Hey everybody, just stopping in to drop off another juicy interview, this time with Zoology creator Nathan Birch. Digging into the brains of fellow webcomic geniuses always gets me excited, but not in an icky way. Read on!
1. I know it may seem obvious, but tell the readers out there what the title Zoology means to you.
- Before Zoology I briefly did a comic that starred Baker and Shandy as it's sole characters. That comic was a flop creatively and a lot of what I did with Zoology in the early days was a direct reaction to the failure of my earlier comic. The name of that earlier comic was "Of Monkeys and Mutton". Seemed kind of clever at the time, but I almost immediately started hating it...it was just way too cutesy. I was embarrassed to even tell people about the comic because of the lousy name, so with my new comic I wanted to go with something super short, simple and straightforward. I originally named it "The Zoo", but within about a week I got an email from some guy who already had a comic named The Zoo, so I had to change it and went with "Zoology". There's no real deeper meaning to the name...I like it because I can repeat it without feeling embarrassed.
2. What was your motivation for doing a webcomic? And why a zoo?
- I've wanted to draw comics since I was a wee tot. One of my dad's friends bought me a number of subscriptions to classic Gemstone Disney comics when I was very young. Each month I got Donald Duck, Uncle Scrooge and Mickey Mouse stories by great guys like Carl Barks and Don Rosa. I should mention I got these comics before I could even read, so I just looked at the pictures and made up my own stories in my head. Later I went back and actually read them and it was amazing how close the actual stories were to the ones I had made up in my head...that's how you know quality cartooning! Anyways, pretty much ever since then I've been interested in cartooning.
As for why a Zoo, we gotta go back to the old "Monkeys and Mutton" comic again. It was basically a concept comic where the entire thing revolved around only two characters... a sheep and monkey who are best friends but are separated by a wall they can never cross. Unfortunately the concept was too limiting and I only managed to make about 20 strips before I quit. So for Zoology I wanted to bring back Shandy and Baker, but I also wanted a much larger cast so that my writing would be far less restricted. Setting the strip in a Zoo allows me to play with an unlimited number of characters, and since they're split up into different cages and whatnot Zoology basically becomes a number of different comics within a comic. You've got Shandy and Baker, the Octopuses, Ernest, the Zookeepers and more...each falls under the Zoology banner, but is more or less independent and focuses on unique themes and humor.
3. Are any characters in Zoology based on real life people or animals?
- It's a big jumble of stuff. Some are directly based on people I know, some are purely made up, and a bunch are basically facets of my personality turned into funny animals. The newest Zoology character, Zag the Turtle, was inspired by own pet turtle who died recently after being with us for over 20 years.
4. About how much time do you spend on the comic per day/week and describe your creative process.
- I figure it takes between 4 and 6 hours to create a typical Zoology strip (not counting the time I take mulling ideas for strips over in my head). Multiply that by 3 for how much time I spend in a week.
Oh, and as for my creative process it goes something like this...procrastination, procrastination, procrastination, start working on comic at last minute at 2 in the morning, finish comic and sleep.
5. Who are the biggest influences on your work?
- Jeez, I don't know...there's so many. I've gone through a million phases when it comes to what I was trying to emulate in my art. First it was the Disney comics, then it was traditional superhero comics (specifically Superman and Batman), then it was a lot of really wonky stylized superhero comics, then it was Manga, then it was classic (and a few select modern) cartoons and now it's a mix of a ton of stuff. I haven't specifically tried to emulate or copy anyone in a long time though...my influences are working on a purely subconscious level now.
6. If you could do a crossover with any other webcomic, which would it be and why?
- Penny Arcade for the sweet sweet hits. Wapsi Square because Paul Taylor draws the cutest girls ever and I want him to draw Shandy. Really though I don't have much interest in crossovers. I'm pretty damn anal and controlling by nature and wouldn't want to let my characters out of my hands. It could be the funniest, best-drawn strip in the world and I'd just be thinking "but...he/she would never say *that*".
Thanks for taking the time out of you busy schedule to answer these most scintillating questions. One more thing. Why should readers check out Zoology?
- Because Baker, Shandy, Angsty and the rest would be happy if you did! The strip is really all about character...I'm not trying to offend or shock, I'm not up on the soapbox preaching or trying to hit you over the head with boobs and violence...I'm just telling fun little relatable stories staring characters who, if they weren't animals, would be the kind of good likeable people you wouldn't mind hanging out with yourself. It may not be the flashiest strip on the out there, but if you give it a shot there's a good chance you may like it (I haven't recieved any hate mail yet, so I must be doing something right!).