Chris Flick is the creator of a funny web comic called “Capes & Babes”. In Chris’ own words it’s about “a strip mall, a comic book shop and one crazy wolf”. And that’s really not even the tip of the iceberg. As you delve into the comic you begin to truly appreciate the little world Chris has created. A place where the characters Mark, Joey, a werewolf named Roy, and his girlfriend Roni invite you on a truly comical journey. So let’s go behind the scenes and meet the man who has created “Capes & Babes”.
David: Hey Chris, You have a great web comic called “Capes & Babes”. What was the initial starting point and idea for you to come up with your own comic?
Chris: Thanks for the compliments about Capes & Babes. Capes & Babes was an idea I first started coming up with when I was either a Junior or Senior in college. At the time, I was expanding my comic book reading interests from strictly super-hero stuff to more personal, diary-type graphic novels like Box Office Poison, True Story – Swear to God and The Copybook Tales (not many people have heard of that last one so they may have to Google it).
Capes & Babes was going to be my serious, semi-autobiographical graphic novel – but I could never commit to do a long form story like that for some reason, so I put it up on the shelf and forgot about it. A few years later, when I started getting into and discovery webcomics, I remember Capes & Babes, dusted off my original notebook of character sketches and other ideas and decided to turn it in to a humor strip instead.
The only new character I initially created was Roy, my werewolf character. Since I was turning Capes & Babes from something serious into something silly, I decided I needed some kind of funny character that might act as the mascot of the strip… so I decided to create a vegetarian, comic book reading and ultimate dork werewolf and threw him right into the strip from the very beginning.
David: There is a lot of freedom with producing your own web comic. At times its very time consuming and anything that goes wrong comes down to you. What do you consider to be some of the pros and cons of creating your own little world?
Chris: Really, the only drawback concerning Capes & Babes is the time commitment. Now, when I say that, I’m not just talking about the actual production of art and writing of Capes & Babes. Every webcomic artist – heck, EVERY artist for that matter – has to deal with the time constraints of creating and producing art. What I’m talking about here though, is the constant requirement of pushing and advertising Capes & Babes on a shoe string or sometimes non-existent budget via Twitter, Facebook and now Google+… social media and online advertising… the constant need to try and get your name and your strip out there can sometimes take its toll on you.
That’s what I consider to be the “work” part of Capes & Babes. Now, having worked in the graphic design and advertising side of things for a number of years, I have it a lot easier than most as I get to use a lot of those graphic design skills I acquired when I was working for an advertising agency quite a few years back. There’s a fun aspect of creating new advertising campaigns, new promotional postcards and things like that but it’s still a lot of work – work that sometimes takes you away from creating a buffer for your strip and things like that.
David: You started “Capes & Babes” a few years back. How do you feel you and your characters have grown since the beginnings of your comic?
Chris: Being, hopefully, a humorous strip (if I’ve done my job well), I don’t know if my characters have actually “grown” all that much. I certainly think, had I stayed in the “semi-autobiographical” realm, they would have matured or grown a lot faster than they have so far.
I will say I think the person that has grown the most has been me. I think my comedic writing has gotten tighter and better. And even though I was very familiar with the characters years before I ever turned Capes in to a webcomic strip, I’ve gotten a better handle on their personalities and “voices” then I did when they first appeared in that first and second year.
All the characters have gotten a lot easier to write as well. Now that I have been doing this for a number of years, I do a lot less editing in the writing stages for each character – i know WHAT they’re going to say and HOW they are going to say it a lot more confidently than I did when I first started. But that’s more a product of repetition than anything else. I took a bunch of creative writing classes in college and we used to have exercises where we would write character biographies for people we were going to write about in short stories. We also did something similar in various acting classes I took when I was in high school. All of those things help you as a writer to know your characters inside and out.
But to specifically speak about the four main characters in Capes & Babes, what I really hope to do more of in the future is to grow the relationship more between Marc and Joey (the female hardware store owner) and compare their more reserved relationship interaction with the more violent and chaotic relationship of Roy (the werewolf) and Roni, his vampire girlfriend. And to somehow throw a bunch of humor in there while making those observations.
David: I consider one of the successes of having your own web comic as actually “doing” it; sure each cartoonist will have better comics than others. There will be some cartoonists that are more successful than others. What do you consider to be one of the great achievements of being a web cartoonist?
Chris: Well, first, the freedom to do what YOU want to do. You are your own boss so you don’t have a “Power that be” looking over your shoulder and telling you to change something that really doesn’t make a lot of sense. A lot of graphic designers and freelance artists out there know what I’m talking about. But then, the responsibility is all on your shoulders. It’s all up to you to be the best artist, the best writer, the best whatever you can be.
For me, I love going to conventions. Economically, they may not be the best way to advertise your comic but for me, what conventions do is they give you a chance to interact with real live people who have read your comic and enjoy it. The feedback I get from them is incredible and always inspires me to inject new energy in to the strip when I get home. And conventions give you a chance to meet, interact and hang out with other fellow creators… whether they are comic book or webcomic creators.
But to get back to the question, in terms of longevity, Capes & Babes is still a VERY young webcomic. I only just recently published my 635th strip. But last month, when I was at the Baltimore Comic Con, people found my table and started purchasing my trade paperback collections without my having to give them an elevator speech or hard selling the books to them. They started picking up and purchasing the books because they were already fans of the online strip. When experiences like that happen, that’s when you feel like you’ve accomplished something and all those late nights working on the strip are finally beginning to pay off. For me, the Baltimore Comic Con was an example of a great achievement in terms of the strip.
David: What future plans can we expect to see for yourself and “Capes & Babes”?
Chris: The cliché answer would probably be to say “grow it as much as I can” but what does that really mean? I’m probably no different than a lot of other webcomic creators out there in the sense that I would love to be able to make a full-time career out of Capes & Babes. I also know the typical webcomic creator cliché or caricature is one that looks at a small handful of creators who are making this their full-time job and they think “if so-and-so can do it, then so can I” but may not have all the same skills as those full-time creators. I think a lot of webcomics die off because the creators first think that, start doing the work and realize just how much hard work and commitment it requires and they throw in the towel.
When I first started Capes & Babes, I was using the strip as a way to exercise a lot of creative frustration I was having at my then full-time job. And, somewhere along the way, I also fell in to the whole “I can make this my full-time gig” trap. But living in the Washington DC area, I knew that wasn’t going to happen any time soon – I had too many bills to pay, a wife and two kids to take care of. Instead of throwing in the towel though, I just kept doing the strip three times a week because I really enjoyed drawing and writing these characters.
Now, in the last year or so, something really strange has starting happening to me. I started getting less and less concerned about my stat numbers. Sure, I want them to go up just like everybody else, but I’m not checking them every hour on the hour any more. In fact, I’m only checking them once or twice a week in order to plan my Project Wonderful ads. All the extra stuff… like social media, getting on forums and trying to talk up the strip, spending a lot of internet hours getting people to come to the site… I really cut down a LOT on doing that stuff. Instead, I just started putting all that energy in to the actual strip instead!
I still have a long way to go though. I would love to somehow find the time to build up a bigger buffer that might allow me to increase my production from a consistent three days a week to five days a week. That’s the biggest goal right now… trying to figure out a way to make Capes & Babes a daily strip without completely killing me.
The secondary goal is to “grow it as much as I can”.
David: Your comic is so much fun and I expect to see your fan base keep on growing, and all the hard work pay off. Thank you for taking the time to be featured on “Don’t Pick the Flowers”. Best of luck to you and with your comic “Capes & Babes”!
For more of Chris Flick and “Capes & Babes” check out the links below: