What do you get when a duck with a camera becomes a photographer? One of the funniest comics you’ve ever read. Aaron Johnson is the creator behind the comic strip “What the Duck”, which was all started by happenstance. “What the Duck” is truly one of the funniest comics of our times and what a thrill to have Aaron answer some questions about his little duck with a camera.
David: Hey Aaron it is such a privilege to have you featured on the blog. You have one of the funniest comics I have ever read. The drawing is simple yet endearing and your humor is direct and to the point. “What the Duck” started out as basically a joke or filler on a blog (your bands blog) and has become overwhelmingly huge. Did you ever dream your comic and life would go in this direction?
Aaron: Absolutely not. It’s been a huge happy accident. I think if I would have tried to create a successful comic strip, I would have failed miserably. I much prefer the serendipitous approach and it’s been a wild ride.
David: Where did the idea for a duck with a camera come from?
Aaron: I just woke up one morning and the entire concept hit me like a brick. It sounds silly but it’s true. Part of the intent was to create the most niche and dry comic strip imaginable.
David: When you are writing new ideas for your comic do you just start brainstorming or are they just random ideas that you jot down? Where does the craziness come from?
Aaron: Most of the writing process for me is like sculpting marble. I start with a single issue (like a pet peeve, an experience, a situation, etc.). That’s my big block of marble. Then I chip away at it until I have it at its simple most direct point. The strip has always been intentionally minimalistic. Whittling complex issues down two 3 panels and a joke can be a challenge.
David: Since I take it that you never intended to go in the direction of being a cartoonist, what do you consider the greatest comic strips and inspirations to you?
Aaron: Bloom County. When I was 12-13, I did want to be Berkeley Breathed. But Bloom County had been the only comic strip I ever followed. Now that I’ve been doing my own strip, I’ve been occasionally studying the history of the format and reading other strips (past and present). But I can honestly say I read very few other comic strips, for better or for worse.
David: Apparently you were setting up a creative way to deal with rejection letters from syndicates when you started, which obviously you don’t have to worry now, about can you tell me a little about that?
Aaron: I thought it would be fun to have a feature on the website where I submitted the strip to syndicates and kept track of the response in the form of “Syndicate Bingo”. The assumption was that the strip would be flat out rejected by all the major syndicates and the reject letter would be funny for the WTD fans to read. It didn’t turn out as I expected. Most of the responses were canned form letters and one of them was an syndication offer from Universal.
David: Besides your comic strip, what other activities do you hold as being important and artistic? Music and photography I would assume are among some of your favorite pass times, oh and the family right?
Aaron: Yes, I enjoy playing jazz bass. I love documenting my kid’s lives with photography. I’ve been a career animator and also enjoy side animation projects as well. Creatively, I have too many interests and not enough time.
David: And last questions, do you have any words of wisdom or encouragement for anyone starting their own comic strip, words from “The Duck”?
Aaron: Create a comic strip that you would enjoy writing even if NOBODY ever read it. Because the reality is – the odds of breaking into newspaper syndication are extremely low and the internet is so over-saturated with content, it’s hard to build and keep an audience. Don’t go into it looking for success, do it because you love to do it.
David: And you truly have done so well when there is so much right at our finger tips. Thank you Aaron for being featured and I wish you continued success, me and so many others love “What the Duck”.
For more of “What the Duck” and Aaron Johnson check out his website at www.whattheduck.net