Saving The Best Joke For Last

You may remember that I’ve mentioned the name “Luke” a few times in the last few posts. In case the word “remember” isn’t the most accurate verb to use, he’s the artist behind the webcomic Circuit. Here is the first part of my interview with this gentleman who has now been refreshed in your memory:

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

LP: Last year I became unemployed, and I had the brilliant notion that I was going to write a novel. I then decided that novel writing wasn’t rockstar enough, but being an actual rockstar was a little too rockstar, so I went with starting a webcomic instead.

Honestly, I can’t recall a specific point in time where I said to myself, “I want to publish a webcomic.” I was writing a lot, but having trouble organizing the ideas into a novel worth pitching to an editor. During the various bouts of writer’s block, I began drawing in the margins… little snippets of what would eventually become Sam, Harry, and Jill. It soon became obvious that those characters were way more interesting than the book I was slogging away at and getting nowhere with. I wrote the first few tentative strips, and the project kind of snowballed from there. Thanks, writer’s block!

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

LP: I can’t write well unless I have a theme to work with, so once I committed to the idea of making a comic strip, I spent quite a while coming up with a framework I liked. Stylistically, the computer theme jumped out at me pretty quickly. Probably because I spend so many hours (like most everyone else these days) glued to a computer. Humans have a long history of assigning personalities to inanimate objects (and then swearing at them), and at this point, a computer is practically a family member in most households. So that’s one part of Circuit. Another comes from our collective obsession as a species with completing meaningless tasks day in and day out. We do it at work all day, and then we come home and do it for fun, too. Just look at The Sims… what kind of sick meta-joke is The Sims? Sorry, Sims fans, I mean no harm. I’m an RPG fan, and that’s just as bad. I’ve spent enough hours switching armor and weapons out and organizing poultices to realize I’m as much of a sucker as everyone else. Anyway, that’s the reasoning behind Sam and Harry quitting their jobs moving data and venturing out into the Wide Open World. I think people spend too much time doing things for the sake of doing them, and not enough time simply enjoying what’s around them. The word “circuit” also implies journeying or traveling, and that’s the most important part of Circuit, to me… not the completion of the task, but the experiences you have on your way to the finish.

That just got way too heavy, didn’t it? Okay, so my humor influences include Monty Python’s Flying Circus, the Simpsons (classic Simpsons, not the new ones), Seinfeld… I’ll rip off quotes and put them in the dialogue once in a while, just for fun. Anyone familiar with Judah Friedlander knows I’m stealing his hat schtick for Harry. I also like the ancient stuff. The Marx Brothers, Abbot and Costello, Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner… I love that old-fashioned style of quick, ridiculous banter that you could still find in the “Airplane” movies when I was a kid, and in Arrested Development more recently. Oh yeah, and I love the Muppets. But the Muppets channeled all that old stuff, too.

For comics, I grew up on Bloom County. Berke Breathed is a HUGE influence. I was sad when Bloom County ended… like, really sad. And I’ll just go ahead and admit right now that Garfield was an influence also, more than I’d like to admit, probably. That stuff was hilarious when I was a little kid. When I was in grade school and practicing cartoons, there were just as many Garfields on my paper bag book covers as there were Opuses. Jim Davis is a genius in that respect… he knew exactly what to offer America’s nerdy youth and how to refine it into the machine it is today. I’ll try not to do that with Circuit, at least not right away.

– Ben