Welcome back to Newsarama’s Wide World of Webcomics, our look at the best strips and creators around the web. Today, we’ll take you on a trip to a parallel universe…make that several universes.
Jonathan Rosenberg surprised many fans in 2010 when he ended Goats, one of the first webcomics, which had run since 1997. But he’s found a newer and bigger audience with Scenes From a Multiverse, or SFAM to its fans.SFAM is s a strip that takes readers on a skewed tour of reality…make that several realities. On an average day, you might encounter a bad-ass “Business Deer,” a perverse parody of a certain time traveler known as “Doctor Whoa,” sentient popcorn, a “Scary Owl Lawyer,” and much, much more – with readers getting to vote on what universe they’d like to see in the following week.
We got up with Rosenberg to discuss life, the multiverse and everything, including his favorite parallel universes, whether we’ll see more Goats and more.
Nrama: Jonathan, hat initially inspired you to do Scenes From a Multiverse?
Jonathan Rosenberg: Scenes From A Multiverse was born out of a sort of wanderlust. My previous comic took place in a fairly large playground and I was only getting to play in a small portion of it. With SFAM, I get to jump around. I get to indulge my whims. It's like getting a brand-new toy every day.
Nrama: What's the advantage of doing something with less continuity, as opposed to what you were doing with Goats, and what are the disadvantages of less continuity?
Rosenberg: Continuity is great fun! I love a fleshed-out universe, it helps you engage with the story and the characters. But it can be a barrier to new readers who are short on time and aren't willing to make the investment it can take to catch up on a decade or more of backstory.
When I was planning SFAM, a quick survey of about ten minutes time showed that most popular online comics were very light on continuity and heavy on topical humor. It's not hard to figure out why; they're the most accessible. Why not take advantage of that?
It's also an entirely different sort of writing challenge. I'd been doing heavy continuity for so long, writing SFAM has been like a vacation of sorts.Nrama: You've been doing SFAM for a while now. What's the transition been like?
Rosenberg: Overall it's been a positive experience. There were some small rough patches, especially during the first year. And there were a few months where I was unable to publish as frequently as I would have liked.
But I think I'm beginning to get a handle on the rhythms of the strip, on the proper balance of elements, on provoking the right sort of responses from the audience.
Nrama: What are some of the biggest changes you've seen since you started doing webcomics, in terms of the audience, the medium, etc.?
Rosenberg: Nothing really ever changes in webcomics, it's the same conversation over and over again. Haters gonna hate, etc.
But I feel like there's been a mass emergence of some really amazing creative folks in the last five or ten years, and many of them are carving out nice careers for themselves and doing amazing, uncompromised work at the same time.
And audiences have certainly grown by several orders of magnitude. So I think that there's been a slow but inevitable vindication of the model.
Nrama: Of the different universes you depict, are any particular favorite destinations for you?Rosenberg: None of them are particularly pleasant places, are they? I think if I were to create a destination for myself, there would be a lot of chocolate ice cream involved.
Nrama: How do you feel you've grown as a writer and artist since you first started doing webcomics?
Rosenberg: Artistic growth is a weird thing, I think it's not growth in the same sense that a plant grows or a baby grows. It's growth like a big pile of all of your mistakes might grow. And you stand on the pile of mistakes and make more mistakes and eventually your mistakes lift you up into the air in a sort of impressive fashion.
So, I guess I feel kind of mixed about it. It's effing excruciating, making all those mistakes.
Nrama: You actually saw a jump in audience when you moved to SFAM -- what was the biggest challenge in getting that retention and growth? John Allison, for example, said he had trouble with that when he went from doing Scary Go Round to Bad Machinery.Rosenberg: I don't think the jump in audience was related to anything other than the shift away from heavy continuity. It made it easier for people to read the strip, and they did.
John is an amazing talent and it is not his fault that folks today don't seem to have as much taste for rich storytelling as they once did. I am proud of him for sticking to his guns and producing excellent comics.
Nrama: Do you see yourself returning to Goats at some point?
Rosenberg: Yup! I want to get back to Goats after the twins are a little older and I have some more time on my hands. There's about a book's worth of story left to tell and I would hate to see it go unfinished. I could see it coming back within the next two to three years tops.
Nrama: And what can you tell us about the ever-mysterious project Team Force Alpha?
Rosenberg: Not much! It's mysterious, right?
That said, TFA is probably going to be my follow-up to Goats when that is finally finished, the two stories are intertwined in a way that requires me to finish one before the other can really begin.
Nrama: What advantages do you feel you've had being part of the collective Dumbrella?Rosenberg: Dumbrella is like a Costco or one of them warehouse clubs, but instead of bulk toilet paper you can get cheap booze and emotional abuse all in one place for one low price.
Nrama: You let the readers dictate the direction of the strip to a degree – have there ever been times you've wanted to go in a different direction than they wanted, or they were more enthusiastic about an idea than you were? If so, could you tell us a little about these times?
Rosenberg: Yes, and all of them. My readers vote to spite me, they know which strips I hate the most and vote them back intentionally. With the exception of Cornelius Snarlington, of course. That deer can come back any time he wants, and not just because he has a sharpened butter knife.
Nrama: What's your all-time favorite depiction of the multiverse outside of your own?[Click here for Newsarama's 10 favorite alternate realities!] Rosenberg: As far as multidimensional hijinks are concerned? All-time? I guess you got to go with Star Trek's mirror universe, then. It's the origin of the Evil Spock Goatee.
Nrama: What are some other comics you're currently enjoying and reading, online and off?Rosenberg: I have twin babies at home. If I'm not changing diapers or stuffing milk into them, I'm working. I have time for personal enjoyment scheduled for early 2013 but it's only penciled in.
Nrama: What's next for you?
Rosenberg: Right after this beer, I'm off to save the world.
Nrama: Anything else you'd like to talk about that we haven't discussed yet?
Rosenberg: I guess we could tell these nice people where to online-purchase my new-ish SFAM book? That would be sweet.
View some Scenes from a Multiverse Mondays through Fridays at www.amultiverse.com.
Up next: Colorist Christina Strain takes us into a mythological mystery in The Fox Sister! And we’ve already lined up nearly a dozen new interviews with some up-and-coming webcomic creators coming soon!