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Something Positive: Interview with R.K. Milholland April 15, 2012


Something Positive: An Interview with R.K. Milholland
by Shaun Clayton

C2E2 2012 - Something Positive: Interview with R.K. MilhollandR.K. Milholland is the creator and artist behind Something Positive, a webcomic about life, love, and gelatinous cats in realistic story set around people in current times. It's not for children, because it also has incidents of raping Redneck Trees, Spanish midgets torn apart by teenage Catgirls, and musicals about Jesus where Mary Magdeline pole-dances. Since 2001 this comic has been gracing the pages of the Internet, and since 2004, Milholland has accomplished the rare feat of making a living off his comic, with income based off ad sales, merchandise, and donations from a few devoted fans. 16bit.com was very pleased to have this sit-down interview with Millholland at C2E2, on Sunday, the last day of the convention.

16bit.com: Are you enjoying your time in Chicago?

RK: Chicago's nice, the convention could be doing a little bit better for me, but it's okay.

16bit.com: Have people been nice?

RK: About 50/50, I'll be honest - I've done this con, this is my third year. The first two years have been really great, and this year it just seems there's a weird kinda vibe going on, a lot of people don't seem real thrilled - I don't know what's going on.

16bit.com: I saw that on at Twitter, you said someone already came up to you and told you "here's why I stopped reading the comic."

RK: Yeah, I had a couple people yesterday walk up, and one made a special trip to tell me why they don't like my comic, first thing of the day, which is just what you wanna hear when you're starting off - and I guess this person thought after they walked up and starting complaining at me that I was going to say "You know you're right, I'm going to change how I do all of my work, just for you, you one human being, who has never supported me... I'll revamp everything for you!" They seemed kinda disappointed that I didn't do that especially when I stared at them and after they were done, my other reply was "And?" I don't know what to do! What do you say to that when someone seeks you out to tell you why they hate you?

16bit.com: Why do you think people feel entitled to tell you that?

RK: I think people in general feel entitled, like they're owed something when they- it's a mentality of "Well, I read this so I'm supporting you," but it's not the same thing. I put the comic online for free, and I know a lot of people, you know, are just going to read it and just move on with their day, and that's cool and you accept that and it's unrealistic to think any other way. Someone reading my comic doesn't mean I owe them something, it just means they read my comic and um, it's really weird, but there are a lot of people that somehow think they deserve something, like "I follow you!" Well you know... and? What does that mean to me? You know? Then again, I know there are cartoonists who put their comics online and they are like "You read my comic, you owe me something." No, no one owes you shit, it doesn't work that way. Sorry, I'm in a weird ramble mode this morning.

16bit.com: No that's fine.

RK: Okay.

16bit.com: You've done this since 2004 for a living...

RK: Yeah.

16bit.com: ... and it's required a lot of work, So...

RK: Yes.

16bit.com: ... how many times have there been points that you've been like "fuck it, I'm not going to draw ever again," like "forget this?"

RK: Oh no, no, no, that's never happened.

16bit.com: That's never happened.

RK: No, I love my comic, my comic means the world to me. There have been times where I'm like "I don't know why I'm doing conventions" um, and there are certain things like "Well, I don't know why I thought doing that type of merch 'x' would have be good idea," but I never want to give up my comic and I never want to give up drawing.

16bit.com: So it's definitely something you have a passion for you would just do regardless of the money.

RK: I mean, yeah, at this point I kinda have to do it for the money, because I haven't had a day job since 2004, which kinda makes me unhirable. You know you reach that point that you realize that "Holy shit, I haven't had a boss, I haven't had any of this stuff... that makes kinda makes me worthless to workforce," but um, yeah, even if I could never quit my job, I would still be doing the comic. I would probably be doing it a lot less regularly.

16bit.com: I wanted to ask, what's a misconception you think people have about you and the comic?

RK: Most people walk up and after they've dealt with me they're like "I thought you would be a lot meaner," or "I didn't expect you to be nice." I mean, I'm not going to pretend I'm surprised by that, I do present myself as a very angry person, and I can get pretty angry, I can get pretty passionate about stuff, but most of that gets out in the comic and I'm done with it. But uh, most people are surprised when I refer to them as "Sir" or "Miss" or "Mrs" or I say "Thank you." I think there are people who expect they'll walk into the booth and I'll look at them, spit on the ground and punch them in the forehead but I don't. I do free sketches for people, and I try to treat people as well as they treat me. I'm a reactionary person, and also, a lot of the characters in my comic are reactionary - well, like Aubrey isn't, but you know, most of the characters are pretty reactionary and they react to the input they're given.

16bit.com: Are there any comics that you read on a regular basis? I know you are here with Girls With Slingshots and Questionable Content.

RK: I read both of them, I read Least I Could Do, I read Oglaf, Edible Dirt, Shortpacked!. There's a lot of comics I read, there's a lot of comics... I um, I don't read as many as I used to, but I'll sit down every few months or once a year and catch up to them in bulk, especially story-driven comics, it makes it easier.

16bit.com: Why don't you have a printed version of Something Positive?

RK: I have tried for years. The original problem was I couldn't find the original masters, or they got corrupted. I'm working on the book finally, but it's a slow process of re-creating a bunch of old strips, some of which I have the artwork for, some of which I don't. A lot of that developed into panic attacks like "Oh shit, no one's going to buy this!" Which is a stupid fear, someone will buy it, but there's always that paranoia. I'm working at Blind Ferret now and they're going to print it, so it will be out finally. I'm in the process, I'm slugging through, trying to find out how much bonus material I need to add, because I want there to be more than strips. So, fun times!

16bit.com: Understandable. Is the Choo-Choo Plush a big seller?

RK: It goes back and forth! Like on the website, it sells steadily but not huge, but then I'll go to some conventions, like Emerald City they sold out Saturday morning by 10:30am. Here [C2E2] they've been kinda... steady, but there's a lot of people who want them. They do really well, I was really impressed. People seem really happy with them. What surprises me at conventions, I sell a lot of them to families walking by, like the kids see them and they want them, which I'm like like "Maybe you should just never read my comic, ever. Cross that URL out." I usually warnthe parents "Hey, just so you should know, don't let your kid read my comic," and they're like "That's fine, but we'll read it."

Oh, so, the company that made the Choo-Choo Bear Plushes (Blind Ferret Entertainment), they're based out of Vancouver/Seattle/Austin sweet people, they did a great job, the dolls look amazing, but we had kinda trouble getting the head to look right. They got the bodies done in one go, but the original head they got the eyes were almost on each side, like a trout. I guess Seattle or Vancouver cats are more like horses? So we had to have the head redesigned, redesigned, the nose shrunk... after the fourth redesign, I said "Look you've got the body right already, why don't you make the bodies?" And they did! It took fourteen tries to get the head right, so somewhere in a factory in China, there was just a warehouse of cat bodies hanging on hooks. I really wanted them to send me a picture of that, it could have been my Christmas card, but apparently toy companies in China do not smile on pictures being taken in their warehouses. They really need to work on that, make it a little more friendly!

16bit.com: Do you have any other plans for making other physical things, more plushes?

RK: We've talked about doing other plushes, I want to make sure Blind Ferret makes all their money back first on this. I wouldn't mind doing Vanessa in her monster suit as a plush...

16bit.com: That sounds good!

RK: ... or the character Fluffmodeous, but he's a harder sell, because he really polarizes audiences. I actually wouldn't mind doing a Redneck Tree as a gaming miniature. I've been bugging Blind Ferret about that, getting some little D&D appropriate Redneck Trees, so you can really bring the plant violation into your game.

16bit.com: Related to that... If you could give a prize for creepiest fan art request what would it be?

RK: Fan art request? Um, I don't know. When people give me fan art, I've never really gotten creepy stuff. For the most part, I've been pretty lucky in that. I've had readers creepy in other ways, like the first year of my comic I had - I hope he doesn't read my comic anymore - but there was a guy who read my comic who found Choo-Choo Bear sexually attractive - and he felt it was a compliment to send me a webcam shot, a still, of him ejaculating on a computer monitor of a comic with Choo-Choo Bear in it. After that, you know... it's kinda hard to be upset about anything. You know, after that it's like "Oh, here's Claire's tits," - "Whatever." "Ooooh, I'm gettin' fucked by Avogadro!" - "Whatever, I don't care, not impressed! Not impressed at all."

16bit.com: Choo-Choo... that's really drawing a line.

RK: Yeah, you know, the thing is he's not even a Furry, he's not an anthropomorphic character.

16bit.com: He's a cat.

RK: It's a weird, uh don't know what that would be, and you know the guy sent it to me, in all seriousness, at a compliment - and you stare into that darkness for a little while and you're not even upset anymore. My brain has never really processed it, it just kinda said "Well that happened, REJECT. We're done." It's like people who've been through a traumatic experience and their brain tries to re-categorize a factual event they weren't actually at.

16bit.com: I personally moved from Arizona to Chicago to get out of the "southwestiness" of it all. What keeps you in Texas?

RK: I moved back to Texas in 2008, because a lot of my friends had left Boston, Boston was getting more expensive to live in, and I was paranoid the economy was about to collapse - well, turns out it was. The Southwest, where I live, Dallas, isn't the worst place. It's kind of where people who move to Texas tend to move to, because they know what Dallas is, so you get very nice mix of personalities and mentalities and it tends to be a lot more moderate than the rest of the state. I'm a moderate person, I'm not really that Liberal. There are certain things I'm very Conservative on, in terms in money, but I'm also pretty like "as long as you aren't hurting someone I don't give a shit what you are doing behind closed doors." It helps that I have family and I have friends there, and it's cheap to live there and there are people I know.

16bit.com: I guess I should ask if you like Austin at all.

RK: I like Austin, and I wouldn't mind living there, but there are certain parts of Austin I could not live in, because you have the parts where it is basically all the "Red-White-and-Blue bread-and-butter" Americans who you know "How dare you not blindly accept anything our party says!" Then you go two blocks down and it's just the other extreme of people who want to practice their Reiki on you and you know, "Oh my god you drink things with carbonation and corn syrup in it? You're killing bunnies!" I can't take it, I just wanna light them all on fire. Just round them up and shoot one bullet, shoot just one bullet, waste only one bullet, Line them up- wow, that's going to look good in print isn't it? Uhh, I will say Austin has some of the best comic shops I have ever been to.

16bit.com: Any names?

RK: Dragon's Lair is one, it's an amazing comic shop. Every year we've been doing Webcomic Rampage. Danielle, Jeff, I, Dave Willis, Joel Watson from Hijinks Ensue and a few other people. Last year, Cyanide and Happiness and Perry Bible Fellowship showed up. So we hang out for a few days, do sellings, do signings, do Q&As. There's another one, I can't remember the name! But it is on the same street as the Dragon's Lair, their north location. [I believe he is referring to Austin Books & Comics - SC] They actually have two locations, one's their main building which has amazing back issues, and a block down the street they have a second location, which is all the stuff they are trying to get rid of. So it's an outlet store, basically of their comics. So I love that, I love a town where I can go through and just spend two days comic book shopping.

16bit.com: Well, that is all. Thank you Randy for taking the time to talk to us.

RK: You're welcome.

--Interview, photography by Shaun Clayton

Additional Images

C2E2 2012 - Something Positive: Interview with R.K. Milholland C2E2 2012 - Something Positive: Interview with R.K. Milholland
C2E2 2012 - Something Positive: Interview with R.K. Milholland

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