The following is an interview with Brett DeWall, writer and illustrator of the web comic Orky the Porky Orca. In this interview, Fanboy Comics Managing Editor Barbra J. Dillon chats with DeWall about his inspiration for Orky, his preference for digital artistry, and his plans for romance and an upcoming villain in the web comic.
This interview was conducted on September 8, 2013.
Barbra J. Dillon, Fanboy Comics Managing Editor: We recently met at San Diego Comic-Con, where I had the chance to see your artwork and to learn about your web comic, Orky the Porky Orca. When did you begin your work as an artist?
Brett DeWall: I think I’ve been doodling ever since I could first pick up a pencil. My older brother used to draw pictures when he was bored in class, and I’d check them out after we picked him up from school. He was my original inspiration . . . that and Disney/Warner Bros. cartoons. I originally just wanted to make pictures that would make people laugh . . . and it’s kinda funny that after all sorts of serious art training and education that I still have the same mentality that I did when I was 7. Professionally, I’ve worked on random freelance stuff and projects since my early twenties (and I’m in my thirties now . . . dear God!)
BJD: Do you prefer working with a specific artistic medium (i.e.: pencils and ink, paint, charcoal, etc.)
BD: I like occasionally sketching with pencils and pens, but I’m a huge advocate for digitally creating things. All the traditional tools are great, but I just despise the clean up associated with it all. I like the idea that when I’m done with anything on the computer, all I have to do is save/shut down and be on my merry way instead of wasting half an hour cleaning brushes or something. Last year, I invested in a Wacom cintiq monitor, and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I love that thing! When I first started Orky, I typically sketched out things on a random pieces of paper, scanned that in, and then inked/colored in Photoshop. Now, I just skip the sketching/scanning phase entirely and work directly in Photoshop utilizing brush tools and the monitor.
BJD: For our readers who may be unfamiliar, what can you tell us about Orky the Porky Orca, and what inspired you to create the story?
BD: Orky (a killer whale) is framed for a murder he didn’t commit and is forced to leave his ocean home and hide out on the dry land of San Diego. He shares an apartment with his best friend Pierre (the frog), and they do their best to adjust to society around them. In order to better blend in with people, he discovers that when wearing a trench coat and hat no one ever second guesses him as a whale. They just assume he’s from Texas.
I came up with the concept back when I was in an entertainment design class in college. Our class was challenged to come up with ideas to pitch . . . top 5 pitches would be worked on the entire semester. I don’t know how or why the idea popped in my brain . . . it wasn’t like I had recently visited Sea World or anything . . . but it did a couple nights before the presentation day. It was chosen and turned into a pretty fleshed out thing that could be made for television. Of course, no one in Hollywood would take the time to meet with me, so the story sat in my head for quite awhile. The idea of adapting it into a web comic came from my younger brother Jeff, and it seemed like a perfect way to get it out of my head and into the world . . . and here we are.
BJD: How would you describe your creative process of working on the web comic?
BD: It started off very organized about a year ago, but it has turned into a bit of last-minute panic every Monday night. (New comic every Tuesday!) Writing is the big thing for me. Throughout the week, I constantly add to a text file filled with jokes and story arcs I’ve written and also record voice notes with my phone. If it’s funny, I use it. If not . . . it gets reworked or tossed out all together. I do my best to make sure each week has a few good things that make me chuckle. Eventually, I choose one of those stories/jokes, and then go to it sketching/inking/coloring it all directly in Photoshop using the Wacom monitor. I generally work pretty fast, but I also speed up the process by reusing backgrounds (if I can) and using a few character templates. That being said, I always change a little something with them every time. The expression on each characters face needs to be just right.
BJD: Are there any details that you can give us about upcoming storylines?
BD: I’m about to introduce an Orky nemesis named “Lorenzo” who happens to be another killer whale living on land. He will look exactly like Orky only he will be sporting a Vincent Price-style mustache and be a real d–k. Also, at some point, Orky is going to date a veterinarian who really loves animals (in more ways than one).
BJD: When you are not working on Orky, do you take commissions for your artwork, and, if so, do you offer any specific artwork services to your customers?
BD: I take money however I can earn it 🙂 I sell prints online, and I occasionally do freelance work. I’ve done everything from corporate logos to cat puppet concept sketches. At Comic-Con, I was drawing custom “Mad Sketches” for people where they fill in blanks (noun, adjective, verb, etc.) and I draw it up on the spot. Those seemed to go over really well (both in person and online on the Orky Facebook page).
BJD: Having exhibited at San Diego Comic-Con, how has your convention experience this year, and in what ways do you feel that the Small Press Pavilion benefits independent creators?
BD: My experience at the SDCC was awesome and exhausting. Because there’s soooooo much to see there, I wasn’t expecting much to happen at my booth (seeing as no one knows who I am), but it turned out to quite busy still. It was fun just getting to talk to people who are into geeky things like me, draw a doodle for them, and basically get the word out about Orky. There’s a never ending supply of web comics out there, so it’s pretty easy to get lost in that online sea. Being at the Small Press Pavilion brought lots of eyeballs on my stuff. Several people came over to our area telling me, “I go here because this is where the really interesting stuff is.” A lot of major publications regurgitate out the same kinda babble whereas the independent creators have a better finger on the pulse of what’s different and cool.
BJD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
BD: I bounce around and stretch myself pretty thin doing an odd assortment of things. I’ve been working on a live-action cheese-ball ninja movie for the last couple years that should see the light of day sometime next year (via YouTube). Aside from that, I am in the process of finishing a little book I started last year called 100 Random Conversations with Strangers where I talk to people I don’t know, write down the synopsis of the conversation, and draw a quick sketch of that person from memory. The results of these talks have been surprisingly hilarious. Lastly, I’m currently working on finishing up a more seriously toned music video for the band Sinflood, which is looking pretty cool and should be up on YouTube by the end of the month. I’m also in that band called Sinflood, and we’re playing shows around the San Diego area (check us out on iTunes and Spotify).
BJD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about your work?