I want my Indy comics, No Onions....bitch.
Indy Hunter (IH): Cheese…first question I have to ask you is…What’s up with your “twat”? How’s it doin?
Cheese Hasselberger (CH): It is operating within established parameters. Thank you for asking. Oh, you mean my twitter? I often forget I named the feed on houseoftwelve.com Cheese's Twat. Um, it's fine. I just passed 100 chinese spambot followers.
IH: Presently House of 12 has turned it’s focus on mobile apps, what can you tell us about that venture, and does it mean the end of the House of 12 printed comics as we know it? (I hope not).
CH: About 18 months ago we started working with Comixology creating a new, exclusive series of stories specifically for their their software. We were trying to take advantage of their popular 'guided view' technology and explore new storytelling concepts. Sales started out great, but have petered off in recent months. I'll tell you, the best thing to come out of this is the experience has taught me that there's no one way to make comics anymore. You can't JUST do print, or JUST do a web-comic, or JUST an app based comic, it has to be a combination of all of it: A web-comic, a digital release and a print book. All working in unison. To that end, coming this fall we're launching a new web-comics portal for our creators to debut new projects, run continuing story lines and sell print books as well. It'll also serve as an archive for all of our past material, letting a new audience see what we've been up to for the last decade. So, to answer your question, no it's not the end of our print books, but maybe a different direction.
IH: Follow up question is, what are the pros and cons when you compare the two?
CH: Print is a huge pain in the ass. Not only does printing books cost real cash, so does shipping, transpo and storage of them afterwards. Print on Demand services have lessened that a bit. I don't have to order a pre-set amount, I can just get enough for a show or a two, but it still leaves a multitude of boxes holed up in my office closet. The Pro to print is it means real sales, cash on the barrelhead for your work and the thrill of holding the book in your hands. I still get shivers when I get a new shipment.
Digital on the hand is fucking free. All it costs me is time and maybe a few web-ads here and there. The biggest problem with digital is the market. Sure, there's a huge market for web-comics about video games, or superheroes, or four-panel fixed camera strips, but there really isn't one for indie/alt/underground comics. Serializer.com was the closest anyone came to making a commercially viable, indie web-comic portal. There are of course exceptions, but they are few and far between.
IH: Since you’ve gone digital can we hope to see a Mugen version of House of 12 characters, artists and creations alike? I’m sure one of you is dying to launce a fireball out of their hands!
CH: Yeah, I'm working on Super Street-Farter 2: World Championship Edition Extreme as we speak. The fireballs don't come from my hands.
IH: You’ve been doing comics since longer than I’ve been on the internet, which was circa 2001/2002, what keeps you going? Do you see yourself ever stopping?
House of Twelve #1 came out in 2001, and no, I don't see myself stopping. House of Twelve will be around for the foreseeable future. What keeps me going is I have what I think are some pretty funny stories I want to tell and comics afford me an outlet for them.
IH: While you’re about to be 4 issues into your mobile app series, you’ve got a good library going of printed books, if I were to list a few, what springs to mind when reminiscing (sp) of each?
A) Heavy Metal
Heavy Metal was one of our movie parodies. These were my answer to 24 Hour Comics. I hate the idea that someone needs to prove themselves in a race to be considered a decent cartoonist. Making a good comic takes time, thought and skill. Who'd want to trade that in for some rushed bullshit? You don't see Charles Burns doing 24 Hour Comics (shit, you hardly see him doing 24 month comics, yuk, yuk, yuk).
What I did was socialized the idea. Instead of rushing through a 24 page P.O.S. by yourself, get some beers, some hot-dogs and a BBQ and make a party out of it. I'd get 8 folks together, get'em drunk and fed and we'd all work on the books together, one person writes the story the other pencils another inks, etc. By the end of the day we'd have a 24 page book that was better looking and funnier then nearly every 24 hour comic I ever read combined, and we did it in less time and had more fun doing it. We chose movies that could be told in segments, that way we could have multiple stories going on at once. Heavy Metal fit this perfectly, all we had to do was introduce the Loc-nar (the glowing green orb from the classic 80s movie) and each segment could be its own separate story. After we were done I went back and added in a root story to connect them all together.
We did three of these books, Rashomon, Heavy Metal and The Breakfast Club. I always wanted to do one more, Kill Bill, but folks started getting married, having babies, etc. and we kinda let it slack off. Heavy Metal was far and away the best of them, funny all the way though with some stellar art from everyone. That'll be one of the first comics to go up on the new website.
B) HO12 no. 2 The Super Sized Sci-Fi Spectacular
Our books have always had themes, issue one was about religion, issue three about obscenity, issue four was an anti-war book, and number two was our genre book. This was I had the "brilliant" idea of pigeon-holing my indie-stalwart contributors into making some space comics. It half-worked. There are some pretty fun strips in it, but there are also some real dogs. Some don't even make sense, but they came in too close to the deadline, so off they went. If I had it to do again I might've delayed it a few months and had some folks touch up their work, myself included. Mine ended in up being a skinless, zombie-nun porno, which was fine and all, but I always felt it needed another page to 'flesh' the story out/add more porn.
C) HO12 no. 5 Touching Children’s Stories
I really liked this one, it's maybe my favorite of our books. For years we did the various indie comics conventions and would have to shoo any kids away from the table (see the note about the skinless, zombie nun porn above). I wanted something that I could reach that audience with. I worked too! Not only that, but it was a humdinger of a book too, featuring a wide range of jokes, oddity and adventure.
D) Breakfast Club
TBC was the last of the movie parodies, in each segment we explained why the kids were in detention. It gave me the opportunity to work with one of my favorite cartoonists, Kate Lacour one on one. The thing that sticks in my head was I sent it to a local print shop early in the morning and got a call about an hour later telling me they wouldn't print it because it was dirty. Pressed for time, I brought it to my local Kinkos (or Fed Ex, whatever) and the punker chick behind the counter was thrilled to print it, she even kept a few for herself (just as I did when I printed people's minis for them when I worked at Kinkos in the 90s), an hour of stapling and folding with some friends and that's all she wrote.
E) Lastly HO12 no. 1
House of Twelve #1 was a long time in the making. It all started when I went to the School of Visual Arts (1990-1994) and was part of a collective we called The House of Twelve. Year later many of us worked together on a show for Mtv animation (Mtv Downtown), and when that got canceled we were all sort left standing in the street with our dicks in our hands. We decided that was the time to do this fantasy project we had had for years, to make our own comic. We came up with a rough theme and got to work on it. It took about six months until the fucker was done, and then we were set to debut it at SPX 2001, which was canceled due to some assholes smashing airplanes into a couple of buildings about a mile from my house. So while it was available through the web and at some local NYC shops it wasn't really released until 2002. It's a weird book, full of too many in-jokes and supposition, but a good look at where we were headed.
IH: On top of publishing comics, you also hold a monthly comics jam, and on occasion a few of your printed comic specials have come from hanging out with other cartoonists. What’s a typical jam session like, and what could newbs expect if they show up to join the fun?
Just about the same time we launched House of Twelve I drunkenly posted on the old Comics Journal message board that the local New York posters should get together and have an alcohol-fueled mess of a comic jam. Two weeks later about a dozen people showed up and off to the races we went, 10 years later and we're still going. I love the Jam, easily one of the best ideas I've ever had.
When walking in newcomers can expect to find a dozen or so dorks screaming about the latest issue of whatever and how Creator X isn't cool anymore, but Creator Z is totally the shit, all the while downing gallons of beers and scratching innumerable dick and fart jokes into communal sketchpads. It's like a playdate for misanthropes, I love it. www.nyccomicjam.com
Written or Contributed by: Royal Nonesuch