That Monkey Tune is a charming gag-a-day webcomic with style reminiscent of 1930s newspaper strips and a gentle sense of humor. Michael Kandalaft has been drawing it daily for over three years, and he recently self-published Ready, Set, Go!, a collection of the third year’s worth of strips. The cheery, bright-colored cover of the book first caught my eye at New York Comic-Con, but since I didn’t manage to connect with Kandalaft there, I e-mailed him with some questions about inspiration and perspiration—what it takes to keep a webcomic going in the long run.
Brigid: What was the inspiration for That Monkey Tune?
Michael: That Monkey Tune was inspired by me and my brother growing up with our stuffed animals. We used to make drawings of everything going on in the house through the eyes of our stuffed monkeys, who were the precursors to the characters we now know as Elliot and Beagly.
Brigid: The comic has a very retro look—their living room looks like Blondie’s, and they even have a telephone with a cord. But then in today’s comic, Umo has a snowblower. Are you consciously setting this in a particular period or just going with the look?
Michael: I am neither setting it in a particular period or going with a look. To me, this is the world the monkeys live in, the idea of which germinated when I was a child, and as such, would likely be influenced by the older comics that I used to read. This is a special world in which one must suspend one’s disbelief, and I believe that having the time period be rendered irrelevant by both maintaining visual throwbacks and also be omitting hyper-current technology one cultivates a familiarity and timelessness in the readers mind.
Brigid: Am I correct in reading the kids as being monkeys but the adults, Dadoo and Umo, as humans? If so, why did you decide on that configuration?
Michael: As I mentioned previously, the inspiration comes from me and my brother being the models for the humans. The monkeys just always seemed like little kids, but also I suppose they are caught in time and are really in essence the same age that I was when I first started drawing them. The humans grew up, but the stuffed monkeys remained ageless.
Brigid: Also, there don’t seem to be any regular female characters. Why is that?
Michael: This is a question that has been asked often. Again, the characters are based on me and my brother, and stem from that frame of reference of us as children. Also we never had any sisters. There are, however, some peripheral female characters, most notably the blondes that Umo romantically pursues in false hopes.
Brigid: This is a very kid-friendly webcomic. Are you doing anything specific to connect with children? Do you think that’s harder than finding an adult audience online?
Michael: The comic is geared for everyone and for no one. The ideas just come to me, and are relayed through the characters. I think its important to have universal characters and universal settings that everyone can relate to. The ideas are not condensed and simplified for children specifically, but rather, as a function of effectively communicating the action and humor, which happens to end up being easier and more appealing to all ages.
Brigid: Tell me a bit about the business side of That Monkey Tune. Do you make any money off it, and if so, how?
Michael: The business aspect is something that many cartoonists and artists struggle with. Finding ones market and establishing a business model always seems to be elusive, and even established cartoonists aren’t quite sure what’s next.
Brigid: Updating daily is pretty ambitious—a lot of webcomics creators have tried and failed. What’s your secret?
Michael: Being successful at any endeavor requires incredible discipline. Whether it’s cartoons or anything else, one must have persistence, determination, and a positive attitude, which are quite a lot of things to handle combined with being responsible for the writing and drawing as well.
Brigid: You just published a print edition of That Monkey Tune. Did you self-publish? How much of the comic is included in the book?
Michael: The latest book, Ready, Set, Go which is available on Amazon is self-published and contains the entire third year of the comic strip, which were still being done in black and white. It’s incredible to see the evolution of the characters in just one year.
Brigid: I missed you at New York Comic Con. Do you go to a lot of cons? What do you like (and dislike) about them?
Michael: I went to the Boston, New York, and Chicago Comic Cons last year. I think they’re an incredible atmosphere full of talented artists and really exciting fans. One has to be up to the high energy environment, and as such, I have put further plans to attend others on hold for now.”
Brigid: Are there any big changes coming in the future, for the comic or for you?
Michael: That Monkey Tune now appears in print newspapers, which is very exciting. The comic is currently starting to appear across the nation in print which I believe makes sense for several reasons. The comic has a gentle warmth, universal characters, and a clear drawing style, all of which I believe make the comic ideal for being read by all types of newspaper readers. While being a new comic, it still has a familiar feel, and brings much needed laughter and uniqueness to the papers that have picked up the comic strip. If you would like to see That Monkey Tune in your local paper, please ask your editor, and hopefully they’ll listen!
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