Comic artist Brad Guigar on the dream job he almost gave up
Jenelle Janci, Daily News Staff Writer
POSTED: May 01, 2015
At first glance, Brad Guigar's entrance to the world of webcomics seems reminiscent of the supervillain characters he creates.
In 1999, his comic strip "Greystone Inn" had just been rejected by newspaper syndicates when he devised a new plan.
"Although I was about a year behind the curve, I had this idea that I figured nobody else had," said Guigar, who was also a graphic artist for the Daily News at the time. "I'm going to put them up on a website, and I'm going to build a huge following, and then those guys at the syndicate will know what a mistake they made. That was my business plan: revenge."
Rest assured: Guigar's no super villain. He is, however, considered by many to be a pioneer of online comics. He runs the subscription site Webcomics.com for those in the field and has penned books on the topic, including The Webcomics Handbook. Guigar will be at the Wizard World Convention, May 7 through 10, selling his own work and participating in a panel each day of the show, including one with his two sons about how to host a podcast with your kids.
Guigar, who grew up in Michigan, said that pursuing comics has always been his dream. He created a portfolio of editorial cartoons in college - he's since admitted that he "doesn't have the heart for politics" - and worked as a graphics artist and cartoonist at the Canton Repository, in Ohio, before moving to Philadelphia in 1998. Three years ago, he decided to leave newspapers in order to pursue comics full-time.
"It's the one thing I ever wanted to do, and now I spend 100 percent of my time doing it," Guigar said, adding that his dream job does have its drawbacks.
"It's really hard to tell people what you do for a living," Guigar said. "Especially now that this is my full-time job, it's really hard. Especially my mom. 'So you do what now, and how do you get paid?' Believe me, there's a few months where I sit there and look at the bills and I say, 'How am I getting paid again?' "
Guigar has two active comic strips: "Evil Inc.," a spinoff of "Greystone Inn" about a corporation run by supervillains, and which appears on the Daily News' comics page; and "Arch Bros.," a comic loosely inspired by his two sons. "Phables," his discontinued comic about life in Philly, was nominated in 2007 for an Eisner Award, the comic industry's highest honor.
Guigar said that he typically writes a month's worth of comics at a time - a task that can be as daunting as it sounds.
"Last month, I was ready to give up," Guigar said. "I literally looked at my wife and I said, 'That's it. I'm all out of ideas.' It wasn't drama. It was like, 'I've really got nothing.' " After a few hours of staring at a blank sheet, Guigar said he wrote what he considers to be his best month of comics to date.
Guigar also hosts a podcast, "Hey Comics - Kids!" with his two sons, Alex, 12, and Max, 9. Max had wanted to do a podcast for a while, and when Alex got called to a playdate and left Max behind, Guigar knew just how to cheer his son up.
"This kid [Max] has kind of the gift of gab, and so, we had just seen 'Guardians of the Galaxy,' " Guigar said. "I said, 'Give me your Top 5 "Guardians of the Galaxy" characters,' and that was the last time I talked for the next half hour."
Guigar said that his sons are very "plugged in" and often inform him of news in the comic world. The podcast episodes are free on iTunes and have been downloaded 300,000 times, Guigar said.
Guigar also co-hosts a podcast "Surviving Creativity," with fellow comics-biz guys Cory Casoni and Scott Kurtz. Kurtz said that Guigar, who he's also co-written a book with, has been a close friend to him for over eight years.
"I think it's been pretty evident early on that he was someone you could rely on," Kurtz said of Guigar. "He's a good man."
Kurtz said that Guigar's amiable qualities cross over into the Philadelphian's work.
"He's also got a tireless work ethic," said Kurtz, who is known for his comics "PVP" and "Tabletop Titans." "Brad's the kind of guy who will suffer through a hardship, put on a smile and never let you know."
In addition to his own work, Guigar helps other cartoonists hone their craft. He offers one-on-one consulting via video chat, and also teaches two classes at the Hussian School of Art - Art Entrepreneurship and Sequential Arts Comics. Guigar said that he is impressed with his students' work: "They blow my doors off."
Guigar said he is optimistic about the future of comics, considering how much the scene has evolved in recent years. He said that what was once a "white boys club" now offers more diversity with more African-American and female artists. The comics world can only benefit from more perspectives and styles of work, he said.
"In terms of quality and what comics is as opposed to what it was in the 1980s, that's absolutely an indication that we are living in a comics renaissance. It's never been a better time to be a comics artist or to be a comics reader."