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Apocrypha Entertainment Presents:


MM: How young were you when the drawing bug bit you?

DC: I honestly couldn't tell you! I don't remember a time in my childhood that I wasn't drawing.

MM: Was there something in particular that drew you to art early in your life?

DC: I wish I knew! I think I just HAD to draw. It's cliché to say "like breathing," but.... really, like breathing.

MM: Were you one of those kids who doodled their way through class? What sorts of things filled the margins of your papers?

DC: I see you've been talking to my grade school teachers. YES, and it was mostly people and horses. I totally went through a horses stage (as all girls should). Oh, and bugs. I had an early fascination with insects. As for my earlier years (when it was more acceptable to draw in the margins), I spent a lot of time drawing my favorite animal, the giraffe.

I was a really good kid, but I was sent to the principal's office on a weekly basis, where I had to do my work through recess because I'd spent all of my classtime doodling instead.

MM: When did comics get on your radar?

DC: My grandfather used to read the Sunday funnies to me all the time when I was a kid, and I picked up on writing pretty quickly, but it took a few years for me to put two and two together. When my third grade art teacher asked us to do a comic strip for a class project, that was it. There wasn't another day that passed that I wasn't drawing comic strips (or at least thinking about creating them).

As for comic books, I had ABSOLUTELY no interest! My brother had a few Spiderman comics lying around, and after picking up just one I quickly realized that I was gonna stick to comic strips forever.

MM: Have you ever gone through any sort of formal art training? Was it useful, or did it try to keep you from using your natural instincts?

DC: Not really. I went to school for photography, but took as many extra art classes as I could. Because I wasn't at some high-brow art school, I was given a lot of freedom in my art classes once the professors realized what I was capable of. After I got my BFA I considered grad school at SVA or SCAD, but I soon realized that the niche field I'm in is best learned by experience, studying the masters, and talking shop with other cartoonists. Which is WAY cheaper than grad school!

I've been becoming more aware of my weaknesses lately, though, and wondering if I could have aced 'em if I'd gone to a school surrounded by other dedicated artists and illustrators. Backgrounds, color, anatomy... I'm dying for a workshop to become available to me! I feel I could really use the help. Then again, once a perfectionist...

MM: Do you remember your earliest comic strips? What were they about?

DC: My first one - the eighth-grade one - was called Fat Cat and was basically a rip-off of Garfield (you've gotta start somewhere!). Panel one: the cat owner swears to his fat cat that he's going to kick him out of the house; panel two: cat owner drops a carton of milk, slips on the milk, falls to the floor; panel three: Fat Cat licks milk off his owner and wins back his affections. I can't believe I remember the whole strip.

Fat Cat was short-lived (that was the only strip), and soon I moved on to dogs. Max & Jazz was my best-known ongoing grade school project, a comic strip about our family dog, Max, the cockapoo of his affections, Jasmine, and the rest of the neighborhood dogs. I did everything from traditional comic strips about Max & Jazz to product placement (tracing clothes models out of Sears catalogues and replacing the models' heads with dog heads) to flip-books. It was Saved By The Bell meets Obedience School.

I remember doing lots of little one-shot comic strips throughout middle school, experimenting with the medium (I used to tape a paper door to the last panel so my readers wouldn't skip to the punchline), and placing Max and Jazz directly into Peanuts strips and wondering why they didn't work the same way Snoopy did. Sometime in eighth grade I created Rae, my first attempt at a snarky curly-haired carrot top that preceded a particular Girls With Slingshots star.

MM: Given your gifts as an artist, how did that play into your social life as you passed through junior high and high school?

DC: Ha! Good question! Well, junior high school is miserable for EVERYBODY, but I was a shy girl to begin with. I spent most of my recesses in elementary school alone, drawing with rocks on the pavement or chasing bugs, or just daydreaming. In junior high you get to mingle with people who are developing the same weird freaky hobbies and personalities as yourself, so I had one or two good "weird" friends in junior high. In high school, being an art freak became "cool" (I went to school in a very liberal town). Desperate for popularity, I would glow when the popular kids would see me draw and say, "I wish I could draw like that." At that point in my life, I would have given anything to be as popular as them. Naturally, now I'm grateul that I got the artistic talents instead of the social graces.

MM: What was your first serious attempt at creating a comic strip? How does it hold up today?

DC: I think I was "serious" about every story I illustrated throughout my childhood. But my first "serious" published comic strip was "Larry and Caroline," which appeared in the local Hagerstown paper my first year of college. It's not awful - you can still find it on my website if you search for it. It was done with some awful Rapidograph tech pens and an old watercolor set I'd had since I was a kid. And naturally, they were done on printer paper. You can tell I was still discovering the tricks of comic strip writing, and hadn't quite gotten there yet.

MM: Did you ever face family pressure to do something else with your life? Or were they supportive of your goals?

DC: Tricky question! I have to admit, as much as I love my parents now, they really shielded me from thinking I could go into cartooning as a career. My mom is a nurse and my dad is an engineer, so the concept of one of their children going into the arts terrified them. They were supportive of my drawings, but didn't want me to attempt art full-time. When it came time for college, I was swayed to major in photography (a safer major) instead of illustration, and because they were helping me pay for my tuition, I gave in.

While I wish I could have taken higher-level art classes when I had the time (and student loans!), I'm glad I went to the school I did; the art classes I took on the side left something to be desired, but I fell in love with the town and very well may live here for the rest of my life.

And besides, I had to work really hard to get where I am now, and I'm proud of that. I was constantly doing new cartooning projects during my spare time in college, and approached every comics-related opportunity on my own. I quit my day job less than a year after I graduated and started to work full-time as a freelance caricature artist and illustrator. Now that I'm where I am, my parents are very proud (albeit surprised) to boast that their daughter is in the arts, and is making a living at it.

MM: As you began to define your cartooning style and look, did you have any specific influences? Is there anyone who particularly influences your writing as well?

DC: Oh wow... umm, everybody? :) I've drawn from a lot of other webcomic artists to develop my style. I used to use more lines and make my characters a bit more realistic-looking (which, unfortunately, a lot of people liked), but over time I've found I'm much better at, and I prefer, drawing in a more cartoony style. I'm constantly inspired by the syndicated strip Zits, I absolutely adore Meredith Gran's character design on Octopus Pie, Paul Southworth's character design & color on Ugly Hill, and of course, I find myself constantly looking to Scott Kurtz's PVP for ideas on all aspects of cartooning (including business and web design). I can honestly say that I haven't been more inspired by any one writer in particular, as I'm inspired by every word I read/hear. Though I do aspire to have a strip that's as solid as PVP some day. Some day!

I should note that James Hatton's webcomic In His Likeness keeps me creative, as he's a comedic writer who uses expression-less dots to tell his story. Now that's impressive.

MM: You mention those other webcomic folk- I've noticed there seems to be an interesting sort of bond between webcomic artists. Why is that? Does it come from a sort of "us against the world" mentality of those artists not working in print and struggling to pay for bandwidth?

DC: I sincerely hope nobody has an "us against the world" mentality when it comes to webcomics! Perhaps "us against syndicates," though. Those of us who have wanted to be cartoonists since we were little kids were quickly made aware of the one-in-an-insert-huge-number-here-chance of getting our comics in the newspapers.

Even still, I think the reason for the bond is simply out of common interest and accessibility - we're all doing this really niche hobby/career, and within this niche we even have subcategories: traditional gag comics, single-panel comics, comics about gaming, comics about sex, comics about furry animal-people having sex, etc. And because we're all online, we're as easy as "click" to get in touch with, and most of us are eager to chat with other people in our field.

I'm more likely to be drawn to those webcartoonists who are either "making it" as a career, or those who strive to. We tend to have a lot in common - a self-starting attitude, an independent nature, and the drive to make the 50% of our lives that we spend working FUN!

MM: Where did GIRLS WITH SLINGSHOTS come from? How did the characters and cast come together?

DC: "Girls With Slingshots." *sigh* The two-dollar question (because that's what the answer is worth!). I started doing sketches at conventions long before GWS started. I'd be asked to draw females, mostly, but when people asked for "females with guns," I panicked. I can't draw guns. So I started to draw females with slingshots. Girls with slingshots. The name stuck!

I'd been working on my old high school strip, Hazelnuts, starring Hazel, Reese, and Jamie, for several years off-and-on, and when people finally started asking to see "Girls With Slingshots, the comic strip," I simply moved the Hazelnuts characters I was so fond of over to a new strip. They kinda skipped college and went straight to post-grad life, which is where I was at the time. Voila! Twenty-something comedy!

MM: Why a talking cactus in the middle of it all?

DC: "Moichendising, moichendising!" Yeah, really. I'd signed with 360ep in early 2005, and they immediately wanted a plushy. I told them "no way" on Hazel and Jamie dolls, because that just seemed creepy. So they asked me to come up with something "cuddly." What's more cuddly than a cactus? The Irish accent came from aforementioned Hatton, though he doesn't remember coming up with it. I still give him credit for that. Poor McPedro is a Mexican-looking cactus with a horrible fake Irish/Scottish accent, all because he was created by someone who drinks too often.

Come to think of it, I'd been developing a (HORRIBLE!) comic strip I'd considered sending to syndicates, starring a girl and her talking houseplant. I did three strips and gave up. But that was the inspiration behind McPedro the Talking Cactus.

MM: Your first trade collection is now available. How excited were you to hold it in hand, and what sort of emotions did you have upon seeing it?

DC: Oh, it's a great feeling! Of course, my first reaction was, "Why is the spine off? Why did I choose that color for McPedro's underpants? Why is this page number wrong? Why is this URL wrong?" etc., etc. Own worst critic, that sort of thing. But it feels good. Not "SURPRISE! You made it!" good, it just feels RIGHT. Like "I should have done this years ago" right.

MM: You have a second volume coming in Spring. Was it easier to start on that one, having figured out the ups and downs of doing the first one?

DC: Heh... um, "was?" I haven't started it yet. But after the experience of creating the first one from scratch (during which friends once again held funerals for me, family members sought therapy to ask "why do I never hear from Danielle anymore?"), I believe it'll be a snap, which is why I'm penning it for late spring. A pal of mine is teaching me how to use In Design or whatever that software I SHOULD HAVE USED is called. And after two days of reading tutorials on how to turn 160 pages into one layered PDF, I figured it out in Adobe Professional in like, two seconds. So I won't have that heartache ever again.

Now the only tricky part will be ISBNs and distribution. This is all new to me. I'll be re-releasing a second edition of the Volume One book at the same time as Volume Two, this time with all the ISBN stuff. Wish me luck!

MM: What is the future of the strip? Continue on the web as long as possible and keep doing collections every year or so?

DC: You got it. I like flying by the seat of my pants, so who knows, maybe one day I'll quit GWS and go in a totally new direction. But for now, I'm sticking with the strip.

MM: What plans do you have for comics and art beyond the strip? Would you ever work with someone else on a project, either writing for someone else or drawing someone else's story?

DC: I've worked with other people on books, and I hate it. I've worked with some of the nicest people around, just pleasures to work with. But I'm a control freak, so I'll probably stick to doing my own books and stories from now on. Though the occasional anthology or three will happen, I'm sure.

I'd love to pitch some ideas to good old Hollywood, but that's a far-off goal that I won't cry over if I never make it there. But damn, do I have some fun ideas for kids shows!

So more realistically, I've been writing two books - one collection of short stories, and one graphic novel - in my head for a little over a year now. Hopefully one of them will be written before I'm 30. You'll have to keep up with the GWS site to find out!

Marc Mason


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