We’ll have a proper update for you tomorrow. We promise.
For posterity’s sake, and because the interwebs can be wildly inconsistent, I’ve decided to post in its entirety the Q&A we did with #justjosh last week.
1. What inspired you to create a comic strip to coincide with the 2015 federal election?
Well, it wasn’t really intended to coincide with the election. If anything, I just wanted to have fun, unload some frustrations I have with respect to the current political scene and do it in a positive way. But the election is coming and it is a bit of a catalyst for a project like this one.
I follow federal politics avidly and already thought that a sketch show skewering the scene would be fun. I would enjoy being involved in something like that, as a writer. Maybe even as a performer. Except that I don’t have the connections to develop such a programme.
So I just woke up one morning with the idea to do a strip. I get my best inspiration when I’m fresh. I decided that I could just write a few scripts and have a friend doodle them. You know, just for laughs, between friends. Unfortunately, they had other projects, so I sought out an artist.
Now ‘Beans’ has developed into something much larger than I initially anticipated. It’s a blast. It’s an incredible amount of work, but it’s tons of great fun, too.
2. Where did the name, “Beans” come from?
Let’s leave a little mystery behind that one, shall we? Let me just say that it’s a thread of ideas that eventually led to the final title.
I’m actually quite curious to find out what people think it means. I think ‘Beans’ could mean many things. I certainly don’t want to spoon-feed anyone.
3. Being that youth are less likely to vote than older voters, do you believe that a satirical comic strip is something that is more likely to engage young voters, some of whom may of not have been interested in Canada’s political process before reading?
Potentially. I’ve considered that, actually. But I wouldn’t want my adult cynicism to be the driving force for youth engagement; they and we need more idealism, more hope. We need to feel inspired.
Having said this, it must be noted that, just because ‘Beans’ is a comic strip, doesn’t mean it’s directed at youth. It’s intended to be broader than that; I think that some people need a more accessible medium.
I always felt that it may engage older voters, too, actually.
In fact, some of the people I know who are the biggest cheerleaders of ‘Beans’ are adults who aren’t usually that politically-inclined. There’s just something about it that excites them, that captures their imagination.
At the very least, I hope that people (young and old) get a good laugh out ‘Beans’. I hope that every day they look forward to the next strip, to find out what these kids will be up to next.
And if it gets people thinking and discussing issues in the process, I’ll be very pleased indeed.
4. The story of “Beans” describes Stevie (based on Stephen Harper) as a “power-mad 8-year-old” and his quest for complete supremacy over not just the student council but the entire school faculty as well. Is this based on your own personal views of Stephen Harper as Prime Minister of Canada?
It may or may not reflect my own personal views. I don’t think that’s relevant. The fact is that the strips reflect the views of many Canadians, views that are ripe for comedy.
The various parties caricature each other incessantly. And themselves, really. Whether those images are real or not, that’s where much of the humour of ‘Beans’ is mined.
5. Your Kickstarter campaign has gained some traction online recently already raising over half of your target goal of $2,000. What encouraged you to believe that there would be this much support for a Canadian satirical comic strip based on our up-coming federal election and are you optimistic that you will reach you goal before the deadline?
Most people love to laugh, but politics are rarely a laughing matter. We strive to make politics funny so that people can interact with the ideas more easily, or even just become aware of the issues.
I feel that there is enough of a groundswell right now, with the coming of the 2015 election, that people are interested in seeing ‘Beans’ get produced. People really need release from all the tension.
Response has been excellent thus far. I think that people see that ‘Beans’ takes a completely different angle on our political scene, packages it in an appealing fashion and they get the humour in it.
I’m very optimistic about reaching our goal. It is certainly achievable. Ideally, I would even like to exceed our goal, so that the bonus strips get produced too. We already have a few great ones planned.
6. Out of the nine main characters for “Beans” six are humans while three were created as animals. What was the reason behind creating Tony, Skippy and Tommy as a monkey, squirrel and bear instead of humans?
I’m sorry, we have a five-question limit from the media. But thank you for your question.
All kidding aside, actually, Skippy is a weasel, not a squirrel. Although, because of his name, I can see why you’d think that. One could say they’re political animals, but then aren’t they all?
You know, sometimes inspiration is inexplicable. While I wrote the characters, I visualized what they would be like and these are the images that came to me. Then they wrote themselves.
Other students are also going to be non-human. My hope is that we can throw in robots, aliens, cartoon characters, …etc., into the mix with time. Diversity means more eye candy. And more fun.
I just want ‘Beans’ to be a lot of fun to read, on many levels.
7. Have any of the politicians that your characters are based on taken notice of “Beans” yet? If not what do you think some of their reactions would be towards it?
If they’ve taken notice, I haven’t been made aware of it. Honestly, I’m sure that they have more important things to do than to pay attention to ‘Beans’.
It must be noted that certain politicians merely served as inspiration; these characters are not meant to be them in cartoon form. We’re taking liberties in many cases.
Ahem… like making animals of them.
My hope is that if any politician takes notice of ‘Beans’ and believes that they see themselves in it, that they take it in stride and laugh at the absurdity of it.
…and then order a Keepsake poster to hang in their office or home.
If our leaders were perfect, humble, selfless, they’d be boring, and quite unfunny. People are imperfect, including politicians. The best can laugh at themselves.
But if I get a “random” CRA audit we’ll all know why.
8. Apart from characters based off of the federal party leaders you have also included characters based on some of Canada’s highest ranking Ministers to take the form of the student council in support of Stevie. Can your readers expect any surprise appearances by characters based on some of the higher ranking opposition members to support Jay, Tommy and Lizzie?
This current story arc focuses on those nine characters, but chiefly on Stevie’s antics. The speed at which we have to produce these strips makes it impossible to design tons of extra characters. I really wish we could.
I do have a tenth character that I’m aching to see put to paper, but that one would be in a bonus strip; the main scripts were are all finished and submitted weeks ago to Steve, the wicked young artist making this a reality.
Should ‘Beans’ carry on after this campaign (I would absolutely love to continue producing one strip a week), there would undoubtedly be new characters since the make-up our Parliament will be quite different.
9. You have decided to make the setting at a grade school and create all the main characters as children rather than adults. Was there any special significance behind this?
People always comment on the behaviour of our politicians, especially during Question Period, as being worse than children. I’ve heard teachers complain that bringing groups of students to see Parliament is an embarrassment because it shows kids that this behaviour is acceptable.
So the idea of making it about kids in a schoolyard was already a natural. To spoof Canadian politics, however, there has to be more context, like putting them in a private school with ten levels (pre-K to grade 8), having a Student Council that runs everything well beyond its reach, …etc.
If one takes a gander at the kids in ‘Beans’ and finds their actions absurd, then why would these same actions, transposed to the federal playground be no less absurd? I think that it’s high time that we ask ourselves these questions and raise the bar for discourse and behaviour.
10. Given that much of the strip is based on real characters and real events, has that made it difficult to write the script given that new stories and events occur daily involving Canada’s politicians?
Ha! Funny you should mention that, actually. I was deep into writing the scripts when one of my main characters quit politics. I had to find a way to play around with that. Actually, I much more enjoyed the resulting direction it took.
Even more interesting is that we predicted some of the behaviours and comments of a few of them. By the time ‘Beans’ goes live it’ll be old news, but I was amazed to see that some of it came true so fast. Our angle is very good.
11. Should “Beans” be successful enough do you think you will continue the strip even after the 2015 federal election takes place?
I would absolutely love to continue doing this once a week, to riff off the current events. That would be a hoot. For now, I had to make do with what’s already out there, predict what may take place or at least use elements that will likely surface.
Producing the strips costs money and takes time. I would love to continue ‘Beans, but this is contingent on the success of this campaign. If we do very well, it will be a consideration. If there’s a media outlet publishing it, even more so.
12. Although this strip is based on the 2015 federal election do you think that there is any possibilities for similar comic strips based on Canada’s provincial political elections?
I’m sure someone else can write something pertinent, but I’m far too focused on federal politics to do that myself. To each their specialty.
The problem with doing a strip with a provincial focus is that it narrows the potential readership. So I’m not sure how viable that would be.
13. Other than releasing the strips to your backers on Kickstarter, will you be releasing the series on a public platform for sale anywhere either digitally or physically that will be open to anyone who discovers “Beans” after the Kickstarter campaign is over?
I don’t have any intention of making money off of ‘Beans’. I just want to have fun. I’d love to pay off my expenses (the Kickstarter goal is merely half of the actual cost), but I don’t care about making a profit at this time.
If people are interested in subscribing to ‘Beans’ after the KS campaign is over they can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll be pleased to send them the daily strips from September 7 to October 19 for a fee.
They really should try to support the KS campaign. Its success makes or breaks the future of ‘Beans’ and makes it more appealing to publisher. Plus which they can get exclusive goodies and/or show up in the strip.
Yes, show up in the strip! That’s been the most popular reward so far.
Ideally, we will eventually land a media outlet interested in publishing them and it will be easily accessible to all. However, people likely won’t get the strip in high resolution, in all its full glory, there, like KS backers will.
To back our Kickstarter campaign, please visit: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/thethorn/beans
14. For people that are interested in “Beans” but are not financially able to back your project, are there any other ways for them to get involved?
Absolutely! We’re coordinating the Beans Street Team: https://beanscomiconline.com/2015/07/11/street-team-members-needed/
In exchange for some of their time, we’ll gladly sign people up for the September 7-October 19 series. We really need to get the word out if it’s to be a success.
You can read all about that, as well as the making of the strip, at www.beanscomiconline.com
15. Do you have any additional comments?
Here’s a checklist for the coming federal election:
- Read ‘Beans’.
- Inform yourselves. Don’t take anything at face value – especially not ‘Beans’.
- Discuss the issues with family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. Politely.
- Find out if you can vote; the rules have changed and they may affect you.
- Make sure you vote.
- Make sure everyone you know does too. Carpool if it’ll help.
- Read ‘Beans’.
Above all, remember that ‘Beans’ is intended to make people laugh as well as think.
In the immortal words of Canadian wordsmith Moe Berg, “you’ve got to laugh to prevent yourself from cryin’.”