Kelly Angel is the writer and artist of Anything About Nothing, a webcomic which describes itself better than I ever could. But I shall describe it anyway! A collection of strips, longer-form comics, illustrations and worries about her cats, Anything About Nothing is one of the biggest and most popular web series on Tapastic. Down to earth and silly, her comics are charming, hilarious, and thoroughly idiosyncratic things.
To find out more about how she got into comics, what motivates her to make them, and her thoughts on cats (and quick warning – halfway through this I do ask a ridiculously sincere question about the importance of cats), she kindly answered some of my questions for The Beat. Answers which you can read below! Hurray!
Steve: What was the first moment where you decided to start Anything About Nothing? What were your ambitions for the series as you started out?
Kelly: I just wanted to draw comics. I’d been playing around with comics for a little while and people seemed to like them so I decided to put them together under a name. I suppose it’s a little self indulgent; I mostly make comics because they’re fun. Of course I want people to read them too though and hopefully enjoy what they read.
Steve: How do you decide on what comics go up? Do you draft out several jokes or ideas and then filter through them, or?
Kelly: Most of the time I don’t really plan the comic strips, I get an idea in my head and then make a comic out of it fairly soon if I like that idea. Sometimes I sketch out a few comics and then come back to them a little later, or leave them if I don’t like them anymore. I should start writing down/sketching out more of the ideas that come into my head because I forget a lot of them. Saying that though, when I do put my ideas on paper my ideas down I’ll sometimes come to look at them at a later date and they don’t make any sense. I’ve written a note on my phone from a couple of weeks ago that says ‘Science comics. Why does this fish have 13 legs? It’s beautiful’. I’m not sure what that means anymore.
If a comic keeps my attention focused on it long enough to finish it and it still makes me laugh I’ll post it. Otherwise it’ll be left on the pile of shame in a constant state of incompleteness. I wonder sometimes what people will do with the shame piles when I am dead and what they’ll think when they see them…
Steve: You write very naturally about, it seems, anything that comes to mind. Is it difficult to keep a creative momentum when there are no limitations on what you can write about?
Kelly: Yes and no. On the one hand you have a lot of freedom to play about with lots of different ideas and themes so there’s this endless supply of source material. On the other hand having too much can be a bad thing, especially if you’re easily distracted. It’s kind of like Netflix where you can spend an hour looking for something to watch (because Breaking Bad finished) and you end up with nothing because you’re spoilt for choice.
Steve: You are the star of many of your own comics, and you’ve managed to build up a pretty firm comic persona for the comic version of Kelly Angel. What was that particular process like? How do you decide what parts of yourself to share and which bits to exaggerate, and so on?
Kelly: The comic me is pretty much real life me (I think), if slightly exaggerated. I’m not sure what the process was, it was sort of a natural progression to what it is now I suppose. People I know in real life read my comics so I try to keep them as true to life as possible (I want to avoid people saying things like ‘you never said that’ or ‘that didn’t happen’ or ‘THIS IS ALL LIES’ and then they spit on my face and we all cry). If there’s a comic with me in it, it’s most likely something that actually happened. Really, I’m not a very funny person, things just happen around me and I document them.
Steve: Cats also feature a lot in your comics. What is it about cats which are just so amazing? They rule the internet now
Kelly: People keep telling me there are a lot of cats, I’m starting to suspect there may be some truth to that yet there’s a small voice in the back of my mind saying ‘but is there ever enough?. They’re just really funny creatures; they have a lot of quirks. They’re also fun to draw.
Steve: Actually, I do have a question about this. A lot of cartoonists who write about the everyday seem to hone in on their pets as a source of comedy. I think it might be because you never know what a cat is thinking or planning, so they’re always unpredictable and one second away from doing something creative and new. Do you think that having pets serves as a good way to keep on your toes and constantly be able to think of something new? [I AM OVERTHINKING MY QUESTIONS]
Kelly: They’re relatable, which I think if you have slice of life as your genre is really important. If your dog or cat or budgie does something that makes you laugh there’s a good chance someone else has laughed at theirs for the same reason at one point. Them doing something unpredicted too can be really funny (cats especially like to have mood swings).
Another thing is animals don’t have to do much to be funny or charming and it’s really hard to make one unlikable. If an animal acts like a person it’s entertaining. I wear a hat, no one bats an eyelid. Put a tiny hat on a snake and people go crazy. And rightly so. You can’t really go wrong with animals.
They’re always close to us too so there’s that constant source of material available.
Steve: What made you decide to bring Anything About Nothing to Tapastic?
Kelly: I got an email a while ago inviting me to put my comics on there. I looked around and it seemed pretty cool. I also recognised a few comics too I’d seen before too like Fisheye Placebo and DaneMen. I think I made a good choice.
Tapastic interests me, in that they promote their community experience as a reason for creators to work with them. How have you found Tapastic as a community?
They’re really great (and everywhere too – Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr as well as the forum on the main site). There are a lot of cool people there and it’s always great to be around others with the same interests as you. When you live in an area where there is literally nothing going on with anything creative, let alone comics, the internet is really important. Having a place where people discuss comics, get advice on things, get involved with projects and similar things, is almost vital, even if you just lurk. I lurk.
Steve: Do you find that as you develop a following, and repeat commenters, that their feedback influences the way you make your comics?
Kelly: Definitely, I think it’s hard not to. If I make something that gets a lot of positive feedback I’ll look at it and try to figure out why, similarly if I make something that no one seems to like. There are times where a joke could get lost from my head to paper and I won’t know unless someone else says something.
It’s always nice when you recognise commenters, it’s like people are coming back so I must be doing something right.
Steve: As a cartoonist, which other creators inspire your work? Do you read a lot of webcomics yourself, or do you find that hinders your ability to think of unique new jokes?
Kelly: One of my favourite artists is David Shrigley. He has this blend of crude drawings, accompanied by random humour that’s a hard combination to pull of right and he manages to do it really well (and sometimes gets these really profound, clever messages across too). Kate Beaton has a beautiful mind; I have cried laughing while reading her comics. I really like Gemma Correll’s work, it’s cute and she plays on puns a lot which I approve of greatly. Hyperbole and a half is really fantastic and completely hilarious. I could probably make a list a mile long of amazing people who make amazing things.
I love webcomics. The internet is such a fantastic tool for comics, there’s such a massive variety of styles and themes and from so many different types of people. On the one hand you can have this visually stunning high fantasy epic adventure and on the other you can have simple stick figures making math jokes and they’re both equally valuable forms of entertainment.
There have been occasions where I have had an idea to make a comic and I’ll come across a really similar idea done by someone else. Then I have to leave it and move onto something else. It’s near impossible to come up with something completely unique I think; someone will always be able to make a link to something you make with another comic or a line from a movie/TV show. Sometimes it can be frustrating but it’s unavoidable.
Steve: You’ve collected together a substantial number of comics for Anything About Nothing. Do you have any plan to publish in print at all?
Kelly: That would be cool. A few people have been asking about a book so it very possibly will happen, probably this year some time. Then I can be that person that joins random conversations saying, ‘Ha ha, yeah that was a great episode anyway have you seen my book?’ and it will be all my friends and family members’ birthday presents forever.
Steve: Lastly – you say that you’re in Yorkshire, at the moment, studying your degree. Have you managed to foster a healthy dislike for everybody south of Barnsley, yet?
Kelly: I’m in Lancashire. I’ll have to reserve judgement on everyone from Barnsley for now. I finished my degree in fine art a few years ago, which makes me a little sad because I miss being a poor student and having lots of time to paint and draw people. Sometimes naked people. Now I have to try and be an adult, I don’t like that.