You have a comic strip?
Yes. I have a comic strip.
What's it called?
I Fought the Law.
What's your comic strip about?
It's about law school. I came up with the idea before I started law school, proceeding on the assumption that law school would be funny.
Are any of your characters based on real people, apart from the little guy with red hair who is clearly you?
Ellen's looks are loosely based on a woman who was in the room when I was designing the characters. Her personality is based on the collective disdain I've experienced from most of the women I've encountered in my life. Claudio is purely a product of my imagination. I just like the name Claudio. Ted is inspired by a guy I went to college with who I considered to be my arch-nemesis, though he's fatter and ornerier than said nemesis.
Why was that guy your arch nemesis?
Fate brought us together. Hate pulled us apart.
Why is the guy's name "Kam"?
"Kam" comes from "kamakot," which was my original Yahoo! e-mail address. "Kamakot" is "tokamak" backwards. "Tokamak" is a prototypical toroidal nuclear fusion reactor developed by the Russians. I thought it would be a cool, funky name, and I was wrong. If I ever go through the strips to clean up the profanity (see below) I'll probably change his name to something cooler, like "Dirk."
How do you draw the strips?
At present I'm drawing each strip on an 8.5 x 11" sheet of office paper. I draw three 3 x 4.5" boxes and put the strip in them. I ink them with a black fine-point Univision pen (the kind with the grey body and the window where you can see the ink sloshing around). Then I make my wife angry by getting eraser dust all over the floor. Then I scan the strip at 300 dpi, which makes it ginormous on the screen. I color it using the paintbucket tool on the free version of Adobe Photoshop that came with my computer, converting it from a black and white .gif to an RGB .psd in the process. After it's colored to my satisfaction I shrink it down, crop it, center it, add the self-aggrandizing identifiers at the bottom, and convert it back to a .gif.
Do you do all the HTML by hand?
Yes. I'm not cool enough to automate that shit.
Do you want to get the strips published in a legitimate format?
That would be nice. Unfortunately my unjustifiable use of profanity, self-indulgent humor, and stripper jokes aren't exactly fit to sit alongside Family Circus in your local newspaper. Think of the children. So if I ever wanted to get a package together to send around to syndicates I'll have to go back over the strips and replace all the damns with darns.
What's with all the stripper jokes?
I like the strippers.
Are you going to keep drawing the strip after law school?
I don't know. I have a great idea for the final graduation strip, which my wife hates. I'm not sure I'll be able to draw regularly and still bill enough hours to make partner, but we'll have to see.
Who are your inspirations?
Nobody ever actually asks me that. But since you asked, the very first cartoons I drew were copies of Garfield strips, which you can still see in the way I draw eyes. When I got a little older I realized that Bill Watterson is the Messiah of all cartoon creation, and Calvin and Hobbes became the bread and butter of my comic interests. In high school I got into Citizen Dog, which disappointed me by only sticking around for a few years. And although I've never really gotten into the single-panel format, the off-beat humor of Bizarro, Ballard Street, and, of course, The Far Side have been extremely influential in the way I approach jokes. I was inspired to enter the online comic genre by Penny Arcade, which is probably my current favorite strip.
How long have you been drawing cartoons? And while we're on the subject, could your provide an extended tedious history of every cartoon you've ever written, and make sure it's the last thing on the page so readers feel comfortable ignoring it?
Sure. I've been cartooning since I was about seven. The first character I made up was a teenager named "Billy Streaker." I don't know where my mealy seven-year-old brain came up with that name, but the character always kept his clothes on. A little later I came up with a set of poorly-drawn superheroes who were siblings: The Steel Kid, Comet Girl, and their martial artist brother whose name I can't remember (it may have been "Kung Fu Boy" or something comparably retarded). I drew a few short books about them until I realized that I couldn't do anything with the martial artist kid without knowing something about martial arts. Next up was a line of characters called "The Demented Sea Creatures," which consisted of every fish and other underwater creature I could think of with big human noses and alliterative names (Wally the Whale, Sheldon the Shark, etc.). After that I drew a bunch of comic books based on my family, complete with a fictitious older sister and a very Garfield-like black cat, under the title "Maggie's Porch" (suggested by my mom). In high school I drew a line of strips called "Generation Why," featuring a hot-headed, spiky-haired teenager and his mellow, shades-wearing friend. I cut the project short when I realized that the two characters tracked Calvin and Hobbes almost exactly (I had even unconsciously ripped off a whole C&H strip, making it about yearbooks instead of girls). Throughout high school I made several attempts to develop superhero comics, and while I came up with several characters and storylines that I think I could have worked with I just didn't have the ability to draw in that genre (I still don't, and never will). In college I came up with two separate lines of comic strips, hoping to land one of them in the Daily Californian. One was "Berkeley Squirrels," about two naive squirrels living in Berkeley and getting into adventures. The other was "Down Here," which was basically Satan and all the demons whose names I could remember from Paradise Lost recast as bumbling bureaucrats. While the D.C. picked up neither strip, I landed a few of them in The Heuristic Squelch, which ended up being my main outlet for comics throughout college. This worked out for the better, of course, since the Daily Cal was, is, and will continue to be run by a bunch of slathering monkey idiots, and the Squelch is Cal's ever-present preeminent campus publication. I gave up on the idea of a single premise with recurring characters and just drew strips as jokes came to me, though the main character always seemed to be a guy with a bulbous nose and spiky hair. It wasn't until the Summer of 2002 that I revisited the idea of a regular strip, after spending a year reading Penny Arcade and realizing the limitless possibilities of online cartooning. And that's my story.