The world of video game web comics is an ever-growing field. While there certainly are mainstays in the arena like Penny Arcade and Ctrl+Alt+Del, there are many other smaller comics that have carved out their own niche.
Zac Gorman’s “Magical Game Time” is technically one of the smaller video game web comics out there (Gorman has yet to put on a massive gaming expo), but is quickly gaining traction and clout in its field. Always a sucker for I-knew-him-whens, I hit up Gorman for an interview to talk about—among other things—Awesomenauts, The Simpsons and games our moms liked to play.
Gorman’s first foray into video game web comics was with a small site called “I Draw Nintendo” which quickly took off when one of his Zelda pieces was picked up by a number of gaming sites. From the beginning, Gorman has strayed quite far from other gaming comics (so much so that I hesitate to even call Magical Game Time a web comic). As he puts it, “It was definitely just about making doodles of the games I love. I never really planned on making a video game web comic. Once it started taking off a little bit I just kinda ran with.” Now his artwork has been featured on myriad gaming sites and has been re-blogged on Tumblr countless times.
Through our entire interview, Gorman remained incredibly humble. His experiences, success and fame, if nothing else, have humbled him even more. Our conversation was initially stuffy, and Gorman seemed hesitant to be misread as anything other than an unassuming artist doing what he loved. When I asked him if he put his art before the gaming elements of his comics, he sheepishly told me, “hah, maybe. I guess that sounds a little highbrow, which is something I would never use to describe the kind of comics I make, but yeah I suppose that's fair on some level.”
After a while we talked about what games Gorman is currently playing and he revealed he’s been logging some serious Awesomenauts hours. It became quickly apparent that Gorman’s compulsion to draw video game art is just as natural as Stephen King’s propensity toward horror writing. Not surprisingly, Gorman tends to enjoy games for their artistic aspects, and usually leans toward single player experiences. Like me, he’s one of the select few who actually play Call of Duty games for their campaigns.
It eventually became clear that Gorman outpaced my nerd cred by leaps and bounds. He told me that he’s owned nearly every console ever made, “unless you're counting Virtual Boy, which we probably shouldn't.” He made it clear that he’s a diehard Nintendo fan, and so I asked him what his all-time favorite console is. Claiming it was the first time he’s ever had to answer the question outside the confines of his mind, Gorman finally confided that “it's gotta be a dead heat between the SNES and the PS1. I don't know how I could ever choose between them.” He further confessed, “I've probably thought about the answer to that question way too much in my life.”
This long-running love affair with games has undoubtedly shaped Gorman’s art. He told me, “I think games are just such a personal experience and so intimately connected with our youth, in particular for our generation, that it's hard not to get sentimental about them.” His personal relationship with games is the reason Magical Game Time is less topical than a typical video game web comic, and more a representation of Gorman’s relationship with whatever game he’s doodling about.
“Video games really transformed my life and influenced my creative development more than any other medium, even comics,” he explained. He later went on to say, “I tend to write comics that are more about my experiences, either real or imagined, with a game rather than a critique of the game itself as something like Penny Arcade tends to be.”
This type of art has definitely struck a chord with countless followers of his Tumblr-based website. Concerning the use of Tumblr, Gorman explained that he has used the site since its early days and that “the brilliant thing about Tumblr is that there's no downvoting so it's really just a big love fest. Tumblr is great for your ego.” This is probably why, as Gorman puts it, “People on the internet have in general been incredibly nice to me.”
Gorman makes his living largely on selling prints of his artwork featured on Magical Game Time along with other freelance work, including a gig poster for psychedelic rock band My Morning Jacket—a far cry from his previous employment as a food runner and before that, an office drone. He recently began drawing a regular comic for video game blog Kotaku. Illustrator Jimmy Giegerich also asked Gorman to draw a page for his upcoming Kickstarter project Bits in Multiples of 8; an illustrated book filled with video game fan art from the 8bit to 64bit era.
His success has led him to a number of comic cons and this year’s PAX will be his second visit to the show. This time around, merchandiser Fangamer’s booth will be displaying some of his stuff while he wanders around, “soaking up the games and people.”
Zac Gorman’s niche is impossibly intricate and peerless, which is exactly what makes his art so fun to look at. When he portrays himself in his art it’s usually as a pink bunny he admits draws a lot of influence from Matt Groening’s “Life in Hell” comic strip. He also explains that it’s an unintended nod at one of his favorite games; The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.
He told me in mock confidence, “I like to steal little bits from all over to cover my trail better.” His influences don’t end there, however. Gorman has a strong background in poster art, and therefore the artwork featured in Magical Game Time was simply and extension of what he knew. Selling prints was not something he was sure would take off, but he was pleasantly surprised at the incredible support he’s received.
Currently, Gorman is working on a number of pieces to display at PAX along with a variety of projects for Fangamer. He promised that he’s also “working on a fair number of projects outside of the video game milieu.” Among an ever-growing field of web comic artists, Gorman is a shining star. I, for one, was grateful when he reassured me that “I'm definitely keeping busy making new art and as it comes out I'm sure that I'll be bombarding the internet with it the best I can.”
Keep your eyes on this guy, kids—he’s going places.
Nationally unacclaimed freelance writer Jonathan Deesing never wavers on his favorite console. Long Live the Sega Dreamcast. If you can't get enough of his musings, check out his Twitter feed.