Brian Maupin, the author and illustrator of the webcomic “Also Coin Operated,” has become a bit of a celebrity recently. Not for his comic, but for a YouTube video that has drawn over 2 million views, “iPhone4 vs HTC Evo.” I can’t think of another cartoonist who’s gained so much attention so quickly (let alone be threatened with the loss of their day job as a result).
If you’re fresh out of prison, Brian posted a video a few weeks ago starring two animated bears. By the time I stumbled across it, it already already had 30,000 views. The over-the-top dialog between a phone salesman and an iPhone customer was such a hit that the xtranormal engine he used to create it has been been bogged down ever since.
The cartoon–ACO as it’s affectionately tagged–originated back in 2003 and ran for three years before an extended break and its reemergence earlier this year. The comic plays as a nerd’s delight in the nicest G4, uber-geek sense of the word. I mean, its two main characters own an arcade ferchrissakes.
Brian was kind enough to answer our questions about the comic and the effect that Internet fame has had on it.
FC: I’m sure that the success of your video has helped to drive some new fans to ACO. When you started started playing with xtranormal, did you see a potential connection or was it mainly for fun?
BM: It was absolutely a “just for chuckles” type of experiment. I had a few other videos up (some xtranormal, others not) and none of them garnered many views. This one somehow just blew up, I didn’t even really show it to anyone other than friends. ACO has seen some increased views, no telling though if that means repeat readers, I can only hope.
FC: The cartoon has had two lives, with a four-year break in between. What led you to back to cartooning eventually? You must have had a number of ideas kicking around during that long hiatus.
BM: At the end of the first run, I was just burnt out. No one was really reading it, it felt like I was making the comics just for myself and I was also growing up, moving out of the parent’s house and having to deal with all the real life stuff, like paying bills, going to college, and so on. Over the hiatus I had a lot of creative energy built up but didn’t really know where to express it. I got to looking through the old comics and felt all nostalgic and decided maybe to give it another go now that things had settled down. I decided to start doing it all hand drawn instead of vector-based, because I felt maybe it would help me improve myself in that area as well.
FC: What is your design process for the cartoon? Do you create the scenes based on an idea, like traditional storyboarding? Are you designing digitally from the beginning?
BM: Usually I start off with a single topic as a springboard, be a current event, something that’s happening in my real life or maybe just a random thought. I write the script beforehand but no storyboard. There’s really not a lot of action shots or anything, I guess I kind of focus more on dialogue. I’ll sketch the scenes before hand a little to get the positioning and stuff right though.
FC: On your website you mention a few online web comics as being inspirational. What about traditional comics? Are you a comicbook fan or do you mostly prefer the digital world?
BC: Strangely I never really got into regular comics. I mean, I liked Superman, Batman, Spider-man and so on, but never bought or read the comics. I was a huge Sonic the Hedgehog fan as a kid so I read the Sonic comics for years but that was as far as it went. Now that I’m older, I’m actually more interested now in checking out traditional comics.
FC: It’s obvious that some things are changing for you quickly. Do you see ACO as a personal project that you’d like to sustain or are there other ideas knocking around in the webcomic genre?
BM: I’d like to keep making ACO no matter what. If nothing else, it’s helping me refine my hand drawn skills and a nice comedic outlet for me. I’ve got some other ideas for drama/action comics, but my art isn’t to the level yet where I’d like it to be to get started on those.
Brian ended our five questions with an impromptu, “thanks for having me!” He’s a great guy and a funny one too, so I’m hoping this is an on-ramp to something great for him. Bookmark Also Coin Operated or see what he’s up to on Twitter.