Welcome to Meet a Dork, a feature on Dorkaholics where we get to know a fellow dork somewhere in the world. Through Meet a Dork, we hope to not only establish new friendships with other fans but showcase the vastness of our community, the diversity of personalities, and the unique things of each person. This week, we have Michael Salsbury, a Florida-based comic artist behind the weekly comic strip called Boundless Adventure.
Neil Bui: In a world full of new or ever evolving superhero comics, what inspired you to go in a different direction with Boundless Adventure?
Michael Salsbury: Probably from my own desire to find wholesome stories written for people of all ages and interests.
NB: Your comic strips remind me of the Sunday cartoons page I used to read as a kid. Every type of artist — whether you’re a musician or a cartoonist — has figures they look up to for artistic and creative inspiration. Which artists are those for you and why?
MS: Bill Waterson for sure, the creator of Calvin and Hobbes had a lot of influence on how I approach character development. Mainly due to his drawing skill, and how he introduced a lot of us to deeper thinking. As for the story’s influence, I derived a lot of influence from: John Williams, Steven Spielburg, and Pete Doctor (Pixar). The list could go on, but those are the big ones. Mainly because of their enchanting and larger than life storytelling styles.
NB: You could’ve developed Boundless Adventure into a more traditional “comic book” style format. What drew you to the weekly comic strip format?
MS: I agree it is a bit more challenging to work with less space, but definitely not limiting. I also enjoy pushing the comic panel boundaries (literally breaking through frames and what not). It’s something I’m sure all the great cartoonists dreamed of doing in the newspapers, but couldn’t because their restrictions were different back then.
NB: Are you optimistic about the future of the weekly comic strip format?
MS: Weekly comics will always be around so yes. In the old days there were satirical artworks which eventually evolved into comics in print and newspapers. Right now we’re in the digital realm where everyone can become a cartoonist. Since there is such a low barrier to entry, the demand for quality content has become much higher. I also think there is a lot more opportunity to make money as an artist than ever before. You just have to be a business person as well, not just an artist sending something out to a syndicate.
NB: Is this the first weekly comic strip you’ve created and released to the public?
MS: Nope. I did a comic in college called “Henry.” Named after the founder of my college “Henry Flagler.” The drawings and jokes were pretty rough, but it was my first chance to get a taste for how much fun it was to be a cartoonist.
NB: How long does it typically take you to illustrate a comic strip and is there a specific routine you follow each time?
MS: As for routine I usually; listen to some music, drink a bunch of coffee, and forget to take breaks. How long the comic takes depends on the page. A page with a lot of painterly environments could take me a solid 6-8 hours. A scene with just my characters engaged and interacting up close could take me as little as 1 hour.
NB: Boundless Adventure translates quite well in the digital format. What are some of the advantages of the digital format vs. the old, traditional print editions? Do you prefer one over the other?
MS: I still dream of seeing my comic in a physical newspaper. The downside is the frame limitation in print. I learned that frames can continue onward in the digital world. I choose digital over print because I can continue the story and create a universe. I will be printing the story in book format at some point. Probably when the story has about 300 pages for book one. Seems like a lot, but people whip through comics and graphic novels much faster than regular novels.
NB: It’s not every day you see a comic series have its own original soundtrack. What was the process like for creating the musical tracks?
MS: I get inspired often to write music and create soundtrack material. The only problem is that I don’t have a movie to create music for. So I chose the next best thing, which was Boundless. I usually think of a theme or choose a specific painting I did of my characters, once I have that image in my mind I try to express it through music. I think it helps the story set tone for readers to understand how big this story is going to get.
NB: You have a link to a charity of the month on your campsite. What are some of the charities you’ve linked to so far and have you been able to generate some donations from your readers? What charities are most important to you and why?
MS: One was JK Rowling’s foundation for children in need. Another was for the Red Cross with Covid Relief, and the most recent is for savethechildren.org. The support and donations have been more than I ever really expected. The charities that are most important to me have to do with kids. There are a lot of people in the world who need help, of all ages and circumstances- but I want to help kids because the impact we can make on someone in their developmental stages will change them for life.
NB: Like so many content creators in the digital world, you’ve been able to bypass the need for a big distributor and release content on your terms and creative control. What has the feedback been like from readers so far? Is there a common type of response you are getting?
MS: Extremely positive feedback. I have been amazed with how supportive people are of the story. I started out by putting an extreme amount of pressure on adding value to patrons and readers, but I’m also learning that they are happy when I’m happy. Which is usually when I am creating material I enjoy. So I’m pretty lucky I guess.
NB: I love the interactive map you have allowing readers to track the characters on their boundless adventure across the country. What do you intend to do with the characters once they reach the East Coast?
MS: There will be travel beyond! I look forward to it, but not there yet. There will come a time soon where Rudy and Emily will go beyond the U.S, and throughout the entirety of the globe.
NB: Here is a “what if” scenario for you — A big comic distributor approaches you about publishing Boundless Adventure using their powerful reach and distribution networks. However, you have to abide by their creative control and oversight. Have you thought about what you would do in this situation?
MS: That’s a good question. I probably wouldn’t do it. I think we all get caught up in the numbers and income levels. But when the day comes I look back, I’ll have wished I told the best story I could have mustered. I can only do that by playing by my own rules.
NB: You’ve amassed over 12,000 followers now on Instagram. What advice do you have to other content creators, particularly in the comic world, that are looking to grow their fanbase?
MS: Work on your art quality, character development, and storytelling. Don’t pay for followers, don’t do it for others, and most important of all – don’t give up.