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Hello; Steve. Let me first say welcome to D.E. Dunlop and thank you for taking the time for this interview.
D.E.; Why don't you begin by telling us a little about yourself?
Steve; I just turned 40 and am happily married to my wife Tara, together we have two teenage sons and two wonderful dogs, Olive and Angel. We have lived in Guelph, Ontario for almost 15 years and truly love it here. It is a city, but feels much more like a small town.
I worked in the automotive manufacturing industry for 14 years before leaving the company I was working for to go out into business for myself as a graphic and web designer. Very recently, my wife and I decided it was time to push myself as a cartoonist as well.
D.E.; How long have you been cartooning?
Steve; Since I was 5 years old. I have always known I wanted to be an artist and I love creating cartoon characters. Until the last few years, it has really been just for me, having not shared my work with anyone, but it has been a burning desire in me for many years.
I became an expert at drawing “Garfield” while in grade school and gravitated to superhero drawing in high school. I then discovered web-comics in my thirties that re-ignited that fire once again.
D.E.; How did you get into cartooning or what inspired you to start?
Steve; I have wanted to be an artist since I was 5 years old. In fact, my mom has an old album filled with my school photos from kindergarten to grade 8 and every year I checked off wanting to be an artist when I grew up.
I discovered “Garfield” when I was younger and that fat cat inspired me to become a cartoonist. I remember how clean the lines were and how consistently the characters were drawn, and I just had to learn how to do that. I later discovered “Calvin and Hobbes” and was blown away by how different it was from “Garfield” but how I still loved it. At the time I felt that Watterson had created the perfect strip and that anything I came up with would never compare. That’s probably why it took me another 30 years to start.
D.E.; What is it you like most about cartooning?
Steve; I love the fact that I have readers who love reading the strip. Hearing that people enjoy your work is so amazing; I can’t truly describe the feeling. I pour myself into this work and try so hard to make it entertaining because I can’t let my readers down.
It’s really funny, but there are certain strips I have done that I felt weren’t overly good or funny, but have gotten big responses from. It blows me away sometimes, but then there are the strips that I spent hours on crafting the perfect set-up to the joke and… nothing. You just never know what is going to hit with an audience. I just stick with the adage to write what I know and do it because you love it then trust there will always be an audience for it.
D.E.; Is there anything you have trouble cartooning?
Steve; What? Preposterous! I can cartoon anything, anything I say! Except maybe cars, and motorcycles, or boats or any vehicle, to be honest. I have always struggled with drawing vehicles; they are just not in my wheelhouse. I tend to write stories that don’t have those things in them, but I certainly don’t avoid them altogether. Whenever a joke will benefit from the inclusion of a vehicle, I bite the bullet and get to work doing the best I can. I can say that I have improved over the years, but drawing vehicles is still my kryptonite.
D.E.; What type of education or background do you have in art, web-marketing, internet business or the like?
As a designer, I have used these skills to help other businesses with their marketing materials and of course, have learned a few things about marketing, SEO and Social Media along the way, but I would certainly not call myself an expert in those areas. In many cases, I team up with other business people to provide any service I currently do not.
D.E.; Tell us about digital drawing.
Steve; Digital is my current drawing method, but it wasn’t when I started “Worth it” back in 2009. My current set up includes a Wacom Intuous 4 drawing tablet connected to my iMac and I draw using Photoshop CS6.
When getting a Wacom tablet, the big criticism I heard was the learning curve of looking at your screen while drawing and not at your hand. I can tell you that the learning curve was very short for me. I was amazed at how quickly I adapted. After discussing this with colleagues of mine, I have heard the same thing, that it was very easy to adapt.
Wacom and Photoshop give me a lot of options and settings that make the experience as close to drawing with traditional media as possible. There are settings that allow me to draw as if drawing with a pencil, and then with a push of a button, it is like drawing with a pen.
D.E.; How does digital drawing compare to traditional methods of drawing? Which do you prefer?
Steve; Like I said earlier, the tablet has settings that make it look as if I am drawing with different materials, but it doesn’t give me the feel of traditional materials. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love drawing digitally and I currently have no plans to experiment with painting or printing in the near future, but I do still carry a sketchbook.
One thing a sketchbook has always meant for me was that I could always flip through it and see the good work and the bad. I could see ideas that I had before and forgot about. I could inspire myself with all the ideas I jotted down, but with digital media, you need to look for files and if you don’t like them, just throw them in the trash. There’s no sense of permanency.
D.E.; Does digital drawing limit you to your desktop or can you use a hand held device?
Steve; My current set-up does limit me to using my desktop, but that is not to say there aren’t hand held alternatives. I have been doing some research and the Microsoft Surface Pro seems to have very good pressure sensitivity. Meanwhile, Wacom, the makers of my drawing tablet are making their own hand held tablet for artists, so I am waiting for that to be released.
D.E.; Tell us about, "Worth It".
Steve; A slice of life tale with a twist, Worth it follows a middle-aged superhero sidekick who abandoned his own dreams and took the only job he ever knew in order to provide for his family. A member of “Justice Ltd” and partnered with ESP, a cantankerous and egotistical enchanted sock puppet, Kirby patrols the mean streets of Guelph, Ontario.
Thankfully, he has a supportive, if somewhat sardonic wife, Sue and two teenage sons, both of whom keep him guessing. Grayson, the elder is a boy in a mans body finding joy in all things immature while Drake, the younger, is beyond his years, finding contempt for what his father does for a living.
Together they have formed a bond that defies logic but defines family.
D.E.; What inspired you to start "Worth It"?
Steve; My wife. After years of talking about creating a comic strip, she was finally able to convince me to do it. The name came from the idea that even though I hated my job, it provided for my family, so it was worth it. Originally, the idea was to basically create a strip about my family. Whenever something funny happened that could be translated into a comic, my wife and I looked at each other and said aloud “Worth it”.
My original strips were sent off to cartooning syndicates to see if I could get into the newspapers and after a few weeks of waiting, I was rejected by all of them. Although that was a bit of a setback, I had discovered web comics, and some of my favourites, Scott Kurtz of PVP, Brad Guigar of Evil Inc, Dave Kellet of Sheldon and Kris Straub of Starslip had written a book “How to make Webcomics”. I read the book and decided to self-publish. Considering the newspaper industry right now, I’m glad I have taken this road.
I took the original idea of using my family, but added some bizarre twists, like the main character Kirby being a superhero sidekick and his partner is a magical sock puppet that he must wear. I also added some colourful characters to round out the superhero chicanery and recently, I have established that these fictional goings-on happen right here, in Guelph Ontario.
D.E.; How long does it take to create one installment?
Steve; Hmmm…tough question. It does vary depending on the subject matter, but I’m fairly confident in saying that my process usually takes about 4 hours. If I am creating a strip with 6 panels, since I do a 2 tiered comic. That will take longer, and if I am doing a single panel, that will obviously take less time.
D.E.; How long have you been writing it?
Steve; I have been creating my strip “Worth it” since 2009 at the same time I started my business.
D.E.; What are your plans for the future?
Steve; Funny you should ask, David. My future begins now. I have made changes to my business so that my cartooning will take centre stage. My goal is to build a business around my cartooning and illustration abilities and hopefully, one day soon, I can create “Worth it”, full time.
D.E.; What kind of advice do you have for other cartoonists?
Steve; I have some of the cliché stuff, like, never give up and believe in yourself, which, as hackneyed as it sounds is still advice you need to adhere to. But advice I think every artist needs is to keep a sketchbook and NEVER rip out any pages, no matter what. I look into my old sketchbooks and see pages missing and wonder what was on them. There are ideas I had that may not have been executed well back then, but I could go back to now with more skill and confidence, but are lost forever. Keep a sketchbook, keep a sketchbook and keep a sketchbook. Did I mention keeping a sketchbook?
D.E.; Do you have any "Shout Outs"?
Steve; First and foremost, my wife and business partner Tara. She has recently started actively working with me on the promotion side of things and has done an amazing job in the short while she has done it. Things are looking up for “Worth it”.
My parents, who have always been supportive.
Amy and Jen of The Dragon Comics and Games store here in Guelph. They are always supportive and have an original strip hanging in the store.
Scott Kurtz, Brad Guigar, Dave Kellet, Kris Straub, Mike Krahulik, Jerry Holkins, Danielle Corsetto, Lar deSouza, Ryan Sohmer, Stephen Silver for inspiring me to do this on my own.
Scott Chantler and Scott Mooney, who are fantastic local cartoonists who I have recently connected with. Very inspiring.
D.E.; Finish this sentence. "If I am not cartooning I am..."
Steve; asleep or dead.
D.E.; Where can people find you and/or your work?
Steve; You can find my work at
On Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/Worthitonline
And on Twitter @ThatSteveMills
Thank you very much, Steve, for taking the time to talk with me. This has been great and informative. I look forward to seeing how things go for you and, "Worth It". Hopefully we shall talk to you again here soon.
Join us here at D.E. Dunlop on Wednesday March 13 for our first blog interview with Steve Mills, web cartoonist and creator of, "Worth It".
R.I.P. Tom Connors
As a Canadian artist I feel I must say something of Tom Connors. First, if ever there was a man who instilled a sense of patriotism in my bones it was Stompin' Tom Connors. He spent most of his life travelling this great country we call Canada. He wrote songs of the people and the land. He took local stories and turned them into national legends. He is Canada. Or maybe Canada is Tom Connors. Some of his songs were just silly and fun while others were serious and even have the ability to bring a tear to your eye.
Some of my favourites;
The Coal Boat song
Sudbury Saturday night
Around the bay and back again
Big Joe Mufferaw
Every time I look at the list I see another great song. I'll stop here. After forty years he only managed to tally over three hundred songs. :D
I just can't say enough about the man. In honesty I've only known the music, but several articles have arisen, since his passing that are quite informative and moving.
Here are two.
R.I.P., Tom. You were and always will be THE true Canadian. You are already sorely missed.
I was born in Southern Ontario. I now live in Southern Alberta with my Beautiful wife and our three awesome boys. I sneak as much time as I can for writing.