DPW: Hello, Pug. First off, I’d just like to thank you for doing this interview with us. It was a real pleasure reading the first five books in your series. What have you been up to since we last spoke?
PG: Mostly working on Book 6: The Winglands, trying to finish that up as I prep for Book 7 and finishing the series. But as this is a one-person show, I’m also juggling the rest of life. Convention appearances, social media updates, getting marketing gear made, etc. Fun stuff!
DPW: Not sure if we’d use the word “fun” haha. But you certainly are busy. For those who aren’t familiar with you or your work, how and why did you come up with the pen name Pug Grumble?
PG: I wrote a whole post about coming up with the name on farlaine.com that goes much more in-depth, but here’s the guts of it:
I didn’t put a name on the series for years, just wanting the work to speak for itself. Now that the end is in sight and I’m considering doing another project, I decided it made sense to have some name connect them together. Pug Grumble is the silly one I chose after years of brainstorming.
DPW: Nothing wrong with silly. Especially when it comes to Farlaine. Speaking of, how did you come up with the idea for this series? It’s such an original concept.
PG: It mostly started with a single drawing, this shaman ogre/goblin character, pointing his finger and casting a spell. I gave him a backpack to wear, a kind of open-topped satchel, and drew everything but it’s contents.
When the satchel was all that was left, I played around with a few different ideas of things he could carry, but quickly decided a tree would be the coolest thing. And if he was a shaman, then that’s where he’d be powering his magic from. It made sense to me that a shaman who protected a forest may want to go on vacation at some point, and if he did, he’d bring a tree with him so he could still do magic. I titled the original piece “Shaman from Another Land”.
The rest of the story then built on the same ideas as you continued along that path. If it was tree magic, he’d be able to grow seeds, his bag of tricks would be different seeds, used in different ways, etc.
As I kept playing with ideas, different weird lands and locations emerged. I didn’t want to do something boring and expected, so I tried to pick weird types of lands you could do strange things with. Fun things to grow, to draw, to read about. I probably spent a year or more just brainstorming and doodling the character and getting into him.
DPW: A whole year of brainstorming is quite impressive. Most indie creators give up if their final project last longer than a year. Then again, it’s pretty evident you put a ton of hard work into this series. Such as the added content like the concept art after the end of the books. Which brings about a few interesting questions of its own. For instance, Farlaine the Goblin is named after Todd McFarlane, right?
PG: Yup! I loved how TMNT used classic artist names and wanted to do the same, but with the artists I loved as a kid. I tried a few out and found the obvious fit was that McFarlane rhymed with Goblin. Todd was always my favorite artist so it seemed a no brainer. I just chopped off the Mc and added an extra I to seem more olde fantasy and fun.
DPW: Fantasy and fun would be the best descriptions. But getting back to Todd, what kind of influence did his work have on your art style?
PG: I grew up reading Todd’s Spidey stuff, his Hulk stuff, his Spawn stuff, plus all the other Image era guys like Liefeld, Portacio, Lee, Kieth, Keown, etc.
But I was also reading duck comics, Uncle Scrooge, Don Rosa, Carl Barks, Bone. I discovered Asterix later and fell in love.
So a lot of my “style” is from a lot of those colliding influences, with guys like Crumb, Struzan, Moebius, and more all mixed in. A hodgepodge of early 90s detail mixed with 60s storytelling.
Todd himself was always a huge influence, not just in art, but layout, design, and flat-out ambition and drive. Todd showed you could do anything you want if you had enough grit. I loved that.
DPW: There’s a great documentary on McFarlane by Complex that details his determination and how he became successful. It’s definitely worth checking out. Anyway, this is a very unique and incredibly fun story. And it’s the first all-ages series we’ve come across that we actually enjoyed! Have you had any luck submitting it to publishers?
PG: Not much luck, no. Most comic book publishers in the US push hard for comics to be the vertical traditional shape, in large part because stores love to stock those shapes. I remember showing one publisher the trade, and without reading it, he just said honestly, “wrong shape.” I’ve had stores refuse to stock my series because it doesn’t fit nicely in a box. Also being B&W [black and white] is a knock for most that can’t imagine color. Most people seem to see a sideways B&W comic and stop there, regardless of the content. It’s weird since my experience has been customers often look because of the shape!
I’ve looked into more traditional book publishers, but you generally need an agent to even make contact. I think that may be the best future route for Farlaine, getting into bookstores more than comic shops.
I’m hoping maybe with the finished series it’ll get a second look.
DPW: Well for good story and art lovers the world over, we sure hope you get that chance. This might be redundant, but what’s your ultimate goal for this series once it’s completed?
PG: Ideally, that it finds an audience and grows. Whether it’s me selling single copies at cons for 40 years or a publisher mass producing it and getting it into Scholastic, it would be nice for the story to get a real chance to get in front of people. There seems to be a solid slice of people who dig it, it’s just a matter of letting them know it exists.
DPW: Well, we’re sure our audience will love it. You’re an exceptionally talented artist, and your storytelling ability is top-notch as well. What is your writing process like? Do you go about the writing process differently than your art process? Same or different setup, time of day, location, etc…?
PG: Thanks, that’s nice of you to say.
I write and draw entirely disconnected. Two different personalities.
I’ll write the whole script over a couple of weeks, consolidating months of ideas and scraps and tidbits together. I’ll revise the script a few times, tighten it, put it away, read it fresh, and when it’s finally about 80-90% solid, I often get impatient and start to draw it.
When I draw, I’ll only print off the next 2-3 pages of the script at a time, so I’ll sorta forget what’s going to happen.
I never lay out the whole 40+ page story in one go. First and foremost, I find it incredibly dull, sucking the enjoyment out of doing the work. I also feel it’s a limitation to all the time you’ll be drawing and thinking of ideas and wanting to change and add things, but hold back because you already laid it out in a certain specific direction or fell in love with a certain panel or scene. I found doing it a few pages at a time let me sculpt the story as I drew it and keep it fluid.
So I’ll lay out and rough 1-2 pages at a time usually. I’ll do lots of drawings and layouts in a sketchbook, rip out the pages, scan them, move them around in photoshop, add the lettering to make sure everything fits right, resizing and repositioning drawings together, adding panel borders, etc.
Then I print off an 11×17 layout page I toss under the bristol board on the lightbox. I’ll copy the pencils over, tighten them up, and finally go to ink.
My actual schedule is all over the place. Some days I’ll be up drawing until 6am, others I’ll fall asleep at 9pm and wake up at 6am to work. That’s partly why I needed a break from the desk job, because I couldn’t get on the schedule I needed. I find I often get the best work done at night, when the sun’s down.
DPW: Sporadic hours is the norm for us creators. Even when we first start out. Since I mentioned starting out, when did you first start writing, drawing, and working on comics? I imagine these things came at different stages in life?
PG: I always fashioned myself a writer more than an artist, but can’t really claim any writing credits. A few incomplete stories and novels and screenplays littered through the years, but I’ve always communicated best and most thoughtfully through writing.
I only started drawing at age 15, a very late starter. I just doodled and drew for fun for years, in classes, meetings, etc. Rarely finished, polished things, mostly doodles and fun. I started collecting original comic art at one point which helped me to learn how professionals drew. Took me a long time to get to a point where I felt I could do quasi-professional work, and when I did, I did Farlaine. This is the first comic I’ve ever tried to do.
DPW: You mentioned writing non-comic fiction? Do you have any plans to continue down that path in the future?
PG: Yup? That’s one of the reasons I wanted to add a pen name. At some point (2018?) there will be something other than a comic sitting beside Farlaine on the shelf.
DPW: You must feel an immense sense of accomplishment when you finish putting together one of these books? How long on average does it take to complete one volume?
PG: A friend once asked what my favorite part of the whole process was, and my answer was “the end, when I’m reading it”, because it’s entirely true!
Writing is difficult, a struggle, you have high standards, missing plotpoints, limited space, etc. You want to be creative, to come up with new ideas, but also sometimes need to accept those obvious ideas as being perfect fits. It’s tricky!
Drawing is also difficult, because some jerk writer is writing all these scenes you can’t possibly draw, things way too complex for you to fit into a single tiny panel, way too many words, etc. I’ve had days where I’ve tried to draw something I had in my head or had written down, and after a dozen tries, finally have to rewrite the panel around my limitation!
So the whole process of creating the book, the writing, the art, the lettering, the publishing, the marketing… it’s a lot to do solo. But when the printed books arrive and I read it? That’s awesome. Very satisfying!
And even more satisfying is reading it again a year or two later, when you’ve forgotten lots of it and aren’t so deep into it, and find you enjoy it fresh.
It’s taken different amounts of time for each book. I’ve been really slow on 5-6, far slower than I thought, and I think it’s partly the more detailed art, but also the closing complexity of stories and making sure things fit together right. I can’t even imagine the mental capabilities of GRRM or Tolkien. I’d guess right now I’m averaging about 6 months/issue, for writing/drawing/etc.
DPW: That sounds like a killer schedule. We all have lazy days. How do you stay so motivated to work? Do you ever find it difficult to make the time to do so much?
PG: Hahaha, oh the struggle. It’s tough. Especially on a tiny book most people haven’t heard of. It would be a slog doing Batman in solitary, but at least you have an audience cheering you on. For me, if I get an email from a fan the strobe light comes out, and the dog and I have a dance party.
But my view has always been “keep moving forward.” I write slower than everyone else, I draw slower, I’m distracted easily, and my books will all change lengths and take long periods of time… but as long as I keep getting work done, keep getting panels and pages done, eventually I’ll be done. Book 4 took the longest in that exact dynamic. There were some weeks where I bet I didn’t draw a single line in that book, overwhelmed with the desk job and the rest of life. But eventually, it was finished.
I also have a limited amount of savings, so I gotta finish before I’m homeless.
DPW: Living out of a box would probably make writing and drawing tough. Good thing you’re near the end. This is a seven issue series, right? Do you have a set date or time frame for the final issue to be out on market?
PG: I’m finishing up #6 now, then have to write and draw #7. My hope was to be done by the end of the year, but it’ll be tight since I don’t entirely know the whole story yet. I’m trying to keep 6-7 closer together release-date-wise since it’s a bit of a cliffhanger on 6.
I’d think early 2018 with a 2 month gap, so like, Jan/Mar or Feb/Apr.
DPW: Excellent. We Can’t wait to finish reading the series. Any future plans for Farlaine after the things wraps up?
PG: Not immediately. I want to finish his story, try some other things, and let it settle. I certainly may revisit the character one day, but I also liked the idea of having a finite series of stories to enjoy and not water down. I don’t want to draw Farlaine stories for the next 40 years.
DPW: That might not be such a bad gig if you were paid handsomely haha. But if you do get a break from Farlaine, do you have any other non-goblin projects in the works?
PG: I do, but nothing to really talk about yet.
DPW: Oh, mysterious. Hopefully you’ll remember your friends at DPW when it’s time to disclose the details. One final question. What advice would you give to aspiring writers, artists, and or comic creators who are struggling to make a name for themselves?
PG: I have no idea! That’s what I’m trying to do. It’s like me asking you how to grow wings. I assume you don’t have wings? Or do you…??
DPW: A box of chicken wings, perhaps. But we aren’t flying around just yet. Well Pug, it’s been great talking with you, and we can’t wait to read the final two volumes of Farlaine. That little goblin gets into the craziest adventures. Thank you so much for speaking with us. It’s been a real pleasure.
PG: No problem, thank you! Always fun chatting Farlaine the Goblin. Maybe it helps snag a few new readers. So happy to hear you enjoy the series 🙂
Pug Grumble is the pen name of someone who has only created this one series, Farlaine the Goblin. There are no earlier stories to read, no younger work, no pinups or art to find. Just Farlaine. But that’s sorta the point for now. Why should you care about me? The book is what matters. Read the book and judge it on its own merits 🙂