Welcome to the inaugural installment of The Modern Borefare Interview, a series of discussions with the up-and-coming creators, writers, builders and DIY’ers of the comics/video game/pop culture scene. The very first people to submit themselves to our merciless grilling are:
Modern Borefare: Tell the MB audience about yourselves!
Ryan: Hi, I’m Ryan. I recently turned thirty, freaked out, dropped out of a PhD program and got a job. I make the webcomic Spaceship Long Island with Eastin. My gaming proclivities tend toward tabletop and my comic reading tends toward pulp.
Eastin: Hello! I’m Eastin. I’m pursuing my MFA in creative writing and literature at Stony Brook Southampton and teach English to international students. I work on and read comics on the side. The idea is to one day do the comic thing full time. Also, I’m totally awesome and much better than Ryan.
MB: How long was the planning/conceptual phase of SSLI before you launched the site? What was the time span between “I’m/we’re really going to do this” until the first strip was published? Where did your inspiration for the strip come from?
Ryan: The time between the initial concept and the first page was literally about one minute. And you could tell. We were sitting at the kitchen table, I think we were both grading student papers, and we just hit a wall. The concept for SSLI, that the earth explodes and Long Island flies off into space, was just one of those dumb things you talk about when you are stressed out and trying to procrastinate.
Eastin: About an hour later we had three terrible pages that we posted to Facebook. A week later we had a shabby looking Comicpress page and were committing ourselves to weekly updates.
R: Honestly, if it hadn’t started that way, we would probably would have just spent months in the planning stage before finally giving up. Our original concept was very different though. MFA was originally going to be the main character. The premise was that after Earth exploded everyone on Long Island would be assigned new “spaceship-centric” jobs based on their skill set. MFA was going to be assigned the job of toilet scrubber, and the story was going to be his ascent from toilet scrubber to poet-space-hero. When we really thought about it though, that seemed a little over-complicated, and we weren’t sure that people would understand what an MFA degree is. We decided it would be more fun if we just took a stereotypical Long Island d-bag, gave him some vaguely defined powers, and put him into encounters with aliens. Thus, Captain Long Island was born.
E: All of this happened between strips three and four by the way. We called a major audible on the plot.
MB: What’s with the Panda X-press guy (who I think is awesome, like a deadly Uatu)?
R: Yes! “a deadly Uatu” is an excellent description of him. I originally drew the Panda X-Press guy as just a normal dude for a Roosevelt Field Mall story arc. I was kind of enamored with him from the beginning and so I wrote up a little character arc for him in the blog post that week. I didn’t really expect to ever go back to him, but when Eastin was in Spain for a few weeks I thought it would be fun to take a look at him again. Now he has kind of evolved into his own thing. I think it was his beady little eyes that first made me fall in love.
MB: Who does what? Do you take turns writing and doing art or do you each have an established role a la Penny Arcade? Do you find collaboration makes the process easier?
E: We don’t really have set roles. We try to collaborate and divvy up the workload as evenly as possible. Sometimes one of us will end up writing the script while the other pencils. We both have, or had, rather, varying sensibilities when it comes to art, but now, more than ever, we are learning to meet in the middle to a pretty satisfying outcome. There are times when life gets in the way and one of us has to take on the full responsibilities of writing and art (Ryan, with The Quest and myself with Massively Effective and Panda Express), which is actually fun once in a while; it lets us work out our individual ideas of art and writing.
R: Collaboration definitely makes the process easier. Sometimes when you have been trying to draw an angry seagull for an hour with no luck it is nice to just look at the other guy and say… here, you do this one. Of course, we live in different cities, so when I say “look at the other guy,” I mean via Facetime.
MB: Speaking of PA, do you see writing yourselves into the comic?
R: No. I’m not that interesting 😉 And I hated it when Stephen King wrote himself into The Dark Tower.
E: Also no. There are plenty of weird and interesting real Long Islanders out there that would make better characters.
R: True! And there are too many webcomics that are about Two Guys and videogames/comics/vampires/whatever.
MB:Recently you’ve moved from black and white to color; any reason?
R: We started spending so much time shading that it just felt like it wouldn’t be too much more work to go to color. Scott Kurtz had a similar realization when he was doing his Doctor Who plot arc in PvP. I borrowed a little of his epiphany.
E: I think we were a little intimidated by color at first. We didn’t want a “paint bucket” look and so we kept putting it off until we could come up with a good enough color palette. We finally went color for the Christmas strip and it came out great. It got a nice reception. And yeah, there was so much shading…
MB: Are you creating any of the strips digitally, or are they all hand drawn then scanned? What are you using for the art?
E: All of my pencils are hand drawn. First, I don’t have a tablet, and secondly, I tried using Ryan’s once and I felt really weird about it. We have a good thing going though: I’ll do my drawings, scan them over to Ryan who then digitally inks and colors. Other times, I’ll ink and paint the strip by hand. Playing around with the watercolors has been tons of fun, too.
R: I would say 90% of my stuff is digital at this point. When I do draw by hand my process is pretty absurb. I draw on loose leaf paper, take a picture with my phone, and then e-mail it to myself to ink. I have to do this because Eastin stole my scanner.
E: I did steal it . . . shh.
(Come back tomorrow for part two, where Eastin & Ryan discuss future plans for SSLI, what they do and don’t like about webcomics, and which one is the handsomest. M Night Shyamalan wrote that question so prepare yourself for a TWIST.)
After the jump, see an original Spaceship Long Island sketch, featuring early designs for MFA and The Captain.