In terms of dream crushers, my next interviewee is the tops. When it came time to choose a new artist to kick start his strip, Life’s A Bluff, Frank Frisina did what every talent scout worth his salt does these days: he held tryouts. The call went out and was answered by many artists, many of whom are already well known in the webcomics and digital comics communities.
With the field narrowed down to a select few (including yours truly), the site’s new main backer, pro poker player, Phil Laak, got the final say in who would usher in the next era of LaB greatness. Sadly, he chose Ryan Estrada.
But this is no place for sour grapes or spilt milk! That place is called LiveJournal. No, this is where I will probe Frank’s mind on the success of LaB under the watchful, cartoony, bulging eye of Mr. Estrada. He’s gotten himself into a bit of hot water with the Poker Player’s Alliance (PPA) as well, so we’ll start off with whether or not he’ll still be doing LaB and go from there. Enjoy the e-mail conversational goodness, after the break!
If anyone out there follows Life’s A Bluff regularly (and you should, it’s got poker AND Ryan Estrada!) you’ll know of the controversy you’ve been embroiled in lately. For the uninitiated, break it down for us.
You are probably referring to my public criticism of the Poker Players Alliance. The PPA is an organization we have supported over the years with comics and public action. While it is very clear to me now that they are strictly a lobby group, it wasn’t always that way. In their mission statement they made a reference to ensuring the integrity of the game yet were ignoring the 2 biggest scandals to hit online poker in years. (Cheating by top level employees at some very respected sites.)
I later found out they are taking indirect funding from these questionable poker rooms, and it was my opinion that it was this very reason they were not condemning the cheating. Maybe they didn’t want to rock the boat. The PPA boasts almost a million members and I thought that they owed it to those members to at least try and abide by their very own mantra.
So I called them out on it. The response was overwhelming to say the least. The criticism made the rounds on various poker related blogs and news sites. (those that didn’t have these questionable sites as sponsors) It all concluded with an interview with John Pappas, the executive director of the PPA. I found his answers to be less than forthcoming and I made sure to point that out as well. I withdrew my membership and site support shortly there after.
A couple days later I was informed that they no longer had “ensuring the integrity of the game” as part of its mission statement.
Do you see this current… discussion as a good indicator to other webcomics that we shouldn’t be underestimated in terms of our influence?
Absolutely. Especially those in the niche arena. We are fortunate enough to have a clear foothold within the poker community and are lucky enough to have earned ourselves a voice. But I think the idea that a little webcomic like LaB could have had that kind of far reaching impact to influence an organization like the PPA is something we all should be proud of.
You know, I think the audience respects us more for our willingness to tell it like it is than our ability to update 3 days a week.
Turning to the webcomic, how have things been since welcoming new regular artist and thief of my hopes and dreams, Ryan Estrada? Traffic up? More output from the Marathon Man of webcomics?
Once were able to get back on a schedule our audience returned and surpassed anything previously seen. It is hard though to put a number on our reach because of how many different places the comics are. We also do Livin’ on Poker Road over on PokerRoad.com and I think some of our audience there doesn’t read LaB and vice versa.
Ryan has unmatched work ethic. I am amazed at his ability to constantly produce quality material. And as he learns the game he has started to write more. You would think he has been playing poker for years.
So I hear (from you) that the LaB crew is heading to Vegas soon to take part in a charity event. Did you ever think that having a site online the features a webcomic and occasional poker news would get you such exposure and notoriety?
Yeah we are very excited about this. The 2nd annual Jennifer Harman event to benefit the Nevada SPCA – no kill animal shelter. I represented LaB last year and very proud to be able to participate again. We will be donating some original artwork for the auction and I will be playing in the tournament. $10,000 first prize!
(Below: The first charity piece collecting every poker player, ever, by Ryan Estrada.)
(Below: The second of the charity pieces, also produced by Ryan Estrada, featuring all the poker players born after the first piece was finished.)
Ryan and I are meeting for the first time too. In fact we haven’t so much as talked on the phone!
I have to be honest… I really did think that if done right, LaB would take off. It took a while to get where we are at now… there were some definite bumps along the way. But I have always had one goal and that is to be THE comic of poker and to be recognized by my poker peers. Still have a long way to go but the door is wide open.
Any more big moves/controversies you plan on taking on via LaB or you just taking them as they come?
As they come. I will always tackle the right topic if I feel strongly about it. As far as big moves.. We are always working hard behind the scenes. LaB is much more than just a webcomic.
With LaB, Livin’ on Poker Road, and your conquests against the evil poker warlords, how do you have time to do anything else?
And we will be taking LoPR to 2 days a week soon too! After Vegas we will finish launching our new spin-off called “Sky’s The Limit” and will feature real life interviews set in a late night talk show comic format. The lead character is Skylar our female lead from LoPR. I wanted to do something really unique and I think we are on the right track here. We have quite a long list of top pros lined up and it should turn out to be pretty cool.
What is good about a job like mine… is …my job IS my hobby. So this trip to Vegas might be business related, it is also our vacation! I can’t speak for Ryan but I can always find time for myself.
See? Webcomics creators can make a difference! It sounds like Frank has certainly rattled some cages in the poker world and with his morals taking precedence over falling in line, you can be sure this won’t be the last you hear of this dynamic duo. Stay tuned to Digital Strips for further Frank Frisina-related news and be sure to check out the multitude of projects he’s currently working on, all linked throughout this interview!