Sunday, June 3, 2012

Interview with Pokeweed creator Drew Pocza!!

Hey friends! Sorry about the delay on this interview with Pokeweed creator Drew Pocza. There were a couple delays on my behalf, like being away at Crypticon Seattle, which we will be posting some coverage and pictures very soon! Were Also going to be covering the first Port Townsend Steam Punk festival. I honestly dont know very much about that scene, but am very curious and intrigued. It should be fun to cover!! Check out for more info on that event. Anyways, enjoy this interview with Drew Pocza, and check out Pokeweed. He's a good guy, and Pokeweed is a hilarious strip!!!

Steve Strout: how long have you been creating the Pokeweed comic strip?
Drew Pocza: As Pokeweed, for two years. I got laid off form work and needed a little therapy. And it seemed like a great way to help keep creative juices flowing. But the strip is a few "failed" strips all combined. Back in '99 I was out of work and the internet was new. I started a strip called PhillaBuster. It was Phil and Buster. Buster has not changed much at all. Phil has. And that was old pen and ink work. I tried doing a Christian specific strip. It was my first shot at a strip digitally. The strips were really fun, but I felt limited with what I could say or do. Fast forward almost a decade, and I worked up a few strips of a Cthulhu based comic. None of the strips had much staying power. And I don't know when, but the idea came to mash them all up. After a few trials with comics, I finally feel like I landed on one that worked. And I can see I have a lot of room to grow, and I should be able to keep going for a long time. Closing in on strip #300 soon! I honestly was blown away at

SS: can you give readers (hopefully there will be a lot) an idea of what this comic strip is about? D.P.: Oh man. Thats tricky. In all honestly, thats what I am trying to find out myself. lol. I have had people tell me they enjoy the strip, but don't know what its about. I just keep at it and hope it will reveal itself. But for now, I just try and take it as it comes. All I know for sure, is Pokeweed is a small town just south of nowhere. I would love to grow the strips fan base, and do what I can. I have a nice solid support right now. And they kinda "get it". But again, I am still exploring the town. 98% of the strips tend to have no background. I wanted to let the reader figure that out. But am slowly adding more props and backgrounds. Carving out more of this place.

S.S.: you do the writing and illustration? D.P.: Yes. Both. I have had a few concepts going with writers, but there is a disconnect for me. Pokeweed comics are very "me" and I can't work with anyone on them.Each character is a portion of me. Phil, the kid who is the straight man. Buster the snowman is my grumpy side, while Clint,the ambiguously straight dog is my creative side. Chuck, the part of me that is needy and insecure. They are just too close to me to let somebody else write for them. The illustration style came out of a need to work fast. My typical illustration style is very hard lined and fat black outlines with chunky colors. What I wanted with Pokeweed was a drastic contrast. And what I'm excited about is the style of Pokeweed has helped me grow into another technique I offer clients. It really works well for kids stuff. Drop some color in it and it takes it to the next level. I work vector, and LOVE it for a few basic reasons, but am very, very temped to learn how to use Manga Studio. THE brushes kill. But I love my vectors way too much. But did I mention the MS brushes? Another thought on writing. It was easy to drop fart jokes and body humor still kills me. But I want to kick my writing in the balls and move forward. I will always have body humor, but my goal is to make it more sophisticated and whatnot. Cartoonist are given a unique soap box. We have the power to say stuff out right or in hidden gags. One avenue I started to explore was conspiracy theories. It would be unnatural fit as I grew up loving stuff about aliens, big foot and other stuff. But the more I looked into the CS stuff, the more freaked out I got. No joke. I had a bit of a freak out session. But am OK now… for the most part. Having gotten over the real crazy stuff, I still think it would be an endless supply of humor, mixed with pop culture stuff. So, we'll see. If the black helicopters storm my house now that the NDAA is legal, and the strip stops and my tweets end, you know it got real! (lol) I do feel a sense of moral "need" in comics. We have a opportunity to teach and I am trying to figure out, what that is.

S.S.: Its all done digitally too, right? Do you find it simpler than pencil/ink? D.P.: I work digitally. Start to finish. No trees were harmed in the making, aside from my Pokeweed Collection. Every strip starts in Sketchbook Pro, opened in Illustrator and drawn on a Cintiq. I tried doing it analog, but miss Command-Z too much. Being able to be bend those curves and dial them in as needed is a HUGE plus. The interesting thing about my strip is that, I try VERy, VERY hard to not copy and paste. Most lines are all done individually. And if I do copy, I alter the lines somehow. I hate sprite work. I had the pleasure of giving Sergio Argones one of my mini books and right off the bat, he said he could tell I drew them each by hand. I felt like I nailed it!

S.S.: I find the series really funny. Ya can't really beat a good pun or play on words. Where do you get your ideas for Pokeweed?
D.P.: Thanks. I'm glad you like it. I love puns and the art of using the wrong words. I don't work in what may be considered the norm. Lots of what I put in the comics are things I actually say or am involved in. Often what may have come up in casual conversation with friends ends up in the strip. I'm a fan of stand up comedy. I used to want to be a comedian, but from what I see, it's more work than comics. Writing is very hard for me. So I try to apply the life stories. I used to think it was all about the art, but look at most online comics and I am proven wrong. The writing is what keeps people going to The Oatmeal, SKD, or Dinosaur comics. NOT the art. And so I have been trying to craft my writing more and more. And I have learned to appreciate the word smiths.

S.S.: tell us a little about yourself? Are you a NW native? Art school? Self Taught?
D.P.: Originally from Jamestown NY. Small town where anyone who could draw stuck out. Did some private lessons as a kid, art classes in school with a great teacher. Mr. Holmes. Who, I think all of us learned more about life from him, than art. But I remember some stuff he told me more than any other teacher. Went on to a local Community college and took art there, but made a HUGE change to go of to Bible college. Gave up on art and was gonna be a youth pastor. Career wise, /fail. That put me back what seems to be a decade behind as I realized, I should be doing art. So back to night school for some basic classes and all the true grit of art, I learned on my own but cannibalizing other artists. Taking what I liked and apply it to me. Well, more Bruce Lee Jeet Kune Do than cannibalism. Till now, I finally feel like I have found my art self. Damn that was a long walk. Moved the family to the PNW and love it. The Seattle area is an amazing place with so many talented people. I'm constantly blown away by people who live here, or even some of the major players as far as businesses. Lots of comic book and web comic creators have migrated here. Even here on the east side, Redmond, there are few comics guys.

S.S.: You create comics, but are you a reader? What books or strips are you reading nowadays? D.P.:I don't read many comics. Almost never comic books, and never superhero books. I tried that when I was younger, but I was fortunate to grow up in the 80's b/w comic book explosion. When the Turtles came out and Cerebus was all the rage. But I still searched high and low for crazy 60's/70's underground comics like Cheech Wizard by Vaughn Bode. The only comic I became DIE hard for was SCUD: The Disposable Assassin. Crazy good.

S.S.: Who are your inspirations? Favorite artists and/or creators?
D.P.: Vaughn Bode. and Pushead. I still find myself doing bubble fonts like Vaughn and his marker technique was absorbed and I never knew it till I started sketching at cons. Pushead's line work is amazing. A-frickin'-making. But shows like Zim, Power Puff Girls and Courage the Cowardly Dog all had an impact on me.

S.S.: Is being an illustrator what keeps.the bills paid? D.P.: Maybe not on time, but yes. Barely. But it sure beats doing something I hate for a living. I get to draw for money! people pay me to do something I would do anyway. I used to take on lots and lots of odd jobs. But I am now able to turn work down if I don't like it. If it isn't in my skill set, I don't do it. I have done way too many gigs that are pick ups, or mimic of another style. Work now has increases big time. This time last year, it was scary bad. Almost had to move back to SoCal, and that reallly bummed me out. I'm so glad I stuck it out up here. MANY, many opportunities here. I just signed on to help create a "visual language" for a game at XBOX. Things are picking up and I am trying torrid the tidal wave while I can. My goal is to do kids children's literature.And I am doing a seers of Bible illustrations now. Just another step towards that goal. But iphone games and digital work seems to be where the money is at. So I am pushing for that as well. To me, thats what is exciting about my work. It works in various formats.

S.S.: I see that you work regularly doing art for schools? That's got to be really fulfilling working with the kids.
D.P.: I love doing kids related work. I tried to go for the more elevated look of editorial magazines, but even then, my "office"related work still looked like a handbook for kids. So just within this last year I made the design to embrace it.

S.S.: Are you working on any other projects now or in the near future? D.P.: I do have a extremely cool project in the works with Tom Hall of KING, and Robot 13 fame. Wish I could plug it, but lets say, it has potential for kids marketing and animation.

S.S.: Anything you want to share or plug?
D.P.: Aside from , I would love people to check out my illustration work at . And thank you very much for asking me to to do this, and it was great to meet you at Emerald City Comic COn. Next stop, Jet City!