Feb 01

Under the Funnies: Nameless PCs

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Travis Blair: Hi, Wesley! I’ve seen a lot of funny comics as well as some other interesting projects come from you in 2015. What do you have in store for this year?

Wesley Hall: Honestly, I’m not sure. I got to work on a lot of fun projects last year not related to the comic and I hope in 2016 that only grows. Some projects I do want to accomplish this year are to make a video game (a very small pixel one), Get a print book of some form out, and do more collaboration pieces (maybe something like drawing reader’s stories or working with various writers on strips).

I don’t have anything concrete for any of those, but these are some of the goals I would like to accomplish…now to figure out where to start on each :).

Travis: Those are some good goals! Seeing your work in a print book would be a satisfying feeling, and collaboration fuels the creative fire. And a video game would be awesome! So I think your vision for the year is good.

Speaking about last year, what are some of your creative highlights? A specific comic that you’re proud of, or some particular project, perhaps?

Wesley: Creative highlight wise, there was a lot that stuck out. Most notably was the stuff I got to work with other people on. At the beginning of the year my art was featured in a gallery show in Colorado called “Canvas: Art of the Webcomic” which was super awesome. Also, I got to draw a short comic in a horror anthology called “The Horror of Loon Lake”. I got to draw the cover of the Nashville Scene (which is pretty big for Nashvillians), and I got to work with Nick Kocher on a comic called “If Syria Lived Next Door”.

On a personal comic front. I’m not sure if I can pick a favorite comic from 2015. I think they are all helping me build my voice more and more and improving my skill to tell a variety of jokes and stories, though I do particularly like this one, this one, and this one. Each of those encompasses a different aspect of my humor/comic making self and does so successfully (at least I think so :D).
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Travis: I really like those projects you cited! The Syria comic does a good job with the analogies used and point it conveys. Regarding your comics, those are solid examples that showcase your voice. It really is about more than the individual comics, right? What catches my interest when getting into a webcomic, is when I can pick up that distinctive voice you mentioned.

How do you feel your comic has changed since the beginning, if at all? Has what you are doing now always been your intention, or is what you are creating now much different from what you set out to create when starting Nameless PCs?

Wesley: Voice is really important in a comic, and really all writing in general. I still struggle to find my own in each comic and hope that it is unique enough, yet still engaging with a wide group of people. It’s a real delicate balance that I definitely haven’t mastered.

Since the beginning my comic has taken huge swings (at least to me). The comic started out as simple gag comics specifically about D&D and other Role Playing Games (Nameless PCs being a reference to Nameless Player Characters). Eventually, it turned to a group of named gamers who went through life and adventures together, and then my friend who was writing it quit and I crashed the site (this was right around New Years of 2013). While I was getting the site back in order I decided to mess with some more autobiographical comics, figuring these wouldn’t be there when the site came back and were just me playing around. Then I was able to get the site back up, but I just enjoyed doing the more autobiographical ones too much to stop.

Even within those there have been fairly big shifts. From the programs used (I did all my early auto biographical comics in Adobe Illustrator before switching to Manga Studio), to how I write (I use to use a lot more words), to it even being autobiographical all the time (I’ve done stuff with random characters and just completely made up stories), and with having a child I feel the type of jokes have shifted even more. I think of the comic as kinda a sketch pad, you can see where I’m playing with various stuff, me trying to figure stuff out, and my general growth as an artist. I really enjoy seeing that in other artists and I hope people enjoy seeing it in my stuff.

Travis: I enjoy seeing it. When going back to the beginning of an archive, I like seeing how the start of a comic changed to what it is now. It’s like any creative expression – there’s a path.

What types of gaming do you like? Is it just tabletop, or are you also into video games? As a father myself, I’d wager having a young child could change things.

Wesley: One of the best things in all of art is watching an artist evolve, whether it be music, acting, comics, or just any visual art, getting to take that journey with an artist can be a blast. I think I love watching it in comics the most because I know the most about it, I know the suffering to get backgrounds right or properly phrase a joke, etc. It’s a real treat and honor that people will share that with you.

Gaming wise, I’m in to all types. I am also good at none of them :P. I’ve been playing video games since I was a youngin’ and I got a Sega Genesis as a kid. I learned about tabletop roleplaying games when I was in fifth grade from a kid named Forbes, and we always had board games in my life. My dad had some strange older ones that I remember him teaching me as a kid.

Though what kind of game I prefer is difficult to nail down. When talking video games, it’s all about style and tone. I’m really into indie pixel games right now. I like to see what people can do with the limited palette/size and still convey story/art wise. It’s a lot like cartooning in that respect, telling a story or a joke while using simplified art. Not that the big 3D stuff isn’t amazing, it’s just not as much for me…also my computer is always a bit behind and I can’t really run them :).

Boardgame/RPG wise, anything that is easy-ish to pickup and that gets us gaming is great. As a parent (especially at this early age, my daughter being 1) I feel like you get such little time for projects that the less time I have to spend figuring out the rules is more time I can spend playing (and most likely losing).
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Travis: I like some types of music for the same reason you say. Nothing over-produced, distilled to the essence.

And I’m glad to hear from another gamer who’s fine admitting he’s not very good at ’em. I’ve been the same way since the NES. So be it music, a video game, or anything else, what do you think is one of the most underappreciated things in all of art?

Wesley: I think the most under appreciated in all art is the ability to actually make it. Good or bad, people will look at it and say stuff like “I could do that”, “that’s not hard”, “that’s not funny”, “trash”, “bleck”, “you suck”, etc. It’s easy to look at art and say that’s not for you, it’s hard to just make it and keep making it while you are aware you’re still learning things/haven’t mastered much yet.

I’m lucky in that my chosen expression has always been visual. I get to make a comic, post it online, and then run away from it and peak on it later to see if it has been torn to bits. I can’t imagine what a musician or comedian goes through the first time on stage. That must be frightening.

So maybe a better answer, the willingness to keep going while still learning. If art is a riding a horse, you’re going to get kicked off of that thing a crap load of times before you can even take a few steps, then kicked off again, and again hopefully gaining each time. I think I’m at the I can get the horse to the place I’m going stage, but the ride is a bit rough :).
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Travis: The determination is certainly something I enjoy about webcomics. One with an extensive display of comics can really showcase the creator’s imagination and humor.

So last question, before I let you go – what is something you would like to buy from a webcomic that isn’t the norm? T-shirts and books are great, but what do you think would be different and fun?

Wesley: Oh man, that is a tough one. I think it differs for each webcomic. Like, the Single Use Monocle is perfect for the SMBC crowd, and The Awkward Yeti does the name badge holders which is perfect for his audience too.

For my own comic, I would love to do something like glasses with a big grey nose.

I’m not sure I could name something that I think every webcomic should make, but would love to see specific items for each (though that would be expensive to make).

Travis: You make a good point – some of the best stuff to come from webcomics is something specific to a webcomic. And now that you said it, I want to see these glasses for sale!

I want to say thanks for the interview! I enjoyed our conversation.

Wesley: Me too. Thanks for the interview. It was a blast.

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Image credit: Wesley Hall