Laugh Out Loud Cats: A Little Bit of a Review and an Interview With Adam Koford
Laugh-Out-Loud Cats Sell Out is in stores now.
Okay, enough of the gushing, now the inerview:
Comics in the Classroom-Scott : Adam Koford, you're awesome. Can we be BFF?
Sorry. I don't know where that came from.
Let's try that again.
Mr. Koford, thanks for joining us. By now I've kind of dashed all hopes for a hard hitting aggressive interview, but let's see if I can't salvage it with a couple decent questions.
Tell us a bit about yourself – seeing the quality of the art in your Laugh Out Loud Cats strip I have to assume you didn't just decide to draw a comic one day. What is your background in arts?
Adam Koford : I've been drawing for as long as anyone knows me can remember, and I've always known I wanted to be a cartoonist. I spent most of the 90s attempting to get syndicated through the traditional routes, and before that I drew editorial comics for my high school paper and doodled whenever and wherever possible. I've been freelancing to some degree for over a decade, and I've done assignments for all sorts of things that come and go without much notice: newspaper illustrations, greeting cards, coloring books, stuff like that. For the past year and a half I've been working for Disney Interactive as a story artist.
CitC : So then came Laugh Out Loud Cats. Why hobo cats?
AK :It was 2007 and I was already in the hobo drawing mode, having finished drawing each of the hobo names listed in John Hodgman's first book, The Areas of My Expertise . Also the lolcat meme started emerging from the underbelly of the internet, so it seemed like a good convergence. I suppose I could have made them dandies or zombies or Southern gentlemen, but I think more people are familiar with cats wandering aimlessly, wasting the day away.
CitC : I kept trying to leave out this question - it is such an easy and obvious question, but it keeps coming back to me: So, what comic strips inspire you in your creating, directly or indirectly?
AK : My standard answer is Pogo , Krazy Kat , and early Dennis the Menace , but there are a lot more. Anytime you see cypress trees peaking over the horizon in one of my comics it's probably because I'm thinking of Lionel Feininger's work. Also Ernie Bushmiller's Nancy is very inspirational.
CitC : And, I'm not sure how to ask this less bluntly, were you worried that readers wouldn't get the humor of the strip? It's not exactly what you find in your newspaper and its even a little out-there for a quality webcomic.
AK : No. Most comics require some effort on the part of the reader, whether it's a webcomic about videogames, or paper comic books featuring characters invented decades ago.
You aren't the first person to tell me they didn't get my comics at first, and I appreciate that. The same goes for lots of comics. You can't pick up a Popeye collection, flip to a random strip and immediately see the appeal or often even get the gag. There's nothing wrong with asking a reader to catch up with you. If they aren't willing, it's probably for the best. I'm not really interested in creating something for everyone, though I am surprised at how many people have hopped aboard.
CitC : Speaking of newspapers – why are so few of the comics in my newspaper actually funny? –or- Did you try landing the strip with a syndicate to have LOLC in newspapers, or did you want to keep it under your own creative control?
AK : There are a handful of comics in the paper currently that I really like. Cul de Sac is the best comic strip in decades, and easily in my top five of all time.
I've never really taken seriously the notion of syndicating the Laugh-Out-Loud Cats for a couple of reasons: trying to get syndicated today is like trying to break into vaudeville in the 1950s. Comics have a future, but it isn't in newspapers. Also I don't know that the comics page needs another orange cat, let alone two.
CitC : This an “Attack of the Brackets” question, so bear with me. Since this is a website directing adults to comics that kids might enjoy, are your comics regularly safe for kids? I know the answer to that already (even though she doesn't always get the joke, I regularly show them to my 4 ½ year old daughter – but I have yet to show them to my grade three class) so I'll add: other than having a bit of wine around occasionally (and plenty of popular newspaper strips have regular references to liquor), and having Kitteh (the bigger hobo cat) smoke like a chimney, why do you keep it fairly clean (except for a couple comics very early on that referenced some internet memes [I hope I'm using the word right here], but if any elementary aged kid got the reference that kid has bigger things to worry about than a comic with a couple of cute cats…and no, the comics I'm referring to are not in the book)?
It's a webcomic – you can do what you want! Filth it up a bit.
AK: Well, I have young kids and they read the strip. I think there's just enough smoking, shoplifting, and jail breaking for parents to be a bit hesitant without me throwing in anything more overt. Also I'm rather proud of the fact that I've never once resorted to a fart joke (not that I fault anyone else for doing so).
CitC - This is a guest question from friend of the site, Eric Dyck : With the online community having tons of input into what Adam draws every day, do you have boundaries...how much of "Adam Koford" are you willing to give up for a drawing? Do you have boundaries for the ways that the public has input into your work? How do you enforce those boundaries?
I have a second part to Eric's question: What's he talking about in the first part of the question?
AK : This comic started out as a way to make money. I didn't even really realize what I was getting into at the time. I had been drawing made-to-order hobo names for people, then sending them the original art. After a couple hundred of those, I offered to sell drawings of the Laugh-Out-Loud Cats. At the time I thought they'd be more along the lines of the hobo portraits-- drawings, not necessarily captioned comics. Duh, me. Anyway, when orders started coming in, people were requesting specific memes
or their favorite sci-fi references or whatever. Luckily I figured out quickly what I had on my hands. That said, it's very rare when I sell comics now for people to lay out exactly what they'd like to see. More often it's "hey how about something with a hedgehog" rather than a detailed description. I still sell the original comics, but I alternate between selling the backlog of comics and selling them made-to-order.
As far as boundaries, yes there are certain things the cats won't say or do, and on the rare occasion someone wants me to cross a line, I simply say no thanks. Usually if they're familiar enough with the strip there's no problem. Every once in a while someone will want me to answer certain questions about the characters or steer the narrative, which I tend to avoid too.
CitC: As you say, one of the reasons you started LOLC was to make some money. Other than the ones that spotlight your own work, your website and Flickr pages carry no ads and you don't sell tshirts, which is not really the norm for the webcomic business model. I'm obviously looking for a very basic answer to my question – not looking for personal details, but how do you actually make money off this thing? Is it only through the selling of the strips?
AK : I still sell the original comics, and except for a couple that I'm fond of they've all sold. I also sell shirts and other merchandize through zazzle. I've also got the book in stores, a fan club complete with membership cards, and the characters on some products at moo.com .
CitC : I haven't really asked you much about the book so far. How does something like this come about? Did you shop the comic around to publishers, did they come to you?
AK : AK: Early in '07 I published my first book (Meet the Laugh-Out-Loud Cats) via lulu.com and started to sell it through my site. Within a couple of weeks I got a call from Abrams saying they'd be interested in publishing the next one.
CitC : It is a beautiful book. It has high quality paper, and with one comic per page, like the recent Fantagraphics reprints of the aforementioned Dennis the Menace, each comic gets a lot of room to breathe. This seems to show a lot of faith in you by the publisher.
AK : Yeah, I'm really pleased with it. Abrams clearly has high esteem for comics and cartoonists in general, and they've been great to me.
CitC : Did you choose which comics got printed, were you one of the choosers or was it completely out of your hands?
AK : AK: They chose and I chose, then we both chose and re-chose again. One or two were added very late in the game, like the necronomicon one. I also redrew everything in the book so the characters would look like I wanted them to, and I drew a few dozen new comics for the book.
CitC: I hadn't even noticed how different the Hobo Cats looked in the original strips compaired to the newest strips and the ones in the book (I have put a newer strip up here first to show what readers can expect from the book, but the other two are actually in the book in their new form).
You've got the one book out now, so what's next for Adam Koford and the Laugh Out Loud Cats?
AK : I've always said I'll keep drawing them as long as people are buying, but that's probably a bit callous. I'll keep drawing them as long as I enjoy it. It may not go six days a week forever, but they'll likely live on in some form as long as I'm drawing.
CitC : Thanks for taking the time to share all of this with us. Before you go, is there anything else you want to highlight?
AK : Yeah, you can keep up with the comics on twitter at twitter.com/hobotopia and there's a fan club on facebook too.
CitC : Thanks for all of this.
Laugh-Out-Loud Cats Sell Out is in stores now and can be ordered throught the links below.
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