Karl Wills: Comics Are A Waste Of Time
Posted: Tuesday, June 5, 2001
By: Darren Schroeder
If you like cartoon characters who look cute and go around slaughtering innocent bystanders, or if your idea of the perfect grandmother includes that she makes a living as a porn star then Karl Wills may just be the creator of your dreams. He's been going about producing work that offends human dignity but looks beautiful for many years and has never given a moment's notice to what people think. I had a chat to Karl, and while he didn't seem interested in saying much, in the few words he did give me he has managed to offend most of Silver Bullet's readership in one way or the other with an economy of style that has to be admired. Anyway, you had it coming.....
Darren Schroeder: What is your full name?
Karl Moshe (Pronounced: Moy-sha) Wills
DS: Favourite web site?
DS: Were comics a big part of your childhood or did you discover them at a later stage?
KMW: Very much so, my parents would always be buying lots of obscure British stuff from garage sales, I also collected the Tintin series. I think the first underground comic I bought was when I was about 16 and I think it was Jesus on a Stick! Mickey Rat was the first American underground comic, I must have bought that around the same time as discovering Jesus on a Stick.
DS: Was art an important part of your education?
KMW: I took art as often as I could, sure. Loved doing it.
KMW: Because I was good at it, I guess, I think it was the only thing in my life I could control, still is.
DS: What was the first comic you published yourself and how did that come about?
KMW: First comic ever by me was when I was 11 and it was called The Batalog, I wrote it with a friend of mine, Grant Manson. It was more of a parody of all the ridiculous items Batman used on the TV show. We sold it to the others kids at school and made a nice profit for ourselves. I think there were 3 issues of that.
DS: How did you distribute your comics then?
KMW: Sold them to as many shops that would take them, Real Groovy, record store the comic shops, all hand delivered and mostly on a sell or return basis.
DS: Did that run smoothly?
KMW: Yep. They sold pretty well. Didn't make much money but that's not why they were made.
DS: What materials and equipment do you use when drawing your comics?
KMW: Basic stuff, pencil, pens, paper, paintbrush, nothing special.
DS: Who do you see as the target audience for your work?
DS: Doesn't the rather full on nature of some of your work rule out some people as a potential audience members?
KMW: The slow ones will catch on later.
DS: So all the devout Christians will realize that Anal Atrocities is good for a laugh?
KMW: Sure, lots of Christians like pornography.
DS: What work have you been doing recently?
KMW: I've been getting more and more into Flash Animation for the web. And still slowly churning out strip cartoons and gag panels.
DS: What's the attraction for you in working with flash animation?
KMW: It's a one man cartoon studio, I can produce a 2 minute short in about 1 week, depending on the complexity of the movement. Very simple to use and you have instant feedback from thousands once it's on the net. Most people would prefer to watch an animated short to read a comic any day. So would I, for that matter.
DS: How do you finance your comic/flash activities?
KMW: I do freelance work on the side.
DS: What sort of freelance stuff do you do?
KMW: Freelance illustrating, some flash animation.
DS: Is there much work in that line?
KMW: I'm doing okay, I've only been doing this for about 6 months and never had any problems getting work.
DS: What comics have you read recently? Why did you like/dislike them?
KMW: I don't read comics.
DS: What is the reason for that?
KMW: 'Cause most comics are a waste of time. The exceptions to the rule are most of Fantagraphics publications and anything older than 1940. Oh, and comics by my friends and early MAD comics. Otherwise I wouldn't bother. It's the lack of honesty in work what doesn't seem to be their these days. I don't like comics written by a committee.
DS: So we won't ever see you illustrate someone else's story?
KMW: Sure, if I like the story enough. A collaboration is not a committee.
DS: If most comics are a waste of time, why did you call your site comicbookfactory.net?
KMW: 'Cause comicbookfactory.com was taken although not used. The 'Comicbook Factory' is a joke. Irony? I'm the furthest thing from churning out comics like a treadmill.
DS: If a film was made of your life, who should play you?
KMW: Vincent Price. If he wasn't dead.
DS: Where did the idea for Anal Atrocities come from?
KMW: That originally written by Ed McWilliams. He gave me a piece of scrap paper with three illustrations on it for the start of this story called Anal Atrocities part 69. So I started drawing adding gags where I could, kept going back to him for more story and ended up with those two little books.
DS: Which comic creators do you admire and why?
KMW: Crumb, Chris Ware, Daniel Clowes, Kaz, Mark Newgarden, Will Elder, Herge, Peter Bagge, Andrew Conlan, Anthony Ellison, Otto Mesmer, E.C Seager, Folyd Gottfredson, Herriman...
To go into why for each artist would take too long...
DS: Okay, how about describing what you like about the first two: Crumb?
KMW: Crumb was honest with himself and his audience, pulled no punches on exactly what he was and how he felt about the world no matter how ugly his thoughts might be.
DS: Chris Ware?
KMW: Ware does the same, he's obviously lived exactly what he's writing about.
DS: You've done a few autobiographical strips in the past. Did you enjoy doing those?
KMW: Kinda, I haven't done much at all though, I think I just ended up repeating myself, I just whined and complained which is pretty much all I'm really good at. But I don't think people would want to take too much of that.
DS: Is your website a way to make money or a hobby for you?
KMW: I guess its more of a hobby, it certainly isn't making me any money, It goes next to nothing to run, so it's a money issue. I've certainly reached a bigger audience than the last 5 years of doing comics. I think after the last animated cartoon came out (Mr Gasalaska Makes a friend) I got around 2000 new visitors in one day. Those kind of numbers just don't compare to comics.
DS: How would you describe the comics scene in New Zealand?
KMW: It's like a corpse plugged into a life support system.
DS: Why not pull the plug?
KMW: I don't think I'd even notice.
DS: What were the last five books that you bought?
KMW: Tintin in the Congo - Herge; Amphigorey - Ed Gorey; The Disney Version - Richard Schickel; Mr.Mean - Roger Hargreaves; and a book of clip art from the 20's and 30's.
DS: In what cases is censorship justified?
KMW: I can honestly say I have no idea nor do I wish to ever get into a debate about the subject.
DS: In regards of your hilarious Jessica of the Schoolyard strip, did you know anyone like Jessica at school?
KMW: Nope, thank god.
DS: Why is so much of your humour based around murder?
KMW: I don't do sex or toilet jokes. Death and power struggles are all that's left.
DS: Are people who call flash animation art crazy out of their minds?
KMW: Doesn't bother me what people say about it.
DS: I see that your Connie Radar strip was recently voted BEST STRIP on a New Zealand comics awards mailing list.
KMW: That's nice.
DS: Some of the readers might have seen you mentioned by Peter Bagge in Hate Jamboree. How did that come about?
KMW: I was a contributor to the last few issues of Hate. Simply sent my stuff to Peter and he liked it.
DS: What projects do you have coming up in the future?
KMW: More Flash cartoons, a new Uncle Charlies Cartoon Revue book and a third ComicBook Factory Funnies. I'll be mostly working with animation in the future, comics just don't have the audience or produce the income animation can bring in.
You can contact Karl via:
The ComicBook Factory, PO Box 105 278, Auckland, New Zealand
If you have a comment or question about Small Press then feel free to contact me