Welcome back to Newsarama’s Wide World of Webcomics, where we talk shop with some of the best and the brightest making comics online! Today, we talk with a creator who works on not one but two of the most popular comics on the net, and has created some of its most adorable comics.
You might know Anthony “Nedroid” Clark (www.nedroid.com) for his colors on Dr. McNinja or the hilarious comics on TV’s Lost he posted on Twitpic during its final scenes, which are archived starting here. But for many fans, he’s best known for Nedroid, his comic about the strange adventures of the incredibly self-centered bluebird Reginald and his friend Beartato, a bear who is part potato.
Filled with absurd imagery, gorgeous multi -toned art and occasional appearances by a shark-boy named Harrison, Nedroid is one of the funniest and goofiest things in all of comics, and guaranteed to make you smile (a print collection is also available, which you can order here. We chatted with Clark about Beartato and friends.
Newsarama: Okay, I'll bite. How did you come up with the concept of a “Beartato?”
Anthony Clark.: Like a lot of ideas, it came about while I was goofing off instead of working. I was doodling in class one day and ended up with a little round character with a huge mouth stretching across his entire head.
It was only afterward that I decided he kind of looked like a bear, but was also shaped like a potato. Originally he was a little scarier, too; his teeth were sharper and he opened his mouth a lot wider.
Nrama: What's the trickiest thing about writing Beartato and Reginald? Do you ever have a moment where you go, “They wouldn't say that” or “They wouldn't do that?”
Clark: Oh, all the time. In the beginning, they were just two goofy characters without much personality, so they could fit into any kind of gag. Over time they've developed somewhat as “people,” which limits them because now there are a lot of things that wouldn't make sense for them to do, but at the same time it opens up other avenues because readers expect them to react in certain ways and I can use that to my advantage.
Nrama: Given that you've been doing comics for so long, why do you feel Beartato and Reginald have become such breakout characters for you?
Clark: I think they're easy for people to relate to. We can relate to Beartato because we all have a friend like Reginald who can be absolutely exasperating, but in the end he's still a friend. And we can relate to Reginald because most of us are similar to him, whether we admit it or not.
Nrama: How much of your personality is reflected in Reginald?
Clark: Reginald is naive and self-centered, though he means well. He's not malicious; if he offends someone it's through his own cluelessness. I wish I could say I have a hard time writing such a self-absorbed character, but if my head were a little rounder he and I would be twins.
Nrama: Do you see yourself doing more extended stories with Beartato and Reginald in the future, like the robot story last year?
Clark: That is one of my short-term goals. I've always had problems writing stories longer than a few pages, and I tend to lose enthusiasm and not finish them. Changing that is something I really want to work on.
Nrama: What were some of the challenges in going back and redrawing some of the earlier strips for the collection, aside from the ever-popular pain of looking at your older work?
Clark: Aside from the amount of time it took, I actually really enjoyed doing it. The biggest challenge was stopping myself from changing the strips too much; I would keep thinking, “Maybe this would work better if I changed this line, or moved this over here...” There were a few instances where I changed a line or two, but overall I tried to keep them true to the originals.
Nrama: For that matter, what do you feel has been the biggest evolution in your art since you started doing comics?
Clark: In the early days, I was constantly experimenting with new styles and different tools; I'd do a few comics in one style, then discover a different brush in Photoshop and use that for a while, and over time I learned what I liked and what I didn't. That solidified over time into the bold-lined, simplistic style I use today.
I hope to constantly refine and improve this method. I still frequently experiment, but I'm learning how to incorporate what I learn into what I already know.
Nrama: Did all the Lost stuff last year bring you new readers? Why do you feel there's been such a hard time getting a serialized show that's achieved Lost-type success? Did you find yourself having a loud, semi-public rant about the finale coming down to a magic bathtub drain and a non-denominational church like, um, a friend of mine did?
Clark: Yes, the Lost comics were hugely popular and they were a lot of fun to do. I think the reason Lost was such a hit was that there was something for everyone--mystery, sci-fi, romance, bears--and that it was unique compared to what else was on at the time. Other shows have tried to copy the formula but it's not something that can be manufactured.
I thought the ending was great, but I can understand people who didn't. I've learned better than to argue with people over entertainment.
Nrama: For that matter, did you find some of the Dr. McNinja fanbase gravitated toward your work? Do you see yourself coloring other people's work in the future?
Clark: Working on Dr. McNinja has definitely brought me some new readers. I think my comics and Dr. McNinja share a similar flavor of absurd humor, so readers who enjoy one seem to also like the other.
I'm always open to the idea of coloring other comics and working in different styles, but not necessarily as a long-term thing. I love working on Dr. McNinja and I love coloring in general, but I don't really consider myself a “colorist.”
: The world cries out for more Beartato merchandise, to the point that some fans are making their own. Will you answer that call, good sir?
Clark: I hope to! One thing that many people have requested is a Beartato plush toy, which I think is a great idea. But if it happens, I want to make sure it's done right. Many people have sent me photos of things they've made (knitted Beartatos, Beartato cakes) and they're always impressive. I think one of the draws is that the characters are fairly simple in design.
Nrama: Nedroid is in many ways an old-school comic strip. What are some of your favorite classic comics, and do you feel the medium is going to move primarily to online with newspapers in decline?
Clark: Calvin & Hobbes is the obvious choice, since I don't think it's possible not to like it. Watterson knows how to handle a line, but he can also produce these amazing, vibrant watercolors. If I can someday be half as good as he is, I'll be happy.
The Far Side was always my other favorite, for the way it presented these completely ridiculous situations but took them absolutely seriously. I think that's one of the keys to absurd humor.
As far as the future of the medium... it's hard to say. What makes it tough is that there's no one business model for webcomics. How do you make money with a webcomic? Do you charge people to subscribe? Do you let them read the comic for free and then sell merchandise, or sell ad space? There's no guaranteed way to do it. And what works for one person may not work for another.
Not to mention, webcomics as we know them are relatively new, only existing for the past ten or fifteen years. Who's to say that in another fifteen years the delivery system won't change again?
Nrama; The big question I've been asking a lot is: With more options for media, such as the iPad and mobile phones, what do you feel is the biggest thing both creators and larger companies can do to take advantage of the opportunities this media offers?
Clark: One thing that springs to mind is making sure the comic is enjoyable to read in whichever medium is used. For example, if you visit Dinosaur Comics (http://www.qwantz.com) on your computer, you can read the comic in the standard 6-panel format, but if you view the site on your mobile phone it is presented one panel at a time--much easier to read, with no zooming or scrolling.
There's also the possibility of adding sounds or animation or other things not possible on a printed page. Recently Marvel started replacing its “*See Issue _____” notes with URLs that lead to its online information database. If you're reading that comic on a phone or computer, that opens the possibility that you can just click on that address and learn about other issues or other titles that you might want to read. It's all a matter of using the new resources that are available to you.
Nrama: In the past, you have taken on bad comics and fanfic for your themed events. What horrors shall you unveil for 2011?
Clark: I wish I knew. The Bad Comics and Fanfic Comics were produced on a whim; if I try to plan things they never turn out as well as I'd hoped.
Nrama: What else are you currently working on?
Clark: Right now I'm just getting started on a second book collection. Because most of the earlier comics were in the first book, I won't have to redraw as many for this one, which means I can spend more time on bonus material like exclusive comics and background info.
Visit Reginald and Beartato at www.Nedroid.com, and tune back to Newsarama when we visit Ellie on Planet X with James Anderson!
And check out our previous Wide World of Webcomics entries at this all-new Topic Page!