Welcome to the conclusion of this round of Newsarama’s Wide World of Webcomic, the series where we interview the creators behind the coolest strips online. Today, we’ve got a special talk with one of the longest-running creators online, who’s responsible for one of the weirdest and funniest strips out there.
The oldest archived Cat and Girl stripSince 1999, Dorothy Gambrell has brought readers the adventures of Cat and Girl, an oddball duo prone to even odder adventures and conversations with such friends as Undead Hipster and Bad Decision Dinosaur. The series has earned a legion of fans for its offbeat humor and numerous literary/philosophical references. Gambrell’s also a talented musician who currently plays with Jenny and the Holzers. During a recent tour, we chatted up Gambrell for a quick and very dry interview.
Newsarama: Dorothy, what do you feel is the biggest thing you've learned from writing/drawing/creating in so many different media?
Dorothy Gambrell: I don't think any points are awarded for being a dilettante.
Nrama: You've been doing the comic for more than a decade at this point -- what's the biggest challenge when it comes to avoiding repeating yourself, coming up with fresh ideas, or just pushing yourself forward as a creator?
Gambrell: There are so many things we could be spending our time reading or watching or listening to. So when we start following Cultural Product A because its use of Theme X and Formula Y appeals to us, we naturally want it to continue on with Theme X and Formula Y indefinitely.
If you're spending all day making Cultural Product A Theme X and Formula Y are probably getting a little boring, and maybe you try Formula Z instead. But we the readers who want Formula Z are already reading Cultural Product B for that.
When I finish a cartoon and decide that it's lazy and repetitious, that's generally a sign that people are going to like it. When I am very happy with a cartoon - when I feel that it's something a bit different, but successful on those different terms - tumbleweeds, train whistles, and a dog barking in the distance.
As a reader, I understand.
Read the title after the strip.Nrama: On that note, how do you feel you've evolved as a writer and artist since the strip began?
Gambrell: There are some things you can only get away with because you have no idea what you're doing. I have no idea what I'm doing about different things now than I did ten years ago.
Nrama: What do you feel is the most obscurest reference you've pulled off in the strip, and did anyone get it?
Gambrell: Obscurity is in the eye of the beholder. There's just no telling where your own personal cultural canon is going to overlap with everyone else’s.
Until recently I had assumed that Boney M's "Rasputin" was a famous song that everyone was familiar with. Apparently this is not true. On the other hand, any reference to video games or “American Idol” is going to go right over my head.
Nrama: Would you do additional series alongside Cat and Girl again?
Gambrell: I'm thinking about it, though there will be some considerable library time between now and then.
Nrama: You've moved the strip back to twice a week. Do you see yourself going to three times again in the future, and if not, what would need to change in order for you to consider this?
Another first year stripGambrell: Spending three days a week drawing Cat and Girl instead of two days a week didn't raise my decent if marginal income at all. I'd rather not make any money working on new and (to me) more exciting projects than not make any money drawing a third Cat and Girl comic every week.
Nrama: How do you feel the characters have evolved...or not evolved...since the strip began?
Gambrell: They've certainly been visually shifting over time, which makes putting books together very frustrating. I'm unable to suppress the urge to standardize their appearance when it comes to a book full of two or three years worth of cartoons.
This usually involves a lot of work that I am absolutely certain nobody cares about but me. There should be a pill or something I can take for this. Is there?
Nrama: Something I've been asking a lot of creators in this series is what opportunities they feel have been opened through such new media as the iPad, and what they feel other creators/companies could do/are doing wrong in attempting to realize these opportunities.
Gambrell: I saw an iPad once. Looked OK.
Nrama: What have been the biggest advantages and disadvantages of doing a webcomic?
Gambrell: For better or worse, this has pretty much been my life for the last decade. I don't know how things would have been without it. Whenever someone says I look like their friend or maybe I am their friend, why am I ignoring them, I want to ask what that friend is doing. Where they live, and what they do, and if they are happy doing it. I haven't asked yet.
Nrama: Do you feel the comic strip medium will become exclusive to the Internet over the next decade, and why do you feel it's been so enduring?
Gambrell: Comics are a medium. The internet is a delivery system. Paper is a delivery system. Cave walls are a delivery system. And there are untold delivery systems in the future that we will be too old to ever fully understand.
Comics endure because we need to communicate, and putting words and pictures together is a pretty basic method of communication.
Nrama: Curious if, given your work as a musician, you've ever thought of doing a Cat and Girl concept album. If so, what would some of the tracks be?
Gambrell: Someone else can do that. I'd rather make my concept album about the G train.
Nrama: When you're on tour, what do you find provides the most fodder for strip ideas?
Gambrell: Nothing, actually. Touring and making cartoons turn out to be mutually intolerable concepts.
Most recent stripNrama: Will there be another Donation Derby coming up?
Gambrell: Of course. As soon as I spend some money and have the time to draw one. Those are also often mutually intolerable concepts.
Nrama: What's next for you?
Gambrell: I'm going to the post office and the bank. Possibly the Laundromat. Make a sandwich, pay some bills, draw some cartoons. Maybe start my taxes.
Enter the odd world of Cat and Girl every Tuesday and Thursday.
Next at Wide World of Webcomics, we’re very excited to bring you a series of five “print to web” interviews, focusing on creators initially known for print comics who’ve taken their works online, started online side projects, or premiered their new GNs online first. And who better to start than Phil Foglio, creator of Girl Genius? Plus Doug TenNapel, Jeff Parker, Colleen Coover and more!
And after that week, stay tuned for all-new interviews, starting with a special two-parter with Kate Beaton (Hark, a Vagrant! It’s all here at Newsarma’s Wide World of Webcomics!And check out our previous Wide World of Webcomics entries at this all-new Topic Page! Visit Newsarama on FACEBOOK and TWITTER and tell us what you think!