Webcomics To Watch: Jon Rosenberg on "Goats"

Get ready to watch webcomics come of age this year. Everyone from Marvel and DC Comics and across the spectrum through Dark Horse and Top Shelf are finding new ways to put original content online - first, before they hit the stands of your local comics store. Meanwhile, creative pioneers who staked out their homepages long ago -- in some cases further back than a decade -- are breaking out onto shelves in print volumes independently and through major publishers. With the bleed between paper and pixel-based comics becoming less distinguishable by the month, CBR News takes a look at five creators who are making that crossover an exciting event to watch in 2009.

Our spotlight falls first on an 11-year veteran of the webcomics world. Jon Rosenberg's "Goats" looks like the radioactive son of "Rugrats" and "Futurama," and through years of dedicated updates has ballooned to encompass a cross-dimensional plane of characters on the scale of "Doctor Who" imbibed with the absurdity of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy." The webcomic's unique evolutionary course took it from a casual autobiographically driven black-and-white serial to becoming a self-contained world of satanic chickens, infinite monkeys, alternative incarnations of Hitler and lots of beer.

This June, Del Rey will begin publishing Rosenberg's ongoing epic from the beginning in "Goats: Infinite Typewriters." With only a few weeks left to go before New York Comic Con, where Rosenberg will convene with his Dumbrella webcomics collective cohorts, the cartoonist offered a look behind the scenes at what he has poured into "Goats" (and his pint glasses) over 11 years of updates.

CBR: Looking back at some of those really early "Goats" strips, it was at least your third comic before your first goat character, Toothgnip, showed up. How did you come up with the title "Goats?"

Jon Rosenberg: Phillip [Rosenberg's former roommate and webcomic co-star early on] used to make a lot of goat noises back when we shared an apartment. I'm not sure why. We spent a lot of time getting drunk and looking up retarded domain names on NetSol's website. When a domain like goats.com is available, you don't ask questions, you just register the hell out of it. So, to answer your question, Toothgnip was introduced to justify a very poor decision made under the influence of quite a bit of beer.

Tell us a bit about your life in 1997, when you started the strip.

Oh, man. I was a wreck. Aimless, depressed, lonely. Thankfully, I took up drinking, it gave me something very meaningful to do with my spare time. Did you know that you can draw at least a half a comic strip while drinking pints? Did I mention we were drinking a lot?

How does the Jon in the strip stack up against and the real Jon Rosenberg? Are there any key differences?

Jon hasn't grown much in the eleven years of the strip, he's still pretty much the same self-centered prick he was at the beginning. If anything, he's grown more selfish over time in response to perceived slights and persecution.

I, on the other hand, have learned to fake magnanimity well enough to hide my disgust for those around me.

Random House was originally going to publish "Goats" under its Villard imprint. But it's going to be at Del Rey now. What happened there?

Random House switched the books from their Villard imprint to their Del Rey imprint, actually. I think their marketing folks thought it would fit in better with their other sci-fi offerings. I'm pretty jazzed about being published under the same imprint as Douglas Adams.

Who's going to be providing the forwards?

The foreword for book 1 was kindly provided by Jerry "Penny-Arcades" [Holkins]. He does not really care for the strip, but he loves to see his name in print so it worked out well for both of us. Book 2, to my astonishment, is being foreworded by Charles Stross, and Lore Sjöberg has been nice enough to offer a few thoughts for book 3.

All the blurbs and forewords are from folks I know, some better than others, but I've been lucky enough to meet a lot of amazingly creative people over the years. Lore is doing webcomics [http://badgods.com/] and hilarious video blog things for Wired.com these days. It's amazing how many different ways Lore has reinvented himself over the years. He is the Madonna of internet humor.

How did the Peculier Pub, which is an actual Manhattan bar, end up in "Goats?"

The Pub was our usual [hangout], ever since we moved to the city. With 500 types of beer on hand, it was very difficult to get bored there. It made sense to set the strip there since we spent more time there than we did at home.

Are the proprietors of the Peculier Pub aware of their infamy in the Goats-verse?

They're well aware of their presence in the strip, I think it would be pretty hard to ignore the trickle of strange pilgrims they get there.

Do you have a favorite beer?

I get asked this a lot! I should pick one, I suppose, but I'm more of a serial monogamist when it comes to beer. I pick one, stick with it for a while, and then break up with it via text message while I'm out of town.

Do you recall your most recent beer-related "break-up?"

I find it difficult to drink Stella anymore. I appreciate that it's easy to pound repeatedly, but I need a bit more than that in my relationships.

What have been the biggest posts on Goats.com over the years that come to mind -- the greatest hits, if you will?

We're too close to "Goats" to judge it accurately. I think history will have to judge it. We need a little more history first, maybe five more years worth. Then we'll know.

How about for you personally? Were there any strips you'd point to that ended up being benchmarks for the strip or had unique significance for you?

You're really going to make me answer this, huh?


The strips that are important for me aren't about a particular gag or some holiday or anniversary. They're generally the strips where I've tried to push myself creatively and pulled it off; there's nothing like taking a risk every once in a while to assure yourself a long string of failures but the rush of occasional success is crazy addictive.

I was pretty happy with the first strip of the recent "Lost" series. Also, anything with a mayonnaise demon is alright with me.

You've been busy making new designs for the books. What all have you created just for Del Rey?

I'm creating all sorts of extra art and bonus stuff for the books. The first book required a lot of Special Edition-ing, a bunch of new pages to introduce the characters, redrawn and touched-up art from a lot of the early strips to make it a more cohesive whole; a few extra illustrations. And each book has brand-new cover art and a new self-portrait for the bio page.

Are you going to have any samples of the first volume out at New York Comic Con in a few weeks?

I have some crudely bound printouts but nothing as refined as a sample. I doubt I'll bring them with me, I am surprisingly weak and paper is very heavy to carry.

What the official release date looking like?

"Infinite Typewriters" is scheduled for release on June 23rd, "The Corndog Imperative" is likely to come out in November 2009 and "Showcase Showdown" is somewhat nebulously dated for Spring 2010.

EXCLUSIVE: Detective Comics #1006 Welcomes the Spectre Back to Gotham City

More in Comics