Recently I gave an interview for another website.  It turned out I had a lot to say and rambled on for quite a bit.  While long, I was very pleased with the end result and I thought it was rather amusing.

The site that posted the interview then did a really half a!s job of posting it.  So look who doesn’t get a link back to their site.   Instead I am posting the entire interview here. Two cookies for you if you can read through all this nonsense.

Hiya, I appreciate chatting about Exiern today. It’s awesome! Would you tell the newbies about this great fantasy story? So they’ll check it out!

Read Exiern today.  If you do; you’ll grow 3 inches over night, women will find you irresistibly attractive, and Glabast the evil galactic overlord will finally be defeated ushering in a new era of peace and prosperity where all disease is vanquished and everyone looks like supermodels.

Or were you asking me what truthful things I would tell them to get them to read the comic?  Fine but the truth is much less effective than telling people they will be mobbed by attractive supermodels if they read the comic.

The basic premise of Exiern is a question; “What would happen if Conan the Barbarian was transformed into a woman.”  From that is an exploration of the fantasy genera and what it means to be a man or woman.  The comic is silly and irreverent not taking it’s self or fantasy in general that seriously.  Exiern’s  artwork is done by the fantastic skills of Studio Boom who strangely enough is just one person and written by your truly who is also just one person despite what you may think. Let me dispel the rumor right now that I am 3 midgets in a trench coat and when I talk to myself it’s just psychosis and not a the midgets communicating with one another.

Shut-up your giving us away!

I’m not.

You said we were crazy.

Did not!

Yes you did! This is why no one love you and you will never get a date.

Would you be quite.  I’m doing an interview!

So as I was saying, at its heart Exiern is a road trip movie.  The character are traveling around the world and finding adventure as they go.  You have Tiffany the tough as nail barbarian warrior who is having some body issue and difficulty coming to terms with her sexuality.  Then there is Princess Peonie the sexpot princess who is a strange combination of worldly and naive.  And you round it out with Faden a depowered evil wizard who is now reduced to insulting his captors instead of immolating them.  Put them on the road together and see what happens.

Okay, how did you get started doing webcomics, and then decide to do Exiern?

Well you see at the dawn of time the evil galactic emperor Galbast dropped all know comics into a volcano and then detonated the volcano with C-Bombs which are like A-bomb, they have a lot of potential, but they are just not really applying themselves. And then…

Oh right we are being truthful.  I keep on forgetting.

I had always liked webcomic.  Been reading Sluggy Frelance since you could read through the archive in a normal human lifespan.  One day, in my comic perusing, I ran across a comic called the Wotch.  The Wotch was a little comic with a sort of Buffy the Vampire hunter flare. The art wasn’t great and but Anne the creator had real affection for her character and a good wit.  But the thing that really made the Wotch special was the community.

We all know about trolls and troll dens on the internet.  Places were people get together to criticize and belittle anything different.  Well the Wotch community was just the opposite.  It was a very supportive and compassionate place.  There are place like that on the internet.  They are hard to find but when you find one it’s a place where creativity can blossom.

I started to get involved with the Wotch community.  At first I was doing photo-manipulations using Photoshop.  I post versions of comic character created with stock photos and some creative merging.  Like is said it was a very supportive place over there and the response to the work was always very positive.

So after a few pinups I decided to attempt a more ambitious project.  I was going to make a photoshoped comic.  A joke off of the Wotch comic where a girl summoned the uricarn demon instead of a unicorn.  I was going to make a comic where a wizard summoned a unicorn instead of a uricarn demon.

Well, it soon became apparent  that making a photoshop comic would be too time intensive so instead I tried my hand at drawing it myself.  The first drawing were primitive to say the least, but again the response was very positive.  One comic lead to two and two to four and before I knew it I had an ongoing series.

That was how I got started.  My suggestion for anyone starting out is find a supportive community.  People who will encourage you and give you honest but not harsh feedback.  That is key to success in the long run.

How did your comic’s cool characters get invented? They have such developed personalities and backgrounds, it’s really cool.

I ask why.

It is actually pretty simple to do.  A lot of work in implementation.  The characters grow organically.  I learn about them as I write.

I always start with archetypes, general sort of types of character then I present them with challenges.  The character have to react and they have to react in a way that is interesting to the reader.  This often mean playing against their archetype or at least something that is slightly different from what you would expect.  That is what is dictated by the constraints of making an interesting story.

But then once I have a reaction from the character I ask my self why did they do that, why are they doing something that is against their archetype?  The ultimate answer is because it was funny or interesting for them to react in that way but I try to create a background that would have it make sense from characters perspective.   As the story progress the background of the character become more rich and filled in.  Eventually the character tell me what they are going to do in a situation they start to run the story.

I have had character completely ruin my plans because of this.  For example once I had to split Peonie and Tiffany up simply because there was no way I could get the barbarian warrior character of Tiffany to agree to take the princess Peonie on a trip she knew was dangerous.  It made sense for the character but it was a pain for me because I wanted something to happened to Peonie on the trip.  But then Tiffany would not let her come and I had to rewrite my story.

In the end the character become people living their lives in my head with their own wills and personality.  I think writing comics may be one of the things that is keeping my insanity at bay or at the very least channeled into a not ax murdering direction.

Your calling us insane again.

Seriously be quite.  This is why you are the one on the bottom and don’t get to be the head.

Wait are you saying we actually are midgets in a trench coat?


No, wait, I’m confused now.  Wouldn’t I have known this.

Well you are insane.

Ah so we are insane midgets in a trench coat.  That makes a lot more sense.

Duh.  Who else would stack one on top of another to pass as a man of normal height.  Now stop interrupting.

Go on,  you were saying.
What’s it like coming up with the fantasy world, spells, alliances, storylines and all that good stuff?

To some extent the world is a character in it’s self and I can use the same process for it as I can for individual character.  The history of Exiern is actually quite developed just because certain plot element need to be there but after I put them in I ask my self what brought them about.  I have who origin story for Exiern worked out just because I wanted to put some robots in the fantasy story and then I had to justify it.

Storylines are relatively easy.  Every storyline needs a defining moment of awesome in it.  A moment where the hero rises up and changes in a fundamental way to become something more.  And that definite moment of awesome need to be earned by the hero by a boat load of misery leading up to it. So you pick a character and say to yourself what is the most effective way to torture this person so that at the very end they can over come it.  It is pretty easy to come up with a few plot points and the cool ending then you just have to find the most amusing path from the beginning to the end.

The best example of the life of a storyline is the movie Digstown.  In that movie there is a line, a line that comes in the very last scene of the movie right before the credits.  It is with out a doubt the best line I have ever heard.  And it is only possible because of all the horrible things that happened to the character through out the entire movie up to that point.  That is how you write a story.

Spell, countries, character names, alliances and such are a pain in the posterior.  They are ultimately unimportant to the story and really have no justification from the grander history or character back stories.  They are just fiddly bits that make the world rich.  The are hard to come up with and the reader analyzes the heck out of them.  The one saving grace of fantasy stories is you can say “A wizard did it” when you get caught on the details.

A wizard did it?  Really?  Your going to use that old cornball line.

Hey it works.  And why are you interrupting again?  You are totally blowing our disguise

Sorry it intercede here chaps, I’ve held my tongue until this juncture but this whole insane little people story just doesn’t fly.  If we are insane wouldn’t Occam’s Razor state that the simpler explanation is that we are just insane instead of a set of insane people in a disguise.

Yea!  That razor thing!

Fine!  Whatever.   I don’t have time for this.  Can we just get on with the interview.

Ha! We totally razored you!

You know you guys are figments of my imagination I can make you pop out of existence with a thought.  What do you have to say about that?

<pop> <pop>

Yea that’s what I thought. Sorry about that zudKirk. Let’s move on to the next question.

(authors note.  There is always a point where a running gag get old.  Where it’s no longer amusing and just getting on people nerves.  Being able to identify this point is the key to good comedy.  And we have, my friends, reached that point with the insanity joke.  No more of that for the rest of the interview.)
Whaddya think are the wittiest one-liners in the comic? Anything you’re really proud of?

Yes the last line of the story.  I am very proud of the ending of Exiern.  That hasn’t happened yet and it will be a long time before we get to it but it is really good if you ask me.  Your best line should always be your last line.

But as for the lines that have happened so far.  Some I like are:

Princess Peonie

“Why are my strategies always so slutty”

Tiffany (when asked to slay a dragon)

“It’s and armor plated, fire breathing, hyper-intelligent, flying, killing machine.  Pass.”


“Oh very mature.  Things don’t go your way and what’s the first thing you do?  Cut off the wizards head.  Who cares if he didn’t have anything to do with it.  You just chop away.  You know it’s people like you that make wizards turn to the dark path to begin with.”

I like these lines because on top of being funny they are revealing into the nature of the character.

Have you ever read writing or illustration books to improve Exiern? Why or why not?

Oh I have tons of those.  I first started out drawing Exiern myself so have collected over 20 or so drawing books in a desperate attempt to improve my style. My favorite are the Ben Caldwell books on drawing mostly because I really like his style of art.

Once I switched over to only writing I started collecting books on writing and taking classes at the local writer’s center.  Two things every comic writer has to do in my opinion; The first is to buy Noah Lukeman’s book “The Plot Thickens”  and read it once a month.  The second is to go to the local community college or writer’s center and take at least on class a semester on writing.  They won’t teach you how to write but they will give you the tools to get out of sticky situations in your plot.

One disclaimer about writing for comics.  This advice is for those of you who write the story based comic.  For gag a day strips plot and characterization seems to be pretty unimportant.  Best advice I can give you there is to go out and get drunk with your friends on a regular basis and then record what is said.

Yes I have a bias against gag a day strips.  I like stories and that is not what the gag a day are about.

What do you usually do to motivate yourself to do updates regularly?

The fact that people read the strip and seem to like it is really the thing that keeps the comic going.  I feel an overwhelm sense of debt to my readers.  They are take there time and some times money to support me.  They allow me to make a comic that with out them would have just stayed in my head.  I owe them everything and I do everything I can to try and repay that debt.

Has someone in public ever recognized you because of Exiern? Whether it’s happened yet, or not – Do you find it flattering, or kind of weird?

That’s never happened really.  I have met a few people at cons who have read the comic but they only recognized me because I was sitting at a table with a big banner with the words “Exiern” printed on it. And even then they mostly say “yea I’ve heard of that comic.”

Honestly even then it was kind of weird.  I sometimes have a hard time believing that the internet I get on my computer is the same as the internet people get on there’s.  My reaction is always; “Really?  You get the same internet I do?  Because my internet is full of porn. Everyone is getting that?  Weird.”

I have to say my best interaction was with someone who didn’t fit the label of “fan”.  I once had a young lady come up to me and say “I just wanted you to know I don’t hate you.  I don’t like your comic but I don’t hate you personally.  I don’t like you but I don’t hate you either.”  I think if we could have more of that kind of apathy towards people who do things we don’t like the world would be a better place.  Well not “better” but less bad perhaps.

What’s it like for you to get the word out on Exiern? Do you work hard at it, or do the fans spread it around?

I have to work at it.  You can’t depend on viral advertizing.  It great when someone lists your comic on a major site.  But that is a short term bump.  You have to consistently advertize your comic.  I have found that Exiern loose about 8% to 10% of its audience each month.  Just to stay even I have to go out and attract that amount of new reader each month.

That being said with services like Project Wonderful it is not very hard to get the word out.  Just set a few campaigns to run each month and you can keep things going.

What are some of your difficult moments as a comic creator?

Dealing with other people.

The act of collaboration is a tricky one.  There are often problems of communication and the need to adapt your views to that of another.

As the creator you are also required to keep your community in order.  You have to be the peacemaker and the one that rises to above the argument even when you want to curse out someone who disagrees with you.

What’s the most rewarding part, for you, about doing Exiern?

Dealing with other people.

The act of collaboration always improves the work in general.  Getting a different viewpoint on a work allows you to see it from a new angle and make the entire thing more accessible.

The community can be a great source of support and inspiration.  Some of the best ideas can come from something that initially started as an argument.  When you are able to rise above an argument and see another person’s point of view it can really help to inspire you.

Notice a pattern here? The most difficult is also the most rewarding if you handle it well.  Just as struggle makes the characters of your stories stronger the real world struggles of creation in the end make you a better creator and are the most fulfilling part of the job.
Are there any cool people who mentor you or cheer you on? How do they affect Exiern?

Oh man there are far to many to list.

The community over at the Wotch (now called 910 cmx) is great.  Shout out to Thom who holds the whole mess together and the rest of the moderators there.

I have a number of core fans of Exiern who have become friends over time.  They are great to talk to about the comic its self.  The funny thing is that everyone I of the fans who I talk to start out there email with the words “So sorry to bother you I know you get a ton of emails.”  The truth is I get about one email a month about the comic and I love talking to people.  I wish more fans would mail me.

The artist I work with are great as well.  Granted that is a professional relationship but collaborating is a real thrill.

The people in my real life who put up with my silliness and obsession with telling stories.

And of course all the readers that post on the chatbox or message boards are great encouragement.

As for how they effect the comic.  Well to quote the Simpsons “A good idea is a good idea.”  I am constantly stealing stuff from the people around me.  Someone post something interesting online you are likely to see it in the comic in short order.  Community is what makes web comics great and different for other mediums.

I am going to finish off by saying that the voices in my head are also a great source of inspiration.  No I am not trying to resurrect the midget joke.  Simply if I have succeeded in creating a truly well rounded character their voice will start to guide and encourage me.  I will know their wants and fear and the character themselves will push me forward to create more.
What fantasy authors have most inspired you over the years?

Fantasy?  Well I would have to go with Terry Pratchett.  His sort of slightly tilled fantasy world is where the character are a lot more suave than your normal Fantasy character and the world is a bit more twisted than your standard Fantasy world is sort of how I styled Exiern.  On my good days I hope that I can achieve what Pratchett was able to do on one of his bad days.

How about this… What was the last book you read? Movie you saw? Music you listened to?

The last book was Time Travelers wife.  Generally a  good but if a bit depressing.

Movie?  Well I have had a really bad run with movies lately.  I’ve seen “Love Happens” which was one of the most forced romances with the most wooden character I have every had the misfortune of seeing.  Before that was “9” a move that could have been great but decided to be incredibly boring instead.  And before that was “Mosters vs Aliens” which had a great title and great promo and then nothing else great about it.

You would have to reach back to “District 9” for a really good movie.  District 9 was a great movie. Disgusting but great.  Great character arch with really well developed character and world and a cool inversion of the alien movie.  I just wish there were less exploding body parts.

I am afraid I am not much of a music buff.  I listen to what is on the radio with a preference for classical music.  But I am not picky.

Whaddya like doing most to relax by yourself? And how about with friends?

Well I would answer that question but this is a PG rated site.

Same for “with friends.”

Ok seriously writing is what I do to relax.  It’s fun to get the stories in my head out on paper.  I started this comic thing as a way to unwind after a day at a job that I really hated.  It is still that although I have found now that my job is not quite as horrible I have been less inspired.   I really have to find a soul crushing job again to up the quality of my work it seems.

For friend we like to hang out and talk about philosophy or writing or just whatever is going on in the world.  I do game a little but mostly that is an excuse to sit around a table for a couple of hours with friends and shoot the breeze.

If you could have a superpower for one day, what would you pick, and what would you do with it?

Well for just one day isn’t much fun.  If I had more time I would choose the ability to change my forum or perhaps ride inside people’s heads “Being John Malcavich” style.  That is after all what my comic is about.  How our bodies shape who we are.  Are we simply an extension of the flesh or there is more to us.  What is the nature of our soul and how is it effect by our shape and societies perception of us.

Betch you didn’t know Exiern was that deep.  Thought it was just about T&A did ya?  Well I showed you.  Granted there is also T&A because just philosophy is a bit dry.  Think how much better “I think therefore I am” would be if a playboy bunny said it instead of some bedridden middle aged nobleman.  Actually playboy bunnies pretty much invalidate Descartes first premise don’t they?  Well look at that.  We learned something new through the wonders of T&A. Is there anything hot babes can’t teach us?

Ok, back to the question.  I guess I would pick super speed with decelerated aging. That way I could get a lifetime worth of work done in a day.  The one constant problem I run up against with webcomics is the issue of time.  I never have enough time to do everything I want.  Never enough time to write everything I want.  Never enough time to get the website running correctly.  Never enough time to work on artwork to get it to my liking.  Webcomics are always a practice in “Meh, good enough”.

I would love more time to get everything done. In the immortal word of Isaac Asimov “What would I do if I had only six months left to live? I’d type a bit faster”
So how do you feel future of the webcomic biz? And how do you feel about the future of Exiern?

The future of Webcomics is really exciting right now.  We are starting to see the field transition from armature to professional status.  The quality of comics are constantly improving and money is starting to flow in to the field.  In the next couple of years we will probably see the creation of a publishing models for webcomics where creators can make a living wage and see their works grow from the web to print and beyond to movies and video games.  It’s amazing to be part of it. Like riding a surfboard on the front of a tidal wave.

The future of Exiern is more questionable.  Like I said every day the quality of webcomics in general gets better.  Every day more professionals are looking to the web as a way to publish there work.  When Exiern started 4 years ago one of it’s selling points was the quality work Studio Boom brought to the comic.  Now there are a number of comics out there with the same quality.  The field is getting more crowded and to compete everyone is going to have to improve their game.

Exiern is limited right now by the time that can be invested in it.  I can’t offer Studio Boom a full day job so the number of updates is limited to once a week.  Soon that will not be good enough in comparison to all the other quality comics out there.  I will keep things going as long as I can but there may come a point where I can’t keep up with the others and I can’t pay Studio Booms salary.  That will be a bitter sweet day because while Exiern may end it will also herald a entirely new world of comics on the web.

Would you like to share something else? Give everybody a huge teaser here!

Ok you are clearly not familiar with my work to give me a question like that and then expect me to remain PG in my response.  Talk about the double entendre potential.

Ok I’ll be good.

Well the next chapter in Exiern is all about going home.  We get to see the capital and what Peonie’s home and family is like.  We learn about some tragic things in her past.  Then we get to see Tiffnay’s home and what her family was like.  On this journey home Tiffany comes to an emotional crisis about her gender and who she is.

*Sigh* and there will be scantily clad women.

Sorry I have to put that in for marketing purposes.

What’s it like to work with Studio Boom

Honestly it’s like having Christmas once a week.  Every week I send out the script and they in my mail I get a beautiful comic coming back to me.  It’s very fun.  I would highly suggest collaboration to anyone who can manage it.  It always makes your comics much better.  And it is down right fun.

Not to say there are not difficult part.  For each person you add to your project you double the amount of scheduling difficulties.   You can get work done in general faster but there are more times when someone will have a crisis shutting the whole thing down.  The job of a writer is to hold everything together because honestly you are going to be the only one working on the comic that has the time.  A writes is also a business manager, marking consultant, therapist, and enforcer.  You wear many hats when you start working with other.
Sweet! Keep it up doing your groovy stuff for us all, and take it easy man. Hey readers, go and check out Exiern.

Well that’s not really a question now is it?  It doesn’t even have one of those curvy things at the end of it.  More of a statement and command really.  I thought we agreed that this interview would consist of questions and responses.   I think you lost the interview and the prizes are mine now by forfeit.

What do you mean there are no prizes?  What a gyp.

Fine. I guess I just say thanks.  Thanks for having me on and letting me chat about what I am doing.  It’s always fun.