Eben Burgoon is a comedy writer and comic book creator. His stories explore the espionage spygames of top secret government organizations to such extents that he may or may not have ever been questioned by the CIA because of the work. Granted, the CIA invented the art of giving mickies though, so maybe they did and he just plain forgot all about it. Eben has a current kickstarter campaign running that is already a hit in the hearts and minds of the world’s most brilliant thinkers today. Scout’s honor. Read on for proof.
Eben, who would you say is the most underrated writer or artist today, irregardless of medium? What about their work speaks to you the most?
Wow, that’s a huge question and huge field to select from and I’m sure there are folks I haven’t heard of yet that would blow my mind. I guess one would be Jackson Public and Doc Hammer’s work on the Venture Bros. I feel like everybody should love that and am always dumbfounded when I meet somebody who hasn’t heard of it. As far as comics, I’d have to say I recently got into The Sixth Gun and Skullkickers and those series are wonderful. Creator-owned efforts as a whole are way underrated, and it’s a damn shame because the stories are usually the most original and creative. Just oodles of webcomics fall into that category. One I loved dearly was Tuna Carpaccio, PI but I’m undersure if that’s still updating. Also, love CHEW as well and it was a thrill to meet those guys at the Image Expo last year (though hate having to explain the premise to everybody I meet) and they’ve won all sorts of industry awards.
Recently, got to meet Timothy Green II for a comic art event in Sacramento I curated and have to say his work left my jaw on the ground, and was really impressed with Chris Wisnia’s work, too. Another artist I will also say goes way way undersung is Danny Scheible. He makes sculptures out of all kinds of tape and calls it Tapigami. He took 250 miles of tape and sculpted a massive city that filled half an exhibit hall at last years Maker Faire in the Bay Area. The maker faire itself is basically a showcase of under-appreciated wonderment. But the Tapigami installation was mind-blowing, and completely under-appreciated until you’re standing before it and can’t look away. It has been a real treat to get to know him and his work, and he’s even going to allow me to use it as a set piece for issue 2 of BSquad.
I feel like I could talk about underrated art and writing all day. There is just so much to love and it furrows my brow at times that things so glorious can’t get the attention of the masses for whatever reason.
Your Covert Custodian has been around for a few years now. In the early days, did you ever dream it would survive as well as it has? And through the ongoing evolution of the strip, have you ever surprised yourself with the end product?
Yes and no. I think both Dan (Bethel) and I had had high hopes to make Eben07 into an animated series, but I think both of us never imagined that we’d start to love comics as a storytelling medium as much as we do now. While I certainly knew the internet was a big place, it was a remarkable experience when fans started showing up in Germany, England and even South Africa asking for books and posters. It was super surprising and exciting.
I’d say it was probably Operation: Mongoose, a story where a main character travels to Cuba to assassinate Castro, but turns out to be miserable at it because he’s a janitor and not a killer, that was my first real… Damn, it kicked ass that one moment it was the book where I felt that we gave Eben07 its own mythos that would keep it interesting for a long time and gave elements that will deepen it and be exciting to weave through everything. I think that’s why Operation: 3-Ring Bound was important to tell when we did and devote so much time to. It’s longer than everything else we’ve done put together, but probably some of the best work we’ve done. And at the same time I just want to be done with it and move onto the next Eben07 story so so badly.
Also, constantly surprised and thrilled when new pages come out because Dan’s visual storytelling is always so much fun to see what he does with a script and he’s been a great collaborator.
You can write the adventure well, but it’s honestly overshadowed by your wicked sense of humor. You actually have a very legit background in comedy. Was entertaining always a goal on your check list, or was it more of a means to storytelling?
I’ve never viewed them as separate ideas or goals, I guess. I believe good storytelling is entertaining and there is no reason people can’t laugh along the way. That’s how the real world works – well, at least, in my world. I love to have people laugh with and at me and all around me. I eat up other people’s laughter like a cupcake and leave the frosting caught up in my beard just so some more people will laugh.
Humility, passion and focus are strong attributes. Maybe even archaic in today’s world. Do you have a distinct end mapped out for the webcomic, or will it just go on as long as you and Bethel are down for it and the crowd hungers for more?
Eben07 most definitely has an ending and we’re working towards that endgame. The next series will push us a lot closer and the end of our 3-Ring Bound is going to change Eben07 dramatically moving forward. If we do want to prolong Eben07 and we want to keep at it, I know we have a way to build in new stories. It’s still a pretty malleable series and I fully intend to do both B-Squad and Eben07 at the same time.
B-Squad has a very interesting premise, being something that might appeal to fans of GI Joe and/or the old Dirty Dozen film. What struck me was the sizable catalog of characters you’ve already created for it. Was the level of research for this very different than what Eben07 called for, or have there been nuggets here that had been with you for a time?
I’ve spent a lot – sometimes I think probably too much – of time developing B-Squad in sort of a pre-production capacity.
A lot of work was done just developing each character’s backstory and doing research on the quirks of the characters that eventually make them fall into the misfit toy box B-Squad is. The first six B-Squaddies have been with me awhile, but once B-Squad crystallized in my head, and I added the expendable killing off of a character every issue by spinning a die… well, that meant more work and more research. Now there are 42 characters. Each of the 42 characters that’ll eventually make appearances in B-Squad have backstories that will get adapted into 6 page comics and each will be illustrated by different, perhaps underrated, artists. Those’ll be released when that character dies online and in the back of the limited edition books. I want B-Squad to also be a platform for exposure of new and rising talent.
That’s covering a lot of ground. Will it be tough to nix your favorite, or might their be a chance at some sci-fi reincarnation for a popular character down the road? And what sort of threats will this team be facing?
I will kill favorites. Each character is a lot of work and when they die, they die. The only revisiting they get is that 6 page background story comic and maybe a funeral in the next issue, but there is zero chance for return. No zombies. No hot tub time machine. They are gone, it’s time to get a new favorite. That’ll be tough, but I hope people will understand the story is more about the collective than any one character and can still enjoy the ride.
B-Squad is a cut-rate group, they work for Darkwater Security Services – so B-Squad getting these terrible and ridiculous missions. The first issue has them going to jungles of Cambodia to deal with poachers who are stealing free-range “mogwui” from a scientist trying to use their mystical properties to cure cancer in children. In the first 6 issues, they’ll also go undersea to try to recover the safe holding the Prime Minister’s retaliation letter from a sunken nuclear submarine before James Cameron does, they’ll be shrunk down ala Honey I Shrunk The Kids to try to rescue Bill Murray and a host of other artists who have been kidnapped by Tapigami-master, and they’ll go to an island where a mad scientist has turned an island off the coast of Costa Rica into a playground for over-sized dachshunds. The missions themselves are as ridiculous as B-Squad.
This all sounds way too fun. You have an in progress kickstarter to make the magic happen, but on the off chance that’s a no-fly zone, do you have a backup plan to still get this out? Because this would have to have a guaranteed audience, if there’s any justice in the cold hard world. Has the crowd-funding experience been worthwhile thus far for you? Do you see it as a vital but passing trend, or something that is verifiably here to stay?
Yeah, I mean, this is my baby and I’m not going to throw it out just because of a kickstarter fail. I’m sure not getting the funding will drive me to go hide in a cave and eat fish and wayward hobbits on a mountain of moleskin journals while stroking my scripts, but after I pull myself back together I’m going to try to find ways to make this happen. I have a lot of support from a lot of talented people already. They want to see this happen, and I’m sure we’ll get B-Squad going somehow.
Crowd-funding itself is incredibly challenging. Reaching out and grabbing the internet by the nether regions to get them to listen to your pitch for a couple seconds is hard enough. Then I’m pitching as a writer with no finished artwork. This is a totally new series with no audience and no contracted artist yet. Most kickstarters have art or are just trying to print their webcomic. I’ve been lucky that Lauren did all this concept work for me so I at least have some visuals to share, but all I have are that and scripts and stacks of moleskin journals. The point of raising this money is to pay the artists who make B-Squad come to life get paid to do so. I don’t think it is at all fair for me to say “draw my 24 page comic book, I’ll try to sell it so I can pay you” – that’s spec work and that’s far too often the reality in creator-owned comics to have a relationship like that. I think B-Squad is a good enough idea and concept that I want to be able to treat it as more than a hobby, make time for it, and get paid for that time. That’s how I treat it… well, except for the paid part.
What inspires you in your more creative moments? Do you blare particular music or run infomercials for background ambiance, maybe engage in possibly illegal substances?
I’ll run Arrested Development re-runs in the background for noise. I like to have noise in the background. Music’s a big influence on me too. I have a recording of a British radio show called The Essential Mix, and there was an episode where Portishead took over the turntables for the show. I listen to that a lot when writing – probably heard that a thousand times now since it was first done in like 1999? 2000? Legos are another thing that help me get creatively motivated, but sets are expensive these days so I just usually play with the same pile of a few blocks.
I drink a lot of beer too. I write about beer on a little tumblr blog called beerperday. I don’t do a beer every day anymore, just when I have something highly unusual or incredibly share worthy. I get the you must use illegal substances a lot, but really I don’t touch ‘em. Everybody always assumes it after they meet me in person. I’m probably one of the only guys at Coachella or Outside Lands that has just got a two beer buzz and wants to listen to some good music, and having just as good of a time.
Where would you like to be and what would you like to be doing at this same exact time next year?
That I suppose is the real big to-do for B-Squad I haven’t revealed anywhere.
Obviously, with any roll of a die you have six different outcomes. I plan to toy with what-ifs down the road. There would be six different timelines for B-Squad, fates of the characters decided by different methods. Alpha timeline is decided by the Pequod teetotum, bravo decided in an American Idol fashion. I also would like the alternate timelines to be illustrated by different artists, perhaps even written in a completely different style and person. My goal would be to start lining up the work for the bravo timeline and have alpha up to issue 6 at least. Hopefully have Eben07 wrapping up one or two issues by next year too. I guess the main thing I want by next year is to have my work in story and art and be my main source of glee and income for the foreseeable future. This kickstarter is kinda me jumping into the pool and figuring out if it’s full of water, money, or just empty and I’ll need to drag my broken body out and try jumping back in again.
I’m sure B-Squad will live on to kick butt and take names accordingly, irrevocably. Would there ever be a crossover with Eben07, or would these be running on separate timestream continuum thingies?
It’s been talked about for sure… And everything’s gotta fall into the Tommy Westphall Universe somehow, right?
Thanks for chatting with the LP, man. You have new fans here, and we all can’t wait to see how things unfold for you and your circle.
Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me. It’s truly been a pleasure!