If you're looking for new and innovative titles from local comic-book artists, online catalogs are your best bet. A lot of the creators we're seeing come up through "draw nights" and the internet art community of Utah are taking their work online, with limited runs of print copies made for the true collectors. Going online isn't anything new for the industry, but public interest keeps growing every year, as new readers are phasing out paper and reading digitally. One of the best locally-produced comics in recent years is Food Hates You
, a heroic tale of what happens to some innocent meatballs as they make their way through a digestive tract filled with peril. Today, we chat with the creator and artist D. Bradford Gambles about his career and the comic itself. (All pictures provided courtesy from Gambles.
D. Bradford Gambles
Gavin: Hey Brady! First off, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Oh my! Well, I'm an illustrator who draws weird comics and stuff. Not much I can say beyond that. I met Marc Maron once at the Alt Press Fest! He asked me where he could get a pie with ice cream. So that's an important thing to know about me.
What was it that first got you interested in art and influenced you early on?
An uncle of mine gave me a copy of Calvin and Hobbs
when I was very young, and there was no going back after that. I started making my own comic strips during school when I should have been learning maths and stuff. Comic strips were really my thing more than comic books. I never really got into the Marvel and DC superhero thing. The only comic book I would read regularly was Sonic The Hedgehog
, and that was only because I was really into the games. That's probably going to lose me some street cred, but I didn't have much
to begin with.
How did you end up going more toward an illustrator and comic-book style as you developed your skills?
Basically, because that was all I could do. No, that's not true. I took some drawing classes and could draw birds and animals and stuff fairly accurately if I took the time, and maybe I could improve those skills if I really wanted to put in the work. But I find the simplification of forms that happens in more indie/cartoon style art so much more appealing. Communicating an idea, especially a funny idea, with a few simple forms is really exciting and fun.
Originally you went to SLCC and then UVU for college. What made you choose UVU, and what was their program like for you?
Whoa. You know too much about me. Where did you get this information? Have you been following me? No, I went to SLCC originally because I wanted to study film, be a screenwriter. But that whole experience was very... I don't know. Let's just say that film students in Utah are... Let's say really
into their own work. I guess there's nothing wrong with that. I mean, my work is pretty amazing. I went to UVU after that to study animation, which is something that I am a really big fan of. Those guys are really amazing at what they do. Unfortunately, I discovered that I am not one of them. Have you ever tried animating something? It's a horrible experience. Countless hours used up in order to get some stick figure to walk awkwardly. No, thank you, sir. I'll leave that to the professionals. So I switched my major over to Illustration and did my best to pass by unnoticed until I could graduate. Basically, education hasn't really worked out for me.
How did you end up getting into doing freelance work and being an artist for hire?
Hoo boy. I wouldn't exactly call myself an “artist for hire.” I'm usually so busy with multiple comics projects of my own (or with collaborators) that I simply don't have time to take on any freelance. It's a shame, because I could really use the money. I did much more of that when I first got back into drawing after taking a high school length-ed break from it (I stopped drawing after middle school, then picked it up again only a few years ago (when I started going to UVU basically). But the projects I took on were all kind of a bummer. I never got paid for most of them. The only one I've really stuck with has been doing comics for SLUG
. I think I've done six, or something like that so far. Those have been fun. So, I decided that what I really wanted to focus on was doing my own comics, with the hope that someday I might be able to do something with a publisher like BOOM Comics or somewhere like that where my style would really fit in.
What are some of the biggest projects you've been a part of that you really enjoyed?
Well, Food Hates You
has been a really fun challenge, but what comes to mind is one of the first collaborative comic projects I started, called “A Donut's Tale,” which is an improvised, call-and-response adventure webcomic that gets passed around between a team of local artists. We build the story one page at a time. One artist will do a page, then the next artist does the next page based on what the first artist did, and so on. The current team consists of myself and three other very talented artists (Mitch Parker, Cord Nielson, and Rachel Everett) but has also included Jess Smart Smiley and Drea Hatch. Anyone who wants to see their work on it can go to adonutstale.tumblr.com. It's been a really fun way of testing out different
styles, approaches or tools.
How did the idea for Food Hates You come about?
Well, I always look forward to tabling at the Salt Lake City Library's Alt Press Fest, and I try to make a new zine for each year. I struggle with my weight, and it frustrates me that all the foods that are terrible for you are the only ones that taste good. That's just not fair. I know there's someone reading this now thinking to themselves: “No, I don't agree. Vegetables taste great. I'm having a kale salad right now!” No. You're lying to yourself. Open your eyes, people! Anyway, that gave me the idea to do a character illustration zine with different foods that “hated” you. So I created all these random characters and made them into a zine called Food Hates You
. A while later, I was taking to a small publisher in Texas who seemed interested in publishing my first self-published graphic novel, Killer On The Roof
. Ultimately, that didn't work out, but when we were talking, they asked about the Food Hates You
stuff I had put up on my Tumblr. They wanted to know more about it, and asked if I was going to make it into a comic. I laughed it off because it hadn't occurred to me. I already had another project in mind to start on. But the seed was planted, and I couldn't get it out of mind. The next day, I was driving to work, and the basic beats of the whole story just came to me as I was driving. So I put what I was working on currently on the back burner and started making Food Hates You
into a webcomic. For anyone you thinks they might be interested, the comic is about a group of meatballs who are eaten and then have to fight for their lives inside of a human stomach. It's weird... and gross. You should read it.
What made you decide to do it as a webcomic and not venture into physical publishing?
Well, there actually are print copies of each chapter of Food Hates You
available. Originally, my idea was to make a print copy available before the chapter was uploaded online, trying to maybe get people to buy a copy so they could get the whole chapter then instead of waiting for it to all upload eventually. Online sales haven't been great, but they've been great for selling at conventions. Hopefully after buying a copy, that gets buyers interested enough to go to the website and keep reading, or maybe buy the next chapter. Ryan Ottley's son bought a copy, and he said it's “simply the best comic I've ever read!” (Not a direct quote, but basically true.) If anyone is interested in getting a copy they can go to foodhatesyou.biz/shop
, or just go straight to heartlesscorporation.storenvy.com
. But to answer your question on why I went with webcomics, it's because I could reach a much larger audience much more quickly and efficiently than I could with print sales at local conventions. I didn't really know anything about webcomics until I started reading my now hero KC Green's comic Gunshow
. That really inspired me and I try to emulate him as much as I can. If he had a cult, I would join. Does he have a cult? I'm not sure. I'm going to look it up. Basically, the format works really well for getting the content out there and in front of people's faces. It hasn't brought in a lot of money that way, putting it out there to read for free, but I think it's worth it. There are ways you can monetize webcomics, but there's always like ads on your website and they always look terrible and detract from the main subject: the comic.
What was the process like in developing the story and these characters?
Man, I wish I was good enough to have a process. Basically, I write by letting the idea just stew around in my head until I feel it's meaty enough to write out as an outline. Then I usually sit down and write out a chapter in screenplay format (because it's the only format I know and I'm used to it). The characters usually develop as I go. I basically discover what they're like as it comes out. It's not always the best method to use, but it can surprise you with interesting stuff once and a while.
What was the response like when you started publishing it last year?
I publish the comic on two platforms: a webcomic hosting service/app called Tapastic and Tumblr. Most people like to do it through Wordpress, but the more I looked at that, the more complicated it seemed. Tapastic and Tumblr are just so simple and easy to use. The initial response on Tapastic was really great. Readers were enthusiastic, and Tapastic put it up on their “New and Noteworthy” section, so that was a boost. But eventually, the Tapastic readership started dying down, and now all that's left are people who seem to be just reading so they can comment about how weird the comic is for this and that reason. Which is fine. It is a weird comic. But lately, the Tumblr following has really blown up. It's been fun seeing that take off. The readers there seem to be really into it. It might be that most of the followers are bots, but whatever. Robots are people, too.
What's the timeline like for you as far as writing and drawing new pages? Do you know how things are shaping up in advance, or are you playing it by ear?
I usually keep a really robust buffer of pages. I'll sit down and basically devote myself to doing nothing but the next chapter of FHY
for two and a half months or so. And I didn't start uploading until I had completed a whole chapter. So I'm well ahead of where I need to be. There have been other projects I've taken on recently that have forced me to work less on it, but I'm working on Chapter Five right now, and I'll have it done before Chapter Four ends.
Currently, you're on the fourth chapter of the book. How far do you intend to take the series?
It's actually all written out with an ending and everything. Eight chapters in total. My idea right now is to maybe do a Kickstarter at the end of the run to add a ninth, prequel chapter and print the whole series as one big volume. But I'm not sure that I'm at the kind of following I need to make that possible. I'm sure I'll print it as a big book at some point, but I'm super poor, so if I can't do a Kickstarter, then it'll have to be short runs like my chapter floppies, and it'll probably cost too much. Hopefully, I'll get some momentum before then and there will be some interest.
Do you have any plans for a second series? Is there anything else you have in the works right now?
Right now, no. The story has its conclusion. I played with the idea briefly of doing a Marvel/DC style re-vamp of the series with all new looks and origin stories. Like The Uncanny Food Hates You
or The Ultimate Food Hates You
, or Food REALLY Hates You This Time
. But I have other things I want to move one too, so maybe I'll just include that as a gag in the back of the final book. Oops, I just gave that away. Oh well.
What can people expect from you going into 2017?
In addition to working on FHY
, I've been collaborating on a big graphic novel project with my new writing partner/mortal enemy, #1 comics good boy Spencer Holt. It's going to be amazing, and we've got big plans for it, so definitely look out for that in the next year.