New Comic Day co-creator Eric Ratcliffe (Doombug) takes time to talk about the popular, award-winning webcomic with OH writer Adrian Coleman!
While rising prices, declining sales, and an ever-cynical fanbase put the future of monthly print comics into question, it's important to realize that the artform as a whole is still quite strong. Webcomics are more popular than ever. Despite a turbulent infancy that made it impossible to differentiate the crap from the creme, webcomics today have found a model for sustained success. If you have a pencil, a pen, a good idea, and a plan, you're almost guaranteed an audience; if you're consistent and timely, that audience will grow. Bridging the gap between the fandoms of print and webcomics is the purpose of the OH's new Digital Link section. We're proud that an interview with The Outhouse's own Doombug, Eric Ratcliffe, is Digital Link's opening salvo!
OH: Hey Eric! Thanks for taking the time to talk with me about New Comic Day. Where did the idea for NCD come from?
Eric: NCD was created after Comicrelated.com's first webcomic It's All Related hit the website. I had a bug kind of crawl into my head going "I want to do that!" so I emailed co-creator Bill Gladman and pitched a very rough idea to him. At first Chad Strohl wasn't even attached to the strip, it was a whole other artist. But then Chad stepped aboard and we soon became the team we've been for three years now.
OH: Are the Eric and Bill in NCD a pretty accurate reflection of you and Bill in real life when it comes to comics and pop culture?
Eric: For the most part, I believe so. Bill and Chad are probably two of the biggest KISS fans I know. Personally I'm not big on KISS, as is witness in that arc. NCD me can do some pretty stupid things at moments but I tend to try and write him as close to myself as humanly possible...minus the fact that he gets his hands on some of the craziest stuff imaginable. The only time I think he's been out of character is when Bill decided I liked Megan Fox, which I never have or will. Also Bill's complete hatred of Deadpool is probably more in reality than what it is in the strip.
OH: While New Comic Day traditionally sticks with one or two-part stories, it's also ventured into longer arcs, crossovers with other webcomics, guest stars, guest artists such as Phil Hester, and has even broken the fourth wall, much like traditional paper comics. Was this a conscious approach or something that just happened?
Eric: We totally broke the fourth wall, didn't we? I always forget about that one. The crossover was fun if only because it gave people the chance to get to know Chaching, a crazy monkey created by our good friend John Wilson, I look forward to the day he brings that webcomic back.
Even the shark jumping was planned out to a certain extent because I wanted to give a wink and a nod to the internet's constant complaining about something jumping a shark. Also I really, really love that shark.
Year #3 we are going to be seeing a rise in guest stars as Bill takes his official leave of the strip. I actually really dig writing guest stars. There was a cut strip somewhere in the line before Ed Norton was still the Hulk. Basically I tick off the Hulk and reap the consequences.
Vol. #2 has a strip drawn by good friend and Feeding Ground artist Michael Lapinski that I think people will get a big kick out of.
OH: You have a very loyal fanbase for a webcomic entering just its third year. Are there things you guys have learned about yourselves as fans of comics and pop culture now that you're in the role of creator?
Eric: We have a very small fanbase, I think we have like 7,000 unique hits every week or something like that. I'd have to ask Brant as he usually runs the site for me.
So what have I learned? I think I've learned a lot from being in a partnership in the first place. Working with four other people can be both incredibly rewarding and kind of infuriating at moments. You will butt heads no matter what, but you just have to roll with it and do your best to come up with something everyone can agree on.
I've also been able to see Chad grow and evolve as an artist. I've been able to help Lisa learn about a lot of the stuff we reference, and even been able to really grow as a writer.
At the same time there are also negative things I've learned and I'm still incredibly nervous about being on my own when it comes to writing the strip. Though Brant just wrote an incredible extra for Vol. #2 that was really really funny so I told him he had to write some year #3 stuff.
OH: Year 3 will have a couple of creative changes. What should fans anticipate?
Eric: Year #3 has a lot of changes, NOTHING WILL BE THE SAME!!!
Wait...what's that? I was just told I'm lying. My bad on that.
So first things first we are losing the very talented and awesome colorist Lisa Moore, who is currently doing lots and lots of paid work but I'm still bummed we lost her.
Then there is the huge elephant in the room: no more Bill. A few months ago Bill sent an email that just says he's stepping down, this was around when strip #99 was coming out. It came as a surprise to everyone, myself included. New Comic Day has become such a huge part of my life, heck I spent over $500 dollars on stuff for Boston Comic Con to promote the webcomic. I mean, you guys gave us an award for the strip which means the world to me.
So for Bill to say he was leaving, it hurt... a lot. It's something I'm still not fully over if I'm to be completely honest. I mean I'd be lying if I said our relationship was the same as it was when we started things. Both of our lives have changed a lot and we were talking less and less, so I should have seen it coming.
But right after I got that email and for a few weeks following it, I was heavily depressed/stressed out and not knowing what to do next...other than make sure I kept New Comic Day going. I wrote up three months' worth of strips to send to Brant/Lisa and Chad to show them the new direction to make sure everyone was staying on.
Chad and Brant stayed and Lisa had to let us know she was leaving, so the search was on for a brand new colorist. Luckily after a month and a half of searching, we found Alyssa Justice who is pretty awesome and I like her work a lot. She was already a fan of the strip which didn't hurt.
So yeah...to properly answer the question (those that read the commentary every week know how distracted I can get) Eric goes solo starting around strip #121. The comic version of Bill is no longer in the strip, which I would like to state was a very hard decision for me, I just wasn't comfortable writing Bill without him being still on the team.
Chad and Brant have more appearances in this third year as well as some pretty big comic book name guests. Just wait till you see who Eric ticks off this season. We also have our first bonus strip handling the DCU reboot coming out on the 31st as a bonus strip (we're going to attempt to do as much of these as possible this year.)
But while Bill is still around, we have a Sherlock Holmes arc as well as a few other really funny ones coming up!
OH: Will Bucky and Jumper the Shark survive the upheaval?
Eric: I haven't written any Bucky yet to be honest. I've been wanting to introduce him to a certain black cat I own in real life but writer's block is getting in the way of how I'm going to write that.
Jumper is a bit more complicated, I feel Chad knows how to use him better than I do. The last time we saw him I was about to get beat up so I mean I don't see why he wouldn't return. That shark rules.
Chad is awesome by the way, he improves scripts completely with everything he adds. So both should return at some point down the line.
Probably going to see Ron Fortier make his return again soon as well.
OH: You've been able to do a few recurring themes in NCD (the t-shirts, your unrestrained kleptomania, etc.). What's been your favorite?
Eric: It's not kleptomania! Hal left that ring for me to fi....I mean, I totally was chosen as a Green Lantern, yeah that's the ticket. (Look forward to possibly seeing Eric head to Oa some point soon by the way) I think one of my personal favorite themes is just the fact that anything comic-me can think of, he gets his hands on. He's like a cosplayer but with actual weapons and devices at his hands.
T-shirts were Chad's idea at first that then molded into Brant giving shout outs to friends of ours at moments and then other moments I'd be wearing a Frontalot t-shirt out of nowhere, which is still a favorite of mine.
I love some of the callbacks too, we make sure each strip is new reader friendly but at the same time we've had callbacks that relate all the way back towards the beginning. NCD has evolved in just this really unique way.
OH: How did it feel when you found out that Tom Brevoort was a fan?
Eric: I'm not sure if he's actually a fan, as I myself haven't been able to talk to him at all yet. I was trying to get him a copy of Vol. #1 last NYCC, but he was sick halfway through the con so I didn't get to run into him. Hopefully this year.
For the readers of this interview that don't know, I'm friends with Brevoort on Facebook. When we launched the webcomic like a day later I was on Facebook and clicked on a link that he posted, turns out it was our webcomic! It was incredibly surreal, I'm not even sure if he still reads it.
Also apparently Dan Slott dug the strip too. I've given copies to friends like Jim McCann, and I know Phil reads it occasionally. It's really cool to find out just who reads it sometimes.
OH: Have you encountered any resistance from fans of traditional comics to following a comic online?
Eric: I can honestly say that I haven't been met with any resistance from traditional comics fans. Maybe it's because even though I work on something that is web based, I am still the kind of guy myself who likes to have physical book/comic in my hands. It's really something I don't think I'll grow out of.
That being said though, we make each collection special so people will get something extra out of it. We put extra strips, annotations and all that into each volume we collect.
I'm also currently trying to contact people who put digital comics out so we can get it to those digital fans. I really don't discriminate towards fanbases so maybe that's why I don't get any resistance?
OH: For any readers of this interview who still haven't gone to www.newcomicday.net, why should they and what can they expect?
Eric: New Comic Day is what happens when you give a comic fan unlimited power. It's Looney Tunes meets Clerks. It's comic fans arguing over their favorite characters. It's Tardis stealing, Cosmic Cube wielding, hand cutting-off, anime fan-inciting rage and insanity all wrapped up into one fun package every week.
If I'm making you laugh, I'm doing my job right and that's the bottom line to me, to make sure people are enjoying the stories I'm writing.
Give us a shot as we really run the gamut of pop culture. We reference literally everything! Plus we have an amazing track record staying on time now for 108 weeks!
New Comic Day LIVE Episode
New Comic Day is a weekly webcomic updated every Wednesday. A printed collection of the first year of stories can be found here. New Comic Day TM and © Bill Gladman & Eric Ratcliffe. All rights reserved.
Written or Contributed by: Adrian