Polished Boys, Blushing Boys: Savanna Ganucheau Talks ‘George and Johnny’ [Webcomic Q&A]
Two high school boys, two very different personalities — one, Johnny, is a black nail polish-wearing alternative "cool guy" who has been kicked out previous schools; the other, George, is a sensitive, shy, and socially shrinking boy who is (probably) dressed by his mom. On the first day of school, they're seated together. How will these disparate souls reconcile their—
Oh? They get along just fine? Refreshing! In Savanna Ganucheau's slice-of-life webcomic George and Johnny, the titular characters, though surface differences, become fast and affectionate friends as they navigate high school, band drama, and super queer thrift stores.
ComicsAlliance: What was the genesis for George and Johnny? And what genres and inspirations does it build from?
Savanna Ganucheau: Well George and Johnny started because I had these two characters I had no clue what to do with. The story I originally wrote for them was terrible and a bit like a soap opera. I showed it to a couple of friends and the consensus was that the character's motivations were questionable and those iterations of George and Johnny were not likable. So I decided to scrap it before I could do much more with it.
After I scrapped that version of the story, I didn't draw them for years. On a whim I redesigned them and absolutely fell in love with the redesigns. I've always been a fan of slice-of-life comics and the opposites attract trope. I love stories about people doing realistic things and wanted to make a comic like that. George and Johnny builds on slice of life manga, indie movies, and my personal experiences in high school.
CA: What’s it about?
SG: George and Johnny is about two high school boys who equally feel like outcasts coming together and finding comfort and friendship in each other.
CA: Who is the intended audience, and do you suggest any age restrictions or content warnings?
SG: Teen and up! There's some cursing in G&J, which is a result of my own potty mouth, but as of right now that's the only age restriction I can put on it. It's really quite innocent as of right now. In the future the rating won't raise, but it'll still be a hard Teen and up.
CA: What is it about slice-of-life storytelling that you find so appealing?
SG: I think I just like getting invested in characters. It's fun I guess! Also slice-of-life is a bit therapeutic for me. It helps me work through things that happened to me in the past or remember a mindset I use to have.
George and Johnny is interesting to write because it's so high school, and I've been removed from that part of my life for a while now. It's fun to try and get back into that mindset. I knew a lot less back then, and was trying out a lot of things. I just hope I'm able to convey that these boys aren't quite "cooked" yet.
CA: Johnny is described in the comic as a "Cool Guy." George would probably not describe himself as such. And yet the two become very fast friends, much to George’s surprise. Why, as characters, do you think the two hit it off so well, despite perceived social differences?
SG: It has a lot to do with Johnny's actions after their initial meeting. Despite George's lack of confidence, he's a very genuine, kind, and funny person. Johnny was very much drawn to him because of that.
From Johnny's perspective, he's in a brand new school and George is one of the first people he meets. George is quick to laugh with him, talk normally and doesn't pry when Johnny mentions that he got kicked out of his last school. Johnny finds something in George he realizes he needs after what happened at his previous school. He finds George very comforting and is keen to develop their friendship further.
George is surprised to find that this person who he finds interesting is also kind to him and enthusiastically trying to befriend him. Additionally, George finds Johnny's edge exciting, and Johnny is what he wishes he had the courage to be. Both boys equally look up to each other and find qualities in each other they wish they had.
CA: How has both your creative approach and the webcomic itself changed since inception?
SG: Oh man, it's changed so much. I look back at the first part and can't believe how different it's become. I really started George and Johnny as just something fun I could do on the weekends that was pure fluff, but the response was so overwhelming that I decided to write a full story for them. Part one looks so different because I thought they were just going to be simple strips. I'd really like to re-do it one day.
In addition, starting with part five, I changed the art style so that it was easier to produce. My schedule got very busy around that time, but I didn't want to quit doing G&J, so that was the compromise I made. I'd say the overall tone has changed as well, and has gotten more realistic as the parts continue.
CA: What drew you to webcomics and the platform you currently use?
SG: I've always loved doing webcomics. I really enjoy interacting with the people that read the comic and I've even changed major plot points when I saw the audience's reaction.
I decided to try Tapastic because the mobile format peaked my interest. I really enjoy the vertical format because it allows me to incorporate mandatory beats that the reader has to scroll through and creates breathing room. In a horizontal format those beats can be easily skipped, but the mobile format allows you to control the pacing more. It gives it a more cinematic feel.
CA: George and Johnny has over 26,000 followers on Tapastic and several hundred comments after every upload. What’s it like having that audience interaction? And you mention that it’s changed some plot points — is it ever overwhelming?
SG: Yeah, sometimes. I know I don't update as much as a probably should, and I always fear I let my fans down when I don't update every month. Unfortunately, I have other obligations and I only update when I have spare time.
Mostly it's amazing! I love talking to my fans and hearing what they think about an update. Sometimes people latch onto things I do not expect, which is frustrating but also funny in a way. For example, I unintentionally made Crystal look exactly like Misty from Pokemon in the most recent update... so that was half of the comments. Mostly people leave the sweetest comments and send me the nicest emails. I'm just so happy to hear people enjoy the comic.
CA: What’s your process like?
SG: I have all of G&J outlined from start to end, and it starts there. I usually will check the outline and make sure what I have written makes sense with the part I have previously drawn. The outline has the parts listed and all the events that I need to happen in that part. So, from there I'll write the script. My scripts are only for me so they are very unconventional. They're mostly dialogue with very vague actions and background notes.
Next, I'll do thumbnails and then pencils. Depending on how busy I am around the time I do G&J, I'll either just clean up the pencils or I'll ink it (look at the parts "Normal Days" vs "Nail Polish"). Finally I'll color it and letter.
Coloring is by far the step that takes me the longest. I've thought many times about changing G&J to monotone, but I feel like the colors in G&J are the only thing that makes it feel united as a whole piece.
CA: Could you talk about how you develop the fashion styles and wardrobes of each character? I’m a big fan of Johnny’s nail polish and overalls.
SG: For sure! I really enjoy coming up with looks for Johnny. My inspiration for Johnny's style comes from Lookbook, kpop idols, and Indie bands. His cute punky style is for sure my favorite. Johnny really enjoys fashion, so he's very willing to take risks. He's the easiest to dress out of all the characters because he shares my personal tastes.
The most challenging to dress is George. I've pretty much decided his mom dresses him. I'll often put him in something too stylish and have to change it. The key is boring but not ugly. I think the most stylish I've allowed him to look is in part nine. George likes light colors like corals and blues. Sometimes he tries to be stylish, but George feels uncomfortable wearing anything loud.
Then for the girls, originally Alice was going to dress in Gothic Lolita but I decided to give her a more modern goth look instead. The last remnant of Lolita-Alice is her hime hairstyle which is very Lolita. Her style is not an authentic goth style at all, but she strictly wears black. She's a bit into that pop-witch style that's popular right now.
Crystal's style is just your typical hipster, she wears mostly warm colors or neutrals, but will throw in a over the top focus piece (ex. giant hoop earrings, leopard print). Her up-do that I always draw her with is inspired by an old coworker of mine who would wear her hair like that. (She also played in a punk band funnily enough.) There's quite a few girls I've known that I pull inspiration from for Crystal. Crystal is the type of girl I always look up to and gravitate towards.
CA: Do you think self-publishing this story granted you freedom that you might not have had elsewhere?
SG: I did actually think about pitching G&J somewhere before I started it, but I wanted to be able to work on it at my own pace. I really enjoy working on George and Johnny, it's very personal to me. It's something I can work on regardless of anyone's input and is a bit of an escape for me.
CA: Which other webcomics would you recommend to readers who like yours?
SG: That's tough, and I wish I knew more webcomics. I would say, Check Please, Always Raining Here, Humor Me on Tapastic, and Long Exposure. They're all slice of life comics that have LGBT themes. I really wish I had more to recommend that I was sure my fans would enjoy, but my taste in webcomics is so wide it's hard to recommend one for sure.
If you have a webcomic you’d like to suggest for an upcoming Webcomic Q&A, send a tip to jonerikchristianson[at]gmail[dot]com with the subject line “Webcomic Q&A.”