Archive for Morag Lewis

New Comic: Ambient Rhythm volume 1 by Morag Lewis

Posted in New Comic with tags , , , , , , , on March 13, 2009 by comicmole


Ambient Rhythm volume 1 is going to be launched at Minamicon 2009 (27th-29th March).  This volume collects pages from the first year and half of the webcomic,  and its written and drawn by a comicker you may have heard of if you’ve been keeping up with recent Mole posts – Morag Lewis!

If you just can’t wait to read it, the webcomic is still updating on each week as well.


My copy is already starting to look a bit read, as well it should because I just finished reading it this morning. I had been keeping up with the weekly webcomic updates already but I found that reading the story as a printed book rather than on-screen suited this comic very well: the subject matter of characters searching for answers around old university buildings and libraries just works nicely on paper, plus I was able to flick back easily to see if I had missed any clues, or to check someone’s name.

I won’t say anything more about what happens in this comic apart from that, personally, this one is turning out to be my favourite Morag Lewis work (after Artifaxis), so I recommend taking a look at it.  The rest I will leave to a proper review post, hopefully not too far in the future ^_^


An Interview with Morag Lewis

Posted in Interview with tags , , , , , , , on March 5, 2009 by comicmole

Mole notes –

Previous posts about Morag’s work: An Introduction to Reya, Artifaxis review

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!

An Introduction to Reya

Posted in Column with tags , , , , , , , , on March 4, 2009 by comicmole

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 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!

Artifaxis by Morag Lewis

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , on January 4, 2009 by comicmole

This is an older review, however seeing as the comic series in question was complete at the time of writing and it is still on sale (and available for free on the web too) I think its worth re-posting the review here.


Artifaxis is a gaslamp fantasy comic series (gaslamp fantasy is like steampunk, but without the steam) written and drawn by the prolific comic creator Morag Lewis.  Morag has created several long-running comic series which are usually available to buy printed and also to read for free online.  She was a winner of Tokyopop’s Rising Stars of Manga and a first prize winner at the International Anime and Manga Festival in 2006.  But today I’ll have to set all her other work aside as the name of the game is Artifaxis and only Artifaxis!

This comic is a series that spans 10 chapters, although the printed version has only 8 issues because issues 6&7 and 8&9 are double-issue releases.  The printed version can be bought from the Sweatdrop Studios shop and (like most small-press comics), issues come in black and white.  However, if you choose to read the comic via the web on each page is in full colour.


The story begins with Miriam, an academic who has finally got her own department at the university where she works: The Department of Anomalous Artifacts.  She looks after mysterious objects which there are no known uses for.  It sounds fascinating, however in reality its a very quiet place and no-one seems to take much interest…that is until one day an object is stolen.  Whilst investigating the theft (and what the object really was), Miriam crosses paths with the tall-dark-and-mysterious Rua and the meddlesome Rain, who will become her on-and-off companions as she follows the trail of the missing object.

Similarly to the author’s other complete long-running series ‘ Looking for the Sun’, this story centres around a female protagonist and her companions’ adventures as they travel through many varied places.  The difference with Artifaxis is that the places are all cities in the same world rather than multiple worlds.  Overall there is also more of a science-fiction than magical twist to this tale.

The story starts off simply and becomes much more complex in later issues as further characters and cities are introduced.  At some points it is helpful to be able to refer back to previous issues.  Some may find the story a little confusing, however a lot of readers would probably find it fun to have to work out what’s going on.

Miriam, the main character, doesn’t change fundamentally through the course of the series but her personality and back story are explored well.  Rua is ever the mystery man, but we do see glimpses of his past and who he is throughtout the series.  Rain provides quite a bit of comic relief in the story as well as having a pivotal part in the plot.

Artwork-wise this comic charts the author’s progression through over 2 years of work, from 2005-2007, therefore the art style and accuracy do change and improve over the 10 issues, with the later chapters reflecting the author’s progression to the standard that won her two awards in 2006.

Even though the look of the first couple of issues is not as polished as the later ones, the characters remain distinct so any changes in art style do not affect the reader’s enjoyment of the story itself.  As I mentioned before, the printed issues are predominantly black and white and the web version is in colour – the colours used in earlier issues are quite vivid, but they are toned down to a more realistic level as the series goes on.

Another interesting thing to note with this series is the development of the pacing and structure of the panels on each page as the story continues.  Morag starts out using mostly rectangular panels, but they become much more fluid and manga-influenced in later issues.

So when all the comic pages are finished are there any extras to enjoy?  Well yes!  There is an artists’ blurb and the odd splash image, sketch page or fanart printed in each issue (issue 10 containing an especially long extra section) which is fun.  Online there is a gallery of standalone art and fanart as well as a prologue not seen in the printed issues – so all in all, lots to enjoy here for those who like a bit of fantasy, sci-fi or even gaslamp fantasy!

‘Stardust’, An Anthology by Sweatdrop Studios

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 9, 2008 by comicmole

This review was written a little while ago but thankfully the book is still available to buy from Sweatdrop Studios’ online store.  Many of the artists whose stories appear in this book have since gone on to even better things, so keep an eye out for newer work from them too.


This is a collection of short stories that were originally entered into Tokyopop’s ‘Rising Stars of Manga’ competition (Sept 2005). They may not have won, but each short story reflects the artist’s best work at that time, and showcases these creative individuals’ talents.

Stardust is a chunky little book

Strange Harmony by Johanna Zhou (Scorpio)

This is a sweet story based around a country girl (Melissa) and her cousin from the city (Jazmine) who comes to visit. Some funny moments come from showing their differences, like when burying a hedgehog (as Melissa often goes out and gives roadkill a proper burial) Jazmine drapes her necklace over the grave, saying it can enjoy some bling in heaven. The characters are slightly cliched, but they work for the story. The artwork and pacing is very strong, at least on a par with the year’s winners of RSoM.

Dollhouse by Jaqueline Kwong (Marbles)

A dark short story with a gothic lolita style, Dollhouse is about a girl and her relationship with one of her dolls, who is more than she seems. The characters and dialogue bring across the gothic lolita style very well, being well spoken in a slightly disturbing way. Some might say that the scary doll story has been re-trodden quite a bit lately, but then again what hasn’t? The artwork is strong – especially the detail on the figures, faces and clothing, although the placement of the text and lack of backgrounds means it falls short of some other stories in this book.

On with the Show by Rebecca Burgess (Bex)

A heartwarming tale about a rich man who throws it all away to become an actor in the West End. There are a few ups and downs in the storyline (in terms of what happens, not how good it is), but ultimately it is a happy tale about following your dreams. The characters and art style both reflect the Victorian era English setting well. The artist had obviously studied the clothing, buildings and transport of the time before putting pen to paper, and bravely includes a lot of relevant visual information in the panels. The busy line and tonework means that sometimes the reader will have to think about what is going on in a particular page, but that does give you time to appreciate the passion that went into producing this story.

Bad Luck by Selina Dean (Buu)

A slightly creepy short story about a girl who sees a strange dog one night and from then on has terrible bad luck. The story fits very well into the page allowance and has a snappy ending. The characters are not explored in a lot of depth, but this does not harm the story in any way, in fact it makes it nice and easy to get to grips with as a short. The artwork is uniquely styled and has a chibi look, which contrasts well with the more grown up storyline. It could possibly use more detail, but the simple style does make it easy to read and understand. The pacing is well carried out and some interesting camera angles are used in a lot of the panels.

New Year’s Kiss by Sarah Burgess (Denji)

New Year’s Kiss is a shonen-ai short with a little bit of angst and a little bit of fluff. It involves two guys who work in a cafe and war over the affection of the new girl, only to find out their real feelings once she shows her true colours. The characters are slightly stereotypical: the artist, the playboy and the hot new girl, but their motivations are delved into which makes them more unique. The artwork has a sketchy style, which shows promise in a lot of instances but sometimes is difficult to understand. However, the pacing is good and the writing has a strong manga feel to it.

Reya by Sergei and Morag Lewis (Moonshadow and Sun Kitten)

A fantasy tale of a girl from a distant land and her encounters with a group of magicians and their dangerous pets – tigers. The narration has a gentle pace and is written in quite an olde worlde style (not old English, but not completely modern either). Characters are believable and the cast is diverse and well thought out, although they are not particularly quirky or emotional. The art style suits the story very well, having been drawn with a nib pen. Some of the depth may be lost to readers as lineweights do not vary much from foreground to background, however there is a lot of detail to be savoured.

Different for Girls by Laura Watton and Jake Laverde

A manga with an English edge, this story centres around student life and romance here in good ol blighty. It about Angie, a student who’s looking for her perfect man but doesn’t realise he might be right under her nose. Its a sweet little tale -you may work out whats going to happen almost straight away, but enjoy the ride as some quirky elements have been thrown in (like featuring the lyrics from a song which complement the story). The characters are easily identifiable. Some might say they’re quite sterotypical, but the story is somewhat using this to its advantage with a message that stereotypes of ‘perfection’ are possibly not that great after all. The artwork is professional and at least as strong as the winners of this RSoM competition. There are also some little Japanese manga moments which are a nice touch.