OK, so I didn’t do the interview, but kudos to Leroy Douresseaux as its an interesting read. I think Sonia sums up the ‘advice for aspiring manga artists’ question very succinctly in one paragraph, plus I love that the start of her answer to the question ‘When you’re not drawing, how do you spend your spare time?’ is ‘Spare time?’, and thus is the life of an artist
Archive for Interview
Hi Emma, its great to have you here today on Comic Mole! So lets start right away with the work perhaps closest to your heart
CM: As well as your professional comics work, you have been writing and drawing your own self published series, ‘Dragon Heir’, for several years now – could you tell us a bit about the story and what it means to you?
EV: *phew* You start simple, don’t you? haha. Dragon Heir is a story that started developing in my head when I was about 16, and just hasn’t left me alone since, haha. I take it as a good sign when a story haunts you for that long…so I know I need to finish telling it at some point! To explain it is…umm…tricky. Do you have a week or two?
Dragon Heir is set in a world where human life is dictated by Spirit signs; marks applied to human babies’ foreheads at the age of five. It is believed that these signs were given to humans by Spiratu, the spirit world, in recognition of skills and powers bestowed. The truth to their origins has long been forgotten.
The story follows the trials and tribulations of four dragon heirs; human vessels chosen by the spirit world to house a part of the Dragon’s full spirit. Protus (protective spirit), Furose (Fighting Spirit), Kalm (Empathic spirit) and Lyntra (Wise spirit) are part of Spiratu’s task to transport the Dragon spirit to the hall of beasts, where it earned its place during its race’s life cycle. No human can house an entire dragon spirit, hence the four heirs for this great beast. Their mission should have ended when, at the appointed time, a spirit binder would come down from Spiratu, gather the spirits as one and transport them, leaving the heirs to continue their mortal lives blessed by the Spirits. However, early on in the story we realise it won’t be that simple, and for the heirs a race is on to fulfil the prophecy before the spirits within them grow too powerful and consume them from the inside. There is a far greater consequence at stake should the prophecy fail, but that will be revealed in the fullness of time…it has a lot to do with Verance; a mistake born from a duplicate dragon soul.
Enter into this bizarre situation Ella, a normal worker spirit with big ambitions, who just happens to be someone also tied into this prophecy, though her over protective brother has not informed her of this and has left her pretty clueless as to the whole shebang.
Drama, legend, love and lots of PAIN follow….that’s Dragon Heir. ^_~
For me, the story means a lot for several reasons. 1. It’s been with me so long that the characters really are old friends. 2. each character represents a part of me as their creator. 3. I now have my wonderful husband helping me with finalising bits of the story and scripting…and seeing him fall for the characters has made me love them all over again!
I think we can all empathise with the five main characters. We’ve all felt that we’re the pacifier in a mad situation, or that we could just let go and fall into anger…or maybe we’ve all wanted to escape what can feel like a pre-destined role in life sometimes. I like to think that every reader will find one character that they feel closest to. I just can’t wait to get further into the story so that more people can share in it with me. ^_^
CM: How many issues of Dragon Heir are there available, and when might fans get to see the next one?
EV: Herein lies an interesting answer. *ahem*
There are currently 9 issues of DH available through Sweatdrop. 1-6 are contained in the volume, with 7,8 and 9 still in single form. HOWEVER….the story is an old one, and also one that I know I dived into far too early. I tried to tackle a vastly complex story in comic form before I really knew how to make comics…so: as I’m 40 pages in now, I feel I can reveal what I’ve been conjuring up in my secret basement ^_~
Issue 9 did leave us on somewhat of a cliffhanger, and I do want to ease the tension very soon, but I hope readers will also be excited about the fact that I am currently working on Dragon Heir Reborn – the first five issues, retold and re drawn from scratch! This will not be released as issues, but will possibly see a webcomic release – and, when I’m done, I’ll be looking to release 9 or even 10 issues together as one shiny, shiny graphic novel.
Sneak peak: two never-before-seen pages from Emma’s upcoming work ‘Dragon Heir Reborn’
I think readers should be pleased with Reborn. I know I am. Largely it follows what we already know, but the younger me creating issues 1 and 2 way-back-when was a scaredy cat and would omit certain scenes or moments purely because I didn’t know how to draw them, haha….this is me revisiting those early scenes as a professional comicker, and those who have read the early issues of DH will see a few marked changes in scenes, and even brand new scenes in some cases! The reborn section will meet up with issue 6. I won’t be redoing anything from 6 on, as 6 – though a little old – was created post-Hamlet….so there’ll still be some legacy artwork in the new book ^_~
I really hope people will look forward to this! I can’t wait
(I for one certainly will be! – CM)
CM: How do you find writing and drawing your own story compares to doing professional work for others?
EV: Freedom is a wonderful thing. I love playing with the page, with layouts and pacing…and though some writers will let me get away with murder, most of the time I can only really do that with my own work. So i feel a lot more in control with my own work.
That said, I feel I learn so much as an artist by working with writers…and the ability to work to a panel description and find the most interesting way of showing what I’m being asked to is a totally different skill, and one I really enjoy as well. It’s great sometimes to just relax into the role of an artist and not think about the script, just enjoy drawing what I’m given. I guess I love both in their own way….though like anyone, I love to tell my own stories more than anything ^_^
CM: You’re probably best known in the UK comics community for being the artist on SelfMadeHero’s Manga Shakespeare adaptations of ‘Hamlet’ and ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ – what is it like to work on adaptations of such classic and well-loved material?
EV: Tiring and challenging, but fun and ultimately hugely rewarding. The series has really touched people from all walks, and I love knowing that the books are being enjoyed by comics fans and Shakespeare scholars alike ^_^
I’ve learned shedloads through doing both books…combined they make up 400 pages of comicking, and that’s a BIIIIIIG learning curve! They’re also my 2 favourite Shakespeare plays, so you can imagine how much fun I had, knowing certain scenes were coming up and such!
It’s always a little scary approaching such well-loved texts, but I think we’ve been clear from the start that what we’re offering are not alternatives to the originals, but complements and stepping stones…and as a Shakespeare fan myself, I love them!
CM: ‘Hamlet’ was originally released in 2007 and ‘Much Ado’ was released earlier this year (2009) – have you found that your production techniques have changed over the years with experience?
EV: Gosh, was Hamlet only 2007? It feels much longer ago…it’s been a busy couple of years!! Yes, definitely. When starting Hamlet I had only just moved onto digital work. I had an A5 tablet, comicworks and was at the start of the learning process. It was all new and really a HUGE thing to dive into. When I started Much Ado, I was in a far more confident place and, thanks to Hamlet and later projects, I knew much more about pacing myself and scheduling workload. I had an A4 tablet and Manga Studio. Hamlet was almost entirely digital, pencils and all. Much Ado was all pencilled manually on paper and then scanned for inks and such. So there were several differences!
CM: Conversely to the ‘Hamlet’ adaptation, which was set in a cyberpunk future, ‘Much Ado’ was set in period Italy. As the artist on the project, did you have a say in the setting of ‘Much Ado’? And did your Italian heritage help at all with the comic?
EV: I did indeed. And I desperately wanted to set it in the warring states as they’re so close to my family. I had a great opportunity for background reference, and the setting fitted the story so well! Thankfully Emma and Doug at SelfMadeHero agreed with me ^_^
CM: Who are some of your biggest inspirations in art at the moment?
EV: Hmm…so many! Right now: Adrian Alphona, Terry Moore, Clamp and Yoshinaga Fumi would be my top four I think ^_^
There are a crazy amount of people I draw inspiration from. I couldn’t possibly list them all, but artists like my Sweatdrop cohorts, my DFC chums, Kate Brown, Paul Duffield, Nana Li, Jamie McKelvie, Amy Reeder Hadley, Svetlana Chmakova and lordy, tons more all teach me over and again how much we should strive for and what can be achieved with hard work and dedication…I’m so lucky to be friends with such talented and amazing people!
CM: As well as illustration, you write your own comics – are you inspired by any particular writers or genres in literature or comics?
EV: When I was younger I ATE books…seriously, read SO MANY books. I wanted to be a writer (who didn’t? haha!), and was hugely influenced by a strange combination of Anne Rice, Douglas Adams and Douglas Coupland. These days I read comics far more, and some of my favourite writers are Brian K Vaughan, Terry Moore, Warren Ellis, Kieron Gillen and Bill Winningham. I also adore Morag Lewis’s ability to create worlds and fantasy realms that feel so real! But really, I absorb anything I read and see…you have to ^_^
CM: Working back to the very beginning now: what first made you want to start drawing and writing comics?
EV: Ranma 1/2. Though not the first comic I read, it was the first time I thought ‘hmmm, maybe I could try this’. And then, years later, I met Sweatdrop! haha. Sweatdrop really was the biggest inspiration and drive I could have hoped for. Without the group I simply wouldn’t have made comics. Simple as. ^_^
CM: And it just wouldn’t be a Comic Mole interview without this final question! What’s your favourite dessert?
oooooh, Apple crumble and custards…TONS of custard ^_^
I’d like to say a massive thanks to Emma for giving me her time for this interview, and my first scoop with the news about Dragon Heir Reborn! As mentioned earlier, Dragon Heir is published by Sweatdrop Studios and is available to order from their online shop. SelfMadeHero‘s Manga Shakespeare volumes Hamlet and Much Ado About Nothing are readily available from high street bookstores or online through shops such as Amazon.
Emma also has a work blog and art site where you can keep up with her current projects ^_^
Mole notes -
This interview was done in late 2008, so the Ambient Rhythm volume one that Morag mentions is actually due out in spring this year (2009), not next year.
Comic Mole: At the moment you are busy producing the comic ‘Reya’, which has been picked up by Markosia – can you tell us a little about Reya and how you came up with the idea for the comic?
Morag Lewis: Reya was originally conceived as a short story, but it clearly had more going on than what was said – it didn’t really fit into such a short space. My husband wrote the original (which will be included in the graphic novel), and when I asked him about making a graphic novel out of the short story, he responded with a complete synopsis, which I hadn’t been expecting! He says he wanted to write about a magical girl, but to be different – and it would be different if the magical girl had no magic.
CM: As well as Reya you have in fact been comicking for several years now, producing several pages a week – how do you fit creating comics into your life around a full-time job and other everyday commitments?
ML: If you want to do something badly enough, you will find the time. I often fit bits of comic creation in where I can – I can compile pages on the bus, and I sometimes tone while watching anime. Inking, drawing and scripting, of course, have more attention devoted to them, although I do regularly ink at the pub during Saturday lunch ^^
CM: Can you recall what first made you want to start a webcomic?
ML: I can’t, actually. I know I read Megatokyo and thought, if he can do it, so can I, but I don’t know why I wanted to do one in the first place. It sounded like fun, I suppose (!)
CM: Which artists or styles inspire you the most?
ML: Lovely delicate ink work. I very much like the art in Quiet Country Cafe, a beautiful manga which as yet has no English translation. I have a lot of the Japanese tankoubons, and the artist, Ashinano Hitoshi, does a fantastic job of portraying landscapes purely in ink. I like the contrast of pure black and white, so CLAMP’s more recent works, such as XXXholic, are also very attractive. That said, I tend to be actually inspired more by stories than by artwork – really good books are very inspiring.
CM: Having created several comics in different formats, have you experimented with many different mediums for the artwork? Do you have any particular favourite tools or media for producing comics?
ML: I’ve tried pencil, ink alone, ink and colour alcohol markers, and ink-and-tone. I prefer ink alone, because I think I produce better linework that way, but a little tone can be very effective as well. I found colouring using markers time-consuming and expensive, but I do like having colour in a comic. I suppose Reya has the ideal setup – I get to do the inking and then Natalie produces the awesome colour work ^^
CM: As well as writing the stories for multi-chapter comics such as ‘Reya’ and ‘Looking for the Sun’, you also have experience writing short comics and even short prose stories – is there any type of writing you prefer? And do you feel that there are any specific requirements in writing for webcomic format especially?
ML: I prefer long comics, because I find comics easier to create than novels, and because I like having the time to get to know the characters properly. That said, short stories, whether prose or comics, are really good fun and very satisfying in a short term kind of way.
For webcomics, yes, I think so (although obviously, it’s up to the creator what they’re making the comic for, so it’s their call). Webcomic format is typically a single page update once or more per week, and readers to expect a payoff for each update, whether that’s a joke or a plot point (preferably both). It can be very difficult to balance that with making something printable if you don’t do gag strips. I love gag strips, but I don’t have that sort of sense of humour, so my stories have to be principally plot-based, which means I have to craft the plot development round the updates. That’s not so bad if your comic is solely a webcomic, like my first one, but if you are writing something destined for print as well, you have to make sure it works both as a webcomic – which requires short, standalone, punchy strips – and as a graphic novel, which requires an ongoing story arc. On the other hand, updating several pages or an entire chapter at a time, like Reya has done, avoids both those problems, so as long as your readers are willing to wait for a month or so for the next twenty page chunk, that works out well.
CM: You have work available both online and in print – what are your thoughts on the differences between the two presentation methods, and do you consider one to be any better than the other?
ML: In terms of getting readers, webcomics are better because they are free. I also like the way that they force you to a schedule, and the constant creating also encourages rapid improvement. On the other hand, there’s a lot of dross on the internet and the effort involved in creating a printed comic means that relatively few people do it, so a printed comic stands out more. I love the feel of holding an actual, printed book in my hands as well – it’s very satisfying. And I prefer reading paper books. So they both have advantages. I like to do both, to get every advantage I can
CM: What has been your favourite comic to work on so far, and why?
ML: I shouldn’t have favourites, but it would have to be Looking for the Sun, because it ran for so long – I got very involved with the characters and the story, and I still miss them. On the other hand, I’m really enjoying doing Ambient Rhythm and Reya right now, because they both started recently and I think the artwork is much better!
CM: Do you have any favourite characters from your own work? If so, what do you enjoy about them?
ML: Again, I shouldn’t – but I do. Kite and Saryth, from Looking for the Sun, because they orchestrated their own development without me even noticing. They are sufficiently well-rounded that their growth led naturally from what happened to them, and I really enjoyed writing the stories for them. But I do like pretty much every character I’ve written – they’ve all got something special to them. Quite apart from her character, Reya is very cute, and I just like drawing her.
CM: Do you have any plans for the future that you can tell us about?
ML: Finishing Reya is the first one, definitely. I’m really enjoying working on it and I can’t wait to get the graphic novel finished. I’m also expecting to be able to publish the first graphic novel of Ambient Rhythm, my webcomic, next year. And there are other things, as yet unformed, which I think about a lot when I’m bored
CM: What is your favourite dessert?
ML: Ooh. That’s hard. Erm… probably the pecan cake I make from a Canadian recipe (in Canada they call it broiler cake, but we don’t have a broiler). Or maybe flapjacks. Or the sakura mochi that Teri Aki serves. I like meringues, crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside. Right now. I’m enjoying pineapple tarts too – there are way too many good desserts and just not enough time ^^
…and with all that talk of pudding, the Mole’s off to raid the fridge!
Very soon I will be posting up an interview with Morag Lewis, the creator of several web and print comics including the completed series ‘Looking for the Sun’ and the ongoing webcomic ‘Ambient Rhythm’, both published by Sweatdrop Studios (check Morag’s own website toothycat.net to read most of her comics for free online, or the Sweatdrop Studios shop to buy print editions).
In our interview we focused on her soon-to-be-released comic, ‘Reya’, published by Markosia, as well as talking about many all-important comics topics (like desserts ^_~ ). ‘Reya’ is a comic which debuted in 2008 – Chapter One is available to read for free on Myebook and the entire comic should be available to read for free online and as a print edition soon (I’ll post an update when the full comic is released). The writing, penciling and inks are all done by Morag and the colour work on the first few pages is by Natalie Roberts.
The comic is named after its lead character, the young girl Reya, who has just moved from her home village to a new town to study magic. She is a little confused however because, as far as she knows, she has no magic within her and therefore cannot study it properly.
Neither can I, unfortunately, tell you much more of the plot, as with only one chapter to read there’s not an awful lot that can be said at this stage. However, if you’re hungry for some more Reya straight away, you might be happy to know that this is not the first time we have been graced with her presence: she was originally part of a short story that was submitted to a past Tokyopop ‘Rising Stars of Manga’ competition. Unfortunately she didn’t win, but her tale can be found in Sweatdrop Studios’ ‘Stardust’ anthology, which I reviewed in a previous blog entry.
Like her previous incarnation, the general feel of the comic ‘Reya’ is all-ages friendly. Morag has mentioned that the story will get darker as it progresses, but she hopes that it will remain accessible and enjoyable to as wide an audience as possible. The art style’ will be familiar to anyone to has read the author’s other work – it very much has her signature look to it. The colour pages by Natalie Roberts are a treat for online readers but it can be assumed that, because of high printing prices for full colour works, the printed edition will probably be black and white only. I recommend checking out the colour pages online even if you are planning to buy the print edition as they are very well executed, as you can see:
Thus ends my introduction to ‘Reya’ – as said previously I will upload the interview with Morag ASAP, and keep your eyes peeled for a future announcement of the release of the full edition!
Note: this interview was done before FreakAngels volume one was released in print – a print version is now widely available to buy, and the webcomic remains free-to-read online as well.
Comic Mole: So, to start where it all began, were you always into comics (and drawing comics) from a young age, or did the comics interest start later?
Paul Duffield: I’ve always been into comics, and drawn from a very early age (I can’t even remember not drawing), but comics was just one of the many things that I tried when I was little. I don’t think my real interest in them began until I was about 13, and I discovered first anime, then manga through a friend. From then I constantly tried to write and draw my own stories in various forms, but it all came together properly in College, where I met Kate Brown who introduced me to online comics and drew her own. (Mole Note: Kate Brown was the artist for SelfMadeHero’s Manga Shakespeare ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and the creator of ‘The Spider Moon’ for the DFC)
CM: Who, or what, are some of your biggest influences and inspirations nowadays?
PD: My influences are a pretty scattered bunch that span animation, illustration and comics. As far as animation goes, I’m greatly influenced by a Japanese production studio called Studio4°C, specifically two directors, Tatsuyuki Tanaka and Koji Morimoto.
I also love the golden age of illustration, which encompasses artists like Rackham, Beardsley, Kay Nielsen, and others of a similar style.
In terms of comics, I love a type of manga often called ‘nouvelle manga’ (because of its French influence), which includes Taiyo Matsumoto and Jiro Taniguchi, two of my favourite manga artists. I also love artists such as Erica Sakurazawa, Moto Hagio, Osamu Tezuka, Miou Takaya, Maki Kusumoto, Joshua Middleton, Craig Thompson, Becky Cloonan… (I could really go on for a long time).
CM: At the moment you’re working with writer Warren Ellis on ‘FreakAngels’ – how did this collaboration come about?
PD: A long while ago now, I posted on Warren Ellis’ old forum, The Engine, just saying hi and putting up a few pieces of my work like other people in the thread. After that I got an email from Jacen Burrows, who works as a penciller for Avatar Press (among many other things), saying he liked my work, and asking if I wanted an introduction at avatar. I leapt at the chance, and it turned out that my work suited the Freakangels project which was in search of an artist at the time. From there it was the normal process of submitting designs etc…
CM: Why was it decided that ‘FreakAngels’ would be a free webcomic rather than a print comic?
PD: I think this question would be better directed at Warren Ellis. Freakangels as far as I’m aware is a bit of an experiment in terms of publishing, to catch a different type of audience, and just to present a webcomic with professional production standards.
CM: What tools or media do you use to produce your webcomic pages? What are your favourite media to use?
PD: The lines are all done in pencil, then scanned and coloured in Photoshop, with photographic tones added to give a grittier feel. Pencils are definitely my chosen medium, and I rarely use inks (or even touch pens in fact).
CM: You have worked on several pieces for print including a winning Rising Stars of Manga entry and Self Made Hero’s manga version of Shakespeare’s play ‘The Tempest’ – how does working on a webcomic compare to working for print?
PD: It’s very different for a number of reasons. First off, there’s the nature of the deadlines. Instead of having an overall project deadline, there’s a feeling of being ‘chased’ by the release of the comic itself (I’m working ahead of the actual release schedule so there’s a buffer there if things should go wrong), which makes the pace of the project feel very different. In terms of the visuals, Warren has very deliberately chosen a straight forward layout format which suits the web. You’ll notice the comic is normally presented in two tiers (of one or two panels each), each of which can be seen on the screen independently of each other. More complex layouts don’t naturally suit the web, and it gives us a chance to really focus on the filmic nature of the story telling (it’s really an extended storyboard when you think about it), and the detail and observation in each panel as its own illustration.
Finally there’s the technical details. Since Freakangels is actually ultimately intended for both print and the web, you’d expect these to be similar, but actually it works on classic American comic format, whereas all my previous work has been in a classic Japanese format, and the differences couldn’t be greater (the size of the paper, the use of gutters, the different bleed margins, the technicalities of CYMK printing etc etc).
CM: What’s the best thing about working on ‘FreakAngels’?
PD: Probably the excitement of getting each new script in before I start working on it, since I’m also reading and experiencing the comic as it goes along! It’s also fantastic to see people’s reactions in real time on the forums, and very encouraging when that reaction is a good one.
CM: And the worst thing?
PD: Probably the way the creative process in handled. There’s a substantial feeling of ‘distance’ between me and the rest of the parts of the project that I don’t work on. This is partly because of the literal distance between the publisher in the states and me and Warren in the UK, meaning that the script has to go overseas to the editor, then come back overseas to me… but also because of a more ‘American’ way of doing things, where each step is kept very isolated from the last. It’s a less extreme form of the production line style script writer, penciller, inker, colourist and letterer who never see each other or speak about the project… the only difference being that I’m the penciller, inker and colourist combined.
CM: Who is your favourite ‘FreakAngels’ character so far, either in personality or to draw?
PD: Ooh… hard question. I quite enjoy drawing Arkady because I can really go wild with her mannerisms, but she’s also very tricky to get right because she’s so thin! (anatomy becomes tricky to get right once it’s not the sort of anatomy you’re used to). I like them all though, and it’s good to flick between different characters, almost like going to visit a friend for a while.
CM: What one piece of advice would you give to someone wanting to start making their own webcomics?
PD: Depends if you want to go in for a series of funnies, or an epic story, but for those who are planning that epic, stop there! Start SMALL. Do a short, self-contained comic (10-20 pages is ideal if you want to work In that format) that people can easily digest, and that you can test your skills on, and get used to the medium with. Once you’ve whetted their appetites, you can go back to your epic with more experience and more readers.
CM: Any plans for the future? (or are they all top-secret?)
PD: Mostly top secret I’m afraid, but I can say that me and Kate Brown have been trying to do several projects together including Deck http://spoonbard.deviantart.com/gallery/#Project-Deck and Rolighed http://spoonbard.deviantart.com/gallery/#Project-Rolighed ever since we left university, and we’ll be damned if they’re not published in the future. Unfortunately we don’t know when that will be because we’re both now engaged in other things.
CM: What is your favourite dessert?
PD: I like Ice Cream
(Mole note: all relevant website links are at the end of this column – enjoy!)
Comic Mole: At the moment you don’t have a particular webcomic in production, however many of your comics can still be read for free online and you are the creator and editor of the webcomic anthology site ‘Webcomic Shorts’ – so having had quite a bit of experience with the medium, what role do you feel that webcomics have within the genre of sequential art?
Willie Hewes: I think webcomics have been (and are) really great in getting a diverse group of people into drawing their own comics, including me. It’s made it so much easier to get your stuff out there, and get people reading it, and get feedback, and get communities of comic creators to feed you enthusiasm and share ideas. Costs for publishing a webcomic start at 0, and I think that’s very important for new creators.
Running a comic on the web can also be a useful indicator of whether a concept is going to work or not. Drawing a graphic novel takes a long time, and we can’t all afford to take a year out of our normal schedules to work on something that may or may not find an audience. The web allows you to test that, more or less.
CM: An interesting thing about your work is that some comics are available online and others are only available in print. You have also recently set up the new small press publisher, ITCH, which has preview pages for comics on the site with the entire comic available to buy in print. How do you decide which comics to put online and which to keep as print-only editions?
WH: For the most part I put the comics on the web that aren’t available in print. ITCH is about printed books, and I do think it’s harder to sell books if the content is also online, although I’m aware there are compelling arguments to the contrary.
That said, for the collected Amaranth, which will be out as a graphic novel later this year, I plan to run the entire story as a regular webcomic, as well. I want the book to come out first, so I can sell the book alongside as the story unfolds on the web. The web is a great way to reach a wider audience, and getting stuff out there is what it’s all about, so I want to try that combination to see how it goes.
CM: How did you get into creating comics in the first place, and when did you first put them online?
WH: I started drawing comics in my uni gap-year where I wasn’t doing anything except role-playing and lounging around with friends (those were the days). I was reading webstrips like Sinfest and Ozzy and Millie, and thought it would be fun to do something like that.
I started putting GothBoy online early in 2002, on what was then Keenspace. Keenspace was a massive collection of webcomics ranging from cool to what-is-wrong-with-you in quality, so I felt the standard wasn’t too high for me to get involved, even though I couldn’t draw very well. I’m still learning to draw now. Once I get good enough I’ll throw a big party. Ha!
CM: Your work shows that you have a sampled a range of different drawing media – what are some of your favourite materials or techniques for creating comics?
WH: When I started, I worked with charcoal, because that was what I had (no really, that’s the reason). I stuck with it for a long time because it gave my work a unique look, and I enjoyed working with it. I gave up on the charcoal a while ago now, because of the mess it creates, and also because my tastes have changed.
I like clean-looking work now, with sharp lines that are in just the right place, so I’m trying to draw like that more. Charcoal really doesn’t work like that though, so it had to go. More recently I’ve worked with manga tones from Manga Studio. They’re cool, but also a bit limited. Either I need a lot more tones, or I need to come up with something new again.
In the same time, I’ve also gone from using brush and ink, to using a brush pen, to using marker pens, sacrificing artistic bragging points for speed. I always feel like I’m not getting enough done fast enough. But then I produced GothBoy: Something Big in a very short time, and in the end I wasn’t too happy with how it turned out visually. So there’s a tension between spending ages and ages, and turning out sloppy work. I’m still not happy where I am, so I’ll keep trying different ways of working and different media.
CM: As well as drawing your own, you often collaborate with other creators as a comic writer – who, or what, would you say are some of your biggest inspirations and influences for both drawing and writing comics?
WH: When it comes to writing, I write about stuff that moves me. My life is the biggest inspiration. I recently found myself proclaiming I don’t do fantasy, but then I realised that all my comics have fairies and vampires and angels and crazy stuff in them. So actually, fantasy is all I ever do!
It’s not escapism fantasy though; it’s about situations and feelings that exist in the real world. It’s all just a big metaphor, like Ivy says in Amaranth.
There’s a distinctly gay streak in my work as well, I guess, and it’s not just yaoi fangirlism. Many of the people close to me are gay or bi, and I waste a lot of time on the gay blogs and watching gay films and what have you. There’s something about the coming out thing that really fascinates me, all the working out who you really are, and the conflict with yourself and the angst and the drama… there’s just so much material.
Or maybe I feel left out, because I didn’t have a difficult coming out at all. It went like this:
Me: Actually, it’s a girl. I think I’m bi.
My mum: Oh, OK.
Just like that. Homophobia and ignorance make me really angry, and I like to write stories that have gay characters just as a normal thing. It’s like saying “Look! Gay people! Deal with it!”
Also, I enjoy drawing hot guys getting it on. For the obvious reasons.
CM: You created and now edit the anthology website ‘Webcomic Shorts’ – could you tell us a little about it and why you chose to create it?
WH: Webcomic Shorts is a handy collection of short comics on the web. I like short comics, and I think it’s a shame they’re not very popular on the web, it seems. Most webcomics are ongoing and have an endless quality to them, like they’ll always be there, moving but never getting to their destination. I like things that have an ending. I enjoy closure, whether the ending is happy or sad.
Part of the reason short comics are not very popular on the web is that all popular webcomics update regularly, they have to to get the traffic, because that’s just how the internet works. Short comics can only update a set number of times, and then they’re done, but that doesn’t mean they deserve to be forgotten. So I thought it would be a good idea to string a lot of short comics together in the same place, so you get regular updates AND complete stories. That’s the idea.
Webcomic Shorts is on an updating hiatus currently, because I’ve been very busy setting up ITCH and finishing off my own comics. It can start up again as soon as I have more comics to put up though, so if any readers are sitting on a short comic they should get in touch. It doesn’t matter if it’s been published already; Webcomic Shorts is like an archive of short comics worth reading, wherever they’re from.
CM: What advice would you give to someone who wants to start making their own webcomics?
WH: Start with a short comic! And get it hosted on Webcomic Shorts! Ha ha!
I do think it’s important for first time creators to start with a project that has an end. And not an end after three volumes and 56 chapters, but after, maybe, 1 chapter. 3-4 scenes, 2-3 characters, THE END.
Drawing comics is fun but it’s a lot of work. There seems to be no shortage of young, ambitious creators starting or trying to start on a full-scale digital graphic novel, with little appreciation for just how much time and effort that’s going to take, or how much they’re going to change while they’re working on it (even you will grow up). There are so many webcomics that are drifting, on hiatus, or abandoned because it was just too much for the artist to keep going, and I think that’s sad.
I think that if some of those people had paced themselves a little, started with smaller projects, had those smaller successes to build on, maybe they’d still be making comics now. It would also save people from having to put the “I’m sorry the early art is so awful =_=;;;” message on top of their archives. If you’ve never drawn a comic before, you’re going to learn a lot over the first few pages. Don’t make those mistakes in the early parts of your magnum opus, that’s just dumb.
Oh, and to writers looking for artists: chances are learning to draw will be quicker than finding that special person. You CAN learn to draw, you can do it in a couple of years if you’re really trying, especially if you’re young. Just my opinion.
CM: Do you read any webcomics yourself? And if so, what do you like most about them? Are there any webcomics you would recommend others try?
WH: I’m really behind on my webcomics reading, actually. I have a big folder in my favourites of webcomics I should be reading, that I don’t get around to. The only ones I regularly read and Questionable Content, although it annoys me, and Planet Karen, although that’s been updating sporadically recently. I also love Templar Arizona, Gunnerkrigg Court, Teaching Baby Paranoia, Darken, Rainbow Carousel, and others. Much of the list is a bit predictable, sorry. ^_^
What I like about webcomics is their great variety and immediate accessibility. There’s a lot of really great stuff you can find just by surfing around. What I hate most about them is when you catch up with the current page and there’s no more, and it’s the middle of the story arc. It’s like when the DVD schizes out in the middle of a film you’ve never seen before, and you can’t watch the rest. Graaargh!
CM: What are your plans for the future, comics-wise?
WH: Draw MOAR!
I don’t really have any long term plans, I’m drawing a short comic for a contest and one for the Ahead anthology. I want to do another GothBoy mini, because it’s easy, laid back work. And then… who knows? I’d like to collaborate more with other artists, work on my drawing style, keep busy.
I’m also working with other people to publish their comics, which I won’t say anything about yet but you’ll hear the news on the ITCH website first. And I’m working with Karen Rubins (artist for Dark) and John Aggs (artist for Philip Pullman’s John Blake) to pull an anthology together that has a manga style aesthetic, but is aimed at a mature audience. A lot of manga fans are growing out of kiddie manga and finding there’s not that much to move on to. We’d like to offer those folks a “global manga” book they can enjoy.
It will be called Ahead, and is set to be released at the start of the next year. We’re taking submissions now, so get in touch if you’re interested.
CM: What is your favourite dessert?
WH: Dessert? Um, I like cheese. Cheeziz R my savioR.