A Taste of the Different: Matthew Forsythe on Ojingogo

Matthew Forsythe on Ojingogo


We all know that some of the best comics today are being published online, but if you’re anything like me, you still like to have your favorites in a book form. Luck day, Newsarama reader, because Matthew Forsythe’s dream-logic, girl-and-a-squid adventure Ojingogo hits stores later this month with a new print edition from Drawn & Quarterly.

Begun while Forsythe was teaching English in Korea, Ojingogo flows from Korean myths and showcases the artist’s imaginative monster designs. The circular dream logic and adventurous whimsy make the strip an unlikely, truly memorable journey.

We talked with Matthew about the strip, working online and how creators should never be limiting their audiences.

Newsarama: Matthew, does it feel different to have Ojingogo in print now after being online previously?

Matthew Forsythe: Well, it's exciting now that it's reaching a new audience. I'm also fascinated by book design and the production process so that was great. Otherwise, the comic basically feels the same to me. I hope it's just as much fun on the page.

Ojingogo, 1

NRAMA: For readers who haven’t checked it out (which they can do here), can you quickly give a flavor of what Ojingogo is?

MF: I guess the short-hand description is that it's a sort of Korean-flavored Alice in Wonderland. I use the Lewis Carroll reference because the comic favors nonsense over sense and dreams over logic. But really it's just a girl, a squid and a bunch of monsters and hopefully fun to read.

NRAMA: Is it based on any specific Korean myths?

MF: Not specifically - just Korean culture in general. I was reading Korean folk tales at the time and their folk history is a big part of their national identity. It's present in TV, films, cartoon culture on the street, manhwa, etc. – but nothing specific. Also it's a really bizarre, wonderful experience living in a country where you don't understand the language or the cultural norms. I hope that bewilderment is reflected in the comic.

NRAMA: When did you start serializing Ojingogo online?

Ojingogo, 2

MF: I started posting the strip in 2004. I was living in Korea, teaching English at the time. I actually drew the first few pictures while I was in class. I remember giving the students a crossword puzzle or something and doing the first sketches.

NRAMA: Ha, some teacher! How did you balance all the disparate characters when building this online? Does the process of releasing something online affect the pace of how you develop a storyline?

MF: Well, working online can be a huge motivator. It is for me. You get immediate feedback. Illustration is such solitary work, it's great to find that community through your blog or webcomic or in the forums. I was posting the comic on the eatpoo illustration forums and Drawing board forums and I got a lot of great feedback from professional artists and animators.

NRAMA: How does working online affect your approach to creating comics, Matthew? Working on a web browser, you can do a lot – at least initially – with dimensions. What about pacing, layouts, things of that nature?

MF: Yes, and back in 2004 people seemed a lot more excited about all those possibilities. I copied the scrolling format of some of the comics I'd seen on Jordan Crane's site (reddingk.com). It just makes sense to me. Scrolling is intuitive for the web – it’s what we do on blogs and news sites. It's what you're probably doing right now if you're reading this interview.

Most webcomics have kind of adopted this 3:2 screen standard now. I think that's at least in part because the artists are coming from print and planning to put the comic out in print. All they have to do is print the comic at the end of the year and put out their collection.

Ojingogo, 3

NRAMA: Did you work with a mind toward a future print version?

MF: No. Not until halfway did I even think of printing it. It created all sorts of hassles laying it out for print. But it was a fun process. And I love the printed page, so it was exciting to see the comic printed for the first time.

NRAMA: With the massive growth in people’s online consumption, is your view of webcomics as the “final” version (as opposed to going online as a precursor to print) affected at all?

MF: Well, these days I find it's better to think in terms of "AND" and not "OR". We should be putting our work in print and online, or my blog and Flickr and Facebook. Not in terms of one or the other.

People who favour one medium or one window over another are ultimately shooting themselves in the foot. I could go on about this forever – the internet is an economy of abundance and not scarcity – so trying to show your work through only one window, especially if no one knows about your stuff, rarely works.

NRAMA: What’s next for you?

MF: I'm working on a more traditional narrative about my trip home from Korea. I traveled overland through China, Mongolia, and Russia. There are a bunch of little stories that won't go away so I'm putting them down on paper. I'd like to put that online too very soon. It will probably be serialized on my blog (comingupforair.net).

Ojingogo is currently available in print from Drawn & Quarterly. Readers can also experience Ojingogo online at comingupforair.net and Matthew Forsythe’s flickr site.

Twitter activity