Sophie Carter-Kahn
September 26, 2015 6:00 am

Ben Zaehringer is the creator of Berkeley Mews, a hilarious webcomic that often spoofs pop culture and current events, as well as featuring more abstract humor. We talked to Ben about his comics, snacks, and Disney.

Introduce yourself! Who are you and what is your favorite snack?
My name is Ben, and I make a comic called Berkeley Mews. You can read it here and support it here. My favorite snack is chocolate-covered peanut butter pretzels.
How would you describe your aesthetic? What are your inspirations? 
I like to make comics that are easy to read and fun to look at. I tend to read comics very quickly, which is how I think most people read comics. So it’s important to me that my artwork is clear and concise, so that no important details get missed. Cartoonists like Kate Beaton and Kris Straub are masters at using simple shapes and lines, and I think about their comics a lot.
Your comics have clean lines and slightly off-kilter humor. Who are some of your comic idols?
My biggest comic idol is my cousin Steve, who draws a comic called In the Bleachers. I remember visiting his studio as a kid and knowing that I wanted to be a cartoonist like him when I grew up. Other cartoonists who inspired me to make comics were Gary Larson, Jhonen Vasquez, and Nicholas Gurewitch.

What inspired you to reimagine Disney like this, given the propensity for Disney reduxes in pop culture right now? Why does Disney make such a good base for humor?

Disney is a great place to go for comic ideas for a few reasons. Everybody knows Disney movies, so when I set out to do a Disney comic, I can expect most readers to know a little bit about the backstory already – like the nature of the Beast’s curse, or the rules of Cinderella’s magic spell. That saves me a panel or two of set-up.

Disney movies always have happy endings, so it’s fun to take them apart and put them back together in a way where things don’t go as planned, or in a way that exposes some troubling internal logic. I know Toy Story isn’t Disney, but I made a Toy Story comic that takes Andy’s relationship with his toys to its ultimate conclusion.

Finally: Disney characters are super appealing and fun to draw. Teaching myself how to draw Lumiere and Cogsworth and the Beast was a blast. I always learn something new when I make a Disney comic.
(Images via Ben Zaehringer)

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