Looking for a webcomic that has the feel of Edgar Rice Burroughs or E.E. Smith but the Heart of Calvin and Hobbes? Then Marooned is the comic for you. While it is more like the modern cousin of the works by the two authors I mentioned and those of their ilk, it can definitely be found in the same family. The jokes are well timed and the story is fun to read. I am particularly a fan of the vivid colors and the well thought out character development. If you were ever a fan of science fiction, you will certainly appreciate Marooned by Tom Dell’Aringa (who was kind enough to chat with me about his creation).
Kelly Melcher: Would you first introduce yourself and give us a history of how you became interested in creating webcomics?
I’m Tom Dell’Aringa, a 43-year-old interface designer by day and comic creator by night (or by lunch). I ended up creating Marooned because I was looking for a creative outlet. I wanted to do something that was completely mine, and fun, and I wanted to get back into drawing. Doing a comic fulfilled all those needs.
I originally developed something like a dozen test strips with various incarnations of the characters to see if I would enjoy doing it. I found that I did, so I changed the process a bit, modified the designs and published the strip. I chose to publish it on the web because obviously it’s incredibly easy to get started, and I have complete control over the strip.
KM: With a robot named Asimov, we can surmise an influence… but what else has influenced Marooned (artistic and literary)?
TD: On the artistic side, I have a ton of influences and they aren’t just limited to comics. Certainly not everything shows up in the strip, because not everything is applicable to a comic. I was and still am a huge Peanuts fan, so Charles Schulz was a big influence in a general way. Like everyone and their brother, Calvin and Hobbes was a big deal for me too. I read the comics page as a kid and loved stuff like Wizard of Id, Shoe, Beetle Bailey, Hagar the Horrible, anything that I thought was funny.
Of course I read superhero comics too. But I think the most direct influences on me were two. The first was discovering Jean Giraud (a.k.a Moebius) and his work. I was in San Francisco and I visited the Metreon, where they had an arcade and bar based on his work with The Airtight Garage. They had books and all kinds of artwork, posters, etc. I was just literally blown away by his work. I think I had seen some of it before, but never on the scale that I saw there.
His work just seemed to take me to another place, and that’s what you want to do as an artist – take someone somewhere. His linework is legendary. I’ve tried to take some little bit that I have tried to learn from his work and apply it to Marooned.
The second would be animation. I like to think of my strip in terms of motion rather than static poses. I studied a little animation in college and I pursued it for awhile on my own as well. Ultimately I decided it was too time consuming to do on the side. But a lot of what I learned in that discipline, I try and apply to Marooned.
Literary wise I’m all over the map. I read tons of fantasy and sci-fi as a kid, and I still read a lot today. Some of my favorite authors are Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, James P. Hogan, Philip K. Dick, Stephen R. Donaldson and, of late, Jack McDevitt. And certainly, Douglas Adams fits in there, too. For comedy, I’d love to be able to have his wit. All those things have some kind of literary effect on me. I’d also include things like Dr. Who, Battlestar Galactica and Firefly as influences in some way or another.
Lastly I’d say Brad Bird has had a big effect on me. His commentaries on The Incredibles and The Iron Giant are wonderful, and I learned a lot from him. I’m still learning the writing ropes though, and I have a long way to go.
(From Comic for 3/25/2008)
KM: How do ideas for Marooned get from your head to where we can read them on the Internet?
TD: Well, initially, I flew by the seat of my pants, thinking up things from strip to strip. You can see that in the early run of comics, where things are not too cohesive and ideas don’t quite fit together that well. When I realized I really wanted to do this, I knew I had to get my act together. My good friend Steve Ogden was a big help with that. We got on the phone one night and just had a big story meeting and he helped me work through some of my ideas. I put those ideas down in a document and I had a framework from which to work. That was “The Saga of Bob” story, with the evil red robot.
When it came time for the next story, where John gets sick, I did something similar. I took all my ideas and I worked them all out into a document of something like 3,500 words. It’s not really an outline, it’s more of a kind of road map of conflicts, ideas and character stuff. I use that as I move along in the story. So I know where I’m going and where I need to end up, it’s just the filling in of the details that need doing on a weekly basis.
Sometimes unexpected things happen, which is great. Right now I’m in somewhat unexpected territory with Lian. However, it still fits into the grand scheme that I have laid out.
So I have a Google Document that is constantly updated with strip scripts. Usually, there’s only one in there, the one I’m working on. Sometimes I’ll get lucky and write a bunch in advance and that helps a lot, and makes the story better. I’m doing that now for what is happening with Lian. So I take that script for the current comic, go over it to make sure it’s right and produce the comic. The script is open for editing up until the moment I export the final strip, and I often will edit little things at the last moment.
(From You Deserve More)
KM: What is the future for Marooned? Will we be seeing it in print?
TD: Funny you should ask! I’m putting together my first book right now, Out of Orbit. It will include the first 100 strips, a special 6-page short story comic I did called “Green,” a special 6-page Marooned story called “Payload” done by Steve Ogden, and an artist’s gallery of illustrations of Marooned characters by other artists. It will also have a “mission log” which is just my commentary on the strips.
I hope to be taking pre-orders for the book starting the first week of October.
KM: To date do you have a favorite strip or story arc? Why is it your favorite?
TD: It’s not something I’ve thought a lot about. I have a few favorite strips where the joke works especially well, at least for me. I’ve always liked the two back-to-back strips “You Deserve More” and “The Insulter” in regard to writing jokes — if they make me laugh, I feel like I’ve accomplished something.
(From The Insulter)
Artwise, I still like “Underground Home” a lot, of which Steve Ogden again was a big help. I wanted to evoke a certain atmosphere with their refuge, and I feel like I kind of got there:
“Dancing” is a favorite since it involves Ril, and granted has some Calvin & Hobbes influence:
But really, as far as story goes, I really feel like I’m doing my best work right now, both regarding art and writing. It has taken me a long time to shake off the rust of not drawing for years. And I had never tried to write for comics, so it’s been a learning process.
KM: What is your favorite aspect of creating a webcomic?
TD: I really like coming up with the story and characters, and then seeing it “come to life,” as it were. I’m starting to feel like I really know the characters now, so it’s becoming more fun to create new stories and situations for them. But really the whole process is very enjoyable for me, even though there are certain frustrations, too.
There are always specific moments where I get a little charge of excitement. When the script is done for a comic, when the pencils are complete, when the inking is complete and lastly when the strip is done. Each moment spurs me on to the next. And then you can’t wait to do it all over again.
KM: At Fandomania, we are fans of what we write, and I always like to know: what are you a fan of?
TD: As mentioned earlier, I’m really enjoying Jack McDevitt’s novels right now. I like any well-written science fiction or fantasy. I’m eagerly awaiting the last books of Stephen R. Donaldson’s The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. I only recently discovered Joss Whedon’s Firefly and watched all the episodes on Hulu. I can’t believe it was canceled. I’m a huge LOST fan as well.
I recently discovered Atomic Robo the comic (printed) by Red 5 Comics.
For comics online I’m a dedicated reader of Moon Town by Steve Ogden, Kukuburi by Ramon Perez, Gunnerkrigg Court by Tom Siddell, Astray3 by Eldon Cowgur, and Rice Boy/Order of Tales by Evan Dahm, to just name a few. Really, I follow a lot of comics online for various reasons, mostly because I enjoy them. I still get Monty in my email by Jim Meddick. I loved Monty when it was Robotman, and some of his early strips and humor are probably an influence on Marooned.
I would like to thank Tom on behalf of myself and my associates at Fandomania for taking the time to answer my questions. I look forward to more Marooned in the future!