Growing Pains

One of the hardest parts of my job is interviewing the artists whose characters are guests in WAH. Why is it so hard? Cause I typically have to fly through Atlanta to visit them, and I’m not a fan of that airport. Anyhoo, here is the first part of my interview with the man who has twice as many webcomics as we do: David Wilborn.

David and I sat on the back porch of his Texas ranch after dinner. His property stretched as far as the eye could see in all directions. He told me he raised three things: cattle, oil and webcomics. It seemed like an odd combination, but his family had been doing this profitably for twenty-five generations. “When a webcomic is ripe we pluck it out of the ground and soak it in a barrel of oil for three days. Then, we feed the webcomics to the cows. After a few years we slaughter the cows and sell the meat.” This knowledge would have disgusted me, but I had just finished the tastiest steak I had ever eaten.

WAH: What was going on in your life professionally and personally when you initially decided that you wanted to create and publish a comic on the web?

DW: Well, I always knew I wanted to be a cartoonist “when I grew up.” I had actually started a webcomic titled “Wild Willy” about ten years earlier (before webcomics were a thing). It was about a single guy who lived with a duck and a cat. Unfortunately I had gotten discouraged and quit after a pretty short run.

Many years later, after several years completely out of the technical industry, I returned to working in an office full of developers. Being outside of the industry and returning to it, the full absurdity of working in an office and how developers relate to the world was just crying out to have a comic made about it. I dusted off and completely retooled the “Wild Willy” characters (losing the cat and adding the “office full of animals” angle) and started posting the comics on blogger. It wasn’t until many months down the line that I discovered that there were a bunch of other people doing the same thing.

WAH: What pop culture influences helped you to construct your theme and characters?

DW: I always loved the old Looney Toons cartoons–how some characters like Sylvester and Tweety were outright animals but they could talk, while others like Bug Bunny lived in the forest but walked around on two legs and had furniture, and still others like Porky Pig looked like animals but basically acted just like people. And somehow there was this universe where it all just worked and nobody questioned it. I always wanted to see if I could pull off something similar in a comic strip. So far no one has asked why Gus is a housepet but Phil gets to work in an office.

There was also this Nickelodeon cartoon that I don’t know if anyone remembers, called “My Gym Partner’s a Monkey,” that ran in the early 2000’s. The main character was the only human being in a school full of anthropomorphic animals, and the only human you ever saw in the show. I always found it quirky and funny. When I went to do an office comic, I thought a similar angle would be fun.

More of our interview on Friday.

– Ben