Josh Lesnick - Wendy Comic
Welcome to BLAG, don't ask about the name, it doesn't really mean anything. This is going to become an interview column where I'll be interviewing a new and exciting person every week, this week I interviewed Josh Lesnick who draws Wendy Comic, he's the first in a series I'm doing on web-comic artists, in the next few weeks I'll be interviewing the people behind Penny-Arcade, Avalon, explodingdog and many more.
Josh Lesnick is the artist behind a little web-comic simply called Wendy. Wendy is a comic about three (or is that four?) girls who live together and occasionally have wild, passionate sex with one another. The comic follows the three girls on their wacky and often non sequitur adventures. The success of the colour episodes of Wendy has spurred Josh to create the simpler Cute Wendy spin-off series. Aside from his work on the web Josh's art has been published in print by Antarctic Press, White Lightning Productions, and Radio Comix. I interviewed Josh via email from Toronto.
Tell the folks a bit about yourself, how did you get started making web-comics?
Josh: Hmm... actually, I don't know if I can pinpoint an exact moment where I decided putting my comics online would be a good idea. It was a pretty gradual thing. I've always enjoyed sharing my art, and thus jumped at the opportunity to make a personal webpage as soon as I got on the internet five years ago. I think at first I'd attempt to offer printed comics for sale through my web page, but as my web stuff evolved more and more, I eventually started offering my comics online along the way.
Wendy was my first attempt at an exclusively online comic with a regular schedule. It started out on a whim; just a mildly entertaining thing to put on the front page of the experimental website I was running at the time, but I started getting serious about the comic when Radio Comix agreed to publish some of its episodes.
All this time, I was pretty clueless about the existence of the rest of the webcomic world. One day, it just occurred to me that there may be a bunch of other people doing the same thing as me, so I searched the web for comic link lists, and found Bigpanda. I became really interested and worked on getting involved with the webcomic community.
Letter, Keenspot was coming to form, and I was invited to join. A few months later, I finally did so. That's pretty much where I am now.
Have you attempted to get your strip syndicated? What's the response been like?
Josh: Not really. Newspaper syndication is such a dick-in-the-ass process, it makes me wonder why cartoonists even strive for it anymore these days. If you get accepted by a syndicate, you lose the rights to your characters, your comic appears in 3 or 4 newspapers, you don't get paid THAT much, and if your comic doesn't take off right away, it's gone. The millions or readers and decent pay which probably attracts the cartoonists only happens AFTER the comic becomes a success, and how many newly successful comics do you see each year, among the-- hell, who knows how many are submitted. I never even format my comics so they're compatible with a newspaper. I just don't see a point in limiting myself for something like this.
Before getting into the internet, I'd submit stuff to comic book companies. The process for that wasn't quite as terrorizing. I got rejected all the time, of course, but then I WAS pretty young, and my art was so bad at the time I'm lucky one of my short stories actually made it into one of Antarctic Press's anthologies.
In the internet age, I'm still involved with printed stuff. I'm one of Radio Comix's regular contributors now, so they're pretty much my main company along with Keenspot.
Keenspot hosts your comic, how were you "discovered"? How has the banner-revenue fallout we've all heard about affected you?
Josh: I think Darren just really liked Wendy, so I was one of his suggestions. How he noticed it is beyond me... probably through Bigpanda, I'd imagine.
At the moment, the fallout has caused Keenspot to stop paying the cartoonists for the moment (I hope they don't mind me saying that)... which to me is not a really big deal since we weren't exactly making living wages. Either way, I'd have had cut back on my comics and get a second job after graduation, so basically, the fallout hasn't affected me at all.
I'm a comic artist, so I'm used to not getting paid. ^^; And I'd rather Keenspot not pay me and have a chance of succeeding later on than continue to pay me and fold very quickly like all those other idiot dot-coms.
Do you think that advertising is a sustainable way of funding online comics? If not, how will they be funded in the future?
Josh: It can be... we just need advertisers who aren't retarded. That's all there is to it. Comics are a visual medium, and we keep getting text ads about home loans and shit like that. Then the advertisers act surprised that they're not getting any click-throughs, and stop sending us ads. It's ridiculous.
We also need decent advertisers with good ad agencies to notice the potential of the internet. So far, for the most part we're getting other idiot dot-com's buying all the ads. What about Coca-Cola, or Levi's, or the other more prominent companies who understand that click-through's aren't everything?
Banner ads aren't useless. It's just that no one's doing them right.
Fortunately, in the meantime, Keenspot and all of us ARE looking into ways to bring in revenue without ads. It's pretty apparent to everyone that relying solely on ads is not the best thing to do right now.
Your strip features some fun-loving lesbians and bisexuals; do you ever get in trouble for your light-hearted approach to these issues?
Josh: Not really. It just gets complaints from various people who don't bother trying to understand my work. Personally, I think the fun-loving approach is the best approach, really. It's better than being pretentious and in-your-face about it.
The sapphism in my comic is pretty underplayed, despite what a lot of people seem to think. I believe the "sex in the squirrel tube" comics and the who deal where Yumi makes a move on Wendy at the beach were the episodes being shown around the time the comic started getting noticed and featured on Keenspot, and that just got people thinking Wendy was just some kind of hardcore lesbian comic. ^^;
It's also not there just to provide a cheap thrill, also despite what a lot of people seem to think, but it actually stems from my manga influences. Animated shows like Project A-ko and Utena would have elements of lesbian love in them, and that kind of thing rubbed off on me. And YES, perhaps being a bit perverted has something to do with it too, but I'm a male, gimme a break.
You've worked in print and on the web, which do you prefer?
Josh: The web, definitely. There's more artistic freedom, there's the ability to do color and other affects hard to achieve in print, and there's the chance for my career to go somewhere.
There's actually a chance for my career to go somewhere in print too, which is one the reasons I stick with it. It's not as high as it is with my online stuff, due to the printed comic business being generally slow and turbulent. But it's best to hang onto what options I have, I always say.
Where do you find the time to draw so many comics while attending University? Do you see yourself continuing in the comics trade after graduation?
Josh: Well... In my senior year, I've pretty much mastered the ability to do my classwork with as little effort as possible, which is what college is all about, really. ^^; Right now I'm finishing college up by taking 9 hours, and I don't even go to all my classes.
I'll definitely continue to draw comics after graduation, but I don't think there's any way we'll be seeing them done at the rate I've been doing them the past year. Unless, by some miracle, I find a "Work-at-home" job that pays enough for me to live and doesn't involve sending out SPAM to everybody, I'm probably going to have a lot of my weeks consumed by working on my job and then falling asleep after coming home from my job.
It's sad, but inevitable. If comics ever become profitable for me, I'll go back to being prolific as ever. Just gotta have faith...
What impact has the net and computer technology had on your art? Would you still be drawing comics if it weren't for the net?
Josh: Oh, I'm pretty sure I would. My artpad has made inking my comics a lot less frustrating, so long as my computer is stable. And the internet has helped me obtain audiences I've only dreamed about. But if I had neither of these things, I still think I would be drawing comics. I'd have found SOMETHING else to encourage me to keep going. I just totally incapable of giving up. I CAN'T quit. I'll never quit. Never.
How do you spend your time online? Offline?
Josh: I spend my time online working mostly. Really, I'll just sit at my computer all day inking pages while checking message boards and webcomics on the internet off and on. Now that I'm taking time off, I'm spending a lot of my time doing the IRC thing with Meredith and other friends of mine.
I don't spend nearly enough time offline, which is really bad. My spine is going to be permanently stuck in this position if I don't get up once in a while. But suring those rare moment that I'm not at my computer, I've been going to class, watching the Simpsons, and having the occasional DDR session, which I really need to get back into, because I was on the verge of being able to dance seven-foot songs before I started slacking off. But anyway...
What does the future hold for Josh Lesnick?
Josh: Hyeeeah... I honestly have no idea. I'm still optimistic and hoping all the effort I made will lead to some kind of reward where I get to spend my life making a living off doing what I enjoy. But it's still a mere hope. We'll have to wait a few years before I know if it'll become a reality or not.