Meet Your Creator: 'Cheer Up, Emo Kid' Artist Enzo Comicsby Caleb Goellner
What if your favorite band never broke up and just kept getting better? For longtime readers of Enzo Comics' Cheer Up, Emo Kid, that hypothetical question actually has an answer: it's great.
Originally launched in 2008, CUEK has thrived on the persistence of its creator to land here on GoComics. Not content to rest on laurels born of the MySpace era, Enzo's kept his comics on the cutting edge of coming-of-age.
How did he do it? Turns out being driven, involved and even a little optimistic trumps old-school emo behaviors. Enzo breaks it down in our full interview, below.
GoComics: Cheer Up, Emo Kid dropped at a time when "emo" was at the forefront of pop culture. Now all of the emo bands are getting together for reunion tours. How does it feel to have made it through the dubstep/EDM years unfazed with "Emo" in your comic's title?
EC: How does it feel? OLD! I have seriously considered changing the comic's title on more than one occasion -- I don't feel like it has aged well. (I'm still probably gonna see all those guys on tour, though.) Maybe I'll just go with the acronym and join the ranks of such notable establishments like IBM or KFC or OMGWTFBBQ. You know the one.
GC: You're a tech person and a comics person, meaning you work on a Cintiq and know a whole lot about how to use the web. How do you think your background has helped you do what you do best?
EC: I like to think it has helped me a lot! The moment I knew I wanted to do webcomics when I was 14, I started planning out my life, going through all steps I felt like I needed to take to make sure that happened. For example, I took comic production classes to learn how to make comics. I took web design classes so I could build my own webcomic website. I took art classes because I heard they let you draw naked people.
GC: You've been creating Cheer Up, Emo Kid for almost a decade, with some reboots here and there denoting style shifts. What phase of the series do you feel like you're currently in and where do you see things headed?
EC: I am super happy with the current iteration of the comic. For years I was struggling with so many of the comic's aspects including the tone, the look & feel, the general subject matter I wanted to cover, and whether they should be wearing pants or not. There are many strips I cringe at when reading now -- particularly the ones I made when I was a teenager -- but it's been an incredible journey and learning experience. My focus for a while has been gag-a-day comics, but I do hope to one day return to story arcs. I feel like I didn't accomplish them well in the past, so if I were to ever start another one it would have to be meticulously planned. And by meticulously planned, I mean, don't just come up with the idea 15 minutes before it's time to update.
GC: In addition to Cheer Up, Emo Kid and your second solo comic, Design Junkies, you also work on Dungeon Construction Co. with Jose D. Rojas and Luke McKay as part of Button Mash Productions. Who does what on that comic, and how did you decide on the distribution of labor?
EC: Dungeon Construction Co. is an idea I have had in my head for years. I'd wanted to do a fantasy comic for so long, and when I pitched it to Jose and Luke, and they (seemed like they) loved it, and we've been developing it ever since. I'm the primary artist, and Jose and I write the script and the jokes. Luke is currently a character design & art consultant, and I hope to bring him on in a more full-time role once the comic kicks off and we're making dozens of dollars.
GC: Cheer Up, Emo Kid has a lot of fatalistic humor, which seems to contrast sharply with your own personality (at least online). What internal forces do you think propel your sense of humor?
EC: All of my comics have some kind of basis in or inspiration from real life. The last few years, both myself and the comic have been in a really great place, but it wasn't always that way. I started making Cheer Up, Emo Kid comics as a means for me to cope with a really rough period of my life. It's one of the reasons I chose the name in the first place. I've received criticism in the past for making jokes that are very mean-spirited, or are about subjects that people feel shouldn't be taken lightly. While I agree to an extent, first and foremost I always made those comics for me. If I could point out something that made me unhappy, and I could make fun of it and find the humor in it, I felt better. It helped me put things into perspective. If I made a comic making fun of fat people, it was because I was fat, and I didn't want to be. It's the same reason I used to make comics about drugs and suicide.
GC: You've experimented with multimedia in your comics over the years with things like GIFs. What lessons did you learn and how have they applied to your current presentation style?
EC: I have always believed webcomics should take advantage of the fact they're on the web -- after all, it's in the name! We have so many tools available to us that can help enhance the user's reading experience, and I don't feel like enough creators take advantage of this. I used to make Flash games and animations to supplement the comic. Nowadays I like using GIFs help tell visual jokes. One of the silliest things I've done in recent memory is make a comic where the punchline requires you to resize your browser window (and behaves differently if you're on a mobile device). I want to continue doing these things, and the only problem is that they are time-consuming to do.
GC: You live in Vancouver, BC in Canada. It's just north of Seattle, which in America we consider the Pacific Northwest. Do... Canadians say Vancouver is in the Pacific Southwest???
EC: Hahaha close! The way we do directions in Canada, everything is north. If we need to travel west, we say northwest. If we need to travel north, we say northnorth. It helps clear up any confusion.
GC: You share a lot of your comic-creation knowledge -- specifically pertaining to the tech side of hosting and publishing webcomics. What made you want to start and continue posting to MakeWebcomics.com?
EC: When I was trying to break into the webcomics game I had so, so many questions along the way. There were so many things I had to learn myself, through trial-and-error or outright guesswork. The main driving force behind making MakeWebcomics.com was to help answer those questions for anyone in the same position now as I was back when I started out. We are doing it for free, out of love for the craft, and I believe all that information should be free, as well. Additionally, to go back to the point about experimenting with multimedia, I want to teach people what I know when it comes to things like making animated GIFs, for example. I want creators to be able to tell the stories they want, in the way that they want it to be told, and what is possible using the web -- because MOST things are possible! (Not everything is possible. Those children's movies lied to you. I am sorry.)