I can’t think of any webcomics that exude more sheer joy than Battlepug. Starring a Conan-like barbarian and his trustworthy giant pug, Mike Norton’s series takes you from Santa’s workshop to a boxing ring on a romp filled with purehearted adventure. After five years of the Eisner-winning webcomic, Norton decided to mold Battlepug into a monthly, 20-page Image comic. I was delighted to speak to him about the adjustment and writing his first-ever comic for the Direct Market.
Matt O’Keefe: It’s interesting to see Battlepug transition from a webcomic to an ongoing series. How did that come about?
Mike Norton: I just wanted to see how it would work. I published Battlepug as a webcomic because it was easier to put it online than print it, I could put it up the day I finished drawing it. But I wanted to see how it would work as a comic book, because that’s where background is and I’ve never written for that format before. With the webcomic I could experiment and make up the rules. Now I’m formatting Battlepug to the standard 20-page issue.
I think it work works okay. It definitely works differently. The new series is a different animal, and that’s both exciting and terrifying.
Matt: The print format seems better suited towards pathos and character development.
Mike: Yeah. The webcomic only came out once a week, so I had to pack everything into that one page. When I started writing the issues I realized that I can let things breathe a little more. The pacing needed to slow down, which felt kind of weird because for a long time Battlepug felt defined by that packed, hectic pace.
In issue form, readers spend more time with the characters, whereas the webcomic only offered weekly snapshots. Those weekly snapshots were published over five years, of course, so you were still in the trenches with the characters. In monthly comics, though, they live and breathe a little differently.
Matt: Did drawing the weekly the webcomic take longer than drawing a traditional page because of how much you had to fit in?
Mike: Making the webcomic was actually pretty quick. I would often knock out a page in about three hours. Battlepug felt like improv, which I think is true of a lot of webcomics. Drawing the regular comic is slower mostly because I have to consider what’s coming before and after, and maybe because didn’t have the pressure of years worth of material that I had to live up to.
Matt: Are you writing full scripts for the Dark Horse series?
Mike: No, since I’d just be writing for myself. I think that, like tracing over a layout, writing it all ahead of time makes it lose some of its life and spontaneity.
I’ll essentially print out a map of the comic book and write what happens on each page, then draw directly from that
Matt: What made you decide to change publishers for the Battlepug ongoing?
Mike: I published five volumes of the webcomic at Dark Horse and certain volumes started selling out and there wasn’t a lot of interest in publishing one edition collecting the whole series. It made sense to bring it to Image, where I have a history and I could handle everything myself.
Matt: Was it easier to start writing a monthly comic book series with characters you’ve spent time with as a writer?
Mike: Definitely. I don’t know if I could have done it otherwise. It really helped to have that working knowledge from the start. I didn’t have to spend time figuring out the characters and themes like I would have with a new story.
Matt: Do you hope to someday write stories for other artists?
Mike: I think it could be fun but it’s not something I’m actively seeking out. If an editor read Battlepug and decided, my god, this guy needs to write an issue of who-knows-what I don’t think I’d turn it down but the idea intimidating. I’m very satisfied with the stories I’ve written but I don’t necessarily enjoy the act of writing.
Matt: It’s a common saying amongst writers that they hate writing but love having written.
Mike: Oh yeah, that’s absolutely true for me. I love looking at something of mine and saying, “Huh I wrote it and I don’t hate it.” But, even though I’ve never been a procrastinator with my art, I’ll I’ll put off writing as long as possible
Matt: It must flex very different creative muscles.
Mike: I’ve learned a lot about myself from making Battlepug. I feel like I’m going back to school in a lot of ways.
Follow Mike on Twitter @themikenorton and on your way to your comic book shop think of Battlepug, which comes out tomorrow!
Matt Chats is an interview series featuring discussions with a creator or player in comics, diving deep into industry, process, and creative topics. Find its author, Matt O’Keefe, on Twitter and Tumblr. Email him with questions, comments, complaints, or whatever else is on your mind at firstname.lastname@example.org.