Grab a 40: Andy Belanger pours a Bottle of Awesome for Zuda

Last week DC Comics' webcomics initiative, Zuda, began dropping hints on Twitter and their blog about their next webcomic, making references to "bottles" and "awesome." So I guess it comes as no surprise that the strip that debuted yesterday was Bottle of Awesome by Andy Belanger.

Belanger is no stranger to the world of webcomics, as his Raising Hell strip currently runs at the webcomics collective Transmission X. I spoke with him about his new strip and everything else he has going on comics related, both online and off.

JK: So what exactly is Bottle of Awesome?

Andy: Bottle of Awesome is my escape from everything I would normally do. I'm a horror aficionado, The bulk of my work thus far has been horror. Bottle of Awesome is a step in the complete other direction from that. It's a comedy, however, dark at times. It's me getting in touch with my high school days. I wanted to tell a story that was a throwback to all those '80s "You can do it" films. Films like The Karate Kid, Weird Science, Real Genius and so on. I have been noticing a trend in comics where it feels like every comic is Batman. Every character is a dark brooding anti-hero with a chip on his shoulder and a set of dead parents as his motive. Comics just seem to all have the same mood and as much as my work is knee deep in it, I wanted a change. That change is Bottle of Awesome!

Bottle of Awesome is the story of a real geeky dweeb named "Billy Butterman" or as the kids call him "Billy Butterpants". Billy would soil his pants at the hint of nervousness ‘til he was ten. Like all dweebs, Billy is constantly terrorized by the school bullies, gym teacher and principal. That is until one fateful night while walking home late after school, he comes across a mysterious bum under a bridge. That bum gives Billy something amazing, something magic, the Bottle of Awesome. Whenever Billy drinks from the magic glowing bottle, he gets really awesome at whatever he wishes. However, if he drinks too much, he has the possibility of becoming too awesome and capable of causing life-threatening damage. In comic terms, it's like Popeye just jumped into an Archie comic that was written by Jody Hill. I think B. of A. will fill a gap in comics that has been missing since The Katzenjammer Kids and Hogan's Alley. I'm a huge fan of South Park and would say to myself, "Now Matt Stone and Trey Parker have fun jobs." This is where my story is coming from. I figured who knows more about being awesome after drinking than me? Just kidding; it's probably quite the opposite.

JK: How does the "instant winner" thing work at Zuda? Did you submit your strip into the monthly competition, or did they approach you directly about doing something?

Andy: This is an interesting question and what I'm going to tell you is that a magician never reveals his secrets. No, again, I'm kidding. I did a bit of work for DC's marketing department and know all the people in that part of the office. Over the years, we've become pretty good friends. As you know, I'm part of the webcomics group Transmission X here in Toronto, and we launched TX at roughly the same time as Zuda. We were in contact with Kwanza [Johnson, Zuda editor] kind of from the beginning, and I believe Karl Kerschl (Charles Christopher) and Ramon Perez (Kukuburi) did promo art for the site. Right off the bat meeting Kwanza, I knew we'd be good friends. Kwanza is the man and super fun to work with, as is Ron Perazza [editorial director], and I can't forget amazing Nika [Dominika Denoyelle, editorial assistant]. I couldn't ask for better people to work for.

To get back to your question, I approached them with the title kind of half serious over beers, and when Kwanza decided to take me half serious, I decided to get dead serious. I'd love to make my career solely based on my webcomic work. I think they decided to make me an instant winner from my experience with their department and Wildstorm, as well on just how awesome the concept could really be. If I had to go into the competition, I was still pretty confident because I would have gone on hands and knees to my other TX compadres and asked for some linkage on top of the fans I already have reading Raising Hell.

JK: Will you still be working on Raising Hell while working on the Zuda strip?

Andy: I'll most definitely be working on Raising Hell at the same time. Raising Hell only gets one update a week, so it's not too hard to pull off. We don't make a lot of money off the TX stuff, but I'm hoping some of the people who enjoy Bottle of Awesome will come over to the dark side and read Raising Hell. The heart of Raising Hell is really the story of my past love relationships. It's loaded with silly metaphors and a whole lot of zombie carnage. I still have about two years to finish the whole three-part story, and it's too fun to quit now.

JK: How did you get started in comics, and what else have you worked on?

Andy: How did I get started? I would say I've always done it since I was like four. I went to art school and what not, but it wasn't until I moved to Toronto that I started to get clients on a regular basis. I started by doing a lot of kids comics, and my first break came from Ben Abernathy at Wildstorm on Friday the 13th. I was already working on a horror book called Wolf for Moonstone comics, but it came out after Friday the 13th, which is one of my favorite horror film series. After that I did a western for BOOM! Studios and covers for Chucky and Halloween at Devil's Due. I also did some Sheena interiors for those guys. To date a lot of the work I do is doing kids comics and illustration, but I'm full blown in the comic scene now.

JK: Are you working on anything else comic-related right now?

Andy: Besides Bottle of Awesome and Raising Hell, I'm doing a zombie comedy with J Torres for Oni Press called Dead Goombas. J released some teaser art for it earlier this year and I've been chipping away at that book as well. I have one other major project in the works, but it's on the down low for now. I have my hands pretty full, which is the way I like it.

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