Welcome back to Newsarama’s Wide World of Webcomics, our continuing look at the best of the web. We have a long group of interviews this time out, so let’s get started – and be sure to check out our archives while you’re at it!Our first interview this time out takes us to the darker side of the net with Feel Afraid (www.feelafraidcomic.com) the hilariously evil strip by Christopher Reineman that offers its own twisted take on ghosts, teens and the like. Its expressive style and occasional experimentation with limited animation and other technique has made it a favorite of many readers, and we got up with Reineman to talk about just what goes on inside his head.
Newsarama: Christopher, what was the initial inspiration for the strip?
Christopher Reineman:The initial inspiration for Feel Afraid was basically that I’d started reading webcomics, and they were interesting, but I didn’t know how they worked. So a lot of strips were about figuring them out , panel by panel. There was no stretching-out ideas, I was just figuring them out as I went along until the comics were done.
I just really liked more of the alternative style of comics, if they can be called that.
Nrama: There’s a lot of webcomics that deal with dark humor, like Nick Gurewitch or Zach Weiner, but I’ve never seen one so focused on a specific theme, like yours is with ghosts and mortality. What’s the fascination for you?Reineman: With things like that, I’ve always been interested, fascinated I guess, by horror stories, but not really direct horror stories…books like Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark that I read as a kid. Things like that have always been pretty interesting to me.
Another part is dealing with mortality…I don’t know, I’m an uncertain person. So dealing with the afterlife and things like that, along with the teenager strips dealing with youth, those are really interesting to me.
Nrama: How did you develop your artistic style for the strip?
Reineman: I get a lot of my inspiration from just cartoons and comics. I’ve never been much into superhero comics or anything like that – I’m mostly into artists like K.C. Green and Michael DeForge. Really, I had basically just started teaching myself to draw when I started the strip, which was just a few years ago, 2009-2010.
Nrama: What’s been the most interesting response you’ve gotten to the strip so far?
Reineman: It was really unexpected, because Feel Afraid originally started off on this music forum that I frequented, and I had a single thread where I posted it. And some people liked it, and encouraged me to keep making it, and I started a Kickstarter just to get the money to make a site for it.
And once I did, I started getting traffic little by little, and then there were bits where it exploded, or at least where well-known comic artists found interest in it like Ryan Pequin and Ryan North, and helped it get off the ground. I’m really grateful for them.Nrama: Which cartoonists were some of your biggest artistic influences?
Reineman:I tend to gravitate toward illustrators more than cartoonists, actually – Some illustrators like Niv Bavarsky, Natasha Allegri, and some of the illustration work KC Green does. As far as comic artists, my favorite is probably Party Dog, who does the comic Lamezone. Also Zac Gorman’s been a pretty big influence with Magical Game Time.
Nrama: What do you feel are some of the biggest challenges of doing a comic on the web?
Reineman:Well, the biggest advantage is you can do anything you want, style-wise. Artistically, you can make pages as long as you want, you can do things like Zac Gorman likes to do making comics into .gifs, and all kinds of things digital media can do that print media can’t.
As far as disadvantages go, I’m not really sure. I’d say it’s probably easier than with print to get the word out there about your comics.
Nrama: I’ve been asking people what they feel are the new opportunities offered by iPads and smartphones as delivery systems for comics, and what people can do to take advantage of these opportunities.Reineman: Well, first off, what would really attract cartoonists and illustrators to contribute to things like that would be the opportunity to be paid well, or at least fairly, which many places don’t want to do much.
I know there’ve been some issues lately with apps like that, taking content from sites without permission. But if they treat the artists well, the artists would treat them well, and help it get off the ground themselves. The modern illustration community that I know is really into expanding the community itself and helping each other out.
Nrama: Do you see yourself doing some longer stories in the future?
Reineman: I make some minicomics, which I have on my site. One of them is being updated as I make it, and it’s called hellghost. It’s my attempt at a longer story, and it uses a lot of digital mixed media, lots of eye candy, I suppose. It’s a very experimental thing for me.
I’m also working on another comic, which I’ll release when I’ve made it, called Gun in Your Mouth. I’m very interested in doing those, like in Lamezone, where he does longish strips, story-wise. But yeah, that’s very interesting to me, writing out a full story and illustrating it. It’s really interesting to me and I hope to be doing more of it in the future.
With hellghost, I wanted to use digital media as much as I could to help with the timing, like with the scrolling for each page.Nrama: And I get the sense that’s something that’s interesting to you – exploring the possibilities with a computer screen.
Reineman: Yeah, something you can’t really do in print.
Nrama: With print comics, I often find that you have some companies like Fantagraphics and AdHouse who really experiment with format a lot, but many of the other books – and this isn’t disparaging the quality of their content – are usually the same size, the same shape.
Reineman:Yeah, and there’s a lot of great books in those formats. But in the digital medium, you can really do whatever you want, even create a sort of reading atmosphere for it. For hellghost, it’s a black background on many pages, and it makes you focus on what’s on the center of it.
And other pages, which I call the flashback pages, they’re all white, and that’s another stylistic thing to let you know that it’s separated from the rest of it.Nrama: Where would you like to go in your career over the next few years?
Reineman: I’d really like to get a lot more into illustration, because it’s been interesting me more and more lately. I’d like to do more things like hellghost, more longer stories. And I’d like to keep Feel Afraid going, because I like smaller things too.
There’s a lot of things I want to try my hand at, and I don’t always feel like I have enough time. But I hope I have enough ambition to keep going and maybe get into print stuff as well.
Nrama: Are you working on anything else besides the minis and Feel Afraid?
Reineman: I’m interested in doing more illustration and some art, which I’m posting on my Tumblr. It really helps me get comfortable with different styles, and that leaks into other things, so it’ll probably show up in Feel Afraid and the minis.Nrama: Are you working on anything outside of comics and illustrations right now, like other media?
Reineman: No, not at the moment…though that question makes me interested in thinking about something like that.
Nrama: Anything you’d like to talk about what we haven’t discussed yet, or would like to say to potential readers to check out your strip?
Reineman :If you like ghosts and demons and death and stuff, look no further!
Feel Afraid with Christopher Reineman at www.feelafraidcomic.com.
Next: Eisner Nominee Ryan Andrews introduces us to the surreal world of Sarah and the Seed! Then, it’s pretty much the worst (and funniest) superheroine ever with Justin Pierce and Wonderella!! All this and more as Newsarama’s Wide World of Webcomics continues!