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AN INTRODUCTION TO OUR COMIC

06 May 2006

The nomination, coupled with our marketing attack caused for an upwards surge in the official August Audience. To all the people who have newly arrived and are just now starting to read the comic: you are more than welcome here! Please make yourself comfortable, have a cup of spacegrog(TM), watch the movie, visit the forums, there's plenty to do here and it's all free. Except for the Captain August trade paperback of course, which is so mind-blowingly awesome that the space-time continuum would rip itself apart if it were gratis. Trust me, the price I'm asking for it is just high enough to appease it. Any lower and it would come and destroy our universe. It's true.

There was this guy who calls himself Crucis in the beautiful corridors of the interweb and he asked me to tell a bit about August and what made me tick. In the light of our new readers, who obviously all possess above-average good taste in comics, I will put the reply I gave Crucis in this rant. It should provide you with all the answers to the queries that I know to be burning on your collective lips, as well as give the old guard a freshening-up of all that age-old wisdom concerning August.

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Crucis, thanks for taking an interest in Captain August! I actually can't really think of a time when I was not creating comics. Ever since the age of six or seven I was emulating then-popular European strips (Suske & Wiske, which is still running but quite not fun anymore), and I simply never stopped drawing. I love making comics profoundly, because it has always struck me as the best way to tell stories on your own. It's practically the only visual medium that you can handle by yourself. For films or games you'll need a crew of people, but comics you can easily finish on your own. Although I basically tell my stories primarily through comics, I also pour it into various other forms. I see myself as a storyteller more than a comic-artist.

I guess if you'd look back on everything I've done you will be able to track with certain ease what my influences were in those days. I went from European children's strips to European teenage cartoons, then American comics, only to be inspired by Japanese manga (which was a long period and still a major influence today) and finally digging into the American underground. And I've taken a bit of all that into my style, so you could really say I'm incorporating the best of all worlds.

As for the creation of Captain August's visual style, that indeed came to me after a marathon viewing of Invader Zim. Obviously I thought it was a brilliant style, but it also struck me that it was the perfect visual outlet for a webcomic. Like Dr. Cadaverous pointed out, you'll need to produce regularly, a whole page twice a week in my case, and you just can't do that properly if you've got a hugely detailed thing going on. If you look at SIC (Seditious Industrial Complex), it's pretty obvious why they're only doing one page a week: with a style that elaborate and nuanced in colour it'd be nigh impossible to go for twice a week or more. And so the basic premise for August came to be; pure black and white and edgy drawings with elaborate expressions. At the time with more emphasis on the writing and expressions than on the visual quality (boy, did that change).

I'd like to think that the comic has evolved beyond being 'just' a Zim-clone visually. Over the past year-and-a-half it has become more fluid and less wonky and the artistic direction has grown. But I guess I will always in the beginning of a project let myself be inspired by something and then elaborate on it over time. I don't see that as copying stuff because I'll always give it my own twist. The key lies in 'taking inspiration' instead of 'doing a remake'.

With Captain August I've also taken into great account the fact that it would be a webcomic. From the get-go I wanted to strike a balance between having some sort of continuity but also chance readability, so that people popping in had immediate access. I usually don't see the big epic tales that are basically graphic novels like SIC as webcomics for precisely that reason, and fortunately the Doctor already stated this himself. With Captain August I wanted to do something more tailored to the medium though. In these cases, you need a really strong and clear premise, because it will be the thing you'll always return to. Here it obviously is a weird little captain trying to get to the bridge while he's surrounded with crazy people. The format is also designed to bringing both sides of the coin; there will usually be five- or ten-page long arcs with a continuous story interwoven by loose episodes that feature standalone gags (though 'gag' is of course not entirely the right word for what we do). Effort is taken, however, to let even the arcs feature some sort of self-sustained thingy every page, whether it is a small joke or a poignant strike to the heart.

To get back to your question, Crucis: No, Jhonen Vasquez was by far not the first to lure me into comics. And after all this time, making the comic has become part of my life. I know that it's not going to end for years to come, so somehow I've made a click in my head that I don't see it as a burden. Twice a week I will just have an 'August-day' and quaintly work on a page until it's done (amusing side-note showing the evolution of the comic: in the beginning one page took me about an hour and a half to make from start to finish, now I'd estimate it's more akin to four hours) and write a rant detailing some stuff that's currently happening in my life. And with that rhythm in place, it's easy for me to work on other comic projects alongside it. In fact, I've never made as many pages as I did this year, with the monstrous graphic horror novel project Quelle Horreur! that I've got running next to the captain out soon.

Another key to making anything of this sort is cunning and slyness. For instance, with answering this to you here, I've also already written my next rant. It's not cheap, it's inspired.
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Roderick.