BOYTOONS MAGAZINE #71 – An Interview with Chuck McKinney.

From the very beginning, From the Cellar has won its audience over with its humor, sexiness and endearing characters. But perhaps what makes the strip so irresistible is its realism and honesty. Its cast members are human beings, sometimes very flawed, and that is why we love them – and why we can relate.

The brainchild of writer Chuck McKinney, From the Cellar has called upon the illustrative talents of several of today’s popular artists, from JC Etheredge, Theo Bain, Aman P. Chaudhary and Sean Z (some of my personal faves), to industry giant Phil Jimenez. Each episode may look different, but the plot continuity is very present, and terribly addictive.

I recently had the opportunity to ask Chuck some questions that I have been burning to know since I first read his strip, many a moon ago.

BOYTOONS MAGAZINE — I am so glad you agreed to do this interview, Chuck. To start with, I’d love to know how you first came up with the idea of From the Cellar? Was it always very clear in your head, or did it evolve over time?

CHUCK MCKINNEY I created From The Cellar on a whim after a co-worker read a story I did for Young Bottoms In Love and reacted with “You should do a comic about us!” The general concept and characters all came pretty quickly and easily. I was naive enough to think the entire process would be easy. I had no idea how much work I was in for, nor how much I needed to learn. (still learning!) I LOVE comics, but my background is not in comics, or even art, and I had only been writing for a few years before I started From The Cellar.

BTM — I read in an interview you did a few months back that your main character, Chip is based on you, but only just a part of you.

CM — Yeah, he is based on me, but he’s not me; he’s Chip.

BTM — Can you tell us a bit about him?

CM — Chip is a bartender in a New York City gay bar, has a killer bod, and loooooooooooooves Latin men.

BTM —Why was it important to you to keep some of your real self out of Chip’s persona?

CM — It wasn’t a question of keeping something out. I wanted the freedom to do whatever I want with the characters and add fiction to the things around me.

BTM — What of your other characters; Chelsea, Axel, Sheriff and Tootie? I understand they are also based upon real people whom you work with?

CM — Most of the Characters have quite a bit of fiction to them, and most of them where inspired by people I know.

BTM — How do they take to being included in the strip?

CM — They are very excited by the idea of being in the strip; then, when they see the actual episode, they are horrified. [laughs]

BTM — Do you find it difficult to adapt real people into comic strip characters?

CM — No, it’s fun as hell, actually. Most of the fiction in From The Cellar is really just me teasing my friends that the characters are based on. One of the characters is based on my friend and editor, Marshall (who wears thongs instead of underwear). I’ve done all kinds of embarrassing things to the character I based on him that never actually happened to Marshall. And what a sport my boyfriend is to let me do the “Show & Tell” episode. I tease him relentlessly about all kinds of stupid shit. That episode is just an extension of my teasing, and he is a sweetheart for letting me do it. I think deep, deep, deep, deep, deep, deep, deep down, he loves it when I tease him.

BTM — As a writer of comics myself, I’ve always felt that Camili-Cat comes more naturally to me than say, Deimos or Naked Justice for example. A lot of my writer friends tell me that the same goes for them with their respective characters. Do you find that some of your characters are easier to work with than others? Why do you think this is? Is it a question of your ability to relate to some better than others, or do you find you are able to detach yourself from that aspect of things completely, and just write each one objectively?

CM — Hmmm. I guess Chip is the easiest to write, but I haven’t had trouble writing any of them. I think because with From The Cellar, I work from story first. Once the story presents itself, everything else falls into place.

BTM — I’ve always found that From the Cellar works so well because it is TOTALLY plausible. I guess that this is an added bonus of writing a strip that is based upon some of your life experiences. Do you find it is sometimes necessary to take artistic license when adapting your scripts from real life events? Are there time you find yourself thinking “Wow this story would work so much better if only it ended like this?” or do you try to remain as true to real life as possible?

CM — Oh God Yes! I take so much “artistic license” telling these stories. I don’t recommend reading From The Cellar as factual; it’s my version of the observations I’ve made. Some of it is pure fantasy! However, there have been a few episodes that I tried to remain as true as possible. “Shit Happens” and “A Real Man” are two examples of that.

BTM — I think what works best about FTC is that you have such a variety of themes in your episodes. You go from light comedy, to utter silliness, to serious social commentary. I love that you never hit the audience over the head with heavy handed preaching and it is really impressive that you seem quite at ease in a wide spectrum of emotional subject matter. What do you find comes easiest; the drama or the comedy? Do you prefer to write one over another or do you just let the Muse take you where she wants to?

CM — Dude, you kinda stumped me with this one. Does my Muse have to be a “she”? Even though From The Cellar is full of queens, I think of this particular Muse as a “he”. Joking aside, I’ve always said that From The Cellar has had it’s own life, right from the start. I’m just along for the ride. I think that my letting From The Cellar lead its own way has given it a purity and individuality that I am extremely proud of.

BTM — So you get some of your inspiration from your experiences at the bars where you’ve worked. I always figured The Cellar was not a real place. Is there in fact such a place in New York, or is it an amalgamation of the places you’ve bartended?

CM — The Cellar is a fictional place based on places I’ve worked. To the best of my knowledge, there has never been a gay bar in NYC called “The Cellar”. I’ve worked in a few different gay bars since I started the strip. I still bartend at Barrage and The Cock.

BTM — I imagine some of the patrons are quite familiar with the strip. Does this sometimes make working at the bar a little… odd? I ask this because as a writer of comics myself, I sometimes get emails from fans who think that I am some HUGE PERV because of what I draw…

CM — You draw some of the hottest bulges I’ve ever seen!

BTM — LOL! ‘Course I know that I’m not a reflection of my work in real life. But you put some very personal aspects of your life into your work? Do people sometimes think they know you?

CM — First, I love getting feedback. Second, I’m really grateful to have an audience. I spent over ten years as an actor, always begging my friends to come see me in some off-off-Broadway production. Often times performing to an audience of three people. Or less! Something really wonderful has happened with From The Cellar. I don’t have to beg for my audience. They find me. And many of them give me some pretty wonderful feedback, and that’s f#@%#n’ awesome. (Keep the emails coming folks!) When someone comes into the bar, and wants to talk about my comic, or reacts to the newest episode, I love it. That makes it all worthwhile. It’s funny you mention the Perv thing, ‘cuz I have noticed that a bit. Not only do many of my readers assume that everything they read is true, they also assume that everything they’ve read has happened to me! In the beginning I got such a kick out of telling embarrassing stories with the characters based on my friends. But it doesn’t matter which character I use, because so many of my readers associate all of it to me. I guess that’s what I get for dishing the dirt, so to speak.

Don’t miss part 2 of this awesome interview with Chuck! I’ll be asking him about his artists and about the future of From The Cellar. I’ll be posting that very shortly! Meanwhile, head on over to From The Cellar to read more from this wonderful series!

FROM THE CELLAR © 2007 Chuck McKinney. All Rights Reserved.

Comments

  1. Whaddup Chuck! Glad to see FTC has blossomed so big in such a short amount of time. Seems like just yesterday we were showing up at talks about gay comics with psychotic weirdos from my college showing up. lol– remember that?

  2. Great to see Chuck get some props!!! Not only is he cool, he’s hot!!! Oh yeah, he wties a pretty good comic!!!

  3. Anonymous says

    we need to see some dick and sperm but anyways you are making me super hard

  4. Hey Guys. The pants featured on this post look like one of our Nasty Pig Styles. Pretty accurate I must say! Thanks for the love.

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