This week, we catch up with webcomics creator Allan Wood.
Allan Wood writes and draws webcomics. He’s also a college student, a musician and an all-around nice guy I’ve had the pleasure of knowing through social media for quite a few years now.
ANTHONY: Allan, thanks for joining us this week.
ALLAN: Nice place you’ve got, here, Anthony!
ANTHONY: You started out in the webcomics world with an autobiographical eponymous daily comic on Drunk Duck, when you were in your mid-teens. What inspired you to start chronicling your daily life?
ALLAN: It was probably The Office. When I think back on it, now, I was drawing quite a few parallels between the Jim and Pam relationship, which lead me to want to write about my own life. Couple that with some research and I realized that the Journal Comic was way underdone (at least in my opinion). To me, reading about peoples’ lives in detail is fascinating (both for the included and the excluded information), and I made Allan as a means of exploring that fascination.
ANTHONY: Yours was one of the first comics, web or print, I’ve encountered where the panels run vertically instead of horizontal. The only other comic I can think of that used that format consistently was the classic “Little Nemo in Slumberland” over 50 years ago. Why did you choose that format, and have you ever considered switching Allan to a more traditional form?
ALLAN: Little pieces to my comics, such as layout, composition, writing styles, etc., are usually products of my own preferences and experimentation. Personally, I prefer scrolling to read things. Not sure why—it’s possible that it’s in the same vein as newspaper articles reading “faster” when they are wrapped into tight confines.
As for changing the layout, I have considered it. In fact, I’ve made some unpublished Allan strips recently that have branched out of my vertical layout.
ANTHONY: Being a chronicle of your life, Allan isn’t always “work-safe” but it is always truthful. You’ve opened up about relationship problems, losing your virginity, even the car vs. bike accident you had. Is there anything you regret making public? Or anything you’ve left out or glossed over that you wish you had taken the time to draw and include?
ALLAN: I don’t regret a single thing I’ve drawn. I’ve tried to make it all as accurate and honest as I could. Do I regret letting some of it happen?—sure, but creating a timeline that in 20 years I can look back on and laugh at how stupid I was is surely nothing to apologize for!
ANTHONY: Allan isn’t a daily comic anymore … adulthood has brought more constraints on your time, but you’ve also branched out a bit with other webcomics projects. Before we talk about those projects, one last Allan question. Do you foresee a time when you’ll discontinue Allan in favor of other creative endeavors?
ALLAN: Allan’s always been my “time-killer” comic. If I have an idea, I can draw a strip in under an hour. Because of this, Allan’s toughed out all the slumps I’ve come across with my other comic endeavors. It’s easy to pick up, accessible, and just plain ol’ fun (from an artist’s perspective). Having said that, I could see Allan “ending” around Day 1000. I’m not saying I’ll ever stop drawing journal comics, but with trends in comics I’ve noticed lately, the Formatted Comic isn’t necessary for success. Expanding on that, people seem less interested in comics and more interested in the people who create comics they read. It’s an interesting phenomenon, but creating a bond between your readers and yourself is probably one of the best things any webcomic artist can do, and having that bond with my readers, I couldn’t just see myself leaving them without any kind of continuation, regardless as to whether it’s on a site called Allan or not.
ANTHONY: Your other currently-running webcomic is Blue Circus. Definitely NSFW! Tell us what it’s about, who the target audience is, and where it can be found.
ALLAN: I grew up drawing a lot of men. Dragon Ball Z was a big influence when I young. Akira Toriyama’s understanding of the male physique sprouted my own appreciation for the muscles that make up our bodies. However, I never really “got into” drawing girls. They’ve always been a difficult enigma for me to craft accurately, stylistically, and femininely.
Blue Circus began as just an art project. I wanted to draw girls. The problem was, I was having a hard time thinking up girls to draw and at the moment I had no reference photos or anything like that (I was home for a weekend visiting family). As I struggled to draw the female figure in different positions I realized that I wasn’t attached to these drawings. So I began thinking up a backstory, and as I did, I found myself becoming more and more attached to this girl I was drawing. Her name was Amy (Amy is now one of the main protagonists in Blue Circus).
So once I decided on one character, the rest kind of all fell into place. It’s definitely not a comic I expect commercial success with or anything, so I never planned on an audience. Rather, it’s a means for me to stretch my artistic wings when it comes to cartoony females and to practice my story plots on the side.
ANTHONY: You’ve never been shy about sexual topics, but you’re a bit more …. detailed, shall we say, in BC than you’ve been in any other project. So what made you decide to really “work blue,” as the Vegas comedians used to call it?
ALLAN: Blue, indeed. I think it’s a well-established fact that I like sex. A lot of people do. I can understand why, too. Sex is fun, funny, and fascinating. It’s intricate and detailed, and it reveals a lot about people. Consider the explicity of it to be an experimental character device (you can learn a lot about a character through their dreams). Blue Circus is not about sex, but rather the people who do sex, and I’m working trying to find a good balance. It should be noted that the nudity in Blue Circus is not gratuitous. I draw boobs and penises for reasons. I don’t just shove them into the panels so people can beat off to them.
ANTHONY: I definitely wouldn’t describe BC as “pornography.” Now, let’s talk creative process for a minute. There are plenty of differences between Allan and BC: real life vs. fiction, vertical vs. horizontal page layouts, etc. For BC, how do you decide the composition of each page, the length of each story arc, etc.?
ALLAN: Blue Circus story arcs begin with an idea. How well-thought out that idea is varies, but that’s its beginning point. Earlier in production, I would think up the dialogue in my head, draw the characters, and try to match the events together. Now, I kind of create one strip at a time, writing the dialogue (which usually has changed by the time I’m done drawing) to strips and then drawing them. It seems to be working better.
Other comics I’ve done, such as Red Future, I’ve written in their entirety. The problem was, the comics themselves took too long to make and I got bored with it, trying to rush to the “good parts.” Personally, I find myself more entertained with my works when I surprise myself with each update.
ANTHONY: Since we’re both LOST fans, you know I have to ask: Does BC have an intended end point, or are you just making it up as you go along?
ALLAN: Right now, the latter. The final moment hasn’t been decided upon. The girls are all in college, so the easy end would be graduation. However, that’s boring, and personally, I’d want to go out with more of a bang.
ANTHONY: One more blue question: Whatever happened to the Blue Squire?
ALLAN: That’s like asking Star Trek what happened with Tribbles. The Blue Squire was an in-joke pertaining to a Medieval Times experience I had when I was younger. Later he became a bit of a mascot for Allan, and at one point I was in the process of creating a storyline for The Squire, himself. Things fell through, though, and time got away from me. I don’t know if you’ve figured this out, yet, but I stop a lot of projects before fully completing them!
ANTHONY: See what I did there? And since I mentioned the Squire, you know I’m going to bring up two other unfinished projects of yours: whatever happened to DandE and Red Planet? Any thoughts about going back to either one?
ALLAN: DandE was a comic I created in the midst of making The 600. I drew it at school during math classes because apparently I didn’t already have enough comic projects going on (even though I very much did). I stopped it early after publishing it online because of time restraints. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel attached to the project enough to pick it back up. I still may include some of those old strips in an Allan anthology or something, but for now, it’s done.
As for Red Future, I became bored with its process. Personally, I do more than just draw. I have to write, produce, create, and once I had finished writing RF, all I was doing was copying down the info.
ANTHONY: Are your comics hand-drawn and then scanned, or done completely on the computer? In either case, what are the tools you prefer to use to create the art?
ALLAN: Usually my strips are hand-drawn with some kind of fancy pen (no pencil sketching) then scanned into the computer and cleaned up just a tidbit. Occasionally I will make a digital strip (that is, a strip drawn into my computer through the means of my Intuous 3 Wacom Tablet), but this is usually for convenience (or lack of materials). An Allan page looks best to me when it visually represents a journal comic, and you just don’t get the same feel with digital processes that you get with pen on paper.
ANTHONY: And for my usual final question: What is your favorite book, and what would you say to recommend it to someone who hasn’t read it yet?
ALLAN: I’m not much of a book person. I should be, because I like learning, thinking, and imagining, but currently I find investing the time impossible (I like getting things done fast). However, Fahrenheit 451 is my favorite book. The world Bradbury weaves of his own volition frighteningly predicts what the world could become (and even stranger—what it already has),
ANTHONY: Thanks again for agreeing to be interviewed, Allan!
ALLAN: Thanks for having me! And thanks for being so patient.