More About the Strip
Pewfell is an epic fantasy sitcom. The story follows the adventures of slacker wizard Pewfell, his wife Tina the warrior princess and their pestilential lodger, a small blue creature known as Gnoma. In the current storyline Pewfell has moved his family to the country and become the new McLurgi's Magic Shoppe franchise holder for the rural village of Bletchley-on-Soddon.
My name is Chuck Whelon and I am the creator, artist and co-writer of Pewfell. I was born and raised near the Basingstoke roundabout in England but now work for an advertising agency in San Francisco, CA where I live with my wife and son. Some of my influences for Pewfell include Popeye, Asterix, The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers and the books of Terry Pratchett.
My alter-ego, Pewfell, is an everyman, struggling to make his way in an exceedingly and increasingly bizarre world. He is a hero, but more often than not he is also a victim. The series has something of an autobiographical nature to it; it takes place more-or-less in real-time and Pewfell ages along with me. Changes in Pewfell's life may reflect changes in my own and characters are often based on people I meet. Sometimes people will pester me to put them into the strip. The last person who did this was my former next-door neighbor, who you now know as Gnoma, so be warned!
I love to work in the sci-fi/fantasy genre because it frees me to tell stories that are not tied to any specific location or time and can provide some perspective and comment on the wacky world we live in. It also means I get to draw lots of fun stuff like goofy looking monsters and hot girls in chainmail bikinis.
Pewfell began running as daily webcomic in early 2001 and was one of the charter strips offered as part of ModernTales.com when it launched in 2002 and continues to appear there to this day. Pewfell is also now one of the first comics to be specifically formatted for the iPod, downloadable at Clickwheel.net - the premier site for iPod comics.
Creation and Mission:
The dot-com bust finally hit me on January 8th 2001 when I was laid-off from a nicely paid job I'd had illustrating software product packaging. Times were tough and I found myself stuck at home with not much to do but eat Cheetos and surf the Internet, where naturally my attentions gravitated towards comics. As it happened this was an exciting time for webcomics, Penny Arcade was still in its infancy, PVP solidly underway, Sluggy Freelance a legend in the making, and Scott McCloud the new messiah. I took a good long look at all that was out there and said to myself: "Hey, I can do that!"
Pewfell was an idea I'd been noodling around with for quite a while. He'd begun life as a character sketch for a friend of mine in a D&D game, and over the years I'd illustrated him in various scenes and even drawn a few comics of his adventures when the mood struck me. I'd always dreamed of doing something more with the idea and I realized that now was my chance.
Inspired by some of the other great fantasy strips that were appearing on the web at that time (e.g. Rogues of Clwyd Rhan, Elf-Life, Bruno the Bandit, Clan of the Cats, The Wandering Ones, and The Circle Weave) I wanted to put together a comic that had both epic fantasy adventure as well as genuinely strong character-based humor. A strip for discerning readers of all ages and backgrounds, including people who might not normally read comics. It would poke fun at the establishment and all those who take themselves too seriously. Finally, I wanted both the art and the writing to be of the highest standard, above and beyond anything else that was being done online at the time. I set myself up with an account at Keenspace and began posting a full-color, six-panel page of Pewfell every weekday.
Of course the update schedule and goals I'd set myself were pretty demanding, if not deranged. Every page had to work as a stand-alone piece, and have a solid punchline or payoff at the end. At the same time the story had to retain a smooth narrative flow while moving forward with a jaunty, if not reckless, pace. There was a story I wanted to tell, a world that needed to be realized and characters who rapidly took on lives of their own. I managed to keep it up for quite a while and began to find an audience, but towards the end of that year I was burning out. It was then that fellow dot-com refugee Joey Manley came along and breathed new life into my ambitions with his own crazy schemes.
I first found Joey through his Talk About Comics Podcast, unfortunately the iPod had yet to be invented and Joey was, as ever, ahead of his time. We'd talked online a bit but then one fateful Saturday in the summer of 2001 he invited myself and a bunch of other Bay-Area webcartoonist to a party he was having at his home in San Rafael. I'll never forget my first sight of Joey, which was of him waving and then falling down his long flight of garden steps. Fortunately he was not hurt and the party went off with a bang. Joey had made out pretty well from the internet bubble and had gotten away with a golden handshake of about $100,000 or so which he was looking to plough into a venture of his own. One of Joey's former colleagues had sunken all his dough into a yacht and was planning to sail round the world with his girlfriend, but Joey was cooking up a far more fanciful and much less sensible scheme that was to become into the great experiment known as ModernTales.com.
The idea continued to grow and evolve over the next few months and we met again several times. One seminal event that occurred around that time was a creator's evening at the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco. Joey & myself were there along with a number of other people who would form the core of the initial ModernTales line-up, Including Shaennon Garrity, Jesse Hamm, Gene Yang, and Jason Shiga and a host of other well known creators. The evening featured Darren 'Gav' Bleuel and Derek Kirk Kim talking about their experiences in webcomics, Derek was working on Same Difference and Gav was flush with the growing success of Keenspot.com. I think the evening was pretty instrumental in Joey seeing ModernTales as being an alternative to Keenspot. It certainly highlighted the difference in their approaches and sowed the seeds for a (mostly) friendly rivalry. ModernTales was eventually launched in the spring of 2002 and over the years has seen many changes, but Pewfell has always remained a part of that line-up.
By Mid 2002 I had finished the first great epic Pewfell story-arc that comprises Volumes 2-3. I now had a complete graphic novel on my hands, the fulfillment of a lifetime ambition for me, but I was finding it harder and harder to maintain my insane update schedule. ModernTales had held up a carrot, but the financial rewards were never even close to being enough to allow me to pay the bills. Life was catching up to me, my beautiful wife Tina was pregnant with our son and I knew that I was soon going to have even less time to devote to my passion. I'd re-tooled the series to be a black and white newspaper-style strip which was working OK, but I wasn't yet sure exactly what direction to take it next. Reviews of my early work had mainly focused on the fact that the writing of the strip was not up to the standard of the art, so I started casting around for a co-writer to work with on the series. I posted a want ad on the Talkaboutcomics.com forum and it was answered by Adam Prosser. This seemed truly serendipitous to me at the time because I had recently been reading his strips Amazon Space Rangers and Nightshift. and thinking how funny and well written they were and how that was just the sort of wit I'd like to have on Pewfell.
I invited Adam (a Toronto native) to submit some sample strips, which he did and I loved. I really felt they added a new dimension to the characters. It didn't take us very long at all to find a groove and we were soon working comfortable together, bouncing ideas around and fueling each-others psychoses. I retain final script control, but Adam writes most of the actual dialog. We email back and forth to evolve the story and then Adam produces s pretty tight script for me to work from, which I may fine tune once I start to actually draw it. We completed Volume 4 together and were both very happy with the final outcome, even though we had no idea where we were going when we began it. Sometimes it had felt like we were going in different directions, however, when I read the final piece through after 2 years of work I was amazed at how fluidly it has come together. Many of the things I had considered to be somewhat tangential to the story when drawing it now all seemed to fall into place. I'm currently colorizing those strips and re-working some of the panels into a larger format and it's really bringing the piece to a whole new level. I am extremely proud of it.
In mid 2005 Adam & I eagerly began work on Volume 5. We were both keen to work in a larger format, and tell a story in chapter chunks of around 5-10 pages each. This time I particularly wanted to plot the whole thing out beforehand, and to try and tackle a story with a bit more meaningfulness and relevance. We spent quite a long time thrashing things out before putting pen to paper, but hope to have left things loose enough to give us enough room to surprise ourselves as we go along. The major change to Volume 5 has been dropping the schedule down to a weekly update format. Having already succeeded in producing two full-length epics I feel I have less to prove in terms of volume of output and I really wanted to have more time to concentrate on making the art and writing the best that it can be.
Being online has allowed me to connect with readers all over the world. The great fans I've met at conventions really do span the gamut of age, race and background. The one thing they have in common is that they are all intelligent, fun-loving people with a great sense of humor. Even though for the past couple of years the pressures of work and family have put more and more demands on my time, drawing Pewfell has remained a happy oasis in my day. My only hope is that it will find a place in yours.
General illustration portfolio site: http://www.whelon.com
Here are some nice things others have had to say about Pewfell:
Pewfell Porfingles: Is kick ass, with extra kick left over in case more ass shows up. Great art, and cool fantasy/sci-fi storylines
Tycho Brahe, Penny Arcade
Solid laughs, funny characters, and ludicrous plot points from start to finish... [Chuck] does a very nice job of visually bringing Pewfell’s milieu to life. This remains one of my favorite indy sleepers: a satisfying little book.
Marc Mason, Should it be a Movie? column on MoviePoopShoot.com
[an] online comic masterpiece.
Carson Fire , Creator of ElfLife
PORFINGLES KICKS HARRY POTTER'S SKINNY LITTLE QUIDDICH-PLAYING BE-HIND!!!
Chris Adams, Creator of Yamara
Creative, outrageous, and original this is an excellent fantasy comic!
Alden Scott Crow. Zine World #6