Ralph Snart began way back in 1985 as a feature in a comic book fanzine called Fangraphix. In 1986, it hit the comic book scene as NOW Comic's flagship book. Through the next eight years, forty-five comic books were published with sales reaching a peak of 50,000 copies with over 1 million books printed. Reprints of these issues are being collected and reprinted by the NOW Media Group, and will be on the book shelves once again starting in the Fall 2003.
Created by Marc Hansen, each issue explored the bizarre life of anti-hero Ralph Snart; a mild-mannered accountant who has gone insane because of the pressures of the world around him and has escaped into his own twisted fantasy otherworld.
In this otherworld, Ralph is anything but mild-mannered. He could best be described as a beer-guzzling lout with no regard for law or order. All the while, the world's most dangerous criminal, Dr. Goot is trying to steal his brain. Goot is convinced it harbors amazing brain powers which he is determined to harness.
20 Questions with Marc Hansen
Marc Hansen is the cartoonist behind such creations as Ralph Snart, Weird Melvin and Dr. Gorpon. He's worked mostly for NOW Comics since
1986, but has also done work for Marvel, Disney, Kitchen Sink and has self-published. After an 8-year hiatus, Marc has returned to doing his
most admired creation Ralph Snart as a monthly web comic at www.ralphsnart.com. Currently, he's living and working in balmy Charlotte, NC.
1. What made you decide to do comics again?
I had an urge to do something creative for the last couple of years and when an opportunity eventually presented itself to get the rights back for Ralph Snart, I decided to do it. I knew from the get-go that things would be different and that the main thrust would be web based. I began thinking that it would mainly be a Flash animated cartoon, but only after doing some experiments with some web technologies, did I decide to do a "web comic". A web comic, with my schedule, is more feasible than a animated cartoon.
2. How did you get the rights back for Ralph Snart?
That's a long story right there. The abridged version is the rights ended up back in Tony Caputo's hands. I emailed him asking to give the rights back and he did.
3. What's it like working again with Tony Caputo?
For a some reason, somewhere between destiny and doom, we're back working together on projects. And it's all very coincidental. I think we both know what we want and what we want to do, and that it's to our advantages that we build on this working relationship. We each have our own strengths and weaknesses which seem to mesh. We're older and wiser and very focused which should help us create something quite astounding.
4. So, why do a Ralph Snart web comic?
I've thought for at least the last 12 years that print media no longer makes sense now that we have digital media. I considered a long time ago about publishing a monthly comic on CD-ROM because of the chance of eliminating printing costs. And now with the internet, increased bandwidth and faster computers, it makes total sense to publish on the internet and here's why. All of the technology is easily accessible and cheap. Prepress, printers, freight, publishers, distributors, retailers, speculators and resellers are all eliminated. And finally, and most importantly is the potential worldwide access. If that doesn't strike you as strong and compelling reasons, then there's something wrong with your head.
5. What about collecting? How can you collect a web comic?!
Personally, I'd rather have fans who are readers rather than collectors. I guess merchandise could fill some of the collecting void.
6. But what about the feel of holding your favorite comic in your hands?
It's all a mental thing. That's the old user talking and not the new. New users are comfortable with accessing music, images and text using a computer. Eight tracks are dead, baby! Vinyl records, dead! Beta and VHS, dead! We live in a digital world. Every way in which we access information will eventually be digital.
7. How do you create your web comic? Do you draw the web comic first or is it all done on the computer?
It all begins traditionally - the same way I've drawn since 1985. Ink, brush, pencil, eraser and bristol board is all I need. After penciling and inking each page, I scan it and then color it digitally. Beyond that is mostly secret stuff regarding how each page file is finally stored on my web server. Security is definitely an issue with web comics, that's why most web comics are raster images and not vector-based (resolution independent) like mine.
8. Do you think that web comics are the way of the future?
The transition from print to internet media is possible, more likely monthly comics will slowly die out and be replaced by a combination of trade paperbacks and web comics. Periodicals of any type don't make much sense because of the possibilities of the web. Printed books are still viable until screen resolutions of computer monitors are 2-3x what they are now. A lot will be dictated by the upcoming generations that have grown up using the web, and we'll have to keep pace. Just look at how the mp3 digital format has totally changed the way people access music. Older users still go out and buy cds, while younger users download. The transition for comics won't be as revolutionary because the market is older and small, but it will happen and those who aren't on the web will lose out.
9. Can you give us any insight on what Ralph will be doing in his new adventures?
Not really. Part of the allure of RSA for me is that it's written using free association, so the stories kind of stream along from tangent to tangent. Eventually, Ralph will get his brain back, which he needs if he's every going to have anymore dreams. The first few issues will kind of tie up some of the loose ends involving Dr. Goot, Holly Hornswoggle, Ralph's wife, Sock's the Cat, etc. I'll be doing stories again with Doofus, Cousin Bert and the Purification Advisor.
10. Are you still going to finish the Ralph Snart flash cartoon?
Oh, yeah! However, it's going to take alot longer due to the web comic. It still is important because the site always needs a good balance of free to paid content. Also, there are a few certain voice artists that will hunt me down and kill me if I don't finish it.
11. Will Ralph ever start coming out as a regular color comic again on the stands?
I don't see it happening. Just books and the web. Movies or tv would be the ultimate goal.
12. Your original comic books had the Comic Code seal of approval. Does the web comic have the Code approval?
No, having the Comics Code made sense when RSA was on the newsstands (I believe it was required for newsstand distribution). I'm sure it increased sales. I never did understand why I couldn't say scumbag or scumsucker. Web comics probably need a ratings system like computer games which has the ESRB organization. They have ratings similar to movies but with more specifics on the reasoning for the rating. I'm for free speech and all that, but a ratings system would be an effective way to help users decide on what they want with fewer surprises. The web comic would probably get a movie rating of PG-13. I avoid the FCC banned 7. All of the violence is cartoon violence, so I can get away with alot. Probably couldn't get away with Ralph carving up a nun with a butcher knife, but then why would I. There's no full frontal nudity, etc. An X-rated Ralph Snart would be weird.
13. A few of your old Ralph Snart comics were done by other artists and writers. What was NOW thinking?
I'm sure they want to keep the series alive in the hopes of landing whatever kind of licensing or movie deal, which is kind of hard to do if there's nothing out there. I wasn't too pleased with the people who worked on the books, not just because they did such a poor job, but to me, it was like they were scabs crossing the picket line. It was also the mentality, which I think is incorrect, that the creation is more important than the creator.
14. Are you going to do any more merchandising other than the beer stein? T-shirts? Posters?
My focus right now is the web comic and building traffic to my site. When it's seems justified, like when I have an adequate number of subscribers or a certain amount of traffic, I'll worry about merchandising. I don't see the point of merchandising a property unless there's new material being produced. Build an audience first and then merchandise is my approach. The original two t-shirts designs are still available from Graphitti Designs.
15. Are you going to do new online Weird Melvin or Doctor Gorpon comics?
I don't see that happening anytime soon. I could always do a "much asked for" cross-over with Ralph Snart, Weird Melvin and Dr. Gorpon. That would be interesting at the very least! I would have to come up with a story that made sense in the Ralph Snart universe. Hmmm...
16. Your last comic book series Weird Melvin was back in 1995. What have you been doing in comics since the return to Ralph Snart?
I haven't done any comic book work. I've been working in advertising, specializing in retail catalog production and working on accounts including Home Depot and Kmart. I'm getting back into the groove of things of doing a monthly comic. Creating issues of Ralph Snart is getting easier and more fun with each issue.
17. What do you like doing better, Ralph Snart or Weird Melvin?
Hard to answer. Overall, Ralph Snart is the most fun to write, but I love the nostalgic Rat Fink feel of Weird Melvin.
18. You've worked with NOW and self published your own books. Do you have any advice on which way to go for comic artists/writers just starting in the business.
I don't think I've had a career anyone would want to emulate, but my only advice would be to be creative and to do it without ever expecting to get paid. Do it because you must. If you happen to make some money, then that's the frosting on the cake.
19. What do ya think of all the Ralph Snart fans who've waited these last 10 years for your return?
I appreciated all of the well-wishing and encouragement (and threats), and will bust-buns to bring back the mighty Snart to his former drunken glory! I'm still getting emails from people who have just discovered the website. It's cool to see that there are still fans out there interested in everything Snart.
20. Can I come over to your house and pound some shots of Jesus juice?
Please go away.