Sunday, June 21, 2009

Interview with Terri Garofalo, creator of "Entities-R-Us"

I came across "Entities-R-Us" via the wonders of Twitter one day. At first I have to admit a little bit of jealousy that someone beat me to the bunch about creating a comic about ghost hunters (I know, I know, Scooby Doo came first really, but let's not count that!). However, after given the time to calm down I found that "Entities-R-Us" is a fun daily stripe that deserves center stage when it comes to light-hearted, good-humored paranormality. Thus, this brings us to the stripes creator, Terri J. Garofalo.

Terri has been in cartoons since the later-cretaceous period ( i.e. high school). Writing many different strips over the years, she has come close to syndication, but not quite there. Entities-R-Us, Ghost Hunter Comic was the last straw. While it got positive reviews, the syndicates wouldn’t take it on. Nothing gets done unless you buck up and do it yourself. Enter, the web comic.

Entities-R-Us was launched on September 18, 2008. It’s a cartoon about a group of ghost hunters and their insane experiences. Since Terri is an investigator herself, she often includes “case studies” of actual hunts. The ghosts in ERU have a say and are very much a part of the character list. Some of the more interesting cartoons evolve from the spiritual perspective.

ERU originated within a previous comic strip endeavor called “In Spirit”. The story of a skeptic poet named Woodsworth who moves into a haunted trailer in the woods. Entities-R-Us is called to come in and “hunt” the ghost. That aspect was more amusing than the rest of the comic, except Fred, the ghost.

Woodsworth’s experiences parallel Terri’s own first paranormal experience. That one event sparked the beginning of a spiritual journey that she has been on ever since and Entities is a part of.

Terri is also a fine artist (of multiple media), graphic designer/illustrator, and equestrian.

ARF: So Terri, of all the things to draw comics about...ghosts? Why?

TJG: Ah... long arduous answer and when I'm done you'll commit me to the insanity ward. In the 90's I had one of those clear, vivid dreams. Jim Morrison of the Doors knocked on my door. I answered and he proceeded to show me how I was supposed to draw him if he was still alive and living as a recluse in the woods.
That was too weird for me - not being a huge Doors fan and merely an appreciator of the music. So, I drew the character, teamed him up with the recluse of Elvis and created a comic strip that went absolutely nowhere... except into my own slush pile.
Flash forward to 2006. I begin hearing Doors songs EVERWHERE I go - in the car, in malls, everytime the radio is on. I've learned to listen to signs. So, I drag out the character AGAIN... This time I make him a recluse poet named Woodsworth who retreats from society. Instead of Elvis, it dawns on me to give him a more elusive roommate, a ghost named Fred. Thus, the comic strip "In Spirit" was born. To that, I added a communicator for Woodsy in the form of the psychic Erna. I needed a group of ghost hunters, so in 30 minutes I had Arno, Merv and the Entities-R-Us Microbus.
I submitted this cartoon for syndication. I had a lot of good response on it, but no takers. It was nagging me that the Entities-R-Us guys over-ran the strip. Also, the ghost was awesome. Another sign cropped up... "" was not available, but was! That did it. I began a new comic based on the ghost hunters I drew in minutes...
ARF: Is the team from Entities-R-Us based off friends specifically or have you changed them a bit?

TJG: I'm not sure where these characters evolved from, they just showed up for me. Arno has a lot of my interests - a zealous interest in the unknowns like ghosts, yeti, lockness monster, UFOs for instance. The original drawings ripped off Ghost Hunter Dustin Pari's hair... The now version evolved into the weird buffant just through repetitive drawing. The ironic thing is it looks exactly like one of the first comic characters I drew, a rabbit named Radar.
Merv is just a goofball... He is what I would envision as a technician for a rock band. He's really loose, burnt and mellow. I don't think he cares about the paranormal as much as he's into the equipment. Again, he's no one I know personally. Ironically, he's beginning to show some signs of intelligence! Perhaps he's not as fried as I thought?
Erna looks pretty much like I did in my "hippie" days. One day I'll post a picture that will freak everyone out! Erna is at a spiritual point in her life where she's completely patient, unconditionally loving etc... something I strive for, but have yet to even come close to!
Vlad is Vlad... what a demonologist should be. A little goth don't ya think?
Carl & Thor are the ghosts who show up for Ouija Nite. These guys are sort of based on the old Asterix Comics that my Latin teacher brought in for all us High Schoolers to check out. Thor is pretty much a Visgoth and Carl a Roman soldier. They are just like any regulars you might meet in your local bar for Ouija Nite.

ARF:What has been the general response from your readers? What do they take from your strips?

TJG: Response has been great. Many readers are paranormal investigators themselves, so they relate to the 'goings-ons'. The investigators from my team run out the strips and wallpaper their offices. Some regulars are just fans of ghost hunter TV shows. Some have spiritual leanings.

ARF: During paranormal investigations, what do you find to be the most necessary piece of equipment?

TJG: A clear mind. If your mind is really busy, you will miss much. I also rely mostly on my digital voice recorder and my trusty camera. You're more apt to hear a voice, than get pictures or video.

ARF: What materials and tools do you use to make Entities-R-Us. In other words, take us through the process of making one of your strips.

TJG: Again, it's the mind. I keep a pad handy since ideas tend to just show up. Often I come home from an investigation with a huge need to write stuff down. I have cartoon entire investigations - which is really fun!
Drawing: I begin sketching with pencil. I use a template for exterior and divide them up into boxes as I draw. I tend to be quite loose in my format. (I've always hated boxes and restrictions.) My drawing works best in a gestural sense, so I like to keep the entire feel of the comic like that. I use the old fashioned bottle of ink and quill pens for the drawing. I hand-letter with a worn out quill that gives me the letter thickness I prefer. The boxes are hand done with a brush. I make every attempt to follow my straight pencil line, but if I veer off course a tad, I don't lose any sleep. Just like in my watercolors, my comics have little "happy accidents" some of which I leave - Whiteout is my friend!

ARF: Anything else on the horizon?

TJG: Yes, I'm working on a book. It's not going to be a standard collection of comics, it will be a little historical about the evolution of Entities. I also want to include various paranormal experiences.

ARF: Thank you for taking the time to chat with me Terri.

TJG: You're welcome! Honored to be here! I want to thank you and everyone who has helped bolster this adventure of mine.

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