Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the release of the 200th episode of your ongoing webcomic, Decades of (in)Experience! For those who may have missed our interview together last year, how would you describe the webcomic’s premise, and what inspired you to first tell this story?
Alex Schumacher: Thank you so much! Reaching 200 episodes is indeed a staggering landmark. For the uninitiated, Decades of (in)Experience revolves around the trials and tribulations of Luke Carlin, a thirty-something who hasn’t quite figured it out. Over the course of the last 4 years and change, he’s developed into a far more self-aware, emotionally available individual. The impetus behind telling Luke’s story was really the desire to return to the slice-of-life/semi-autobiographical work I produced during my inaugural period of creating comics in my 20s. I have also found the webcomic to be a way for me to hold myself accountable for past behavior or pernicious mindsets and—hopefully—chart some personal growth.
BD: In looking back at your work over the series’ five-year run, do you feel that you’ve seen a change or evolution in the way that you approach the creative process for the writing and illustrative duties?
AS: There’s been quite the evolution of style and approach. I can imagine this was more than somewhat inspired by the drastically different formats of the first 2 years as compared to year 3 forward. Years 1 & 2 were curated as an illustrated flash fiction set containing several large chunks of text interspersed by a couple of illustrations. In year 3, Francis and I made the executive decision to dive head first back into traditional comics. To say my oft-times verbose nature was in need of an overhaul would be an understatement. That said, I believe that 3rd year truly taught me to harness the delicate interplay between the text and art of comics like never before.
BD: Francis, as the editor of the series, what has made Antix Press the perfect home for Decades of (in)Experience, and what has been your experience in watching the series, its characters, and Alex - as a creator - evolve of the past five years?
Francis Lombard: From Antix’s genesis, whatever Antix did was to make sure humor was a strong element in any project. Decades fit perfectly from the onset. There’s self-deprecating humor, black humor, slapstick, visual… really a cornucopia of humor. Also, the strong dramatic moments in the series do a great job of setting up the humor.
As for watching the series grow, it has been a blast. It amazes me that we are at 200 episodes and going strong. Watching Alex’s storytelling muscles Hulk-out over the run has been so rewarding. I really hope other editors feels the same way very soon. Except for one challenge I’ve hit him with, he has risen to all. I just wish we could get a buffer of three or four episodes in the can, still, except when he broke his hand, he has delivered a new episode every Friday. Luckily, Alex has some great friends who took up the drawing chores when his hand was kaput.
BD: At Fanbase Press this year, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that Decades’ story will connect with and impact readers, and why do you feel that this story was important for you to bring to life?
AS: I’ve found it’s entirely too easy to look around and become suffused with the overwhelming feeling that everyone else has their act together. I hope, in part, Luke gives those who may believe they have no direction in life a character to whom they can empathize. From the start, this webcomic has also been steeped in the notion that individuals can change, regardless of how broken or damaged they may feel. The series was important for me to bring to life as it arrived on the heels of far too many years of betraying myself as an artist. I spent an inordinate amount of wasted energy on trying to please others and was in dire need of a fresh start as a creator. Francis and Decades of (in)Experience offered me that opportunity.
FL: At the series’ core is Luke Carlin’s pursuit of his dream. I think Alex has done a great job of presenting how life can get in the way of or support that pursuit. Even though there are many moments of weakness for Luke, at his core there is a determination to be a decent human being. I think Alex does a great job showing the reader how someone can move forward in life towards a better position even though it seems like most of the times they are constantly screwing up. If you look at Year 1 of Decades, Luke was a total ass. Things were dark. But he evolved. He is a different person nowadays. That’s the great part of a weekly webcomic is that our characters can change and, like in life, there won’t be a reboot.
BD: As part of the 200th episode celebration, do you have any special features planned for readers? Likewise, we can we look forward to in future episodes?
AS: As an extended observance, a 3-part story arc in which Luke squares off with some of his past incarnations will span from the 200th episode of 02/21/2020 through Friday 03/06/2020. In the immediate future, Luke will be learning to navigate the next great challenge of his life: cohabitating with a significant other. Things should be interesting, to say the least.
FL: Also, the 200th episode celebration is a homage to a favorite single issue of mine from my youth. I’m think I’m a bigger superhero nerd than Alex, so I can’t help myself with suggestions of homages. I convinced Alex to do a nod to Marvel Super Villain Team-up a while back. With this, as Alex talked about what themes and ideas he wanted to work on for the 200 episode celebration, I thought about other pop culture stories that has characters battling themselves. There’s the classic Star Trek episode with Kirk fighting his evil twin, and then there’s specific Marvel comic also. When we’re talking about future stories sometimes I throw out pop culture references to dissect to see how they worked their magic and what we can learn from them.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
AS: Aside from year 5 of Decades of (in)Experience, I also have a Mr. Butterchips (my monthly satirical comic strip) collection being released soon, as well as a new graphic novel currently being shopped by my literary agent.
FL: There’s my podcast, Portrait of an Editor, which is all about comic book editors and just started its third year. Other than that, I live to serve Alex Schumacher. I’m in a perpetual state of guilty feelings, because of all the heavy lifting I ask of him on Decades.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Decades of (in)Experience?
AS: The archive of apathy can be found on the archive site. News on Decades and upcoming appearances can be found on my website alexschumacherart.com.
FL: New episodes of Decades can always be found every Friday at antixpress.com.