Interview With Danielle Corsetto

Since 2004 Danielle Corsetto has been the creative force behind the very popular web comic Girls With Slingshots. In those seven years she’s brought us ghost kittens, porn librarians, and a talking cactus. In a time when web comics were a dime a dozen fad, Danielle’s Girls With Slingshots not only survived, but actually thrived. Going from a twice a week black & white comic to now a five day a week color strip, Danielle has carved out a comfortable section of a highly competitive industry. Luckily we were able to catch up with her and ask her some questions between various appearances across North America.


Guerrilla Geek: You’ve been doing comics even before Girls With Slingshots with comics like Hazelnuts and Ramblers back when you were in college. When did you first get the bug to do comic art?

Danielle Corsetto: When I was in third grade. Our art teacher had us each draw a comic strip for a project one day. I’d already been exposed to comic strips since I was little, and I was advanced for my age in writing and visual arts, but I never thought to put the two together until that day.

And I never stopped! I was always working on a new comic idea; Max & Jazz, Rae, Fried Pudding, Hazelnuts (which introduced Jamie & Hazel), Larry and Caroline, and plenty of little one-off stories. I enjoyed the thought of merchandising and advertising, too. I drew my characters modeling clothes from the J.C. Penny catalogs my mom would get in the mail.

GG: Growing up did you read a lot of comic books or comic strips?

DC: Comic strips. Every day. Every Garfield, Family Circus and Peanuts book in the Kemptown Elementary School library was checked out by me on a yearly basis. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t aware of the daily strips in the newspaper until I was a high-schooler, but I looked forward to spreading out the Sunday Funnies on the floor every weekend. And we got the Washington Post, so there were a lot of good ones!

I picked up one of my brother’s Spider-man comics, which featured Venom, and was completely underwhelmed. Had I found any girl-friendly comics that were character-driven and humorous, I’m sure I would have read them, but all I saw were muscly superhumans and violence, which didn’t interest me in the slightest.

GG: It seems that there are a lot of very successful female web comic artist and there seems to always be talk about how a lot of “traditional” comic mediums are boy’s clubs. Do you think it’s easier for women to break into the digital industry than in traditional comic strips and comic books?

DC: Yes, although I think it has more to do with the genre than the medium. Most comic books are aimed at boys, are serious, and have a focus on superpowers. Most popular webcomics are character-driven and have to do with the characters’ lifestyles, or observations about science or philosophy, and almost all of them could be clumped into the broad category of “humor.” While I know plenty of women who genuinely love to read about superheroes, I think that, generally, most women prefer to read (and write) about how characters interact with one another, and not how they’re gonna pulverize each other.

Traditional comic strips, on the other hand, are just old, and therefore male-dominated. I’m lucky that I was born into a generation of women who believe themselves capable of almost anything. I think that, if newspapers were booming and syndicates were introducing new strips all the time, we would see a much higher percentage of female cartoonists in the newspapers, as well. It’s just that we don’t see many new comic strips outside of the web, period.

GG: You’ve been doing GWS, Girls With Slingshots, since 2004 and been on twitter for what, about three or four years now? How has social media affected your work and your life as an artist?

DC: Man, I think it’s been four years, yeah. It’s like Twitter was created just for webcartoonists; it relies on brevity, casual conversation, and entertaining your audience in short punches. I absolutely love it. Most of us flocked to it the moment we discovered it.

While I think having a website (especially one with a forum or comments section) is a hearty use of social media on its own, Twitter is like… it’s like Girls With Slingshots After Hours, or GWS Improv, or something. Our readers have already read our comics for the day, so… what next? Entertain the heck out of them with silly Twitter comments all day long.

It’s also served as a handy alternative to RSS for people who don’t use a feed. Every time a comic goes up, I tweet about it.

On the other hand, I’m like a soccer mom when it comes to Reddit, Stumbleupon, etc. I have no idea how they work. And Facebook has too many options, so I don’t use it much. I’ll stick to my precious Twitter.

GG: I know Hazel isn’t you, but you do share some traits and background. Exactly how much of the comic is autobiographical?

DC: I joke that Hazel is me, and then immediately tell people that she isn’t… y’know, when she does something horrible.

The comic is based on my own feelings about relationships and the differences between people, but it’s rarely identical to my life. Aside from, say, Little Kid Hazel.

When I was six, I did, in fact, inform my mother that I was never getting married, never having kids, and when I grew up, I would ride a pony to work.

I never did get that pony…

GG: So would you say it’s fair that maybe a lot of the characters represent different parts of your own personality and feelings, with Hazel maybe serving as the baseline?

DC: Absolutely. I tend to tell people that Hazel is me when I’m sober, and Jamie is me when I’m drunk. Alternately, Jamie is the girl I aspire to be. I don’t know what that says about me.

As for the other characters: Maureen’s fear of phones and tampons? Mine. Clarice’s disdain for very-attractive-male attention? Mine. Angel’s impatience for friends-with-benefits who think they’re actually significant others? (Admittedly) mine. (But I like to think I’m much nicer about it!)

GG: Honest portrayal of sex and sexuality is a big thing in your strip (within the first five strips of GWS you already had a porn store clerk longing to be a librarian and an openly gay character in Darren), is this something you set out to do or did it just happen?

DC: It really just happened. Ever since high school I’ve been pretty open-minded about sexuality (though terrified of my own at the time, funny enough), and managed to befriend people who saw sex as a treat, not a threat.

“Write what you know,” so I did. In college I dated a bunch of guys were very laid-back – but respectful, mind you – about sex, nudity, and sexual orientation. I went to a liberal arts school in a town that once had the highest gays per capita on the east coast (and now you can take back everything you’ve ever thought about West Virginia). While I wasn’t out to make the comic a platform for my own agenda, I do have strong opinions about the way we as a society tend to shun, hide, and shame all things sex-related, and it shows in the strip.

GG: How often, if ever, do you come up with that idea that is just a little too far? Is there one idea or joke in particular that sticks out in your mind?

DC: Hmmmm. How far is too far for Danielle?

I almost bagged the origin story for Ghost Kitty (who is the embodiment of the soul of a stillborn kitten, eaten at birth), because my friends thought it was too gross. But everyone loved it.

I almost bagged the STD storyline, because originally Thea was supposed to catch herpes (HSV-2, which a LOT of my close friends contracted last year). I changed it to Restless Leg Syndrome, and people thought it was funny.

I did the flatulent kitty storyline (hello autobio) and the Maureen-and-Jameson-what-if-I’m-here-when-you-poop storyline, even though I lost a few readers over both.

So… I guess the answer is no. I come up with some ideas that are entirely too gross/wrong/unrelateable, but they’re generally not very funny anyway.

You’ll notice that I steer clear of abortion, religion, and most political issues. Gay rights, however? Bring it on.

GG: Even an untrained eye would see there is a huge style difference (note, not better or worse mind you) from your early strips on GWS and the strips you’re producing now, was this just a natural evolution or was there a point when you decided you needed to change it up?

DC: There are two reasons this happened:

1) I became a better artist. I can accept that some people liked, or even preferred, the earlier style, but it’s much harder to stay consistent when you don’t have an iconic, easily-reproduced character design.

2) I had to become a faster artist! At first I was updating twice a week. Then three. Then I decided to bag the whole idea of free time and start doing the strip five times a week. And then in color! So, restricting each character’s design to a set of iconic lines made it much easier to get the job done in time to update on a regular basis.

GG: With your need to get more efficient, have you found you’re using computers more? What steps actually go into making each strip these days?

DC: Actually, less! I’m really damn good at Photoshop, but I don’t have a Cintiq, and I find that I can generally accomplish most otherwise-digital tasks on paper in less time.

I just gave a bunch of teenagers this lesson on Danielle’s Daily Life; let’s see if I can do it again:

1) I script the comic, which can take anywhere from five minutes to five hours (ideas are haaaaard).
2) I lay out the page; all the lettering and panel borders go down first.
3) I ink the letters and pencil the art.
4) I ink the art and make any last-minute changes.
5) Scan art as line art/bitmap and drop into Photoshop, set up layers, etc.
6) Color using an old Wacom tablet in Photoshop.
7) Update comic, drink a cider, cuddle kitties, go to sleep

GG: You have a lot of great characters in GWS, almost too many. Have you ever thought about giving any of the other characters their own strip? Are there any GWS spin-offs in the future?

DC: No joke! There are some characters whose names I don’t even remember!

I’ve considered doing spin-offs. A Love Detective book, a McPedro book. McPedro is most likely, but I don’t know when I’ll have time to do it.

GG: Nobody wants GWS to end, but I know a lot of creators out there that plan the last installment of their work years in advance. Do you have that last strip or storyline planned out for Hazel?

DC: Not at all! I’m pretty sure Ryan Sohmer said he has the last strips of Least I Could Do in a safe somewhere, and I know Randy Milholland has all sorts of things planned out for Something Positive several years in the future.

I figure the entire strip has flown by the seat of its pants, so it might as well end that way, too. Besides, I don’t know when I’ll end it. What if they’re all in nursing homes by then?

If they are, I can assure you it’ll end in a poop joke.

GG: Lastly… when will you just drop a piano onto Candy? I mean really.

DC: I’m always surprised by how many people LIKE Candy! And because of those people, no, I will only reserve piano-dropping for those suffering from Loonius Toonitis, and I doubt that’ll ever happen again.

GG: Okay, since you won’t drop a piano on Candy, can I at least get more Darren?

DC: Man, I get a LOT of requests for Darren! Yes, I like Darren, and I want to see him more, too. I just have a LOT of other characters to attend to first. *wink*


Girls With Slingshots is posted every weekday at GirlsWithSlingshots.com. While there, you can also find more info on Danielle and which conventions she will be appearing at throughout the year.

3 Comments

  1. RemyNo Gravatar
    Posted July 5, 2011 at 9:26 am | Permalink | Reply

    It’s amazing what one day with no sleep can do… thank you. I have now read the entire archive of GWS, and it was FABULOUS. New webcomic to add to my daily queue!

    • Carl WatkinsNo Gravatar
      Posted July 5, 2011 at 7:47 pm | Permalink | Reply

      I did the same thing when I stumbled onto this gem awhile back. You should also check Danielle’s old personal website for some of the other strips that are mentioned in the interview!

      http://www.daniellecorsetto.com/comics.html

      Glad I could turn you onto this great comic 🙂

  2. Posted July 6, 2011 at 5:49 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Great interview for a great writer and illustrator! GWS is one of the few webcomics I’ve read where I’ve actually laughed out loud going through it. I heartily recommend to ANYONE looking for a daily read and smile.

6 Trackbacks

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