Today’s Webcomic Creator Corner is with Phil Chan and Joe Dunn, founders of the popular site DIGITAL PIMP ONLINE.

Phil and Joe, give us a little of your background. What’s your secret
origin story?

Phil: So back in 1985… or was it 86? Sometime in the 80s. My family had
moved to South Jersey and I was starting the second grade in a new school.
One day, a kid came up to me during recess and asked me if I wanted to
play He-Man. I did the only sensible thing and ran away. Fast. That kid
was Joe.

And we’ve been friends ever since.

Phil Chan

Joe: Look, what you have to realize is that He-Man was HUGe back then.
So huge that we should have been making comics about him not Spider-Man.
Okay he was never that huge but I was all abut him in second grade.

Joe Dunn

Phil: Yeah, we totally did the thing where we made our own crappy comics
starring Spider-man and the Hulk thinking they were awesome.

Joe: It wasn’t really until 6th grade that I started reading comics. Phil
and I had pretty much been best friends for those 4 years but once we were
both collecting comics and dreaming about superheroes battling for justice
we were officially bros for life… as douchey as that sounds…

Phil: Can 6th graders be douchey? I guess they can, can’t they? Anyway,
we eventually started telling our own stories with our own characters in
high school but none of those were ever finished. Eventually, we just
decided to jump in head first and print up our own anthology.

Joe: Starting up our own stuff was inevitable.

Digital Pimp launched in 2003. Was the original plan always to start a
webcomic site?

Phil: I’m not even sure we knew what webcomics were back then. At least,
I didn’t. Really, the only reason we put up comics on the site was to
keep us producing new work. We originally wanted to produce print comics
with the webcomics generating a fanbase for our work, but in the end, the
webcomics were what we devoted most of our time to.

The Digital Pimp

Joe: It’s weird the way the webcomics took over. They were very much
planned as just a side project but if you spend enough time with the same
characters exploring their world the you start to like them and you want
to explore things even further. It’s the nature of things I suppose.

There are some of those original stories we dreamt up for traditional
print that I’d love to tell some day but I have no regrets with the works
we’ve done.

Joe Loves Crappy Movies is hysterical. How did that idea come about?

Joe: I was at a point where I was just watching and discussing movies
with people on a regular basis. I’d become obsessed with analyzing themes
character and storytelling but also poking fun at them. Doing the comic,
which is accompanied by a review for each featured movie, offered a much
needed outlet.

Joe Loves Crappy Movies

Matriculated is about the college experience. What was the genesis for
this comic?

Phil: The first Matriculated story I wrote was for the first issue of our
anthology, Tales from the Pimp. The story itself was about the characters
going to the movies and trying to decide what movie to watch. I’m not
sure why we decided they would be in college, maybe except for the fact
that I think both Joe and I watched a lot of movies in college.

But I enjoyed writing the characters and dialogue so much that when we
were trying to figure out what strips were going to run on the website,
Matriculated felt like a good counterpoint to the wackiness of Free Lunch.

Joe: Yeah I remember it happen very organically. We were trying to find
something that would feel comfortable and natural, which in retrospect was
a good idea since most webcomics have a very awkward learning curve trying
to find themselves and develop the characters and the mission statement or
whatever… It seemed like a great idea to just use these characters that
Phil had just spent all this time developing. He knew them so that would
help the writing and make the process that much smoother.

We didn’t avoid the awkward learning curve but I like to think we settled
in nicely.

You changed the format of Matriculated from regular comic size to
landscape. What was the reasoning for this change?

Phil: The first two strips in Matriculated were actually printed in a
minicomic that we gave out for free to get people to come to the site.
So I think the portrait orientation for those two felt more natural in a regular

Matriculated Comic Size Format

I think we always envisioned the comic on the site to be landscape. Fun
fact, I believe the fourth strip on the site is actually the first
Matriculated strip that I wrote! We kind of backfilled the other strips
to coincide with things going on at the site.

Joe: Yeah early on we had no idea what we were doing and if you notice the
first few strips go through massive layout changes. It was about finding
a comfort zone for me to draw at, to be able to tell the story with, as
well as something that would look great on the site.

Matriculated Landscape Format

Phil: But we’re actually going to return to the regular comic proportion
for a little bit in a few months. We did a Matriculated story for the Reading
with Pictures charity anthology ( which is
in Previews now and is scheduled for release sometime in August.

Joe: You see that? How he drops the plug in so naturally. Such a pimp.

Tell us about Irvsher Fabor and Kevin Gleason. What are their roles in the

Phil: Irv is Joe’s friend from college. He periodically does a strip on
the site called Fish Tank Tango. He also comes out to the conventions
with us and helps run the table.

Kevin is a guy we met way back at one of the first cons we did. Joe
actually showed me his minicomic at the con and I was really impressed
with the writing. He had a comic on his own site called Adventures in
Retail. When that site went down, we offered him a spot on our site and
he changed the name to Retail Rage. Kevin’s been busy with his new
project, his son who just turned a year old this month.

Joe: What’s been great with Kevin is seeing his skills as an artist rise
to meet his skills as a writer. We were both really blown away with the
kinds of stories he was able to tell but to see him develop as a
cartoonist has been a real treat.

Part of Digital Pimp is about bringing together a good community of
like-minded creators but also people we trust and love. I’d like to think
that the comics have not only kept us close friends but also strengthened
that bond. See? It’s the magic of comics…

Will we see more Free Lunch strips?

Joe: I’d like to say “Yes!” but the real answers isn’t so sure or
enthusiastic. Free Lunch is the first strip I worked on with the site and
it had a good long run. It helped to build the site and to build me as a
creator. I love the characters, I miss Fred the food critic a great deal,
and I still have stories I’d love to tell. Do I have time to tell them?
Not so much right now but maybe someday. Hopefully.

Free Lunch is a good lesson though in that you can do a comic about
anything. Most comics have their niche or their high concept that the
jokes revolve around and for Free Lunch it’s food. I never thought I’d be
able to sustain a comic about eating but if you look for it, if you put
yourself into it you can find humor in everything.

Free Lunch

Phil: Yeah, it’s actually one of the opportunities that webcomics affords.
You can do a webcomic about whatever you want because there’s no one
telling you “no” and there’s very little risk. You couldn’t do that with
traditional print comics. Unless you were very lucky, you’d probably end
up spending a lot of cash before you found your audience.

Some nuts and bolts questions: For the new webcomic creator out there,
what’s the one thing you’d tell them to do and the one bad thing you tell
them to avoid when creating their own webcomic?

Phil: I’m a big believer in making a schedule and sticking with it. Don’t
promise more strips than you can handle. If you can only manage a strip a
week, do that. Don’t say you’re going to update every day if you can’t.
Because readers are creatures of habit. If there’s nothing new on the
site when you promise there will be, they might decide not to come back.

I’m not sure what I’d avoid though…

Joe: Avoid being mean maybe? Because we’re doing this online it offers
the readers a way to contact you pretty much immediately. Be polite.
Even if they’re being mean to you. No good will come from being a jerk
and people will respect you more for taking the high road.

Give us the stats Phil and Joe! What’s your hits like on Digital Pimp?
Where are most of the hits coming from?

Phil: I’m not entirely sure. I don’t really pay attention to our numbers
that much. But I think we normally average about 10k unique visitors a
day? That can go up or down depending on what’s going on elsewhere. A
weekend is generally less because we don’t update on the weekends and
people reading our strips at work is our bread and butter.

But we do a relatively new video game webcomic called Another Videogame
Webcomic that’s featured on the video game news site, Joystiq, from time
to time. We do get a bump in traffic from that when it’s featured.

Joe: Yeah those videogame fans love to follow links. Part of the reason
we started that strip was as an outlet for Phil’s passionate love of
controlling creatures on a TV screen but the other reason was a conscious
maneuver to reach out to a very specific fan base. The title Another
Videogame Webcomic is very tongue-in-cheek. We know there are a lot out
there and we know there are a lot of people that read them. We’re just
another one. I think Phil came up with a great spin though.

Phil: It’s basically what I like to call “Tron meets Office Space”. A
workplace comedy about working in videogames, but not like programming or
art design. More like what if it were your job was to be Mario and save
Princess Peach from Bowser.

But back to our traffic, it amazes me sometimes where our hits come from
geographically. They come from all over the world. We’ve got fans in a
lot of countries around the world. From places as far away as Australia
to my own backyard. A couple weeks ago, I was in my local comic book shop
and a guy walked in wearing one of our shirts. He didn’t know who I was
and I didn’t make it a point to tell him. But if anything, that’s a
microcosm of webcomics right there.

We thank Phil and Joe for their time. Make sure to check out DIGITAL PIMP ONLINE for all the webcomic goodess!