Dave Mercier's MercWorks has been posting thrice-a-week since it launched on GoComics earlier this month, with an additional backlog posted to help you dig into his semi(sweet)autobiographical series. The abundance of content means that now is a stupendous time to hop in and acquaint yourself with the cartoonist's hilarious brand of self-aware self-loathing. But before you go wading in Mercier's webcomic waters, we've got something for you -- an interview with the man himself! Get to know the mind, pen (and glasses) behind MercWorks below.
GoComics: You've been publishing MercWorks online since 2011, and like any cartoonist, you've experimented with style and format. Can you pinpoint a moment where you felt like "Okay, I know what I'm going for now."?
Dave Mercier: There have been a few times since starting MercWorks that I had everything figured out, only to find that I had not, in fact, had everything figured out. The whole project started as an experiment, as an excuse to get better at art, so it’s always felt like something I should play with - the idea that MercWorks is just whatever I want it to be. It wasn’t until recently that I set down some real guidelines for myself. This time I’m sure I’ve got it all figured out!
GC: You draw your characters with four fingers (which you've referenced as a gag at least once). Has this made drawing MercWorks easier or more difficult over time?
DM: Huh! The only time it’s really come up is when I realized I couldn’t draw married characters due to the absence of a ring finger. So MercWorks canon requires that the ring finger be the middle finger, but really I think of all the characters as not having a pinky. Who needs em? Well, aside from looking fancy when drinking wine. Shoot.
GC: You get asked a lot of questions on Tumblr and other social networks. What is your least favorite question that you get asked (and may not ever actually respond to)?
DM: Phoof! I don’t know that there’s anything that bothers me when asked. I love hearing from fans! I do get a lot of young cartoonists asking for advice on how to improve as an artist, which is a great opportunity for me to philosophize: when you’re working creatively, always focus on the thing you’re worst at. If you’re uncomfortable drawing hands, draw hands as much as you can until you’re the worst at something else. If you can’t play that one part of the song on guitar, play it over and over until there’s another part you’re worse at. Not only will you improve a really rounded way, this constant self-assessment gives you practice being honest with yourself. Me, I’m bad at answering the questions I was asked, but I’m working on it.
GC: You've recommended that aspiring cartoonists immerse themselves in the wider comic community to help them grow. In your experience, how has this helped your comics career?
DM: As with any industry, immersing yourself in the culture will open your eyes to new ideas and perspectives and will help keep you from getting stagnant. If I work in a void for long enough (and I have gone through phases of that) my work gets noticeably more “echoey”. It’s like I’m trying to do fan fiction of my own work. Plus, I’ve made a lot of amazing friends in the comics community - people I can run a joke by if I’m not sure, ask for technical help on things, collaborate with - I even moved to LA with one of the friends I made through comics!
GC: Comic creators and other kinds of artists have to balance creation with consumption. Where do you turn for good creation/inspiration fuel?
DM: I’ve learned that I make my favorite stuff when whatever I’m taking in has a foundation of positivity. I’m drawn to comedy but positivity can manifest in most genres. I love listening to podcasts while I work (anything from those good McElroy boys will do) and lately I’ve been way into game design analysis videos on YouTube. New music can sweep me off my feet and power me through a full week of work, but it’s got to be real interesting and real good. My peers in comics all do really excellent work, though I’m a little embarrassed to say I don’t read too many comics on the regular.
GC: You'll be at an upcoming Planet Comicon Kansas City event we're putting on. I'll be there too. Are you... as shy as I am?
DM: I am a not-at-all shy introvert. So we’re gonna get along great and really enjoy each other’s company, but later when I’m alone I’ll second-guess everything and assume you didn’t like me that much. If you ever speak to me after that, I’ll be both shocked and delighted.
GC: When you make a semi-autobiographical comic starring your avatar, fans can take interest in your IRL exploits. Do your readers ever express concern when you post an especially harrowing comic?
DM: Never once. It’s always been a fishy correlation between MercWorks’ Dave and I. A lot of the early stuff, especially the dating stuff, was based on stuff that happened in real life. Having the excuse that “if it goes wrong at least it’d make a good comic” was a great way for me to get over the sheer terror of talking to a person with different parts than mine. But I think by now people get that MercWorks’ Dave and I are different people, especially since he’s got a comic called JerkWorks that stars a Dave who looks suspiciously like a poorly-drawn version of me.
GC: Lately you've been making inroads in animating MercWorks. Is that something fans can expect to see more of?
DM: My first two animations were based on MercWorks comics starring Sad Ted but all of my animated work moving forward will be original. There are three more animations coming out in the Sad Ted storyline and after that, it’s anybody’s guess. I feel pretty strongly about not using MercWorks’ leading characters in animated shorts - they’ve got their place, and they’re pretty happy there. But yes, fans can expect to see more animations and, with any luck, I’ll have a second comic series started before the end of the summer.
IF you read all that and thought, “wow, I’d love to find out more about all this great stuff in the pipeline!” you may want to check out my Patreon, where I post every Friday about what’s happening with the latest projects and provide loads of behind-the-scenes material like concept art, storyboards, and sometimes early comic updates.