Webcomic Week! February 19-23


20 Questions with MegaTokyo
By Kevin Weiser

 

Megatokyo is the overnight success story of the comic world. When they hit the scene last summer it was quite an event, and they've been going strong over since. Through all the fame and fortune, (ha!) Largo and Piro have remained amazingly mellow and down to earth guys. If you enjoy anime, gaming, and anything remotely involving Japanese pop-culture, you owe it to yourself to check out Megatokyo. One small note, this interview was conducted before Christmas, and before webcomic week had fully developed. If things are a bit out of order, that's why.

1: What possessed you to start a webcomic? Where did you get the name?

Largo: Everyone else had a comic, we thought - why not start one? … as for the name, I've owned this domain for awhile, not really doing much with it, so we used it for the comic's name.

Piro: Very true. The Slashdot look-a-like you had up for a while wasn't cutting it.

Like I've said before, it's all Largo's fault. I didn't think I could really do a comic. I never considered it. For one thing, it wasn't really the ideal medium for the stuff I liked to do. Secondly, I can't draw worth crap. It's only recently that I feel somewhat confident drawing hands, torsos, etc, with any kind of regularity. Secondly, blocking 4 to 5 hrs of time, three days a week, out of your evenings (when you typically get home at 7:30 pm) was another thing I wasn't really sure about.

I finally agreed to try creating a comic just to get him to shut the hell up. He's owned the 'megatokyo' domain for ages, and up till recently it was little more than a linux box in his apartment that a group of us abused as a unix shell and ftp site. The old MT box was a quirky beast… Largo liked to play with the OS a lot, which led to a lot of instability. This instability didn't surprise any of us, of course.

And the name? "Hey, how about Megatokyo? I own the domain for it." "Sure, what the hell." Of course, now we have deep, philosophical meanings behind the name - remind me to look them up sometime, I wrote it down somewhere…


2: What thoughts and influences went into the creation of the characters? Who, if anyone, are they based off of?

Piro: Well, other than being the product of my somewhat demented bent on things, the characters are a mix and match of different people and personalities both in real life and in fictional characters. The idea is that there is a level of realism to the MT universe, but that it can be peppered with things that don't make any sense at all (ala Excel Saga or FLCL).

The trick is the contrast. I like to put things together that you don't think go together, but for some reason they do. I can see a version of "Alice" with Hello Kitty playing lead - wouldn't that kick ass? Real life is like that. Why should our entertainment be any different? People need to stop pretending that they aren't mental cases, and get on with life and the insanity that it really is. Don't get so worked up about the fact that it's nuts. It's nuts for everyone, and its ok.

The girls; Erika, Kimiko, Yuki, Ping and all the rest are supposed to be representational of all the different things about female characters in anime and games that drives us crazy, good and bad. And just to be evil, we've added a bit of realism to them as well. They aren't going to behave like the ideal girls you find in various dating simulation games. Seraphim is a character that is based on my girlfriend, Sarah, and she has about as much trouble with me as Seraphim has with Piro. Personality is important to a character. Its part of who they are, so you have to be consistent about it.

As for people like Dom and Ed. That's what they are really like. No need to exaggerate those two. They scare me.

Largo: Um, like… what he said.

Piro: Who are you again?

3: Has there ever been anything that you wanted to print but didn't?

Largo: Many things, many… evil… things

Piro: Yea. Any script that Largo comes up with. I glad he lives far far away…

Seriously, not really, not yet. I don't think we feel the need to resort to outright fan service (nudity, panty shots, etc) or excessive blood or gore to get our points across. I think the more subtle jokes are funnier anyway. However, if we ever feel the need to push the edge, we will. A good number of our audience is younger than 18, so we do feel a little responsibility to behave, but at the same time we aren't going to treat anyone like kids. We've never had a 'gee, we need to tone this down' conversation.

Even so, I'm sure we'll be in trouble with a half dozen government agencies before summe.

And as far as beefcake or more revealing drawings of the characters - I like to look at it this way: I want to respect the privacy of the characters. If you give them personalities, feelings, and realistic qualities, I just don't like the idea of violating their privacy. I'd mentioned this before in a rant. Not long after that, received a really sweet fanart of Kimiko-chan by Sam Brown that was accompanied by the comment "I will admit I was originally intending a swimsuit … but after reading your little missive about respecting characters privacy, I toned things down a bit..." That really meant a lot to me. It's one thing when I respect the characters, but when others do too… that means we are doin a pretty good job of of building respectable characters.

I think that restraint only leads to better characters and story. Not because someone is making us, but because it's our choice.

Largo: To this day I wonder what the reaction would have been had we went ahead with original script for the vending machine strip.

Piro: oh, yea, that one. You are a bad man. You know that, don't you?

4: have you ever used your comic for less than moral purposes?

Largo: Comics have moral purposes?

Piro: Oh boy… well, heheh… this does bring up a little quandary I have been having with myself lately. Having never figured that anything I do would ever HAVE fans, it's never really been an issue before…

I've often had an issue with the way Gainax uses and abuses fans with it's productions (Evangelion, KareKano, etc). The evil bastards are SO GOOD at creating characters that people develop strong feelings for, then beating the hell out of them in ways that seriously affect the fans. Any Asuka fan like myself will tell you, Evangelion is an emotional roller coaster that can seriously depress you.

Having rallied against this kind of 'fan abuse' as I call it, I'd vowed to never treat my fans that way. Never would I create characters then abuse them in ways that hurt the fans. I don't want people to be traumatized by what happens to the characters. I DO want people to become emotionally committed to the characters. That puts a lot of responsibility on our shoulders.

So, er, uhm, if anything bad happens, it's like Largo's fault. He's the insensitive one. Yea.


5: Does your comic get you chicks?

Largo: Only if your name is Gabe or Tycho Brahe.

Piro: Actually, the comic has more of a chance of resulting in the loss of the 'hot chick' I already have. Luckily, Sarah is very supportive of the project, though I have heard her grumble the term 'Comic Geek Widow' before. I need to develop a 'Seraphim kidnapped Piro, so no comic today' graphic…


6: How important is good art to a web comic?


Piro: Well, looking at how well Megatokyo has done, and how much the art sucks, it must not really be that important. I think that creating good characters, good story, and something that flows well is paramount. The art has to serve the story. It helps, I think, when you get the expression just right, or the composition just enforces the joke - so in that way, yes, the art is important. But it doesn't have to be complicated. In fact, the clearer it is, the better. The whole idea is to communicate with the reader via text and images - they have to work together.

Largo: I'd comment on this, but Piro would throw a brick at my face.


7: What's your pick for king of the Christmas crop of games?

Largo: Well, I love Mechwarrior 4, but I can't pick with total certainty what is going to really click with the general public and be this year's big seller. I'd have to guess it will be toss up between Quake Team Arena and American McGee's Alice.

Piro: Easy. True Love Story 3. The only problem is, it's not going to be out until March. And I need a Japanese PS2 to play it, which I do not have yet. I'm sure that when I finally do nail these down, I will disappear for a month or two.

Largo: Like people are going to care about your silly import games.

Piro: Oh, your big ugly mechs scare me. Look, I'm shaking all over.


8: For webcomic week, we're interviewing 10 webcomics. Tell us what you think about each of the other comics: (Piro didn't get a chance to review the last few additions to webcomic week. Sorry about that, but I assure you it's not because he's snubbing them or anything. -Kev)

Pentasmal

Piro: I haven't read this one before. Looks a lot like a single panel salaryman comic.

Rusty Shrapnel

Piro: Once again, a comic I have not read before - but I have to say it's got some appeal to it. The designs for the girls are simple, but have quite a bit of attitude. I liked it.

Largo. Hey. Wake up, dumbass…

Largo: Yea, whatever.

Exploitation now

Piro: I enjoy Exploitation Now. I try to read it when Seraphim isn't looking. It's a lot of fun. Poe rocks. I just want to take poor Jordan in and protect her and… er… (ahem)

Largo: Poe is a genius. This strip is one of my absolute favs.


Polymer City

Largo: This comic is stacked. Pun intended.

Piro: Largo keeps badgering me to draw the girls bigger. He uses strips like Polymer City to try to make a case for it. I continue to ignore him.

Angst Technology

Largo: It has more technology then angst, he needs to listen to the American McGee soundtrack some more.

Piro: Dante cracks me up, and makes me wanna put a gotte' on Largo.

JeffK!!!!

Largo: This guy scares me... no, really.

Demise Comics

Largo: Demise is awesome work, it's creator takes a lot of chances that
and trys new stuff on a regular basis in his strip.

Lethal Doses

Largo: Lem/Soup is a great guy who produces great work. I read his
strip whenever it updates. Soup is always good for a laugh.

Little Gamers

Largo: Lil G' is another great strip, at first I thought it was going to be a super deformed version of penny-arcade but after reading a few strips I realized that this was in fact - warped beyond all recognition. Seriously tho, I love this strip.

9: Any comments on the Bluesnews redesign?

Largo: It still has a lot of blue in it.

Piro: Funny you should mention Blues… several years ago when I was designing the first iteration of fredart, Blues News was a big influence. I like the new version, it needed an update, and really, it's a text driven site - graphics would just get in the way. For a long time I wanted to build a website like Blue's News, but I could never build enough news content. I had to settle for posting my crappy drawings instead. Oh well.

10: Xbox: hype or hot shit?

Largo: X-Box is going to rock, I've said it before and I'll say it again, a console's success or failure depends entirely on the developers and the titles that are being released on a system. If there are good games out for a console determines if the general public will spend money on it. Sega learned this the hard way with their Saturn. Superior hardware does not always mean your console will succeed, you need good games. However, it is a happy coincidence that X-Box will have the best hardware, and the best developers, a sign of it's predestined domination.

Piro: I don't see it as a good platform for dating sims, so to me this platform will be a dismal failure.


On to the personal questions!


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