Local Artist Spotlight #2 — A. Stiffler & K. Copeland
Posted on 29 April 2016 by Brian Fox
If Columbus is one thing, it is a safe haven for self-expression. The city itself is so open and accepting that we even let Guy Fieri live among us for a while. It’s no surprise that a town like this would play host to countless artistic minds and creative identities. That is why we're hitting the streets this year to bring you a new series on local artists in the greater Columbus area!
This time we’re getting a little bit chaotic with two established webcomic creators! A. Stiffler & K. Copeland are in the spotlight this week, to fill us in on what it’s like making art for alternative lifestyles, being married to your projects’ co-creator, and the secret lives of cats!
Inked and Screened: For those who might not be familiar, you both publish two ongoing webcomics. Could you go over what each one is about just a little?
A Stiffler & K Copeland: ChaosLife is our slice-of-life comic that is going to print in book form. It's a humorous auto-bio comic about our little queer lives, but we don't shy away from more serious topics, politics or pop culture. And it has a lot of cat stuff in it.
A & K: FindChaos is our long-format graphic novel that is equal parts supernatural horror and action-adventure. It deals with mental illness, religion and even internalized homophobia. It's definitely a lot more dark than most webcomics out there, but that's why we love making it.
Inked: You both work as a team on all of your projects, correct? Who does what?
K: Pretty much!
A: Though we have our specific jobs, such as K being the writer and me being the artist, we also do a lot of crossover tasks, like coloring and character design.
K: It's a lot of work to collaborate with someone, moreso with your own spouse, but we love having each other's input in every stage of making comics.
Inked: A lot of work goes into maintaining two webcomics at the same time. What’s your process like for that as far as meeting your own deadlines? What have been the biggest hurdles?
A: We generally spend every day working on our projects. There isn't really much downtime, but we're doing what we love so it doesn't feel that much like work. If anything, we're lost when we do take a day off. Most of our time is just spent talking about what to work on next.
K: Our Patreon also forces us to stay on schedule, because we have it set up to pay out per comic we make. So, if we don't make comics, we don't get our bills paid. Currently we're getting between $300-$400 per comic, so if let ourselves be lazy, we're out quite a chunk of money that could go to cat food.
A: The biggest hurdles have been defining that line between work time and free time. We're both workaholics, but everyone has their limits, so sometimes you hit a wall and burn out. You just have to find a way to pick up, move past the block and keep making art.
K: And also finding shows to watch on Netflix while we work. That's a very real problem. I think we've watched everything -- or at least listened to it if we're coloring/drawing/writing, etc. -- and now there's just weird animes left. I highly recommend Princess Jellyfish, though.
Guaranteed more fun than your 5th watch-through of The Wire.
Inked: Let’s talk a little about your supernatural graphic novel. Quite a bit of world building went into FindChaos — do you have an end in mind that has guided your writing or do you take a more episodic approach?
K: There's absolutely an end in mind, though the narrative will have to weave its way and the characters will have to develop in order to get there.
A: But there's definitely a storyline or message for each Chapter, too. Nothing is done without intention. It's all to further the plot, or the characters or even our own hidden messages. In that way, it's both easy to read a Chapter by itself, because you have that sort of complete story, but you also don't know where the characters have come from or can guess where they're going if you only read one chunk at a time.
K: I guess it would work great as a Musical in that sense, but I'd never torture anyone like that.
I think Hamilton just changed the rules on that, actually.
Inked: It’s 2019. Star Wars Episode VIII: Part 2 is met with negative critical reception but FindChaos is the next big summer blockbuster! Who’s cast as whom?
A: Already outlandish! Any Star Wars that doesn't contain JarJar is perfect and beautiful.
K: I've only seen the latest one without the little teddy bear Legalos's and that's only because John Boyega is in it, so I can't argue on that, but if I were picking a cast, I'd say casting Byung-hun Lee as Ken would be about perfect, and maybe Jamie Clayton as C.E. -- a gorgeous trans woman is really the only woman I'd choose to play that role.
A: And Arthur as an angry Honey Badger.
K: No lie. That would be more than perfect. Just dye the badger blue, it wouldn't even have to talk in an adapted script.
Inked: ChaosLife, your autobiographical comic, has a blend of humor that sets you up to tread into some educational territory, if a reader may be unfamiliar with different types of lifestyles. Has that come with challenges?
A: I think a lot of people own cats. That's one of the challenges of pet lifestyle -- having an animal that you both love and hate viscerally.
K: But honestly, we get hatemail and rude comments about ourselves daily, and it's sometimes tough. We also get a lot of beautiful messages that people finally see themselves represented, or even uplifted, and they send those comics to their friends and relatives as a little nudge to be more open and not just accepting, but actually educated on the subjects of different folks.
A: Yeah. All the hate seems to fade away when you account for all the people who are made to squirm in their chairs because their families have suddenly gotten a link to a popular comic that says their views are going the way of the dinosaurs.
K: It's a win-win. We get to make comics, other people get to see themselves in our comics, and we get to hopefully change some hearts and minds.
A: Or at least piss off some hateful folks. Whatever works!
Voted #1 worst webcomic by Racist Uncle Quarterly
Inked: Making real art is terrifying. It probably should be. However, no process seems quite as fraught with uncertainty and peril as making a webcomic. With the digital landscape of 2016, what advice would you give to someone trying to get their webcomic off the ground tomorrow?
A: I would say just go for it! It can be scary taking the first step and I think that's the part where a lot of people just don't do it. There will always be an audience out there for your work, you just have to be diligent, keep posting and slowly find them.
K: Agreed. Also, diversify -- you don't have to be on EVERY social media site, but being on a few helps for people who only have one or two be able to find and keep track of your work.
A: A lot of people put all of their eggs in one basket, so to speak. You have to be willing to market yourself in a lot of places pretty much all of the time. The internet has a short attention span.
K: And finally, just be open and honest. People respond to folks who are being "real" with them, not trying to put on airs or pretend to be someone they're not. Even if your comic isn't about you, it's reflective of you somehow. Be prepared for a lot of people to get to know you very quickly and don't be afraid to put your weird self out there.
Thanks for checking back in with us as we keep chatting with our hometown artists! It was a real pleasure fielding and formatting questions for these two and I encourage you to bookmark their site. Oh and hey, if you didn't get enough of Mrs. Copeland and Reverend Stiffler (but really, how could you though?), now's your chance to nab their collected volume of ChaosLife: The Book! It's over on their Kickstarter, along with a bunch of other treasures for backing them!
Be sure to circle on back to us next time for more Columbus artists, making it happen!