JoJo Seames Tells the Tale of a Dirtbag and a Bunny Rabbit in ‘The Makeshift Man’ [Back Pages]
Violent, profane, and never without his talking bunny rabbit best friend, Elvis, The Makeshift Man is a misanthrope with a gift for getting into trouble. Created by JoJo Seames, the character is the star of his eponymous horor comedy webcomic, which has been running since 2009. The series is gradually being collected in print, and Seames has taken to Kickstarter to fund the fourth issue of the story, "The Man in the Mirror." Seames is a manic, wildly entertaining cartoonist, and she was happy to talk to ComicsAlliance to tell us more about the project.
ComicsAlliance: What’s The Makeshift Man about?
JoJo Seames: The Makeshift Man is a magical, misanthropic dirtbag who lives in a van with his jackalope sidekick, Elvis. They drive around and solve mysteries, fight monsters, and get up to so much no good. Each issue is a complete, stand-alone story with a new misadventure, with art painted entirely in watercolor.
CA: What was the genesis of The Makeshift Man? How long have you wanted to get this comic up and running?
JS: I started creating this whole mess in 2009, and the first issue was first printed in 2010. I'd originally sat down to write a one-shot western, but then things evolved in a more supernatural way, and with a (mostly) modern, real-world setting. I've spent my life moving around the western half of the United States, so that's where most of the stories take place.
Those hundreds of miles of open highway hold those same lonely, romantic qualities for me that you'd find in a western, and there's still this element that the main character is a rootless perpetual stranger.
CA: What was it about this story which made you want to tell it?
JS: Everything about this series was designed to just make the perfect comic for myself, the one I would most want to read; it's my opportunity to be completely selfish. The short-story format is a fun writing challenge, and affords me so much opportunity to experiment and try new things. From issue to issue I can change up story genre, location, and even time period, since my main character is immortal. I never have to get bored with what I'm doing, ha ha!
And this is very much a synthesis of things I love... nature, travel, history, monsters... and it's all about a scuzzbucket criminal-type and a bunny rabbit, two dummies I'll never get tired of drawing. Their relationship is the real heart of the story. There's not much that affects me more than a narrative about friendship, and platonic male-female relationships seem to be pretty few and far between out there. So it's about that. It's about having a lot of feelings and being kind of terrible at expressing them, internalizing all your nonsense, and...maybe you don't have to do that anymore?
CA: There are a mix of styles and influences on your story; how do you balance the horror and comedy?
JS: Ah hah hah... Well, that might start to make sense if you know that my most major writing influences are probably David Lynch, and Joel and Ethan Coen? I love juxtaposing different moods and elements into one thing. I think humorous characterization is essential in getting anyone to care about these characters, especially since MM is a pretty unsympathetic guy.
Horror elements can be more effective if they're disparate pieces in a narrative, something weird and out of place in a setting that doesn't seem to support them. And humor can be funnier if it's suddenly, unexpectedly cutting the tension of waiting for something awful to happen. The world is full of so many just absolutely terrifying things, but also it's completely absurd, and sometimes those are going on at the same time.
CA: How have you found writing, drawing, and structuring an ongoing storyline online? Does telling this as a webcomic change the way you approach how the narrative works?
JS: I'm really writing for the experience of reading the printed book. Putting it up as a webcomic is something of a compromise in the interest of just allowing more people the chance to read it in the first place. I make sure that each page will make sense distinct from the others, with no sentences of dialogue being broken up over different pages, and that each page has some kind of point to itself, but the pacing and rhythm is designed with the idea that the reader is sitting down with an entire issue at one go, with panel layouts and page-turns factored in.
I get excited about the-book-as-object as an art in itself. But hey, hey, go read it for free as it rolls out on the web, too! I won't complain if you wanna read my comic twice.
CA: Why take The Makeshift Man to Kickstarter?
JS: Kickstarter is great for comics! I've backed about thirty different comic crowdfunding campaigns myself. It allows independent creators like me to have the financial freedom to make exactly the books we want, with the designs and materials we prefer, and to bypass the need for a traditional publisher who --- for whatever reason --- might not be interested in a comic that's kind of out of the ordinary.
Maybe the audience is small, but they can still have access to that book that resonates with them, and the creator doesn't need to already be independently wealthy to fund the print run. It's good for everyone.
CA: What stage are you at with issue #4? How much have you already completed?
JS: It's done. It's entirely done. I'm already working on issue #5.
CA: Should you achieve your goal, what’s your estimated delivery on the final comic?
JS: The only thing that needs to get done is the physical printing, so I should be able to do a pretty quick turn-around for folks, and have them shipping out in late June, early July, with the get-an-original-drawing reward tiers going out in August or September, depending on how many there end up being!
The Makeshift Man will run on Kickstarter until 23 May 2015, looking for a target of $2800. You can find more from JoJo Seames on her website.