Writer Antony Esmond and artist Paul Rose have been consistently putting out web-strip adventures of Alagg the Barbarian since April, and have been featured here on the Essential Webcomics Showcase for about a month. Now you can read an in depth interview covering the off-beat sense of humor of both creators, and you can see some of what must surely go on during the creation of the comic.
RJD: I’m ready if you guys are.
Antony Ez Esmond: We are. Let’s do it. I am here with Paul.
RJD: Alright, welcome Paul and Anthony. If one of you is speaking, are you going to want to specify who is saying it, or would you rather speak as one entity?
Antony Ez Esmond: Good idea I will give the name of the person speaking before the answer.
RJD: Ok, sounds great. In that case, I guess we can go ahead and proceed with the questions, then.
Antony Ez Esmond: groovy. And please remember we are old and type slowly.
RJD: It’s ok, i’m an older person in a younger person’s body, so i won’t judge. First of all, how did the two of you meet, and how long was it before the genesis of Alagg the Barbarian happened?
Antony Ez Esmond: cool (we said cool in the 1970s).
Paul: We met on Comicspace actually and discovered that we lived near each other.
Antony Ez Esmond: We were both independently trying to get some comics stuff off the ground and had a love of similar stuff.
RJD: So the project got kicked off pretty soon after you two met in person?
Antony Ez Esmond: Paul and I went to Kapow Comicon this year and he then suggested we do a weekly webstrip.
Paul: I pitched Ez a few ideas. One about a Cozplayer, one about a busker, one about a poer rangers team but Ez seemed to like the one about a hapless barbarian the best.
RJD: And do you guys think any of those other pitched ideas might ever come to fruition in some form or fashion?
Paul: I was unemplloyed when I came up with Alagg and the idea of an unemployed barbarian seemed like something I could have a few ideas with.
Antony Ez Esmond: I wrote some stuff for the cozplay girl but we decided to go with Alagg as it seemed to have the most opportunities for gags. But you never know we might bring her back.
RJD: Paul, from the way you worded your previous response, it sounds like you are employed now, yes? If that’s the case, does that hurt your perspective on Alagg, as it is still about an unemployed Barbarian?
Paul: I am unemployable and Alagg is now my life (this may well be a joke).
Antony Ez Esmond: Dont forget that Alagg is soon to be the Sheriff (so you beware).
RJD: A little bit about the format of the strip for a little. Is Alagg very arc-based, or more of an “each episode stands by itself” kind of thing?
Paul: We are trying to start the idea of the arc but every now and then we can drop in an out of continuity gag.
Antony Ez Esmond: I like the idea of the longer storyline as it helps me with the writing. But every so often I will think of something that sparks me and I will write a current affairs style joke (as you can see we did one about the DC reboot that got a lot of attention). We are currently in the middle of doing the Sheriff storyline and that is turning out to be fun.
Paul: We are also working on a big stand alone story that is a bit epic.
RJD: I guess now is a great time to ask this, before i forget. Is this a colaborative effort on the storytelling end, and then Paul draws it, or is it more of a “I take story, you take art,” kind of thing?
Paul: I came up with the original characters and setting and I then gave it to Ez to run with script wise. He can write whatever takes his fancy.
Antony Ez Esmond: And I do clearly.
RJD: Paul, has Anthony ever surprised you with something he has come up with that you might not have expected when creating the general plot and characters?
Antony Ez Esmond: It is fair to say that we border on the saucy and quite a lot of that is my humour. Paul will often write and draw one and drop it on me. We are just enjoying doing it at the moment.
Paul: One or two times the script has gone in a different way than I thought he would go but I am always up for the challenge (have a look at how Alagg’s dress went for example).
Antony Ez Esmond: He has never turned me down (if you see what I mean).
RJD: The dress was quite popular, yes?
Paul: Especially with all our transvestite stalkers.
Antony Ez Esmond: i hope he is joking.
Antony Ez Esmond: Sarcasm is our trade craft.
RJD: And how large would you say the transvestite stalker populace is from your readership (this question can be taken as seriously as you chose)
Antony Ez Esmond: We try never to be serious. But I am sure that it is a growing Alagg demographic. [pauses] This interview is going well – typical Alagg stuff – could make a good strip.
Paul: But seriously my stalker is Spanish!
Antony Ez Esmond: Paul may be referring to his Deviant Art page – which is scaring me.
RJD: Speaking of the fans, was it very surreal for you guys to start getting feedback on your strip?
Paul: We love the feedback. We’d love to get more. It’s good to see what is working and what people like rather than basing it on viewing figures.
Antony Ez Esmond: I worked on small press print comics for years and barely got a letter so I love any kind of feedback.
RJD: Yeah, i was wondering if the viewership wasn’t very responsive to a gag or a storyline of some kind, would that be a deciding factor in ending that story earlier than you planned?
Antony Ez Esmond: Not at all. I write quite a long way ahead so we have loads of strips prepared. We are always a good few weeks ahead. I always have scripts and outlines for about a month ahead.
RJD: Ah, ok, so that can be helpful if you ever get caught up in a writer’s block or something.
Paul: Red Sonja however was popular so she might well be appearing again soon.
Antony Ez Esmond: We don’t believe in writer’s block.
Paul: There are plenty of barbarian stories we can parody out there.
Antony Ez Esmond: Yeah there is quite a lot of material in Game of Thrones that I am sure will come up eventually.
RJD: That’s great to hear, Ez. And as Paul is hitting on, do you guys try and focus your parody toward the barbarian stuff, or do you like to do the other things, like the DC reboot you mentioned?
Paul: A lot of the stuff w are paodying is what I read growing up in the 1970s as a kid. Like Asterix, early Conan, Michael Moorcock, Cerebus the Aardvark and anything by Jim Starlin.
Antony Ez Esmond: Love the Jim Starlin (big fans). I try to take every day stuff and twist it in to a Barbarian framework. The new Conan movie will I am sure give us a lot to work with and we have some strips ready to go upon its release.
RJD: Ok, i’m glad you mentioned Moorcock, so I don’t have to. I am a huge fan of Elric of Melnibone, and i was wondering if that was an influence. That does look like a nice group of stories to draw from.
Antony Ez Esmond: Thats funny. We were just talking about the Elric appearance in the 1970s Marvel Conan book and how much we loved it.
Paul: I’d like to see Alagg with a needle gun soon!
RJD: Also, i was going to mention the Conan movie, so i’m glad that has come up now as well. Are both of you fans of Conan, and more specifically the fantasy genre as a whole?
Antony Ez Esmond: Moorcock is great. His stuff is very cool and I have have been listening to some Elric talking books on the train to work. So I am sure that we will get some Elric influenced stuff soon.
Paul: Obviously I’ve always been in love with the fantasy art genre. Especially stuff by Frazett , Boris, Windsor Smith and John Buscema.
Antony Ez Esmond: I am a huge fan of the old school 70s and 80s fantasy as well.
RJD: And are you guys looking forward to the Conan movie not just as a possible source of parody material, but as fan(boy)s as well?
Antony Ez Esmond: We have a fairy race in the strip who are very Moorcock / Neil Gaiman influenced.
Paul: No. I am worried by what I have seen of the actor seems the wrong choice. Even though some of the promotional posters have looked excellent.
RJD: Paul, do you think he’ll do better than Arnold?
Antony Ez Esmond: I will go and see it. I am also a Lovecraft fan and it seems to have some of his influenece in there too. Cthulu seems to make an appearance. (PS we have a character called Poothooloo coming up soon too).
Paul: I was hoping they were going to have a CGI Arnie in this film.
Antony Ez Esmond: Is that a joke?
Antony Ez Esmond: I am not sure how good he will be. I am waiting and seeing
RJD: After all, some things must be taken seriously. Like who shall play Conan. But, alas, i never saw any of the Conan movies. Though, I do have the Kevin Sorbo KULL movie on DVD. Don’t know how you guys think of that movie.
Paul: I haven’t seen it.
Antony Ez Esmond: It was OK. Liked that bird from Waynes World in it tho.
Paul: Is it better than Beastmaster?
Antony Ez Esmond: Nothing is better than Beastmaster
RJD: I actually haven’t seen the Beastmaster, so i am afraid i can’t answer that.
Paul: Or Beastmaster 2?
Antony Ez Esmond: 2 Secs I need to wee.
RJD: While waiting for him to wee, i just want to say that the name Poothooloo sounds incredible, and i cannot wait to see that in action. I’ve never actually read any Lovecraft, but i do love the concept of a giant maddening Squid demon.
Antony Ez Esmond: I am back. Thanks Poothooloo was a great name.
RJD: You briefly hit on this earlier, but is Alagg a full time thing for the both of you?
Antony Ez Esmond: PS Bird = Lady
Antony Ez Esmond: No. I actually write each days script on the train on the way to work and we e-mail back and forth about content and style every day. Paul is a bit of a machine and does up to two scripts a day.
RJD: 2 strips a day? That is insane. And Paul, what kind of computer programs do you use in the creation of the art?
Paul: For me its a full time thing (remember that I am unemployable). I do like spending the time coming up with new characters that we can use in future scripts and its amazing how quickly the time passes.
Antony Ez Esmond: Paul is a madman he out of the blue sends me two scripts he has done and I read them straightaway on my iPhone wile I am working and then post them later in the day.
Paul: I use a 3D programme calle Poser. And post work is done in photoshop.
RJD: Paul, is any of the art done by hand, or is it all on the computer?
Paul: I do matchstick figure thumnails for camera angles and stuff and then in the 3D programme I try out different light on the characters in the strip. That seems to take the most time and I have to play about with that a lot at the end of the process.
RJD: I guess perfecting that system would take alot of time, but once you have that down pat, i imagine the rest is easier.
Paul: The process is now getting quicker. Which I am hoping will lead to me having more time to experiment with panel layouts and promotional pictures for the strip.
RJD: Earlier you guys mentioned some of your influences from within the Barbarian genre, and from within comics (and some of those overlapped). Are there any influences you have outside of barbarian stories and comics?
Antony Ez Esmond: I am getting more aquainted with what the best script can produce artwise. And what Paul is capable of as well.
Paul: Just a bit of everyday life and current affairs stories.
Antony Ez Esmond: i am a bit fan of some of the more transgressive comedians. Bill Hicks, Derek and Clive and even Woody Allen. I hope that some of this creeps in to the scripts from time to time. English humour but also some states style stuff. I like to think that we are a bit out there with what we find funny.
RJD: If you guys had to compare the Alagg strips to some other well known or not so well known parody web comics, which one would you say it is most alike, to give people not familiar with it an idea of what to expect (if the rest of this interview hasn’t done that already)
Antony Ez Esmond: That is a difficult one as we didnt set out to be like anyone out there at the moment. I love a little bit of Groo the Wanderer (but that is a little bit old).
Paul: I am more of a fan of the newspaper strip format. Anything from Bo Peep to George and Lynne. Garth is pretty good as well.
RJD: Yes, i can see some Groo influence for sure. And like you guys mentioned, i can see Asterix in there as well.
Antony Ez Esmond: Yes I agree. Script wise we try and have a certain beat that is best compared to newpaper strips.
RJD: wow, i’m afraid i haven’t heard of any of those newspaper strips…
Paul: I remember being at School and the only books I took from the library would be Asterix or Tintin books (sweet memories).
RJD: Yes, i also, would only read the comics from the Library
Antony Ez Esmond: Our longer form comic we are working on at the moment to accompany the webstrip has a real Asterix feel to it. Obviously there is no Elephant wanking in Asterix though (always a down side).
RJD: I guess i’m running out of questions, gents. I have one final one for the two of you, if you don’t mind. For the more traditional comic book fans out there who prefer printed comics to digital media, have you collected any of the Alagg strips in trade paperbacks or are you planning on it in the near future?
Antony Ez Esmond: At the moment we are really enjoying the webcomics community. Essential Webcomics is a great place to get our product out there and we want to get that boost in readership before we go print. I come from an old school mprint comics background and love the immediacy of webcomics. I can write it , Paul draws it and it goes out to read straightaway.
Paul: An absolute edition of Alagg should be in the store for Christmas.
RJD: Yeah, i understand that printing could cost quite a bit more than just putting it up online. And believe me, we are quite happy to have Alagg on the Showcase.
Antony Ez Esmond: We have plans for a print comic that we are scripting as we speak so might be best to wait and see.
Antony Ez Esmond: you are very kind.
RJD: In that case, gentlemen, that’s about all i have. Do either of you have any final thoughts?
Antony Ez Esmond: Loving the ‘page turn’ style on your page. How did you get that effect?
Paul: We are always looking at good ways to network the strip to a bigger audience as well.
Antony Ez Esmond: nice one.
RJD: Then, if that’s all we have, gentlemen, i think i have nothing else. Thank you for taking the time out for me to ask you some questions. I really enjoyed this.
Antony Ez Esmond: All I would ask is that people keep clicking and reading. We like to think that we are getting better with our strip. It is about to go some very strange and hopefully funny places story wise so thanks again for all your support at Essential Webcomics.
Antony Ez Esmond: Us too.
Paul: Thanks again. Really fun.
RJD: Later, then!
Antony Ez Esmond: Apologies for the spelling mistakes and the English humour
Paul: You take care.