WEBCOMIC INTERVIEW: Jeff Burkholder and Jeremy Bentley of The Ouro Bros. and the Neverending Tour!

Hi guys! I am happy to present to you (and introduce you do) the webcomic creator duo of the fantastic webcomic “The Ouro Bros. and the Neverending Tour!”

These guys are fantastic storytellers, and have created a serial comic that you have to read! I asked them for an interview because I knew you had to meet them!

Thanks for joining us guys!
Both: Thanks, Michael! Glad to be here in this little segment of cyberspace.
So tell us a little bit about yourself!
Jeremy: I’m Jeremy Bentley. I work in Lancaster, PA, as a packaging designer.

Jeff: Sooo prestigious.
Jeremy: Of course, man. Corrugated paper products; ’nuff said.  I also live in Lancaster with my wife, Jamie, and two daughters, Nora and Greta.
Jeff: I’m Jeff Burkholder. I live in Lititz, and am a computer instructor at a business school.
Jeremy: Oooooh, computers.
Jeff: Yup. Also wife and two kids (Nean, Dante, & Zoë, respectively), so as not to be upstaged by my partner, here.
Jeremy: It’s a constant battle of family name-dropping with us.

Great! So tell us about your comics!
Jeff: The Ouro Bros and the Neverending Tour is a weekly webcomic about two brothers who form a band and head out on the road to gain fame and fortune…but fail in pretty much every way possible.
Jeremy: Over the years of the comic’s publishing, they have met and added other members and are currently touring our little universe as a four-piece band.
What was the origin of the project? Was there any specific event that happened that made you want to create it?
Jeremy: I had toured independently in a band with my friends, and had been a part of the music industry in that regard, before I finally threw in the towel on a music career at the beginning of 2007. Between that time and when I met Jeff and we started this comic, I got into reading webcomics. That inspired me to pick up drawing again (something I had left by the wayside when I got into playing music). I thought it would be really cool to do a webcomic on my own about my experiences in music, or team up with someone else…
Jeff: So, this is our attempt at being “really cool”, as the kiddos say these days. I’ve been doing webcomicking since 2003, but vastly prefer the writing side of things to the drawing side. So when Jeremy came to me with this idea, I jumped at the chance. I do sound engineering for a couple of bands, myself, so this was something we both had a certain amount of familiarity with.
Jeremy: I was grateful to find Jeff and his comic work, because while I felt I had a good idea for a comic, I didn’t think I’d be very successful at regularly writing it.
Jeff: I’m just glad to have someone who knows how to draw hands convincingly. I hate hands.
Jeremy: I also hate hands. Michael, how are you at drawing hands?
Pretty good, but I used to freak out my drawing professor on purpose by drawing bizarre koala-human hands!
How did the style of your project webcomic come about? Are there any direct styles or inspirations you draw from?
Jeff: The 1980s, largely. Even a cursory glance at our comic will show that the ’80s are very much a presence. I loved the ’80s before VH-1 decided to market them.
Jeremy: You are such a hipster.
Jeff: Not that I’m trying.
Jeremy: Growing up in the 80s probably has driven most of my creative life, as well. Like many kids, I was really into Saturday Morning Cartoons (yes, that term deserves Initial Caps). I love serialized television, and I love the adventure movies from that time. Also, a big influence in particular in making me want to do a webcomic was reading Jeph Jacques’ Questionable Content, because through his work, I saw that it was possible to start somewhere and continually change and improve, which seemed to go against the traditional model of “stick-to-the-model” cartooning.

How do you guys come up with ideas for your comic? Is there any special way you approach the creative process of the comic?
Jeff: Well, when we started out, Jeremy told me a lot of war stories of his days on the road with his band Movies With Heroes, so that informed a lot of the early strips. As we’ve continued, it’s become less about those situations, and more about the family that we’ve built around our four main characters. We’ve got one heck of a roadmap planned out for these guys (like, the next three years or so of the strip are already planned out), so it’s just a matter of following that path that we’ve created.
Jeremy: And even with the roadmap we have created, we continually find ways to take detours and fill out the story even more than we originally intended. It’s as if we are creating the story in the same way that the Ouro Bros are learning about touring.
Jeff: As for our process, I usually write out a script (very much like a movie script), then email it to Jeremy to draw. Over the following week, he’ll show me pencils, then inks, then colors, and we’ll discuss any adjustments that need to be made along the way. Once in a while, we actually see each other face-to-face, but it’s mostly online collaboration. Google Docs is one of our best friends.

Do you guys listen to music or watch TV when you work? Is there a specific (tv show)(music album)(insert media) that gets you in the zone?
Jeremy: I open up iTunes, and just let the music flow while I draw in Photoshop. Depending on my mood, it could be something very peaceful and melodic, or something really aggressive. It’s difficult for me to have movies playing while I draw, because I am easily distracted, and other artists can agree that we have to maximize our time on the drawing board, as it were. Over the past year, I have been listening to a lot more film scores while I draw. Hans Zimmer’s work has been a mainstay.
Jeff: Zimmer’s good stuff, yeah. But I can’t have anything playing in the background. Silencio! Any songs with words, and I’m focusing too much on the lyrics to write proper dialog. Film scores don’t work either, because I know most of the movies well enough that my brain starts filling in the movie dialog, and then my characters start reciting lines from Back to the Future or Inception or Ishtar or something equally inspirational.
Who is/are your favorite artist(s)? 
Jeff: As far as webcomics are concerned, one of my favorite artists is Paul Taylor of Wapsi Square. His art is deceptively simple-looking, but is full of incredible detail. Similarly, I love Danielle Corsetto’s Girls With Slingshots, Jeff Smith’s Bone, and Pete Abrams’ Sluggy Freelance. It’s no coincidence that all of these comics also tend to feature a combination of comedy and tragedy, as well as strong, independent female characters.
Jeremy: Hands down, my favorite comic artist out there today is Gabriel Rodriguez. He is also the artist of one of my top favorite series of all time, along with writer Joe Hill, Locke and Key. His attention to detail and consistency is astounding. Also, his style is just so
him. Looking at his panels brings much joy to my heart, as well as frustration. His training in architecture makes his buildings and scenery just incredible. The frustration arises from seeing his expert application of perspective and detail. It kills me. He’s just so freaking good at it. He is currently working on a Superman title (yet to be published, I think), as well as Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland. I look forward to purchasing both series when they come out, simply on the weight of his art.
Do you consider them a strong influence on your work?
Jeremy: I have definitely taken several cues from Rodriguez’s work in Ouro Bros, but I can’t say I do him any kind of justice. I also have to keep my detail less detail-y, or I would be drawing these comics forever. I try to find a balance between his attention to detail, and the simplicity but undeniably smart application of character drawing from people like Danielle Corsetto of Girls With Slingshots. She is trained with the ability to do much more detail and “realism”, but she finds the perfect way to find the exact right simple lines to totally define her characters and environment.
Jeff: It’s a bit harder to consider how much of my writing has been influenced by what I’ve read. It’s such a subjective thing, y’know? Nobody’s really ever come up to me and said, “Hey, your work on Ouro Bros really reminds me of Neil Gaiman!” or anything like that. And I’m rarely purposefully aping another’s style; I’m just trying to tell a decent story.<
How do you juggle your daily life with the comic? Are there ever any challenges?
Jeff: Oh, yes. I’ve actually had to sit down with my wife to block out specific times on our family calendar for comic work. I mean, I’m a father and husband, first and foremost; part of the responsibility associated with that is working two jobs to provide for them, but a larger part is making sure I have plenty of face time to spend with them. Cartooning sometimes has to take a back seat to those larger issues, but my wife fully supports my cartooning activities, so it’s a regular appointment on the calendar.
Jeremy: Sleeping less. Hahahaha! But seriously, I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about the comic and ideas for stories, what I have yet to work on for that week’s comic, all kinds of stuff. I am pretty consumed with Ouro Bros. Despite that, I manage to work out my waking hours to focus as much as possible on my family (wife, 2 daughters) when they are awake, and also go to my 8-5 job. Luckily, they all sleep much more than me, so it tends to work out pretty well. For now.
Are there any exciting things we can look forward to in the comic?
Jeremy: We can only hope that we keep the story as exciting, or as engaging, as possible. As far as any big plans, we just want to continue making this comic and hope that the ideas that excite us will also engage our audience.
Jeff: It’s funny; when we originally conceived the strip, we had an idea of what was going to happen a year or two down the road. Now that we’re just about four years into it, those original plans haven’t happened yet, and we’re actually rather uncertain that they ever will. That said, we do have plans for where we’re taking the Ouros, bros and otherwise!

Where do you see your webcomic in a year, in five?
Jeff: I hate this question on job interviews! Like I said above, we have general storylines mapped out for the next few years, so hopefully, we’ll see those pathways actually come to fruition.
Jeremy: As I was saying in my answer to the last question, we just want to keep making this comic and having fun with it, so in the coming years we can only hope to get better at our presentation (writing, art) and hope that we can continue to create enjoyable work as a result.

What are your future plans for your comic?
Jeremy: To keep making it. Hahaha. But as far as other plans for the future, it would be great to release more print book collections, as well as some print-exclusive stories that won’t be available on the website. Maybe we can try to do some more conventions besides SPX  (Small Press Expo in Rockville, MD annually) too, but our main focus is enjoy the story we are creating as much as possible. We both love storytelling, so it is quite rewarding to finish up a storyline we’re proud of, and then go on to make the next one.
Jeff: The whole point of this endeavor was to tell a story and have a whole heck of a lot of fun doing it. Selling stuff and making money off of it has never been part of that calculus, and I strongly believe we’ll hold on to that ideal. “Although I’d be cool if we could maybe do more than one strip a week?” he said, with a sly glance at his comic partner…
Jeremy: “If we can add a colorist to the mix, I might take you up on that”, he remarked, glaring menacingly, but kind of hopefully, back.

Do you have any plans for upcoming conventions or shows?

Jeff: We’ll be making our second annual appearance at the Small Press Expo in Bethesda, MD, this September, and we’ve got plans for some new items to share with the public at that event. Jeremy: What he said.
So there you have it! These guys are amazing, and you simply must get hooked on the Ouro Bros!


The Ouro Bros

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