An Interview With Webcomic Factory Writer Tony DiGerolamo

Tony DiGerolamo runs the website The Web Comic Factory. He also writes for The Simpsons Comic book Series. Here is a link to his website:

http://www.thewebcomicfactory.com/

Q:  What motivate you to start an online comic website?

A:
I had been working in print comics a long time with titles like Jersey Devil, The Travelers, The Fix and Everknights. I had some success, but it always seem like the overhead was such a huge burden. I’d go to comic book convention and struggle trying to sell just a $3 comic. Plus it was so hard to get all my ideas out there. I have so many and it seemed like I spent more time promoting than creating.

Then one day, I was at a comic book show doing my usual shtick when I see these guys across from me selling T-shirts like crazy. $20 a pop all day! I was like, shit, maybe I have to do more shirts. Then the show ended and I was packing up and I saw these guys leaving and I said, “Hey guys, you had a nice convention.” They turned and said, “This is the worst convention we’ve ever done. We’re never coming back.” I was floored. Who were these guys? I asked around. They did a webcomic called Penny Arcade. I turned to my artist, Chris and said, “Chris, we’re doing a webcomic.” So I started with Super Frat. Eventually, I started The Webcomic Factory to do the webcomics I couldn’t do with the Super Frat characters. Now I’m making money and the creative challenges are everywhere!

Q:  What has been the biggest change in the comic book industry in the last ten years?

A: Nothing and that’s the problem. Print comics have been creatively stagnant for decades and the business side has only made things worse. The pricing has been out of control since comics passed the $2 mark. The movies do little to increase comic book sales. In fact, I would argue it actually further hurts them. What would you rather buy? $20 worth of Spiderman comics or the new director’s cut DVD of Spiderman 2 with extras, that probably won’t even cost you $20? There’s just no contest.

The behind-the-scenes editorial situation of the big two, in my view, is an utter nightmare. It’s a mix of the most cynical kind of corporate decision making, mixed with fanboys that haven’t read much of anything outside of comics and guys that just hire their own friends. Imagine Hollywood with no money and you pretty much have the comic book industry. The medium had a great opportunity in the 90’s to change to things and they blew it. They just decided to grab as much money as possible from the fans. Now, they’re paying for that mistake and webcomics are eating away at the fan base faster than they can make up for it. I predict that within the next ten years one of the major comic book companies will simply close shop and their corporate owners will farm out the characters to smaller publishers. (Probably the remaining publisher of the two.) And once Hollywood discovers webcomics, forget it. Print comic books are about as relevant, stable and profitable as print newspapers.

Within ten years, you’ll either be on the web or you’ll be nothing.

Q:  What is the secret to good comedy writing?

A: Surprise.

Q: What was the greatest comic book series ever (and why)?

A: Hmm. Tough call. I would say Grimjack. It was designed to be a comic book where literally anything can happen at any place with anyone. It ran the gamut from action, adventure, supernatural, science fiction, noir, comedy—- I really enjoyed it.

Q:  What was one of The Simpsons episodes you wrote for?

A: I write for the Simpsons comic books published for Bongo. My most recent story was Locked in Brewery, where Homer and Barney get trapped in the Duff Brewery during a tour and then have to save Duff from some corporate spies trying to steal their new secret beer recipe. It was in the most recent Simpsons Summer Shindig #6. Two of my favorite stories I wrote were when Lisa runs a games of Dungeons and Dragons (in the Bart Simpson comic #65) and a couple of stories I wrote called The Maggie and Moe Mysteries, where Moe babysits for Maggie and together they must solve a mystery.

Q:  How does one get their work on your site?

A: Well, everything on the site is either written by me or co-written by myself and the site’s co-founder, Christian Beranek. We work with artists from around the world, so if you’re an artist, feel free to shoot me a link with your portfolio. If you’re a writer, you’ll have to make your own site.

Q:  What is your wildest work story?

A: I work at home via computer, so other than the occasional website snafu, nothing happens here. But on the road at comic book conventions, plenty of stuff happens. I guess the wildest moment was when I was promoting The Travelers at Dragon Con. I would frequently offer a free comic to any woman that would go topless. Finally, someone took me up on that offer. She said she was broke and would flash the fans for $20. I said, sure. So I bought her top for $20 and she whipped it off in front of the fans to cheering. Later, one of my publishers asks, “Hey, did you ever card that girl and make sure she was 18?” I had not. I immediately threw away the top. No wait, that never happened, I just made that up.

Actually, once I dated a comic book groupie. She was actually there to meet my friend, another creator, but I ended up dating her for a year.

I was on a plane about a week before 9/11 and a storm hit. The cockpit door was swinging wide open and making noise keeping everyone awake. I thought, “That looks unsafe. What if the stewardess trips and falls across the controls? They should really secure that door for safety reasons.” Is that considered a wild story or does it have to be sex-related?

I saw two comic book dealers get into a fight on the floor of a convention once. They were arguing over some trade they had made and things go out of hand. A lot of those types of experiences I tried to put in Dealers, one of the webcomics we do on the Webcomic Factory. It’s about toy collectors in the late 90’s and is very similar to what happened in comics a few years prior.

Q: How accurate a stereotype is The Comic Book store Guy” from The Simpsons?

A: Scarily accurate. Dead on.

Q: If you were a superhero which one would you be?

A: Oh, who cares? Does anyone really give a shit about that? I create new characters every day and the vast majority of them are NOT superheroes. Who the Hell would be fighting crime if they had superpowers anyway? How about stopping wars? Helping the sick and homeless? How are you supposed to punch your way through those kinds of problems?

Q: If Batman and Superman got in a fight, who would win?

A: What are you six? Writers can make that story happen either way. They’re just characters. Please, read some webcomics. The creators there have moved pretty far beyond that.

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)

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