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Scary-Go-Round has established itself as one of the best online comic strips. Created by John Allison, it tells the story of Shelley Winters and her friends through their daily lives that include, zombies, space owls, the devil, other dimensions, and other strange things.
Good afternoon John. How is the scary world of Scary Go Round?
It’s terrifying. I’m typing this under the dining room table. If I come out, they’ll get me.
I’d like to start at the start, if I may. How did Scary Go Round begin? Was it doodles? Biro sketches? Long, drawn-out telephone calls to United Utilities resulting in zombie pictures on Post-It notes? Tell us about the origins of the site and the stories.
I started a comic called Bobbins (still up at bobbins.org) in 1998. It was pretty rough and variable in quality, but I tried a lot of techniques and learned my craft doing it. When I felt I was good enough to try something ambitious (rather than counting every day I managed to make something a victory), I started Scary Go Round. I carried a lot of the characters from Bobbins over and started from scratch. I decided that everything that had happened in Bobbins was relevant, but I’d never mention it in those events in the new comic.
Did you start off as a paper illustrator, or have you always relied upon new media to refine your style? If you did start off with pen or pencil sketches, how did you find the transition from one medium to another? Was it a natural progression? Did you always have it in mind?
There was no rhyme or reason to my starting to work in Illustrator, I’d done the first few years of Bobbins by hand, then I made the switch. Overall I was insecure about my hand drawing and was looking for robotic consistency. I had no idea what I was doing. I produced some really ugly work. Robotically consistent ugly work! The transition was ghastly. I prefer drawing by hand, but it needs me to be fresh and fit and up for drawing. In Illustrator, I can produce something presentable so long as I sit in front of the computer long enough. When people write and ask me how to get started drawing in Illustrator, I tell them not to. Sometimes I wish I’d spent the last four years learning how to be a better draughtsman, but Illustrator has taught me a lot about composition, so nothing’s been lost. I can draw better with a pen now than I ever could before.
How hard was it to establish yourself as a website? It’s easy enough to set up a website if you have the knowledge, but gaining an audience is a lot harder. What steps did you take to make your work more widely known? Was it mostly by word of mouth?
It was all word of mouth! I did crossovers with other comics with whose creators I was friendly, got linked to on people’s websites who liked the comic. If you’re any good and you have even a little bit of go-ahead ambition, you can do it.
How’s the merchandising going? You have a great range of gear for sale through your website, and the best part is that I’ve seen some of it, and it looks just as good in real life as it does on-screen. Which is more important to you: a quality product, or profits? I know it’s a loaded question really, because everybody selling something will claim that their product is a quality one, but what I’m getting at, I guess, is: do you have to compromise a certain profit margin to ensure a high quality of merchandise for your customers?
I didn’t make anything until demand for it would satisfy the outlay on quality product. I won’t sell my readers shoddy books or cheap and nasty shirts. You have to hustle to get the best deals on things, I get my colour printing done in the Far East and take advantage of weak currencies where I can. Also, I don’t buy into the comics industry nonsense of $3 stapled minicomics. I’m pretty much obsessed with fairness.
Okay, okay, okay! I’ve asked LOADS of boring questions now. In the last few hours since we got the ok to interview you, we’ve been bombarded with questions for you, so I’m going to let your fans take the reins…
Will there be any more saddest Wookiee stuff? And do you get any grief from Lucasarts?
No chance. Grief? Only when I watch their dreadful movies.
What comics are you into outside of those listed on your site?
I like Peter Bagge (Hate, Sweatshop), Chris Ware (Jimmy Corrigan, Acme Novelte Library), James Kochalka comics, Jason Little (Shutterbug Follies), Jim Mahfood (40Oz comics).
Do you make a living from Scary Go Round, or is it just a profitable endeavour?
It is my living.
What is your favourite colour?
I don’t have a favourite colour, colour is relative.
If there was a Scary Go Round soundtrack, what would be on it?
A soundtrack to the comic? When it’s a Shelley and Amy story, it would be Vince Guaraldi style jazz playing in the background, like the old Charlie Brown tv specials. When Fallon goes on a mission, nasty Giorgio Moroder Scarface synths and pumping 70s disco.
What is your obsession with communism?
I’m fascinated by any ideology so fundamentally flawed that could nonetheless be accepted by millions of people without near-immediate rejection. Plus the funny broken English makes for some good comics.
If you weren’t John Allison, which comic artist (print or digital) would you most like to be?
What a frightening question.
Why do you keep killing Shelley off? ENOUGH already!
She only died once. Once was more than enough.
How long do you have your stories planned out for?
Sometimes I have an idea of what will happen three or four weeks ahead. Sometimes not much beyond the end of the current week. It’s kind of a problem-solving exercise.
Do you get annoyed when people on the forum correctly guess what is going to happen next?
I used to. Now I don’t bother reading it.
And do you ever change stories as a result of predictions made in the forum?
I told them I did, but I didn’t. I used to tell a lot of lies on the forum and misrepresent myself for my own amusement.
How long does it take to draw a day’s comic?
Have you considered charging micropayments for your comics a la Scott McCloud?
I’ve considered it. I wouldn’t do it though!
Visit John’s online comic strip, Scarygoround, by visiting www.scarygoround.com.
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