'Wallace The Brave' Gets Collected: Will Henry On Wallace's First Book [Interview]by Caleb Goellner
After two years of vivid, all-ages adventure on GoComics, Will Henry's Wallace the Brave is headed to print in its first-ever print collection.
Simply titled, Wallace the Brave, the new book boasts 176 pages of comics and bountiful bonus content. It's an easy way to get acquainted with the kids of Snug Harbor, including the titular protagonist Wallace, his little brother Sterling, his best bud Spud, and Amelia the new girl in town. With the book's beautifully painted map and activity guides, readers can replicate Wallace and co.'s imaginative romps around the outdoors with ease.
We got in touch with Henry to hear how he felt about his strip's first foray into print, and also to inform him of our newfound jealousy of one of his most prized possessions.
GoComics: You started your comics career with Ordinary Bill, a strip about a young man not unlike yourself at the time. You're still relatively young, but you've shifted to telling stories about younger kids. How do you think the course of time has shaped your ability to tell different kinds of stories with different viewpoints?
Will Henry: I'd like to think I'm evolving, in all aspects, not just cartooning. Ordinary Bill was a great outlet for a recent college grad still chasing beers, drugs, and women. Who knows, maybe I've gotten old, maybe things have slowed down a bit? Either way, I feel like I have a clearer, more personal view of the world around me. Ordinary Bill was one-dimensional, as was my life at the time. Now I've got a house, a wife, and a baby on the way. I want to progress and have the desire to write about new things I see. You could have a whole ocean to explore but if you're just treading water, you might as well be in a kiddie pool. Although, I'm still a sucker for a good ol' fashioned fart joke.
GC: Your Wallace style represents a significant evolution from your art on Ordinary Bill. What do you attribute to the changes beyond just practice?
WH: Space, color, foundations. Ordinary Bill was a limiting comic strip -- always four panels, black and white format, and created with techniques I was never truly happy with. With Wallace, I can use color to push and expand backgrounds, and if I need more space to fully render or explore an idea, I can take it. At the time of Ordinary Bill I was cartooning with techniques that were used by most of my idols, even though I wasn't that good at them, or worse yet, didn't find terribly enjoyable. I thought if they were using those tools and techniques, I should too. Eventually, you realize you don't want to be your idols, you wanna be you, and do what works for you. I think that was a breakthrough, becoming comfortable with what I do, unapologetically.
GC: This is the first time readers can get Wallace the Brave in print. What's special to you about books in the digital age?
WH: I'm clumsy, let's get that outta the way. But I can take a book anywhere, books do not care. You can drop 'em, kick 'em, get 'em wet, cover them in sand, they still function. Having to coddle over some device can be distracting, at least for me.
WH: The writing is the most time-consuming, rewarding, and difficult part of the process. I suppose I start with how I'm feeling that day or a subject I'd like to talk about and go from there, although even at this point the idea is mostly nebulous. Eventually, something will spark and I'll rough out the comic with pencil on Bristol board, full size. I'll scan the rough and email it to my editor, the ever-patient, ever-insightful Shena Wolf. Then, we'll go over each comic and dissect what works and more importantly, what doesn't. I'll make the edits and then away it goes for a few months before inking. When the date for a comic approaches it'll be on the top of the stack and I'll begin inking. I have originals for all comics, which means I do all the lettering by hand and all corrections are made with white out. I'm pretty much a 30-year-old dinosaur. Anyway, once I've inked the comic with some brushes and pens and whatnot I'll scan the comic into Photoshop and color it digitally. I'll format it to size and upload it to the GoComics website. Boom. Done. Repeat tomorrow.
GC: You used to draw Wallace principally while working your day job at a liquor store. You've also posted images of you drawing from what I believe is a home studio. Where's your current base of operations?
WH: My wife and I used to live in a 400 square-foot cottage. Tight quarters, so, the liquor store was the only place I could fit a drawing table. It was my base for several years. Eventually, we upgraded to an 800 square-foot chateau with a nice little sunroom, where I've got a second drawing table. My time is equally split between both "studios". Producing a daily comic is pretty time-consuming. I have to sneak work time in whenever I can and wherever I am.
GC: Last I checked, you were way ahead of schedule on Wallace strips. Are you still working a year or so ahead, keeping to your three-comics-per-week schedule? What do you consider the pros and cons of working so far ahead?
WH: Pros, the pros are endless. It frees up the schedule, and keeps the habit of writing and drawing fresh. The only "con" is on a personal level because I'm posting comics that were created more than a year ago. As an artist I look at them and see a comic lacking an entire year of experience and progression, all I notice are the flaws. I think this is a problem many artists have.
GC: According to Instagram, you're a charter member of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan club, going back several decades. You even have a plaque on your wall with official documentation. This isn't a question, I'm simply jealous.
WH: That TMNT fan club plaque is the 2nd coolest thing in my house, following my wife, of course.
GC: This Wallace the Brave collection features a number of extras. There's a detailed map of Snug Harbor, plus activity sections showing how kids can take part in some of Wallace and his friends' activities in the real world. What inspired the bonus content and what do you think it adds to the reading experience?
WH: I'm hoping the bonus material helps readers understand the characters and maybe even myself more. Imagination, adventure, nature, these are things that the characters and myself find interesting and fun. Not to mention, I remember some of these activities from my childhood and they are a BLAST!