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Vince Dorse and Untold Tales of Bigfoot

on Thu, 05/23/2013 - 00:00

Untold Tales of Bigfoot
“I’m just a guy who draws an awful lot and sometimes people pay me to do it,” Pittsburgh comic artist and illustrator Vince Dorse explains in regards to his occupation. “It’s a job my eight-year old self would approve of.”

Despite such self-depreciating comments, Dorse found success in 2013 with his online webcomic Untold Tales of Bigfoot, which received nominations for a Cartoonist Studio Prize—awarded by the Slate Book Review and Center for Cartoon Studies—and the prestigious Reuben Awards, often considered the industry equivalent of an Oscar and sponsored by the National Cartoonists Society.

“That’s something I’d never even considered or hoped for when I started this comic and it’s amazingly gratifying,” Dorse says of the twin nominations. “I’m stunned, actually. Not sure how long that run of good fortune will continue, but I hope to keep improving as an artist and storyteller, and if I get a chance to make more comics that’d be great. It’d be nice to do it for mountainous stacks of cash, but I’ll probably keep it up whether people pay me to or not.”

Untold Tales of Bigfoot is the story of a lonely Bigfoot looking for a friend and a dog named Scout, abandoned by his human family, trying to find his way back home. The online comic is serial in nature, but just like newspaper comic strips, follows a set-up/pay-off style for each installment.

Within the narrative, Bigfoot is an innocent creature once worshipped by the indigenous tribes of North America while Scout is a hunting dog constantly finding himself in trouble. Slowly a bond forms between the two, despite Bigfoot’s limited vocabulary and Scout’s own naivety in regards to the great outdoors. Together they find friendship, however, in the most touching and humorous of ways.

“Truthfully, Untold Tales of Bigfoot is an experiment,” Vince Dorse explains in regards to the origin the webcomic. “I wanted to get better at telling stories, I wanted to get better at sequential art, layout, inking, etc. I figured if I forced a deadline on myself and opened it up to an audience I would either succeed at my goal or go down in flames. So far, so good, I suppose. There were a number of ideas I wanted to explore—stories that had been wandering around in my head for a while with nowhere to go—but this simple story about loneliness, loss and friendship felt like the right one to go with. People that know me well know I have a personal connection with some of the characters and events in the story, but every creator shares that with his stories.”

The ability to post Untold Tales of Bigfoot on the World Wide Web was also a consideration when Dorse first took up the project. “I love the idea of comics online,” he says. “The whole experience, as a reader and creator, is fantastic. For readers, webcomics offer a virtually endless variety of subject matters for kids and adults. And the delivery method allows the formats to run the gamut from single or three-panel strips to full page or scrolling narratives, sometimes with animation or sound or interactivity. The possibilities are endless, really.”

The idea of instant feedback likewise appealed to Vince Dorse. “As someone who makes comics, I love the immediacy of the medium,” he continues. “You put a page together, upload it and boom—someone’s reading it. And the interaction with readers can be really eye-opening. I’m sure Untold Tales of Bigfoot is much richer than it might’ve been had I tried creating it in a vacuum, without feedback, without an audience. As a bonus, I’ve gotten to know a bunch of other comic creators and discovered the webcomic community is very supportive. So yeah, my thoughts on the online comics medium are overwhelmingly positive.”

Vince Dorse began drawing at an early age and was initially influenced by the comics he read and cartoons he watched while growing up. Although that “distinctive comics style” may have inspired him as an illustrator, however, the artists that Dorse has grown to appreciate are a more diverse group and include Twentieth Century painters, independent comic book writers, horror-genre illustrators, Disney animators and legendary graphic novelists.

“There’s fifty tons of artists I admire,” Dorse explains. “N.C. Wyeth, Norman Rockwell, Wallace Wood, Bernie Wrightson, Marc Davis, Will Eisner. I think, for me, it’s all about visual storytelling and those guys are masterful at that. There’s also an energetic stylization to a lot of that stuff that appeals to me. But like I said, fifty tons. There’s so much stuff out there and access to it is so easy that every day I see something that grabs my attention and makes me think about how I make art.”

As for words of wisdom for anyone considered a career in the comic or cartoon arts, Dorse keeps it simple. “Nothing groundbreaking, just time-tested stuff you should do at any stage in your career,” he begins. “Draw as often as you can, push yourself to draw things you’re not comfortable with and get involved with other illustrators/cartoonists because feedback and critique can be enormously helpful—plus, it’s just nice to be able to talk about your craft with like-minded people and not bore your non-artist friends to death droning on endlessly about three-point perspective and cartoon physics.”

All of which likewise makes Pittsburgh the perfect place to hone one’s craft. “Everybody around here says this, but Pittsburgh’s a great town for the arts,” Dorse explains. “For people interested in comics and illustration, it’s got things like the Toonseum, the Pittsburgh Society of Illustrators—it’s really a very welcoming and nurturing environment for comic artists and cartoonists. From an indie comics angle, there’s PIX, a local indie comics expo they hold every year. I’ve seen plenty of amazing talent in that room and it’s really inspiring to see the stuff people from this area are putting out there.”

Pittsburgh was also the host city for the 2013 National Cartoonists Society’s annual convention and the site of that year’s Reuben Awards. Ironically, Vince Dorse was not the only Steel City resident to be nominated in the “Online Comic: Long Form” category with Untold Tales of Bigfoot as Pat Lewis also received a nod for his webcomic Muscles Diablo in Where Terror Lurks. Dorse and Lewis are far from just competitors, however, but friends and colleagues as well.

“I think it’s important to note that I might not have gotten this far this quickly without the patience and generosity of fellow nominee Pat Lewis,” Vince Dorse says of his local counterpart. “I’ve known him for a while now, watched him crank out great comics year after year, and before I decided whether I should even attempt an online comic, Pat was my go-to guy for answers and advice on the subject. His work and his dedication to his craft have been an inspiration to me and I’d be almost just as pleased if he were the one to win the award.”

Then, in the same off-handed manner in which he describes himself as “just a guy who draws an awful lot,” he adds, “Sure, maybe I only say that to totally outclass him with my interview skills...”

Being a cartoonist, he is of course kidding.

Anthony Letizia

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