I love Fowl Language Comics. Maybe it’s because I am a mom who relates to almost every single FLC comic? Or perhaps it’s the precision in composition, line, humor, and artistry that creator Brian Gordon exhibits?
Needless to say, Fowl Language Comics is a wonderful webcomic to follow that, despite its general focus on parenting, has a universal appeal because of the variety of adult-life humor depicted and his excellent delivery.
Brian is a talented artist who works his day job at Hallmark (I thought I recognized some of that humor!). He was kind enough to share some of his time with me to answer my interview questions:
Interview with Brian Gordon, creator of Fowl Language Comics:
Q. At what point in time did you realize that you wanted to be an artist when you “grew up?”
A. Around 5 or 6, I guess. I was a decidedly indoorsy kid with few friends, so I spent most of my time watching TV and copying comics out of the funny pages. I wasn’t a great student and couldn’t -still can’t- play sports worth a damn, but drawing was the one area where I could get positive reinforcement. I read somewhere that Charles Schulz was a syndicated cartoonist, so as a kid that’s what I would tell people I was gonna be.
Q. That said, what inspired you to begin creating Fowl Language Comics?
A. It’s sorta complicated, how I got here. I should start by saying my full-time gig is making greeting cards for Hallmark’s Shoebox line. While I was attending Syracuse University, working on my MFA, I stumbled into an internship out here in Kansas City. Lucky for me, that turned into a real job.
Having grown up in Massachusetts I was reluctant to move to the Midwest, but I figured I’d just make cards for a couple years, become rich and famous and then move back to the coast. 17 years later and that damn coast is still as far away as ever.
About 7 years ago I got the bug to do some just-for-fun cartoons for Hallmark’s Shoebox Blog. For a while I was doing one-off gag cartoons, but that evolved into some reoccurring characters, which then became a cartoon I called Chuck & Beans. I had a blast seeing where I could take them and built up a sizable fanbase along the way.
I stopped drawing the comic last November after feeling some serious burnout. The characters are young and single and I’m married and increasingly…less young. Consequently they became harder and harder to write for.
Fowl Language was my answer to all that. I could start fresh with an older, more flawed character that was a married dad. It also gave me the opportunity to take more risks with content and language, since having a Hallmark-associated strip has inherit limitations. Now if I write a dirty or potentially offensive joke it only reflects on me.
Well, me and maybe my family. Sorry, guys.
I’m still proud of the work I did with Chuck & Beans and I might return to it one day, but in the meantime I’m happy to be doing something new.
The only bummer is that I had to completely start over. Since Chuck & Beans is owned by Hallmark I couldn’t really promote my new, non-Hallmark-owned stuff on their site. So after building up an audience there I had to start over, begging friends and family to read my new stuff. Luckily a few sites that knew my former work, like Geeks Are Sexy and Tastefully Offensive, found me and have been very kind to kick a few people in my direction.
Q. Wow- so you’ve already “been there and done that” in terms of professional illustration and getting a comic up and going. What main lessons have you received from your Chuck & Beans experience? Anything you would change if you were to do it over?
A. If nothing else, I try harder to proofread my work before I post it. If I’ve learned one thing it’s that if you want to completely derail a comic, misspell something. No one cares how funny or how well-drawn it is if there’s a typo.
Q. You started Fowl Language Comics so you could relate more to the character and push the limits more with content and controversy. Are there any FLC comics that have invoked surprising responses to this “risky” content?
A. Not yet. I have learned some websites will shy away from reposting certain explicit content, if only to not offend their advertisers. But otherwise, not so much. Even at my crudest, I’m a regular choirboy compared to so much that’s out there.
Q. How have your friends and family received your comics? How do they best support you in continuing your comic endeavors?
A. I think I may have alienated a few of my most sensitive friends and family, but most seem to be OK with it. Maybe I’m just getting pity “likes” on Facebook from them…
Q. With Chuck & Beans, your main characters were a dog and a rabbit. Why did you choose a duck as the anthropomorphic protagonist for Fowl Language Comics?
A. It originated from a silly sketchbook doodle I did of a swearing duck with the caption “Fowl Language.” I figured it was as good a place as any to start from and I figured the title alone would signal that I was trying a new direction with my work. More simply, I really just like drawing ducks.
Q. Some of the things I love about your artistic style is your varied line, the subtle texture, and the developed composition of each panel. Can you describe a little about your comic process, from idea to the web?
A. My foremost concern when I draw a cartoon is that it reads quickly. Even the funniest premise can be ruined if it’s too much of a chore to follow. So I put in the word balloons first to see how much room I have left for my drawings and then I go about figuring the cleanest, quickest layout I can. As for the line work, that comes from my love of old-timey dip pens. The first few years of Chuck & Beans were all done with a crow quill pen. But now, for the sake of time, I do all my work with a tablet and stylus. I love drawing with real ink, but deadlines are deadlines.
Q. What are some comics that best sum up what Fowl Language Comics is about?
A. Honestly, I’m still trying to figure that out. When I started the strip I thought it would be more character-based like Chuck & Beans, but I find myself doing more single-panel gags. That said, there’s a few comics that stand out from the rest for me:
Q. I think my own neurotic behaviors became more pronounced after I became a parent (with all the worrying, etc.). Is parenthood a similar reason why your tagline for the FLC Tumblr page is “Geeky comics for neurotics”?
A. Well, sure. Though while I wish I could put all the blame on my kids, I was sort of an anxious, obsessive guy long before they came along.
Q. What are some upcoming goals for Fowl Language Comics?
A. Like most cartoonists, I’d love to figure out how to make enough money from this to justify the time I put into it. I’d love to collaborate with some sort of marketing guru that could help me make the most of my efforts.
Q. What has been the best lesson you have learned through trial and error through creating a regular webcomic?
A. Just keep going. Some jokes bomb, others kill. You can’t really pause to celebrate or lick your wounds. You just gotta keep creating and keep the momentum going.
Q. What has been the best piece of artistic advice that you received?
A. To tune out all the endless feedback. It’s not exactly an art tip, but it’s an important one to keep in mind as a creative person. Some people are going to think you can do no wrong, and others will think you can do no right. Informed, constructive feedback is one thing, but you can’t pay attention to the trolls or the cheerleaders. Either you’ll falsely believe you’ve got it all figured out and stagnate, or you’ll get so depressed you won’t want to make your next comic.
Q. Anything else you want to add?
A. Just a huge thanks for chatting with me! One of the unforeseen perks of making a webcomic is getting to know other webcartoonists out there that I really admire.