Tech + Lifestyle

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Interview: Joel Watson (of Hijinks Ensue)

Joel Watson, creator of Hijinks Ensue

Joel Watson, creator of Hijinks Ensue

Check it out, kids. For your reading and/or nerdtastic pleasure, I’ve got a nice little interview with Joel Watson, creator of the still relatively-new (one year?) webcomic Hijinks Ensue. He’s still in struggling-artist, trying-to-make-ends-meet mode, so we’ve talked a bit about his experiences in that regard. Check out his work at http://www.hijinksensue.com.

Let’s start off by going over your background. How long have you been producing Hijinks Ensue? What made you get into it?

HE premiered on May 11th 2007. it started as twice weekly and moved to 3 times weekly when I started doing it full time. I started the comic shortly after my daughter was born in order to “remake my life” into something I could be proud of.

Your comic has no discernible continuity or storyline. Is that on purpose?

Absolutely. My brand of comedy comes from taking one thing and turning it on its side, taking it out of context or juxtaposing it with a seemingly unrelated separate thing in order to play them off of each other. The characters in HE just serve has a medium to facilitate the jokes I want to make. Over time the readers have taken to treating them like “real characters” but I have no plans to expand on their personal lives, relationships etc. HE was never intended to tell a story. Just to make people laugh at geek pop culture.


Where does the inspiration come from for your comics?

I try to do each comic about some topical event in geek culture. Typically a movie, tv show, or internet happening of some sort. In that way its almost more of an editorial cartoon than a comic strip. The very first HE’s came from IM conversations with Josh and Eli.

Who doesnt love a little more Tolkien?

Who doesn't love a little more Tolkien?

Would you describe any of your work as social commentary, or just humorous lampooning?

The only purpose of HE is the make the readers laugh. There are plenty of serious comics out there to fill that need. I think the world is serious/bleak enough. If I can inject some levity into someone else’s bad day, then I’ve done a good job. Provided a service, as it were.  Every great once in a while I toss in a subtle reference to my own political/ social views. During the 08 Election I did a few comics that bordered on political, but I tried to keep it light.

Joel W. at NEWW 2009

Joel W. at NEWW 2009

How has your art style changed over the course of HE’s existence?

Before HE I hadn’t drawn anything for 7 years. The first few months of the comic were just me relearning how to draw and also learning how to draw with a digital tablet for the first time. Once that learning curve was over I think the art has improved steadily over time. I think the comics I’ve done in 2009 represent how I’ve always wanted the comic to look. Everything before now was just practice. Though as I learn new techniques I will certainly continue to evolve the art style. I don’t have any qualms about changing the look of a character if I realize I’ve been doing something wrong or think of a better way to draw them.

What do you think is your biggest artistic strength? What are you working to improve?

I think my line work is very clean and sharp. It makes the characters pop. I also have a pretty easy time drawing pretty much any inanimate object. TVs, iPods, etc. I have a really hard time with anatomy and non-standard poses. I also can’t draw girls at all.

Do you have a favorite among the strips that you’ve done? If not that, a favorite topic?

The 3 part Tom Cruise series is probably my favorite because it doesn’t make any sense at all. I LOL at that one every time. I am also very fond of the “Office Space/HD-DVD Tribute” comic. I also kind of love the “Of Mice and Men/Dr. Horrible” comic. The panel with Joel shooting Josh in the head kills me.

Of Mice & Men

Of Mice & Men/Dr. Horrible

You recently attended Webcomic’s Weekend. How much of a  community is there among webcomic artists?

There are a few separate webcomics communities. The group the organized NEWW are probably the most well known and prolific. The few pro-webcomicer friends that I have are a part of this group. Everyone else was extremely welcoming and inviting. It’s not really a collective as much as a group of friends that all happen to be talented artists.

Sometimes webcomic artists draw guest strips for each other. Is there much cooperation or interplay beyond that?

Most comicers promote their friends comics, merchandise and con appearances etc. Good will is the currency of the internet and webcomics creators seem to understand that better than most. What goes around assuredly comes around.

Who does your favorite work? I’m a big fan of Jeph Jacques and Randall Munroe, personally.

My favorite comics right now are Overcompensating by Jeffrey Rowland, Goats by Jon Rosenberg, Nedroid by Anthony Clark, Girls with Slingshots by Daniel Corsetto and Penny Arcade.

Is the Hijinks Ensue website your sole source of income? Do you supplement it with other things?

The goal of The Experiment is for HE to be my total income but right now it is far from it. For the first year or so I was living off of savings, reader donations and shirt sales. I also do freelance illustration work to help pay the bills. I am usually a month or two away from having to get a real job, but somehow I am able to postpone that eventuality time and time again.

Donate, fools!

Donate, fools!

Tell us a little about “The Experiment”.

Please take anything you like from www.hijinksensue.com/experiment. I would just be copying and pasting from there anyway.
I totally would, but I’m as busy as Joel is right now (or at least I’d like to think I am). If you’re not already familiar with The Experiment, click through and read up on what he’s doing right now.

How is that coming for you? The meter for your donation subscription drive hasn’t moved from $710/mo in a while.

The donation meter hasn’t changed because it has been hovering in that general vicinity for the last few months. Sometimes it’s less, sometimes a bit more. Ive been getting the same number of new subscribers and cancelations for a while now. It may have plateaued. I hope not but it’s a possibility I am willing to accept.

How much longer can you go at your current rate of income?

As of this very moment? About 2 months. If you had asked me that 2 months ago I would have said the same thing. I am still making it, somehow, but just by the skin of my teeth. I have a wife and child to support so money is certainly an issue.

Is there any risk of you having to quit or take a second job?

Always. I don’t know if I would quit HE out right to take a job because it would be like admitting defeat. Now that I’ve done this amazing job full time for almost a year (or more than a year?) I don’t see how I can go back to doing something I hate for 9 hours a day. Believe that I will fight to keep this going.

Undead Hard Drives Scare Me

Undead Hard Drives Scare Me

What are your plans for the future?

If I reach the point that I can do HE full time and not constantly worry about where the next mortgage payment is coming from, I will consider the Experiment a success and gladly continue doing the same. I hope to release the first HE book later this year, and I will be exhibiting at my first Con this year at Baltimore Comic Con in October.

What’s the best way for fans to show their support?

Financially, donations and Vault subscriptions, store purchases, etc are always a plus. Non-financially, telling their friends about the comic, evangelizing it on their blogs, twitter, facebook, etc.

There you have it, kids. Joel is a cool guy with a dream he’s pursuing. In my personal (and not particularly professional) opinion, his work has been improving noticeably over the past six months or so. I’m guessing Hijinks Ensue will just continue to get better. You should check it out the whole story, start sending him money… anything to support my HE habit. I need my thrice-weekly fix, and he needs money in the bank.

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May 17, 2009 - Posted by | Interview, Webcomic | , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. […] FB Brian Murff did an interview with me for his blog, Tech + Lifestyle, and you can read it HERE. […]

    Pingback by HijiNKS Ensue - Geek Webcomic - Updates Monday, Wednesday and Friday » Archive » Somebody Set Us Up The Bomb | May 18, 2009 | Reply


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