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Pantsless in Portland

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The creator of Erotisphere writes about the website,
the Portland scene, and life without pants.

by AnDroid
admin@erotisphere.com

The Man Behind Darren Died Tonight

Written by AnDroid   
Thursday, 18 March 2010 20:03

You may have noticed a banner on Portland Erotisphere linking to a photoblog named Darren Died Tonight, which is also hosted as a subdomain of erotisphere.com. A few people have asked me what the hell the connection is between that photoblog and Portland Erotisphere. Honestly, the only real connection is that I've been good friends with Brandon L. Keene, the creator of Darren Died Tonight, since we were in sixth grade. When he told me about his idea for a webcomic disguised as a photoblog, I thought it sounded brilliant, so I offered to host it for him.

I sat down with Brandon for coffee and beer earlier today to discuss some of what's going on behind the scenes of his enigmatic bi-weekly comic.

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Brandon L. Keene, creator of Darren Died Tonight

Portland Erotisphere: How did you come up with the idea for Darren Died Tonight?


Brandon L. Keene: Darren Died Tonight was a confluence of a couple of different things that were happening all at the same time. I had taken to photography as a hobby, as something to kind of distract myself. I wanted to do something creative, and I had, just as kind of a jest, as kind of something that amused me, started making these fake Polaroids, and I was putting them up on Flickr. They were actually getting a relatively high amount of feedback, and I thought, you know, that's cool. People seem to like this format.

So I had the basic image format down as a result of playing around with this process, just teaching myself once again how to do Photoshop, because I hadn't done anything in Photoshop for, you know, fucking five years, seven years, I dunno, and I'd been an advocate of web comics for a long time. I think they are one of the single most pure forms of art that the internet has provided to us. It was Clint Eastwood, I think, who said that the two truly American forms of art are jazz and comic books, and I think one of the things that the internet has done is provide a forum for direct-to-consumer art, and one of the first ecospheres to grow out of this is the cartoon industry.

I read somewhere between 20 and 30 webcomics and photbologs everyday. I had wanted to do a webcomic, but I can't – you know, I can draw, but I can't draw well. And then one night Mark and I and some folks are in the backyard, we're talking, and we get into this long, like 20-minute story jest about this friend of ours that died whose name was “Fresh,” and how much we miss him, and it's so sad that he's dead, and then we talk about how he died. And a couple weeks later I get to thinking about this jest, because it keeps recurring, and it adds this sort of frosting, this end cap, to this project; it gives it a sort of framework. And I go back through these Polaroids that I've made, and the one that I find the funniest is just this image of – it's just this night time, environmental image with a caption that just says, “Darren died tonight,” and for some reason I keep coming back to that and thinking, “This is fucking hilarious,” because it's just completely non sequitur, and so I take down all of the Polaroids from my Flickr account, and I decide to create a webcomic that is about this character, Darren “Fresh” Freemont, based on this one image and make a webcomic about how this guy died.

In many respects I took a lot of original cues from one of my favorite webcomics, which is A Softer World. They're another sort of photo-based webcomic with captioning, and I've tried very hard with this project to not just simply rip them off, but to do something that's substantively different. They've had success in doing a non-illustrative webcomic, and I thought, so this is possible. It's something that we can do, and it grew out of that.

I spent a lot of time thinking about who this character was and what his life was like. Eventually I roped a couple of the people who I see most frequently into being characters in this photoblog. So I'm trying to do sort of this meta-level webcomic where I'm trying to leverage the frame-as-part-of-the-art trope wherein the web page itself is part of the webcomic, and it's a webcomic that thinks of itself as a photoblog. We have a relatively transparent narrator who is the guy that maintains the site. He's never actually in the comic because he is disfigured. His name is Ian. He becomes this character that is essentially this deus ex machina for how these images get online after the dude is totally dead. That's the short of it, anyway.

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PE: Some of your recent photos feature attractive women. Who are these women, and what is your relationship with them?

BK: It's funny, I don't think of the catalog of images being heavily weighted toward displaying women. I suppose I haven't really looked back on the whole corpus of the work so far to really assess that, but it's an interesting point given that there's only one female “character” in the comic. That said, the images of the women that are there aren't all intended to be the female character in question. They're meant to simply be a wide range of images that represent Darren's years of photography. The women in the photos are all friends of mine that have been kind enough to let me take their picture. I've tried to keep a sort of anonymity to the character of “Carly” because in many ways she's meant to be an absent character.

This last week I've been running a special promotional update schedule meant to directly tie in to my recent trip to the Emerald City Comic Con. I've been updating every day with images from what is meant to be one of Darren's display shows entitled “Mistakes were made.” It's meant to be a fun and sexy way to hook in some new readers, because honestly the internet seems to like pretty girls and tortured romance. Two of the images, the devil girl and the fishnets were actually taken at your Halloween party last year!

I suppose to take a sort of larger scope in answering your question, “Darren Died Tonight's” relationship with women stemmed, at least in part, from a cathartic endeavor to move on from the dissolution of my own marriage. The story has grown substantively away from that history, but y'know part of the inspiration for it came out of that. The “Mistakes were made” promotion is actually much more closely inspired by stories that you've told me and that I've heard from our friend Mark, who plays both Lucky and Chance in the comic. They're a series of jokes meant to explore a more sort of liberated sexuality than I have comparatively accessed. So, um, kudos to you two!

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PE: Tell me about your trip to Seattle's Emerald City Comic Con last weekend.

BK: It was fucking great! It was then first time I've ever really been to Seattle, save for an hour once when I was like, 13, maybe? Admittedly, I didn't see much of the city aside from its convention center and skyline, but I did get to shake hands with a number of the webcomic artists that I really respect and admire, and who keep me consistently entertained.

My friend Chandler and I decided to make it a simple day trip up there on Sunday because it's only 3 hours to get there from Portland. I wanted to try to take the opportunity to do some promotional legwork for the site by handing out homemade cookies with tags directing people to the site. I figured cookies would be a great avenue for this because, well honestly because people love cookies, and I imagine hunger is a constant problem for folks sitting in a convention center booth.

I handed out nearly 7 dozen cookies, both traditional chocolate chip and vegan, gluten-free chocolate chip, and their reception was, by-and-large, very positive! It's hard to find a way to balance approaching someone whose work you really respect and saying “Thank you so much for what you do” while trying to also say, as humbly as possible, “I'm doing a thing too, and if you'd look at it I hope it will entertain you as much as you've entertained me.” Self-promotion with humility is what I was aiming for, and I think the cookies were a decent means to that end.

It was really exciting to meet some of my favorite artists - both those who were local and those from various corners of this and other countries. I nearly got a cold as a result of going, but I came home and slept for 14 hours, and that proved effectively curative.

PE: This interview has gone on long enough. You have any final thoughts?

BK: Oh, I absolutely want to say thank you for providing me not only with this, my first interview about the comic, but also for all your support and feedback on this work so far. For folks who're reading this and don't already know, Darren Died Tonight is sponsored (and hosted) by your Erotisphere, and you've been superlatively supportive of the endeavor!

Ok, so with that bit of mutual masturbation out of the way, I want to thank all of the readers who keep coming back and are hopefully getting a chuckle out of this work. Ultimately, DDT, for me, is an effort to give back to the world so modicum of the entertainment that has nursed me throughout my life. I'm trying to do something amusing and beautiful, because I think those are the two most positive, world-changing forces I can access. Do I think that DDT will change the world? Probably not, but hopefully it makes the world a slightly more fun place to live!

A new photo is published on Darren Died Tonight every Tuesday and Thursday.
Brandon L. Keene can be contacted at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 

Comments  

 
# revblk 2010-03-25 18:42
I may, admittedly be biased, but this interview was awesome!
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# mauridanielle 2010-06-03 03:22
I also think this interview was awesome, but I will not disclose my bias here. ;-)
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