Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Carolyn Belefski and Joe Carabeo

I am here with Carolyn Belefski and Joe Carabeo. Carolyn is the creator of the web comic “Curls” (http://curls-studio.com/) as well as being the artist on the books “Black Magic Tales”, “Kid Roxy” and “The Legettes”. Joe is the author of these books and these two do a weekly podcast (http://carolynandjoeshow.wordpress.com/ ) together called The Carolyn and Joe show. I met these two at Baltimore Comic Con and they agreed to this interview conducted during New York Comic Con.
Joe and Carolyn at their booth on Thursday at NYCC.

Al: Carolyn, your business cards has a character saying “Hello”. That is the friendliest business card I have ever seen.
Carolyn: Thank you.
A: Where did you come up with that idea?
C: I just wanted to say hi (Laughs). It is a way of introducing myself.
A: You guys have a weekly podcast.
Joe: It’s true, yeah.
A: Whose idea was this?
C: Joe's.
J: Yeah. We sampled it a little bit. I was already a guest on another podcast and I just slowly started to become comfortable. I invited Carolyn to co-host with me one day when I had to replace the normal host and we just decided "Hey, let’s do this on our own" so here we are over 140 episodes later.
A:  What are your favorite things to talk about?

J: It’s sort of tough because it's very cultural. It is very much what we are feeling, what we are eating, what we are watching type of show. Recently, one of the subjects we always talk about is CMPunk. Big fans of CMPunk.
C: That is professional wrestling.
J: We love the business of professional wrestling but I also feel like our friends have a lot of amazing stories to tell so we like to showcase them and their personalities. A lot of the time we talk about really random things that happen to us. I think that's entertaining. I think it’s crazy.
A: So there are rock songs at the beginning. Who decides on the music?
J: It is usually me and sometimes it is what we are feeling. Like sometimes Carolyn will be like "I feel like Bon Jovi today" or we try to make it coincide with what the show might be about. Since we don’t edit, it makes the show seem like it is live.
C: We don’t do any editing.
J: Yeah, so we can always start out like "Oh, we’re going to talk about this" but sometimes we don’t. The live atmosphere is what we like a lot. We see other podcasts like to edit. We just like to see, to put us in our little box and see what we can make this time.  
A: In “Curls”. you have a piece of toast as a character.
C: Yes.
A: You have animals as characters like many cartoonists do but you also added a piece of toast. Do you get a lot of feedback about that?

C: Occasionally. A lot of people will walk by the booth and yell "Toast!" It’s funny to hear them say that but I get a good reaction. People find it to be friendly like my business cards. I mean, it is a slice of bread with two punched out eyes. The holes are his eyes so who knows if he can even see and he has a jelly smile.
A: Where did the idea for “Curls” come from? You have a girl with fins instead of fingers, animals that talk and Toast.
C: Well, it all basically started when I was in college and I did, well, got the gig of being able to have a comic strip printed twice a week in the school newspaper. It was printed in there so eventually it worked its way up to being what it is now. There is no exact reasoning to why she has mitten hands or why there is toast or why there are any of the characters.
J: I feel like the reason why she has those hands is a call back to when cartoon did hands like that. It is the easiest way to draw hands.
C: Mickey Mouse has a pair of gloves. Have you ever seen Mickey Mouse without his gloves?
J: Some people just have three fingers. It is sort of like—
A: “The Simpsons”.
C & J: Yeah!
C: Yeah, does anyone ask Matt Groening about that? I wonder, but, yeah, that is a good point. I haven’t thought about that.
J: I always thought having fins opens the door to "Oh, man, anything can happen in this comic strip".
A: Where do the ideas come from for “Kid Roxy”, “Black Magic Tales” and “The Legettes”?
C: I guess out of all of those BMT was the first original that we came up with together and that started when we were in college.
J: We just started creating these characters that were career criminals and they really took off from there.
A: Was it based on real life events for you?
J” I feel like with, at least the characters of BMT, we try to say the most with that, we try to make the most statements. They're the world’s most famous career criminals and they can basically cause a ruckus. I feel like having those kinds of characters in our back pocket to comment on what is happening in the world is such a joy to have. You don’t just have these revolutionaries. They are about having fun.
C: But also, we’re pretty big fans of, or we enjoy, the tales of Bonnie and Clyde. That type of origin or even the idea of Robin Hood with “steal from the rich and give to the poor” is good and I think those characters were interesting. In that way, Roxy and Dean are our own little spin on those types of characters.
J: Bonnie and Clyde, Robin Hood, even a little bit of “Natural Born Killers”. They sort of slant heroism.
C: And with “Kid Roxy” we did the same characters and put them in 8th grade. So you get the adorableness or the start of the crime when you see them when they are very young. It’s interesting to be working with the same characters at different parts of their lives.
J: I always thought those two generations were important. I thought that is where we should put our characters. A place, such as high school, where you can make a lot of trouble.
C: And, in addition, you are still discovering yourself. At this point when you realize you can do stuff. You know it is not just being a kid. You start to think about your future as an adult.
A: Like the final season of “China Beach” where they showed the characters during the Vietnam War and the same characters 20 years later so the audience could see how messed up things were for some characters.
J: It is sort of a reverse of that because, I feel, with Roxy and BMT, they are having the time of their lives. This is the pinnacle of their life. They are happy and they’re doing crimes. They are making people happy. When we are reading “Kid Roxy” we see these characters when she has more trouble. She goes through things. She is not as happy so you get to see her struggling.
C: To do what she wants to do.
J: Exactly. It is interesting as this is how we get to play against the character type. It is like "How do we get her to this point?" when the books are going on at the same time.
A: Who are “The Legettes”?
C:  “The Legettes” is a futuristic, burlesque spy tale of three women who are chosen to save the universe. Basically, we like to say, we took “Blade Runner” and “Cabaret” and mixed them. I really enjoy burlesque stuff and wanted to make a book called “The Legettes”. That is how it originated. It would be great to be a burlesque dancer but I don’t think I could do what they do. It takes so much effort. I don’t know if I could be up on stage like that. At least this book is filling that dream but in a comic world.
J: We also conceptualized the story at a burlesque show as we waited to get inside a show in Northern Virginia. We thought we should make something out of this as we sat in the waiting room and thought this is what we should do next.
A: What do you read for yourselves?
C: I really like “Reed Gunther” (by Shane and Chris Houghton) right now. It is about this cowboy that rides a bear. I think it is published by Image and there is a book put out by Jim Henson. It is like “Snorkels” or something.
J: The books I see you reading are Oz…
C: “Wonderful World of Oz” by Scottie Young. I’m starting to get into “Beast of Burden”. I did get the first issue of “Snork” by Roger Landry.
J: There’s also that reptile tale?
C:  “Age of Reptiles”.
J: Sometimes you pick up small things here and there.
A: What about you Joe?
J: It’s funny because this is going to include…
C: You’re going to the dark side.
J: Yeah, like, I do read a lot of horror comics in a way. For anyone who knows me, I’m a massive, massive “Stray Bullets” fan. David Lapham’s “Stray Bullets”. The character of Amy Racecar from SB was a huge influence on Roxy from BMT. I love the fun aspect of Amy Racecar. But today I am still reading David Lapham’s stuff. His “Deadpool” run is amazing, his “Crossed” run is amazing, and his “Caligula” run is amazing. Just basically anything by David Lapham. Also, I love Darwyn Cooke,  “Jonah Hex” by Jimmy Palmiotti and anything that Mike Allred puts out. The DC 52 stuff is pretty interesting, too. I’m always a big fan of Grant Morrison but I’m a bigger fan of GM and Frank Quitely put together. I’m a huge fan of those guys.
C: We also like the art of Kenneth Rockfort.
J: Yeah, he is really cool. I’m a fan of team-ups. I like duets in music and team-ups in comics are like ‘Oh, man, he’s working with this artist again’. That’s magic. That applies to Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely.  I love them or even Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli. That was awesome. It’s weird recently. I’ve really been getting into horror books like “Creepy”.   Those things that bring me back to watching “Tales from the Crypt” and I’m a huge fan of “The Twilight Zone”. The superheroes I read are Grant Morrison’s “Batman” and “Deadpool” by David Lapham. You should check it out. I feel like there a lot of books where I don’t need to pay attention to the dialogue but that also makes me feel like it is a waste of space. I feel like he (David Lapham) is able to balance that. I should listen to this and the artwork is awesome. Those combinations are what need to happen.
A: Does Joe strictly write and Carolyn strictly draw?
C: I think we work together but at the same point you can draw a line where Joe writes and I’m the artist. There are certain points where Joe can say "Can we have this like this?" or I can be like "Can we change the dialogue? Maybe it would sound a little better if they said it like this." But it is still changing it so slightly that it is still like we are working together.  We are not totally changing each others ideas.
J: Neither of my hands is connected to a pencil drawing on any page.
C: It is more like a suggestion such as "Can her shirt say this?"  It is written for the characters.
A: In “Curls” you have Toast as a Macy’s Day Parade float. Is that a dream of yours?
C:  Yes. It is whether it be Toast or any other character we create. I would love to have a Macy’s Day balloon and just see any of the characters we make floating in the sky, giant and huge above the trees and everyone celebrating in this giant parade. I just want to see that.
A: What about giant Carolyn and Joe balloons?
C: If it has to be that than they can do that but I would want it to be one of our cartoons.
J: Unless we can look like “Peanuts” characters.
C: I think it might be frightening if we were actual balloons.
J: I always wondered that.
C: But if that is the way it has to be...
J: I feel like if you’re gonna be a balloon than you can’t exactly make it like a life-like balloon or it would look really creepy.
C; Or they blow you up like Violet from “Willy Wonka”. “Violet, you’re turning violet”.
J: The human translation has to be cartoony.
C: But yeah, I would love to have a Macy’s Day balloon.
J: I like the fact that Frank Miller refers to himself as a cartoonist. I always think of Carolyn as a pure cartoonist. I used to draw a line and I can only draw black and white. When I saw Carolyn draw the way she does with a line and brush I was ‘How?’ I can’t even put my mind to think like that. I think that is why the team-up is so awesome because I can’t draw like Carolyn but I would love to. So maybe that is what I am drawn to, the form she can produce.
A: Any last thoughts?
C: Our next tour date after New York Comic Con is going to be in Richmond, VA for VA Comic Con. It is October 29th and 30th. The guest of honor is James O’Barr so that should be exciting.
J: It should be a good show.
C: It should be all spooky.
J: A Halloween show.
A: Are you going to come in costume?
J: I might have horns or just be evil. I gotta bring it out.
C: All the books Joe reads are covered in plastic.
J: I started telling the comic book store since the cover has severed heads drinking people’s blood to cover the books. It was so amazing. People were like ‘Oh, yeah, you write “Kid Roxy” with all the adorableness’ and then they see me roll up with these books that have these violent, hardcore images on it.
C: Well, you have to get your inspiration from something. I guess it is crazy when you see Joe shop for comics and you see me shop for comics.
A; Joe goes heavier and you go lighter?
J:  See, I don’t think of it as dark. I think of it…
C: There has to be some humor in it.
J: You have to see the end of the spectrum. At this point I’m like ‘Wow, what is David Lapham making?’ I can’t read it unless there is a quality to it, a quality of 'I know this is messed up'. I know this is crazy but there is nothing else like it. It is just a train wreck of a story that I can’t stop looking at. There are other stories where I see blood and guts but there is no soul to it. Lapham is able to balance that. It is quality horror.
C & J: Happy Halloween.

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