Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Super Mega Comics - Brimmer (Webcomic) + Interview with the Author

Welcome to a *very special* edition of Great Work Review. Much like another semi-recent post the work being reviewed today is not for everyone, and I offer no apologies about that. What makes this edition so special is that I was able to interview the creator/artist/author of Super Mega Comics: Brett Brimmer, AKA Johnny Smash! This was a fun opportunity for me and I think even if you don't care for the comic itself, you will find what Brimmer has to say pretty interesting and illuminating.  

Super Mega has been my personal favorite webcomic for a while now, even above such classics as Dinosaur Comics and Nedroid. It has its own style, both in visual aspects and in the kind of humor on the site. It's off-beat and original. I have read and re-read so many comics on the site that it's actually kind of embarrassing. Thankfully, I know I'm not the only one who has done that. Very often the comics are not leading up to a "punch line" per say, instead they have jokes all the way through, be it something weird, something you would never think of, or something that just plain shocks you. Unlike so many terrible sitcoms and other derived "comedies", these comics don't rely on constant insults or "witty" observations to be funny, and yet somehow the reader will find much of what they say relatable.

I'm not really going to devote a lot of space here trying to convince readers Super Mega is great, I feel like it's something you either "get" or you don't. Start with a few of my favorites and see how you feel. If you are anything like me you should probably avoid reading these in a computer lab or library or mortuary: Room, Clothing, Puppy Novels.

The comics can range from having an almost sci-fiesque originality, to being kind of dark, to being so strange you don't know what to think of them. But what of the driving force behind such comics, you conveniently ask? I now take you to an in-depth journey into the mind behind--and process of--Super Mega Comics. Below is the condensed version for those of you who are just too darn busy, but the entire interview can be found here. If you have time, I strongly recommend reading the full exchange. I like the confidence Brimmer has in his work and with answering the questions. Super Mega is an example of art made by someone who knows what they like and what they want to create. I think highly unusual works like this are only effective when the creator is committed to them and doesn't shy away from what they are.

This is an example of "alt-text", in case you were wondering.
The most current SMC.

First off, when and why did you decide to make a webcomic? Was SMC your first attempt? What were your expectations of what it would be like compared to how it really is?

Well sometime around 2003 I found out there were internet comics that didn't suck like newspaper comics do.  I got really into Achewood, White Ninja, Penny Arcade, and some comics that people posted on the Penny Arcade forums.  First I made some single-frame stick figure comics on paper, then multi-frame ones on the computer, and got good responses to both.  Since I was really into the Penny Arcade forum community I posted my comics there and people seemed to like them, then it just kind of slowly grew as I bought the supermegacomics.com domain and more people found out about it.  I think it's pretty much just been "drawing in MSPaint then uploading the drawings" forever so my expectations haven't really changed, though seeing all the fan comics and community around Super Mega definitely has gone way beyond my expectations.

The first comic on the site is called "Gutter Gutter Man Man", how did you feel about the comic when you first posted it? How do you feel about it now?

I think my old comics are good and quirky but the humor is kind of dated at this point so they don't entertain me that much.  I think humor goes in and out of style like fashion, because it's all about what a culture has become used to, and what will surprise them.  I wouldn't release GUTTER GUTTER MAN MAN as a new comic today, but it was good when it came out.  I'm not into the "That's a classic!" mentality because I mostly care about what someone will think if they look at the comic right now with no prior knowledge or expectations.  GUTTER GUTTER MAN MAN is pretty okay though I guess, just not as great anymore.

It's kind of a cliche question--but I guess it's a classic for a reason--where do you get your ideas? How much of what you write/draw do you have prepared before making a comic and how much of it is spontaneous or improvised?  

I think a lot about what's cool or funny or interesting, and when I see those things in a movie or something it gets stored in my brain as "good stuff."  Then when I'm trying to come up with a comic my brain does its secret subconscious computer work where it thinks about good stuff and forms new ideas.  So basically I care about good stuff and my subconscious swishes it around until it thinks of good ideas.  Like sometimes I feel like my subconscious is some other dude telling me something and I'm like "lol that's funny" and write it down.  Getting into a relaxed state of mind where your subconscious can do the work is important and I think geniuses of history like Einstein and DaVinci did that so it must work.  Like I have to sit there for a long time thinking.

Do the comics change much from their first drafts to the site, or are we looking at first drafts? How long does one of the comics usually take?

It depends, usually first I write a "script" in a notepad file which has all the dialogue and what happens.  Sometimes I only get halfway through a script and can't think of anything else good so I give up, because trying to force those things usually doesn't work.  Sometimes I write a whole comic and it's all good.  Sometimes I go back to a previous script and am able to finish it because I have a new perspective.  Drawing the comics can take from like 20 minutes to an hour and a half depend on how complicated it is.  I spend a LOT of time adjusting character's mouths and eyes and stuff.  I'm really really OCD about that.  Drawing is my least favorite part because I guess I think it's boring?

Fan art is a pretty prominent aspect of the site. People make their own comics in SMC style, and you post them and say something nice about them. How did that get started? Was that your idea? How do you feel about them?

I remember a loooong time ago before the current site they were not really comics and more like fan art/drawings, then they evolved into being just comics, mostly.  It probably happened because everyone can draw stick figures, and people saw other people's comics on the front page and were like "me too!"  The comics range from being pretty bad to as good or better than most of mine, but either way I always like getting them and posting them.

I have a lot of favorites, honestly, but if I had to narrow it down to just one I think I would go with Handcat. Which comic is/are your favorite/favorites on the site, and why?

My favorite is "30 DAYS OF MEGA COMIC #10 - BAD DOG", because it's funny and accessible to people because there's a dog with a mohawk.  I like most of the comics that have dogs or puppies in them.  I used to make comics with robots and dinosaurs but now those things are kind of cliche like pirates, ninjas, and zombies.

Which is/are your least favorite/favorites? Do you hate any of the comics you have made?

Yeah for a while I was trying to have characters (Ally, Sarah, Funky Man, etc.) and a lot of those comics were pretty bad or forced, which is why I stopped doing them.  I feel like characters are a thing I tried and it just led to more stilted comics where I was trying to think "what are the funny things that will happen to this character today?" instead of a more fluid thought process on like good funny stuff.  So if I had to pick some comics I "hate", it'd probably be a few of those, and maybe some other random comics that are confusing and not funny enough.

Was their ever a comic that you thought was kind of lame but that you got a lot of positive feedback on, or vice-versa?

Lots of times, for example with the recent comic called "FACE" I actually did two versions of because I didn't like the first version and I didn't get the deluge of Likes and Comments for it on Facebook I usually get.  I didn't like the second one that much either.  But a bunch of people said they liked one or the other or both.  I ended up leaving the first one up because it was more unique.  I'd probably like to go back to that one and change the "I'M A DIVA" line and change the last two frames to have a photo-realistic foot licking a man's face.  If a bunch of people say they don't like a comic I usually figure it either is bad or I failed to convey something correctly, because usually if I think it's good then people like it.  lol.

I've noticed a lot of people in your comics are named Brian. There are other recurring names as well. Am I right in assuming these are different characters with the same name, not returning characters? What gave you the idea to repeat names?

Basically when I'm writing a script I don't want to sit there thinking "What's a good character name?" so I usually just blurt out the first name I think of.  I kind of have a cache of names at this point.  Sometimes I think "I've used that name too much, I'll change it later" and then I forget.  I think I should probably come up with a few more names so people don't think they're recurring characters.  But I won't say they're NOT recurring characters because that would suck for people who made an archive of the DAVE comics.  ONE THING that's interesting in that respect is that I'm not going to do some fat bearded DAVE because that would just be too out there in contrast with the way the DAVEs usually look.

Are you intending to continue SMC for a long time? What are your hopes for it in the future?

Yeah I've been wanting to get back on the wagon and update Super Mega as much as I used to.  But I also hate when people say they "want to do something" and never do it.  The thing is I'm busier and don't just spend time bored on internet forums all day.  Trying to update is difficult because I need to find time to sit and think for a long time.  Sometimes I think for a long time and don't even come up with a good comic script.  Then when it comes to drawing the comics that is kind of boring to me.  These are like the ultimate first-world-comic-writer problems though lol, like I just draw stick figures and I'm complaining about not having time to make a comic.  BUT, I'd really like to update more this year.  I feel like "the time is now" and there's stuff like Kickstarter which could let me do things like a Super Mega book or a new line of Super Mega clothing stuffs, and everyone is working together and the internet is a happy creative place right now so I really want to heave Super Mega up and do stuff with it.

If you were in my position, what question would you ask yourself? What is the answer to that question?

Question: "What's the most important thing about creating things?"

Answer: "Find out what's out there and be really OCD about judging what's good and what's bad.  If you have good taste and make things you like then the things you make will be good things."

Closing remarks?

Thanks to all the Super Mega Fanz out there, all the ones I've met IRL and on FB are all cool THX u guys rock

So there you have it! I would like to give a Super-Mega-size thank you to Mr. Brimmer-Smash for taking the time to give such thoughtful answers and giving us a peak inside.

I have a final note about SMC that I'd like to address before wrapping things up: I really appreciate how Super Mega doesn't have detailed artist comments after each comic and how it doesn't employ the use of alt-text*. I think there is a time and a place for such things, and that it works well for comics like Dinosaur Comics, but a lot of the time I think it just gets in the way. I really don't care for 90% of the alt-text that's out there; most comics should be able to stand for themselves. I know, I know, when I tried my hand at online comics a few years ago I used these techniques extensively, but that doesn't mean its a good idea.

MA - 2.12.13
P.S. Further recommended SMC reading: Cupboard, Plane, Cell Phone, Text Message.

*For a good example of alt-text that really doesn't belong and way too much talking after each comic, see Bob Forward's excellent new web series Three Minute Max.

1 comment:

  1. dude nice. SMC is the name of a nearby community college here in Los Angeles.