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 ^_^