Perpetually accompanied by a squirrel who has taken to nesting on her head, Real Life Fiction arbitrarily segues between Robin’s daily musings and bouts of surreal randomness. What constitutes ’surreal randomness’, you might ask?
Pink crime fighting unicorn men, gladiatorial figure skating, and polar bear milking for Coca-Cola… to name a few of the many topics featured in RLF.
Robin is also the author, and the concepts she writes and illustrates into Real Life Fiction are drawn from whatever happens to spark her imagination.
Real Life Fiction is just one of the many comics that can be currently found on The Fabler webcomics portal. We here at the Fabler thought it might be neat to showcase some of the talent that has popped up around the site, and ImaginaryGirl (Robin) immediately sprang to mind.
Fortunately for all involved, she was amiable enough to agree to an interview.
She’s been relating ridiculously funny tales of pink unicorns, pop culture characters, and her own day-to-day life since 2008, when she first started Real Life Fiction.
“Way back when,” says Robin, “I did a comic called Mixed Myth and a collaborative comic called Metrophor. Then I I had to take a break because I had some issues with tendonitis. I still really wanted to do comics, so I tried to develop a style that would be fast and easy on my hand. It began as a gag-a-day thing that didn’t take a lot of commitment, as opposed to something with an overarching story. For that format I started by just pulling ideas from my everyday life.”
The title Real Life Fiction is an accurate reference to the subject matter Robin writes about, which ranges from tiny ninjas who master in papercut combat to socialist breakfast cereals and evil mullet-powered armies of the future. You can literally watch Robin’s mind at work as she transforms the random thoughts that occur to her throughout her day-to-day into simultaneously extravagant and goofball comic strips.
“Honestly,” she says, “I can’t deliberately come up with an idea. As I go through the day something will pop in there like… what if this were different, or what if this notion were explored a little more. I used to have sticky notes that I would write them down on, which of course I would constantly lose. So now I have a tablet that I record ideas on, and I actually have a backlog of them, which is good.
When asked about the approximate ratio of Real Life to Fiction in Robin’s comic strip, she is quick to reply that, “It’s about 80% fiction, 20% real life.”
For those wondering, Robin does not in fact go about with a squirrel on her head in real life. (Much to my own personal disappointment. )
“The squirrel is actually a reference to my college days. We would have these campus squirrels that were the craziest things. I swear they would throw nuts at people, or at least drop them deliberately. I once saw one carrying a cookie that was about the same size he was up a tree. They were just so kooky and off the wall and the squirrel in RLF is sort of an homage to that.”
Kooky and off the wall are phrases that sit nicely within the context of Real Life Fiction. I asked Robin if she felt a need to constantly be working to outdo herself in terms of the more ‘ridiculous’ aspects of her comic.
“I do,” she says, with a laugh. “And it’s not just a challenge to myself but to what I imagine my reader expectations to be. It’s certainly a high standard that I have to keep trying to meet.”
Robin says that it can be a challenge to keep the content of RLF fresh and worthy of raising that bar.
“Particularly some of the Manicorn stuff. People really enjoy it, but at the same time I don’t want it to become mundane or expected.”
While Real Life Fiction may be Robin’s most absurd webcomic to date, it’s certainly not her first.
“Mixed Myth was a comic that I did during my comic years, and it ran for about four years. It was a story-based fantasy comic, but it was still a bit of a satire because I can’t resist. There’s a magic system in that world which is based on cinematics and how cool something would look, and also people are descended from rabbits.
That was actually rather popular, and by the end I had about a thousand visits a day.
Then I did – I don’t want to say Steampunk – but sort of a fantasy punk comic with my brother, who was the writer. That one was called Metrophor. The art was so intricate on it that when I started experiencing tendonitis I unfortunately had to set it down.”
For Robin, one of the biggest draws to webcomicking is the unique opportunities for feedback that it affords.
“I don’t want to say I put all of this out there specifically for the comments, but it’s really nice to hear what people think. If you publish something and you put it out there in print you’re basically sending it out to this void, but if you do a webcomic and people comment on it then you know what you can improve and you know when you do something right.”
I also asked Robin about some of the challenges she’s faced in taking on the world of webcomics, and she was quick to isolate just one area: advertising.
“It used to be,” she says, “In the early days of webcomics that people would do link exchanges and that was the primary form of advertising. Now it doesn’t seem that people do that quite as much. While there are things nowadays like Project Wonderful and what have you, the internet these days is a much larger and more complex place and so it’s much harder to be heard.”
Not to confine her expressive endeavours exclusively to the field of comics, Robin is a woman of many talents. One of which, incidentally, is the making of intricate, inspired masks.
“I’ve been making masks for about four or five years now,” Robin says, “The first one I did was for a Mardi Gras party that never happened, then I just kind of got into it and kept trying to research new materials and new techniques to make masks faster and higher quality.
It was something that not a lot of people did. I mean there are a lot of people who do leather masks out there and that’s really impressive, but what I wanted to do was something a little more sculptural. I sculpted a lot with polymer clay as a kid, which was probably where that came from. I also liked the fact that masks actually had a use. I love wall art and certainly masks can double as that, but I like that it’s art you can wear to things and actually get use out of.”
As a final question, I asked Robin to name some of her current favorite comics and videogames. Since Real Life Fiction is chock full of references to everything from Katamari to Batman, I thought she might have an interesting personal selection. She did not disappoint:
“Oh my gosh. Videogames , I would say Portal, Katamari Damacy, Okami…I have a long love for the Final Fantasy Fantasy series but I don’t own a next-gen system, so I’m a little dated in that respect.
Comics, I would say Gunnerkrigg Court... From the print side I would say Fables and Hellboy. The very first webcomic I ever read was Sluggy Freelance, back in High School. Oh, and Manly Guys Doing Manly Things is one that I’ve gotten into very recently. It’s a little like Real Life Fiction in terms of how it uses game references, but it goes down a different path. ”
-Written by Kevin de Vlaming