To start and maintain a webcomic is to ask yourself, as an artist, to wear many hats. It’s not simply a matter of creating a comic and posting it online. That’s just the beginning. To be a webcomic artist is to ask yourself to not just be a writer or illustrator. It’s to ask yourself to be a webmaster, site designer, publisher, promoter, distributor, etc etc etc. And not only that, but you have to keep producing new content consistently posted to keep up audience interest.

No one knows these struggles better than Jennie Breeden, creator of “The Devil’s Panties“.


Started in the fall of 2001, there has rarely been a time (especially in the last few years), where “The Devil’s Panties” has NOT updated.  Regular strips go up Monday through Friday, and special artwork goes up on weekends.  This can include either Breeden’s watercolors and fine art, or regular features like “Things Not To Say In The Bedroom“.  Read Jennie’s comic and you’ll understand what its like for a working artist in today’s world, both generating material and presenting it to the world.


I was fortunate enough to talk to Jennie at the Portland Comic Con and she was kind enough to talk shop here on the site.  While I did have questions about her artwork (which is predominantly in black and white or in limited palette form aside from her watercolors), I more wanted to talk to her about the realities of the comics field, and her experiences over the last decade of her career.

First and foremost, how did you get started as an artist?

My parents are artists. My dad did abstract soap stone sculpting and my mom did stained glass. My oldest brother writes music, my other brother does engineering art, my one sister writes and my youngest sister is awesome at everything. Me doing art is only weird because you don’t usually have a banker’s kid be into banking.


You’re an alumnus of the Savannah College of Art and Design, in their Sequential Art program no less. What was your experience like there and how did it influence your comics?

Being surrounded by artists was awesome. I just could turn to housemates and friends to get input for my assignments. Any time I found something funny or ironic I’d do a little sketch about it. At parties my friends would have me pull out my folder of cartoons and they’d pass them around. In my third year of college, my housemate Chris Daily (creator of the webcomic “Striptease“) and he showed me how to put my sketches up on the internet.


The famous title aside , what inspired you to start “Devil’s Panties” and what were the early days like?

In college I saw all the upperclassmen graduate and get part-time jobs. These “temporary” office jobs turned into their daily life and most of the time they never went back to art. I wanted something that would force me to draw every day while I took on those part-time jobs. I saw my webcomic as a way to keep my foot in the art world while I tried to figure out life. I saw it as a drawing exercise more than a career.


Your comic has always tackled very personal things, either with yourself or your friends and family. Is it tough putting so much of yourself and the people around you on the line, or do you find people really respond to it?

I love the universal truths. I want people to know that they’re not the only ones who have these fears and frustrations. But I do hold back. I don’t put everything in the comic and I always ask before I put something in about someone else. A housemate was surprised about my willingness to change a comic to make them more comfortable. I told them that the comic was business and I would never let it get in the way of personal. It also helps that the people in the comic know where I live, so I’ll have instant repercussions if I go too far. I made sure my friend was home safe with her baby before I posted the comics about us jokingly trying to induce labor. I try to stay on the funny side of life. I veer away from mean.


You’ve used perhaps every technique under the sun when making comics for “Devil’s Panties”. What were your techniques early on, and how are current comics generally illustrated now? Don’t be afraid to be ruthlessly specific with tools, programs, or tricks.

I took an inking class in college and we used vellum and brushes. That was a bit too hard core for me because the ink would stay wet on the vellum and you couldn’t touch it as you inked. I loved the dip nibs. I used ink and, if I could find them, brass dip nibs to ink the comic on 26lb copy paper until just a few years ago. My husband got me a Wacom tablet for Christmas and it’s been like pulling teeth to get me to use it for the first year. I had to re-learn a lot of things but in the end it’s been a huge help. I was always loath to edit before because I’d have to draw out the change on paper and scan it in and post it into the comic whereas now I can just scribble the change directly onto the comic. He’s been the source for all the editing in recent years and he’s made vast improvements in quality and story flow even though I’ve been griping about it all the way. I had been using Photoshop CS4 but I’ve been trying to use Manga Studio as much as possible. I’m trying to re-learn three point perspective because MS has a grid that you can set up for it.


I confess the biggest thing I’ve wanted to talk to you about is your work ethic, which is one of the best I’ve seen in comics. There’s rarely a time, if ever, where “Devil’s Panties” DOESN’T update. So asking a simple question: how do you manage to do it?

The only time I’ve flipped out on a reader is when they’ve said “I read it when it updates” and I’ll real back and start ranting about how I update seven days a week. The comic will update one way or another. This is a fact. Everything else is secondary. Food, sleep, bathing, clean clothes, social life, it’s all secondary to SOMETHING being posted. Now, it doesn’t have to be good. After going to a bachelorette party I came home and drunkenly scribbled on an envelope and posted that. I’ve seen the sun come up a couple of times while finishing up a comic. Surprisingly, frustratingly, some of the throwaway comics that I’ve scribbled out in last minute desperation to update have been some peoples favorite comics. So you never know.


You’ve done rather well for yourself with “Devil’s Panties”, but the comic shows it’s anything but easy. What are some realities of running a popular webcomic you feel prospective artists should know about?

There is a huge difference between being a successful webcomic artist and making a living wage. I got my first shock when someone donated $60. Just gave it to me, like “I like the comic!  Here’s some money!” I was so touched and excited. That’s a lot of money to just give someone! And then I went to get my break pads changed. That’s $500. That let me know what was in store. People are amazingly generous and supportive of webcomics. It takes a huge amount of work to balance that with the actual cost of living. Most artists, webcomic or otherwise, have a secondary income. Be that through a significant other or a second job. I just got really used to being poor. I had a lot of housemates and I’ve always thought that buying chips and salsa is “splurging”. Most of the conventions I go to I’ll share a hotel room or couch and pack a lunch. Some readers once asked to take me out to dinner and asked where I was staying. I shocked them by admitting that I was sleeping in a van in the parking lot. They had that look of “But…. you’re famous!”. I heard a story about a hair-metal band in the 80’s who would ask fans to bring them pizza because they didn’t have any food. There’s a big difference between fame and success. Wealth doesn’t always come with popularity.


A big thing that makes up the stories in “Devil’s Panties” is your con experiences. I can think of few webcomic artists who hit as many cons as you. I remember many stories of you hand-cutting your own business cards. To be blunt: how do you pull the resources together to travel so much?

I did a lot of couch surfing. In 2006 I quit my day job and signed up for every convention that I could. I drove 15 hours to conventions in Chicago and stayed at random strangers houses. I’d ask readers to bring me sandwiches and I’d steal bottles of water out of convention panel rooms. I bummed showers off of hotel guests. I’m really amazed that worse things haven’t happened to me. I still stay at youth hostels when I can but I’ve started to cut down on the convention circuit. I’m trying to focus more on producing the comics now.


For a while, “Devil’s Panties” was part of Keenspot, but you’ve gone independent since then. What advantages does working with a collective like Keenspot have, and at what time do you decide its time to move on?

I still have little understanding about how a website works. Keenspot hosted the site and maintained it. They took care of the advertising income and upkeep of it all. They also have a table at San Diego Comic Con that their artists can use. They were the beginning of the Devil’s Panties. They had a system that would automatically update the comic. I could upload a weeks worth of strips and then go do conventions and the comic would post automatically. It wasn’t until Comicpress came along that I was able to start my own site. Comicpress had an automatic update system and a very user friendly interface. Standing on my own meant that I could run my own advertising revenue and had more freedom to post risky content and build my own brand name. It also gave me freedom to post the comic wherever I wanted and by this point Facebook and Tumblr were starting to become a thing. Having your own site give you more freedom but it’s also a LOT more work.


How did you get involved in “Filthy Figments”? Also, how do you approach writing it, and is there any way you feel comics in general could better tackle heavily sexual subjects?

My friend Gina Biggs had a comic called “Red String” and I encouraged her to sell a print only book of a deleted scene from the comic. This was an adult scene that was from her PG story. From this she started a website that was a collective of female artists creating adult material.  I jumped at the chance to draw a totally non-biographical comic. When people saw my banner at conventions “The Devil’s Panties: Not Satanic Porn” I would always get a joker responding with “…But I wanted satanic porn!” and now I get to say “Porn sold separately”. I love having the positive porn available on the side. It’s also taught me a lot about anatomy and story structure now that I don’t have life to steal my scripts from. There is so much false propaganda about sex in media and on the internet that I have endless material to draw on. For my comic ID (like the psychological “Ego and Id”) I get to point out all the awkward and embarrassing parts of sex and the mis-conceptions of what actually feels good. The characters Ego and Id have their own voices and preferences and I will never admit to using any material from my personal experiences. It’s refreshing to be able to write things that didn’t actually happen. I think sex and sexuality is an endless well of possibilities for humor and observation especially since the mass production of this subject seems to be so very different from the every day reality of the general publics experience of it.

All "ID" & "Filthy Figments" comics are NSFW and thus I can't post them here, so just click this image if you want to read them.

All “Filthy Figments” comics are NSFW and thus I can’t post them here, so just click this image if you want to read them.

You’ve always tried to find ways to get fans involved, whether it be calendars featuring men in kilts, paper dolls, or panties with mouse scroll buttons on them. Is there much consideration into these things, or is it more like “Hey! This’ll be fun!”? Where does one end and the other begin?

Oh wow, the panties were an experience. Most of it is totally “Hey! This’ll be fun” and seeing what sticks to the wall. Most of my merchandising ideas are a flop but it’s amazing to see what takes off. Things I thought would do well were puzzles, calendars, and the panties. Those did not sell well at all. Things I thought wouldn’t do well but did were playing cards, lanyards, and shot glasses. I never know what will be popular until I try it. The trick is trying a little of it so that you don’t end up having hundreds of puzzles left sitting in your garage.

What’s next in the immediate future for the site?

Dolls, new books, new comics, new city, and maybe, just maybe, some day in the future…. statues.

The Devil’s Panties” updates literally every day and “ID” can be read on the “Filthy Figments” site (both free and subscription versions are available, though both are very much NSFW).  Also look her up on Facebook and Tumblr.