Earlier this month, Dark Horse released The Perry Bible Fellowship Almanack. A gorgeous hard-covered volume, the book trumps its predecessor, The Trial of Colonel Sweeto in sheer breadth of content, collecting the entire span of the Webcomic’s run, with a supplemental interview (conducted by Wondermark’s David Malki), a foreword by Juno’s Diablo Cody, a number abandoned strips, and some additional illustration work.
There’s also sense of finality to the volume. Perhaps it’s the fact that it covers the entire series this far, or maybe it’s the Dark Horse press material, which refers to the book as, “the second (and likely final) collection of strips from the award-winning comic series.”
It’s no doubt a downer of a sentiment for the series’ numerous fans, but for the strip’s creator, Nicholas Gurewitch, the book’s release hardly marks the end of either PBF or his career as a cartoonist. The artist has, however, scaled production on the strip back from its weekly publishing schedule. But with more time to pursue new creative avenues, Gurewitch assures us that we’ve only seen a small piece of his creative potential.
The last time we spoke to you on the record was about two years ago. What have you been up to in the meantime?
Two years. Well, one of those years was spent not doing the comic, which has allotted me a lot time to read, paint, write, think, and excercise, which are things that I hadn’t done in a long time.
You hadn’t thought or exercised in a long time?
No. when I was doing the comic, it didn’t leave me room to do a lot, which is part of the reason I wanted to put it down for a while.
How much time were you devoting to the strip at its peak?
For a solid three-and-a-half year period, I think I pulling one all-nighter a week and working at least 50-60 hours a week.
You were doing it weekly.
It was weekly, yeah, but I tend to take a long time. My process is very time consuming for some reason.
Is the bulk of that time spent coming up with the idea or doing the drawing?
About half of it is idea, though it ranges quite a bit for each comic. I’d say 50 hours a week, because that’s probably average. I should say I did send hundreds of hours drawing, re-drawing, or reconceptualizing an idea. It was very time consuming. I’m one of those guys who, when working on a project, doesn’t really stop working on it until it’s done. From week to week, it was very grueling to get to the point where I could be at peace with a strip.
I always assumed that the drawing was the most time consuming aspect. You adopt a new style on pretty much every strip you do.
Yeah, and sometimes it can take three days to learn that style. It can take another three days actually executing it.
The strip got plenty of positive feedback. Was that a big part in what kept you going for so long?
Yeah. I do a lot of things for that reason. Feedback is always encourage in love and work and just about anything you do.
You get a special sort of instant feedback on the Web.
I think some of my strongest feedback I got was when I was doing a strip in college, because I could show all of my friends and immediately see how they felt about it.
That was the same strip?
I realize the strip is incredibly different from week to week, but can you put your finger on how it’s really evolved over the years?
It started out as just a way to poke attention at those matters that I felt were on the outskirts of our attention. I’ve come to realize that I’m very attracted to things that people don’t often talk about. I like really weird stuff, so I feel like I’ve just been chasing weird stuff with the strip. I’m pleased to say that I think I’ve found a lot of weird stuff. I think I want to find weirder stuff. I think a lot my ideas have grown so weird that I think I may need another medium for it. maybe I need to become a better artist, I’m not sure.
So the way it’s evolved is having become weirder over the years.
Maybe not. I think some of the earlier strips are weirder than some of the later strips. I think I want the ability to be weirder, and I think more detail will allow me to do that.
Do you think it’s become more or less accessible over the years?
Um, my guess is that, for some people it’s become more accessible, for some people it’s become less. I don’t know. I would like to make the commitment to become weirder, though.
Is that an opportunity that comics might not necessarily afford you?
I think that doing the same thing every week necessitates normalcy. There’s nothing weird about doing the same thing.
It’s the same thing in that it’s a four panel strip, but beyond that, there’s very little tangible connection between the strips, from one week to the next.
True, yeah. That definitely underscores my craving. I’ll probably try to post a couple more strips soon. It’s something that I still pay mind to, but, like I said, I guess I’m still redirecting my focus to some other channels.
Have you considered staying with the medium but doing something longer? It is something of a routine doing four panels every week.
I had a couple of ideas for some longer stories that I may do.
You haven’t given up on comics then?
No. I’ll always be an artist an I’ll always want to tell stories. I’d say I’ve given up on nothing, really. I just want to take up more things.
The last time we spoke, it sounded as if you were ready to give up on Perry Bible Fellowship.
It certainly looks that way, because I haven’t posted in a while, but I’ve never really had that thought. If anything, I wanted to stop making it weekly. But I intend to make more comics.
Did the success of the first book push you into wanting to do more?
Yeah. It somewhat pushed me into a comfort zone, because it’s fairly lucrative, but it’s also suggested to me that I take up a higher calling, because I do have the opportunity to try and do something more difficult that I’m capable of.
[Concluded in Part Two]