jody_macgregor (jody_macgregor) wrote,

The Abominable Karl Kerschl

Karl Kerschl creates one of my favourite webcomics of the moment, The Abominable Charles Christopher. You can read it from the start right there at that handy link and I recommend you do. It's the story of a brave yet dumb-as-a-brick-between-two-posts sasquatch named Charles Christopher. He lives in Cedar Forest, which is also home to various talking animals. In a nice Walt Kelly touch the animals have very ordinary human problems, but it's just funnier when the deadbeat dad is a bird trying to sneak back into the nest while drunk without waking his wife. Here's one of the strips, along with my interview with the chap, behind the cut.

A briefer version of this interview ran in this week's issue of Rave, but this is the full thing with my questions all in bold to make me look important.

Does working on a comic strip feel like a different language to working on long-form comics, or is it more like doing the same thing just in a smaller format?

K- It's a much different language from the long-form medium I'm accustomed to. Editing my ideas down to five or six panels is an exercise in economy. Initially, I thought that would be a detriment, but it's turned out to be the opposite. I think the concepts become honed and focused in a way that they might not be otherwise.
It's a very new format for me.

Where did the idea for the character of Charles Christopher come from?

K- A car ride. I used to drive back and forth to the studio when I was living in Toronto, and I had a lot of time to think and let ideas percolate. Transmission-X ( was just getting rolling and I was actually working on a completely different idea for it when Charles Christopher popped into my head. It was nothing more complicated than a dopey sasquatch with an inappropriate name and I'm still amused by him after a year and a half.

A lot of the forest's animals act like modern, urban characters -- the ad skunks are personal favourites of mine. What made you want to depict them that way?

K- They're all archetypes, I guess, and I'm not even sure how modern they are. A lot of these characters would be at home on 50's television. When I'm drawing a strip (or conceptualizing it) I usually know what kind of feeling I want it to have, and the choice of animal is secondary. So I might end up with a fox or a deer and not really know why. In the case of the skunks, it's one of the few strips that I wrote deliberately, by which I mean that I had something to say about the nature of advertising and wanted to express it in the comic. I hate ads. I hate being sold to. I'm not sure what I wanted to say, exactly, but I felt an urge to bring that huckster element into the world of the Cedar Forest.

As for why I chose skunks to be the salesmen... I have no idea. Except that skunks are kind of funny to look at. I have a few more strips planned for them.

Why did you choose to publish weekly?

K- I had no choice. I'm a freelance artist, working mostly on superhero comics for DC and Marvel, and that schedule takes up the majority of my time. I wish I could update Charles Christopher more often, and it's something I'm working toward, but until I can figure out a way to live off of the webcomic, that won't happen. Believe me when I say that I'd like nothing better.

Do you ever worry about writing yourself into a corner?

K- Not really. I don't write any plot stuff ahead of time - I just have a loose concept of what direction I'd like the characters to go in and I trust that when I sit down to do the strip they'll just tell me what they want to do. If they go in a direction that I hadn't previously thought of, then I just trust that my subconscious knows what's best.

It's a bit scary, but I'm learning to trust my instincts. I wish real life were as easy.

Are you ever tempted to go back and change strips after you've put them up?

K- Urghh. Yes. I rarely do, though. Once I've posted the strip on Wednesday, I try not to look back because there's only so much I can do without it becoming obsessive. I like that it's a snapshot of the developmental process, though - certain characters evolve visually over time, and if I changed the earlier drawings I feel like I'd be cheating myself. I might tidy up a few things before it's eventually collected into a book, but those changes will be minimal.

Does having the almost-instant feedback of a comments system make a difference to how you see the comic?

K- I think it does. In some ways, the readers are as important to the process as I am because their responses will guide me in terms of what sort of tone the next few strips might require. If they seem fatigued with overly-comical strips, I'll mix it up with some sad moments, etc. I've found that, for the most part, their tastes are very similar to my own - the emotional moments that resonate with me while I'm working on the comic also seem to resonate with them. We're all on the same page. And it's nice that I'm right there with them, emotionally, from week to week because I have no idea what the next week's strip is going to be!

Do you have an ending planned for the series?

K- Sort of. I know what the very last strip will be. I think. But when that will be or how I get there is a complete mystery. There are certain moments I'd like to capture, but it could really be years in the making, especially at a strip-a-week. It's designed to be a continuous strip until I need it to not be, so I guess it'll go on as long as I'm interested in it.

Would you like to do a print version someday?

K- Absolutely. It's in the works.

What are you working on when you're not doing The Abominable Charles Christopher?

K- Superheroes, usually. I'm doing a zombie comic for Wildstorm right now, and some covers for various other comics. Aside from that, I have a graphic novel on the backburner that I've been dying to write and draw.
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