Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Interview with...Chain Bear creators Lauren Farnsworth and Stuart Taylor!

Yessirreee, time for another all new webcomic creator interview, this time with the creators of that rascally Chain Bear himself, Lauren Farnsworth and Stuart Taylor. So what could be lurking in the deepest and darkest caverns of their collective brains? Well, read the interview why don'tcha!
1. So. Chain Bear. Why a bear, and why in chains?
Lauren: The name 'Chain Bear' does have a story behind it. I can't speak for Stuart but I'm not willing to reveal that story to the world yet. Just be assured that any wonderment or curiosity you feel towards it is not in vain. Despite that, its meaning is not beyond the realms of some clever guesswork, so if you figure it out, answers on a postcard - or an email. Maybe you'll get a prize or something.

Stuart: And I was about to reveal the secret! I think it would have to be a very clever guess to work out where it came from, but I can reveal that name Chain Bear was being used by us before he became reborn as the character he is. The chains provide him with interesting situations, and I feel sad for him often. We used to wonder if he would have been sustainable as a comic by himself - I think that he could, as long as each episode wasn't focused solely on the chains!

2. I gave a very positive review of your comic. Did you do cartwheels soon after, or was it much more mellow?
Lauren: It was certainly great to have our first review be a positive one, and it was also a bonus that, within it, you seemed to grasp what Chain Bear was essentially all about.

Stuart: Exactly - at first we were just relieved! I think Chain Bear appeals to a selective audience so we were glad you were able to appreciate it.

Lauren: Some people don't 'get it', which is always the story when working with humour, and that's fine. So yes, I was very pleased and showed off to all my friends. I haven't been able to cartwheel since I was about ten years old, so let's say I did a few very enthusiastic hops instead.

Stuart: I can cartwheel. Just for the record.

3. So do any of these comics reflect your personal mindstate? What I'm trying to say is, are you two crazy?
Stuart. Well, to start – I'd like to clarify that we're not psychiatrists by day as you suggested in your review!

Lauren: Many of the first strips came from my Fine Art degree, and you have to be moody and resentful of the world when you're an artist. Now, however, I wouldn't say any of it reflected my current state of mind. I'll see something sad, sweet or funny and put it down on paper and that's really as far as it goes. To be honest I sometimes don't even 'get' Stuart's strips at all, I just try to have faith that some other viewer will.

Stuart: I think, personally, my comics are more reflective of my own mindstate in that the ideas shoot into my mind and I commit them to paper quite quickly and spruce them up later. Often, in fact, I'll jump out of bed in the middle of the night and write down an idea for fear I'll forget it later. Lauren's strips I think tend to be more reflective. Though we've made a point not to clarify who made each strip, I think you'd notice mine tend to look inward and Lauren's look outward.

4. How long do you two see yourselves doing Chain Bear? Do either of you have any other projects waiting in the wings?
Stuart: Personally I'd like to do it for as long as it remains enjoyable. Obviously if other life commitments get in the way, it could become a bit of a struggle, but we can adapt. After all, Chain Bear used to update 5 times a week, but we soon realised that we couldn't keep up with that kind of demand. Myself, I also get stuck into photography projects and Lauren is a writer at heart.

Lauren: I personally have no other projects I'm waiting to unleash, not for the internet anyway. I sometimes have the odd idea for a new webcomic or blog, but work and other life activities take up a lot of my time and even Chain Bear is a struggle to keep up with. As for how long the comic will run, I honestly see us doing it until we're old and wrinkly.

5. What are your favorite webcomics and do you ever find yourselves trying to emulate them, whether on purpose or subconsciously?
Stuart: I first got into webcomics through the fantastic Sluggy Freelance, about 6 or 7 years ago. That was one of the very first internet-published comics and I think still is my favourite at heart. I am in awe of Pete Abrams' ridiculously long and twisting storylines that he manages to combines with a daily 'joke'. The first comic I ever loved, though, was Charles Schultz's Peanuts. My mum dug out her old books when I was 6 and I couldn't put them down. I think both of these are somewhere in the heart of how I approach creating a comic, but I would never try to use their style, unless in satire.

Lauren: My favourite webcomics are Married to the Sea and Buttersafe. I also like Dinosaur Comics and White Ninja. I wouldn't say I try to emulate them though. Trying to imitate Married to the Sea would be pretty obvious and wouldn't get past anybody. Though I guess if I do it subconsciously, I wouldn't be aware of it. Maybe you can tell me?

6. Have you ever done any guest work for other comics? If so, which ones?
Stuart: The only guest work we were ever involved in was through an April Fool's comic switch-around in which we were delighted to step into Marko's Roomies (link: There's a good chance we spent more time on that comic swap that anyone else!

Lauren: We pretty much exhausted ourselves with that one. I'd like to do more guest strips, but as I say, I find myself busy enough with Chain Bear alone.

7. If you had to end your comic suddenly tomorrow, what would the final Chain Bear strip be?
Lauren: I hate to say it, but I'd probably have to kill off Chain Bear himself. Like a good captain, I like to think Chain Bear would go down with his strip.

Stuart: I was going to say we'd have to kill Chain Bear, but I think he's already died once hasn't he? He went down with his ship (link, if you want it:! Lauren, you forget yourself. I would probably rid him of his chains; it would be bittersweet as I think he would have real problems with it, like the old man who got released from prison in The Shawshank Redemption and struggled terribly with the freedom.

8. Any plans to compile your best strips into a book?
Stuart: That's the dream! I think Lauren wanted to do it after about two days!

Lauren: Yes, we do. Though currently, I don't personally feel like we have enough 'best strips' to fill a decent-sized book, and I doubt many people would buy it. It's certainly something to aspire to though.

Stuart: We've discussed it quite a lot. I think it would be a tremendous challenge to put Chain Bear into a book form, though I think with some commentary and a layout similar to an art book it might work. I always think of the book 'You Don't Look 40, Charlie Brown', when I think of a Chain Bear book; it was half comics, half the autobiography of Charles Schultz.

9. Last movie you watched and your thoughts on it. Go!
Stuart: We rented the old black-and-white version of Lord of the Flies the other day, which I have never seen or read. Er… I had troubles with it. I think if Lauren hadn't been given me a running, book-knowledge commentary of who everyone was and why, I would have been very confused. I did, however, like the choir chanting. And Piggy. Why, oh why, didn't they listen to Piggy?

Lauren: I'd just finished reading the book for probably the 5th time and wanted to see what the film was like. It was okay. I'm not much of a film critic, but it was watchable. The best part was probably the song "Kyrie Eleison", which is a big part of the score.

10. I want to thank you for taking the time to be interviewed for the site. It was pretty darn fun! Now, one last question. Why should people check out Chain Bear? No, seriously. Why should they?
Stuart: Oh God… You know, Chain Bear is very unusual in that it's such a mixed bag. People who have good things to say have all come back with very different strips as examples; often these strips overlap with examples people have used as awful or baffling strips. On top of that, it takes a little while to actually understand Chain Bear as a continous comic, especially as the jokes are rarely handed out on a plate. So to answer your question I'd say people should read Chain Bear if they want a bit more of a challenge, or the comic equivalent of Bertie Botts' Every Flavour Beans.

Lauren: Because there's probably something for everyone's tastes in it. Also because you might be bored at work, and because Stuart and I are good people who work very hard. So in summary, Something for everyone + Boredom + Good people = Do it!

Gotta love those two! They really brought some flavor to the interview, didn't they? Do give em a shot and check out Chain Bear! Oh, one last thing, the infamous.....SELF PORTRAIT!!!!

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