by Mark Walters

Scott Kurtz has had quite a bit of success with his comic strip PvP: Player vs. Player.  Over the years it has jumped from the internet to comic book form, even becoming a best-selling title at Image Comics.  2004 has been an interesting year for Scott.  His comments regarding the National Features Syndicate brought a lot of attention, and quite a bit of criticism from various comic strip artists  I had a chance to sit down with Scott and take a look back on the year.  Here is what he had to say:

Mark:  So how are things with PvP?

Scott:  Things are good.  It's been a banner year for the strip.

Mark:  What storylines really wowed the fans this past year?

Scott:  What is it you're asking me?

Mark:  What storylines seemed the most pleasing to your fans?

Scott:  You know, the 24-hour Comic Book Day was a really big hit this year.  I think people were interested both in what I could come up with in a 24-hour period, and I think in general they enjoyed the strips themselves.

Mark:  You had fun doing that didn't you?

Scott:  No I did not.  I had an awful time doing that.  This next year I'm going to do it much differently.

Mark:  You mean with pants on?

Scott:  Yeah, I didn't do that in my underwear at home.  It was a fun experience because we were all in the back of Lone Star Comics, joking and having a good time.  But I really needed an opportunity to sleep somewhere.

Mark:  Did you feel you compromised quality working so fast?

Scott:  I think my art lends itself to working at that fast a pace, so speed wasn't an issue. Getting tired and being out of my comfort zone made things more difficult. I would have had a better time with it if I were at home, at my drawing table with all my stuff around me.  Having a place to stop and nap would have been helpful too.

Mark:  Did it teach you anything about the way you work? Did anything change afterward?

Scott:  Well, it taught me what I was capable of output wise.  But I didn't stumble on any new artistic tricks... other than you can get more done when you don't have a bunch of idiot girls screaming about anime after they decided they were done trying to get their 24 hour comic done.

Mark:  There was a pretty cool crossover in the book this year with the Savage Dragon. What other cool events are in the works for upcoming issues?

Scott:  There is a crossover with Invincible (kind of) that I'm pretty excited about.

Mark:  You and Robert Kirkman are pretty good friends. Is he going to be involved in the writing on that one?

Scott:  Heh.  No.  In that issue, what actually happens is the PVP gang go to Comic-Con.  Robert and (Invincible artist) Ryan Ottley are there.  Robert makes Ryan put on an Invincible costume to sell books and hilarity ensues.

Mark:  Clever.  Do you and Robert have any other collaborative projects planned?

Scott:  Why yes!  Thanks for asking.  Robert and I will be working on the Golden Agers, a comic about a Superhero retirement home... as well as Pregnant Cat, a comic panel we hope is just trite and boring enough to get syndicated.

Mark:  I remember talking about that on Fanboy Radio. Didn't you already release a shirt for sale featuring Pregnant Cat?

Scott:  Why yes!  I'm glad you asked that.  The Pregnant cat shirt is available at the thinkgeek site.  Half the profits go to Kirkman, so help the guy out.

Mark:  How are sales so far?

Scott:  We've sold, and I'm not exaggerating, 18 shirts.

Mark:  Spellbinding. Since you brought up syndication, let's talk about your feelings toward the syndicate. It's no secret you have problems with the way they do things. Earlier this year you made an incredible statement by offering PvP free to whatever publication wanted to print it. Apparently the syndicate didn't like that too much. What was the initial backlash like?

Scott:  Fascinating question. Nobody's asked me that this year. Actually the syndicate never made a comment, but several syndicated cartoonists made it publicly known that they thought I was hurting things by going this route.

Mark:  Like who?

Scott:  Wiley Miller, Darren Bell, and Tom Batuik to name a couple.

Mark:  Who?!

Scott:  The respective cartoonists for Non Sequitur, Rudy Park and Funky Winkerbean.

Mark:  I knew I had heard of Batuik. So what's they're problem? Are they afraid you're taking money out of their pocket?

Scott:  Basically. Either they think I won't succeed or they're afraid I will. If papers can get my strip for free, they won't want to pay for strips in the future. That's their fear.

Mark:  What is your main beef with the syndicate?

Scott:  I don't really have a beef with the syndicate itself. I don't think their contracts are balanced very well. And I don't think that for me, they have much to offer outside of getting me into papers.  Most syndicates want a piece of the pie, and I've already built up revenue streams on my own without their help.  I don't see the need to suddenly share that with them for no reason.  I made that happen, they didn't.

Mark:  Wait a minute!  Just a few minutes ago you were talking about creating Pregnant Cat specifically to be syndicated.  Yet you're against syndication.  Are you sure you want to get that syndicated?

Scott:  I'm against syndicating PvP, because I've put in six years of work, and established a living off of it, but I don't feel it's fair to share that with the syndicate just because they can get me into newspapers.  But they can have Pregnant Cat!

Mark:  Do you ever wish you had started in the newspapers?

Scott:  Nope. I think if PvP had started in the papers I would have accomplished less these last six years.  I wouldn't have my Image deal, that's for sure.

Mark:  Correct me if I'm wrong, but there are a few papers already running it, aren't there?

Scott:  Yes.  The Kansas City Star runs it once a week, and the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin runs it five times a week.

Mark:  How cool was it seeing PvP printed as a newspaper comic strip?

Scott:  Oh man, is was awesome.  I have friends in Missouri, and they were kind enough to run out and grab the paper for me.  The overnighted it, and waiting for that was the longest 24 hours of my life!

Mark:  Have those papers had any kind of feedback from readers that otherwise would never have seen your strip?

Scott:  I have no clue.

Mark:  Let's go in a different direction here.  What were your favorite and least favorite movies of the year?

Scott:  Man, that's tough.

Mark:  Oh come on, the first one is easy for you.

Scott:  No, I don't know what was...

Mark:  SPIDER-MAN 2.

Scott:  Oh.  Yeah, it was okay.

Mark:  OH COME ON!  You were creamin' yer pants over that movie!  You could not stop going on about how you thought it was the greatest movie ever made.

Scott:  Well, that was before I saw THE INCREDIBLES.

Mark:  So your changing your stance eh?  Do you deny these charges?  Don't wait for the translation!  Answer me now!

Scott:  I sentence you to the dilthium mines on Rura Pente.

Mark:  Okay that's it for the STAR TREK 6 reference portion of the interview.  But seriously, movies, good and bad.  Go.

Scott:  SPIDER-MAN 2 was awesome.  THE INCREDIBLES was really great.  I'm trying to think of some other movies I saw this year that I really enjoyed.

Mark:  Well there was I, ROBOT.

Scott:  Meh.

Mark:  There was COLLATERAL.

Scott:  Didn't see it, but meh.

Mark:  There was HELLBOY.

Scott:  Um, "What makes a man a man?"  HELLBOY was a good movie, but it was far from perfect.  And the plot needed work.  Everything involving the villains was very confusing and convoluted.  And the ending was awful and rushed.  Stand back cause my pyrotechnics can destroy anything... except for my clothes, or anyone hiding behind a rock!

Mark:  How about the bad ones.

Scott:  Did THE PUNISHER come out this year?

Mark:  Yes.

Scott:  Then, THE PUNISHER.

Mark:  Aw come on man.  Thomas Jane might read this.

Scott:  I'm fine with that.  He was the bomb in THE SWEETEST THING, yo.

Mark:  Okay we're done with that.

Scott:  No, BLADE TRINITY.  Truly awful movie.  Oh!  ALIENS VS. PREDATOR, holy crap.  That movie was awesome in it's badness.

Mark:  Alright, let's talk about your involvement with Astro City.  How did that come about?

Scott:  Kurt Busiek called me, and asked if I'd be willing to create a custom cartoon for the upcoming trade.  He's a big fan, and I was happy to do it, and honored to be asked.  And you better believe I'll be adding "artist of Astro City" on my list of credits from now on.  It'll be listed as "Scott Kurtz - PvP, ASTRO CITY."  And it won't be a lie.

Mark:  How do you think Kurt will feel about that?

Scott:  He never paid me to do the strip, so he better be fine with it.  (chuckles)

Mark:  Tell us about the upcoming issues of PvP.  What interesting things will we be seeing?

Scott:  Aside from the Invincible crossover, Kelsey Shannon did a cover for me that I'm really happy with.  I got another Frank Cho cover coming.  It's actually an old cover he did a while back, that I was never able to use, because Dork Storm cancelled it.  As for the rest, it's just more of the same bullshit that people are stupid enough to buy.

Mark:  Well naturally.  I love hearing about your priceless basset hound Kirby.  Some of the stories you've told me are nothing short of brilliant.  What is your best Kirby story of 2004?

Scott:  Well there was that time when I was bringing him back from the groomer...

Mark:  That dog has been to a groomer?!

Scott:  Funny.  Anyway, as I was driving, he jumped onto the steering wheel, jerking it violently to the right, and almost killed us both.

Mark:  That's awesome.

Scott:  That is not awesome.  That's awful.

Mark:  I love that dog.

Scott:  I almost died cause of that stupid dog.

Mark:  Yeah he's great.  Since this interview is kind of all over the place, let's go ahead and talk a little politics.  How do you feel about George W. Bush getting re-elected?

Scott:  I didn't vote for him.  But he's the President and I support the President.

Mark:  Way to make a stand.

Scott:  Look, I didn't think he deserved another four years.  I don't think he was doing a very good job, and I really feel like he is trying to turn this into a Religious nation.  That's a little scary.  Who'd you vote for Mark?

Mark:  Next question.

Scott:  Way to make a stand.

Mark:  Touché!  How about best convention experience and worst convention experience?

Scott:  Um... Baltimore is my best convention experience.  The dinner that they throw the night before is just indescribable.  I had a smile on my face the whole time.

Mark:  That's where you won the original John Romita Sr. piece in the Actor auction, isn't it?.

Scott:  Why yes it is.  Seeing the look on his face when I bought that was also pretty cool.  He couldn't believe it went for so much.  I couldn't believe it went for so much.

Mark:  I can't believe you spent that much!

Scott:  The way I look at it, I made a large charitable donation to a worthy cause, which should be reward enough.  But I'll take the Romita Piece as well.

Mark:  Alright, worst con experience.

Scott:  Oh boy.  San Diego on the whole was pretty unbearable.  The show is so busy it's hard to enjoy it.  It's the most work that you do all year.  It's a pain, it's expensive, you barely break even, you wonder why you do it, but it's the biggest convention anywhere and you have to go.  Although I'm starting to question that logic.  But a pretty crappy con experience was at your convention actually.

Mark:  Your talking about Bojay, aren't ya?

Scott:  You know I am.  Somehow I got roped into watching Jack Stauffer's table while he did a Q&A session.  He has all these photos out, and my job, my only job, was to make sure that nobody stole his photos.  So then the guy at the table next to me... I can't remember his name.

Mark:  Dean Haglund, one of the Lone Gunmen.

Scott:  Right.  Anyway, so this brain-trust from the X-FILES tries to cram through the gap in between our tables rather then just going around the long way.  He bumps my table, and dumps my extra-large soda all over Jack's photos.  So I look at this guy, and all he has to say is "Oh man, that fucking sucks!" before walking off.  So I'm scrambling trying to get these photos spread out and dried off.  I'm panicking about Jack coming back, and trying to come to grips about the fact that I'm probably going to have to pay for all these photos.  Meanwhile Marina Sirtis comes up and says "I think he should have to pay for those photos, it was his fault."  And I'm thinking "Thanks Troi."  Like that's gonna happen.  Luckily Jack was really cool about it, didn't charge me for the photos, and told me it was no big deal.

Mark:  Okay enough about cons.  Did anything emotional or personal affect you this past year?

Scott:  It was a big deal to see PvP in the newspaper.  Because first of all, I didn't think anyone would care.  But it turns out a lot of people cared, and it ended up being a pretty huge deal.  So far it hasn't been a huge victory, cause it's only in a few papers, but to me it's an enormous accomplishment.

Mark:  Frank Kurtz, your dad, has made a several appearances in the strip this year.  How does he feel about your success?

Scott:  He's very proud.  I think this year more than any I've discovered that my dad is finally getting what I'm doing, and I think he really appreciates what I'm doing.

Mark:  You've come a long way in the last five years.  Considering where this all started, and where it is today, where do you want to see PvP five years from now?

Scott:  I want to see the numbers in the book go up.  First of all in five years I just want there to still be a PvP comic book going.  With the way the market is today, you're lucky if you make it to 10 issues.  I just solicited issue #17.  Hopefully I can make it to 50 or 100, and really have a prolific run.  Man that would be awesome.  Wouldn't mind seeing a TV show, or at least some animated shorts on the web that we could package into a DVD.  If there's still a PvP comic in five years, I'll be the happiest guy on the planet.




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