Ryan Sohmer is the writer behind the popular webcomic, "Least I Could Do," which is now approaching its sixth anniversary. For the past few years he's been collaborating with artist Lar DeSouza on the strip, with whom he also produces the comic, "Looking for Group."
"Least I Could Do" follows daily the hilarious (and often very wrong) adventures and entanglements of Rayne Summers, a charming, self-centered character who if he were more restrained, might be described as Sohmer's id.
Sohmer is also the head of Blind Ferret Entertainment, an animation company developing different projects -- including a television version of "Least I Could Do," which has been greenlit and currently scheduled for release sometime later this year.
Sohmer took some time out to talk to CBR News about his projects.
CBR: What was the inspiration behind "Least I Could Do?"
Ryan Sohmer: I was writing a syndicated entertainment column for several dozen newspapers in the US and Canada, as well as an editorial comic strip with [artist] Lar [DeSouza]. It was all non-fiction, and for the most part, the reason to start LICD was simply to answer the question: Could I write fiction?
The inspiration behind it was an idea that had been percolating for about five years, and the gist of it was to take my adolescent experiences, embellish, glamorize and severely exaggerate them, and see what came out of it.
Why produce "Least I Could Do" as a webcomic?
I had no real industry credentials, thus publishing on the web was really the only route I could take. Again, since I had no real idea what I was doing, it seemed like the perfect playground in which to learn, to improve and to see what I could about building a reader base.
Were you always a comics fan?
Always, both the funny pages and the Marvel and DC issues. In terms of funny pages, "Calvin & Hobbes" has an exclusive place in my heart, followed by Trudeau's "Doonesbury." As for the other, my original tastes lied with The Punisher, Spider-Man, X-Men and Batman, but have recently exploded everywhere. My hope is to one day have the opportunity to play in one of those universes.
How much of Rayne is you, and vice versa?
More and less than I'd like to admit. Rayne is the conduit I often use for things I wish I could do or say, but people and the legal system are a lot more forgiving in his world than ours. Over the years, Rayne has developed a lot of his own habits and traits that are completely opposite from my own. It's been interesting to see the evolution.
You worked with a few artists before Lar DeSouza took over the illustration duties.
When I had originally committed to doing LICD, it was my intent to do it with Lar. Unfortunately, Lar turned me down due to time constraints. A few years later, he finally said yes, and I was able to create the strip I had always envisioned.
In July 2007, you announced that you were going to age the characters. What was behind the decision, and what's been possible that you couldn't have done otherwise, creatively speaking?
The short answer: Write what you know. I was 22-years-old when LICD began, and it was rather easy for me to write about a character spending his time in bars, coffee shops and other places and situations we do when we're lacking the heavy responsibilities we pick up later in life. As I got older, it dawned on me that it was getting harder to relate to these characters. The solution Lar and I came up with, was to age the characters with us, as we experience new things, so would they.
In terms of what's been possible, there are plenty of examples: Noel moving in with his girlfriend, Rayne's niece getting older, the struggling relationship between John and Noel etc.
How far ahead do you plan the strip and where are the characters are headed?
Concept wise, I know where the characters are going for the next couple of years. Lar and I also keep a minimum of a 6 week buffer on strips to make sure we're on track. As for where they're headed, they'll all be growing up, one way or another.
How have the characters changed in ways you hadn't expected?
The most surprising thing for me is how each character developed on their own, how they're each so unique. Dialogue only fits that character, as opposed to being interchangeable.
Another unexpected surprise is the effect Ashley has had on Rayne.
The relationship between Ashley and her "Unca Rayne" has been one of the highlights over the past couple years. Was the plan always for her to become such a major character?
It was a plan for her to become integral in Rayne's life, but not nearly as much as she's actually become. Like any relationship, there's has evolved and it's been wonderful to show that side of Rayne.
You have a Valentine's Day contest. Why did you implement that, and do most readers write in begging for a date with Issa?
The V-Day contest was simply a way for us to engage the readers and give them the opportunity to be in the strip and interact with their favorite characters. Last year, we received over 10,000 entries, and yes, half of them were for Issa.
What's the biggest challenge in keeping the strip fresh and interesting after so many years?
The hardest part has always been finding the right balance between making a funny standalone comic strip and telling an overall story. The balance between instant gratification and longer-term payoff is tricky.
You recently started running "Beginnings" on Sundays. It's a standalone and longer strip. How did you seize on the idea of eight-year-old Rayne and the aesthetic of the strip?
Lar and I had been doing six strips a week for the past three years and we'd been wanting to do a full seven. Rather than just add a normal strip, we aimed to do something different. "Beginnings" is a cross between our homage to Bill Waterson and our way of illustrating how Rayne came to be the man he is today.
Where did the name Blind Ferret Entertainment come from?
Mass alcohol consumption.
What animation projects do you have coming up?
"Least I Could Do" has been greenlit as television series in Canada, and we're working on getting it sold into other markets. Also, "Looking For Group" was also greenlit a while back as a feature film, and that is currently in production.
How toned down will "Least I Could Do" have to become for television?
Funny enough, LICD isn't getting toned town much at all, and in certain areas, I was given the carte blanche to go a little nuts. TV censors aren't what they used to be, we can thank "South Park" for that.
You've had a few animated videos with original songs that pop up on your site or YouTube - "Where is the head?" and "You're a $#&!" - are they as much fun to write as they are to listen to?
Probably more, to be honest. One day I plan to show off the "rejected" songs!