On Saturday afternoon, I had the opportunity to interview Phil Kahn and T. Campbell about their webcomic, Guilded Age. They debuted the first volume of the book at Intervention. Below is a rough transcript of our conversation.
What is Guilded Age? How did it get started?
Phil Kahn: Guilded Age is a comic inspired by MMORPGs. You could call it the saga of the working-class adventurer, or a re-invented fantasy.
T. has a lot of history in comics, and came to me with a serious case of Penny Arcade envy. We thought we should be doing something more targeted towards the pleasure centers of the video gamer. We tinkered around a lot and came up with Guilded Age.
It originally started as a WoW riff, but then D&D elements also got integrated. I was in my ending days of WoW at the time (guild drama), but on the RP server where I played (Sentinel), each of our characters had their own history.
I wanted to immortalize the stories of their adventures, but at the same time didn’t want it to be just another WoW parody comic. We wanted to come up with our own universe that we could perhaps make our own game out of some day.
Despite killing them a lot, we care about our characters.
What got you into webcomics?
T. Campbell: I’ve done a lot of webcomics, with Fans being my first. However, Guilded Age is the comic we’re promoting at Intervention.
Webcomics are way cheaper than print comics. There’s no printing or distribution costs. You only need to jump to print when you have a big enough audience to support a book.
Phil Kahn: We also like the pay-what-you-want model. It’s sort of a new trend in online business – offering the content for free, and the people who really like it will pay.
What do you think distinguishes your comic from some of the other online comics out there?
Phil Kahn: We have a story-based comic, as opposed to some of the one-shot gag comics out there.
Having a story-based comic is really playing the long game. You tend to have less of an audience than one-shot comics, but your audience is much more invested in the story, and by extension, more likely to buy things.
Tell me more about Volume 1 of Guilded Age, which you’re selling at Intervention.
T. Campbell: Guilded Age is Phil’s first published book. He financed it himself, put it together himself. We’re really debuting it at Intervention. The book is selling well.
Any advice for aspiring webcomic artists?
Phil Kahn: You need to have perseverance and tenacity. You also have to get in touch with your inner huckster. No one is going to sell your book for you; you need to take responsibility for your own business. If it’s a hobby, there are no rules. But if you want to make money, you need to treat it like a job. You need to make your own opportunities, while keeping an eye out for others. As long as you keep working towards your goals, you’ll eventually get there.
T. Campbell: It pays off to pay attention to what others are doing. But also be willing to listen to yourself.
Phil Kahn: Also, find a designated second opinion. We have a three-person crew for disputes that can’t be resolved. Get an editor – one who is able to tell you if you suck. Maintain humility. Don’t take praise too highly or criticism too negatively. People are always going to have opinions. Take them into consideration, but stick to your guns.
Anyone is welcome to e-mail me for advice.
Anything else you would like to plug while you’re here?
T. Campbell: Super Art Fight. Phil got a chance to do it last night. There’s a show tonight [Saturday] at 10:30pm. It’s 2 artists, a giant canvas, and random topics. Drawing on the other person’s art is encouraged.
Phil Kahn: And read Guilded Age!
Congrats to Phil and T. on the debut if their book, and I wish them much success with the future of Guilded Age!