The definitive Benjamin Dewey Interview: Part 1 + a Freakin’ Awesome Giveaway!By Andrew Leslie
Posted on February 13, 2012
“Things could be worse.” That’s probably what people say to you when you’re having an especially bad day. In the face of this platitude you have to wonder, “How much worse could it get?” Your day is completely ruined – a tragedy if there ever was one. If you’re ever having one of these days, point your browser to The Tragedy Series, created by Benjamin Dewey. Since July of 2011 Dewey has created daily reminders of what a true tragedy really is. While your day may be less than fortuitous, Dewey’s Tragedies are hilarious daily examples of how, “things could be worse.” Not only does he supply these reminders for free on his site, but he also has an Etsy store where you can purchase prints of your favorite Tragedy to hang on your wall. The Freakin’ Awesome Network has a two-part interview with Mr. Dewey to discuss his life, his future in comics all about the Tragedy series. With this interview we’ll be having a giveaway for a chance to win the print of your choice from his Etsy Emporium. Enjoy the interview or just skip to the end to read about how to enter our giveaway.
1. First off, let me ask a little about Benjamin Dewey, the man, where did you grow up and how did you first get involved in creating comics?
Benjamin Dewey: I grew up in a Norman Rockwell-esque little suburb of Cleveland, Ohio called Lakewood. It was the sort of place where everybody walks down to the lake, with a blanket and picnic basket, to see fireworks on the fourth of July. Each street was its’ own world when I was a kid. In retrospect, it was a magical place and I had amazing teachers in the public school system who encouraged my creative efforts; especially drawing.
In third Grade My friend Dave and I did a series of illustrated stories (choose your own adventure style.) I think that the red spiral notebook we worked in contains the first example of me matching up pictures with words. It was pretty derivative of the opening to ‘Big’, a D&D picture/record read along book my dad got me and this terrifying collection of scary stories that I forgot the name of. I also had a bit of an obsession with the justice league; I still have my flash action figure who runs when you squeeze his arms! Once my teachers and parents saw what we were doing there was a lot of encouragement and I really latched onto that.
2. You’re working on a title with Paul Tobin for Oni Press – could you tell us a little about it and when we can expect it to hit comic shops?
Benjamin Dewey: Paul and I hit it off pretty early on when I was first coming into the studio and he has been a big supporter of my stuff in-general. When the opportunity to work on a creator owned title with him came about I jumped on it! I’m penciling, inking, coloring and lettering. It is a lot of work but I’m learning a ton about the production of comics. My plan is to have it finished by fall of 2012. Oni will decide when it comes out after that, based on the schedule for their other titles, but it will come out all at once.
The story is focused on a young reporter/blogger working in London who is offered the opportunity to write a biography for a mysterious mogul. Once she meets him she cannot resist hearing his story; he is a talking cat, who is a master of disguise, that has been alive for thousands of years trying to influence human affairs. Is he finished tinkering with history? Alison Breaking is going to find out!
It’s called “I Was The Cat” and it is a ton of fun to draw. I get to explore different historical periods, fashion, cat behavior and architecture in a way I haven’t ever tried to illustrate before. Paul is a great writer, with a modern sensibility, who packs his scripts full of compelling visuals and challenging storytelling elements. It’s always an educational experience when I take on one of his scripts!
3. You’re probably best known for your Tragedy Series on Tumblr. What was the inspiration for this series? How did it come about?
Benjamin Dewey: When I was in college around 2004 I had built a mechanized, enameled mini theater that was called ‘Tragedy #13 Death at Sea.’ I thought it would be funny to build a series of them but it was so much work to build that single box that I never got around to doing another one. Flash forward to 2011: I had tried publishing a series of long form ideas online with my friend Nathan, for about 6 years, but nothing ever seemed to catch hold with a broad audience. I started thinking about what I could make that might be more accessible, in-keeping with my favorite things to draw and possible to publish every day. With those factors in mind I remembered my old art school project and saw that I could apply it easily to a ‘gag-strip format’ with a anachronistic aesthetic. After that it was just making a commitment to putting one up as often as possible…
4. Many of the characters in the Tragedy Series are dressed in Victorian garb, is this a thematic choice for the series or are you just a big fan of turn-of-the-century clothing?
Benjamin Dewey: There is a dignity to all the clothing from that time period that began to disappear in the middle of the twentieth century as it got easier to print patterns and mass produce clothing on a huge scale. 19th century european clothing is a tabula rasa that lets you focus on gesture, silhouette and blend figures into planes in fun ways. Contemporary clothing lacks that sense of importance and so it is harder to create a funny contrast. It looks cool and proper so it makes a great natural backdrop for humor; it’s like the ‘straight’ man in any of the ‘buddy comedy’ movies.
I embrace the practical ease of wearing a tee-shirt and jeans but in my heart I am wearing a 3 piece suit and a bowler (and I secretly wish everyone else was too.)
5. Have there been any issues of the Tragedy Series that were never published because they were simply just too tragic? Along those same lines, are there any Tragedy Series issues that have been especially popular?
Benjamin Dewey: There are a few ‘rules’ I established to help guide the creation of the comics and one of the main ones is ‘no genuine tragedy.’ I don’t want to remind anyone of something that was seriously sad in their life. I’ve experienced my share of genuine tragedy and I wanted these cartoons to be so absurd that they helped people laugh at their problems rather than evoking them. On the reverse side of some of the originals are drafts where it got too sad and I found some way to flip it around to a point where nobody was the bad guy intentionally.
The most popular ones seem to come out of nowhere but I do think there is a general thread, of being relatable, that runs through all ones people like the best. I had no idea that ‘art student vampire’ would be big. I just thought is was a funny idea because he really does want to do the assignment but vampiric-immortality comes with some drawbacks.
So ends Part 1 of the definitive Benjamin Dewey interview. Join us again on Wednesday for the conclusion of the Freakin’ Awesome Network’s interview with the Tragedy Series creator. In the interim…
You can enter to win a FREE Tragedy Series print of your choice.
To enter to win the print of your choice from his Etsy store all you have to do is:
1) Follow me @dethfilm
2) Follow Benjamin Dewey @BenjaminDewey
3) Finally, tweet out a link to this article with the hashtag #Tragedy_Series. You can just copy and paste the following tweet: Check out this interview with #Tragedy_Series creator @BenjaminDewey & enter to win a free print! http://is.gd/tragedyseries
4) Sit back and wait until Friday, February 17th to find out if you’ve won. We’ll contact you via Twitter to send you your prize. To see the prints you are eligible to win head over to Ben’s Etsy shop.
As always you can follow me on Twitter @dethfilm or find me on our message boards (I’m Numero99 there). Thanks for reading and tell your friends all about the Freakin’ Awesome Network by using those handy little social media thingamabobs down there. Also tell them about the DORK FOREST Podcast (of which I was recently a guest). It’s an awesome podcast hosted by stand-up comic Jackie Kashian.