Indie Insider: Interviewing Joel Poirier
For today’s episode of Indie Insider, I got the opportunity to interview Joel Poirier, the creator of the web comic Stripped Comics. We shot the breeze and talked about his passion for print comics and how they shaped the direction of his web comic. That and much more!
Well, I’m a 31 year old graphic designer from Ottawa Ontario Canada. I’m the creator of strippedcomics.com, an anthology series of 5 satirical superhero webcomics inspired by the comic books of the 50s and 60s.
How did the idea of Stripped Comics come about?
I’ve been making my own superheroes since I bought my first comic book at the age of 11 (Daredevil #295 Side-by-side with the Ghost Rider). I would spend hours making up stories and creating characters.
I kept it up well into high school, which is where I came up with the character Captain Jackass. I filled an entire spiral notebook with a crude graphic novel starring this character who was a mean, selfish jerk who was always sadly mistaken for a real hero.
I rebooted the graphic novel in my early twenties with the help of my friend Scott McCue, which went through a couple drafts – the final version of that stage you can read on Stripped Comic’s archive. Those comics are the basis for Stripped Comics. I went to college, I learned how to operate printing presses. I learned how to design for print all to make my own comic books.
Stripped Comics is me doing what I’ve been doing since I was 11 years old, but this time at the skill level of a professional graphic designer. The spirit is the same, but I’m much older now.
You’ve got quite a large cast of heroes to write about and illustrate. How are you able to keep up with 5 different stories?
It’s not too difficult. It’s actually better for my creative process and for my comics to have 5 in rotation. If I were to just write one comic, like say The Pigeon King for instance.
I would probably get bored or write myself into a corner and drive myself crazy and give up. Having so many titles. I have time to stop and think about what’s happening next or how I’m going to write myself out of that mess I just made for myself but still put out more comics in the meantime.
Right now I’m drawing Mer-Lad #4, and while I’m doing that I’m thinking about what’s happening in the next comic in rotation, Sly-Borg #4. By the time I’m finished Mer-Lad I’ll know exactly what’s happening in Sly-Borg and production will start right away. I don’t like to go more than 2 days without making a comic page, I’m addicted. The variety of stories keeps it really interesting too, since they’re all very different stories with different tones.
The Pigeon King is probably my favorite because he strongly represents my vision for Stripped Comics. He’s a throwback to classic superhero comics and at the same time satirizing superheroes as a form of popular culture. He has a familiar tragic Batman-type origin that is kind of silly. I think he’s the most accessible of my characters. Plus I like drawing pigeons with satellite dishes on their heads.
You mentioned earlier you learned to design for print to make your own comics. Any plans in the works to turn the web comics to print?
I started publishing online to gain exposure and build a fan base. My comics will always be available free on my website. But full colour, high-resolution, self-published prints assembled by my own two hands will be available in the near future.
There’s something about the way ink reflects light, the texture of the paper that is totally magical about comics on paper that is missing from reading comics on a computer screen.
I try to compensate with my graphic designer powers and add worn paper textures, tears and imperfections to my [web] comics so that there’s some message coming across that these are meant to be Pulp Comics.
What is one piece of advice you wished you knew before you created stripped comics?
That’s a tough one because it’s been a long learning process. When I made Captain Jackass, I didn’t know enough. When I did a webcomic in my mid-twenties called Bananapants (which was also about superheroes) – I didn’t know enough. So I went back to college at the age of 27 with this plan to self-publish comic books, and I learned how to use design software properly and operate printing presses and bind books and everything you’d need to know how to make your own comics like a one-man comic book factory. And still I feel like I don’t know enough. I suppose the advice I wish I knew before all this is “You’ll never be satisfied”. Old drawings are like goofy old photographs from your childhood. You’re always struggling to get your complete vision to translate to paper. It’s an unending battle with yourself.
Are you attending any Comic Conventions for fans to see you? If not how can fans reach you?
I’ve never been to a convention. I would like to go someday, have a table and sell books. Hopefully meet some of the great people I’ve met online so far through twitter and Google+, and meet some new people I wouldn’t meet otherwise. There’s a whole community going on out there that I’ve barely tapped into. In the meantime, if you’re a fan of my work (and if you are I’m grateful) you can follow me on twitter @strippedcomics where you can get updates on new pages and occasional witticisms or, if you really want the full Joel Poirier experience, you can find me on Google+ where I also participate in semi-daily sketch challenges, post vector art, and share ink drawings of album covers from my vinyl collection.
I also share about music and movies I’m watching and generally give away more about myself than on my website.
In your opinion, can analog comics survive in a digital world?
You’re talking to a guy with a vinyl record collection who works for a newspaper.
There’s something about physical formats that is so much more engaging than the digital. Technology has brought us convenience and portability, but it hasn’t replaced those tactile senses that are involved in the things that we do. For me, when I was buying comic books growing up, the smell of the paper was a part of the experience. That’s locked in my brain now forever. When I walk into a comic shop and I’m hit with that smell of paper it unlocks those memories of my childhood and I remember asking my dad for $1.44 (specifically) advance on my allowance to buy the next issue. Those emotions don’t come across through electronic reading.
Any last words?
Well I’d like to say it was nice to finally sit down and have a chat with you. You’ve supported me for a while now with just barely knowing me and I truly appreciate that. I’m very grateful for all the positive feedback I’ve gotten from all the people out there and for the support in the web comics community. There’s an incredible group of people helping one another out in so many ways it’s just fantastic. You’re never making comics alone on the internet.
Oh yeah, um follow me on twitter @strippedcomics and circle me on Google+, I want to get to know more people who make their own comics. It really opens up the experience when you get to know the personality behind the comics