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Interview With Abstruse Goose
Interview With Abstruse Goose
Abstruse Goose is a cosmically awesome comic strip. In this interview, we discover why The Goose is so awesome, the reality of the blue cap (which gives him his powers), and whether he prefers french or curly fries.
Who ARE you? There is a part of me that hopes you do not answer this question, as a I rather enjoy the mystery of The Goose. The other part of me is quite curious.
I will respect the wishes of the part of you that enjoys the mystery of The Goose, and I will maintain my quasi-anonymity. :)
Excellent. A common theme in your comics is the blue baseball cap, which -- correct me if I'm wrong -- appears to always be worn by Comic Goose. Is there a real blue baseball cap, and if so, is there a closet full of identical blue caps in case one of them is damaged while fighting crime?
Oh, the blue baseball cap is real alright. However, the real cap looks slightly different than is portrayed in the comics. See attachment for actual photo.
I do not have a closet full of identical caps. There is only one cap. There can be only one. One cap to rule them all.
What comic projects have you tackled in the past and how were they received in comparison to this one? Were you a natural or did it take some trial and error to find your groove?
I have not been involved in any other comic-related projects recently. However, at one time, I very much wanted to be a syndicated cartoonist. So a few years ago, I put together a small portfolio of some of my comics and mailed them off to the major syndicates but they were all like, "Um...no."
I have been making comics in one form or another for fun since I was quite young so, if I have indeed found my groove (a debatable point), it must have occurred over the course of many years.
I am fascinated with comic syndication. I am even fascinated with the fascination of comic syndication. There is a level of automatic prestige that comes with some entity covering the effort and cost of putting your line art to paper. There is something about being able to pick up a newspaper anywhere in town and seeing your work printed on it. Would you like to see a comeback of the newspaper or do you prefer the death of the industry as a fitting metaphor for the death of an older generation of comic art?
I, too, am fascinated with comic syndication and with the fascination of comic syndication. I am even fascinated with the fascination of fascination of comic syndication.
There certainly is a sort of prestige that comes with being syndicated and I highly doubt that there are many web cartoonists out there that would turn down an offer (however, from a statistical point of view, you have a better chance of being an NBA star than you do of being a syndicated cartoonist). I haven't ruled out the possibility that I might some day try to do a syndicated comic, but (obviously) the style and format would have to be drastically different from that of my current comic. All syndicated cartoonists are constrained to conform their strips to the realities of the business. They all fight for the ever-shrinking plots of real estate available on the back pages of newspapers (and hence must usually limit their strips to four panels or less) while attempting to gear their content and style to a mainstream audience. Obviously, you and I (as web cartoonists) don't have those restrictions imposed on us.
// side note
However, as a side note, I believe that there is an upside to such restrictions. When I was attempting to become a syndicated cartoonist, I restricted all of my strips to four little panels. It's quite a challenge trying to cram all of your ideas into such a small space but it forces you to become creative in your presentation and it can force you into higher levels of artistic expression. It's as Marissa Mayer said: "Creativity loves constraint"
// side note nested within a side note
As another side note on the subject of syndication, I am inspired by the story of Stephan Pastis who draws Pearls Before Swine. Before becoming a cartoonist, Pastis was an attorney (for 9 years, I think) unhappy with his choice of profession. He always wanted to become a cartoonist and his childhood hero was the (late) great Charles Schultz (who also happened to be my childhood hero). He read somewhere that Schultz always drank his morning coffee at the same ice rink every day, so one day he decided to take off from work and drive down to the ice rink to meet his idol. When Schultz arrived, Pastis introduced himself and told him that he aspired to be a cartoonist. Pastis showed him some samples of his work and they ended up talking for an hour about cartooning as Schultz doled out advice on the finer points of the business. To make a long story short, this visit with The Pope finally convinced him to take the plunge and pursue his dream, and a "mere" three years later he was a syndicated cartoonist with one of the most popular comics around.
// end side note nested within a side note
Continuing on the subject of creativity and constraint, consider, as an example, Dinosaur Comics by Ryan North. Every one of his comics uses the same six panels with the same six illustrations from comic to comic. Yet his archives are littered with some brilliant gems and I imagine that part of that has to do with the creativity that flows from his self-imposed restrictions.
// end first side note
I am certainly no expert on the subject but I don't see the newspaper going away any time soon. I think that the declaration of its demise is a bit premature. Although print media will obviously continue to lose some of its influence to the newer forms of media over the coming years (decades), I believe that newspapers can survive by implementing new business models and quickly adapting to the changing environment. It's possible that a happy equilibrium can eventually be reached in which old and new can coexist peacefully (for a while).
Do you consciously weave themes through your comics or do you simply draw whatever comes to mind that day? Are your motifs intentional and premeditated or are they unconscious reflections of the way you think?
I simply draw whatever comes to mind that day.
There do seem to be common themes/motifs that crop up underlying my comics (such as viewing the mundane details of life through a scientific lens, the utter strangeness of the natural world, the seeming absurdity of existence, the often symbiotic but sometimes contentious nature of the relationship between math and physics, etc.) but I would hardly say that they are intentional. I really do just draw whatever comes to mind that day and post that comic on the same day. I never have any comics in the queue... EVAH.
It is rare to find the combination of laugh-out-loud funny and mind-blowing smart in any comic series. Some would say it is because most smart people are not funny and vice versa, however, I suspect it is because thought provoking concepts tend to kill humor for most people. Yet, you easily switch between these modes, often times mixing them together. Do not humbly deny that you have achieved this, but instead, please explain to the rest of us exactly how this is done. In 140 characters or less. While doing a handstand!
Steve (IF... that is indeed your real name), I've always said that you are my biggest fan. You are too generous with your words. I must humbly deny that I have achieved what you claimed I have.
LESS SHORT ANSWER (in which I talk outta my ass):
However, I do have a thought on the subject. In a sense, "thought provoking concepts" have a lot in common with humor. Both have the effect of tickling our sensibilities in a very specific way. Consider, for example, the ideas in quantum physics. Quantum physics is thought provoking, to be sure, but it is also (seemingly) utterly bizarre. It makes our brains go, "WTF, man?!!" But that is also (sort of) how our brains react when we hear a joke - our brains make unexpected connections between two ideas that have no business cavorting with each other - and that is why we laugh. Quantum physics is like one big joke that is being told to us by the universe. The difference is that we don't know that it is a joke so we never think to laugh at it, but it doesn't take much effort to warp some of the ideas in quantum physics and turn it into a ha-ha joke. In fact, one may make the argument that the Schrödinger's cat thought experiment was actually a joke put forth by Schrödinger in order to illustrate the absurdity of the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum physics when looked at from a certain point of view. I keep a picture of Erwin Schrödinger hanging on my wall and, I swear, he's always looking at me with a grin on his face as if he's about to burst out laughing after having told the grandest joke of them all.
(end talking outta my ass)
Okay, Goose (if that is indeed your real name!), I will attempt to control my unbridled flattery.
What are your thoughts on paper vs pixels? Would you like to see daily comics on paper, even outside of the traditional newspaper?
Just the other day I picked up my first newspaper in years just to see how the state of newspaper comics had evolved since the last time I checked. I was quite shocked at what I saw. Almost all of the comics in the back of the paper were so... tame. Now, granted, I have grown so accustomed to reading comics like Cyanide & Happiness and SMBC that even South Park comes across as a bit tame, but what I saw in the back of the paper was very surprising. It conjured up images in my mind of a bunch of old tenured professors with nothing to lose who (therefore) no longer have any motivation to be inspiring educators or to change with the times. Perhaps that is one downside to syndication. The syndicated cartoonists have the "luxury" of relative job stability and do not have the "benefit" of the immediate feedback to which you and I are exposed on a daily basis ("Hello, we are the internet and we just wanted to inform you of the degree to which you suck balls.").
Yes, I would like to see daily comics on paper (especially) outside of the traditional newspaper.
Is it practical to make a living from a webcomic?
Of course it's practical.
It was a struggle in the beginning but now my biggest problem is what to do with all the fuckin' cash.
French fries or curly fries?
Any man that chooses curly fries over french fries is not a man at all.
*crushes beer can on head*
Felicia Day or Marissa Mayer?
They're both so awesome I can't decide just now. I'll slip you a note between gym and recess.
What do you enjoy most about making comics?
I very much enjoy the entire creative process of conceiving an idea seemingly out of thin air and then seeing it manifest itself in tangible form. Some of my longer comics can take several hours from conception to post and quite often I get so caught up in drawing that I literally (literally literally) forget to eat.
What do you dislike the most about making comics?
I don't really dislike anything about making comics but I can say that the thing that I "like least" about it is the tiny little details that crop up from time to time - things that make me feel like I'm running a business instead of entertaining people.
Do you feel you have to adapt your comics for others or, as most comic artists claim to do, do you simply use yourself as a guide, assuming that if you enjoy it, others will too?
That is an interesting question and I would be interested to hear your answer to this question as well. Your comic is so unlike any other webcomic out there in terms of its content that I suspect I know the answer.
I am way on the just-do-whatever-I-enjoy side of the spectrum. Sometimes I am surprised at how many people seem to agree with some of the things portrayed in my comics. As an example, take this comic:
The idea illustrated in that comic had been floating around in my head for years. However, every time I tried to explain that perspective to my friends, they always looked at me as if I was a ker-azy sweaty-toothed madman so I just assumed that it wasn't a popular point of view. But after posting that, I received a flood of comments from people all over the known universe telling me how they always had similar thoughts but had never seen it quite illustrated that way. Moral of the story: if you do comics that you yourself would enjoy, there will undoubtedly be large segments of the population for whom your comics will strike a chord.
That being said, I also believe that it's important to use a measure of common sense when making comics. Every person lives in their own unique world and one can never truly comprehend the deepest most profound thoughts of another human being. I imagine that if you were to simply spew out comics as an unfiltered spontaneous outpouring of your innermost thoughts, very few people would find it comprehensible (and only James Joyce can get away with doing that - that boy be crazy).
My answer is that I have to adapt unless I'm doing situational humor. The comics I'm mildly amused by seem to get the most traffic and any strip I find to be hilarious is guaranteed to flop. I burn a lot of calories imagining things from other people's perspective.
Speaking of writing for yourself... If I learn to read scientific formula, will I discover a new layer of humor in all of those comics with the "scribbly" lines in them?
More often than not, the "scribbly" lines do hide some meaning related to the comic.
How long does it take you to draw a complex comic like "Hello" #306 compared to a shorter one like "The Flash" #320?
My shortest comics can be cranked out in about 15-30 minutes. The "Hello" comic required a bit of effort. I worked on that badboy piecemeal for about two weeks but the bulk of it was done over an insane two-day drawing session extravaganza totaling about 20 hours. I actually wanted to include a lot more detail but by the time I got down to the cell phone part, I was all like, "Fuck that shit!"
Which active comic strips (besides mine, of course) do you read most often?
The list of comics I read regularly (besides yours, of course) is fairly long, but here's a few (in no particular order): Brown Sharpie (currently on hiatus but rumored to return soon), xkcd (obviously), exocomics (Li is awesome), Cyanide & Happiness (those guys are insane), SMBC (seriously, does Zach ever sleep, EVER?), Spiked Math (to get your math geek on), PHD Comics, Toothpaste For Dinner, ChannelATE, The Fart Party, ...
Do you ever read your old comics? If so, do you imagine ways you'd like to improve them, or things which you would have done differently?
If you read your old comics too much, I imagine that there would be a very real danger that you would get sick of yourself so I don't do it very often. However, on the rare occasions when I do read my archives, I often feel like I'm reading comics created by someone else. I often do imagine ways in which I could have done things differently but, more often than that, I think to myself, "WTF was I thinking when I posted that?"
What is the best snack food for programming? How about for making comics?
For programming? Couldn't tell ya. For comics? An intravenous coffee drip.
How 'bout you?
Cheetos and Fritos Corn Chips are some pretty good programming fuel. Although, they don't make Cheetos like they used to, and the cheese finger buildup tends to slow down typing efficiency. Tortillas and salsa is good. You can calibrate the salsa hotness to achieve the proper amount of hydration to survive those long hours in the code dungeon.
(good choice. I also learned that beer=bad for coding.)
Do you have any other creative projects planned?
Nothing in the works right now.
What are your future plans for Abstruse Goose?
Just a lil sumtin sumptin...
What do you think is interesting in science is at the moment?
Did they find that "God particle?"
There is very little that I don't find interesting in science these days. I really do think that we are living in exciting times in terms of discoveries being made at the edge of human knowledge (quantum gravity, neural correlates of consciousness, what is soy sauce really, etc). However, right now, I'm just having fun working my way to that edge where the big boys and girls play.
I'm not betting against the detection of the so-called "God particle" (*cringe* at that name) but your guess is probably as good as mine as to its existence.
©ALLOFTHEYEARS Steve Burke * home * rss