The Sprawl: Webcomic Creator Interview with Snowdon – By Enjy

by Dogpatch Press Staff

Welcome to guest author Enjy, who goes above and beyond for any writing mission. I would have tackled this myself but couldn’t have done so well because comics aren’t my forte and neither is music reviewing (Enjy’s previous piece.) The opportunity to work together is part of the magic of fandom. Tomorrow, expect the comic review. – Patch

The Sprawl is a webcomic created by Snowdon. He was the lead artist for a small animation studio and worked on the Teen Nick show Alien Dawn, where you can spot some of his artwork in the series’ titular comic book and unique motion-comic scenes. Needless to say, Snowden has been working on comics for quite some time. His whole life has been spent drawing and creating. Before and after working at Nickelodeon, he was a high school art teacher, a private tutor, and a graphic design consultant. In recent years, he has turned to freelance comics like his creation The Sprawl. Making connections, having a good portfolio, and taking internship opportunities whenever you can get them are Snowdon’s tips for artists like him to get into the animation industry. I got to speak with this creator to help his fans learn more about him, his comic, and where he sees his art taking him.

(Enjy): My first question is, why did you choose for The Sprawl to be a comic featuring anthropomorphic characters?

(Snowdon): The original concept for The Sprawl was an idea I’d had all the way back in art school, in the late 90’s. A lot of my art school friends wanted to make comics and a lot of them were already making anthro art, so I thought it might be fun if we all worked on some comics set in the same world, as like an anthology. The idea didn’t go anywhere, unfortunately, but some years later, one of my art school friends was doing comics for one of the anthro adult sites and offered to put a pitch in front of the people running the site if I could come up with one. I remembered the old anthology idea and still wanted to do something in that setting, so I dusted it off and wrote an outline that included what would eventually be the first chapter of The Sprawl.

So this has been a project in the making for quite a while. Would you have called yourself a furry back then? Do you consider yourself one now?

Oh, sure. I know people tend to want to come up with narrow definitions for the term but I think it would be disingenuous to play coy about it. I make an anthro comic, hosted on a furry comic site, published by a furry comic publisher, mostly sold at furry conventions. What else would you call it?

That is quite pragmatic of you. We are happy to have such a talent be a proud member of our community. When you were creating the universe and story for The Sprawl, did you have a plan set in motion, or did you sort of wing it as you went on, as inspiration led you?

Well, when I originally sat down to work on the outline, I knew how I wanted it to feel. I’m a big fan of movies like Rock & Rule, Heavy Metal magazine, that sort of thing. I wasn’t entirely sure what the story would be, but a lot of my favorite stories are based on Lovecraft’s works. The Thing, Dead Space, Alien. Where people discover something otherworldly and unwittingly unleash it on themselves and the rest of humanity. So working from there, I wrote an outline that covers the three story arcs of the comic so far, with some notes on what came before, and where it will go after. That was all in October to November of 2013.

Those are great inspirations, and ones you do great justice to. So when you created this outline, did you have many characters in mind for each role? Without spoiling the comic, there are not many characters who remain a part of it for very long. What do you think is most important about creating a persistent, story-important character versus one who isn’t?

I think about what worked for me in some of those inspirations. I can remember all of the characters in The Thing and I think that mainly comes down to each serving a specific role in the story, and having a scene that defines their character. Like Clark, the dog handler. Barely says anything the entire movie. Kind of a loner. Clearly loves the dogs, though. So you get him protecting and bringing in the “dog” at the beginning, which sets the events for the rest of the movie. I can’t tell you much about his character beyond that, but what we got sets off the entire story. So, in writing each story, I try to have a set role and personality in mind for each of the characters. I’m not sure I always succeed, but I like to think I’m improving with each arc. I’m really happy with how the current cast is shaping up. And these arcs are all connected, so I think readers will be happy to see how they all tie together.

I know the readers will be very happy. I am waiting anxiously as well! My favorite part of the story was O’ Malley’s, and my favorite character is Yaffa. What are your personal favorite parts so far?

Yaffa is definitely one of my favorites, too. She was originally going to have a smaller role but kind of took on a life of her own. I’m a bit partial to Chief Ronson and Jaya. I used to be a supervisor in a call centre, an awful place to work but I tried to use my role to make things easier on the people there, so I draw a lot of inspiration from that experience in these two characters.

They certainly come across that way! To switch gears a bit, I’d like to transition to talking about the nuances of your universe, now. Does your personal view on politics influence how you present the forces that run your world? One thing I have noticed that sets your comic apart at first glance is that it is rather overtly sexual without being explicity so. Females go topless, workers wear revealing outfits, but the characters around them do not seem to pay it any mind. Is this a statement from you about your views on sexuality in media, or is it a product of The Sprawl‘s universe?

It’s a product of the universe, my inspirations, and the fact that it was originally pitched to an adult site. My age probably has something to do with it too. I’m old enough to have grown up with Heavy Metal and the original Masamune Shirow books. The nurse outfits in LOG:03 are based heavily on the nurse outfits from the Ghost in the Shell manga. I haven’t explored it much in the comic itself, so far, but one of the ideas is that the city is constantly growing. Growing faster than the population, run on automated systems set up in long forgotten times. So it ends up being a bit like Blade Runner, where Deckard lives in this enormous building more or less by himself. And something I hope to get into with future stories will be how the government very much encourages a libertine lifestyle and rapid population growth for reasons to be explored in future volumes if I am able to continue the story beyond the current plan. I will say that despite the excess amount of space and seemingly post-scarcity levels of production, the average Sprawl inhabitant does not live a particularly luxurious lifestyle and that is somewhat inspired by our modern day, where production is way up but wages have stagnated. By all rights we should have lowered the average work week to 20 hours and had people living comfortable middle class lifestyles on that, but instead the increased production is being hoarded, with people having to take on extra jobs to make ends meet. The Sprawl is in a similiar situation in that regard. Heh. Sorry, I think I ended up going on several tangents with that answer.

Oh no, you explained your reasoning quite well. It really goes to show how much thought you have put into what makes your comic tick. Since you said this was created in the 90s, and Alien Dawn was created in 2013, that would mean your works have overlapped. I think something many adult artists are afraid of is that their works will keep them from being employed at the artistic jobs they would really want, based on society’s largely draconian views on things like drawing nude women or visceral gore. Did you have to hide The Sprawl from Nickelodeon? Were they aware of it? Did they mind?

Well, the original concept for The Sprawl didn’t lead into a comic being made right away. As the original idea was an anthology, I was was trying to get a number of other artists on board which is kind of like herding cats. Cats with ADD and their own ideas pulling them in all different directions. I didn’t begin working on the version of The Sprawl you know today until 2013, about a year after production had wrapped on Alien Dawn. At that time my only comic work was a couple of zines and a webcomic about super heroes defending the world from a giant space potato. That comic, oddly enough, is what got me the Alien Dawn job. I’ve never particularly hidden my more adult work, but I don’t tend to bring it up when job hunting, either. I don’t think I’d have had any trouble with it. Remember, Nickelodeon hired the creator of Johnny the Homicidal Maniac to create a kids show for them. Heh, not to mention the comics from the creator of Loud House. The people working in entertainment tend to be fans and artists just like anyone else. As long as it doesn’t create poor publicity executives don’t go doing thorough background checks on potential creatives.

Oh yes. The creator of Invader Zim. And The Loud House creator made Eddie Puss, correct? That was…definitely out there. I think that will put a lot of people’s minds at ease if they question their ability to have personal projects while feeling out job prospects. I would really like to thank you for spending time with us at DogPatch Press and allowing us to learn more about you. Is there anything you would like to say to your fans?

Yeah, I mean, just have some good judgement about what you go out of your way to show potential employers. Know your audience, and all that. To the fans, I want to say thank you. I think most people are only just beginning to hear about The Sprawl, but I’ve had a small yet dedicated group of fans and supporters since the beginning and that has meant a lot to me. I’ve got two more chapters about to be released in print this year, plus some exciting new Sprawl content in the early planning stages right now. Something to look forward too later this year.

Tomorrow: Enjy reviews The Sprawl. Spoiler… “bar none my favorite furry webcomic and certainly ranks among my favorite webcomics of all time.”