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Joystiq profiles Extra Life's Scott Johnson

Ross Miller

Scott Johnson's Extra Life is a gaming strip that, much like Penny Arcade, is equal parts comic and blog. Johnson's embrace of the Internet and new media has put Extra Life into territories such as blogging, podcasting, and vidcasting.

Johnson also contributed some spiffy Joystiq-themed banners for our trip to E3 last year. Chatting with us via e-mail, Johnson explains that there is, in fact, life outside of World of Warcraft.

Who is the Scott Johnson outside of Extra Life?

You mean my "Regular Life"? I am a 37-year old marketing director for a small web company in Salt Lake City. Happily married with three great kids. A video game freak at heart, beginning back in the 80's when I helped my Dad maintain three arcades and a burgeoning gaming business. People ask where I got hooked on gaming, and I tell them it in my basement, with free play turned on, burning the night away on Missile Command, Pac-Man and Burgertime, to name just a few. I was rather popular with the neighbors back then, as you might guess.

Why did you start making webcomics? Why game-related?

I've been drawing all my life and studied graphic design and illustration in college, et cetera. I had various comics and such before the web existed and have always loved the medium of cartooning. The web became the perfect vehicle to get my work in front of loads of people, and it just made sense.

Back in 1999, I started a little webcomic called Real Toons, that was pretty much nothing but tactical military shooter jokes as a companion piece to an old mod for Unreal Tournament called Infiltration. It gathered quite a bit of interest and it quickly made sense for me in 2001 to start ExtraLife, which was launched officially on GameSpy.

The idea was to get into more subject matter and joke lines outside of tactical shooters. I also wanted to explore more of my general geek culture side. Here we are six years later with almost 30,000 unique visitors per day and growing, and I could not be happier about it. I should mention here I have the best fans on planet Earth.

I should say I started doing this simple as a method to keep drawing every day. And I guess even today it's probably the biggest benefit of the comic. It keeps you sharp and ever improving.

You also tend to cover, outside of games, nerd culture in general.

I love geek culture: sci-fi, video games, knowing Ron Perlman's birth date, hating on Star Wars prequels, etc. It's unique to my age on down and I think we should be proud of the stuff we are all into. Illustrating some of that with my comics is a dream come true.

With your experience so far can you (or have you) turn this into a full-time, financially stable career?

Well it does pretty well right now with sponsors, helped along by the radio show as well. I hope to continue to grow things to the point that I could realistically do it full time. With a family of five it can be hard to just dump the stability of the day job without some negative effects. But one day, I will get there. Just a matter of time and persistence.

What is your creation process, from idea to publishing? What mediums and technology do you use?

Each comic starts as a brain fart in unusual places. At work, in the gym, a dream, sitting on the can, etc. I keep a sketch book with me wherever I go and quickly jot them down in there. I typically give it a few hours or sometimes days to simmer so I can make sure it was not the stupidest thing ever and only looked good at two in the morning.

Then comes pencil to paper, ink to paper, scanner, and then I do all color work on a Wacom tablet on my Mac, then boom: all done.

Other than writing comics, you are a prolific podcaster, and recently a vidcaster as well. Why the interest in internet broadcasting in general?

I have always had a radio and TV bug in me. I spent eight years doing a local radio computer help show, which has really stuck with me. It's a creative medium that has really broken free of corporate control in the last couple years and landed in the lap of everyday guys like you and me. Podcasting and video has given me a chance to let all that hang out in a fast and cheap way. In a way, its just like the comic. It's a medium or "place" where I don't have to answer to editors or censors or anyone ... only to me and my readers and listeners. It's rather exhilarating, actually. ExtraLife Radio has become a serious passion for me, as well as the World of Warcraft show I produce called "The Instance" and a few other projects here and there. And while new, ELTV is really taking off as well. Can't get enough it seems. Perhaps I have a serious problem and should seek professional help.

Do you see the vidcasting as complimentary to your podcasting, or will it one day become a replacement?

I see it as very complimentary, but not a replacement of audio content. It stands on its own. There will always be a place for audio content you can jog with, commute with, et cetera. Radio has proved this over time, and the fact that TV never killed radio is further proof. It's just a different medium for a different need. They work well together.

What are your favorite strips?

Of mine? I guess I don't have a favorite. I love digging on old game classics like Mario and Pac-Man. I think the fans really like those.

If you mean other comics, I am a big fan of Penny Arcade, Commissioned: Comic, Mission Deep, Dueling Analogs, and many others. It's great that we all have web to let our stuff out there. We are seeing talent that we would have never known about even 10 years ago.

As far as the classics go, I was hugely influenced by the likes of Mort Drucker, Gary Larson, Bill Watterson, and others.

You are a founding member of Gamers Pair of Dice. Can you explain how you got involved with that?

Steve [Napierski, Dueling Analogs] and I are web pals and I really enjoy his work, and I think he likes mine as well. He approached me in the early days and it sounded like a great way to share some audience, spread around the talent, and generally create a team of comic creators that could do some good work together and spread the love around.

How has it helped you or other webcomics?

Mainly its given many readers a nice common base to launch from, find other like-minded comics about gaming, and continue to build up our army of zombie geeks, blood thirsty and ready to complete the next step in our ultimate plan for world domination. *smiles*

See Also: Joystiq profile: Dueling Analogs' Steve Napierski

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