In this interview series, I speak with other comic creators to learn about their work! Here, I have a discussion with Joe Flanders of Ninja and Pirate.
Travis Blair: I’ve encountered Joe Flanders! I cornered the creature – good thing the ‘About the Author’ page on his site says he’s amiable. Ninja and Pirate can be found in some varied encounters. Are they protagonists in a story? Is Pirate upset that Ninja has top billing?
Joe Flanders: You can encounter me in the tall grass around Viridian City.
Yes Ninja and Pirate are the protagonists in a story. I stopped doing some story comics in order to try to drum up an audience with some gag a day type strips. The next chapter will definitely be a story based one again. There are other supporting protagonists such as Doctor Whoo, Pirate’s pet owl. Vik and Val who are Pirate’s cousins, the latter of which is Ninja’s girlfriend. Al and Marty are aliens who live next door, each of which with their mechanical companions, Mac and Rob respectively. There is also the mysterious Homeless Man, a dirty hobo and head of the enigmatic taco society.
And at first Pirate was a bit upset about the billing until Ninja told him it was alphabetical which made sense.
Travis: I’m glad Ninja and Pirate are so understanding. This means they should also accept my claim that the comic creator’s a fan of the video game Gauntlet. Now along with doing gag-a-day, you also brought color to your comics. Is this a permanent feature? I hope so, because I like your palette selection.
Joe: Yes the color is permanent. And thank you for your compliments! There may or may not be a group of extremists who go around trying to grayscale everything again in the future but that remains to be seen.
Travis: Sounds fun, but that extremist group seems shady. So I’d like to know about when you first set out to create a new Ninja and Pirate. An idea comes to mind. What happens next?
Joe: Despair. Rewrite. Rework the joke. Rewrite it again. Then sketch a thumbnail of the layout. Start drawing. Draw more. Despair. Redraw. Wallow in self pity. Finish drawing. Color. Tone and shade. Letter. Schedule the comic for upload. Go to bed convinced it will fail horribly and I’ll lose all my readers.
Did I mention I’m horribly insecure? Not sure if that came across.
Travis: I wouldn’t worry about losing readers, because your comics are quite entertaining. In fact, I’ve at times done what the kids call “LOL”. How are you creating your layout once you’ve come up with the joke? Is it pen and paper, or a digital approach?
Joe: Haha well thank you. And I do my work on my computer. My Cintiq allows me to draw directly on the screen which is good because this way I don’t have to call the department every time my furious erasing sets off the fire alarms. Seriously, it’s hard to erase something and not feel like you’re about to be in Quest for Fire.
Anyway, first first things I work on a layout thumbnail with how the comic will work. This helps me conceptualize both the visual flow of the strip and the camera angles for each panel. Then I put in the panels according to the thumbnail and sketch in some underdrawing. Then I draw over it. After the line work I just color, tone, and letter.
Travis: Sometimes a spark of creativity requires some stoking before the flames begin to flicker. OK – what is one of your favorite things about comics, be it yours or any other?
Joe: Ooh tough call. Tough call. I guess I love that comics are like movies that instead of being shot put through at 20 frames a second you can take your time and soak everything in frame by frame. Furthermore they give just enough direction to let your mind fill in the blanks. It’s the perfect cross between books and movies.
Travis: Nice analogy! Well, similar to a good movie, I enjoy seeing both Ninja and Pirate but also like the supporting cast.
Joe: Well thank you very much! I try to please!