Hello and welcome to another installment of Webcomic Spotlight. Today we will take a look at Basement Dwellers, a fine cocktail of youth, insecurity and how we learn to cope. Leland Goodman, from Queens, NY, is spearheading this project when not working on 2D animation. I stumbled onto Leland’s art through a random retweet and was happy to learn of the upcoming comic. Now Basement Dwellers is over 20 updates strong and the art has a certain charm I cannot not get enough of. This early on it us easy to catch up with the entire story in an afternoon. Read ahead to know more about the work and creator of this wonderful, energetic and musical comic.
All-Comic: Leland, thanks for taking the time to chat with us. How did all this start, how were you first exposed to comics?
Leland Goodman: Our local library had Tintin and Calvin and Hobbes anthologies which I was obsessed with all through elementary school, and I used to make my mom get me Archie comics at the grocery store. (Actually I wanted Sabrina the Teenage Witch but those were INCREDIBLY hard for an 8-year-old to find.) From there I graduated to manga in middle school.
AC: What was the most influential/inspiring comic/webcomic/manga that you have read?
LG: I think the point at which I decided I wanted to be an artist was when I picked up my first manga, Rumiko Takahashi’s Ranma 1/2. Her drawings in that series hit that perfect spot between gorgeous and hilarious, and that’s always been something I’ve valued. For a while I stopped reading comics altogether, until I took a comics class in school and picked up Rubber Blanket No.1. David Mazzuchelli’s work kind of redefined comic art for me. I still don’t read nearly as many comics as I should, though.
AC: When did you decide you wanted to make comics?
LG: I was pretty wishy-washy about buckling down and actually making a comic until very recently. I always (still kinda do) considered myself an illustrator more than a comic artist, and didn’t have any confidence in my storytelling abilities. There were quite a few false-starts where I came up with concepts, but was far more interested in the design than the story itself. They all burned out before they could get going. It wasn’t until I watched Home Movies for the millionth time that I came up with a story I thought was really worth telling and was fully committed to.
AC: Did you study illustration or are you self-taught?
LG: I studied illustration at RISD, but I maintain there are few things that you can’t teach yourself– especially with internet access! This has been a good decade for self-learning, I think.
AC: Did you get a lot of support from parents and teachers?
LG: YES. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have the support system I do. My mom, dad and sister in particular have always nurtured me and my work, I would not be where I am without their undying support and encouragement. LOVE YOU GUYS
AC: What was the first comic you remember working on?
LG: There have been a few stories I’ve made through college that were all direct rip-offs of The Iron Giant, let they never see the light of day.
AC: How would you describe Basement Dwellers to those who aren’t familiar with it?
LG: I think the main theme in Basement Dwellers deals with what it’s like to be part of a system, and to have a creative thing bloom inside you that contradicts that system you’re part of. It’s about the importance of finding that balance between nurturing that creative part of you while staying true to your responsibilities in the real world.
AC: What inspired you to create and start putting up your comic online for free?
LG: What I find interesting about teenage narratives is the fact that when you grow up, your body becomes your own antagonist. You have all these new responsibilities that come in a package filled with hormones and mood swings and questions. I wanted to write a story that spoke to that experience.
My goal was to allow viewers to have easy access to the comic because many aspects of Zoe’s high school experience are my own. I learned a LOT about myself during my rocky path through high school, and I hope that any teenagers facing similar situations will be able to relate to the story and get something out of it, even if it’s just knowledge that they aren’t alone.
AC: What has been the most surprising aspect of running this webcomic?
LG: I don’t think this realization came as a surprise, but now that I’m trying it I know for a fact: writing comedy is HARD. Personally, the things that make me laugh the hardest have everything to do with inflection and delivery– written comedy has to stand on being clever by itself. It… might actually be the hardest thing in the world.
AC: How do you get this drawn out? Physically or digitally?
LG: Digitally. I’m a very impatient person, digital caters to that wonderfully.
AC: How much time does it take to go from a script to a completed strip?
LG: I’m still figuring out this system, it’s all very haphazard. In January I started out with a 12 page outline of ideas, and filled in script segments wherever things came naturally. For a while I was writing a couple of pages of dialogue on one day, and then spending the rest of my time doing sketches, linework and color. Right now I have a freelance studio job so I usually take weekends and my evenings to get as much done as I can. Miraculously, it seems to be working out so far!
AC: What is the most time-consuming step for you? Writing? Drawing coloring?
LG: Drawing definitely takes the most concentration for me, while I tend to write whenever it hits me (usually right before a deadline. Panic is the greatest inspiration!) I can usually zone out while coloring, it tends to be the most fluid and relaxing.
AC: Are you considering publishing this comic in a physical form?
LG: Absolutely! I enjoy owning physical copies of things that I love, and I hope there are people out there who feel the same way.
AC: I would absolutely love to own a copy! If you have any spare time away from work not invested in Basement Dwellers, are there comics, manga or web comics are you reading?
LG: Actually in terms of storytelling that I find inspiring, I’m kind of obsessed with TV shows at the moment. I just finished marathoning The X-Files and True Detective, and now I’m watching Fargo and oh my god it’s so good. I think the last comic I read was The Goon which is always amazing and always a favorite. Oh damn, and Sakana. Have you read Sakana? GO READ SAKANA. That is some next-level shit.
AC: Do you have an all time favorite creator? Be it music, comics or movies.
LG: Brendon Small. His brand of humor is so niche and so specific and ALWAYS gets me rolling on the floor, and his storytelling feels so personal and wonderfully charming. I watched Home Movies and Metalocalypse and thought “these are exactly the kind of stories I want to tell”. Same with Bob’s Burgers, I think he and Loren Bouchard are masters of their craft.
AC: What’s next for you?
LG: Well the comic is just getting started, so I plan to ride it out to the end. I’m teaching myself animation and have plans for a game as well, so definitely stay tuned! What’s next is pretty much just whatever I can cram into my schedule. I’ll sleep when I’m dead.
AC: How can readers best support you and your work?
AC: Thank you for your time Leland. We here at All-Comic wish you the best of luck!
Well folks if the bit of art sprinkled throughout the interview has piqued your interest jump over to Basement Dwellers to read the story so far and all praise of compliments can be sent to Leland on Twitter. Thanks for joining us again and see you next week!