“The new tablets present a near-perfect comics-reading experience” Evil Inc creator Brad Guigar discusses digital comics and tips for taking over the world (or at very least leasing it!)
Cartoonist Brad Guigar knows a thing or two about web comics having been producing them since 2003. Starting with Greystone Inn, Phables, and relationship advice strip Courting Disaster, he has been producing weekly comic strips for over a decade, but perhaps his best-known work is the brilliant web comic Evil Inc, which is set in the offices of a company run by villains – the aforementioned Evil Inc. Mixing brilliant jibes at superhero culture with the inanities of modern office life, it’s monthly anthologies are available on DriveThru Comics and will soo be available on ComiXology, so we got in touch with Brad asked him for some tips on the best way to run an evil conglomorate.Evil Inc is a great parody of superhero culture, do you ever worry about running out of things to poke fun at, or do you think there are sufficient cliches from over the years to keep you going? What are your favourite cliches that you know you can go back to if you are ever stuck for inspiration?
BG: Nah, I never worry too much about running out of topics. Superhero stories have been around since the very beginning of storytelling, and they continue to be where we find some of our most compelling entertainment. I think it’s because the whole concept of superheroes and supervillains really speaks to who we are as people — and how great (or terrible) we could potentially be.
What were the superhero titles/artists/writers/characters that inspired you growing up, and which books do you currently enjoy?
BG: When I was about 13, I had an uncle — Uncle Edjzu — who drove a delivery truck, and one of they things he delivered was comic books. This was back before comic shops, when one had to find one’s funny books in drug stores. So my uncle comes in one day with a big, cardboard box. It’s stuffed with comics — all of which had the covers torn off. That’s what they did back in the day — any comics they didn’t sell, they’d rip the cover off ’em (so they couldn’t be resold) and sent ’em back. Well Uncle Edjzu swiped a bunch and brought them over for me and my younger brother. We dashed into our room with it, and immediately began dividing them up. I was drawn to the Marvel titles, while he was captured by the DC books. And from that day, and for many years after, I was a total Marvel zombie.
My tastes could have taken a *very* different turn. See, mid-way through our sorting frenzy, my mom whisked into the room, spirited the box away, and then returned it somewhat less full. Uncle Edjzu had stashed a bunch of coverless girlie mags at the bottom of the box. Unfortunately, my mom caught wind of it, otherwise, poor Mary Jane Watson wouldn’t have stood a chance.
So, for the next several years, we’d get somewhat regular deliveries of un-covered comics from Uncle Edjzu. (We always search from the bottom of the box up, but alas, no luck.) And my brother took all the DC titles and I took all the Marvel.
I grew a little older, and Uncle Edjzu got a different job, so my comics-reading stopped for a few years until I was in college, when I rediscovered by love of superhero stories. This was the late-eighties/early nineties. And, as much as it was wonderful to re-connect with my old favorites — like Spider-Man, the Avengers and the Fantastic Four — I kept getting hooked by Batman, Green Lantern and the Justice League. Pretty soon, I was scouring my parents’ basement for my brother’s portion of our old comics stash. I dove through those old coverless DC titles and found out what I’d been missing.
After I graduated college, by comics habit died off once more until 2000, when I started working on my own comic strip, “Greystone Inn.” Attending comic conventions was all it took to reignite my comics passion. Now, I could appreciate both Marvel and DC for what they had to offer. Someone once said that Marvel comics are for people who read in their parents’ basement and DC comics are for people who run around the back yard with a towel clothes pinned around their neck. I couldn’t say it better. And, having been both, I appreciate each for what it has to offer.
BG: I’d probably start out trying to be one, and end up becoming very much the other. And which one I’d started as — and which I had become — would probably differ depending upon whom you’d asked.
Evil Inc is already available on Drive Thru Comics and as PDF downloads via your website, but it’s going to be available on ComiXology soon, what made you decide to make the jump to this new digital platform? And how do you think it benefits you most?
BG: That’s simple. The new tablets (iPads, Kindle Fires, Nooks, etc.) present a near-perfect comics-reading experience. And, as a comics reader with a tablet, I found myself jonesing for good content to read on it. Plus, I was in a great position to offer something that few comic strips can pull off. I had a two-week buffer that I worked very hard to extend to four-or-five weeks. This allows Ed Ryzowski time (some months, precious little time) to colour the comics and send them back to be to be formatted into a monthly comic that offers my readers the opportunity to read the entire upcoming month’s worth of comics instead of waiting for them to play out day-by-day on my Web site and in newspapers.
It’s a powerful pitch. And I add a feature to every issue culled from the deep Evil Inc Archive to make each monthly comic a compelling buy. So far, they experiment has been a roaring success.
What does it offer the reader that a plain PDF download can’t? Any plans to include extras for tablet readers for example? Will the artwork be optimised for a new hi-definition tablet audience and in what sort of format will that be will you be collecting them – the same monthly collections you currently release?
BG: The number one value-add is the ability to read the strips before they go live on the site — and to be able to read the entire stories in an uninterrupted fashion. Evil Inc often does story arcs that go for an entire week or longer… and sometimes those arcs connect into a greater storyline. Reading that content in a monthly digital comic is a far superior reading experience. Throw in the bonus features that I create using my comic’s deep archive (Evil Inc started in the summer of 2005), and there’s an awful lot there for the couple of bucks it sells for.
As for other features — retina display-optimization, etc — I let the market drive that. When hi-def tablets become the norm (as opposed to a feature for the upper echelon of tablet users), I will build my comics to perform in that market.
And, of course, I will continue to do the graphic novelizations of the Evil Inc strips. Those are typically printed books, but I have plans to take those digital as well. In those books, I take the panels of the daily strip, add new panels and other content, and re-present the stories as full-on graphic novels.
As a regular web comic creator you’ve seen the growth of the digital comic from the internet perspective, but how do you think the growth of comics on tablets is affecting web/digital comics – for the better or the worse?
BG: It’s just one more platform to distribute and sell my comics through. And that can be nothing but good. Actually, it’s an improvement because the Web has a very ingrained mindset of “content should be free”, whereas paying for content on a tablet is completely accepted. That’s good news for people like me.
Are you yourself a tablet user, and if so what do you make of the reading experience on a tablet? And what books do you read and recommend?
BG: I have a Kindle Fire, and I love the reading experience it presents. being the geezer that I am, though, most of the stuff I buy is the equivalent of tradepaperback collections of comics — and usually older runs at that. Right now, I’m soaking up Thor Visionaries: Walter Simonson.
What do you see the future for Evil Inc being? Any plans for longer from stories and more traditional comics, or are you happy working on a daily strip format? Any plans for other spin-offs?
BG: The more I work on this monthly digital comicbook, the more I appreciate what it has to offer in terms of storytelling. However, that daily comic strip — and that daily Web site — is like an engine. I’m not sure what happens if it stops running. I know I’d lose significant ad revenue, but I’d also lose the ability to connect every day with my readers — and keep them updated on things like new books and convention appearances. So I don’t know. One thing I’ve learned is to avoid making long-term plans. This medium has changed so much in the last ten years — and continues to change at such a rapid pace, that it’s impossible to tell what it’s going to look like. What I do know is that I’ll be telling stories with words and drawings, and delivering them to by readers with as few middle-men as possible.
If I were to do a spin-off, it would be Captain Valerie Scarr, the Space Pirate. She’s an absolute delight to draw, and she’s a pretty fascinating character to write for. She was the subject of an Evil Inc storyline that started in August of last year and ended in September.
And I’m finding out that the digital collection of my Courting Disaster comic — which offers weekly sex advice — has been doing extremely well. So I may become tempted to put more time into that project.
Which other digital comics/web comics do you admire and look to for inspiration? And how do you maintain such a prolific output of strips?
BG: I’ve recently become super-inspired by my friend, Scott Kurtz, whose PvP operates on such a high plane of greatness — and whose new comics, Table Titans, has absolutely blown away even the greatest expectations of what a comic like that could encompass. Then, there’s Dave Kellett, whose “Sheldon” and “Drive” comics remind me that I, too, might someday be good enough to two such different projects at so high a quality. And, finally, Kris Straub’s Broodhollow. Holy cats. When I heard Kris was going to do a “comic horror” comic, I wasn’t too sure it was a great idea. Kris is an excellent example of listening to that small voice in your head and following it with confidence, no matter who thinks what. Those three guys are the epitome — for me — of what it means to be an independent artist.
Finally, if you were CEO of Evil Inc. what would be your first order of business? And what business tips have you picked up from writing the strip for all these years would you use to ensure success!
BG: Well, listen… first order of business is to make the company’s goal clear. We are not out to take over the world. Ownership is fraught with responsibility, and there’s no profit in that. So *my* Evil Inc‘s mission statement would state the goal of *leasing* the world. With an option to buy. Next step, eliminate the competition. (Insert your own joke about Google / Amazon / the Republican party / Big oil / Oprah / etc. here.) Step three, hire my own intern.
It’s impossible to get worse at something you do every day. I’m living proof.
For more info on Evil Inc visit Brad’s website where you can get regular updates and you can also find more info on his other strips at the following site: Courting Disaster, Webcomics.com, Phables, Greystone Inn. To purchase monthly instalment of Evil Inc go to the Evil Inc Comics section on DriveThru Comics or download it from the Evil Inc wesbite.