Pro but the thing that got to me was not Jason as a friend but Jason as a creator. My experience was simply this; I didn’t think our creative partnership was 50/50 or ever 70/30. Does that makes sense?
DS: Depends on the context; so was he contributing more than you without want or need of your input?
Chad: No actually, it was the complete opposite. I was doing a whole lot of the work. Naturally, I guess the artist has to do most of the work because drawing is a longer process than writing in most cases. Jason is the writer and creator of Pet Pro but never actually wrote anything. In fact, I wrote out the scripts.
DS: Really? So for a time, then, you were the sole creator of the strip?
Chad: Not entirely but the majority. Jason had a sense of where the strip was going but never once had a script ready. What would happen is we’d talk every week and talk about the script. Most of the time, I’d put in my ideas and most of the time it was my dialogue. In the beginning mostly I did that. Later, I started asking for more of a solid dialogue but I still had to write all that stuff down. I’m really not trying to sound like a whiny bitch but I think anyone in my shoes who spends 12-14 hours a week to put together 2 pages a week AND has to write it too would be slightly annoyed.
DS: I would certainly agree with that sentiment.
Chad: If this was my creation it’d be a completely different ball game because that’s my character, my passion. But in my opinion, Jason is the creator of Pet Pro and expected me to do a whole lot of the leg work. At times, I felt like I was running the comic, which was weird.
DS: So it sounds like it boils down to you putting in the work necessary and Jason, the creator of the character YOU were working on, either not being able to do so or just plain refusing to contribute to the partnership.
Chad: I don’t know if some people might think that 12-14 hours to fully pencil, ink and color 2 pages a week is too long but I don’t mind doing that because it’s my craft. And I especially don’t mind it when I have a partner that works just as hard as me. I don’t think he refused to contribute. I think it’s more like he didn’t know any better.
DS: So would you call out his creative energies, then?
Chad: Yeah, I would.
DS: Say possibly that they aren’t quite up to snuff, at least not to the level you’re ready and able to work at?
Chad: Exactly. I’m at a point artistically where I want to take a comic and take it as far as I possibly can. If the person I’m working with doesn’t share that passion then I need to move on. Let me give you an example of how Jason’s reputation is; A woman e-mailed me a couple months ago, saying she had ordered a Pet Pro shirt back in August (I believe) and had never received it. She asked me to help her get her purchase sent to her. Which is completely fair. When I asked Jason about it, he said ‘Oh. Yeah.’ and wasn’t too concerned with it. That woman paid $20 or so for a shirt and you let 6 months go by before sending it? I still don’t know if she recieved that shirt. But after that I got more of a sense of who Jason was. Take but not give.
DS: Ouch. Negligence burn. Well, you’ve worked with a bunch of webcomics creators thus far; would you say Jason represents the exception or the norm?
DS: Good to hear. So do you think another Pet Pro artist could save the character from Jason’s lackadaisical hands, or is the famed pet assassin doomed to extinction from a creator who simply doesn’t care enough to keep him alive?
Chad: I really hope another artist comes along and brings Pet Pro to the level it should be but if Jason doesn’t have any consideration for that artist then they’ll be gone as well. My hope with this interview isn’t to bash Jason negatively. I want him to read this and hopefully change. That’s the only way Pet Pro will survive.
DS: I’ll make sure to label it, “Intervention”.
Chad: It has the potential if you can make Pet Pro more than a one trick pony and that can only come from good writing.
DS: I think that much is obvious from the work you and previous artist, Matt Kaufenberg, have produced on the title.
Chad: Yeah. And I don’t know what Matt’s story is but it could be similar. I think the original Matt was awesome and something was lost when he left.
DS: I concur 100%.
Chad: From what I know, he had the same ambition as I did for the comic, which was cool.
DS: So are you sad to be leaving the character after only a few months work on it? It really seemed like you were just coming into your stride in terms of pacing and flow.
Chad: I’m very down about it. I said from day one that I really like this character and the concept. And I had my chance to work on it. I’ll always have that. Most people never even got that far. But I’m not a migrant worker.
DS: You mentioned that you hope another artist can come on and take Pet Pro back to glory. Do you think this is possible, or is a rotating crop of artists ultimately going to dillute the power behind the character until he’s no longer as strong as in the beginning? Comic books do this on a regular basis these days and some would say this takes away from the punch someone like Superman once packed in his own books.
Chad: Personally, I don’t like the idea of rotating artists; then it’s not personal. It’s just trying to fill another page. This is what I wish for Pet Professional: One artist with his/her own distinct style with Jason seriously getting his shit together and spend more than 15 minutes on a ‘script’. I know the fans are there and WAITING for something like this. A good mixture of one-off assassinations with some plot here and there. Give it a year or so and I promise you that comic will be stellar. After that, I’d love to see Pet Pro join Blank Label or maybe even HalfPixel, since Jason and Scott are such good friends.
DS: That’s a very good point, I think that added creative energy would do WONDERS for the character. That sounds so good that I might mention it to the duo when next I run into them…
Chad: Make sure to give me credit!
DS: Can do! As a huge fan of Pet Pro since it started, I really want to see it come back and become a premier name in webcomics.
Chad: I wish that I could have done that for the comic and maybe I should have told Jason this before leaving (Well, I did, sort of but that was at the end). But I don’t think I should have to say this to him. He’s a grown man (older than me), he should have gotten a clue and pitched in. …I might be rambling though. I digress.
DS: I would say that some sort of intervention by the fans of Pet Pro is in order, but without speaking to Jason himself (which I may do after this) I can’t make any official decrees. So, moving onto other projects… it’s been announced on many fronts that The Sophisticated Pig is making his return. Got anything you want to talk about with that body of work?
Chad: Yup. The Sophisticated Pig returned this past Tuesday. Wiz Rollins is back to writing it and I wouldn’t have it any other way. We both really wanted to see this character return. I had felt a bit regretful leaving the comic. I know Wiz wanted to bring him back and so we’re going for it.
Right now, to start things off again, I’ve gone back and colored all the original pages. We’re re-releasing the pages 2 every Tuesday. Once those pages run out then I’ll be picking up the story from there with newly drawn pages. Needless to say, I’m slightly, just BARELY…excited.
DS: A tad, yes.
Chad: Just a tad. Wiz put together the website and did a not too shabby job of it too. I’m very pleased with it. The site is definitely gonna be growing from what it is right now. We have several little things to sex it up with but all in due time.
DS: I’m just checking it out now, it looks really slick. And that newly colored art is GORGEOUS.
Chad: Thanks dude. I don’t know where my coloring abilities came from because I used to hate coloring. I tried doing it for a short time with Today: The Comic but almost barfed when I was done. I just wasn’t happy with it until I started coloring for Pet Pro. That’s one thing I gotta thank Jason for. He encouraged me to go color.
DS: It takes time, but I’d say Pet Pro really helped you hone those abilities (the coloring on your first work there was a lot rougher than when you left). See! A positive! One for Mr. Salsbury!
Chad: lol Yeah, there are a couple. I gotta hand it to Jason, he was verbally very supportive when it came to the art. He was very encouraging.
DS: And that’s where the “good friend” thing comes into play.
DS: If he’d been able to hold up his end of the creative partnership, it sounds like you two would’ve made a great team.
Chad: I would think so.
DS: Well, that seems like a good place to wrap this up, but I’ve got one other item before we finish. With the restart of Pig, will you be continuing work on your Bomb Shelter Comics strip, Ball of Hate?
Chad: No. Ball of Hate was more of an experiment than anything else. I think it could be a great comic but the passion isn’t there like it is for Sophisticated Pig. I’ve thought about letting someone else take over the comic but haven’t had the time to look any further into it. I loved Sean C’s guest strip. That strip alone I think defined the character so much more then I did.
DS: So for the foreseeable future, Sophisticated Pig will be your only comic work?
Chad: Like I said I’m not a writer. But yeah, Sophisticated Pig is where it’s at. And I don’t plan on jumping ship…ever. lol, I know that’s pretty god damn bold of me. Ever-ever?
DS: As a fan of that character as well, I’ll hold you to it.
Chad: Thanks, Jason.
DS: No, thank YOU. And it’s pronounced, “Midnight”.
And with that, I now pass the microphone over to Jason Salsbury. I’ll be contacting Mr. Pet Pro himself to hear his side of the story so stay tuned for further developments!