Sunday, May 2, 2004

Adis says: Hi. Now that I've interviewd every Quicksketch cartoonist, I've decided to branch out a little, and spotlight other cartoonists who are doing work I enjoy. So, that brings us to Steve Carey, who does the fabulous Poppycock Circus. It's quite enjoyable, easy to follow, and even easier to bookmark. Here's what Steve had to say:

I'm a comic strip fan. Describe your strip to me.
Aw, geez, I'm no good at the pithy, general summary. Let just say it's about the comings and goings and happenings and what-nots and what-have-yous in a small circus.

Why a circus?
I was trying to think of the settings that hadn't been explored in contemporary comic strips, TV shows, etc. Outer space - out. Wild West -out. Office - out. "Twenty-something-friends-hangin'-around-talking-'bout-whatever" - SO out. Circus - hey hey.
Little did I know that there was already a fairly lame syndicated comic (Big Top) and a forthcoming sucky HBO series (Carnavale) to take the wind outta my hubristic sails. But, I kept the idea because I wanted to write the strip from the vantage point of people who participate in popular culture, yet in an out-of-date medium that's relegated to the extreme outer fringes. So, it was either a circus or comic strip artists.

You know what drew my attention to the strip? The name "Poppycock". Is there a story behind the name?
Well, I was looking for a word or expression that evoked the late 19th/early 20th Century and had fallen into disuse. "Poppycock" fit the bill. I like that it implies both a sense of nonsense and a sense of hucksterism, two qualities that I'm really shooting for in the strip.
Unfortunately, now people either think of the candy, Poppycock (which is caramel covered popcorn, I think) or assume I'm implying something vulgar. Which is just swell...

Your strip has an ensamble cast, with a rotating spotlight. In your mind, is any of your characters the main protagonist?
Well, initially, I thought the central dynamic was going to be between the two clowns, Benny and Clyde, but that never really happened. Now, it seems that Mike Poppycock serves as the catalyst for the action, while Chauncey is the straight man/audience surrogate. That's really been the main source of tension, Mike and everyone else's self-serving stupidity versus Chauncey's unwavering idealism.
So, to answer the question, perhaps either Mike or Chauncey could be seen as "the main character."

Did you always wanted to make comic strips?
Sort of. I've always wanted to write comedy, that's for sure. And I've always loved to draw. My interest still shifts between straight writing and comics. At times, comic strips seem like the perfect delivery system for my humor, while other times it feels so constraining in form and limited in audience.
Part of it is that most comics (both in the newspapers and on the web) are so hopelessly and dreadfully unfunny, that it's hard to not be depressed about comics. But in the rare instances where it's done well, there is something so magical. Calvin and Hobbes, Peanuts, Bloom County, Doonesbury, Pogo, Krazy Kat, I'll put those up there with the best art of the 20th Century. They make me want to make comic strips and always have.

Where do you get your ideas? Do you do lots of research on circus life?
Initially, I was all, "I'd better do my homework on circuses if I'm going to do this." So I went on Amazon and got a few biographies on P.T. Barnum and this sociological study of circuses. I read about half of a very scholarly Barnum biography, and was like, "You know what, I want to write a comic, not a thesis."
So, I've got a few circus photo books and this awesome book of old circus posters, and I use those for reference. But that's about it. Mostly, I look to great comedy for inspiration, from W.G. Fields and "Laurel and Hardy" to "Larry Sanders" and "The Office." Steal, steal, steal, kids.

What are your favorite webcomics?
Oh gosh, I don't want to leave anyone out.
I have to say that I think Achewood is the gold standard. It was when I discovered Achewood that I realized that webcomics weren't just about video games and Star Wars. But, I guess it's fair to assume that I really like the work of anyone who's done a guest strip for me (so you, Dinosaur Comics, Acid Keg, A Softer World, Killroy and Tina, Cow Tools). I also love Wigu, Scary Go Round, a lot of the Dayfree Press stuff, Kochalka, Drew Weing, Todd Webb. There's really just so much good stuff out there. I wish somebody would pay us!

Why make webcomics, incidentally?
I ask myself that almost every day of the week. Mostly, it's an inexpensive way to get my work seen by a mass audience. The work and the reader response become the reward, you know?

What can we expect from Poppycock Circus?
Well, the age of merchandizing is upon us. I've started selling t-shirts, and I'm working on a mini-comic that will collect the current storyline.
Ryan North (Dinosaur Comics), Joey Comeau (A Softer World) and I will be sharing a table at the MoCCA Festival in New York City (June 26-27), so if in any of your readers are in the area, they should stop by and say hello.

Why aren't there more sheep in circus acts?
They're obstinate little fellows, aren't they?

I think it was quite a good start for a new set of interviews, don't you agree? Thanks to Steve, and remember kids, Poppycock Circus is good for you!
Now go to bed!

The first comic Today's comic

Count Your Sheep is Adrian Ramos.