Webcomic Review: Interview with Jack's David Hopkins

So when I removed some artwork from the reviews pending the permission of the authors I sent out emails waiting for a simple "yea" or "nay" from those in question. All the artists were happy to let me use their artwork (which I am still in the process of reposting) but David Hopkins was the only one who took a strong interest in the review. Upon reading it, he sent me a response and agreed to do an email interview about Jack. You can find that below, enjoy!

In response to the review...

Well, just read your review and it sounds perfectly fair. The two things I would say is that I am entirely self taught and as a result I'm still undergoing a learning process, so I can see how it will look like shit every now and then. This isn't an excuse it's more of an explanation and I hope the progress of the comic shows that I am trying to learn to do better as I go..

As for deviating from the main plot from time to time, well, I have been working on this thing pretty consistently for 8 years while keeping up a regular job, and aside from a few folders full of pages I have bupkiss to show for it. I know other people are getting a lot out of it but I never make back what I put into this thing (monetarily or spiritually) and I am past the point of expecting this investment to ever pay off. So occasionally I will admit that I stray so that I can tell a story that is more interesting to me at the time. Case in point is the Frigid McThunderbones story. You do not want to know what was going on in my life when I started on that one, I was miserable and I really couldn't do a straight Jack story. I needed to work through things and the snow man was a good break from real life. It was also good to show people I could laugh at myself.

As for the time and effort not paying off, as you said, monetarily or spiritually, do you think you will see Jack through to a conclusion or is it possible you will end it prematurely?

If nothing else, I am a stickler and I will see Jack through. If for no other reason than the end is in sight (years off yet, but in sight). Part of it is that I like the ending I have in mind and I want to see it presented instead of go untold. Another reason is that drawing it has become part of my daily life (which probably means once its done, I'll trade it for another drug). But I think the biggest reason is because I know it'd haunt me. Redemption being the big moral of the comic, I'd lose that lesson if I give up half-way in. Also it gets very difficult to stop when every time you think of quitting you get an email from an anonymous stranger saying "Your comic made me rethink things" or worse "This comic saved my life" because then you start thinking "God damn it! This means I have to keep going doesn't it?"

I can attest to the value of Hopkins comic for some people, namely personal friends who were positively affected by some of his stories. That doesn't make it any less upsetting that his own reward seems paltry compared to the readers, though I get the sense if he doesn't have enough doom and gloom going on in his life Jack would not be the same comic we see today.

Because Jack deals a lot with religion (though not necessarily a specific religion) and the theme of redemption many readers probably wonder what your own religious practice/philosophy is. Care to share any insight?

I've been at some point or another, a Catholic, a Christian, a Mormon and I even had a short stint as a Jehova's Witness. But at present, I haven't stepped inside a church in some five years. I had received the notion that religion was too important to let someone else tell me how to interpret it. Thats not to say that I do not see a purpose in church or religion, I can understand the need for like minded people to get together and powwow under one roof. I'm just saying I had too many disagreements to stay. The biggest disagreement was about the nature of God. If I were God, I don't think I'd want people to grovel at me feet where ever I go. I'd want intelligent people who could think and learn for themselves, who were eager to get to work in the morning. The second biggest argument was on the present state of the world. To hear some of the preachers talk you'd think the end was coming tomorrow. But if I stop listening to people talk about how bad it is these days and just pay attention to my daily life as it effects me I find that despite all its faults, the world is still a fine place and still worth fighting for. As for my personal beliefs, I think the world was created rather than the freak result f a random explosion (But I'm not one who believes the world is a couple thousand years old). I believe Jesus Christ died on the cross for the express purpose of taking on the sins of mankind. I believe Revelations will happen, but not any time soon.

Not being a religious person myself (agnostic if you're curious) I found this response refreshing because Hopkins isn't trying to shove his beliefs down anyone's throat. If anything, he apparently abhors those kinds of people.

The character of Drip plays almost as prominent a role in the comic as Jack and, as I understand it, features in some of your other work. Did you conceive of Drip or Jack first? Was one always intended as a foil for the other? How did you come up with the concept for Drip?

Drip is older than Jack. While Jack was born around 2000 I still have the first picture of Drip and the date on it is Dec 17 1996 10:42 PM. Hitchcock was once said about his two most used male leads Cary Grant and James Stewart, he said for all the characters he wishes he could be, he used Grant. But for all the characters he was afraid he really was, he used Stewart. The spiky haired artist skunk is my Cary Grant while Drip is definitely my James Stewart in this sense. Drip is a very personal character to me and it's through him that I exercise my negative emotions especially those aimed at women. I had a very poor and abusive mother, I'll skip the details if you don't mind, and I'm sure shes were most of the resentment comes from. Having admitted that I have misogynistic feelings I should let you know that I find the thought of acting on these feelings reprehensible. When I hear about some sort of violence on the news that has been committed in which a man has victimized a woman I get disgusted and near screaming angry because my thought toward the perpetrator of the crime tends to be, "If I know better than to act out (in anger) than you don't have any excuse." I know people get that Drip is a personal character and I think that helps cement him as a extremely uncomfortable villain, but having such a personal villain, so honestly exposed, is doing very little good for my personal reputation.

By far my favorite response because this was the question I wanted him to answer the most. Using Drip as an outlet for negative emotions makes sense and it also gives him considerable life as a character while also finding a constructive way of addressing his own inner turmoil. At the very least, this is the most admirable of acts on his part. I truly hope no one takes Drip's character and origins as too negative a presentation of Hopkins, because I personally think it's a healthy outlet for personal emotional issues (that he is very candidly admitting). I have a hard time connecting the man I interviewed with the personality of his primary villain.

One of the best things about the comic is the world you have created in the afterlife for your characters. How did you come up with something as unique and interesting as the Sins and their very original appearances?

The sins are probably a play on the concept of the four horsemen, but the main influence to having the seven represented as characters was one of my all time favorite movies "Se7en." Jack was definately going to be Wrath because of his appearance as Death. His original appearance (in Angry Brian) shows him as a very angry character, later I found it interestingly ironic to allow memory loss to make him somewhat of a pacifist. Drip as Lust was never a debate. Then at that point in planing the comic I had to come up with five more. Cain was cast from a scrapped project and given Envy (in the scrapped story he was a surviving human who wanted to retake the world for men). Vince was created for the series based on the idea that Greed could mean a need for greater power and not just larger wealth. Bob and Lisa were new characters to me and Gluttony just seemed all that more dangerous now that it was about eating people and not just donuts. Vanity is pretty staple, the beautiful chick now ugly may have been directly inspired from what became of the vanity victim in Se7en after she died. For the longest time I couldn't think up a good Sloth, you'll notice that even now he is little more a concept than an actual character.

With the story telling built around the Arc system one wonders, do you create smaller independent stories you weave into the larger plot or does the overarching story dictate which short Arcs you cover?

I like short stories. The larger plot is more often than not woven into the smaller stories. Occasionally though a story is written around the needs of the larger plot.

Finally, and most importantly, where did you get the inspiration for Jack's character and especially his relationship with Fnar which has to be one of the best (and most tragic) stories I have ever read?

Jack originated from the same scrapped story that Cain did. In it Jack was the catalyst for the destruction of mankind. When I decided to do this as a regular series I transferred that Jack to make up his unknown past. But Jack's first comic was Angry Brian and it was a response to the Columbine shootings. I wanted to see the boys who shot up that school get theirs in the end and I cast Jack as the Grim Reaper. I wasn't trying to blame music for the shooting (I just didn't like Korn) but rather with Brian's repeated explanation of "They laughed at me" I was trying to reference the post Columbine witch-hunt for bullying and state that just because someone picked on you was not an excuse for shooting up a school. The second Jack story Trixi and Tet was meant as a gift to my two close friends Candy and Ryan Dewalt, originally it wasn't meant to see the light of day. Soon after, my wife (then girlfriend) Suggested doing an ongoing series. I was against it, but she soon convinced me and I submitted for a keenspace slot not knowing what I would do with it. Jack was new enough in my mind that I thought he'd be interesting to write about. I already had him at a school shooting, and then at a dying woman's hospital bed, I decided next I'd have him visit an aborted child. Fnar was a new character (The mixed son of my foil Drip and my wife's Jink) so he was cast as the child. He turned out to be an enjoyable character to write for so he just became a regular and sort of grew on me as he grew on Jack. Drawing the story where he leaves was a surprisingly emotional drain on me.

I thought it was funny that David Hopkins directly referenced my issue with the Korn t-shirt in "Angry Brian," that was a nice personal touch to the response. Other than that, I was unsurprised that he was emotionally drained by Fnar's story, anyone who read through to that point had to have a strong emotional reaction. I still consider that to be the crowning moment in the comic so far.

So there you have it. I hope my afterthoughts on the responses weren't off-putting for too many people. I'd actually like feedback on that specific point from a few readers so I can decide whether or not to use it in future interviews. For other critiques let me know if you think there was a question I should have asked or something I missed, really looking to hear back from everyone on what was personally a really great experience.

How is this a user review exactly?

D_987:
How is this a user review exactly?

I reviewed Hopkins' comic and then got the interview, seemed like it was a companion piece and should go where the other reviews were. Still, might be better served being in Off-Topic. Can I relocate it or do the mods have to do that?

Thanks for this. It was very interesting to read!

 

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