I’m currently working on a paper about cyber terrorism and trying to recuperate from Thanksgiving, so this week I’m doing something a little different. Below is a written interview with Whomp! comics creator Ronnie Filyaw. I first encountered Whomp! the day of the interview with Up Up Down Down. I was looking through their back catalog again when I noticed the Whomp! banner and thought it looked interesting. I found myself working through Whomp!’s back log of greatness when I should have been preparing more questions and doing more research. (To be fair, I thought I was already prepared enough, but I managed to lose all of my notes along the way. Despite that minor (read: large) set back, I plowed through the interview like a stumbling champ.)
How did you get into doing web comics? Have you always wanted be a writer/artist of a web comic?
I’ve always liked to draw, and I always liked being the funny guy. Also, cartoons were a big part of my life as a kid and teen. Since animation is infinitely difficult and time-consuming for an individual, comics were the next best thing. As a youngster, I enjoyed Garfield and Dilbert a lot, but my real inspiration for comics as a medium was Penny Arcade.
How old were you when you started Whomp!? What were you doing before comics?
I was 27 I believe. Shortly before my 28th birthday. Before comics, I was an IT guy. I’ve always been much better at computers than drawing, but I am not fond of fixing computers.
How did you come up with the title, Whomp!?
I wanted the comic to emanate a high-energy, actiony feel, and for the name to reflect that as well. “Whomp!” is a great onomatopoeia used in comics, and was also a word used in the cartoon “Recess” meaning “bad” which was a slightly conscious decision to make it the first self-deprecating joke of the comic.
What are your influences on your humor, art, and writing?
My original influences for Whomp! in particular were KC Green and Spongebob Squarepants. They helped me find my voice. I pushed away from them as direct influences as soon as I could, however. I found my own voice, and I try to keep it as purely original as possible (which is a bit unreasonable considering every decision we make is from external influence and experience, and most stories are clever rearrangements of other stories, whether we realize it or not.)
What are some of the challenges you face when writing and drawing a comic?
The drawing of a comic is merely time and pressure. I always draw the best I can, and I improve a little day by day. It’s not stressful except when I can’t figure out why my hand is being stupid. The most stress comes from trying to be funny and original three times a week. It’s very easy to laugh at your own joke, then draw it and think you’re done. What usually happens for me is I laugh at my joke, draw it in storyboard form, then realize “Wait, this isn’t funny…” and commence to writing more strips. By the end of a writing session, I pick what I think is the best one and hope the readers agree. (However by the end of any writing session, my brain is twisted into so many knots, I don’t know what’s funny anymore.)
Your art has definitely improved. Why did you opt out on using Kirby dots?
It was tedious trying to make them look right when scaled down to 72DPI for the web. Often patterns would appear in them that I didn’t like. I could have fixed this by making my own screentone sheets that work for every occasion, but it made more sense to just stop trying to emulate newspapers/comic books and embrace the high quality of computers and modern print.
Where do you get your inspiration for your main characters and your side characters? How much are you and comic Ronnie alike? What are some differences and similarities?
Motivation Dude was invented as a need for someone to make Ronnie do things. Left to his own devices, Ronnie would be lazy and never do anything. In fact, M Dude first appears in a comic when I hadn’t drawn a webcomic in weeks due to a marathon of Nintendo DS Castlevania games. He’s imaginary, but somehow he pushes me to work on a schedule.
Agrias is based on other people around me. She’s no one in particular, but I can use her when I don’t want to use the names/image of real people in my life for the benefit of those people. This often makes her seem more vanilla because she’s the most realistic character.
Everyone on the side is just someone who has popped into my head at some point who I thought would be fun to make a comic about. None of them have anything resembling thought-out back stories or character arcs. They’re just fun one-offs I can sometimes get back to.
Cartoon Ronnie is much more open about his fears/fury than I am. He and I share similar likes/dislikes, but I try to be much more quiet, and I’m much more shy when it comes to any interaction with strangers. He also likes K-On way more than I do. It’s an okay show, but it’s really made for lonely guys, and while I’m often a lonely guy, I’m not a regular consumer of lonely-guy media.
How much of Whomp!’s content is based on real life? Do you really have that strong of a fascination with Sailor Moon/anime in general? If so, what are some of your favorite anime?
Sailor Moon was a HUGE influence on my original inspiration to draw. I would get up at 5AM to watch it every weekday morning. I would record it on VHS tapes and pause them so I could draw the characters. I couldn’t really place it at the time, but I knew there was something different about Sailor Moon when compared to other shows of the time. Heck, one guy died really gruesomely! On a kid’s show! You didn’t see much of that until Dragon Ball Z came along.
While I haven’t been watching much anime lately, I do really love the medium. My favorite shows are all slice-of-life comedies with sadness kept to a minimum. Azumanga Daioh, Toradora!, Lovely Complex, The Gokusen, and really a lot of other high school comedies fall into this category. Nichijou is my most recent favorite, despite the absurd moments that normally scare me away.
Reading through your earlier comics, most of them are one off jokes. When did you decide to make Ronnie the main character? What influences played into that decision? What was your original plan for Whomp!?
The comic evolves in a way I don’t get to choose, so Ronnie became the main character probably out of my own narcissism. It was a natural transition. Whomp! was supposed to be all one-off jokes with different characters, and rarely a strong connection between them so they each be enjoyed on their own. But the comic has decided else-wise! It’s a living entity I hope some day to wrangle and break like a wild mustang so that I may exploit its sweet comedic juices properly.
Will we ever see Rumpy or The Interminable Supercentenarian again?
Maybe! If the comic chooses, that is. I try to do things with them from time to time, but if I can’t make a joke work, it goes in the trash or the “maybe” pile which may as well be the trash.
How long does it usually take for you to produce a strip? Would you mind cluing us into your process?
2 hours minimum of writing for each strip. If I get lucky, I get a good comic in 15 minutes. If I don’t get lucky, I’ve gone 2 hours without a good strip. More than 2 hours of straight writing tangle my brain, so there’s no use in doing more.
Drawing usually takes 3-4 hours. Sometimes up to 6 if I’m not concentrated enough. I do an extremely rough storyboard sketch in the writing phase. Then I do “pencils” which is the main sketch stage. Then I ink my final lines, color and clean up. It’s all done digitally with a Wacom tablet. I recommend the Bamboo for the beginner. I do not recommend any other brand. Trust me, I’ve tried them all.
What do you do when not working on Whomp!? What are your hobbies?
I play video games, but I have weird tastes (Harvest Moon is an example. Surprisingly however, I dislike most anime-style games.) I also read manga, but it doesn’t take very long to get caught up. Sometimes I like to search out new manga.
Sometimes I enjoy classic movies I’ve never seen. It’s fun seeing which ones people love because of nostalgia, and which ones are legitimate masterpieces.
What are some things that most of your readers don’t know about you?
I’m 6’2” tall, and not very spherical. I’m sorry! I’m also very timid and quiet and polite around people I don’t know very well.
I like diet sodas. I switched to them when I was 12, and I would be even fatter if I drank proper soda.
What, if anything, has changed about you since starting Whomp!?
I work harder. It has made me a much more diligent worker. Also, I’m a lot happier than before I started. It has also given me the ability to self-critique my art and writing, which no one ever told me that it is a skill you can learn. Most people who think they can do this probably can’t. You have to be torn down and then rise to the challenge of becoming a better artist/writer. Only then will you find what it means to learn from your mistakes.
What’s your favorite Whomp! comic? Why?
The one where Ronnie returns the necklace Mei gave him. It just popped into my head, and I felt like it was absolutely perfect. Not because Ronnie finally won, but just because it had so many elements of my ideal strip that came together like a hurricane. It resolved a storyline, it had a callback to a relevant comic, and even though Ronnie won in the end, there was still a little thing that harmed him in the way the comic is wont to do. I didn’t doubt it the whole time I was drawing it, and when I was done, a lot of people liked it. It was a level of perfection I wish I could achieve with every comic.
Do you read other web comics? What are they?
Not really! I am extremely familiar with most of the big players, but webcomics are just not something I invest my time in. I’m like a vegetarian working in a meat packing plant. This particular vegetarian isn’t morally opposed to the meat, it’s just their thing. Then they go home and eat anime or something? Yeah! Analogies!
Are you working on any other projects?
Nothing at the moment. Whomp! takes a lot of my brain power (and will power). I’m always working on side things and thinking of new comics I want to draw, but I’ve not taken significant steps towards that goal. I want to do lots of different things, probably more than my brain can handle.
What are your plans and hopes for Whomp! and will it have an ending?
Whomp! has an ending already written! However, my hope to continue the comic for a long time, so the ending will not be seen anywhere in the near future. I also hope it stays relevant and relatively fresh for as long as it’s going, because my biggest fear is becoming bland and not even realizing it.
Finally, would you rather fight one horse-sized duck or 100 duck-sized horses?
Horses can feel love. Ducks think everything is bread. I will teach the horses to love me. Together we will do battle with BigDuck. Many fine miniature steeds will be lost, but-
Wait, I wonder if you can train a duck-sized duck to ride a duck-sized horse. This changes everything.
I hope you enjoyed that as much as I did.
If you want to read of the amazing Ronnie Filyaw’s awesome comics check here. Remember, if you like his stuff be sure to support him by buying volume 1 and 2 of his works. If you add $5 to your order he’ll do a personal sketch for you.
You can follow him on Twitter @RonnieFilyaw
If you would like to read more about Ronnie check out Up Up Down Down’s great interview here.
For more interviews and articles be sure to check back and follow us @teamasunder