On the last episode of Digital Strips: The Webcomics Podcast, Brandon, The Geek, and myself reviewed Dresden Codak by Aaron Diaz. By the time we wrapped things up, it was universally agreed that we loved and wholeheartedly endorsed the adventurous strip.
However, it was also agreed that we still had several questions we wanted answered. So, I took it upon myself to drop Aaron a line and ask for the answers. Luckily, he was more than happy to give an interview, and an awesomely verbose one at that! As such, this is part 1 of the follow-up interview to Episode 120 with Aaron Diaz! Enjoy!
1) Same first question I give everyone: What is the first webcomic you read and how did you get started in the biz/medium?
I don’t really remember the very first webcomic I read. It was probably Sinfest or Men in Hats. For a long time I wasn’t really aware that “webcomics” was a cohesive genre in itself. It wasn’t until I ran into the Perry Bible Fellowship that I realized that comics on the internet could be of a significantly higher quality than their newspaper counterparts.
As for how I got into the business, a lot of it had to do with picking up the first Flight anthology, put together by Copper’s Kazu Kibuishi. It was graphic storytelling executed in a very magical way, something that I thought was lacking in traditional print comics. It struck a chord, and I decided to see if I could put together something, though my first attempt at webcomicking was much closer to something like Perry Bible, as it was restricted to only a few panels with a definite punchline.
2) Is Dresden Codak now your full-time gig? If not, what work do you do to bring home the bread?
I wish Dresden Codak was my full-time gig. If it were, I’d be able to update weekly and make everyone happy. My actual job involves making flash animations for an airplane manufacturer. I’m currently taking steps to set up a more robust store where I’ll be selling t-shirts and other sorts of swag that will hopefully make enough money for me to draw comics exclusively.
3) What is your biggest influence? I see definite parallels between Dresden Codak and Copper as far as very adventurous layouts and stories and am curious whether it’s a coincidence or not.
Copper and Kibuishi’s work in general have always been an influence, though I think what has had the most visible impact on the direction of my comics was David Hellman and Dale Beran’s A Lesson is Learned, but the Damage is Irreversible. There’s a reason my archives start at 13; all the comics prior to that were tiny and relied on punchline humor, very out of step with the strip as it is now. It was my encountering A Lesson is Learned that really opened my eyes to what webcomics were capable of.
David and Dale wove these strange, surreal tales that often broke the tyranny of panels or employed infinite canvas techniques, something I’d really never seen before. It wasn’t until then that I realized that I preferred telling little stories over jokes, and so the transition seemed natural. Their comic has always loomed in the back of my mind as an example of excellence; when their strip went on permanent hiatus I drew a tribute strip, Phantoms of a Lost Muse, in their art style, starring Dale and David as ghosts as a sort of farewell.
4) Like many webcomics out there, even some of the better ones, your update schedule is fairly infrequent and hard to nail down. Do you see this as a problem for webcomics going forward in terms of retaining an audience, do you believe this in particular for your strip, and do you plan on updating more frequently in the future?
Inconsistent updates are never a good thing in my mind. Of course, if you really love a strip you’re never going to forget to check, but for most people it’s the easiest way to lose interest. I’ve grappled with this problem since the beginning; part of my problem (aside from trying to fit this in to a 40 hour work week) is that each strip is a new experiment in some arena, whether it’s a new coloring style, layout, or just things I’ve never drawn before. As such, I have a tough time gaging how long it will take me to finish a comic. The new Hob storyline has eased that somewhat, though I’m still tweaking things as I go along.
5) In one of the blog posts, you mentioned that the webcomic format works well for Googling the random heady bits you often find in your strip (especially the older one-shots). Do you see this as a strength and plan on emphasizing it or is it just the way you naturally write and so it’s merely luck that your chosen method of displaying your work allows for quick research?
I always like to stress that webcomics are a different beast than print strips and graphic novels, and should be approached in a different way. Infinite canvas is an obvious advantage, as well as giving readers free access to all of your archives. Another less used tactic is to reference information that readers can easily look up.
I was sort of inspired by the comic, Cat and Girl, in that it often makes references that go way over my head. In a different situation like a newspaper strip this could come off as annoying, but I’ve got Wikipedia two clicks away, so jumping on board takes little to no effort. The added bonus, for me, is that looking up new information like that is just as enjoyable as reading the strip itself. I’m not sure if everyone likes doing this, so I also try hard to make the comics readable without having to know every reference made, though sometimes that’s difficult.
Stay tuned for the second half, including more insight into the future storytelling style and the possible mass murder of every character in the vast world of Dresden Codak!