This interrogation was an easy one. But it appears, after all the questions were answered, we still don’t know Chris. He appears to be, to quote an old movie, “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” Perhaps we may never know the real Chris, but this is a good start.
Agent Palmer [AP]: What are your current whereabouts and how long have you lived there?
Chris Flick [CF]: Woodbridge, Va. I forget how many years I have lived in Woodbridge, but I have lived in and around northern Virginia all my life. The exception being of a couple of years in California when I was just a little baby, 4.5 years in Germany, 4.5 years in Nevada and 6 months in Orlando, Fla. The Germany and Nevada years were when my father was in the Air Force. But I have been in northern Virginia since 1981.
[AP]: What was your favorite place to live?
[CF]: Nevada is still my favorite place. I was old enough to remember some of the old, falling apart castles in Germany though that were still standing. That was neat but without a doubt, Nevada was and still is my favorite place. I just miss the desert.
[AP]: Are you married or in a committed relationship? Do you have any kids?
[CF]: Yes to both. I met my wife in art school back in 1986 but we didn’t start dating until 1990. We have two kids. My daughter is 19 and I have a 14-year-old autistic son.
[AP]: What kind of impact does your wife/kids have on your art?
[CF]: I don’t know if I would consider this an “impact” or not but my daughter is turning into a very terrific and fantastic artist herself. She has a completely different style than me and she loves to work digitally even though that’s not the only medium she works in. She just prefers to draw digitally.
As far as my own work goes, when you have kids – especially one with special needs – it’s mostly a matter of being extremely time conscious. When my son was younger, I couldn’t really start any of my cartoon work until he went to bed but as parents with autistic children know, you never know when that might be. He can have a wild sleep schedule sometimes. So, as an artist, you have to figure out a way to work around that.
[AP]: What is your current profession and do you have any side jobs or professions?
[CF]: Current profession: Full-time web and graphic designer.
Part-time profession: Freelance illustrator and cartoonist.
In between all of that, I go to approximately 15-20 conventions a year, I coach baseball for 13 – 17 year olds, I am a member of the Webcomic Alliance where we record two podcasts every month and I write an article for our web site once a month.
[AP]: We met at a convention… So with all of the conventions that you do, you must have some great stories… Care to share any?
[CF]: Favorite convention story…
This was Heroes Con maybe in 2010 or 2011… Anyway, I submitted a 9×12” marker illustration mash up of the School House Rock “Bill” as a beat up and battered Health care Bill to the Heroes Con auction. In the illustration the “Bill” had a black eye, a broken leg and an arm in a cast. Allison Sohn really liked it so she decided to give it a special place in the auction.
Now, for anyone who hasn’t gone to Heroes Con, the night of the auction is a big deal. It’s kind of like a comic book version of the Emmys or Oscars. And they display all the accepted pieces all along the walls of the hotel convention room with a stage being in the middle. On the stage is the “featured art” of the show – the pieces the auction organizers really like.
So, as the night starts, I walk through the Auction room looking for my little 9×12” piece since I knew it was accepted for the auction but I can’t find it anywhere. Until I get up on stage.
Allison apparently liked it so much that she wanted to put it right there on center stage for everyone to see. Now, ordinarily, that should be a great honor for any artist but the story doesn’t end there. It just starts.
You see, that particular year, Adam Hughes decided he was finally going to submit some art to the auction after having declined the last couple of years. But, being Adam, he decides to go all out and paints this huge Black Cat piece… I think the piece was something like 30 inches tall. And there it was, in all of its glory right next to my teeny, tiny 9×12” marker cartoon. But the story doesn’t end there.
As the night goes on, all the surrounding pieces are auctioned off and we finally get to the pieces up on stage. The room is still packed because everyone is still waiting to bid on Adam’s painting. In the meantime, I’m sitting between my friends praying that they auction my piece way before they get to Adam’s. But noooooooooo.
Adam’s piece goes up for auction and there’s a 20 minute bidding war for his piece. I don’t remember the exact figure the piece went for but it was in the double digit thousands I believe.
Well, as is the case with most auctions, whenever the prized piece is finally auctioned off, the room pretty much just empties out. In less than five minutes, the room went from seating something crazy like 200 people and then suddenly there was 50 – maybe.
And which piece gets auctioned next?
Yup. My little 9×12” marker cartoon.
So, that’s my one really big – but terribly sad – convention story.
[AP]: I am a web designer, as well, so I must ask, do you find it easy or hard to keep up with all of the ever changing trends within the web design industry?
[CF]: Oh, it’s terrible. I have finally just resigned myself to the fact that it’s really impossible to be able to keep up with EVERYTHING in the web design world. What I’m trying to do now is just focus on what I think are my strengths… front end and user interface design.
I absolutely hate trying to deal with CSS. I can edit and tweak CSS code that’s already been written but trying to write complex CSS coding to fit my complicated designs… that’s brutal. I hate that aspect of it.
But then again, I know many programmers that are a wiz at writing CSS but either hate design or have no knowledge about design, so they create great code but really could use a designer to tweak and polish up their designs. In the end, we all have our own strengths and weaknesses. Web design is no different.
[AP]: What are your favorite books?
[CF]: Haven’t had much time for books but used to love to read sci-fi and fantasy books when i had the time. The last two books I read, however, were autobiographies… Andre Agassi’s and Peter Criss’ autobiographies.
[AP]: Is there any particular draw to the autobiographies?
[CF]: No, not in this particular case. For Agassi, he was always my favorite tennis player and I was interested in reading about his transformation from “image is everything” to shaving his head and simply embracing his baldness – something I can absolutely relate to. Peter Criss… my favorite KISS member so I would have picked his book up no matter what.
That being said, I just recently read an excerpt from Questlove’s autobiography – I think it came out last year – that looks like it could be a very interesting read. So I don’t know… maybe there is something to all these biographies that I haven’t figured out yet. LOL!
For those that may not know, Questlove is the drummer from The Roots – Jimmy Fallon’s band on the Tonight Show. His book is more about the behind-the-scenes stories of the show so it’s not really an autobiography, I don’t think. Behind-the-scene stories totally fascinate me though so maybe there’s a part of that with all of these autobiographies.
[AP]: Favorite Movies?
[CF]: Any super hero movie but mostly Marvel movies. Favorite movies of all time include the original Die Hard and Bull Durham.
[AP]: Do you have a favorite of the Marvel movies of the last few years?
[CF]: I absolutely LOVED Cap 2: Winter Soldier. I thought, in that movie, we really got a sense of exactly how strong and powerful Steve Rogers really is. But picking a favorite Marvel movie is super, super tough. After seeing the early “Hooked on a feeling” trailers for Guardians of the Galaxy, I had some serious reservations about that movie – even though I knew I was going to go see it. My wife was actually more excited about that movie than I was and I was so pleasantly surprised about that movie, I saw it three times in the theater.
[AP]: Bull Durham is obviously because of your passion for baseball, but why the best Christmas movie ever, Die Hard?
[CF]: With Die Hard, I just felt like, as many action/adventure movies I have seen over the years, THAT one was what I would call the most “realistic”… in that one, John McLain wasn’t so over the top like he has become in all the other movies. He felt like a “real” cop. Plus, I saw it three times in one day with one of my great, great college friends when it first came out so there’s a lot of nostalgia at play there too.
But to be honest, I recently participated in a Facebook movie survey where you had to name your 15 favorite movies and I had a hard time naming JUST 15. There are so many I like… Empire Strikes Back, Christmas Story, Aliens, Terminator, the Indiana Jones movies… the answer to this question can literally go on and on and on.
[AP]: Favorite TV Shows?
[CF]: Big Bang Theory, SHIELD, Mike & Molly, Mom, Rozolli & Isles, Perception and that’s about all the time I have for TV shows.
[AP]: Favorite Music?
[CF]: I am hopelessly an addict to 80’s music but my preferences go all over the place. My iPod is truly a wide ranging juke box of music from Neil Diamond to Def Leppard. I am also a sucker for one hit wonders as well.
[AP]: Favorite Sports / Teams?
[CF]: Baseball: The Nationals (although living in Nevada, I grew up a Dodger fan and will probably always have a little “Dodger Blue” in me)
Hockey: The Capitals
Football: Again, growing up in Nevada during the 70’s, I ended up being a Cowboys fan
Basketball: Not much of a B-Ball fan
[AP]: Favorite ways to spend your free time (or hobbies)?
[CF]: Riding my mountain bike (when I have time)
Going to conventions (it can be “work” but it can also be a lot of fun, too)
And a whole lot of drawing in between.
[AP]: What is the most productive/creative setting for you to accomplish your work? (Music, ambience, etc?)
[CF]: When I am writing my strip, I need silence. After everything is written and I am in the drawing and inking stage, it is time to put on the headphones and turn on iTunes.
Sometimes, I like to head off to the local library or Panera Bread if I need to get away from the house. Both of those places can offer productive settings for me.
[AP]: Who are your favorite artists?
[CF]: I have way too many… don’t think it’s possible to list them all. I will list a few that immediately come to my mind though… George Perez, John Byrne, Matt Wagner, Mike Wieringo, Skottie Young, Jim Mahfood, Gene Gonzalez, Joe Pekar, two of my real good friends – Dawn Griffin and Bill McKay, Art Adams, Howard Chaykin… I could go on but I think that’s a pretty wide range right there.
[CF]: I can’t tell you why to all of these individual artists. They all have something unique to their styles that catch my eye and keep me mesmerized.
[AP]: Best piece of advice you’ve ever been given. (Doesn’t need to pertain to your field, could just be about life in general)
[CF]: Yeah… Brad Guigar and Danielle Corsetto both told me at the same convention they were attending that, with my art, I needed to get off of the side lines and get into the game – meaning Artist Alley at conventions. That’s been some of the best advice I was ever given. Not world shattering, but at the time they said it it was really important for me to hear that type of encouragement.
[AP]: Best advice you could give to someone…
[CF]: Without knowing the context, it’s hard to just give “general advice”. Instead, since I am such a huge Bull Durham fan, I will paraphrase Crash Davis and say “a player on a streak has to respect the streak. You know why? Because they don’t – -they don’t happen very often.”
So, when things are going good, you have to respect that because life can get really crazy sometimes and streaks can end in a split second.
[AP]: Was being a web designer your first choice for a career path?
[CF]: No… playing baseball was. But art was ALWAYS in there somewhere.
[AP]: If you were not a web designer, what would have been your other career path, or what would you be doing now?
[CF]: I might have taken a much more serious approach to coaching. I coached baseball on the high school level for five years and enjoyed it quite a bit but it was a challenge also having a full-time job and not working at the school. Maybe a different path would have led me down a coaching career. I don’t know.
[AP]: How well do you manage your time? And how do you or don’t you manage it?
[CF]: Deadlines are my best friend – either self-imposed deadlines or deadlines imposed elsewhere. Being that I used to design ads for newspapers early in my design career, that helped me realize very quickly the importance of deadlines. It also helped me appreciate the fact that ‘design isn’t always the “precious” thing we designers sometimes make it out to be. Sometimes, a piece of design has to be “good enough” to let go so you can meet your deadline.
Okay… maybe you can add THAT to the “any advice you have” question, as well.
[AP]: What hasn’t been checked off your bucket list?
[CF]: I’ve been very fortunate to have had a lot of really cool experiences… I was a college mascot for 2.5 years.
I got to play baseball on a professional baseball field.
I tried out as a baseball player extra in Major League II.
I’ve been to the very top of Trump Plaza in New York…
I’m sure there are lots of things I still haven’t done but right now, all I can remember is a lot of the cool stuff I’ve already done. Weird, huh?
I guess one thing would be to attend the San Diego Comic Con – just to experience that craziness just once. That would be pretty cool, I think.
[AP]: When / how did you get interested in comics?
[CF]: I was always a fan of comics but when I was in Nevada, they were hard to access so I stopped reading them for a long time. Then, as a freshman in high school, I met a friend who had a huge collection of comic books and was into a lot of independent stuff like Comico and things like that. I also had another art friend in high school that was super fan of John Byrne and could really ape his style to a T. And then lastly, there was a local comic book store near the high school as well. All three of those things really got me back into comics as a teenager. And that comic book store would end up being the basis of Capes & Babes years later!
[AP]: As an artist, what inspires you to start a new project?
[CF]: Commissions! And conventions.
If I have a certain show I’m going to, I’ll think up projects specifically for that show that I think might sell well… drawing certain characters in a Baltimore Orioles uniform, for instance. That’s one thing but also trying to come up with new and creative ways to market Capes & Babes will almost always generate new ideas for new projects – whether it’s designer new promotional postcards, designing and illustrating new book covers, or coming up with an employee badge design… those are ways I come up with new projects for myself.
[AP]: Technology has changed how art is made, created, and even drawn. What are your thoughts on art as technology encroaches on drawing by hand?
[CF]: Although I am primarily a “traditional” artist, being a graphic and web designer, I’m also about technology. An artist should use whatever ‘tools” they are used to – whether that’s ink and paper or a tablet and stylus… it doesn’t really matter. Likewise, an artist should every now and then experiment with tools that either they are uncomfortable with or intimidate them because they just might surprise themselves and learn something new.
[AP]: Professionally or in your side projects, what are some of your big successes, public or behind-the-scenes?
[CF]: I have two web designing books printed by New Riders.
I have four self-published books I did all by myself.
I am an annual guest at Intervention Con.
I’m a member of the Webcomic Alliance.
I have met a whole lot of professional comic book and commercial artists I have now become really great friends with.
And, little by little, year by year, my name gets a little bit more recognized every year on the convention scene. That’s really exciting and fun, but really, it’s all about making a connection with people at shows. That’s why they are so fun for me.
[AP]: What can you tell us about any upcoming projects?
[CF]: I just finished self-publishing my fourth Capes & Babes book. That’s been the biggest project in terms of cartooning. Professionally, I am in the process of re-designing my portfolio web site, www.csfgraphics.com, and I’m really excited about that as well.
[AP]: Some people are naturally talented others learn it. Did you come by it naturally or was it learned from the school you attended?
[CF]: Graphic design was all about learning it in college.
Artistically, I always had some talent but my personal problem was that it took me a long time to find out what my personal niche was. I always wanted to draw like all those big name people I mentioned above instead of finding my own voice. It wasn’t until after a year in art school and a couple of years in college before I just realized my natural talents were towards cartooning and caricaturing instead of more “realistic super hero” style art – which is what i really wanted to do. But once I embraced my “inner cartoonist,” I really improved leaps and bounds as an illustrator and, oddly enough, as a designer as well.
[AP]: What school did you attend?
[CF]: I attended The Maryland College of Art and Design (MCAD) for a year and then transferred to Radford University where I graduated with a degree in graphic design with an emphasis on illustration. I was also 20 credits shy of being a double major in English but REALLY hate grammar. Love to write but hate “the rules of grammar” with a passion.
[AP]: When did you find your talent? Was it in school doodling? If it was a learned skill, was there a class that really boosted your interest?
[CF]: Drawing-wise, I picked a lot of it up from my dad. He was a “professional hobby doodler.” He never did anything professionally that was published but while in the Air Force, he would illustrate all kinds of things whenever he got the chance. My brother and I both picked up a lot from him but it was mostly just observing and practicing on our own. My dad was self-taught so there wasn’t anything he could really teach us – it was all by instinct with him. From there, it was just a continual thing of practicing on our own. In high school, the friend that was a huge John Byrne fan… he and I would create our own comic books and we even created our own versions of the DC and Marvel Handbooks where we’d design our characters and write out long, convoluted origins for each of them. That was pretty much my “class.” It wasn’t until art school that I got REALLY serious about my art though – only because there were SO MANY really great artists in my class… I knew I couldn’t “fake it” any more or goof around like I did in high school any more.
[AP]: As an artist is there a medium you want to break into?
[CF]: No, not really. At one time, I wanted to be an animator. Until I took an animation course at the art school and nearly went insane drawing the same thing over and over and over again. Actually, it was more or less that the vision in my head was way more complicated than what we could animate. I always over complicated even the most simple animated tests… we had to do an animated sequence of a ball bouncing on screen and off. A simple one bounce demonstrating the push-pull of the ball when it hit the ground. But in my head, I thought the ball should do a couple of loop-de-loops instead of just one single, boring bounce. That’s the stuff that drove me crazy with animation – my own crazy brain!
[AP]: What prompted you to create 525 Calhoun St?
[CF]: I wanted to do a comic strip. I hated the strips that were in my college newspaper so I wanted to see if I could do anything better. So I based all the characters on me and my friends and needed a name for it… at the time, I was living off campus and my address was, literally, 525 Calhoun Street. I just thought that had a great ring to it and so that’s how it came to be.
[AP]: Seriously, I have to ask, What was it like being the school mascot “Rowdy Red”?
[CF]: EXTREMELY HOT!
I should also say I always loved The San Diego Chicken so when I got to Radford and learned they didn’t have anyone set up do it – the guy who was the mascot before me had graduated the previous May and they didn’t have a replacement set up – I was the only one who came in to the athletic department specifically asking how I could become the mascot. No one was doing it and so I got the gig.
It was a lot of fun and I enjoyed the heck out of. I was a high school Thespian (drama student) that participated in a lot of improv workshops so when I got in the suit, I got to take advantage of a lot of those skills. I never went to “mascot school” or anything like that. I think the guy in the athletic department knew how crazy and energetic I was and just let me go.
There were some things I couldn’t do though…
Number one: you never lose your head, or else you lose the illusion of being a made-up creature.
Number two: I could NOT make fun of the refs under ANY circumstances or I would have caused a technical foul against my school (I mostly only worked basketball games).
And that was about it. Almost anything else I could do.
And after every 2 hour or so game (guys and girls), I lost about 10 pounds of water wait – and that was just wearing shorts and a t-shirt too. Anything else was way too hot.
[AP]: Do you have any advice for any current or future mascots?
[CF]: Oh no. When I was a mascot, I was a total hack. I pretty much simply repeated all of the same stuff I saw The Chicken or the Philly Phanatic do over the years and then threw in a bunch of my own improvisational stuff during games. I had no clue what I was doing – I was just having as much fun as I possibly could. I would think, after 25 years or so, the costumes might have gotten cooler or things like that so the only real advice I would have is just make sure you drink plenty of water or Gatorade because you’re going to sweat. A lot!
[AP]: Did you enjoy the work of the ad agency?
[CF]: I thought I would enjoy it a lot more than I did. I got that gig because I was doing some really terrific car ad work for the newspaper I was working at. When I got hired at that ad agency, I was excited because I thought I might get the chance to do some television commercial work since they did that at the agency. But as it turns out, they also did car ads for Buick and wanted me to do my magic there while the head designer could devote more time to the tv ad side of things. Kind of a bummer but that’s when I really started to get into the initial stages of HTML and convinced my bosses to let me design their very first web site.
[AP]: What was it like teaching yourself web design and HTML? What was harder for you the design aspect or the actual coding? How did you teach yourself? (i.e. Trial and error, which is how I taught myself.)
[CF]: Well, this was in the very early stages of the “web site revolution”. I took a weekend class that was basically a “How to create a web page for yourself”. It was basic, simple HTML which I picked up on right away.
But remember what I said about that animation class? Yeah, it was the same thing with HTML. I wanted to do more than I knew how to do. Cascading Style Sheets – at least what CSS can do these days – were WAY off in the horizon but I still wanted to figure out how to design with tables instead of just making one single page with a bunch of cute, animated GIFs running across the screen – which was what that weekend class basically amounted to. So, my wife bought me Pagemil 2.0 I believe it was. It was the first HTML WYSIWYG program I had ever heard of before.
From there, I tried GoLive but hated it until Dreamweaver came along. And that’s eventually what we used to design the ad agency’s web site with. But it was pretty much all tables-based though – just as so many fancy web sites were back then until CSS – and browsers matured.
From there, I got really into the Dreamweaver community and made some really valuable contacts and that’s how I ended up getting associated with those two web design books. I got to be REALLY good at using Fireworks that integrated so well with Dreamweaver so I ended up writing all of the Fireworks chapters for both books. Again, a lot of fun but a HUGE amount of work in a super short period of time frame. For both books.
[AP]: We’ve covered a lot about you, but we must talk about Capes N Babes, too.
You did a nice run with Rom doing “Behind the Newsprint,” a Behind the Music spoof… First, I love Rom, so I was really happy to read that, but seriously, why Rom and are there any other spoofs you’d like to do that you haven’t had the chance to tie in to the series?
[CF]: First, thanks for the compliments on the Rom storyline. That’s one of my personal favorites. But why Rom? I have no clue! Honest.
I read a bunch of Rom comic books back in high school and I knew about the toy history but really, it was just one of those weird things that came out of my subconscious as I was writing that story.
Here’s a little secret about Capes & Babes: Much of it is made up “as I go.”
Sometimes, I don’t always write out stories or strips way in advance and Rom was one of those cases. I had an idea of a 24-hour Best Buy kind of store and I needed an employee that could literally work 24 hours without a break. Somewhere in there, Rom popped up in my head as that employee. From there, an idea was sparked that basically said “You know what? We haven’t seen Rom in YEARS. I wonder why?” and from there, the whole “Behind the Music” spoof was born.
When I get an idea like that, I just ride the wave as long as I can until I literally can’t think of anything more to do with it. That was very similar to how the Hippy Mummy was created. He was going to only appear in one or two strips but then I kept coming up with new ideas for him and so I just kept riding that wave as well.
[AP]: You break the fourth wall quite a bit and it is humorous, but is there a reason you do (and so frequently at that)?
[CF]: As for the fourth wall, that comes from my stage and improvisational background as well as my love for Tex Avery and the stuff he used to do with all the Warner brother characters. I never know when I’m going to do it. It just has to feel “right” when I do it.
[AP]: Based upon a few Star Wars references, just how big of a Lucashound (Star Wars fan) are you? “Wheat or White, there is no Rye!” is beyond a classic line for the series.
[CF]: I love Star Wars but I know many more friends who are way more knowledgeable about the movies than I am. I mean, Empire is still my favorite Star Wars movies – although I did stand in line for four and a half hours waiting to see Return of the Jedi when it first came out. Yes kids, there used to be a time when you could NOT buy your movie tickets days and weeks in advance. You actually had to stay in line and buy the ticket for the same day.
And thanks for the compliments on the “Wheat or White, there is no Rye” line. That was a hard one to come up with.
[AP]: When Role Players Die was one of my favorite strips… Were you a big RPG guy?
[CF]: Actually, no. Believe it or not, I have never actually played D & D. Ever. The only role playing game I ever played was Villains and Vigilantes – a superhero version of D & D but I only played that a handful of times in college before I got really bored with it. Instead, I would hang out with other D & D or V & V players and DRAW their characters for them on their character sheets. That was actually a lot more fun for me than playing the game.
[AP]: You’ve done the difference between comic book readers and comic book collectors… Which are you?
[CF]: Oh, without a doubt, I am a comic book reader. Bag and boards, with the little strip of scotch tape on the back, drives me up the wall. I totally enjoy eating and reading a comic book at the same time.
I know. I know. THE HORROR!
[AP]: It seems that you review movies through the strip. Are there any classic or not-so-classic movies you’d like to review through the strip?
[CF]: I REALLY need to do something with the original David Carradine “Deathrace 2000”… I’m not sure if THAT particular movie would be considered a “classic” or not though… maybe a B-Movie Classic? How’s that?
[AP]: Is there a future possibility for a complete book of Wacky Werewolf Witticisms?
[CF]: I was recently at the Cleveland Comic Con where I stayed in a house apartment with Lee Cherolis, Dawn Griffin, and her husband Rick where we were all discussing a possibility of putting out a kind of a sampler Capes & Babes book that I could sell to people so they could get a feel for the strip and all the other books.
I didn’t have an idea at the time about what strips might go in that book but maybe doing a “Wacky Werewolf Witticisms” would be a good idea. Or, maybe I could collect all of the “Citizen Commentary” strips Roy has done over the years and put them all in a small book and sell them for $5 or so. Not a bad idea at all. It’s amazing some of the cool ideas your friends can come up with for your own creation, huh?
So what have we learned? Chris S. Flick is a talented individual, with many skills. He’s a webcomic creator, an artist, a coder and designer, he’s been a mascot, he is a family man and he will continue to be a fanboy. But I fear we’ve only scratched the surface. But this as good a start as any and when you see him on the convention circuit make sure to say “hi.”
You can find his webcomic at www.capesnbabes.com, his professional portfolio at www.csfgraphics.com, and his online store at capesnbabes.storenvy.com. He can also be found on twitter @capesnbabes, on the Capes & Babes facebook and Google+ pages and on Pinterest as CapesNBabes.
As a bonus, watch Chris draw Marc from Capes & Babes…