1) We don't have a problem with nudity. Still, the comic is mostly PG-13ish, and characters are rarely nude 'on screen." When that has happened, most of the time there's something covering the bits. I think the only time there's ever been uncovered nudity is one back-shot of Isauro. Butts are pretty benign as far as nudity goes. We can pretty much guaruntee that there's not ever going to be full frontal or lady nipples in the comic. It's just not the story we're telling.
HOWEVER, for some classy naughty pictures, keep an eye on our Deviantart page. sidekickgirl.deviantart.com/ We've started a series of pinups that will cover all of the main characters and most of the side characters as well. No bits in those, either, but a little playfully suggestive.
2) We have had cameos of real people in the comic before. Erika's SIL Mary has been in a couple of arcs. Friends Amy and Franny, as well as some other comic artists made cameos in a party arc in the firstish year. Our former coworker, Lu, works at Mojo's, and we put ourselves in those scenes as well. As far as REAL characters, only one. DM Adam the villain is actually our friend, Adam, who is a DM. The real Adam does not have a virtual reality simulator thing in his basement, although that would make our weekly D&D games a lot more interesting.
Interesting tidbit: Valerie is my grandmother's name, and Isauro is Laura's grandfather's name. We were both aware of both of these facts, and yet, we didn't purposefully stick our grandparents together and didn't actually notice THAT at the time.
What we have done a LOT of is use characters from other writing that we've done together over the years and fit them into SG. They're not the same in the comic as they were originally, but their important parts are the same. If you've known a character for almost twenty years, that's like a friend, right?
We do fanart when we feel like it (Laura moreso than I.) She's actually got a part-done Avatar the Last Airbender drawing going that is really cool. The last time I did fanart was awhile ago, and it was actually a sketch of a character from Laura's in-progress novel. (which is also really cool.)
Grrl power fanart wouldn't happen, though, cuz neither of us are into it. We've seen it. A couple of people that comment on the comic are big fans and bring it up from time to time. I read the whole archives a monthish ago just to see what the fuss is about. It's not our thing. I can see how people would like it, though. It's obvious that a TON of effort goes into it.
We posted some fanart AGES ago for the Devils Panties as a thank you to Jennie Breeden allowing us to put a cameo of her in the comic and linking it on her page. We got All The Traffic from that, it was great. If I were to get into fanart right now I'd probably go for Game of Thrones. I love Game of Thrones in an almost unhealthy way. I've had the itch for years to draw Sansa in her actual from-the-book wedding gown, since the one they used in the show was so different.
We gave permission for Val to be used in Crossoverlord for a scene and that was the extent of our involvement in the project. I don't believe we owe Mr. Neil or anyone else anything.
As an artist, I have several projects going at any given time. My free time is used to draw things I am personally a fan of. Same goes for Erika.
The characters from these comics do not belong to us and so they will not be appearing in any way in connection to our comic. If you are looking to get a commission, that is a different story, but I do charge for the service.
Absolutely, unequivocally, YES. No ifs, ands, or buts. No exceptions, no excuses.
First, a brief detour into fanworks:
The legality of fanart or fanfiction is a little dicey in and of itself. It's a derivative work that would possibly fall under the purview of the original copyright holder, or possibly be protected as parody. It's a bit of a legal grey area, especially if one is not educated in copyright law. (aka, IANAL) However, this is not usually a big deal, because most creators aren't going to be concerned with fanworks, especially when the fan is not making money off of their property. The basic rules are that of courtesy: Don't try to profit off of someone else's character/story, NEVER pass off someone else's idea as your own or fail to give proper credit to the owner, include links back to the original whenever possible, and if the creator ever asks you to remove something, do so immediately.
That's fanworks, though. Putting someone else's character into their own comic or story is a whole different ball of wax. It is a violation of our copyright, and theft of our intellectual property. Yes, that's right, putting someone else's character into your comic without permission is STEALING. It's not flattery, it's not a compliment, it's not an homage. It's theft. Artists deal with the theft of their art all the time, especially those whose art is online. It's hard to prevent, and hard to correct. Anyone who witnesses the theft should report it to the owner. Anyone who commits it should feel (aside from thoroughly ashamed) extremely lucky if all they get is an email instructing that the offending material be removed, rather than a formal cease and desist letter, or a lawsuit. OR having their comic taken down entirely. There's no excuse.
Frankly the idea that any sensible person would even consider stealing someone else's character is baffling to me. The art that people make is not public domain. It does not belong to the readers. Where does the sense of entitlement come from that just because someone likes something, they can just TAKE it? Mind-boggling. Ok, I'm done for now.
As a regular thing, no. Not unless one of us wins the lottery or the couple of ads that we have start pouring in money so that we can afford to make the comic our jobs. That'd be super cool, but you have to be REALLY successful as a webcomic artist to scratch out a living for one person, much less two.
We do sometimes post extra stuff for special occasions, and every once in awhile we'll do a double update (Like at the beginning of the current arc.)
The other way that extra comics happen is if our donation meter hits $100. Then we do an extra update as soon as our schedule allows, which will generally be Friday or Saturday of the following week. There's more info on the donation page. Swag is involved!
For extra artwork that is not the comic, we have a Deviantart page where we post sketches, pinups, etc. For printed artwork, our store has posters, prints, and a collection of sketches with notes. There's a bunch of other random fun stuff, too.
Most of our hashing out is done over coffee or tea. More often tea. I am a huge tea snob. Laura is an ginromously huge tea snob. (This is a thing of which we are proud.) Coffee, yes, sometimes, but there is no excellent coffee around. We both used to work at Caribou, but that is long gone now, and the other shop near us...well, the staff are very nice! We plan out arcs and pages usually during our weekly hangout time. We also talk shop in the car a lot. The BEST talking is done during our twice-ish yearly trips to the bakery where my favorite teacher works. All talks are good talks when done over good espresso and pastries to die for. It's pretty far away from us, though, and I seriously drop $40 when I go between snacks and stuff to bring home. But worth it. So worth it...
Anyway, the comic!
So yeah, it's mostly done in person. We have a notebook that has scribbled layouts and general dialog. If you go to the store, one of the sample pages for the sketchbook shows an example of the layout. We also have some scribbled and some typed notes on what arcs are coming up and some of the key plot elements happen in each one. We have the arcs planned out for the next couple of years, although we don't do the actual layouts that far in advance. Of course, we tweak the story as we go, and there's always the chance to work in something else or switch something around. We have the most important bits of the comic planned out all the way to the glorious finale.
We do not use email for planning. I check my email compulsively and Laura goes through hers once in a blue moon. email is how she gets me the lineart, though, and if there is a note about that page, she'll either put it in the email or scribble it into the comic itself.
We communicate with telepathy all the time, but not for comic planning. Comics are a medium that requires both pictures and the written word, and neither of those are communicated through the "thinking the same thing at the same time" telepathy that is an almost-twenty-year relationship. Last week's occurrences were "Pepsi" and "Natalie Dormer."
Artists of all kinds get their ideas from the world around them. Every experience you have or bit of media that you consume becomes part of your idea pool. Sometimes you might have an idea for a character, and build the plot around the journey that you want the character to take. Sometimes you get the idea for the plot first, and then suss out the necessary characters to tell it.
We have something that's already established, so it's a lot easier to build on what we already have than coming up with something from scratch. We talk frequently about our general plotline (which is planned out through the end of the comic) and decide if we want to expand on certain arcs or add in others, or switch things around. We discuss what kind of changes or challenges that characters need for their development, and how characters can participate in the overall plot. The goodness of ideas is gauged by how much they make us giggle (or feel sad. That's important, too.) The stories are also tweaked to make sure that they are properly representing the underlying messages and/or themes that we're going for.
We're don't get the broad idea-question very much, actually. It seems like people more frequently wonder if readers influence the story. Some people get the impression that their predictions make us change our plans, or that if they make suggestions we'll work them into the story. It's come up more than once. The answer to THAT is that no, we don't. Ever. I suppose that if we felt that readers were overwhelmingly getting a different impression than what we were trying to convey, we might revise an arc a bit to get things back on track, but that hasn't happened to date. Most of the time, the predictions that people make are the ones we told them. (mwa ha ha.)