Through Eolake's Eyes - Interview With Bill Amend, Author Of Foxtrot Comic Strip

by , 9:00 AM EST, February 7th, 2001

If you don't read Foxtrot, you are missing some cool comic strips, including the wonderful parody of the iMac, "iFruit". For examples of the strip, see below, or go to

The Mac Observer (TMO): It is clear to see from your strips that you are not only a Mac user, but also a Mac supporter. When did you get your first Mac, and what do you use now?

Bill Amend: When I was a kid our family had an Apple II+, then after college I bought my first Mac, an SE with a whopping 1 MB RAM and a 10 MB hard drive. I currently have a blue G3/400 and iMac DV/SE at work and we have an iMac and iBook at home.

TMO: What is it about the Mac that makes you stick to it, rather than all the rich and varied alternatives out there? [cough]

Bill Amend: My experience with Windows machines has been that I spend a lot of time on the phone with tech support or looking for drivers and patches on the Net. The Mac just seems less perplexing and high-maintenance to me. Part of that may be because I've used Macs for so long, but I think a lot of it has to do with Apple's ability to define the operating system and hardware themselves. I do wish the Mac had more games and software options, but at least as far as art/design/multimedia apps go, I'm in good shape.

TMO: If you had an unlimited computer budget and space, what would get?

Bill Amend: I'd love to have the Cinema Display. I saw one at a local store and found my hand involuntarily reaching toward my wallet. I'm also lusting after the new Titanium PowerBooks, but I want to wait for it to have a faster graphics chip for gaming purposes. Writing a character like Jason means I have to spend lots of time dutifully researching things like Quake and Diablo.

TMO: Are there any of the new products or technologies unveiled by Steve Jobs in January 2001 (iDVD, Titanium PowerBook, SuperDrive...) that you find particularly exciting, and why?

Bill Amend: The SuperDrives are very exciting. I don't even do a lot of video work and I find myself wanting to burn DVDs. I think if Apple can get the price down to where the home user can afford one, the things'll sell like crazy.

TMO: Seeing that I drew comic strips myself as a kid, always loved monsters, and was called "the professor" by my classmates, it should come as no surprise that Jason is my favorite Foxtrot character. Yet I am hardly a geek, I prefer productivity to fiddling. But Jason only started liking the iMac, sorry, iFruit, when he found out that RAM was really hard to install (in the original model, that is). Why does Jason so love things that are hard to do?

Bill Amend: I think some people enjoy mastering hard things because it's the challenge that's more fun than the end result. It's sort of like how beating Kasparov at chess would be a lot harder than beating a 5 year old, but it would be much more exciting if you could do it. I can relate somewhat. I would much rather work out a math problem by hand than punch it into Mathematica and get an answer.

TMO: Do you think Apple will ever make a machine that Roger Fox can actually use? What would such a machine be like?

Bill Amend: No on/off switch. No keyboard. No mouse. Maybe all voice-recognition. I'm sure someday they'll all be like this, because Star Trek tells us so.

TMO: Do you use a Mac for any kind of creative productivity yourself, or do you still work primarily on paper?

Bill Amend: I still draw everything on paper, but I do a lot of scanning and rearranging of artwork in Photoshop on my Mac. And I made a pretty good font of my handwriting in Fontographer that I use often.

TMO: If you have read Scott McCloud's wonderful book Reinventing Comics, you will know that he is very excited about the future of online comics, even though he admits that due to the technical limitations of today, they are only a poor shadow of what they will become, both economically and artistically. What is your take on that, do you have a stance and a plan?

Bill Amend: The largest concern I have about online comic strips is that market forces may start influencing the nature of the work much more than is done now. Also, when you add things like animation and sound, which the web handles well, you begin to lose sole authorship and the work becomes more of a group effort, which I think takes away something very nice and special about comic strips.

TMO: What should we expect from the future of Foxtrot?

Bill Amend: Hard to say. In large measure I sort of make it up as I go, to paraphrase Indiana Jones.

TMO: Thank you.

Eolake Stobblehouse is a contributing editor to the Mac Observer, specializing in cultural matters, and comes to us by way of MacCreator. You are encouraged to send him your comments and tips.