Category Archives: interview

Who Are You?: An interview with Ricardo Porven (Donnie Goth)

Ricardo Porven’s webcomic experiences are fairly unique compared to other attempts. It’s one of the few I know of that’s tried to take advantage of what the media dubs as “Web 2.0.) Last year, Mr. Porven made a splash when he tested the limits of the webcomic format by bringing his comic, Donnie Goth, to Facebook. (Donnie Goth is now available on a non-Facebook website.)

I contacted Mr. Porven last week with a few questions about Donnie Goth, to which he graciously replied.

1.) Mr. Porven… are you or have you ever been a Goth?

I’ve never really labeled myself as part of any group really. I was a teenager in the 80s, a bit before the Goth movement really gained traction. However, in my youth I was known to wear eyeliner and listen to bands like, The Cure, Nine Inch Nails, and Marilyn Manson. I also grew up with a fascination with classic horror movies, the works of Tim Burton, and the comic art of Bernie Wrightson. There was even a time I thought my career would be in special effects make-up and counted Rick Baker as one of my idols. If I had been born a mere 10 years later, I most likely would have considered myself a Goth. So if you met me on the street today, you wouldn’t necessarily identify me with someone who is involved in Goth culture, but personality-wise, I’m pretty much a dead ringer. You could say I wear my black on the inside.

2.) I remember Goths being fairly prominent in the 90’s and early 2000’s. Heck, I remember having a poster of Neil Gaiman’s death on my dorm room walls. However, I haven’t heard much about that particular subculture lately. Are Goths still a thing, or have the gone the way of, say, the beatnik?

The Gothic subculture might have reached it’s height of popularity in the late 90s, but it certainly existed before that and is still thriving today. It’s not a lifestyle that gets the headlines. Those that may have embraced it as a fad have likely moved on to other forms of self-expression, but there will always be a group that identifies with the dark themes, romanticism, and fashion the Goth culture is associated with. This is apparent in the popularity of ongoing Gothic themed-films, including most recently; Dark Shadows, ParaNorman and Frankenweenie. Not to mention the myriad of vampire books, novels, TV shows and films that continue to perform well in the market. It’s a subculture. By definition that means it exists under the radar. I think that’s where it prefers to be.

3.) Donnie started off as as a character who seemed to be bristling with sarcasm. Now he’s more of a lovesick puppy, searching for love among Goths and non-Goths alike. What was responsible for the personality change?

The original strips took place when Donnie was 7 years old. He was this overly dramatic, yet powerful kid who didn’t always make the right decisions. The power kind of gave him a superiority complex in comparison to the other kids in his class and the sarcasm came from an overall disdain he felt for them.

The new strips begin with Donnie being 13 and just starting middle school. Right now, he fluctuates between just wanting to be accepted and wanting to be generally left alone. He spent most of his childhood with just Oliver by his side and he is eager to make friends. I wouldn’t necessarily call him lovesick, but his hormones have definitely become active as a normal part of coming of age.

The one current that runs through all the strips is the fact that things rarely work out on the positive end for Donnie. He is a tragic character, but continues to press on in spite of his misfortunes. And he can still laugh about it (and we can join him). I think that’s something fans relate to, whether you’re a Goth or not.

In the strip “X-massacre”, things begin to take on a more serious tone, and both Donnie and Oliver are in for some long-term adventures that take him way beyond the school environment he has lived in up until now.

I guess, like us, the events in Donnie’s life continues to evolve him as a character and the stories change to reflect that.

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Who Are You? An interview with Bengo & Pug

whoareyouWelcome to “Who Are You?”, the Webcomic Overlook’s first foray into interviewing people involved in the business of webcomics. This feature was actually going to go by a completely different name, but I had The Who on my iPod playlist this morning. You might call it fate.

The husband-and-wife team of Bengo and Pug produce two cartoony comics that are a pleasant mix of humor and drama. Li’l Nyet, which updates weekdays, conerns a feline demon in Soviet Russia. Scratchin Post, which updates weekends, follows the adventures of a group of eccentric, city-dwelling friends. In addition, Bengo manages a directory known as Psychedelic Treehouse (on which The Webcomic Overlook is featured as a link). Both have blogs: Bengo with a webcomic-focused blog called The Floating Lightbulb, and Pug with a more informal blog called Dog Toys and Dried Blood.

On The Floating Lightbulb, Bengo has not been afraid to speak out about several issues in webcomics today. His candor is sometimes confrontational, oftentimes refreshing, and always well researched. I contacted him via e-mail if he and his wife were game for an interview, and he and Pug gladly accepted.

Interview with Bengo and Pug

Scratchin' Post & Li'l Nyet

Scratchin' Post & Li'l Nyet

The Webcomic Overlook: Most people tend to work on webcomics by themselves. So I think it’s a pretty unique situation when there are two people working on a webcomic, and even moreso when the other person is your wife. How did you guys end up doing comics together?

Pug: We just wanted to make each other laugh. We still do. We are our audience. But next thing we knew we had shelves and shelves of sketchbooks loaded with Scratchin Post stories, and we thought, “Hmmm…” We didn’t start out with any sort of plan. For my part, I wasn’t even aware of the whole webcomic phenomenon. Not at all. The idea that we could clean up these drawings and put them online was completely new to me, and I’m not exactly a Luddite where the internet is concerned.

Bengo: We’ve only found about five other webcomics done by married couples, like nemu nemu. But there are of course many partnerships of friends and married couples where one manages the business end. Considering that print comics have pencillers, inkers, colorists, letterers and editors, doing a strip alone is pretty heroic.

We always wanted to collaborate professionally, so we’re pleased to be in a medium we love and which makes good use of our skill sets.

WCO: Looking at both Li’l Nyet and Scratchin’ Post, both prominently feature cats. Are they based on any felines you know in real life, or do you just like to draw cats?

Pug: I like drawing animals generally, but a number of years ago I’d started working on a comic about a whole cat universe after I found myself in accidental possession of 6 cats at once and became fascinated by the complexity of their relationships, and the various equations possible, e.g. take the orange one to the vet and suddenly the white one beats up on the spotted one, that sort of thing. Their universe was in perpetual flux. I called the comic strip “Nine Lives to Live”, since the whole thing was so soapy to me.

The tiniest things make cats SO MAD, and most of the humor was based on this simple truth. One character would, say, move closer to another cat it didn’t like, creating a thrilling cliffhanger. This ridiculous yet reality-based dynamic reminded me of old soap operas, when something bad was about to happen, with the accompanying “duh DUHHH” of an organ playing off camera. In a cat’s mind, sitting closer to another cat is a bold, hostile move akin to aiming a crossbow at their head. As with soap operas, nothing ever actually happens. (Well, mostly.) The downfall of “Nine Lives to Live” was my perfectly insane idea to create it using linoleum cuts. I thought it was genius, and it looked cool, especially hand-colored, but everyone thought I was nuts. You see, you make these linoleum cuts of each character in numerous poses, and you… never mind.

Trixie is based on a Black Lab I loved hopelessly for 14 years. Hence her last name, “Schwartz”, (German for black) even though the character is brown. It’s just about impossible to render a completely black cartoon character. At least it was with Trixie. Believe me, I tried. It could be said that I invented my Lab’s persona, but I think it came about organically. I’d say that’s the case with every pet I’ve had. They tell you who they are, the same way your best characters “write themselves”, as so many artists have observed about their own work. I know that sounds egotistical–or lazy–but it’s true. A good character writes itself, and tells you it would never say that and to cross it out and start over.

Bengo: Yes, some are based on pets, pets past and present. Dogs, too. But others derive from ideas or people. Katrinka of Scratchin Post and Li’l Nyet herself actually trace back to the same willful animal who likes to leave dead voles on our Wacom tablet.

But also, family. My grandmother fought Cossacks, starred in early motion pictures, shared one bed with her entire family, was betrayed by smugglers… She in turn told me many stories about her father, an inventor. That was an unusual vocation for anyone in that time and place. He reminds me of myself. I’ve had only a few real jobs, inventing my own career along the way.

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