I recently reviewed a new illustrated series called The Cartoon Guidebook to Absolute Failure. It’s not really a graphic novel or a comic strip exactly. It’s a little bit a both yet none of the above. To me it’s one of a kind. It’s a set of illustrated skits detailing how to absolutely fail at various things ranging from encountering a bear to surviving a zombie attack. It’s a fun series with fun art. I had the great honor to interview the two creators of this book. Logan Faerber is the artist and Erik Craddock is the creator and writer. Erik himself has a lot of indie comic credentials and has been an illustrator/comic artist for a while himself. Find out how their thirst for art fueled their life. They’ll tell you secrets behind their new series and how they pitched it to publishers. You’ll find out who influenced them and how they created this unique series. These are two very interesting fellas. Check out my interview below.
Raphael Moran – What started your love of art and comics in general?
Good question! For me, my love of art has been a life long journey that’s gone on for as long as I can remember. It started at home as a kid, with my mother painting folk art and watercolors, and it grew as I went to school, and took just about every art course I could get my hands on. As for my love of comics, that’s been there since childhood as well. However, comics as a professional direction didn’t really happen until I was in college, where I learned the craft from such people as Carmine Infantino, Keith Mayerson, Howard Cruse, Peter Kuper, Gary Panter, and David Mazzuchelli. That’s when it turned from an interest into a profession.
I would like to think that it’s mostly my family’s fault. They raised me in an environment that was chock full of creative stimulants such as coloring books, Disney movies, and cartoon shows, along with endless sheets of standard 8.5”x11” computer paper and mechanical pencils. These all played a huge role in guiding me towards a passionate love of art. Not to mention that my brother is nearly 15 years older than me, so by the time that he was moving into late high school and early college I began to adopt his old toys and comics – both of which improved my imagination and appreciation of the spandex wearing superhero community. I’ve been a devoted comic reader ever since.
How did the two of you meet for this project?
Believe it or not, Logan and I have actually never met face-to-face (at least, as of the time of this writing). However, where we did “meet” was on Facebook about two or three years back. He posted a comment on the wall post of a mutual friend (whose name escapes me, unfortunately) and what caught my eye was his profile picture; which was basically an illustrated picture of him getting punched really, really hard in the face. This made me laugh like crazy, so I shot him a friend request and we soon became fast friends. Not to mention, the more I reviewed Logan’s work, the more I liked it. Which is why I decided to entrust him with the work for this series, as I felt he could do a much better job of it than I ever could (and he did, too).
When Erik’s right, he’s right, and right now, he’s right. The first time I spoke to Erik was while I still lived in Mission Hill in Boston. At that point I was still doing various freelance illustration jobs, heavily promoting myself to anyone willing to listen, and managing a full time retail job at Blick Art Materials near Fenway Park. I had only lived in Boston for about a year at that point and was still confused about how the T system truly worked. Needless to say, this chain of events that Erik described lead to a successful partnership and a fantastic friendship, and goes to show how some pathways in life that you never suspected to lead anywhere can truly flourish in time with a little devotion and a LOT of hard work.
Tell us a little about your previous work?
Well, when I first graduated from college, I worked on a few network television shows like The Venture Bros. and SKWOD, as well as did a bunch of freelance work for a number of smaller studios and companies in the Tri-State area. However, about 3 or 4 years in, I decided to shift gears and get into publishing. First with Manga Claus: The Blade of Kringle, and then with my own series Stone Rabbit, which spanned across eight volumes and has sold over 150,000 copies worldwide. Currently, I’m a full-time writer and illustrator of comic books, graphic novels, children’s books, chapter books, and more, and spend a majority of my time coming up with new ideas and getting them out there in print.
After attending Montserrat College of Art in Beverly, MA, I moved to Boston in hopes that being closer to a bustling city would lead to some unexpected opportunities.
I had initially envisioned myself hustling my work traditionally; carrying a huge portfolio around to various companies and meeting with their prestigious art directors (something I did for about 1 year). That was until I realized how much of this concept was actually part of an old school methodology passed down from my elder teachers, since most of the communications now-a-days are held exclusively through email. Not to mention that my fantasy vision of New York was an ideal scenario concocted by having watched too many movies and sitcoms with too many beautiful looking high-rise loft apartments.
I later decided to pursue a career in graphic and web-design along with my illustration, which led to an entirely different career path that I could never have imagined for myself even 3 years ago.
How did you (Erik) come up with this idea for the series? How did you pitch it and how long ago did you have this idea.
Like all good ideas, this was something that came completely out of left field. I was working real late one night and the idea just snaked its way into my head. So, I promptly wrote it down in a small notebook that I had on hand in my desk, and it slowly developed from there over the course of several months to a year. Although, it would be several years until I developed it properly and submitted it for publication. In terms of pitching, it was a cold submission to SLG Publishing; meaning that I had no internal contacts and submitted the work blindly, not knowing if somebody would even look at it, much less approve of it. Thankfully, the good folks at SLG loved the work, and about a year or so later, the series is now available in print (and digital, too!). As for how long I’ve had this idea, I’d venture to say at least 5 or 6 years. So, it’s pretty awesome for me to see something that was once a bunch of mad scribblings in a notebook become a full-fledged series from one of the largest and most respected indie publishers in the business, let alone, have somebody as amazingly talented as Logan ink and draw it up. So, yeah, it’s been a pretty wild ride, overall.
You (Logan) have a distinctive art style. How long did that style come about and how does that evolve?
My current style developed through a painful series of trial and error pieces during my senior year of college. Up until then I had focused mostly on working from life or copying from master illustrators that I had looked up to my entire life. It wasn’t until junior year that I truly became aware of having a personal style. I went through a bit of a mental breakdown attempting to find a look and feel that is distinctive from everything else already out there, while also being true to myself. This involved countless nights of self reflectance on what elements I could change in my style and what techniques I should embrace or avoid. Ultimately I found something that I felt comfortable with calling my own and I went with it. Since then I have been evolving through consistent research of new artists, mediums, and techniques – all while doing my best to stay true to myself.
What are some of the projects you have in the future? Do you guys think you’ll work together again?
While I can’t state in specific terms what future works we plan to work on together, I will say that I have every intention of making plenty more books with Logan. Because (to be Frank) I’d be crazy not to! Why? Because Neil Gaiman said it best; it takes three qualities to be a success in this industry (which are being “fast, good, and nice”) and Logan exemplifies all three of those. He has produced some truly stellar work for this series, and has worked tirelessly around the clock in order to do so. Not to mention, he’s done all of this while helping run a design studio during the daytime hours, as well.
So, be it comic books, humor books, or more cartoon guidebooks, I see us working together for a very long time. Because he’s not just an amazing creative partner, he’s also one of my best friends. Now I just hope that I don’t cause the poor guy to pull a rotator cuff or something from all of that drawing!
Aw! I never knew you felt that way! I too would love to do more work with Erik in the future. I think that we have a very similar sense of humor and have a great working relationship that allows us to be open about everything creatively. Not to mention he’s been a fantastic supporter the whole way through and cares so much about his craft. When we talk about ideas I think there’s a great sense of passion and excitement between us that feels completely natural. After having worked with dozens of creative individuals in the past I can definitely tell you that spark doesn’t come around often.
As of other future projects, I do have a short 4 issue mini series lined up with BOOM! Studios; a publisher I’ve been very close to for a few years now. For now, all I can say is that it will be a much more heartfelt and moralistic story than most large publishers are willing to put out these days and will focus on a very average character that most of us can relate with. Also, I will be working very closely with the writer, Max Bemis of the band Say Anything, who I am very excited to finally create something with. Like with The Cartoon Guidebook to Absolute Failure, I will have partial ownership of the brand, so we will be able to get away with some pretty exciting stuff!
Who were some of your artistic influences?
The influences involved in the shaping of the series are almost innumerable. We touch on so many topics and ideas because (at its core) these books are basically a parodying of both our collective life experiences. But I will say that the most prominent influences on this work are people like Stephen Colbert (The Colbert Report), Monty Python, The Smothers Brothers, The Whitest Kids U’ Know, as well as TV shows like Sealab 2021 and Harvey Birdman: Attorney At Law. There’s also humor publications like Mad Magazine, as well as video games like the Fallout series, where they used the imagery and iconography of the late 50’s in order to depict gruesome and beguiling acts in a chipper and “mom and pop” kind of way. So all of these influences collectively played a large role in the development of this series, on the whole.
As said earlier, Erik and I’s humor stem from the same path, so I totally agree with these influences. A lot of the visual style when we spoke early on was focused on vintage instructional videos, old marketing cartoons, and early Tin Tin era character designs – an area where the simplicity and innocence would help to further the ridiculous scenarios and possibly enhance the disturbing overtones that persist throughout the material in this series.
Are there any plans for a signing or convention appearances?
I’d love to sign books with Logan in the future, as well as make a few convention appearances along the way. However, the problem is coordinating all of that, because Logan is in Boston, I’m soon going to be in Upstate New York, and our publisher is based in San Jose. So we’re all in completely different locations with little or no intersecting points. Not to mention, we’re all extremely busy people, so there’s that to take into consideration, as well. I’m pretty sure that we’ll figure something out in the next year or so, but in terms of definite plans (and speaking only of myself), there really aren’t that many, as I’m concentrating my efforts more on producing than promoting at this point in time.
I too would love to sign books with Erik and am entirely on board for whenever that opportunity may arise, but again we are all so busy that it’s become secondary to actually finishing all the books and getting them out and in people’s hands. Hopefully then we can officially make that shift over to making actual live appearances.
I’m not 100% sure yet (at the time of this writing), but I may be attending HeroesCon this year. It’s a little hard to say for certain since these books are just about wrapping up and my new series with BOOM! Studios has yet to officially start, but you never know. I do always love catching up with fellow artists and seeing the fans, so it might just be worth it this year for fun.
Hear more from Logan Faerber and Erik Craddock at these links!