Autumn of Indie: Webcomic – Jonbot vs Martha

Hello dear readers! Welcome to the second instalment of Webcomic Focus and boy do we have a treat for you. This week we look at the humorous and cheeky webcomic Jonbot vs Martha by writer Colin Bell and Artist Neil Slorance.

The webcomic follows the adventures of Jonbot and Martha. Jon and Martha were getting a divorce, but he had a heart attack and snuffed it. Then a friendly, slightly mad scientist built a robot and stuck Jon’s brain in and hey presto we have JONBOT!

He still wants a divorce though…which actually seems like a blessing because he’s kind of a dick. Will he learn to grow and accept responsibility now he’s a robot? Probably not. Oh and they have an adorable daughter Sarah.

Artist Neil Slorance is a Scottish Illustrator with “a passion for all things robotic and dinosaur based.” He currently lives in Glasgow with his tortoise Herman. Neil’s blog can be found here. His Neil Armstrong tribute strip made me sniffle.

Writer Colin Bell also works for Newsarama and Comic Booked as well as his own awesome blog It’s Bloggerin Time! He says His favourite foodstuffs are “Chicken Chargrills and condensed milk. Not together though, that would be rank.” Colin agreed to answer some questions for us on the webcomic.

GS: So who came up with Jonbot vs Martha? Was it always going to be a webcomic?

CB:  If memory serves I think we had the idea of the two of us simply doing a webcomic before we had the actual idea that became JVsM.

Once I’d nagged Neil into joining me, I had a good look over all his stuff (online here!) to try and see what he’d be happiest drawing, and the two recurring themes in a lot of his work were robots, and this incredible ability to wring real poignancy out of simple, everyday things. We’re talking real emotional heft wrapped up in the cutest bundle you ever did see.

With that in mind, I pitched him the basics of the strip (robot and woman getting a divorce) in a bid to try and EXPLOIT THESE STRENGTHS TO THE EXTREME. So, in that sense we both came up with the idea in that his work and abilities informed it from the outset!

 GS: You have your own theme tune! How did that happen?

 CB:We have two! One’s a folky jaunt by Glasgow troubadour Shambles Miller, and the other is by electro-lothario Zuko Fontiane and it sounds like it’s been ripped straight from the title sequence of an 80s Saturday morning cartoon. We acquired them the only way we know how – outright begging.

Our second ever strip (and the first JVsM I ever wrote) is our Title Sequence, complete with lyrics that sum up the plot of the strip. When that was published we put a call out with it for musicians to put those lyrics to music, and thankfully Shambles and Zuko were kind enough to answer.

I must stress that open invitation is still open should anyone else want to take a stab. WE LOVE THEME TUNES.

 GS: Do you have any plans to produce a book of Jonbot vs Martha strips?

CB: Overall I think what we’d like to do is to wait until the strip reaches its conclusion and then just put out a nice big Complete Jonbot Vs Martha deal with commentary (by which I mean apologies), and additional material and the like.

That said, when we were nominated for four Scottish Indie Comic Book Alliance awards this year (Best Comic, Writer, Artist and Cover, humblebrag) we put together a wee collection of all the eligible strips into a booklet that voters could read. And then when we lost all four of those awards we were left with quite a backlog to shift, so if anyone wants to buy a copy of something you can read online for free, form an orderly queue here.

I am the worst salesman ever.

 GS: What are some of your favourite webcomics?

CB: For me, Kreepy Kat and The Loneliest Astronauts were both massive influences on the earlier JVsM stuff, in terms of their (respectively) nihilistic and adversarial natures. Both are finished now though, sadly.

So currently I’d have to point people to Bucko, Hark A Vagrant, Detective Space Cat, Craig Collins and Iain Laurie’s Roachwell, Joe List’s Freak Leap, Dinosaur Comics, Sin Titulo and Sparkshooter, all off the top of my head.

I’m particularly digging my pal Garry Mclaughlin’s Suddenly Something Really Interesting, which is an inspiringly frank personal exploration. It’s also testament to both the sheer emotive capacity of comics, and the brilliant DIY ethos that webcomics present – Garry just picked up a pen one day a few weeks ago and off he went, and now he’s building this incredible community who discuss his strips with each passing instalment.

 GS: Will we see any more guest artists on Jonbot vs Martha?

CB: As a matter of fact we will, there’ll be guest creative teams! For the month of September Neil and I are taking a well-earned break to focus on some other projects and handing the reins over to a plethora of our comic-creator chums from around the globe for a series of guest strips. There’s going to be “what-if” style strips, explorations of our characters both metaphysical and physical, all sorts. It’s going to be tip-top fun.

GS Reporter: Sara Westop

You can check out the first ever Jonbot vs Martha strip here


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