Welcome back to Newsarama’s Wide World of Webcomics, our ongoing look at the best the web has to offer comic readers. Today, we take a trip to the New Jersey Pine Barrens for an all-ages adventure that pits animals against aliens.
Writer/artist Matthew Petz got a huge break last year when his comic War of the Woods won a place as part of DC Comics’ online Zuda imprint…only to see said imprint fold. But he quickly bounced back with a new contract with comiXology for his tale of a group of animals – including otters, turtles, deer and more – faced off against a deadly group of aliens who have invaded the Earth. We talked with Petz about moving on from Zuda, creating a world of animals, and what he’d do in case of an alien invasion.Newsarama: Matthew, how have things been going since you moved the strip to comiXology? What are some of the biggest challenges and rewards of this format?
Matthew Petz: Things have been really great. comiXology are fantastic to work with. The reception has been really great as well. When I'm at shows I get a really great response. What's really rewarding is that it really seems to be a very diverse audience that likes the comic.
As far as format goes, I personally find drawing in landscape fits the comic well. I think the biggest challenge is, and this goes for all indie books, is just keeping the word of mouth going.
Nrama: What inspired you to keep the strip up after Zuda's closing?
Petz: I had come too far to just give up. I felt the story was a good one, and I just had to keep telling it.
Nrama: What was your initial inspiration for the idea?Petz: Really, it was my girlfriend. Originally I just wanted to tell an alien invasion story, but very quickly I realized that a "humans trying to survive an alien invasion" story was boring... and she'd have zero interest in it.
I started thinking what would get her excited about reading it...and instantly I knew. She loves otters, and at that moment the story really formed. Once I knew it would be animals trying to survive an invasion, it all fell into place.
Nrama: I've been asking a number of creators about the opportunities allowed by new formats such as smartphones and the iPad, and your comic is one that's definitely being marketed toward those formats. I'm curious about what you've found about the audience for these formats, and what you have to do in terms of formatting the book/getting an audience aware of it.
Petz: I think digital periodicals are the future. I'm glad to be in on the ground floor. As more people get tablets digital is going to explode. The potential audience is huge! You're no longer fighting for shelf space, and it's always available.
Each new tablet or smart phone customer is a potential fan, that's exciting. Formatting isn't a big deal. I think reading a comic in landscape mode is much easier and a bit more natural for a tablet.Nrama: Your art has been a big selling point for the series -- tell us a little about how you developed your style, and some of your influences.
Petz: First off, thank you for the compliment! I love so many different and varied artists. Jim Lee, Art Adams, Geoff Darrow, Kirby, the list goes on and on. For War of the Woods though I wanted something had had a bit of an older feel, something that had echoes of old children's books illustrations.
Nrama: What are some of your all-time favorite stories of talking animals and/or alien invasions?
Petz: Hmmmm. I love Wind in the Willows, and Pooh Bear...both huge influences. The Muppets and Sesame Street as well! As far as aliens....I thought Spielberg's War of the Worlds was fantastic. Really scary in it's realistic approach to what would actually happen, and how aliens would really act.
Nrama: Has there been any interest in doing War of the Woods as a movie or animation, and if not, would you be interested?
Petz: Oh, the mind will always wander! But I'm more focused on doing the comics right now.
Nrama: What are some of the biggest challenges writing from an animal's perspective?
Petz: Right from the start I wanted to make sure that the animal kingdom had its own voice. I sorta see their world about 50 years or so behind ours. They have a more formal way of talking to each other, too. I want it to be very much its own culture.Nrama: What are some of your other favorite comics, online and/or off?
Petz: Right now I'm really digging a lot of the New 52! I'm also a big fan of The Walking Dead. I just read Blacksad recently. Blew me away. I tend to follow creators more then characters. The comic I simply can't wait for is Paul Pope's Battling Boy. That can't get here fast enough!
Nrama: Do you have any characters that are your favorite to write/draw, and if so, which and why?
Petz: Right now I just love writing War of the Woods. I'm very much invested in everyone. At some point I hope I can write or draw a Batman thing, though...that would be amazing.
Nrama: How many seasons/installments do you see the story running, ultimately?
Petz: I see it being about 4 or 5 seasons. It's a big story. I have most of it planned out, including the big surprises and reveals.
Nrama: What's coming up for our animal heroes?
Petz: Well I'm just recently done with this season and hope to get the last few issues on comiXology soon. I'm starting to write season two. Well meet a bunch of new characters and see more of the scale of the invasion.
Nrama: So how would you handle an alien invasion?Petz: Man, I think you just try to stay alive as long as you can. Get out of major cities, have the essentials in a backpack and get to the middle of nowhere. Hopefully wait it out. Realistically, we probably can't fight back to any degree. You want to survive that first attack...after that, you might have a chance!
Nrama: What's next for you?
Petz: Right now, I'm beginning to try and find a print publisher for the book, while I start writing season two. Also more freelance gigs outside of War of the Woods.
Nrama: Anything else you'd like to talk about that we haven't discussed?