Is this just going to be Marvel’s version of Inner Space?
Modern Borefare: What does the next year look like for SSLI? How far out do you have the series plotted and do you stick to that plan pretty rigidly or do you find yourself going off on tangents?
Ryan: More like what does next week look like. It kind of feels like we have just finished clearing our throats when it comes to the story.We have always had a lot ideas floating around, but until recently we weren’t always clear on how to get our characters from point A to point B. For instance, we have had a story to tell about Brooklyn since day one, but I don’t think we could have told it before now.I think it took us this long just to figure out who our characters were, where they were going and what they wanted. Now that we have a clearer sense of that I think we can start mapping out a bigger picture.
Eastin: The Hell arc was supposed to be three strips long. It turned into eleven. We knew the ending, so we just kept it going until we could reach that point naturally. So, we have a basic idea, but if something needs to be cut short or drawn out, we’ve got no problem doing either.
MB: What are your favorite webcomics?
R: No surprises. The ones I never miss are Penny Arcade and PvP. My favorite at the moment is probably Hark a Vagrant, just like everyone else on the planet. I also was sort of obsessed with this comic called Art Animals for a while. It was compelling in the same way as watching a car crash, I couldn’t make myself look away..With most other webcomics, like The Abominable Charles Christopher or Chainsawsuit, I tend to just swoop in every two months and make a run through the archives.
R: Wow, xkcd, that is so underground.
E: I usually like to Instagram xkcd strips.
MB: What, if any, webcomic trends bother you? What annoys you about webcomics? Conversely, what excites you about webcomics?
R: I hate comics about people’s everyday lives. There are exceptions to this rule but biographical comics mostly suck. Too often biography just means wish fulfillment or self-aggrandizement. I crave characters.
E: Yeah. Not really a fan of one-panelers with ironic captions, either. What I like though? I love that people are willing to create, do, and then put it out there for the world to see. It’s kind of like all those crazy ideas you had as a kid finally have an outlet, and some of them out there are pretty damn awesome!
R: Eastin just told me that he hates Sorry Comics. Now I hate him. Sorry Comics is great because rather than being wish fulfillment it is an unblinking confessional of all the times the creator fucked up.
E: ^ Rude.
R: What excites me about webcomics is that there is literally no gatekeeper for webcomics. Anyone can make one. Imagine if that was true of video games? Movies? Academia (cough, cough)? Anything else really? I guess it is starting to happen to novels with the Kindle, but I think it is still easier to put out a webcomic and get it in front of a lot of people than pretty much anything else.
MB: Any advice for people looking to start their own comic?
R: You just have to do it. Even if you are writing a shitty biographical comic that I am going to hate, you just need to make a publishing schedule and stick to it. The hardest part is making sure there is a new comic on the site every week.In that regard, it helps to have a partner who you are responsible to. No one wants to be the guy who draws the comic at his girlfriend’s house, but then forgets the scanner at home resulting in a late strip. Not that Eastin did that.
E: Get ready to give up your weekends. Forever. Get on the social networks and talk to other creators, a lot of them are really cool and willing to spread your work if you just ask. There’s actually a really supportive community out there.
MB: What are your favorite non-webcomic comics?
R:: I am working my way up the ladder to claim the title of the world’s biggest Thor fanboy.
Beyond that I love Conan the Barbarian comics. That means both the old Savage Sword of Conan stuff with its copious side boobs and the new Brian Wood/Becky Cloonan stuff. Obviously, I also like Wood’s Northlanders since it is essentially Conan + Thor.
My tastes are pretty omnivorous though. I will read anything. I just started reading Bone which I have wanted to get to ever since I saw it being serialized in Disney Adventures at age 12.
E: This list could go on forever. Taking a graphic novel class with Scott Snyder (RYAN: Name dropper.) really turned me into a DC fanboy, but lately, I’ve been branching out.
I’ll just throw out a few of my favorites:
Batman (Snyder and Capullo)
Animal Man (Lemire)
Sweet Tooth (Lemire)
Wonder Woman (Azzarello)
Wolverine and the X-Men (Aaron)
Peter Panzerfaust (Wiebe)
Action Comics (Morrison)
More and more I’m finding a lot of really good creator owned stuff, which is really exciting to see. There are comics about everything–so don’t ever let anyone tell you they have no interest in reading a comic book.
Oh and a really weird and depressing book that is beautifully illustrated is Jimmy Corrigan: Smartest Kid on Earth. It’s worth taking a look.
MB: Going to NYCC this year? If so, do you plan on doing anything differently from last year?
R: Definitely! Last year we had no idea what we were doing. We just kind of wandered around handing out flyers and temporary tattoos. It was pretty sad actually. I think in total we got like 50 hits from all our “marketing.”
This year I think our approach will be more about networking and less about promotion. NYCC is such a sensory overload that no one is going to remember some webcomic guys who gave them a flyer. If we can link up with some other creators this year I would consider that a victory.
E: I’m totally pumped for it! Like Ryan said, last year we had no idea what we were doing. We probably passed by some really great writers and artists and had no clue who they were. I feel much more prepared this year.
And I just love browsing the vendors from the small ones to right on up to Midtown Comics.
Let’s get those badges!
MB: Do you see yourself eventually going to a 2 or even 3 times a week schedule?
R: We would love, love, love to do this. Hell, we’d put it out seven days a week! Once we successfully run a $100k Kickstarter and are able to quit our day jobs we will get right on it!
Truthfully though, three days a week would probably be the sweet spot for a strip like SSLI. We like doing longer strips, so a daily would be too ambitious.
The once a week thing is more a result of the time we are able to put in rather than a conscious choice.
MB:Anything I forgot to mention that you’d like to bring up? Feel free! (Rants are fine but I draw the line at screeds.)
SELF-IMPOSED QUESTION #1: Which of you is more handsome?
R: You’re really too kind, but who could argue?
SELF-IMPOSED QUESTION #2: What time is it right now?
SELF-IMPOSED QUESTION #3: Which of you is still awake?
R: Not Eastin.
After the jump check out the original outline for the end of the Multar fight:
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.