This week at “Don’t Pick the Flowers” I am thrilled to feature my friend Carlo Ostrout. Carlo is the creator of the fantastic web comic “Life…after Death”. Carlo and I discussed his work and characters that were created some years ago and how a couple of year’s back he decided to fulfill his dream by sharing his adventurous fantasy world with us. It’s a privilege to introduce to you, if you aren’t already familiar with his work, the inside world of “Life…after Death” and Carlo Ostrout.
David: Hello Carlo, it’s a pleasure to feature you and your work at “Don’t Pick the Flowers”. First, when did you become interested in becoming a cartoonist and who are some of your inspirations?
Carlo: Thank you for having me, Sir. To the first part of the question, I imagine the allure for me to tell stories with art was to be able to write a story without having to be descriptive about scenery. To call myself a cartoonist would insult actual cartoonists. With that said, for as long as I can remember, I have had an attraction to all things associated with comics, whether it is strips, books or cartoon. The first print books I read growing up were Hot Stuff by Harvey Comics, Detective Comics and the Giant Sized Superman vs. Muhammad Ali. I grew up with the ideal that I would break into mainstream comics but when I joined the Military all things creative fell a bit to the wayside. I continuously tinkered with ideas and characters and a few times I was close to really coming proactive with my work but events would always unfold that led me away again. I had never strayed too far and after much complaining from myself, my wife convinced me to tell stories. And so we have my webcomic.
As for influences, I would just say everyone that came before me and the people I read now. There are far too many to name but for a highlight reel I would say, Calvin and Hobbes and The Far Side on the comic strip side are the biggest influences on my humor. Artistically, it would be Simonson, Byrne and maybe a bit of Lee and McFarlane. The list would not be complete without recognizing Mark Stokes of Zombie Boy, Elizabeth Staley of Adrastus Comic, George Ford of Addanac City Comics and Frank Jordan of Company Man Comics for really being supportive when I first jumped into the foray of webcomics.
David: Can you tell everyone who may not know about your web comic “Life…after Death” about the story and characters?
Carlo: Well the tagline for LAD is “Life after Death is about an out of work Grim Reaper navigating current events, new roommates and his new found mortality…” but the book has really evolved from that this past year. The bone of the initial idea is Roger, the main character and a grim reaper losses, his job and has to live among humans. The idea is completely alien to him and he really has a distain for society. The very first Roger strip, drawn 20 years ago, had Roger behind a woman in the 10 item or less checkout line at a supermarket dreaming up different ways to kill her if he still had abilities because she was writing a check for 11 items. Eleven items and a check in a cash only line? I would dream of such things myself. As the book progresses, we learn more about Roger and his foibles and things begin to unfold that really drives the need for the jaunt into long form story telling. Dave and Molly are his hapless roommates tied to Roger by destiny. The supporting cast is rounded out with an odd couple, Devil Egg and Corn Dog with a Beak who are former agents of the Paranormal Deterrent Division originating from Otherworld. They are five opposites that form a whole.
David: What is your routine like when putting a comic together and what tools do you use?
Carlo: My routine varies a little bit depending on the circumstance due to the formats I have chosen to present LAD. I separate the book into chapters of traditional joke a day or short story bits to long form chapters. I don’t use a buffer, though that would be a grand idea. I tend to produce better with a deadline, much to the dismay of my body and mental well being. When it comes to the gag a day, I just usually think of something I want to draw and go for it or just play on something I have experienced recently. When it comes to the long form chapters, because I have had these characters bouncing around for 20 years so, most of the story is pretty well set, with liberty to make changes on the fly. I don’t script anything. I would say the best way to describe how I begin a long form chapter is I already know the start, middle and the end. I sketch out 5 pages that I would like to draw and work towards those pages and then I let the road take me where it leads me. That may sound ridiculous but in a way I tell stories that I want to read and I feel that process makes the storylines more organic.
The comic is complete done on and iPad, initially I was using an iPad2 and now I work on the new iPad. My weapon of choice is Autodesk Sketchbook Pro. I absolutely love that program. Though, I haven’t worked too extensively with other art programs, even though I have tested most of the drawing apps. I have been drawing with Sketchbook for two years daily and drawing with it feels like second nature. I do use various programs for effects, much to the dismay of readers possibly, like TiltShift and Negative me and for lettering I use ComicBook, ComicStrip or Comic Life.
David: What’s your favorite part of being a cartoonist and storyteller?
Carlo: I think my favorite part of being a storyteller is connecting with people. Of course, no one’s going to say that, “My favorite part is that people pay attention to me and compliment me,” but that is a part of it as well. I think it’s a universal need for acceptance. I’ll illustrate that with a quick story. I have a character I created a long time ago and he is the most absurd character. I just crack up when I work with him. I debated for a long time before introducing him into LAD because I honestly thought that the traction I was gaining with the comic would be obliterated by introducing him. I went with my idea that, “My book, I can do want I want,” attitude and fortunately the character has worked out very well in the context of LAD. I think more people associate Corn Dog with a Beak to LAD than they do Roger! That’s something I connect with and the readers seem to enjoy. That feeling is like a sense of community that we enjoy the same ridiculous concept that I was odd enough to share.
David: What future plans can we expect to see from you and your webcomic?
Carlo: Well, unless I change my update schedule for LAD, you may not see much more from me! Seriously though, in terms of LAD, “The Wild” storyline is currently running which plays a major part in the final act of the narrative that has been running for the past year and a half. The plot, and various subplots, over the course of the comic have been building up to the “Order and Chaos” chapter, which will probably start in January. “Order and Chaos” with wrap up most of the subplots I have sprinkled throughout the comic and lead the book into a new direction. When ”The Wild” winds down I want to get back into gag a day mode for a while to tell small stories throughout the holidays and pepper some election bits in before November as well.
As for the future, I threw a line out in the waters this past spring about a creator collaborative project called “End of Times.” Though to no one’s fault but my own there hasn’t been a lot of movement on the project yet due to time constraints. The framework is set and the book is planned as an anthology series, so once I get ample time I would like to roll it out. Details of that can be seen at endoftimes.thewebcomic.com . Ultimately, I would like to have the freedom to roll out the rest of the Universe that LAD exists in and I assure you that the place is expansive. After that….I would love a crack at Superman and Spiderman.
David: It sounds very exciting Carlo! I am really looking forward to what lies ahead as all your fans and new fans will be too. Good luck with everything that lies ahead, it’s a very exciting time for you!
Check out more of Carlo Ostrout and “Life…after Death”, you won’t be disappointed!
Life…after Death: lifead.thewebcomic.com
End of Times: endoftimes.thewebcomic.com