Sunday Sitdown ~WITH~ Michael Rouse-Deane

If you know anything about webcomics, you know there are projects popping up left and right involving the best and brightest the Web has to offer. And if you know this, then you know the name of Michael Rouse-Deane.

Michael is the master collaborator behind the cancer-research-friendly softcore calendar series, Tastefully Done, as well as the recent Kid’s Book Project, an innovative amalgam of over 50 different artists (including yours truly) that brought to life a very imaginative narrative.

I recently sat down (and by sat down, I mean “e-mailed some questions to”) with Michael to get his afterthoughts on The Kid’s Book Project and to pick his brain about his next labor of love, The Guest Strip Project. (After the jump: Preview images from The Guest Strip Project.)

Digital Strips: Let’s start this thing off right. What is The Guest Strip Project? (i.e. How long will it last, how many strips will be involved, how does it work, who has signed on so far, is it for online or print, etc.?)

Michael: The Guest Strip Project is basically the next step after The Kid’s Book Project. The Kid’s Book’s question was entirely “Can a group of webcomic artists make a story work by only seeing the one before their own?” The Guest Strip is taking that to a different level, “Can a webcomic work with only guest strips?”

The challenge was to start on January 1st but with everyone having Christmas and problems and just finishing The Kid’s Book, it was quite hard so it begins later this year. The strip will update twice a week and run for at least a year with a different artist every single time. That kinda means 104 different artists, double the amount from the Kid’s Book (a harder problem for me, but I hope like with The Kid’s to find some new talent out there). So far we have a spectacle of artists already signed up, but I haven’t pulled out the guns just yet, I want it to start with a bang and I have. Telling you who, well… that would be spoiling the idea of coming every week!

It is for online, though we’ll be doing some offline things to purchase and The Kid’s Book will still be available, all raising money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation in some respects!

DS: How did you make such a strong connection with so many talented creators and why do they keep coming back for more? Even the more seasoned vets like Dean Trippe, Ryan Estrada, and Danielle Corsetto seem to step up when you head up a project. Why is it that a youngster like yourself, admittedly younger than many of the creators you sign on, is able to inspire these folks to do great work together?

Michael: I still get amazed myself when people come to me and say they know me before I’ve even contacted them and the awesome responses [that it gets me]. I don’t draw, yet they know me, it’s weird. Dean Trippe, Ryan Estrada, Danielle Corsetto and more are always favourites of mine and I always ask because the worst they can say is no, but they jump onboard and it’s great!

It’s mostly down to the ideas and the charities I guess. Everyone’s effected by cancer and also the Make-A-Wish is a fantastic thing for helping kids that is more international. I think without those they’d probably have said “no” to me but now they jump at the chance or even weirdly email me before I’m even looking!

DS: With The Kid’s Book Project now firmly entrenched in webcomic history, what do you think of it? Anything you would have done differently? Do you think the format gelled well and what do you think of the overall story that was formed?

Michael: The Kid’s Book Project was my life for an entire year. I’m proud of it, proud of every bit of ink that was formed within. I sometimes kinda miss it. Sure the story inside is interesting and with there being still 300 copies left to purchase I’m sure you won’t mind if I won’t tell you what happens. I love it, it’s unique, it’s different and I think it answered the question I wanted to. It cost a lot, but… I don’t mind because I met so many new people and hopefully helped effect others.

DS: How about Webcomics Anonymous, your attempt at filling the webcomics-news-in-print void left by Zoinks! Magazine? The first issue was a good start, though it could certainly receive some tweaks and adjustments. Are there any more issues planned and, if so, what are your long term plans for the magazine? Weekly? Monthly? Whenever-it-comes-out-you-should-be-grateful?

Michael: It was a success but also a failure. With the exchange rate being what it is in America, the people in the UK could get the magazine at a cheap price of £1.50, but the Americans unfortunately had to pay $6 just to get a small magazine that I was trying my best to keep cheap. Because of this, it failed getting the Americans who I suspect bought the Zoinks! Magazine in the first place and was trying to fill that void with it.

If I could have got distribution in America, I’m sure people would have snapped it up immediately. The idea was it becoming quartly with a special coloured magazine dedicated to certain things such as groups, events, or specific genres of webcomics. It was a good idea which unfortunately didn’t continue on. It’s still in my mind, but whether or not Webcomics Anonymous sees the light of day again, I’m not too sure. But I have got an issue #2 all ready and prepared!

I was inspired to do an online magazine and maybe do a specific main issue once every year or something, really in-depth and with tons of interviews and exclusive stuff – that’s still turning in my head but The Guest Strip gets my attention first!

DS: Any other projects on the horizon? You mentioned in the New Year’s Day post on Webcomics-In-Print.com that you were wrapping up things there and moving on to another print-focused work. Is that Webcomics Anonymous (obviously not -Ed.) or something entirely different?

Michael: Future projects, there’s too many in my head and not enough funds in my bank to do them all. Webcomics Anonymous was an idea, I miss reviewing the books but with work I rarely have chance, especially being a Cub Leader and doing all my other lifelong things in reality, that webcomic reality rarely gets a chance somedays.

But obviously Tastefully Done 2009 is in the works, which is always good seeing nude artists or characters posing on my wall, and many others (by what the figures show), so if they keep growing we’re making a lot of money for Cancer Research in that respect! If there was more time in the day, I’m sure webcomic artists will be annoyed with my many ideas, but… I’ll keep nagging I guess!

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Many thanks to Michael Rouse-Deane for taking the time to answer my questions and stay tuned for an update on the upcoming Guest Strip Project!

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