|Ali was kind enough to field some of our questions last week. If you've not heard of Ali before is he the creator of a wonderful comic called HOUSD. I suggest get a cup of coffee to sit and read this interview with as Ali has answered the questions brilliantly.
If you don't know what HOUSD is, click here to visit the comic.
1) What webcomics are you currently giving all your loving to and why?
There are so many great webcomics around these days; it’s really hard to keep up. I started out reading the standard ones like PA, PVP etc, which I still read mainly out of habit. But my personal favourites these days are the likes of CAD, Sam & Fuzzy and Diesel Sweeties, I’m not much for deep philosophical fantasy stories, I’d rather have a cheap laugh at a fool’s expense.
2) I know you're based in the UK; does this make it harder to attract an audience as a large proportion of the webcomic readers out there are based in places such as America?
The internet is such a global place, its hard to say whether where you are from effects your readership inclinations. I see myself as more of a webcomic creator who happens to be British rather than a “British Creator,” the whole language is becoming more universal so I try to reflect that, in the way that I’ll say “dude” as opposed to “old chap.”
3) I hear that you are a comic convention/festival goer, what has your experience been of the UK conventions?
Obviously UK festivals are far smaller than the uber conventions of the US. The biggest one might have up to 40 tables. Other than that I can’t really compare them with US ones. Like any event, there is great diversity from your hardcore comic collectors that will spend four hours sifting through bargain bins, to your average webcomic reader. It’s a nice relaxed vibe, and people are pretty polite and complimentary.
Unfortunately the webcomic scene isn’t as well catered for, so as an exhibitor I often find that I’m pitching to the wrong crowd. But as with anything, it’s always moving. The big “official” festivals seem to be dying out, leaving a gap for more indie, small press events. Its all good.
4) When you were first starting your webcomic, what were your early inspirations?
Of course people are going to see a lot of Penny Arcade in the style, which is true, but I feel I have evolved away from that somewhat in my style of story telling. People always draw comparisons with the big comics, but you have to remember that they drew inspirations of there own.
5) How far do you think you've come since that first HOUSD strip?
Before HOUSD I used to make Simpsons fansites, which introduced me to website design, basic Flash illustration (as well as the true nature of the internet’s inhabitants). So taking the leap wasn’t such an issue. I started on a whim, just to kill some time and do my own thing. The art was a bit sketchy and jokes incredibly lame, after a long while I realised there was a bit of interest, so I decided to try and stick to a solid schedule, get some content to the site and it just built from there
For most comic creators its there first shot, so it’s all a learning process – hence the change in file format / layout etc. Now I feel the characters are developed enough that they can actually write their own stories, which is a good place to be.
6) Along the way have there been any barriers that have slowed the progression and development of the comic?
Time is always the factor. Having school six days a week makes it a pretty big task to do a daily comic, and keep it up to a good standard. When I get home from school, sometimes a comic is the last thing I want to do, but it’s a good way of relaxation, as no matter how angry you are, you have to make yourself think of something funny.
These days there are spiffy scripts which allow you to automatically update and archive, as opposed to doing everything manually, which is always handy.
7) Do you have any plans for when you graduate from university? Do you think you'll still find time for webcomics?
Being the young scamp that I am (17) I haven’t actually started university yet, it is quite a harrowing thought. I’d like to think I would have time to carry it on. In an ideal world I’ll get miles ahead of myself over the summer, so that I have to create a comic maybe once a week when I actually get there. But I don’t know how plausible that is. But I’ll do my best
8) Where do you see the medium of webcomics going? Do you think that its possible that one they will be as popular as printed comics?
I think they are actually more popular than print comics now, as far as readerships go. If PA were to charge a dollar a month per visitor, they’d be doing just fine. People obviously don’t recognise webcomics in the same way as print comics, but the gap is certainly getting narrower and narrower between the two, with mainstream print comics publishing online, as well as webcomics publishing in print medium.
9) To create a successful webcomic what do you think are the main ingredients required? (basically how do you keep readers coming back / get them in the first place)
My ethos is, that “do it for yourself.” Of course the visitors are an integral part of me doing HOUSD, but if I didn’t enjoy it, then I wouldn’t do it. If people like the stuff, then they’ll come back, if not, they won’t.
I’m not trying to make deep social and political statements about the ruin of humanity, I just write stupid stories about talking penguins.
Getting people to come in the first place is a tricky one. You’ve got to have something to offer people to begin with, and I figure as artistic quality isn’t a huge part of HOUSD, go for quantity. Link exchanges are also great. This time last year, I asked Jeff Rowland (WIGU) to take a look at the site, and he ended up plugging it and sending over 1000 visitors my way. Advertising is effective to a certain extent, but just stick at it and you’re bound to get a break at some point.
10) Given that you do HOUSD for pleasure are you ever tempted to throw in the towel when you get bad press as it were?
Bad press is the least of my worries to be honest. The internet amuses me in the way that people put on these guises (often completely opposite to their real personalities) and think that bombarding people with there opinions vindicates them in some way. This is often caused by a lack of real life social skills, so “bad press” is just a release of someone’s emotions which they are unable to express in real life.
I offer these comics for free, enjoy them by all means, if you have some constructive criticism, I’m all ears, but any sort of malicious attack at a person that you have never met is just plain sad.