Welcome to the inaugural World of Web Comics post. Cue fanfare! This will be a bi-weekly look at some of the thousands of comics available on the internet. I will be focusing on creators who produce their comics and publish their work for free.
Web comics have been around for almost as long as the internet itself. There are tens of thousands of web comics being produced at the moment and what I hope to do in this feature is highlight some of the wondrous delights that are out there, available at the click of a mouse.
For this opening post I wanted to talk to someone who knows the ins and outs of web comics and what it takes to produce a good one. So I pestered Ricardo Porven, creator of the much-loved web comic Donnie Goth for an interview. Ricardo was kind enough to spare me some of his time to answer some questions about Donnie Goth and web comics generally.
Donnie Goth is the tale of the eponymous Donnie, an alienated teenager, trying to find his way in the world, and make sense of the often senseless things that the people he encounters do or say. Accompanying Donnie on his difficult, eventful journey through adolescence is Oliver, a salamander who also happens to be a necromancer. Other characters include the mysterious Kyle d’Evreux, Ophelia the Vampiress, and fan-favourite Zombie Butterfly.
Usually this is not the type of thing I would go for, but when I started reading I was struck by the wry humour and pathos in the short strips. Ricardo has a really good way of conveying the characters emotions and progressing the narrative in limited panels, and the relationship between Donnie and Oliver reminded me of the interplay between Calvin and Hobbes in the rightly venerated strip by Bill Watterson, a comic which is referenced in one of Ricardo’s earliest strips.
I started off by asking Ricardo about the history of Donnie Goth.
Geeks Unleashed: When and how did the idea for the Donnie Goth comic strip first take root?
Ricardo Porven: Donnie Goth grew out of a collaboration between artist Luis Diaz and I on another project for one of his character’s “L.D. Monster.” I had developed Donnie as a companion for L.D. and wrote a few short, funny stories around that. It wasn’t quite what Luis was looking for, so instead of scrapping the idea, I decided to give him a new companion, Oliver and to do the strip on my own. Up until that point, I collaborated with Luis as a writer only and he handled all the art duties. Donnie was my first strip that I drew as well as wrote.
GU: Some of the Donnie Goth strips have been inked or drawn by Luis. How did you first meet him and what’s your working relationship like?
RP: Luis and I met many years ago through my cousin who was his college roommate. We’ve collaborated many times in the past, mostly with me taking on the writing duties and Luis handling the art. For Donnie Goth, Luis graciously lent me a hand with the inking of the strip and contributed all the art on the strip “Crappy Birthday”.
He’s an amazingly talented artist and I was lucky to have him working on the strip while I could. You can view all of his work at Luis Diaz Art
GU: Donnie is a really interesting character who seems to be marginalised because of his views and morals, as much as his appearance. Particularly in Zombie Butterfly and Pretty Ironic in Pink. Is this drawn from any of your experiences?
RP: In my experience, school was as much about social (and sometimes physical) survival as it was about learning; perhaps more so. I was a gifted student who was moved up a grade early on (from 1st to 2nd). Added to this was the fact that for one day each week, I took a bus to a different school for advanced studies. This created a multitude of social issues as I got older, including resentment from classmates. Also, in my teens, as the youngest in my class, dating became an issue. What kept me from completely getting my teeth kicked in every day by the bigger kids was developing my drawing talent and, of course, lying about my age.
GU: In September 2011, after a short hiatus, Donnie returned as an awkward teenager. What’s different about Donnie now he’s a little older?
RP: Well, like every teenager, he’s going through changes. He’s having the same problems most teenagers his age have. He’s trying to establish himself in a new environment, experimenting with relationships and trying to find his niche in the social circle. But since the stories are taking on more fantastical and grander settings this year, I had to kind of separate Donnie and Oliver from Lambertville and their school. I needed the real-estate to tell the bigger stories. And now Donnie also has to deal with the loss of his pal.
GU: You’ve recently moved from your Facebook page to a dedicated Donnie Goth website. What precipitated this move? What’s the reaction from Donnie fans been like?
RP: A few things caused me to move Donnie Goth from a Facebook exclusive project to his own website. One of them was the new Timeline redesign, which while great for a fan-page, lacks sorely to promote a product. In addition to that, the strips from last year required more extensive programming to get them online. The images were small and people had to authenticate to read them. In spite of the 10,000+ fans I had only about 3,000 were actually reading the strip. And we were looking to add video content this year as well. So I decided to create the website to have one single source for all the content.
GU: So far Donnie Goth has been exclusively on-line. What are the advantages of producing a web comic as opposed to traditional print comic?
RP: Easily accessible distribution. Traditional print comic distribution is not only costly, but limited really. There are only roughly 2,500 independent comic book shops nationwide and really only one distributor option. That makes it difficult and slow to build an audience when you are on a limited budget. Online let’s me reach and build an audience fairly quickly and to deliver the content as soon as it’s finished. There’s no wait for printing and shipping. I also love the fact that I’ve not only built a fan-base, but a community of friends that I can interact with on a daily basis. Instant feedback is pretty awesome too. In addition to all that, I’ve never imagined that Donnie Goth would only exist as a comic. I love creating video and musical content along with the regular strips and delivering that in print is impossible.
GU: Do you have any plans to produce a print version of Donnie Goth?
RP: I made a collected version earlier this year for Megacon, it was about 40 pages in black and white, with a mix of the old and new strips and some other bonuses as well. I imagine when I feel there’s enough content, I’ll put together a trade-paperback in full color. I’ve also been thinking about developing another storyline with the characters and releasing an original graphic novel, but that’s down the road. The web video series comes first.
GU: Season 2 kicked off this month with Killing Time. It’s strange to see Donnie without Oliver by his side? Has Oliver been killed off for good?
RP: Oliver will be back next month in his own adventure in the underworld in the Salamandhalla story arc. I’ll be alternating releases between Donnie and Oliver’s story arc through December.
GU: Can you reveal any more details about your plans for Season 2?
RP: Well, season 2 is going to consist of 2 diverging story arcs, Oliver in his dimension and Donnie’s here on earth. But in the end they’ll be reunited in epic fashion.(In other words, people will die, massive amounts of blood will be spilled and things will burn, LOL).
Also, for season 2, I have two new artists working with me to bring the world of Donnie Goth to life. This will help me bring more content to the fans in a timely manner and to develop other projects such as the animated series.
GU: Thanks Ricardo for taking the time to chat with GeeksUnleashed.Me. Do you have any parting words for fans (old and new) of Donnie Goth?
RP: This is just the beginning. There are tons of plans for Donnie Goth and his world and I hope they enjoy the strip enough to stick with me. For the old fans who have been there from the beginning I thank you. Your love for the character keeps me going even when I feel tired or burned out. For the new fans welcome, I’m glad to have you and look forward to creating my best work for you.
So that’s the end of the interview and the end of the first in this new regular feature. I hope you enjoyed it. I really enjoyed chatting to Ricardo and it was great to get an insight into his work.
If this article has got you intrigued about the world of Donnie Goth you can check out all the strips at DonnieGothComic
For a preview of what’s to come in the near future for Donnie, check out the trailer below: