This Wednesday, Applegeeks Volume 1: Freshman Year will be bursting forth from its online home to the printed page for the very first time. For those of you presently unfamiliar, Applegeeks is, in a word, awesome. More specifically, it is an insightful, eclectic, and hilarious observation of all things geek that has delighted readers for six years and is poised to delight even more with the release of the first trade paperback.
Applegeeks Volume 1 contains the first two year’s worth of the series, along with creator insights for each and every strip, and a whole mess of bonus art goodies to boot! We included three comics in the interview, but you can check out the full 12 page preview here.
TFAW.com recently had a chance to catch up with the creative duo behind AG, artist Mohammed F. “Hawk” Haque and writer Ananth Panagariya, to chat about their upcoming TPB and the long, twisted, and entertaining road that brought them here. It was an informative, and laugh-filled talk that spans the gamut from sexy female robots to what it takes to succeed in webcomics. Enjoy!
TFAW.com: Hi guys, thanks for taking some time to talk Applegeeks with us today.
Ananth: Our pleasure, Andrew! Thanks for taking the time to talk to us.
Hawk: Thanks for having us!
TFAW.com: Our readers run the gamut from those who follow the exploits of Hawk, Jayce, and company with stalker-like fanaticism, to those who are still relatively new to the “interwebs.” Will you give us the dreaded “summarize six years of work concisely” synopsis?
Ananth: Hahaha, oh man, we really do dread this. Um… to be really concise, Applegeeks has been a six-year exploration of all things geek. Tech stuff, computer wars, comic books, movies, and popular media… I’d say we’ve touched on all of these things at least a couple of times. Applegeeks is actually about Hawk, Jayce, Alice, Gina, Eve, and a whole cast of characters that bounce around inside this world that I’d essentially liken to a geek’s paradise.
Hawk: Applegeeks has a sexy, cute, beautiful female bot that was built out of Mac parts. Oh yeah, it also has few other characters, but it has a sexy, cute, beautiful female robot. I think that pretty sums it up.
TFAW.com: And how did that road bring you to the here and now, with the release of Applegeeks Volume 1: Freshman Year, just over the horizon?
Hawk: To be honest, I never dreamed we would make it this far. It is still a shock for me. I always thought we would give up in a few months and move on.
Ananth: We kept plugging away at it… when we started Applegeeks, we did it on a lark. People liked what we were doing, so we increased our update schedule and slowly added new features like a forum, Applegeeks Lite, and most recently Twitter feeds. Our idea has always been to bring interesting content to our audience. The one thing we never did accomplish on our own was putting out a book, and this was something people were asking for from day one. We were just getting ready to put together a black and white Applegeeks Lite book on our own when Dark Horse contacted us. The rest, as they say, is history.
TFAW.com: Prior to this volume, had you attempted to translate the AG world to print? Were there any particular challenges that stemmed from shifting mediums?
Ananth: We’ve had a lot of false starts, mostly due to our somewhat rigorous work schedules. Back when we started Applegeeks we laughed off the notion of doing print collections, but we chose a standard format just to be on the safe side. This is what saved us! The transition over to print has been made pretty smooth by Dark Horse–they took a lot of time and care in making sure the comics are presented in a way that complements the style of Applegeeks. This is a testament to the patience of our editor Samantha Robertson and Dark Horse designer Tina Alessi… we went back and forth quite a bit before settling on the book’s design ethic, which I think looks great and is true to the comic’s geek background.
Hawk: We thought about it and there were a lot of variables to consider. The time to put a book together was a huge variable.
Ananth: What we’re secretly trying to tell you is that we’re easily distracted.
Hawk: Ooh, shiny!
TFAW.com: Freshman Year encapsulates all of the Applegeeks webcomics from 2003 and 2004, but you’ve got a huge reserve of material still waiting in the wings. I don’t want to spoil anything for the uninitiated, but as a retrospective, what changes (if any) have you seen in the comic’s focus, message, presentation, etc. when looking back over such an extensive period?
Hawk: Oh god, looking back at the old pages… my art really sucked. It really shows how my art skills evolved over time. I hope when artists look at the art and see the changes, it motivates them not to give up, to keep pushing themselves.
Ananth: There’s a point at which Hawk and I decided to try something a little different–we began to go a more serious route, and this is when a lot of the Applegeeks universe-building began. Most of it was spurred on by the appearance of Eve, who joins the cast towards the end of Volume 1.
TFAW.com: How much of this was intentional (i.e. planned) compared to what evolved, or devolved, organically?
Ananth: It was intentional in that we always meant for Applegeeks to be a sandbox within which we could test our chops for various styles and approaches to comics. We never planned to do anything particularly serious when Applegeeks started, but our approach probably predisposed us to trying it out some day.
Hawk: When it comes to art, my goal is always to push myself. To make the next comic look even better.
TFAW.com: Let’s shift gears from process to character for a bit. In Freshman Year it’s repeatedly stated that Jayce, while occasionally serving as surrogate for Ananth, is not meant to be a stand in. That being said, it’s intimated that Hawk does serve such a function to some degree. What say you? How far do the similarities go?
Ananth: Hahaha, you are plying dangerous waters! A lot of the comics that we do are based on conversation we have in real life, i.e. “It would be funny if X happened.” I don’t know, I feel like I’m revealing his hideous secrets! You should ask him, seriously.
Hawk: I think the squirrel can answer that.
TFAW.com: And as far as Alice, Gina, and Eve–are they indebted in terms of appearance or attitude to any real-world contemporaries?
Ananth: Alice and Eve aren’t based on anyone in particular, but Gina has a strange arc. She started off based on someone I knew in high school, but she began to develop as a strong female character and now she’s loosely based on one of my closest friends, whom I met on the Internet when I was 10. If that doesn’t solidify nerd cred, I don’t know what does.
Hawk: From my point of view, I try to understand the characters through the scripts.
TFAW.com: And the squirrel… ? I have to ask, because a good friend of mine used to think he could psychically command squirrels, so I’m wondering if this may be some sort of Sciuridae conspiracy to influence pop culture and what role you’re playing in it?
Hawk: Hehe, the squirrel was something I dropped in the background. He was not written in the script originally. For some reason I was thinking about the squirrels on University campus and decided to draw a squirrel stealing a donut. He became an instant hit with our readers.
Ananth: Haha, we’ve never tried to psychically control them! They may have tried to control us at some point. No, the squirrels come from a long-running joke about Ramadan, which is a month out of the year where Hawk can’t eat until sundown. In college, we would walk around campus and Hawk would watch those little squirrels nibbling away at their acorns and he’d just go a little crazy. He was positive they were taunting him while he was trudging around, starving.
Hawk: Those little bastards.
TFAW.com: I know you have, for lack of a better word, side projects and initiatives you work on. Can you share anything about them, and the role they play in maintaining/hastening the decay of one’s sanity when you’ve got a commitment to a project as time intensive as Applegeeks?
Ananth: Oh man, there have been quite a few over the years, and they definitely all sap our sanity. We’ve done a couple of comic shorts for various anthologies over the years. I write fiction on and off. I started a designer t-shirt company a year or two ago, which has sort of folded into Johnnywander.com, another webcomic I’m doing with Yuko Ota (there are a little over 50 comics up!). I’m also working on a full-length graphic novel right now that is shaping up to be pretty good, also with Yuko Ota, but I shouldn’t say more quite yet! Oh, and finally I freelance on and off for a couple of clients here and there, but I suppose that’s more “work” work.
Hawk: The only side projects I got going on are illustrations I’m doing for clients at my job.
TFAW.com: Got any advice for someone wanting to start a webcomic?
Ananth: DON’T DO IT. Just kidding, you should go for it! Just know that it takes a lot of hard work and dedication, and there’s not a big payoff in the short term. Do it because you want to engage people… do it for the right reasons! Man, I could give you advice for hours… come see us at a show and we’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have! We’re always excited to talk to our readership… it’s part of the magic of webcomics (waves hands mysteriously)!
Hawk: If you want to make your own webcomic, make sure you stand out from the rest. For example, there are too many webcomics about gaming, or trying to be the next Penny Arcade. Why not put something out there that no one has ever seen before?
TFAW.com: Any secret, or not so secret, projects in the works?
Ananth: Johnnywander.com is my newest project, as well as the aforementioned graphic novel, which I can’t say more about right this moment!
Hawk: I work full time as a designer/graphic artist. So basically I’m working on two major things, work and AG. Sadly I don’t have time to work on anything else. I would love to work on other projects.
Ananth: Any chance that project is called “sleeping”?
TFAW.com: Any last words for the readers?
Ananth: Thank you for reading!! None of this would have happened without you guys, and we’re always grateful for that!
Hawk: Yeah! Thanks for sticking with us for so long!
TFAW.com: Thank you both for taking some time to talk with us today. I wish you both the best, and can’t wait for the next volume… luckily there’s this site called Applegeeks.com that seems to have a lot of your work on it to tide me over. So that’s pretty cool.
Hawk: No. THANK YOU!
Ananth: Haha, yup! Come visit us there and enjoy the comics, join our forum, drop us an e-mail, twitter at
us… we’re around.
Thanks again to Hawk and Ananth for taking the time to speak with us. What do the rest of you think? Have you already taken the plunge into the Applegeeks’ universe? Or are the previews your first glimpse of this title? Are you secretly working for the squirrels? Let us know below!