The webcomic Let’s Be Friends Again started a little less than a year ago, but has already received a lot of positive acclaim from fans and critics alike. The strip’s creators, Curt Franklin and Chris Haley, are friends. Their comic characters hilariously lampoon the top names in the industry, so it’s no mystery why they’ve gained such a large fanbase since their debut just ten months ago. With their first collected volume ready to head to press, they found time in their busy schedule to converse with Fandomania.
So what is the premise of Let’s Be Friends Again, and who originally thought of the idea?
Curt: The cheesecloth-thin premise is two people talking about, thinking about, and trying to make comics. It’s the laziest thing we could’ve done but it’s turned out alright so far. Plus we’re pretty into ourselves so there’s that whole angle to it.
It’s a premise that allows for us to do pretty much anything we want in terms of comics commentary and explain it away as “Oh, that’s the Chris and Curt of the comic’s idea on how to do ‘x’.”
It also allows us to distance ourselves if we say something stupid, like “Hey, don’t get mad at us, that’s fictional Chris and Curt who said that.”
Chris: It is highly likely that it was all Curt’s idea, but in his/our defense we didn’t know it was going to turn into a thing we’d be working on everyday when we started that first mini-comic.
You’ve both mentioned comics creator Joel Priddy several times on the LBFA blog. How did you meet him, and what has he done to influence and help your work?
Chris: I’m not sure where I first came across Joel’s work, but when I did, I immediately had to try to find out more about him and came across his old blog. From his blog I was shocked to find out he lived in Memphis too. I left him a really fanboy-ish comment about how amazing that was to me and how great he was, and (to my surprise) from that he invited me to come hang out with him and some other cartoonist. Friendship ensued from there.
Curt: Joel is just a great resource to have as he provides a wizened old pro’s ear for us to yell into despite the chirping protests of his hearing aid. He’s always willing to give us advice, aid, and reassurance. We appreciate everything he’s done for us and when the time comes to euthanize the elderly we will make sure he goes to one of the peaceful Obama death camps.
There are few people interested in comics in Memphis, as most of the artistic community deal with finer arts. Joel used to put together Sunday comic meetups for people interested in comics. I am nothing close to an artist. I see five-year-olds drawing pictures of the weather in the newspaper who can draw better than I can. But he let me come along with Chris just because I had an interest. So he’s also a charity worker.
In your comic you have ridiculed top names in the industry including Geoff Johns, Brian Michael Bendis, Jeph Loeb, and Rob Liefeld. Are there any artists or writers that you actually like enough to not deride?
Curt: We like most of those guys. Well, Geoff Johns and Bendis at least. Not speaking for Chris, but there are some stories they’ve written that I haven’t liked and poking fun at some of their work reflects the kind of intimate knowledge of their quirks and foibles that you only get from reading a buttload of their comics.. It’s funny, growing up in the 90s comics era I’ve probably amassed more Liefeld and Loeb comics than I’d care to admit, so somewhere, subconsciously, it’s like I’ve been training myself to make fun of them since my early teens.
Chris: Yeah, all of our fun poking is generally coming from a place of endearment. Even if I’m not interested in reading Rob Liefeld’s Barack & Badrock: The Youngbloodz!!!!! that doesn’t mean I didn’t still buy that big hardcover special edition of the old Youngblood comics they released a little while back, because I loved those when I was a kid. Even if Ultimatum was one of the worst things I’ve ever read, it doesn’t mean I love Superman For All Seasons any less. Does that make sense? Same deal with Johns, but in reverse. I’ve loved all his Superman and Flash and Green Lantern stuff a lot, but it didn’t make reading those Stars & S.T.R.I.P.E. trades any more tolerable, no matter how much I wanted to like them. I think we just try to call things like we see them. We’re not out to get anybody, and we’re well aware that if we ever make it onto enough people’s radars there will be people waiting to make fun of us.
Can you please explain to me your alter egos, The Enthusiast and Mr. Fahrenheit Jr.?
Curt: The whole thing started with Chris and I doing superhero trading cards in the style of those great Marvel Superheroes sets from the 90s for all of our friends one Christmas. We made it through maybe 10 of them before laziness struck. So, we were doing cards for everyone else and, here he comes again, Joel Priddy teamed up with Chris and I to make a character based on the other.
We never finished a lot of our friends’ cards but the ideas for many of them are still somewhere around here.
I think one of the things I like about making characters based on our friends is that it takes me back to when I was a kid and I’d write adventures about me and my classmates. I remember a story I wrote where my fifth grade class flies to Hawaii for a vacation and has to stop an erupting volcano. The kids I hated usually ended up dead or disfigured while my buddies were always the heroes.
It’s cheating and childish, but I think it speaks to the fact that Chris and I are making these things because we get a kick out of it.
Chris: We have backstories on the characters themselves that I’m sure we will get around to exploring a little more in the comic some day. Maybe we’ll do an actual comic of them at some point if we ever have the time. There are a lot of characters in that “universe,” the MAC Universe, as we call it, that no one has seen yet. Stay tuned, true believers!
Chris, in the blogs, I have come to the conclusion that Curt likes to abuse you. Why do you take it? Could it be battered victim syndrome?
Curt: Any response I give to this question could be seen as culpability so I’ll just stay out of it.
Chris: Heh heh.. I assure you I have no idea what you’re talking about.. a-heh. (He is sitting right there!)
I’ve always been curious to know what sorts of things artists and writers do to get their creative juices flowing. Can you describe your working environment?
Chris: Often we’ll go discuss comic ideas while we’re getting food or something, and then once Curt’s written it all up proper, I usually draw the comic sitting on my bed. This is not an exciting answer at all.
Curt: Whenever Chris and I meet to explicitly work on something it never gets done. We end up talking about anime, or girls, or Achewood, or just anything else other than the task at hand.
Personally, I’ve discovered the best time for me to write is right after I’ve woken up. My mind isn’t used to any particular way of thinking, it’s all sort of blank and ready to just conjure up whatever. Sort of goes the same when I’m driving. When you’re driving for an extended period of time and your brain gets to that place where it’s alert to the road on a subconscious level, I find sometimes ideas will just come to me. Like my brain has been working on things behind the scenes and uses these pauses from reality to offer up a finished product. That’s pretty pretentious, so I’m just gonna remind everybody we do comics about penises and keyboard cat so it’s not like we’re writing The Iliad.
Your comic has recently gained more exposure through links from popular comics news sites. What kind of thoughts are running through your heads now that your comic has picked up popularity?
Chris: I’m still mostly just thinking about Superman and Grant Morrison. Other than that, for me at least, being mentioned somewhere just makes me want to be mentioned there again. At all times my gaze is focused forward on hoping there is a new mention or link or interview in our immediate future… when I’m not thinking about Superman and/or Grant Morrison, of course.
Curt: I think our goal right now is to do comics and get paid for it. That’s really the long term one. Short term, it’s this book we’re working on. T-shirts, too, though I sort of generally hate t-shirts so it’ll be interesting to see how much we argue over that.
I’ve also been looking into the business side of doing webcomics, mainly from places scattered around the net. I’ve got a lot of respect for Scott Kurtz doing everything pretty much by himself. Chris and I discussed that we’d like to get to the point where we’re still making all the decisions but could maybe hire somebody to take care of all the legal and business aspects of it.
These are big dreams, I realize, but we feel like we can do it. Someday. Fifty years from now.
The two of you have been to quite a few conventions. What was your favorite experience?
Chris: The moments that really stand out to me are talking Sloan with Bryan Lee O’Malley and having him remember my name the second time I met him a few months later, proving our karaoke prowess right next to James Kochalka and Nate Powell during SPX last year and having Nate stop us the next day and tell us that even though he was already very familiar with the song, when we did it, he felt like he was hearing it for the first time. Oh, and of course, when Scott Adsit from 30 Rock introduced me to Matt Fraction and Ed Brubaker at HeroesCon this year and they both told me how hilarious they thought our comic was.. I mean, Matt Fraction told me one of our comics made him laugh so hard two drops of pee came out. How can you top that?
Curt: The one time we’ve had our own booth was fun. Trying to sell people on the comic, BSing with whoever the [frak] wanted to stop and talk, etc. We haven’t done a con since actually starting the webcomic so we’re interested to see if anybody at all will recognize us at SPX. We’re not getting our hopes too high.
Chris: Curt means we haven’t done the actual booth/table thing at a con since we started the webcomic. We’ve been to a mess of them since then but they’ve been for particular meetings or just to see our comic friends/have fun.
Do you have any plans to go to any soon?
Curt: We will be at SPX this year. It’s in Bethesda, Maryland from Sept. 25-26.
I hear that there is going to be an LBFA book. Can you describe the process? Are there any difficulties switching from the different mediums?
Curt: The book we’re putting together is a strip collection, so it’s not like we’re changing up the medium we work in. We both love tons of extra [stuff] in books we get, so we’re trying to put in as much crap as possible so people will feel like they’re getting their money’s worth. You could just see all the strips in the book online, for free, so we’re putting in commentaries, pinups, introductions, etc. Who knows if anybody will care about all that stuff but it makes Chris and I feel better about taking your money.
Chris: This is the first time we’ve talked about this publicly, but it’s going to be called Let’s Be Friends Again – Vol. 1: Under Pressure. I think there’s also going to be an exclusive, two page “comic book style” comic in there as well. I’d tell you what it’s going to be about, but I don’t think I can for legal reasons. You heard it here first! I guess we’ll be debuting it at SPX, but it’ll be available on Amazon and via our site as well which is a nice thing to tell your grandmother even though we don’t let our grandmothers read our comics.
Where are you hoping to see LBFA going? Do you have any future plans for the comic?
Curt: I see it going to space and beyond. I see the future idolizing Chris and I like Bill and Ted, but everybody’s not dressed like the cover of a Trapper Keeper. I see us breaking up over a woman, or perhaps realizing our inner homosexual desires for one another and getting married. I see one of us getting shot at the height of our popularity, leaving the other to reap the considerable fortune of the LBFA legacy. I see an old man dressed up like a scarecrow who haunts an amusement park and Chris and I pull his mask off after we foil his plan.
Chris: Yeah, that sounds like a pretty good future.