The Shen: a man who makes you nod approvingly
Owl Turd is one of the fastest-growing webcomics on the internet, and it’s no surprise why. Shen is its creator, and he has managed to create extremely likable characters who often speak right to the reader. This, combined with an innate talent for crafting scenarios unparalleled for their ability to relate to an audience, has helped Owl Turd Comix span out across the internet and become a mainstay not only on popular platforms like Reddit, but in the webcomic world as a whole. Here’s the interview he gave us.
Questions about Owlturd Comix
Q: When did you start Owlturd and why?
I started Owlturd in February 2013 on a complete whim. Before that, I did a comic for the UMass Amherst college newspaper (The Daily Collegian) called Adequate Comics. Some of the comic I submitted to The Daily Collegian are also some of the earliest posts on Owlturd!
Q: How did you come up with the name Owl Turd?
I was searching for funny domains on GoDaddy, and dicks.com was taken by a sporting goods outlet. I guess I was pretty into owls at the time too, because they are majestic beasts? Not that I had owl posters on the walls or anything, or owl plushies, or an owl body pillow. But later, I justified this decision with the fact that owl pellets, which I had thought were their turds, could contain a wide variety of things, including fur and bones from stuff that they had eaten whole. Similarly, my site would contain a wide variety of things, including comics, writing, and game reviews.
I justified this decision with the fact that owl pellets, which I had thought were their turds, could contain a wide variety of things, including fur and bones from stuff that they had eaten whole.
Q: What’s your favorite thing about your massive following?
Having a bunch of eyeballs on me motivates me to maintain my schedule and do my best at making comics. The desire to maintain my schedule and do my best at making comics motivates me to sleep well, eat well, and exercise, in order to be as productive as possible, and also to take risks in order to get myself into new situations and get new comic ideas. To live better, basically.
Also I can say dumb shit on Twitter and everyone has to read it.
Q: What’s your favorite thing about making a webcomic?
Reading peoples’ comments and responses. People in general have an excellent sense of humor, and I get a lot of laughs from comments.
For other webcomic creators, share your insight
Q: Can you recall your most successful comic in terms of views and engagement? Why do you think it was as successful as it was?
I think it was ‘We Go Forward,’ which can be found here:
It was successful in terms of views and engagement because it was:
- Simple: Easily parseable art style, not a lot of text
- Used a video game analogy, which most people can understand
- Had an unexpected & highly emotional “punchline” that’s relatable to anyone who has been separated from their parents
Of course, it’s also pretty different from most of the stuff I do, so it’s not really representative of my work.
Q: How did you grow your following, and what’s your advice for someone interested in starting a webcomic?
Just go for it — make a Tapastic/Tumblr/Webtoon/Instagram/Twitter/Facebook account and start posting. This is the only way to start getting a feel for what people respond to. It also motivates you to stick to a schedule and put out content regularly, which is probably one of the most valuable habits ever. Like, I’m talking life here, not even just comics.
Q: Where all do you post your comics, and is there a website you actively avoid?
I post on Reddit, Imgur, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, Tapastic, and Webtoon. I avoid content aggregation sites besides Reddit and Imgur (like 9gag and iFunny), because many of them are kinda skeevy and have a reputation for the creator’s watermark getting cut off and their watermark being there instead. Not to imply that they’re doing this on purpose, it just seems to end up that way. I find that Imgur has generally the most respect for content creators, so shoutout to them.
It also motivates you to stick to a schedule and put out content regularly, which is probably one of the most valuable habits ever. Like, I’m talking life here, not even just comics.
Q: You do games and writing as well. Would you say this has helped your webcomic grow?
Not really, that stuff is just a labor of love. Most people are there for the comics. At one point, I wanted to be a games journalist, but presently I just want to make comics.
Q: What’s your advice to comic artists for posting to reddit, that super popular website?
Reddit is an awesome website if you’re super into reading comments, because you’re going to get a lot of those. That being said, it also has a lot of toxicity. Just don’t let the negative comments get to you — sometimes, I’ve let them get to me, and it’s never ended well. Submit to Reddit and have fun though, it’s an extremely funny and creative community.
About the Webcomic Creation
Q: Tell us how you developed your style, where the influence comes from?
Q: How do you come up with ideas? Tell us about your creative process; what you listen to, where you go, if you’re multitasking?
This is going to make me sound like a dork, but I often listen to Creepypasta narrations on Youtube, like those of Mr. Creepypasta, Creeps McPasta, and Creepypasta Jr. I’m not kidding, these are the actual channel names.
Sometimes, I also listen to podcasts like The F Plus, I Don’t Even Own a Television, [My Brother, My Brother, and Me], The Adventure Zone, and Hello From the Magic Tavern.
Lately I’ve been working in silence, because that’s the creepiest creepypasta of all.
Q: Would you say you follow through with most ideas that occur to you, or is there a vast archive of would-be comics somewhere at home?
There is a “vast archive,” but it’s a lot less dignified than the word “archive” implies, because it’s all kinda shitty. It’s scattered in notebooks, random pieces of paper, a notepad app on my phone, emails to myself, and Google Docs.
Lately I’ve been working in silence, because that’s the creepiest creepypasta of all.
Q: Do you have a personal favorite comic of yours?
I actually really like this one, that I made recently:
It exemplifies everything I want my comics to be. Cute and relatable, but at the same time making a genuine insight into how people work.
Making a living
Q: Do you make money with your comics? If so, what’s your advice to others who are interested in monetizing?
Most of the money I make from comics comes from Webtoon, who are excellent about paying creators, but I also get money from ads, Patreon, and the occasional shirt sale. My advice would be don’t rush into monetizing, as it’s important to build an audience first. And don’t be afraid to have a day job while you’re building that audience, as it can give you inspiration for comics.
Q: Can we expect a book anytime soon?
Maybe, maybe not, depending on how you define “soon”. To be honest, with my current schedule, a book is something that I just don’t have time to handle right now.
Q: Do you travel for Owl Turd? Where can we meet you?
I’ll be at Boston Comic Con Aug. 12-14! Aside from that, I mostly travel with Webtoon, and attend a few conventions unofficially every year.
Q: What have you been up to the last 5 years?
Was at UMass Amherst for 4 of them, drinking and partying and worrying. Now I’m working as a web developer in Sutton, Massachusetts.
Q: If there’s one thing you want everyone to know about you that you’re sure they don’t, what is it?
Aside from a pale complexion, I don’t really look like Shen at all.
Q: Where do you see yourself in the next few years?
Hopefully quitting my job as a web developer and making comics full time! :] And maybe moving somewhere warmer. New England is a bit too cold for my tastes.
Q: How much of the real Shen do you put into your main character?
Eh, I guess a lot but most of it is exaggerated. A lot of it points out thoughts I have, but that I know to be dumb/silly/wrong — that’s why it’s self-deprecating. Some people on Reddit think that everything Shen says is my own genuine opinion, which is silly.
Q: You’re on an island with a dog, a cat, and a monkey. One of them must be sacrificed for food. Which would it be?
The cat would be too small to provide a substantial amount of food, so that’s out of the question. If we eat the monkey, the cat and the dog would fight, so that’s out of the question.
And the monkey is a little too much like a person, I guess?? Especially if it’s wearing a little sailor outfit or something. I could not lay a finger on a monkey in a little sailor outfit.
Going with the doggo.
Q: The invading aliens have retreated into outer space. How did you beat them back?
I showed them DeviantArt.
Q: You get one super power. What is it and why?
Mind control. Extremely effective, and completely undetectable. I could get whatever I want with it, and nobody could prove that I have it.
I could get whatever I want with it, and nobody could prove that I have it.
Q: You get to the be the main character in any movie.
Shre–No, no, wait … Shrek 2.
Q: What is your dream/ideal living situation/house/roommates or not/scenery, etc.?
A little campus with a bunch of my comic artist friends! 😀 With a printing facility, a lounge, and everything. Not like an office though, a lot cozier and less uniform. Do you think it might happen someday?
Q: You can make one fictional gadget real. Which and why?
Any sort of teleportation device, because how sick would that be?? I could hang out with my friend from Germany, in Indonesia. It would probably pretty much FUBAR the earth’s ecosystem with invasive species, but worth it, right?
Q: The world is coming to an end–you get to choose how.
Humanity reaches a point of unprecedented peace and prosperity, and then Cthulhu comes out of the sea, yells “PSYCH, FUCKERS,” and slam dunks an asteroid. Later he puts it up on Youtube as a prank vid.
Thanks Shen for such a great interview. Webcomic artists everywhere take note: Shen is going places.
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