July 7, 2010

Brain Picking: Interview with Michael Lalonde (Orneryboy web comic)

(creator Orneryboy web comic)
What do you get when  you combine an ornery but lovable misanthrope, his vegetarian girlfriend, a free-styling zombie rapper, the necronomicon, ghostly cats, and a battle of the bands? If you guessed "madness," then you're only half right. If you guessed "genius," you're closer still. If "one of the best comics on the web" comes to mind, then, yes, now you're talking! This is Orneryboy by Michael Lalonde, a darkly whimsical web comic combining static illustration with smooth and inventive flash imagination and of course zombies. The Zed Word loves Orneryboy, and I think you will too. The Zed Word caught up with creator Michael Lalonde to talk about his web comic, his love of zombies, and whether there's a place for animation in web comics.

Our mascot Zedward goes camping with the cast of Orneryboy
(L-R) Brian the zombie, Orneryboy, and Dirtygirl.

Zed Word: Because Orneryboy strikes me as quite unique, I hope you won't mind if I hit you with the most hackneyed interview question in the book: what inspired your comics? 

Michael Lalonde: At first I just wanted to make something of my own that I could publish on the web, so I started with what I knew - I took characters based on myself and my girlfriend and just started making comics about them. I didn't really have a plan beyond the need for a creative outlet. But not long after, I started drawing inspiration from my other influences - zombie movies, horror stories, my musical interests, our cats... Pretty much anything is fair game these days! 

ZW: So Orneryboy and his partner Dirtygirl are based heavily on you and your partner Jen?

ML: Definitely! In the beginning though, they were a lot more like the real us than they are now. Over the years, our real life and fictional personalities have grown apart.

ZW: Zombies also play a big role in your comic. Would you consider yourself a zombie fan and, if so, why?

ML: Yeah, I'm a huge fan of zombies! Zombie books, zombie comics, zombie movies... I know a lot of people complain that zombies have been overdone, but I don't care! I've always been into them, so I don't see how having MORE zombie stories to choose from is a problem at all! And when zombies are played out and everyone moves onto the next big thing, I'll still be a zombie fan.

I think seeing Return of the Living Dead when I was a kid is what started it for me. That movie scared the crap out of me so bad, I didn't even notice the humour in it at the time. I'd lie awake in bed at night, thinking about every possible escape scenario, but to no avail... I mean, they NUKED the zombies at the end of that movie, and that didn't even stop them! And I'd always been afraid of nuclear war as a kid, so after that, zombies became the ultimate apocalypse scenario.

ZW: Your comic contains zombie but also vampires, the necronomicon, other Lovecraftian horrors, and the occasional murder, yet the comic never feels overly dark or gritty. It remains a humour series. How do you manage to have your characters do some fairly transgressive things while still maintaining a fun, light atmosphere?

ML: I honestly don't think I'm capable of creating anything truly dark. I've always been inspired by dark literature and movies, and I've always had lots of dark ideas of my own, but over the years, anytime I drew or painted anything, it came out either cute and colourful, or very forced and full of juvenile angst, which frustrated me to no end. So after years of fighting it, I just accepted it. It's my curse. :) 

ZW: Although you've been doing the comic since 2002, fairly recently you began to embed flash animation into your comics. I know a number of hardcore comics creators who would consider this sacrilegious. What reactions have you received about your combination of static art and animation?

ML: The feedback I've received from readers has been very positive, and everyone seems to really like the animated panels. But even if they didn't, I'd keep doing it because it's what I want to do. Coming from a multimedia background, it doesn't seem like a big deal to me. And in the beginning, I wanted to create Orneryboy as a series of animated shorts anyway, so the animated panels have been a good way for me to scratch that creative itch.

As for other comic creators considering it sacrilegious, that's their problem. Even if I didn't use animation, all my art is copied and pasted anyway, and I'm sure many creators take issue with that. But Orneryboy has never been about impressing those people. I'm just doing this for my own amusement, and the amusement of anyone who's willing to keep reading. If it no longer fits into other peoples' definition of a comic, then so be it!

Orneryboy updates on Mondays @ http://www.orneryboy.com/

Lalonde also designs art for Sick on Sin clothing: http://www.sickonsin.com/