Essay The Third: Interview

The busy staff here at caught up with Greg Stephens, the author of the seemingly never-ending (or is that never-continuing?) online comic Zwol, and asked him a few questions. The main thing that's probably on most of your readers' minds is Where's the next comic? Do you feel any obligation to your fans' expectations?

Greg Stephens: (Laughs) Ah, yes- It has been a while, hasn't it? I can't believe there's that many people still waiting on me at this point. I'm sure many of them have gone on to read comics that are actually still updating regularly, but it's always sort of a surprise when I do do something on the site and I get some email feedback about it. This interview, perhaps, will spawn some. You never know, really.

Z.O: So you don't feel any pressure to do any new comics?

Greg: I didn't say that. But even though I don't really feel any external pressure at this point- if that's your point- I do have personal expectations that I will pick up the story again and make something of it. I'm really interested in what happens next and I do have plans for such things.

Z.O: So why the long hiatus?

Greg: How personal do I want to get here? I suppose that the comic has stalled because I'm at a stalled point in my life. Although it's true that I started it during a stalled part of my life- sort of this same portion- it was more of a weird break from that stall when I was living in London and completely removed from most everything that had been my life up to that point. Lately I've also been wondering if it's like Grant Morrison was talking about with The Invisibles- You read that?

Z.O: Of course. I am you, after all.

Greg: Yes, but please don't break the fourth wall like that. You know how irritating and amature I find that.

Z.O: Of course...

Greg: So-- Where were we?

Z.O: The Invisibles.

Greg: Right. Yeah, so Grant Morrison believed that the comic became a magic spell that influenced his life- He'd write the character in dire straits for months on end and Grant Morrison himself would become seriously physically ill; Then he'd write better things happening for the character-

Z.O: King Mob, you're talking about?

Greg: Yeah, and he'd write about that character finding a better way of living and he himself would start having a better time in his life. I wonder sometimes if that's not true of me and my comic. Perhaps if I could just draw that next strip and really launch into the next phase of the story- because it really all does change with the next strip- then my own life would sort of pick up speed again and start to become something worth getting excited about and maybe move into the next phase of whatever I'm about.

Z.O: So you haven't been working on the comic at all?

Greg: Not in a way that would be discerned as "work" by an outside observer, no. But it's always there, you know? I know what happens next and I refine my concept of it. I also toy with the idea of starting a silmultaneous Selby comic that I would sort of play with different ideas and be something I could escape to whenever Kate's story would become too much to deal with. And then the thought of doing a full version of Hamlet really appeals to me.

Z.O: A couple weeks ago you'd announced that you were working on an adaptation of The 15-Minute Hamlet but then not a lot seemed to come of that.

Greg: True. Guilty as charged! (Laughs) One of my very few actual superstitions that govern my life- particularly my creative life- is that I don't talk about work in progress because I find that it invariably causes that work to cease developing and become incomplete. Ask me about my unfinished novel. Heck- Ask me about my various unfinished short stories! I'm hopeless. And this seems to spill over into the rest of my life as well, not just creative efforts.

Z.O: For example?

Greg: I'm not going to go into it.

Z.O: O.K. I have a note here in your handwriting that reads "Butterfly Sex Magic." Can you explain this? Is it some of that Grant Morrison influence?

Greg: I'm afraid I can't explain it and you're reading too much into my Invisibles reference. I scribbled that down before starting this interview when it came into my head thinking it would make for an intreguing title for the interview, but then after looking at the format of the page, I decided there was no good way to fit it in.

Z.O: And yet here it is.

Greg: Yeah. Hmm. I was considering maybe titling the next storyline for Zwol that, but I'd sort of already had in mind calling it "The Worst Thing Ever" or something like that.

Z.O: Sort of goes against the previous titles, doesn't it? "Wonderfulness Ensues," "Strange & Beautiful." They're more positive titles than "The Worst Thing Ever," aren't they?

Greg: It was only a working title and I'm not sure it that's exactly what I was going to use, but it does rather fit thematically. I mean there's something sort of over the top and bombastic about all of those titles, isn't there?

Z.O: I wouldn't say "bombastic," exactly.

Greg: But you get the idea. They're larger than life statements. I think they are, anyhow. And they all lead to certain expectations and I thought that setting up a really powerful expectation of dread that "The Worst Thing Ever" implies would be good. Sort of tells you how the story might go.

Z.O: And that's the direction the story is going?

Greg: Well, of course. I mean, if things don't get bad in any respect, how can the good parts of the story be enjoyable for either the audience or the characters in comparison? Always darkest before the dawn and all that rubbish. I've never been very kind to my characters.

Z.O: I can tell by the length of time before your responses that you're getting tired and I think we have enough here for a good length posting on the site. Would you care to call this the end of the interview?

Greg: Yes, I think that's a fine idea. Perhaps we can work on a part two to this some other time. Though at the rate these essays are produced, that might be sometime next year!

Z.O: True enough. Well, thank you for your time.

Greg: My pleasure.

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