with Victor Couwenbergh
Name: Victor Couwenbergh
Comics: Zik the Gallant Defender of Zoz, Cyko Kid
Websites: defenderzik.com & cykokid.departure-productions.com
QRD – How old were you when you first realized you wanted to be a cartoonist?
Victor – I’ve been drawing since I could hold a pencil, but I’ve never had formal art lessons. I put down my pencils for about a decade when I discovered video cameras & I wound up pursuing a career in television broadcasting. A lot of the composition & lighting & camera angle stuff I learned making TV commercials, documentaries, & B-movies I carried back into drawing when I picked up my pencils again a few years ago. Since then Adam Black & Raven Perez of Locus & Raven’s Dojo have taught me a lot of the things about drawing that I’d never learned before formally.
QRD – What are a few highlights of your cartooning career?
Victor – The main highlight so far has been attracting the attention of Adam & Raven. When the student is ready, the master appears, & I’m lucky enough to have two draw-fu sifus. I’ve also met a whole lot of other amazing artists through Iron Tiger Comics who I stay in contact with. The other highlight has been seeing my hard work pay off in terms of having progressively better pages to show the world.
QRD – At what age did you decide you wanted to become a father?
Victor – I became a father in my mid twenties. It was & has been an awesome experience. I’ve learned more from my children than from anyone else, especially while homeschooling them for the first few years.
QRD – What are some positive & negative impacts your family has had on your career?
Victor – The positives to having children are hard to enumerate because they are innumerable. Being a father completely changes your perspective on everything. It’s not just about food-in-poop-out & all the cleaning up that goes with it. It’s the laughing & the goofing off & the teaching & the new things you learn & the cuddles & the bedtime stories & the closeness & the accomplishment & the celebration of the little things & the sharing of wisdom back & forth & the amazing & hilarious things they say... like I said, the benefits are innumerable. The only bad thing I can think of is that your social life & free time are in complete upheaval; a lot of your non-parent friends disappear & you have less time for personal projects. But those things are ameliorated by the fact that new friends appear & helping your little ones grow becomes just as rewarding as a personal project can. Add to that the massive array of other benefits & for me parenthood has been hugely beneficial.
QRD – What are some positive & negative impacts your career has had on your family?
Victor – Art having a negative impact on my family? Only in that when I’m drawing I’m not directly interacting with my family, but I keep my art highly portable. For example, I’ve done a lot of drawing during ballet or karate lessons. I can also chat while I draw & my kids like to watch & ask questions. My daughter is particularly crafty & we sometimes draw side by side or I’ll draw while she makes amazing origami creations. For me, family comes first. At first I was able to draw two pages of Zik per week. As my home life grew more complex (due to health issues in the family), I dropped it to one page a week & now I just update when I can. My audience is patient & understands.
QRD – Have your children effected the comics you make &/or read?
Victor – Absolutely! When I first started drawing again, I was making a comic called Cyko Kid, which was meant to look like it was doodled by a child. It was about this 7-year-old psychopath that kept escaping the asylum & killing random people. I did a year of that & stopped because my kids were getting interested & it really wasn’t appropriate for them at the time. So I switched to Zik the Gallant Defender of Zoz, partly because it gave me a chance to really try & get better with my artwork & partly so that my kids weren’t watching daddy draw something bloody & gory. Zik is more like Buck Rogers meets Tintin; no gore & all high adventure.
QRD – Would you rather see your children eventually become cartoonists or parents?
Victor – Honestly, all I’m hoping for is that they find something they’re really into that they really want to pursue & are passionate about. If they find something that uses a skill set that overlaps mine, like drawing, then that’s great because I can use what I’ve learned to help them. I’ve already helped my daughter understand some simple anatomy & perspective, as well as reducing complex figures to their simple shapes to help her reconstruct them on paper. I find it very enjoyable to help them in this way because I get to see them absorb the new information & I get to go over the basics again myself!
QRD – Both family & comics seem like things that will take up as much of your time as you’re willing to put in. How do you end up dividing your time?
Victor – When it comes to dividing my time, it’s definitely family first. Whether it’s doing day-to-day chores, helping with homework, or helping deal with the inevitable health issues that crop up, my first & most important priority is making sure everyone has what they need. That’s why my update schedule is sporadic at the moment. Since drawing Zik is my number one priority after my family, every available moment outside of family time is used for that; I have no other activities that I pursue with any regularity.
QRD – What do your kids think of your comics?
Victor – My kids really like Zik. The comic is actually geared to their age group to a certain extent. I’ve tried to take everything I loved about Tintin, Asterix, & Dan Cooper & bring them into an outer space adventure setting. My kids have even helped me build certain aspects of the comic. For example, Zik’s pal James Anchor was invented by my son & I was allowed to use him on the condition that I included his pet mouse. The name “James Anchor,” captain of the warship “Kodiak,” was so awesome that I went ahead & drew the mouse on his shoulder.
QRD – Do you think you could ever do a comic project with your children?
Victor – Well, like I mentioned, my kids have some input into what happens with Zik. I could probably do an Axe Cop type of collaboration with them as well. My son’s imagination is especially vivid, although his stories usually end with epic wars between an army of kaiju & the combined might of all the tanks in the world launching nukes into the kaiju’s mouths & any kaiju that escaped would face an army of dudes with sword guns & maybe the Ghostbusters can shoot at them too. (He came up with that just now). It would be fun to do that, so who knows!
QRD – Any words of advice to young people?
Victor – My advice for other kids would be to find something you love & pursue it relentlessly. If it’s something creative like drawing, learn the craft, find people to teach you, & fill a skillion sketchbooks with doodles as you learn how it all works. The only difference between a student & a master is the number of hours spent practicing & learning. Challenge yourself & invite your brain to rise to the effort. If you think you’ve mastered something, remember what Bruce Lee said: there are no limits, only plateaus. There’s always something new to learn!
QRD – Anything else?
Victor – Thanks very much for the great questions!