Welcome back to Newsarama’s Wide World of Webcomics, our continuing look at some of the best comics online. Today, we’re looking at one of the most popular relationship comics on the web.
Sine 2004, Danielle Corsetto has told the tale of Hazel, Jamie and friends (and pets) in Girls With Slingshots (www.girlswithslingshots.com), or “GWS” to its fans (note: there are no actual slingshots in the strip, though there’s occasionally a ghost kitty).
From the cast’s dysfunctional love lives to their frequent bad decisions to “Mc Pedro,” Hazel’s talking Mexican-Irish stuffed cactus, Girls With Slingshots combines classic comic-strip punchlines with characters who are both hilarious and relatable. It’s now become successful enough that Corsetto is able to update five days a week in color, and has earned raves from such sources as BUST and AfterEllen.com.
We talked with Corsetto about how she creates her strip, her interactions with fans, and the challenges of telling non-traditional stories while still using the traditional comic-strip format.
Newsarama: Danielle, how long does it take you to put an individual strip together, from writing to layouts to color?
Danielle Corsetto: Drawing the strip used to take me a very predictable 2 hours back when it was black-and-white, but now that I'm doing color, it's around 3-4 hours. About half an hour/45 min to pencil, half an hour/45 min to letter & ink, then an hour to two hours to color, drop in backgrounds, shade, highlight, texturize, get another drink from the fridge, etc.
Throw in another half-hour to bitch and moan on Twitter about how haaaaaard coloring is, of course. I still haven't gotten used to the extra work!
Writing time is far less predictable. Sometimes an idea pops into my head immediately and I can script the entire week in a few hours. Sometimes I labor over the scripting all day for one strip and begrudgingly accept my last-resort idea at midnight.I read this fantastic article written by a woman who was married to a cartoonist, offering advice to anyone romantically involved with a cartoonist. She said something along the lines of "if he's staring out the window for five hours doing nothing, he is working." That line is the only reason I can justify all the seemingly useless hours I spend in front of a blank notebook.
Nrama: Your current storyline involves roller derby. Now, I'm from an area where we have the Carolina Rollergirls, so I have to ask -- how long have you been waiting to do this one?
Corsetto: I've only known about derby for the past two years! I'm dating a guy who used to be a ref, and I finally attended my first bout last December (Suicide Seats, even!). I knew I'd love it, but I didn't know it'd make me want to introduce a derby girl so immediately into the storyline. I can't wait to write about Mimi Massacre!
Nrama: Will we ever learn the truth about the ghost kitty?
Corsetto: Definitely! But not until we get through all the other storylines first [laughs].
Nrama: Though you've been able to expand the storylines through the daily strip, do you see yourself doing a longer sequential story with them in the future? For that matter, what are the advantages and disadvantages of doing the story in a daily-serialized fashion?
Corsetto: I wish! I wish I had the time to do a non-stop Hazel-and-Jamie-packed 150-page OGN. I think about it often, how I could give so much more life to the characters and stories if I didn't have to confine them to four panels every day. In my head they're so vivid, but I can only show little sitcom-sized bits of them at a time, so I have to pick and choose which stories I share.
Don't get me wrong, I love traditional comic strip format. I love challenges, and the challenge of a horizontal strip is that you only have room for a few characters to speak, and within four panels (give or take) you have to reestablish the setting, advance the storyline, develop the characters and wrap it up in a punchline. It's like a math equation that's solved using visual illustration and conversation.
And it's perfect for a daily strip. Giving people bits at a time, once a day, five days a week is the perfect way to share a story on the web (and, formerly, in newspapers). But man, it'd be so much fun to stretch my legs and not chain myself to just five punchlines a week.
Nrama: What's coming up for the characters – at least, what can you tell us about? The girls are going to need a place to stay come Feb...
Corsetto: I guess you'll have to read on to find out. No spoilers here!
Let's just say things will be shaking up in the GWS universe this year. I could've jumped the shark at this point, but instead I'm hoping to just bust in some of the walls I've built in their world.
Nrama: How do you feel your storytelling has evolved since the strip started?The very first (top) and latest (bottom) editions Corsetto: The storylines have certainly gotten more involved now that the characters have been developed. It's like building a world out of Legos and then, finally, after finishing the gazebo and popping on your Lego-people's heads, you get to play with them. I almost have too many Lego people to play with, though!
Nrama: How difficult is it to do a strip about 20-somethings, given how many books/movies/songs/TV shows are about that confusing time, and how few of them do it well?
Corsetto: Pfft, so easy. For the next two months, at least, I'm a 20-something myself, and given my never-grow-up career choice, I'll probably be stuck in this mindset the rest of my life, so I'll keep writing it as long as I can relate to it.
The only difference between 20-somethings and being a grown-up is that 20-somethings are willing to fall on their faces and admit to their flaws (or at the very least, flaunt them accidentally). Being an adult just means that you know how to hide it better.
Nrama: How do you feel moving into color changed the way you create the strip, if at all?
Corsetto: [laughs] Other than doubling my process time? Nah, it's great. I like the way it looks, and so do my readers, hands-down. I feel it makes the story seem more realistic, and makes the art pop.
Nrama: How far do you plot out storylines, or is it more a case of going by your instincts strip-by-strip?
Corsetto: [laughs] Oh man, lately it's been strip-by-strip. When I have time, I go down to one of the cafes in town and script out a week or more ahead, and then all I have to do is go home and draw them.
But there's something kind of fun about seat-of-your-pants scripting, especially given the amount of audience interaction between strips via Twitter, comments on the site, etc. While I tend not to directly adopt my readers' ideas (I prefer to write my own), sometimes a reader will give me a tip or make a funny comment that gets my mind rolling in a new direction, so the procrastination pays off once in awhile.
Nrama: You mentioned you had an opportunity to work for Marvel that didn't pan out, and there's certainly a lot of great art you've done of superhero characters out there. Do you see yourself doing a superhero story, or at least a story with more fantastic elements, in the future? The presence of McPedro, the ghost, etc. really speaks to your enjoyment of more surreal elements.
Corsetto: Thanks! I sometimes kick myself for not jumping on the opportunity to write a Marvel character (hellooooo, Disco Dazzler?), but I think it would've taken my life in such a radically different direction that I'd have had to choose between GWS and superhero stuff, and I'm more keen on writing slice-of-life.
I'd have a lot of fun writing a female superhero and all her little nuances and inner struggles (think Jessica Jones from Alias), but I'm so unfamiliar with the mainstream world that I'd be doing nothing but research in my spare time, and frankly I find 98% of the superhero comics out there super-dull.
Girls With Slingshots was actually supposed to be a superhero(ine) book about Hazel and Jamie fighting... something, but I never figured out what that something was supposed to be.
Wisely, my then-boyfriend reminded me that I don't haveto write superhero stuff, and that the "slingshots" in the title didn't have to be literal. With a sense of relief, I started GWS as a slice-of-life strip and I wouldn't want it any other way.
Nrama: What's been the most interesting reaction you've had to how involved your readers get with your characters? I am also curious as to whether you gets lots of fan requests to see them drawn with actual slingshots [laughs].
Corsetto: I rarely get requests to draw them with slingshots, but I got a lot more in the beginning than I do now!
To answer your first question, my readers tend to get just as involved with my characters as I do, which is reassuring. They get upset when I take a character down a dark path, they urge me to bring back their favorite character when I've been neglectful of one, and I even read the occasional piece of e-mail (that still warms my heart) telling me that Jamie's ability to embrace her weight has inspired a reader to do the same.
Probably the strongest piece of e-mail (I'll call it hate-mail) was from a reader who went on a tangent about how Hazel is a waste of a human being and that she refuses to read the strip anymore because she has had it up to here with her!
What a compliment, that I've written a fictional character well enough that she's affected someone so strongly! I tuck these emails away in my hate mail folder and bring them out at parties for a laugh.
Nrama: Something I've been asking everyone in this series is -- how do you feel new technologies such as the iPad have potentially changed opportunities for webcomics creators, and what do you feel both individual creators and larger companies are doing right and doing wrong in terms of taking advantage of these opportunities?
Corsetto: I think more of us could stand to put together apps that allow readers to download the x amount of strips and read them over and over again on their iPads, using the device like an e-book. But I don't think we're too late - the iPad has only been out for a year and Kindles and Nooks are only now coming with color screens, so we have some time. As webcartoonists, we built our businesses from the ground out of a new medium - the Internet - and I doubt we'll fall behind on adapting our work to suit the newest technological vehicles.
Well, except for me. I'm totally out of touch with what other companies are doing re: the iPad. I just got an RSS feed three months ago after all!
Nrama: Do you have an ending in mind for the series, or at least ending points for some of the characters' arcs?
Corsetto: Nope. I'll just run it until I die, or get bored, or hate the constant routine of drawing a comic every night (the latter is the most likely to kill the strip eventually). But I have no plans. I have a feeling if I end it, I'll end it on a very open note, so the readers' imaginations can be free to write their own endings (or sequels!).
Nrama: What else are you currently working on?
Corsetto: Shit... cleaning my house? Rearranging my studio? Really, nothing. I'd love to put together a second webcomic, but I don't know where I'd find the time. For now I'm trying to focus on GWS, especially with Blind Ferret's new association with the company - I want to improve my attention to the strip, partially because I know I have them to support me, and also because I don't want to let them down!
I have a lot of projects on the back burner - one of which I'm thinking about writing as a film script rather than adding three years to its completion by drawing it as an OGN - but this year will be too busy with GWS-related events to make any headway on it.
Nrama: Anything else you'd like to talk about that we haven't discussed yet?
Corsetto: I'm getting a haircut tomorrow! Man, short hair is a bitch to keep up. Oh, and we're introducing my roommate's cat to my kitties next week. Umm, my brother moved to San Diego? Oh hey, I'm going to be at San Diego Comic Con this year! And my McPedro plushes are penned to get here sometime in March, so that's pretty exciting!
You can just hit me up on Twitter: @dcorsetto. I'll tell you everything, especially on Tuesdays.
Next at Newsarama’s Wide World of Webcomics: We take a trip to the weird side with Ectopiary, one of 2010’s webcomics success stories.
More Wide World of Webcomics:
- Part One: Ethan & Malachai Nicolle's AXE-COP
- Part Two: Pay Attention to LUCY KNISLEY
- Part Three: Daniel Lieske's THE WORMWORLD SAGA
- Part Four: Ryan North's DINOSAUR COMICS
- Part Five: DR. McNINJA is In
- Part Six: Let's Get ROMANTICALLY APOCALYPTIC