Q: How did all this start?
A: Well, millions of years ago...
Q: No, the comic!
A: Oh. Well, that's all the fault of one Leah Abrams. Yes, it's a lot of responsibility to lay at the feet of an 8 month old child, but if she hadn't been born when she had, Pete Abrams wouldn't have taken a break from Sluggy Freelance, Jeffrey T. Darlington would not have been part of that group of artists writing the two week Sluggy filler material, and Selena Ulrich would never have read the GPF archives all the way through and thought 'Ooh, wish I could write something like that!'. Of course, soon after she was lured into the world of Keenspot and became hooked there, but it was reading GPF where it all started...
Q: So how did this idea develop?
A: Kind of slow but also fast. Originally (*very* originally) this strip was going to be set in the teaching departments of a university, with none of the characters you see here, except for Carla, and possibly Caroline. Then the writer realised she couldn't write about the teaching departments of a university because she had never worked in one. In fact, there was very little she *did* have experience in. The last time she tried to write anything (first novel, needs serious re-editing), a friend of hers tore it to pieces for lack of research and assuming such things as, for example, maverick detective novels and 'The Bill' are a good foundation for writing police characters.
And then it hit her.
She didn't have much experience of life, but she *did* have experience of how it gets portrayed in the media. Or rather, 'I don't have a life but I've played one on TV'. And it struck her how much of a discrepancy there is between the media image and the real thing. Especially of cultures. *Especially* of America...
From there came the central idea. Take the way things are portrayed in the media and poke holes in it. Compare television-fuelled expectations with real-life experiences, and turn the volume up to 10. Throw in lots of stuff regarding society's attitude to the disabled, the queer community, women, men, aliens...and voila, a world in which the writer could play out her little stories for your delight and amusement.
At least, I *hope* those noises are delight and amusement.
Q: How long will C.Ulture Shocked run?
A: Until it kills us, which may be pretty soon. OK, the writer has a scope for a three year run, but there are more stories she might want to tell in the meantime. This is all rather spoilt, however, by the fact that setting up a daily comic takes *time*, and that's something we both have to fight for. So for now the schedule is Monday, Wednesday and Friday, with maybe the occasional Sunday when vital to the plot or I'm bored. However, that may be reduced at a moments notice - a fact that would disappoint us but hey, it's not like we expect many people to be interested in this (subliminal hint: prove me wrong!)
Q: Why did the style suddenly change after the first six
months? Why was it so sucky back then?
A: To answer the part of your question that was not totally insulting, the strip was originally drawn by Selena, but she soon realised she couldn't keep it up because she started her first serious career and was tired in the evenings, and frankly can't really draw. Plus she never had the time to improve. So she put the whole thing on hiatus for two months and went to look for a cartoonist. Quite quickly she found Jo, who had been directed here and become a fan thanks to a link on a Buffy the Vampire Slayer web site (thus proving that Buffy has to be considered as one of the most bizarrely cross-everything phenomena of our time). Jo sent an interpretation of an earlier strip to Selena, Selena was amazed beyond all description (not only was it damn good, it wasn't in style derived from manga at all!), Selena offered Jo the job of cartoonist, Jo accepted, and so the partnership has continued.
Q: OK, but *why* did the art of the first six months suck so badly?
A: (sigh) SELENA CAN'T DRAW! OK? Happy now?
Q: Why do you seem to have something against manga?
A: I don't have *anything* against it. OK, I don't *get* a lot of the tales that are told and I find the style leaves me rather cold when it comes to appreciating a work. But I've nothing genuinely *against* it, I'm just tired of all those people out there who think that drawing in a manga style is enough to produce a good strip, or that manga is the epitome of comic styles. My only reply to people like that is go check out Tonja Steele, Clan of the Cats and Living in Greytown for strips that don't.
Q: Uh, actually, Living in Greytown arguably *is* influenced by manga, you can see it in...
A: Just end there and go and we'll all be happy.