For this installment of Ego Check, I had the good fortune of communicating with Brian Patterson of d20monkey (www.d20monkey.com) for well over a month. I first came across his site months ago and have thoroughly enjoyed his comic strip. If you have not visited his site before, then you must do yourself a favor and check out his work. The characters in the strip are lovable and the sense of humor should be right up any geek’s alley.
In this extensive interview, Brian discussed his early influences as an artist and how the d20monkey endeavor began. He shares the development of the specific characters in his comic, including how his relationship with certain cast members are dynamic and – at times – quite complicated. He closes the interview by speaking about his comic’s evolution and how he feels welcomed in the online gaming community. It was a pleasure to get to know more about the world of and creator behind d20monkey. I hope you enjoy the interview as much as I did conducting it.
Thank you for meeting with me! I have laughed quite a bit as a result of visiting the comic strips on your site, d20Monkey. What was the origin of the webcomic?
Like many other cartoonists, I started drawing as soon as I could hold a crayon. It didn’t take long for me to fall into a love of comics and then on my 10th birthday, I played my first game of DUNGEONS & DRAGONS. Fast-forward to 2010 when I decided after years of comics, writing, and freelance projects for others to finally strike out on my own with d20monkey. For me the comic is the culmination of experiences combined with my love of comics and gaming.
I think the comic is great, and there are many things I wish to discuss with you. Many people talk about their influences that pushed them toward playing roleplaying games, but I’m also curious about your artistic influences. How did you arrive at your current style of drawing?
I played my first game of D&D on March 13th, 1987. It was a few days away from my 10th birthday and I was waiting for my Dad to pick me up from school. He was running late and it was pouring outside. I was sitting under the archway entrance to the school when out of nowhere these older kids nearby (all laughing and playing something) asked me if I wanted to play a game of Dungeons and Dragons with them. Their DM, a freckle-faced kid named Tony, handed me a 1st-level dwarf fighter and for the next two hours I had the time of my life. I know it’s cliché to say so but that experience put me on the path to becoming who I am today. I cut yards, did chores, and saved every penny to buy my first boxed set and when I did I never looked back. D&D (and games in general) have been a part of my life for 24-years and I see them being here until my last breath. Gaming led to meeting some of my closest and dearest friends, wonderful memories, and opened my imagination in ways I never dreamed possible.
Artistically, I did what other comic artists do as children: I looked (and lifted) from established artists of the time. Initially I drew monsters and characters from the D&D mythos straight out of PHBs and Monster Manuals. The art in the early editions of the game just had this way of reaching out and grabbing you. Sure, the art and production values of RPG products today are leaps and bounds ahead of what came before but even now, looking at old modules I “oooh and aaaaah”. I mean, Jeff Easley. Come on.
With comic books, I grew up reading Batman, Superman, and Captain Marvel (Shazam) primarily with Cap being my all-time favorite hero. That said, I learned what I consider to be the basics from comic book greats like Norm Breyfogle, Curt Swan, John Byrne, and Alan Davis. Over on the comic strip side I read Garfield, Marvin, and Bloom County. Berke Breathed. Damn. The things I would do or sacrifice to have a conversation with that man right now. Between comic work and children’s books, his art and writing struck a chord with me at a very young age that resonates today. I know you cannot see it to look at my work but I like to think he is one of artists who made me who I am today, artistically.
When the 90s arrived and the guys from Image lit the comic book world on fire I was right there watching with everyone else thinking “Wow…. you mean I could make books with my own characters and be successful too?” The guys from Image were rock stars and like a desperate groupie after a show, we (meaning most of my generation of cartoonists) looked on with starry-eyes and dreamed of comic fame and fortune. Jim Lee’s art to this day still makes me as giddy as a 12-year old girl and a Bieber concert. I’m a total Fan Boy for his work and I don’t care who knows it. Did you see his work with Jeph Loeb on the HUSH story arc in Batman? Holy shit. Each and every page is a clinic to comic creators everywhere. I don’t care if you’ve done this for 15-minutes or 15-years, everyone can learn something from Jim Lee.
When I reached adulthood, I had my moment of clarity: Draw what you want, exactly the way you want to draw it. I did and much like D&D, I’ve never looked back. What I love the most about art is the visible changing of the seasons and evolution of an artists’ style. The process never really ends but it’s great (and sometimes mortifying) to go back and look. Hell, just in the time since d20monkey began my style has evolved slowly as daily work aided my comfort levels with the characters and the world they live in.
That is a quite vivid memory of your first D&D experience! And, wow, I remember those early Image days. That is around that time that I got into comics, which for me was late high school and early college. I was a casual comics fan but felt overwhelmed by the decades of lore on titles like X-Men. The Image titles were attractive because they were new stories and the art was fantastic. I collected many of those books for a few years, and stuck with Spawn the longest. I fell out of reading comics for a long time, but I appreciate the art and talent in those books. In recent years, I’ve started to read more books; the last comics I read were Cacophony and The Widening Gyre Batman books; those were tremendous. I remain in love with Y: The Last Man. I think that story is brilliant and the art is also great. The Walking Dead is interesting, but it’s so bleak and depressing.
It’s great you channeled your interests and talents to set up the website to host your work! You said you now draw what you want. What did you draw before?
Professionally (meaning my 9-5 gig) I am a graphic designer and illustrator for a merchandising company. My work days are filled with tasks and projects geared toward other people’s goals, not mine. With d20monkey, I have the opportunity to work on something that belongs to me and serves as an outlet for everything I want to talk or joke about.
Comics-wise, I’ve worked with other writers and artists over the years. When I really started stepping into comics (and the idea of self-publishing) in high school, I worked with a small collection of guys who all aspired to be the next Hall of Heroes, studio-wise. We worked on our comic every day, planning out huge story arcs encompassing years of worth of issues. We made ashcan comics at 3 in the morning at Kinko’s just to give them away to anyone who’s take one. We’d go to local conventions, meet creators and dream of being behind the table someday. Now, many years later I am the only one doing comics but I look back at that time and those characters (like Happy Killer who still means the world to me) and smile. I think those years looking up to the stars and dreaming big helped put me on the path to where I am today: An adult who looks up at the stars and dreams big. HA! HA!
I really enjoyed your first comic and the introduction that went along with it, which included:
In the weeks to come, the identities, personalities, personal quirks, and goings on of all involved should come into focus (for good or ill). . . . If comics with references to gaming, comic books, movies, general purpose geekery, and the occasional dick-joke float your boat I hope you’ll drop by throughout the week to see what the guys are up to (or into).
How would you describe the world of d20monkey? Who are the main characters and what does each of them represent to you?
Man, that is a question I could come at from so many angles.
The world of d20monkey is something that evolves and develops with every comic. When I started sketching the cast members and thinking about the first few comics, I had this notion that I would do whatever the hell I wanted to do regardless of the outcome. I guess I was looking back on the years when I thought being a “real” comic creator meant being the kind of writer who didn’t need violence or one-liners to sell a joke or story arc but I did not care (I still don’t care. LOL). I wanted to make a comic that expressed any thoughts, feelings, or opinions I had on gaming or the gaming community to share at the moment. The sky was the limit and I let my imagination go unchecked in the planning stages.
In the original concepts of the cast, Sam was actually an anthropomorphic monkey. He was the subject of drug testing that led to increased intellect. He escaped from the testing lab and was found by Pops behind the Dragon’s Den (the local game shop). Pops took him in and Sam embraced gamer culture. He would eventually work in the shop as well. I went so far as to create the first week of strips (one for Monday, Wednesday, and Friday) to set up a buffer. After sleeping on it for a night I opened all three comics, read them, and scrapped them. There was just something nagging me about having an actual monkey in the comic. Sure, I’ve used d20monkey as a handle for years online (starting over on Monte Cooks forums) and by extension, Sams’ in-comic blog is called d20monkey but it just seemed like a huge trope to drop a monkey into the comic. I’m not saying I’ll never use a trope for a laugh but looking at that one each and every day scared me. The monkey/shop-owner formula plays out over in KODT, as well. I am a huge fan of Jolly Blackburn’s work and I wouldn’t want to tread on that.
After some sketching and re-tooling, I dove back in with the first comic and I’ve never looked back. With the rest of the cast, I’d love to say that I used some fantastically original method for finding their voices and personalities but the truth is; I looked into myself and people around me.
Brett – I’ve met Brett a thousand times over the years at gaming tables. He is in every gaming community (online or otherwise), he’s at conventions, and could very well be a player in your group right now. He knows the rules and how to play the game but he is a raging asshole who makes you question your own sanity for keeping him around. You keep him there because you believe deep down he is a decent guy who just lacks any kind of real social skills. Brett’s are loud, they’re arrogant, they correct you at every turn and when it isn’t YOU they’re pointed at they’re also damn funny. I’ve never been Brett at the table but I’ll cop to sharing his knack for ranting when something gets under his skin. I think a stress-relieving rant is good for you sometimes. I’m no professional though.
Sam – Sam is the everyman DM. He’s witty, he’s creative, and he loves to play. Unfortunately, all of Sams’ good intentions never seem to pan out the way he planned them. You know Sam. Hell you may BE Sam. That DM who spends hours during the week pouring over books, writing flavor text, developing NPC and elaborate campaign stories, all to watch it burn to the ground at the hands of his PCs (see Brett) or bad dice rolls. He’ll keep doing it because he loves the game and making his players happy but you have to feel a little bad for him.
Charlie – Blindness runs in my family. I have poor eyesight but the fear of losing my vision outright is something that stays in the back of my mind as I get older. Charlie helps me deal with that fear by showing the readers (and me, really) that despite being blind Charlie has a full and active life that includes gaming. If the worst were to happen to my vision I would be devastated but I’d also be the guy at the table playing every game I could.
Trevor – I knew from day one I wanted Trevor in the comic. Again, drawing from personal experience I’ve met so many wonderful people through gaming that gay, straight, black, white, blue never really mattered to me but I think every community should (and will) be represented during my time with d20monkey. Trevor is based on three gentlemen in particular (appearance, dress, and personality) whom I’ve rolled dice with. It is a challenge to find the right voice for Trevor and I love challenges. I want him to have a noticeable presence but not be “that gay guy” if that makes sense. Gay does not always mean feather boas and throwing confetti. Trevor is a gamer just like everyone else and he is damn good at it if you’ve read his appearances you’ll see that). I’d like readers to see him as Trevor first and foremost, not a statistic or niche cast member.
Mel – Just like Trevor and the gay community, lady gamers are fantastic and will always have a place at my table. I know the ladies of the world do not need a guy like me to stick up for them at all but the southern guy, raised to respect ladies is something that is hard to turn off (and I wouldn’t want to anyway). Mel is that cute, funny, smart lady in the game shop who isn’t attached to a “bro” or wandering around bored. You know her. She’s there at the new release shelf every week and maybe this week will be the week you’ll say hello. Okay, maybe next week. She hits the conventions, plays just about everything and never has a problem telling assholes like Brett what to shove into the orifice-of-the-week.
Emma – Based on my cat. Emma is evil. Pure, fluffy, evil.
“Pure, fluffy, evil.” Excellent!
It’s fascinating how you have drawn from real-life experiences and combined them with certain themes that you find important. It seems you wanted to have a multicultural-friendly comic without turning it into something “preachy.” For instance, Trevor, Mel and Charlie should hopefully indicate to readers that you understand “gamers” are not just the stereotypical white male, but include everyone that wants to play the game. It is a welcome mat of sorts to those that come to your site. I’ve enjoyed getting to know the crew, and certainly see some of my gaming friends in the characters you have brought to life.
Back in May, you introduced a new character to the series, Rolly the Rowl. Rolly dispenses incredibly important information to readers about gaming-table etiquette. Why did you develop the character? And which character channels your “voice” most often?
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve played role-playing game (and games in general) for a long time and during those years I’ve met a lot of folks who could use some etiquette lessons. We all know the guy: He is loud, he backseat role-plays, looks at your dice rolls, argues with the DM, and eats all of the communal chips. Outside of the game, he is probably a decent guy but sit him down with a character sheet and some dice and he becomes the living, booger-eating stereotype of everything that is bad about the gaming community.
For my own sanity and the sanity of young DMs out there, Rolly is the answer. Through that wisdom-spouting owl, I hope to occasionally deliver a little bit of proper table etiquette to the readers and maybe, just maybe, there will be a guy who reads a Rolly strip and thinks “Wait. I do that. Holy crap, I need to change my ways.” It is a lofty dream but I dare to dream it.
When it comes to the characters’ voice I most identify with, I think it is Sam but some friends say I channel Brett when I’m annoyed (which is fair). Like many DMs out there, I like to think Sam is a voice of reason in a sea of chaos that is the gaming table. Sure, he’s a smart ass too and he has his moments like everyone else but I think he is the character that is more “me” than the others.
Your description earlier of the genesis for Charlie is quite interesting. Losing vision would be scary for most people, but it would seem to take on extra meaning for someone like you who works in a very visual field. It is great that the strip gives you an outlet to tell yourself, “Hey, I’ll find a way to make it work if the worst happens.” Are there times when you edit a strip because it hits too close to home, or do you feel comfortable self-disclosing in the comics? Of all your comics you’ve posted, which one is the most personal so far?
So far, no one strip has really hit me in the gut (emotionally speaking). I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not writing Shakespeare here but I have my moments where things get a little serious, rare as those moments are. Now that said, I know what is coming up and there are two moments that I’m dreading from a creator-to-creation standpoint. Some writers relish putting their cast through the ringer and while I love to take jabs, there are major shake-ups coming before the end of the year that I’m going to have trouble with. I expect it to be one of those moments you read about where the writer gets emotional during the process and needs to walk away from it. I’ll probably invest in some cheesecake and Kleenex when that day comes.
Where I had a real issue this year comic wise was with Mel. Mel is based loosely on my now ex-wife (we finalized the divorce in late July) and it was very awkward to write or draw Mel with that constant reminder looking me in the face.
To be honest, I dodged her for a little while. I had too. My heart was broken, life was turned upside-down and this cartoon version of my ex-wife was staring back at me every time I tried to write a comic with Mel in it. After a few months of procrastination, I finally sat down to retool her look in an effort to save the character. With a new hair style and a slightly different cadence to her dialogue, I managed to change her enough for myself to continue to use Mel in the comic. I’m grateful for that too as I love Mel. I love what her character means to the comic and to her fans. I have a lot of awesome lady gamers who read d20monkey tell me how nice it is to see someone like Mel mixing it up at the table with jerks like Brett. I don’t think the comic would be the same without her.
That is what the comic is for me. It’s always been a bit of a sounding board, soap-box, and therapist all rolled into one. I can speak through the characters, vent my frustrations and fears (even if they are not glaringly obvious), and maintain my calm. I started taking Lexapro a few years ago and it’s one of those things in life where I wish I had not been so stubborn about doctors and medical science. It isn’t a Jekyll/Hyde scenario by any means. I won’t run naked through the streets with a lightsaber if I miss my meds that morning but the prescription keeps me even, if that makes sense.
I consider myself lucky in that I have meds, d20monkey, and my friends to keep my head on straight.
I took a few hours last week and read (or in many cases, re-read) all of the comics you have posted on your site. Now that you mention it, Mel was missing in action for a while, but I never thought twice about it before. That is quite the process of exposure in terms of dealing with your ex-wife each time you draw one of the characters in your strip. I think many people would find a way to lose the character of Mel and bring in another female character to take her place, but it seems important for you to keep her around. That is some serious dedication to your strip and the fans who have become invested in the characters! I doubt many of the followers of your strip know about the personal challenges involved in creating the content, and I will certainly count myself in that crowd.
There is such a great deal of misinformation about psychology and mental health out there in the public that it doesn’t surprise me you’d feel hesitant to explore visiting with a doctor. I do not prescribe medication in my profession, but I’m familiar with the various options for symptoms like depression and anxiety and how the medication can “keep things even.” Although I think you’re missing out by *not* running naked through the streets with a lightsaber!
I assume you cannot talk about the major shake-ups in the world you have created, but your preview of what is to come is so ominous. What is driving you to alter the comic and characters in such a significant way?
I’m not sure if it’s really a burning desire to change just for the sake of change but there are a few storylines floating around the comic right now that I will resolve soon. I like to think it is the same for anyone creating a comic or writing a series with a cast of characters: If you do not push things from time to time, it becomes boring. We’ve all seen it when a series (whether it be comics, books, T.V., movies, etc.) runs a little too long or the creator(s) become bored with the subject matter. Their contempt oozes off of the work like a nuclear spill, wasting everything in its path until there’s no audience left.
I do not want to be that guy.
So, to keep myself on my toes from time to time I will inject these moments of pseudo-seriousness or drama just to show the audience (and myself) that I’m capable of it. Honestly, I think that’s a driving force behind it. I make jokes about how this comic is all D&D and dick jokes but I’d really like to show that I can do more when the situation calls for it. I’m not going to turn this into a Mary Worth comic or anything like that, but the moments of drama will be there. I’m looking for quality over quantity.
You have dabbled in Family Circus though! Perhaps Mary Worth isn’t far off the mark.
You’ve described the occasional emotional toll the comic can take on you, but can you walk through the practical issues of developing an idea for a strip and executing it for the site? How long does the process take and what are the steps involved?
Every comic begins with an idea. I have an old Justice League of America spiral notebook that I use to keep ideas and notes. If something in the geek news catches my eye or a funny gaming-related story comes to the surface of my memory, I write it down for later use. I rarely throw any idea away completely and half of the notebook is reserved for one-off comics while the other half contains outlines and notes for the ongoing story arcs.
The first part of the process is writing and layout. I know this part is different for every creator but for me it means sitting down in front of a blank comic template and visualizing the placement of the dialogue with sketches of the characters.
I have a series of blank work templates in Photoshop (1-panel, 2-panels, etc.) that I copy and save as the comic I am working on and begin sketching the character placements in blue line with a basic idea of the dialogue in my head as I sketch. I’ll cop to this: I have voices for each of the characters and when I work out the dialogue, I do their voices out loud. It helps me with the process and getting their “voices” right within the script.
I recently started sending my initial drafts to my girlfriend, Jenny. She is a talented writer in her own right and it is nice to have a sounding board now. If she catches a typo or something seems weird, she let’s me know in about the most professional way possible. I value her input and there are a few times she’s mentioned something that led to a new way to present the strip. The overall idea is the same, but it’s a little more focused. Admittedly, I have a tendency to over-explain things in the comic. Or rather, I used too.
Once I have the basic sketches complete and the first draft of the text placed, I create a new layer and begin inking. I am using a Wacom Cintiq now and it makes the process much easier working directly onto the screen. Early on, I did the comics traditionally with pen and paper, scanned them, and coloring in Photoshop. Now, I work directly in Photoshop.
Once I complete the ink work, I copy the layer and use the copy to lay in my spot colors underneath the black line layer. Once the flat colors are in, I create a layer for shading and add the appropriate shadows to give the characters depth and add any additional details, (glowing effects, highlights, etc.) before finally adding a layer for the text balloons. During the lettering process, I tighten up and edit the dialogue if needed. As I mentioned, I usually over-explain so this is a good time to condense things and give the comic more punch.
From beginning to end, the process varies from a couple of hours or more, depending on the level of detail and complexity of the comic in question. I am getting into a rhythm with d20monkey and drawing the cast is becoming second nature. My issue comes with tweaking the cast’s appearance over time. Some cartoonists like to maintain a static look. I like to reflect an individuals right to change or develop. For instance, Brett’s hair is getting a little longer over time. It’s subtle but I know it’s there. I’ve tweaked Sam a LOT since the first comic and I am finally happy with his look. The same applies for Charlie. His look is an evolution that is not yet complete. As my comfort and look improves, so too does the look of the cast. I think it has too for me to stay current and engaged. The all-digital medium gives me a lot of room to play as well.
I still do a lot of sketching on paper and board. In my opinion, you cannot replace the feel of pen in hand, working on a nice piece of Bristol board. I plan to do sketches at conventions next year and I believe that will satisfy my need a traditional medium.
I went back to look at your first comic on d20monkey and the style and look of the characters are quite different from the beginning. Has your art style changed along with the characters?
I see it as a natural progression. Before I started the comic, I drew everyday but never to the level of completion associated with a 3-day a week comic. It was always sketches or inks and that was about it. It’s like anything else: Practice and repetition.
Through repetition, my style has evolved. It’s a comfort level, really. When you begin it’s all new and you are finding your way and then one day something clicks. Suddenly, you feel at home with the world and characters you’ve created. Look at any cartoonists work over a period of time and you’ll see evolution in their style. Mike Krahulik’s (of Penny Arcade) is a good example, as his early work was very anime influenced and over time his style developed. The process never stops and I imagine I’ll look back years from now and see a difference in my look as well.
Hell, I HOPE I see progress.
I’m fascinated by the creative process for artists; it’s a talent I wish I had. I have been doodling since I remember, but it never amounted to anything. The most difficult class I took in college and graduate school that didn’t feature statistics was an Introduction to Drawing course. I think I ended up with a B in that class, and I was thoroughly proud of that grade!
One of the things I’ve been curious about is the amount of pressure you feel to develop a comic that is always topical in terms of “geek news.” Many of your comics are commentary on the “controversy” of the day or week. How do you balance working on personal storylines, which we discussed earlier, and incorporating “geek news” strips?
Honestly? I do not have a real formula or schedule for balancing topics. I hold to the simple idea that when I am in the middle of a story arc, I stay with the arc no matter what happens in the gaming or geek community. If something inspires a great strip that I believe will hold up, I write it down and use it after the arc is completed. Otherwise, I keep my head down on the story at hand.
Again, it is a level of comfort. Early on, I worried a bit about touching on subjects and poking angry grognards with sticks but one morning, I woke up and said, “Screw it. It’s my comic.” From there until now, I pretty much hit on anything I find amusing. I am not out to make fun of folks specifically or hurt feelings but there are some topics (like Essentials or smelly convention-goers) that need to be poked a little. I’d rather we all laugh together about things but I have my fair share of folks who are not happy with what I do. Trolls will be trolls and all that.
I think the comic has a good balance of ongoing storylines in your world and humorous one-offs on news items like the recent shutdown by the Fourthcore developers. One thing I find interesting is the way the comic has filtered into the online D&D community in recent months. From the outside, it seems the strip has established a strong foothold and built momentum. Do you sense the same from the inside of the operation?
I do and it is this odd combination of fulfillment and humble pie. It’s weird. When I started posting d20monkey comics I obsessed over page views, comments, and the general exposure of what I was doing. Every creator does it (whether they want to admit it or not) but there comes a time soon thereafter where you put your head down and focus on the work. If you work hard and put yourself into the material, readers will come. That’s what I did and it appears as though the gaming community likes where I am taking the comic, which is very fulfilling.
There are several folks out there in the game design and blogging world mentioning d20monkey on new comic days and chat with me on occasion (which is pretty awesome). I think folks forget that we all have our heroes and people we admire. Meeting those folks can be a double-edged sword sometimes and you hear the horror stories but I love the opportunities. The day the official D&D account followed me on Twitter I squee’d a like a little girl. Sure, it’s just someone hitting “follow” but to me it was this moment of “Wow! Someone over at WotC reads d20monkey!” Meeting some of the faces behind their online accounts at GenCon this year was fantastic. We’re all just gamers, after all.
A friend commented recently that I seem to straddle the line between the comic/cartoonist community and the gaming community. It’s a fair statement but I’m not trying to get into one more than the other. I just love comics and games and I hope that shows through d20monkey and my comments on Twitter, etc.
Speaking of the D&D community, I thought the strip on Elminster’s Jock sparked one of the more fun and organic social media collaborations I have seen. After you posted the strip, Randall Walker at Initiative or What? created a Magic Item Stat Block for Elminster’s Jock. Could you comment on this episode specifically and your relationship with a growing fanbase generally?
I love that strip. If I ever do a “Best of” collection, it will be there.
Folks may or may not know this but I have a strange fascination with mocking the iconic characters of the Forgotten Realms. I LOOOOOOVE to rip on Elminster and Drizzt. I have no malice in my heart for Ed Greenwood and all of the amazing work he did in creating the Realms (or the talented creators to come along after him as well). It isn’t about the people behind the Realms so much as it is the fictional characters themselves. This may not be a popular statement but they annoy me.
I am going to show my grognard here: I am a Greyhawk guy. I will always be a Greyhawk guy and the Realms was the usurper to the D&D throne, so to speak. Faerun is a fantastic world. In a different time or place I could have easily been a die-hard FR guy. However, I’m not and there is this running joke among a percentage of the gaming community that FR is so well-developed and deep with heroes that the question arises “Why do you need me?” (hence the joke in the comic). All of the Mary Sues running around, seeming to do no wrong can be annoying (or downright frustrating).
I knew going into the strip that some folks would take offense and that the community might discuss it. I had no idea that Randall would take the ball and run with it in such a way. Randall Walker is good people. He really is a proper ambassador and elder statesman for D&D and gaming in general. To have him take the time to create the actual item and post it was fantastic. I laughed my ass off and I knew right then that d20monkey was a part of the gaming community. How do I put this? I felt welcomed. If someone takes the time to write up fan-fiction or draw fan-art or stat out a magic item in your comic you know someone cares about the work you’re doing.
It is through interactions like this that I meet so many incredible people online and at conventions. I know it may sound cliché but I really do have amazing readers. For every piece of troll mail I receive there are 10 positive comments on Twitter and emails from folks who love the characters and read 3-days a week. They’re funny, engaging, caring people who love to game and share a laugh. I could not ask for anything more. I love to meet them, talk with them, and share some dice roll at a game table.
It is great that you feel welcomed into the community, and have support from other gamers out there visiting your site. Has there been anything related to the increased exposure of your comic that has been a negative?
In a word: Trolls.
It seems to be a common trend, really. With success and exposure, the more likely you are to attract people who want to tear you down or ruin your day. I have my share of troll mail but to be honest, most of it is hilarious for the poor grammar, spelling, and outright outrageousness of their comments. I’ve been told how horrible I am, informed of my eventual eternity in the fiery pits of Hell, and told I am a “zit on the ass of comics”. I am amazed at how low some of these folks go to wound someone they’ve never met. Early on, it got to me but as time passes, my armor thickens up and the rare troll email bounces right off.
Aside from those emails, doing d20monkey 3 days a week and talking with readers is awesome. I love it and with a growing audience, I seem to meet new cool people every week.
Besides the character changes in the comic your hinted at earlier, what other changes do you anticipate for your website? What can we expect in the future? For example, you recently started selling merchandise from the comic; what has that process been like for you?
Opening an online store is terrifying. It is rewarding but in the early going, you sweat all of the details. Setting up the store and ordering the first run of shirts was nerve wracking. Do you order too many or not enough? I anguished over those decisions a bit and finally worked through the nerves, ordered shirts, and started filling orders. Now I offer a few designs and a print and things are running smoothly. I hope to expand slowly over the next year and live the impossible dream of making d20monkey my full-time job.
I am in talks with a few publishers and studios on various projects and cross-promotion ideas and I really hope the logistics can work out on a few of them. I want to have the d20monkey characters out there for people to see and continue to produce the best comics possible.
No matter how many deals or side-projects I have, it will always be about the comic. I love creating comics and if the store closed tomorrow and I was never lucky enough to step into public forums such a conventions or promotional deals, I would still be drawing d20monkey 3-days a week. For me, Sam, Brett, Charlie, Mel, and the others are like family and I could never turn my back on them. No matter what life throws at me, good or bad, those characters will always be with me.
Brian, thank you for spending so much time talking about your creation and the motivations behind your work. I’m sure fans will enjoy the opportunity to learn more about you and the characters in d20monkey. I hope your site continues to grow, and you don’t have to deal with too many trolls!
I just want to thank you for inviting me to do this interview. It’s been a wonderful process. I don’t do many of these and to be honest, they make me a little nervous but you’ve alleviated any fears or concerns I might have. You are a master of your craft, sir. Thank you so much.
Update: Check out Brian’s take on his interaction with The Id DM! http://www.d20monkey.com/2011/09/07/kung-frued-grip/