Dave Mercier is a webcomic artist who is unafraid of divulging some of the uncomfortable aspects of life. Through his great comic called MercWorks, Dave addresses the inner-musings we each toil with regarding life, love, and our place in society.
For the last two years, Dave has been analyzing dating, depression, love, coffee shop life, and more in his stylistic comics. From single-panel, gag-comics to insightful multi-paneled stories, these comics expose a realness of human nature that most people are scared to show.
I was personally turned onto MercWorks through Josh of Formal Sweatpants, and was intrigued by how easy it is to relate to this mustache-less character (though note: in real life, Dave actually has a mustache). I love the color palette he uses and the confidence of his lines. However, the art of each panel is more than eye-candy: it effectively lures you into a deeper zone, where Dave interweaves humor with these other emotions, adding to the depth of the comics. I am always a fan of humor, but Dave’s ability to additionally convey some of the awkward feelings we sense in public really spoke to me.
Below is my interview with Dave, exploring why he began, his process, his upcoming book, and more:
Interview with Dave Mercier, creator of MercWorks:
Q. You say MercWorks started by accident because you “made some drawings that made people laugh, then some people on some websites liked it and somehow I started keeping an update schedule.” That was over 2 years ago. What has inspired you to keep MercWorks going?
A. It was easy to keep going because I loved doing it so much. Doing the comic is a lot of work and it can be hard, but the support from the fans and my community at large has been truly inspiring. There are times I wonder, “why am I doing this?” and then I remember that I’m not that good at anything else and I gotta do something.
Q. You mention your love of drawing and doing what you love. Is MercWorks your main form of artistic expression?
A. It is. I do a lot of independent drawing just for practice but it’s usually creepily staring at people in the coffee shop while I draw them. I don’t think of that as very expressive. Comics are a great way for me to express myself, in that I get to tell a story in exactly the way I want.
Q. I love one of your early single-panel comics called “Poor Horse.” What swayed you to move into using a multi-panel format?
A. Thanks! When I started out, as you mentioned above, I was just drawing funny pictures for practice and showing it to people. After a little while of that I remember going through this crazy crisis where I was actually afraid to take the plunge into multi-panel stuff (despite doing some stuff with multiple panels early on). Ultimately I think I wanted to actually tell stories (in as much as you can call a gag comic a ‘short story’) and I didn’t have enough single-panel ideas. Plus, women love multiple panels.
Q. Webcomic artists from Robbie + Bobby, Formal Sweatpants, and The Big Crunch all contributed incredible Onion Boy fan art. How did Onion Boy originally come about?
A. Oh man, I love Onion Boy. I was having a really bad writing day, so I was in the coffee shop with my good friend and roommate Jer, doodling in a small sketchbook. I doodled a little Onion Boy-esque tree or something and Jer loved it. Meanwhile, I was trying to brainstorm an idea and told this story that happened to me in the grocery store in which an employee asked about the weather and I told him it didn’t matter because we were all gonna die someday. I liked the idea of it driving that guy to tears. Jer insisted that I make my doodle into an Onion Boy that I drive to tears and it made perfect sense to me.
I was short on ideas another time so I brought him back, thinking I could show his slow descent into teenage angst based on the Dave character’s hasty actions. I have more of the story in my head, but the Onion Boy comics never do very well by people for some reason so I haven’t moved forward with it.
Q. Your sketchbook photos are really great to see because they reiterate the art behind the humor. What is your process, from idea to the web?
A. The concept process is the hardest and most elusive part. Some days I’ll have an idea based on a literal interpretation of events that happened, sometimes it’s just extracted from the concept behind something that happened. Almost all of them have some basis in reality.
I do a really really quick sketch (sometimes in my sketchbook, sometimes digitally), where you get the idea of panel composition and the pace of the joke. Then I run it by a few people, whose sense of humor I can rely on and who know how to read my chicken scratch draft.
Once I know the joke’s worth doing, I do a more formal sketch where I get all the characters’ gestures and angles, as well as rough background work. When that one’s done, I do another sketch over it to fill in facial and costume details and any backgrounds that needed more attention.
For the inking process I like to listen to comedy podcasts (lately I’ve been really enjoying Harmontown) and just hammer through it. I’ve noticed that if I’m not in the right mindset during this stage things come out looking strangely ‘off’.
Coloring used to take a really long time because I used to paint everything individually in Photoshop. I’ve sped it up a lot by taking advantage of layers and masks. I use a separate layer for each different color because I can edit each color’s balance afterward to make them all work pretty harmoniously with one another (without spending too much time worrying about that early, before colors are even laid down).
I do dialog and balloons last. That’s my zen time. Usually I just use some colors that are already in the comic for the different balloons. (Sara’s note: You can see some of Dave’s sketches on his Facebook page)
Q. You animated some of your comics, such as “This is Ironic.” Are you doing the animating yourself and is this an avenue you want to incorporate more into your webcomics?
A. There were three in that series and it was the only three I ever animated. I think that was inspired by Zac Gorman, though a lot of webcomics have done animated panels to a lot of success. I really enjoyed doing it but it doesn’t fit in naturally very often and isn’t the greatest for print.
Q. What comics would you say best sum up MercWorks?
- I do a lot of comics about dating. I’m not always that good at dating.
- I get depressed but I kind of like being depressed, so it’s not that sad.
- Sometimes I like to think about the world from other people’s perspectives. I don’t know how accurate it usually is.
- Most of the time, it’s just pretty self-indulgent.
A. The book has almost all of the comics I’ve done (aside from a few that I really personally dislike) as well as a few sketches, rejected ideas, guest comics, and several pages of minicomics I’ve done. It’s going to be really nice!
Q. You are active on Twitter with some loving fans. In what ways has Twitter helped your comics?
A. Twitter’s a really useful tool for meeting new people. I’ve met some of my best comic bros over Twitter, and those are guys who directly influence my style and approach. The loving fans say nice things to me and tolerate my often insane ramblings and I really appreciate that.
Q. What do you love about creating MercWorks? What has been the biggest challenge(s)?
A. I love the art of making comics, and that I’m privileged enough to be sort of good at it. It’s helped me a lot in the way of self-discovery, almost as a form of therapy. The Dave character is based on what I think of as the worst version of myself – the parts I don’t really like that much, because a perfectly happy and well-rounded character isn’t very funny on his own. I love the love people give me just for doing something I love doing.
The biggest challenge is probably keeping it fresh. I have a lot of common themes in the comic so approaching those things in new ways can be pretty difficult. For instance, recently I felt like Dave failing so much at dating was getting pretty old, so now he’s gotten a little more confidence with women and that presents a lot of new opportunities to give a different perspective on the theme of dating.
Q. What are some of your future goals for MercWorks and how can your fans best help you reach those goals?
A. Generally the best thing anyone can do for a webcomic is to share it with their friends/on social networks/from the rooftops. That spreads the net and makes doing everything a lot easier, as well as driving up traffic and therefore ad rates.
Obviously right now I’m working on getting the first book funded, which is both extremely exciting and horribly terrifying. So share that, you guys, because I probably won’t sleep that well until it’s a lock. I definitely plan to have a second one as soon as I’ve got enough content for it, but I’m taking it one step at a time.
Outside of MercWorks I’d really like to pursue graphic novellas soon. I haven’t started because I’m not that good a writer (jokes seem a lot different than real stories with character development and awesome stuff happening), but it’s been kicking around in my mind for a while. So hey, once I start doing that, it’d be swell if everyone read it.
Q. Anything else you want to add?
A. In real life I have a mustache. It’s the most important difference between me and my character.
Some Favorite Comics:
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