Interview with Jim Rugg, artist of The Guild

What can happen when you turn a passion of yours into a job? In 2007, actress and avid gamer Felicia Day decided to turn her World of Warcraft addiction into the award-winning online sitcom, The Guild. The show features a string of 3 to 8 minute episodes, each chronicling the lives and unique relationships of an online guild. For these members, it’s not always easy to blend their real lives with the fictional characters of their beloved MMORPG. The Guild has become an online phenomenon, winning awards like Best Series at the YouTube and Yahoo! Awards respectively, and has even garnered the attention of Dark Horse Comics. Written by Day, and illustrated by artist Jim Rugg, Dark Horse will release a 3-issue mini-series comic book, based on the internet series, based on a fictional videogame.

CGM: What attracted Dark Horse to commit themselves to bring The Guild to comics?

JR: They committed to it before I was involved. They've had success with licensed media in the past, such as Aliens, Star Wars, Conan, and Buffy. Felicia's worked with Joss Whedon in the past, including Dr. Horrible, which Dark Horse brought to comics. So it may have developed from that. I don't know.

CGM: What attracted you as an artist to this project?

JR: I've wanted to work with Dark Horse for awhile, and Scott Allie's one of the most well-regarded editors in mainstream comics. I consider myself a beginner in this field with a lot to learn, and working with experienced editors is one of my strategies to improve as a cartoonist.

When Scott contacted me about this specific project, the first thing I did was watch the web series. I wasn't familiar with it before. I thought it was great. I found the writing very appealing. Once I was sure I wanted to draw it, I convinced Scott to let me draw both the in-game sequences as well as the real world part. Originally he planned to have two different artists. But I really wanted a shot at drawing fantasy comics. I like to try different styles and genres and fantasy isn't one I had considered before this. I did some samples, and apparently it worked!

CGM: Concerning Felicia Day, how different is it to work with someone who never wrote a comic book before as opposed to someone who has?

JR: Funny you should ask. Almost all of my comics have been done with writers who had never written comics before - Brian Maruca (Street Angel, Afrodisiac), Cecil Castellucci (The PLAIN Janes, Janes in Love), and Courtney Taylor (One Model Nation). Each of these has produced a different experience. But they're all writers and understand storytelling. It's just a matter of adapting their stories to the comics medium. Felicia's scripts have been great. I'm not sure how much she and Scott (the editor) fine-tune the scripts before I get them. But they have been very clear, visually-oriented, show-don't-tell, etc. Her humor's great, the storytelling is very tight. The attention to detail has been thorough.

CGM: Did she ask for tips on how to write a comic or did she tackle it however she felt most comfortable with?guild2

JR: By the time I get the scripts, the writing has been worked out. So I can't comment on that process.

CGM: Does this book tell the story from the real world or through the actual video game’s perspective? Or is it a mix of both?

JR: It is a mix of both.

CGM: You’ve worked on different types of comics, from standard issues, graphic novels, and short comics of different genres. How does The Guild differ from your past works?

JR: The in-game sequences are essentially fantasy style art and storytelling (more dramatic, more illustrative). That's a new genre/style for me. That's probably the major difference.

CGM: Do you plan on setting this comic apart from the rest of the Dark Horse titles? Or was that never a concern for you?

JR: It isn't a concern of mine. But if I understand your question correctly, I believe the comic is self-contained, independent from any greater comics universe. I think this is a legal issue associated with licensed material.

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guild3 CGM: Are you or ever were an avid gamer yourself? Did you have some sort of prior understanding on what Felicia Day is trying to accomplish with her work?

JR: I played AD&D a little when I was about 12. My exposure to The Guild has been limited to what I've learned from Dark Horse, The Guild show, interviews I've read with Felicia, and email exchanges. Everything I draw goes through her and our editors. Whenever I'm unclear about something, they have been very good at answering my questions and steering me in the right direction.

As far as gaming goes, I'm a little apprehensive about getting involved in that world. It feels very alluring to me. I went through a few trial versions of games like World of Warcraft for this book, and I'm leery of my ability to play them in a disciplined way. As a freelancer, the last thing I need are more tempting ways to waste time (ask my editor).

I find video games fascinating. I have a good friend who teaches game theory and operates a video game company. The storytelling potential is overwhelming and possibly limitless.

CGM: What games have you been addicted to?

JR: In college all of my roommates and I played NHL Hockey on Sega (primarily 94 ad 95). Remember the hockey scene in Swingers? That was NHL 93.

CGM: What is the tone of the book? Do you keep the comedic and fun aspect of the show or add more to it like a darker and more serious theme, for example?

JR: The book maintains the wit and humor of the show. I think readers will enjoy it. I find the scripts fun and funny. Some of the humor has dark undertones, but it's consistent with that of the show.guild1

CGM: In recent years, we’ve seen a rise in popularity in the independent comic book scene, ranging from publishers and creator owned material. How does it feel to have more people aware of the independent scene than they did a few years back?

JR: I think the last 10 years have seen an expansion of non-traditional comics readers in America, possibly in Canada (although I don't know enough about Canada's comics history to say this confidently). I think more people are aware of comics as a medium, and perhaps the medium has gained greater acceptance as a legitimate art form.

The exciting shift in my mind has been the expansion of the talent pool. When I was a kid, there were very few choices in terms of readily-available styles of comics (newsstands were limited to Marvel/DC/Archie/Disney for the most part, and unless you had a comics store nearby, that was about it). Now cartoonists can be very, very accomplished technically without ever having read a Marvel/DC book. The storytelling has just exploded with so many influences from newspaper comics reprints to Asian and European imports, as well as art and graphic influences from outside comics (like designers, painters, filmmakers, printmakers, musicians).

Whatever stigma once existed against comics has been removed. The result is an explosion of artistic growth. The other factor is distribution, specifically the internet. Now kids living in the middle of nowhere have access to virtually all of the comics and cartoonists from around the globe and throughout history. It's really, really exciting as a fan of the medium. I can't imagine a better time to be a comics reader.

The Guild promises to be an interesting experience for comic book and gamer aficionados alike. Jim’s enthusiasm seems contagious. The 3-issue mini-series is being published by Dark Horse Comics and is scheduled for release on March 24

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For more information on Dark Horse Comics, visit www.darkhorse.com

To watch episodes of The Guild online, visit www.watchtheguild.com

To follow artist Jim Rugg, visit www.jimrugg.com