This week’s #TalkingComics turns its Sauron Eye on Dory Holtzman’s long-running webcomic known as Poharex. Watching the comic evolve over its expansive lifetime is really an inspirational glimpse into the evolution of one’s art and is one of the topics of our great little chat!
Kevin Cullen: According to your Facebook page, Poharex has been running since 2007! Almost a decade of making comics and, from what I can tell, you’re still going strong! Did you plan for Poharex to run for as long as it has? And do you see it continuing on for another 10+ years?
Dory Holtzman: I had conceived the character of Poharex back in 2003. At first I didn’t think too much of it, it was just another one of those fun little concepts I liked to toy around with but never had any grand vision for. But the more I thought of it, the more it felt like there was something in there, some untapped potential. It was around late 2003 when I decided I wanted to tell the epic saga of a dinosaur hero. Over the next three years I tried my hand at storytelling through comics and other media. Looking back, none of it was really that good, but I’d rather think of it as practice.
Honestly, when I started back then I had no idea how long it would last. Sometimes I imagined it would be no more than a couple of years, but most of the time I didn’t think about it at all. Looking back now, though, I think I’ve got something good in my hands and I barely scratched the surface. There’s a lot more stories to tell (including Poharex’s origin story, which I only alluded to thus far) and a lot more awesome adventures to be had, so I guess Poharex is going to be here for a while.
KC: I’ve talked to a few other Underdogs about sustaining their motivation – from juggling several different projects to several different comics themselves. In terms of sheer longevity though, I’m interested in how you’ve managed to keep yours! I’m guessing drawing dinosaurs has a fairly large role to play…
Probably the most notable case I can think of dates back to 2008. Some news website had a (short-lived) webcomic review corner. They made a rather lukewarm review of my comic, in which they commended my talent and passion for the project but ultimately concluded that the basic premise of Poharex was a failure, and that hopefully one day I will “mature” and make a better comic. Even that article was mild compared to the toxic bile spilling out of some of the comments. Still, back then I saw that as an achievement rather than a blow. It was my first ever (and up until this point, only) exposure in online journalism.
KC: I was skimming Poharex (something I don’t recommend – everyone should read through its cohesive epicness!) when I noticed that, up until recently, you’d been drawing the comic with what looked like colored pencils. Now, however, your comic appears to be drawn digitally! Why the shift?
Somewhere circa 2011 I’ve learned of other options. Namely, GIMP -a free Photoshop alternative- and tablets becoming cheaper and more commonly available. By the time I was drawing issue #11, and planning the story for issue #12, I still thought I was going to stick with pencils, but somewhere along the way it didn’t really feel as good anymore. The pencils I used were getting old, and somehow got a life of their own and started attacking the paper. At the same time, my scanner also got totaled. That was the second time I found myself at a significant crossroad: do I just throw them away and buy new equipment, or should I give digital art a try? Up until that point I was curious, but wasn’t going to invest in it if it wasn’t for a big project like Poharex. But once I got a tablet and started practicing, it was love at first sight. Now I can’t imagine myself going back to the old methods.
KC: Have you found any positives or negatives with the switch from hand drawn to digitally drawn? I did notice that the lighting effects became much more dynamic!
DH: With digital art I have much more control. When I was using traditional tools there was any number of things that could go wrong at any given moment: from me making an inking error to the eraser smearing the ink or tearing the page, and of course I got tired of throwing myself at the mercy of crazy pencils and suicidal scanners. Tablets and GIMP have opened up a whole new world of options. By using different layers I could control each aspect of the page independently, correct errors and experiment with new effects and techniques in a non-destructive way. Looking back, I have no regrets switching from traditional to digital- only that I hadn’t done it sooner!
KC: Has your work space changed much since you started drawing digitally vs. with the…messier tools?
A positive change in my life occurred a few years ago when I moved to a new place. My bedroom has a lot more breathing space now, and as a result my workspace grew as well. My desk is bigger so it’s a lot more tidy now. The centerpiece of it all consists of my trusty desktop computer and tablet. Besides that I’ve got a nice little bookcase and places where I can store my numerous memorabilia. I also picked up the hobby of gardening a while back, so the room is full of plants. It’s basically the bat-cave, if Poison Ivy had taken over.
KC: You’ve also made a game (or two!) for Poharex, which is insanely cool! Can you talk about what went into making the Poharex games and why you decided to make a game in the first place?
I’ve actually made many attempts at making games that are worthy of being included in the Poharex series. The vast majority of these attempts were failed prototypes that never got past the pre-Alpha stage. These vary from platformers, to isometric games and even first-person shooters. Some I did complete (or at least got close to completing) and publish, but eventually I’ve decided to take them off the Internet. Maybe one day I’ll bring one or two back. Then again, maybe not.
The only games I made that should be considered part of the canon are the ones featured on my website. The first, “Poharex: King of the Jungle” is a fun little platformer I made back in 2007 and finally updated in 2012. It’s a pretty short game, and implements experimental hand-drawn graphics in the same style as the comics themselves. My goal with these games was always to supplement the comics, tell stories in a different way and bring the world of Poharex to life. With “King of the Jungle” I felt for the first time that I really managed to do that. The second game, titled “Poharex: The Second Invasion” is currently still a work in progress, but there’s a short Alpha version out there if you want to give it a try. It’s far from perfect, but I have faith in this project and wouldn’t let it fail as quickly as some of the previous ones. For the past few months I’ve been gathering players’ opinions about it and right now I’m planning my next moves.makingcomics.com