For those who missed Part 1 of this interview,
you can read that here.
In Part 2 of my interview
with Sluggy Freelance creator Pete Abrams, we discuss more
characters, more on writing, celebrities, copyright issues,
and the Sluggy books.
ANB: Returning to characters, one of the most
surprising supporting characters has been Oasis. As I
understand it, she was only supposed to be one time
character for the “Isle of Doctor Steve” storyline. Is that
Pete: That is completely false. Oasis is probably the most
far ahead I’ve planned for anything. I know a lot of people
think it was supposed to be a one shot and I think they
point to the Torg with the shopping cart comic as evidence I
didn’t intend for her to come back.
Actually, that’s one of my
favorite strips. It’s one of the ones that every time I
thought about it, it was like, “No. That’s too wrong. I
can’t do that to all of the Oasis fans out there.” But every
time I pictured it in my mind, it was so darn funny I just
had to put it into a strip.
Oasis has been planned from the
very beginning. There are probably another good two solid
Oasis stories before you learn all of the secrets. I do
believe there are some jaw-droppers ahead. AND the clues are
ANB: Do you drop clues in current storylines for
Pete: Whenever I can. I don’t want
people going nuts looking for every little line I draw as
part of a clue – people do that anyway. (laughter) I will
drop clues here and there but don’t feel bad if you miss
them because I’m not making them very obvious.
I guess it is more along the lines of knowing that’s the way
it was from the beginning. I don’t just pull this stuff out
of my butt randomly. Take X-Files. I always got the
feeling that Chris Carter (the creator) didn’t really know
where it was going. He came up with an interesting thing,
and then dug himself a little deeper. I just wanted people
to know that I actually have endings in mind; I have
resolutions for everything – all of the various plotlines
that have been opened.
One of the reasons I moved “Dangerous Days” ahead (which was
scheduled to occur a couple of stories later) was because I’d been raising to many
new questions and not answering any of them. I wanted to
resolve the whole Aylee issue and so I moved it ahead.
ANB: I feel your writing continues to improve with
each storyline. I tend to compare Sluggy to
Babylon 5 in terms of writing. JMS (the creator)
had his whole Babylon 5 story mapped out ahead of
time, and then wrote the individual stories for TV.
Pete: I actually did a “Who’s Line Is
It Anyway” with Jason Carter (the ranger Marcus on Babylon 5)
and Richard Biggs (Doctor Stephen Franklin on Babylon 5)
at Dragon*Con this year.
ANB: How did that go?
Pete: I don’t know. Everyone’s response seemed pretty good but it was obvious
that Bill Holbrook (Kevin and Kell, On the
Fastrack and Safe Havens) and I were WAY outclassed by them. That’s to be
understood because they are actors and they are used to this
kind of thing. Now, if they had a big sheet of paper and had
everyone take turns drawing something funny on it, their
butts would have been ours!
It was fun and I think it went OK. I hope to never see the
ANB: Oh, it was video taped?
Pete: It was but I don’t know what the
policy is so I don’t know if they just archive it, sell it,
or blackmail me with it later. The guy in charge said he was
going to send me a videotape so my wife could see. She
almost went to Dragon*Con just to see that.
ANB: You’ve gotten to meet a few celebrities through
Sluggy. Here’s a dumb question: how cool has that been?
Pete: It is cool! It seems like every
year I become more of a “celebrity”. So I still spend 90% of
my time doing what I’m doing the whole time so it doesn’t
influence me. When I go to a convention, for the duration of
it, I’m like a celebrity – I get all of those celebrity
perks and benefits. Then I go back home and I go back to
living my own life.
ANB: Who are some of the celebrities that you’ve met?
Pete: Last year at ComicCon, I got to
talk to Mark Hamil. That was cool. He came to one of the
parties afterward. Now HE was a celebrity! We caught him
right when he walked in. I had a pleasant conversation with
him but then he got swamped and vanished and I didn’t get to
see him the rest of the party. I thought that was pretty
John Ringo is pretty cool. He’s
not a “celebrity” as such but he is a New York Times
best-selling author. There were a lot of Sluggy
references in his last book and there’s going to be more in
his next book. There may even be a little picture of Bun-bun
on the cover of Mr. Ringo's next book. You know, if bun-bun
was going to make the cover of a New York Times Bestseller,
you'd think it'd be on one of my books, but that's Bun-bun
for you, no loyalty. *laughter*
ANB: You’ve had to worry about copyright infringement.
In the “Fire and Rain” Oasis storyline, there were some
concerns about your using quotes of music in your strip.
Let’s say someone wrote a novel containing large amounts of
Sluggy references (stories, characters, etc) would
there be any concerns on your end about this?
Pete: There are two angles on that.
One is, “What is legal and what is not?” The other is, “What
is the intent?” So using Sluggy illegally with good
intent, I’d probably just shrug it off. When using it
legally with bad intent, there’s not much I can do. It’s
only if it was illegal with bad intent that there’d be a
problem. John Ringo actually asked me last year before the
book came out if it was OK. So he got permission (to use the
My publisher is looking into getting usage for the lyrics in
the book. No record company contacted me (about my using the
lyrics in the strips). What happened was a lot of people
were contacting me about the fact that (as I said), I was
doing something illegally but with good intentions. Because
I did do something illegal, I left myself open. So I chose
to pull the lyrics out.
Hopefully my publisher will get permission so I can put the
lyrics back in because it really hurt (the story) to pull
those out. It should be easier to secure the rights for the
book. I’m not sure what their policy on web-usage is. I
figure we’ll print a few thousand books and pay a flat
amount of money per book to have the quotes of lyrics in
there. This will probably be a nominal fee and we will be
able to afford it. However, if you tell them that my website
gets between nine and ten million page views per month, even
a nominal percentage fee would cost me a phenomenal amount.
But he (David at Plan 9) is going to look into that as well
to see if we can bring the lyrics back to the website as
ANB: How did you hook up with Plan 9 Publishing?
Pete: David contacted me relatively
early on. They’d just published their first book which was
Kevin and Kell. So then they contacted me and said,
“Hey. Do you mind if we turned your comic strip into a book
and then give you some of the profits?”
So I said (skeptically), “What do I have to pay you?”
“Nothing,” they replied.
“What rights do you want?” I asked.
“None – just the book rights.”
I had been approached in the past by some people, some nice,
and some who were a
little more on the scary side. Dave offered me the perfect
ANB: So who’s idea was it to switch the Sluggy books
to the new format?
Pete: I think Dave always had an eye
toward, “How can I get Sluggy done in color?” and
make it affordable. It’s something we always wanted but was
always an impossibility. So when the opportunity presented
itself, we decided to give it a shot.
ANB: How do you feel about the way Book 7 came out?
I love it. It's the happiest one of my
books have made me since the first one. It's just plain
ANB: Going back to the writing, how do you keep
track of the various story thread woven throughout the
Pete: I pretty much keep
them all in my head. I have lots of reminder notes and
that kind of thing but pretty much it is all in my head.
If anything happens to me, everyone is in trouble!
I do a really good job of
mentally keeping track of everything but I still make
mistakes. With five years of archives, I cringe for
those e-mails that come in when I do occasionally make a
mistake. There are enough watch dogs to let me know if
I'm missing something or if something is not jiving.
The first one I can remember as
far as making a faux pa (and it was very
minor) was when Torg gets his lung punctured by Aylee, he
asks for a medic and she doesn't know what a medic is.
However SHE asked for a medic when Bun-Bun first burst out
of her stomach. So nothing gets past the Sluggites.
I think that the continuity is
one of the reasons that Sluggy is so popular. It is
something that you know -- there will be continuity.
And also the characters change -- things have impact on
their lives. You always have Torg and Riff there but
their apartment complex might turn evil and blow up, Zoë
goes away for a year, etc. Things change,
relationships change. I think that's kind of cool.
My favorite relationship
situation is between Gwynn and Torg right now. I love
the fact how slowly over the last couple of years Gwynn has
started to really not like Torg and Torg has been slowly,
more and more responding to her animosity by busting on her
which is going to increase her animosity. It wasn't
one thing that Torg has ever done to her to cause the
gradual shift in their relationship.
(Now that they are roommates),
there are plenty of opportunities. I'm considering
trapping them in an elevator just to see what would happen.
ANB: (Laughter) That's evil!
Continue to part 3 of the Pete Abrams interview (coming
soon), otherwise please
AstroNerdBoy Enterprises. All rights reserved.
Sluggy Freelance © 2002 Pete Abrams.