Naru: Hello and welcome to the Fullmetal Narcissist anime blog! With me today is a very talented, successful young blogger whom many of you may know as the mind behind the popular Little Monster Girl web comic, Jennifer Paetsch! To start, would you like to tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
Paetsch: I am a writer and illustrator, and I live in Berlin, Germany! Right now, I’m focusing my work on my webcomic Little Monster Girl. I also occasionally draw a webcomic called Forgotten Road—which I promise, I will fill up with a lot more comics this winter! I’ve written a few books for young people, a couple of books for kids under 12 and a couple for kids over 13, as well as one adult novelette. Like I said, I live in Berlin but I’m American and I’ve spent a lot of time in different countries all over the globe! I have a dog and a cat.
Naru: What inspired you to start blogging?
Paetsch: Oh, like I said on my blog recently (in fact, it was because of the blogger award you gave me that I wrote this! Full disclosure!), I started the Little Monster Girl webcomic last year, and a webcomic needs a blog. Like the bee needs the flower. Like night and day! If you have one, you need to have the other.
Naru: Speaking of your opus, where did you come up with the idea for Little Monster Girl?
Paetsch: Little Monster Girl just came to me fully-formed out of the ether one day. It’s not like I had been musing any “what ifs” or saying anything more to myself more than “I think I’d like to make some sort of webcomic”. She just kind of showed up like an old friend I never knew I had and said, “Hey, this is my story. You should probably tell it.” I wish there was more to say! But I just consider it a blessing from the divine.
Ever since I was a teenager I wanted to draw comics. Like, comic-book comics. But way back then it was not something girls were encouraged to do! But because I spent a lot of time by myself, I managed to draw a lot. I really tried hard in those days to copy the style and techniques used by traditional comic book artists. I practiced inking with a brush. I practiced my lettering, too. So, anyway, I guess I just figured I wasn’t getting any younger, and if I wanted to use my skills and talents, I’d better use them now before it’s too late.
But skills and talents are not enough—you still need a story to tell. In fact, the story matters arguably most, I think. Art always seems to tell some sort of a story, doesn’t it? Sometimes planned, and sometimes not!
Naru: How would you describe your art style?
Paetsch: Nowadays it’s very egocentric. I draw mainly what pleases me. In fact, I have to be careful that I’m not too “in my head” so that the sketch I’ve made actually means something to someone else! Like, you can have a box and four circles. Is it a bar with bar seats? Is it a foot? That kind of thing.
So, loose sketches, purposefully unpolished, and also, I try to make it very “cartoony” sometimes, very spontaneous. I want it to look like it was drawn in one go, with a few more traditional panels thrown in just for fun. Just to create a mood. A contrasting mood. I hope that is the sort of answer you were looking for!
Naru: It certainly is. I’ve wondered this for a while… What kind of monster is Zela, anyway?
Paetsch: That remains to be seen! The monsters in my webcomic are more like mutants, I guess. Like the old Greek monsters—amalgams of humans and beasts. I like the Slayers concept where the more advanced a monster is, the more human-like it can appear. So Zela is one of those monsters that uses a human appearance to help them be successful hunters, or to fit in with human society. In fact, if Zela kept her mouth shut and was maybe not so yellow (yes, she is yellow!) she would be confused for a human. Maybe makeup could fix that! (laughs) The humanoid monsters in the webcomic might even be considered monster royalty … but that remains to be seen!
Naru: What would you say are your biggest literary influences?
Paetsch: Definitely Stephen King—but I guess everyone says that! But how could you not, right? Mark Helprin’s Winter’s Tale had a big effect on me, and I still think about it even now, some twenty years later, after reading it. I still think about those characters, not even going beyond the story, I just think about how Helprin created that romantic, magic-realisitic world and how beautiful everything was. And how there was no explanation for anything, really, magic included—it simply was.
Naru: Ah, King. I just finished book 5 of The Dark Tower myself. What’s it like to write a character who has almost no dialogue, like Zela?
Paetsch: Well, truth be told, I grew up on Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, and I miss the old violent cartoons with a little dialogue and mostly physical humor. I’ve noticed however that physical humor is hard to convey in a panel form! You have to be very, very clear about the action, and that can be tricky! I hope I’ve succeeded a little.
As the story progresses, though, she is going to have dialogue. I don’t want to exclude any non-English speakers in my audience, but that’s the way it was planned. There’s a contrast between where she started and where she ends up, and that will be shown in several ways, one of them being introduction of dialogue.
Naru: How do you balance the blue humor and surreal concepts of your comic?
Paetsch: Well, you know, the universe is everything, right? The world is sky and the world is shit, too! It’s flowers blooming and cows farting! I just try to copy real life. You know, you go to the dance in your finery and you split your pants. You try to impress the Queen and you pass out! That’s life, that’s what I’m about. It’s funny the more experience you have with life the more it seems to be a roller coaster ride where you are kind of strapped in, and you just have to go with it. You have to deal with it. Good and bad. You know? But I don’t want to go too far—nothing too brutal. I don’t want to copy life that much! I still want the comic to be mostly funny, a fun place to visit.
Naru: Not to sound like a prude or anything, but your title character appears in the nude quite frequently in your comic. Where would you say the line is between gratuitous nudity and plot-specific nudity?
Paetsch: Oh, Zela is always gratuitously nude! (laughs) Zela is meant to be bare-breasted or bare-bottomed at least once in every strip, so that means at least three times on each full page (I draw the comic in pages in a book, by hand, then scan it into my computer. So every three strips is a page). If I don’t hit that mark (and sometimes I can’t, for story reasons, or maybe I’m just not clever enough), I almost feel like I’ve let my readers down. It’s a feature! No one has complained yet!
As for why, well, I just sort of planned it that way. I guess it’s a way to keep her humble and vulnerable, because I don’t want her to be super-hero-like. She’s certainly not invincible. She needs to be relatable and human, for all her strengths. That’s kind of hard to show if she has no weaknesses.
But I won’t show her privates! It’s not that kind of comic!
Naru: In both the comic and your books, what sort of themes do you like to explore in your work?
Paetsch: I really like exploring duality. How alike can things become, how different. How much does one thing need another. Contrasting one thing with another. I like twins. You can see in my YA novels, there are lots of doppelgangers and shapeshifters. I’m all about that!
Masks. Masks are great. Majora’s Mask is my fav Zelda game, for example. Death is another great theme. Do we die? Or do we just change our masks? But you know, I’m not a philosopher, I don’t have the mind for that. I like to read about philosophy and I like religious texts, but I’m like the horse in Animal Farm, I read them again and again but I can’t get past ABCD! (laughs)
Anyway, Zela’s got her masks that she makes. What are they for? Someone asked me about that once. Do they really give her powers? Or is it just make-believe, and she thinks they do? Not sure. Not sure about our masks, either!
Naru: Why are clocks afraid of compasses?
Paetsch: Oh no! Do I have to explain the joke? Oh, dear! I guess it’s not that funny, then! Well, a clock has working gears inside, but the (zombie) compass is empty inside. You know, like a dead guy is to a living person! Ta da!
Naru: Well, we’ll chock it up to me just not being clever enough to get it. Now, onto more serious fare, what can you tell us about the City of Doors series?
Paetsch: City of Doors is about a kid who lives in a fake Berlin and is forced to become a werewolf. He lives in a fantasy version of Berlin in the fairy world and in order to compete with the other creatures there, he becomes a monster. The series is about him going through these changes and the horrible things that happen to him, his friends, and his family. I mean, it’s not Saw, but there are a few twists and turns! It’s made for young adults (it’s a YA novel), so that means over the age of 13.
Naru: What can you tell us about The Homework that Time Forgot?
Paetsch: The Homework That Time Forgot is for kids over the age of 9. It’s a scifi adventure about a kid who lives on the moon and gets his science project sabotaged by himself! His future self. It’s a little bit of a time-travel story, and he has to get his project back and set everything right. There’s bullys, there’s robots—what more could you want? And, of course, there’s school, too. Yuck!
Naru: I am loving The Dark Horse so far. When will the next chapter be out?
Paetsch: I am so glad that you are! It will be out whenever I get around to it, which in all honesty it’s on the back burner because of work and school. So, maybe spring 2016? Maybe. If any of your readers want to get it for free, they can using the code EH94X on Smashwords! You can include the link to the book, if you want. https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/427285
Naru: Ooh, I certainly will. You’ve said you were going to school to learn 3D animation. What kind of 3D work are you planning to do?
Paetsch: I am! I’m learning online via a German school. I really don’t know what I will end up doing with it! It’s something to add to my resume as a skill. I guess it depends on how talented I get with it! Like anything else, it takes time.
Naru: And finally, since I’m an anime blogger I have to ask this, what’s your favorite anime?
Paetsch: Probably Evangelion. Love the religious themes. Love the interpretation of the Bible stories. Cowboy Beebop and Slayers are great, too. But I also really like Urusei Yatsura. I love Lum. Maybe my favorite anime movie is either Howl’s Moving Castle or Urusei Yatsura Beautiful Dreamer. I dunno. I guess I like the old school stuff!
Naru: Jennifer, thank you very much for stopping by and having this chat with me. To those reading along, you can find her work at lmgcomic.com, along with links to her other works. Like her blog, comment on it, and subscribe to it for updates! You can also follow her on twitter @WrongDayToQuit !