Amanda El-Dweek’s daily comic strip, “Amanda the Great,” is a slice-of-life. Her life! It started appearing on the GoComics website in November, that’s when I first noticed it.
TOM: I noticed all the strips are in black and white, in this age of full color webcomics, why black and white? (which I like, just asking).
AMANDA: Two reasons: I like the look of the black and white contrast (I also use an ink wash for gray tones). The other thing is, coloring is kind of piddly work, and I’m unsure I’d ever get done with the strips if I had to color them!
The comics I read growing up were black and white (newspaper comics), and I always thought they were so singularly beautiful that way.
TOM: Are all the stories/adventures true to life? Did they all happen to you or are some fiction and just there for the enjoyment of readers?
AMANDA: The story is my real life, and the timeline starts about a year before my husband and I were married. (I drew the comics this past year, but they are set in late 2012/early 2013 so far.)
Most of the things I draw did actually happen – sometimes I have to paraphrase things, and sometimes I have to kind of re-format how things happened in order for it to make sense in a three-or-four-panel comic strip format. Some of it is verbatim because if it was something funny, I wrote it down in a notebook, which is fortunate because sometimes I am a poor historian.
But – all of the events are real, and the characters are real. (Except the alter-egos, natch.)
TOM: Is “Amanda the Great” created digitally? Or do you draw with pen and ink?
AMANDA: I create Amanda the Great using smooth Bristol paper, a pencil, ink, brushes, and a Kuretake brush pen for the letters. I use an ink wash for the gray scale. Then I dust off the cat hair and scan them in.
TOM: Who were/are your comic/cartoon influences?
AMANDA: My first comic book was a Garfield book, and I also read a lot of Archie comics – I really tried to emulate these two when I first started drawing (I was pretty young). When I was old enough to pay attention to the newspaper, my favorites were Cathy, Calvin & Hobbes, The Far Side, and Foxtrot. My grandma always had those Peanuts, B.C., and Wizard of Id paperbacks around, which I enjoyed. I think Luann was in a girls’ teen magazine when I was young, which is the first place I had seen it.
All of these different comics kind of shaped how I wanted to do things, and how I wrote comics when I was younger. They still do, to some degree.
I enjoy character development – I always liked how the characters aged in For Better or For Worse. They experienced things as we do – the circle of life, death of charcters (Farley!), et cetera.
I have read here and there that some cartoonists won’t read other comics because maybe they don’t want the impact on their own stuff, but I don’t know – I think we were all inspired early on by someone’s work.
TOM: Which comic strip, other than your own would you like to crawl into and visit for the day?
AMANDA: I’d love to be in a Cul de Sac or Wallace the Brave comic strip – they have such beautiful backgrounds! My comics lack this feature, usually – haha! They are so beautifully drawn and colored. I want big curly hair like Viola’s (Cul de Sac) – mine isn’t big enough.
TOM: How far ahead do you work?
AMANDA: I should be further along, but right now I have strips drawn through March, and possibly into April? I need to hustle more!
TOM: Who is the most famous person you have ever met?
AMANDA: If you mean in real life, I met Ron Campbell at an art gallery in Bismarck, North Dakota – he was an animator for the Yellow Submarine movie. I don’t have much opportunity to see famous folks where I live, so that was cool!
TOM: What song would be the theme of your life?
AMANDA: Oh boy, Tom. I’ve thought a lot about it, and I don’t know that I can come up with one. I think my themes sometimes change.
TOM: Biggest fear?
AMANDA: I think it’s a tie between spiders, and everything else.
TOM: Superpower if you had one?
AMANDA: It’s hard to pick just one, isn’t it? I’d like something akin to the Force, but I’d just be tempted to use it Dark Side-style once in a while, so I probably shouldn’t have it.
Thank you Amanda!
Images courtesy GoComics