Every now and then, a mini-comic comes along that is so wonderful, we have to write about it twice in a week. Such is the case with Jim Rugg's "Rambo 3.5" which won an Ignatz for Outstanding Mini-Comic this past weekend at the Small Press Expo (on the anniversary of September 11th, no less).

Jim was nice enough to speak with us and to let us reprint to comic in its entirety.

ComicsAlliance: Was it weird winning the award for a comic about 9/11 on the anniversary of 9/11?

Jim Rugg: September 11th is an unusual coincidence. With the Koran burning in Florida and anti-Muslim sentiments raging over the proposed mosque near Ground Zero, I did worry that people would misinterpret the comic to be some kind of anti-Muslim statement. That was not my intention, but the timing gave me a little pause. Fortunately, that did not turn out to be an issue.CA: How did it feel winning the award? Anyone you want to thank you didn't get a chance to?

RUGG: It felt great to win the award. I'm fairly hard on my own work and did not expect to win to the extent that I was embarrassingly ill-prepared to accept the award. So thanks for this outlet to be a little more gracious. I started making comics in 2000. My second comics show ever was SPX (Small Press Expo) that year. I had no real exposure to mini-comics and was just amazed by the amount of beautiful mini-comics at SPX. I came home with a large box full of mini-comics and started making my own immediately after that show. I spent the next few years making mini-comics. So winning this award is like a dream come true. I'm very grateful to the visionary people who started SPX and guided it through the late 90s/early 00s. That was a difficult period for comics, following the collapse of all of the comics distributors (except Diamond in the late 90s). I think without SPX, the current comics landscape would look significantly different than it does now. They deserve a lot of praise. I also feel in debt to so many cartoonists who have inspired and influenced my work, as well as many who have taken time to give me feedback and encouragement. I don't want to name individuals because there are so many and I'm sure I would forget some. But the industry is a small one, and I know I have benefited from the community aspects of comics immensely. Finally, the people who read my work and share it with others. Thank you.

CA: Have there been any negative reactions to the comic? Any particularly funny ones?

RUGG: The comic was posted on Aintitcool, and the comments included, "Was that written by a kid with ADD who was on crack? Whatever, it was still pretty awesome..." followed by, "lib fags love their Bush bashing". Mostly the response I've heard has been positive. Most of the negative response is based on a reading where Rambo 3.5 is a criticism of President Bush. I didn't really intend it to be that. To me it's more about things like "G.I. Joe" cartoons introducing me to the term "terrorism" then watching the media go crazy with the term 20 years later. If it's a criticism of President Bush, I can see how one would find it lacking.

One of the interesting comments I've heard is from people who may be coming at the work as a fan of "Afrodisiac" or my work on "The Guild" and not as someone knowledgeable about indie/small press/art comics. What I've heard a few times is surprise about pencil lines being visible. I take that for granted cause I'm a printing junkie, and the ability to reproduce pencil has captured my imagination over the last 10 years or so. But then I hear other people respond to it, and I realize that's an unusual phenomenon for someone who doesn't focus their OCD on printing and scanning samples and processes. So weirdly that's some of the feedback that I've been processing.

CA: What inspired the comic?

RUGG: I had a little free time after I finished up "The Guild." I had been thinking about "Rambo III" and its connection to the Taliban for a long time. So I started drawing and it just happened. In terms of process, I usually start with a very, very tight script. I'd like to do more comics that are written and drawn at the same time, but that is a struggle for me. So this was a chance to experiment with my process. As a result, I've been completely overwhelmed by the response it has gotten.

Warning, NSFW language lies ahead.

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