Fanwork and Original comics (featured image by @toaradical on tumblr.com)
So today I’m going to be interviewing a group of artists and writers who create the own original and fanbased comics. I’m going to be asking them various questions about what sparked their interest in comics and what went into deciding to start making media.
I will be interviewing @inkfacefahs, @maximiliani,@toaradical from tumblr.
So first things first, what got you interested in creating media?
maximiliani: Oh gosh, I’ve always told stories. I used to pace around our coffee table telling stories out loud to myself or to any adult that would listen. I loved watching fantasy films, animated or live action. Anything to do with magic and strange places. I loved playing pretend.I still get to through my work.
toaradical: It was just kind of something I was always doing? I remember when I was young and got really into Pokemon when that first came out in the States. I was already in my “draw dinosaurs on every surface” phase at that point and it was a quick leap over to Pokemon. Me and my brother would make fakemon for fun and I never really stopped drawing fanart.
inkfacefahs: I was interpreting the world through drawing from a very, very young age. I drew pictures of rooms in perspective when I was about three or four. Additionally, unlike a lot of kids, I was very aware that media was made by people, not magical story fairies – my parents were good friends with a lot of SFF authors and similar crowds. I knew people could make things out of what seemed to be nothing. I wanted to do that.
What was the first comic you ever read? First fictional piece of media you ever watched?
maximiliani: We had a lot of picture books around the house since my mom previously worked at a children’s bookstore which sparked my love for illustration. My parents would read the Sunday comics with me. Archie, Calvin and Hobbes, Peanuts, Sonic and Garfield comics were pretty common. I think that’s pretty standard. I actually would read Robin comics with Tim Drake from time to time, but mostly comics for BTAS and TNBA which I watched too.
I’m pretty sure my first film in theaters was Snow White when I was around two years old. I think it had a huge impact on me; I had a Snow White piggy bank that I used to carry around with me. As I got older I used to watch old MGM and Warner Brothers cartoons a lot as well as Disney’s Fantasia.
toaradical: My first comics were actually Garfield. My dad had two of those newspaper strip collection books and they were the only comics we had for a very long time. The first real seres I got into though was Meridian; this sort of epic fantasy/solarpunk adventure story that our local library only had the first and last volumes of. I remember it actually being pretty good, even though I read it way back in 5th grade, I should check it out again… And the first fictional media that I got into was definitely Pokemon, it grabbed my attention and never let go!
inkfacefahs: I haven’t a clue. I consumed everything I could, and reading the back of crisp packaging is something I still get oddly fascinated by. But for actual comics, I raided my mother’s boxes for Thor, X-Men and New Mutants – X-Men #200 was significant, I think – Legion of Superheroes, and a load of indies. She took Grim Jack away before I could read it back then, but I snuck original Ninja Turtles, American Flagg, and National Lampoon past her. I also read a great number of her collections into oblivion, including a massive compendium of early Doonsbury, cartoons by people like Nicole Hollander and Keith Knight, and many foreign cartoons – editorial cartoons by Carl Giles, Murray Bell’s Footrot Flats, and some others I think, many selections of translated Franco-Belgian comics and manga.
My family didn’t have cable, so we mostly watched afterschool shows on PBS – Arthur was tops, Sesame Street – and the WB, which had Animaniacs, a bit of Batman et al, then Cardcaptor Sakura if I recall correctly. We also watched the SF shows our parents watched, so Babylon 5, Deep Space 9. I was also quite in love with the Russian animated movie The Snow Queen, and we had Ghibli movies.
Is there any specific genre you favor as far as writing, reading, watching, making, etc.?
maximiliani: I definitely love watching movies, both live action and animated. Fairytale and fantasy (a la Ghibli) style films. I love watching Old Hollywood musicals and comedies but I also like moody and or surreal dramas (dramedys) and mysteries. I like children and media in general: cartoon shows, books, etc. I think children’s literature can be a lot more sophisticated than people give it credit for and I find a lot of their plots can be more creative than “traditional” YA since you have to work under certain parameters. A lot of new graphic novels coming out right now are really cool and exciting.
While I like watching them, actually writing dramas and “serious” material are hard for me so most of my writing tend to be comedic, sorta frothy with elements of the fantastical. Sometimes that means bits of sci-fi and action but mostly fairytale-ish and sometimes horror. I think I tend to write things more for kids or teens tone-wise but I’ve been experimenting with more mature content. I like writing for the stage but I definitely gravitate to writing things out in screenplay format (when it’s not prose) even if they are not intended for that medium. All of my comics are written out in screenplay format!
toaradical: I tend to naturally gravitate towards science fiction. My dad studies the magnetosphere and 70% of our old house’s decoration was from NASA or star charts and pictures and stickers of satellites everywhere, and my family would stop changing channels whenever the TV hits any kind of space related thing (I’ve seen Apollo 13 at least 20 times). It’s just got so much potential and I find that even though there’s a lot of cliches, there’s way more room and a much wider tendency for originality in scifi than in other genres. I also get really into mystery/crime though; I like being thrown for a loop and those stories always have some great twists.
inkfacefahs: I feel like writing with a genre in mind is counter-intuitive to the development process – genre in my opinion is a classification that is assigned for curation purposes. I’m a big fan of fantastical elements as part of slice of life stories, I’m keen on comedy-dramas because I enjoy how expertly crafted balances of drama and humor can make you feel. I like a bit of action but not to the excess that a lot of action-oriented media is. Narratives I like have what Hayao Miyazaki refers to as “ma”, which some would think of as filler actions or scenes, but actually intensifies action scenes by contrasting with them.
In terms of comics, I’ve recently gotten really into historical comics, I found some historical baseball zines at Small Press Expo which intrigued me, and also visual poetry – poetry comics are a bit unplumbed by many, which I think is a shame. The balance of words and pictures in abstract sequence is so intriguing.
If you could work on one dream project, whether it be based on an existing property or an original idea, what would it be?
maximiliani: To see any of my work published, performed or turned into a film or to be able to work on series I helped conceptualized would be a dream. I just want to share things with people.
I’d love to have a hand in an authentic “by the book” film or mini-series adaptation of The Wizard of Oz or some sort of original film musical in the style of Singin’ In The Rain.
toaradical: I’ve never really been quiet about this, but my end goal is to help get an Animorphs animated series going. It’s an incredible, though- provoking sci fi war story, and the little flipbook animations that were in the corner pages were what made it click in my head about how animation worked in the first place.
The story easily has the kind of tone, action, and level of intelligence that made Avatar: the Las Airbender such a successful show, and I see no reason why it wouldn’t make for a similarly great series. It’s also getting to be the right time for one: everyone goes on about this being the “nostalgia generation” and this is a series that everyone recognizes, even if they didn’t read it. Older viewers would have interest for that reason, and it would be an amazing way to get new fans.
I maintain that the reason Animorphs always got dismissed was because of the silly looking book covers (all fans of the series know this problem). An animated series would bring to the forefront the excellent action, characters, and world building, as well as illustrate just how cool morphing is! (and not illustrating the in-betweens, which all animators know tend to look ridiculous!)
inkfacefahs: I’m not quite sure. I’d love to work on a story that made heavy use of multiplatform storytelling – examples would be Graeme Base’s children’s book The Worst Band In The Universe, which came with a CD of in-universe music, or Ngozi’s webcomic Check Please! Which tells part of its story through an in-character twitter account. I tend to come up with narrative ideas very spontaneously though, and multiplatform storytelling would require more planning on my part.
Do you have any advice to people out there who want to get into creating art and media?
maximiliani: Observe and learn! Be a sponge. Absorb the creative work (and maybe not so creative work) of others around you to build a cache of influence even if it means the work you put out yourself while you do so isn’t great. I think everything you consume filters into what you create; I’m not a huge anime series watcher anymore but I can’t deny the lasting influence it has had on my writing and sense of humor. Music influences a lot of my writing too. It’s really important to not compare your work to anything other than previous pieces, it’s really easy to fall into comparing your work to others and you really shouldn’t. Everyone is really different in their own development, methods and what they need. So it’s all about finding what your goals are with your work and what media or medium works best for you.
I think it’s also important to generally be aware as a person, to be well informed and empathetic. I try to be aware of negative tropes, images and stereotypes (particularly specific or rife to the genres I’m working in) and make sure I don’t continue them. There’s a lot of unlearning involved in learning. Diversity is real, stop being boring.
I’m still learning myself. It takes a lot of time and there are bound to be mistakes and missteps. If you want to try doing something, give it a shot, and or consume and digest everything around you until you’re ready to.
toaradical: Just do it and do it as often as you can!
It sounds dumb and cliche, but if you want to get into anything at all, you need to practice and improve and you need to get into THE HABIT of practicing and improving. I can’t begin to tall you how many artists I know (including me sometimes) that will vaguely go on about a half formed idea that they want to make a project out of, and then never do. When inspiration strikes, grab a hold of it and do something with it until it’s exhausted! Even if it doesn’t take you very far, it’s practice for when it happens again, and again, and you’ll eventually be in the habit of taking your ideas and actually doing something with them. And eventually, you’re gonna have some things that you’re really proud of.
inkfacefahs: You just have to do it. You’re going to feel like you can’t, and starting out, you can’t. I see prominent professionals be very harsh about how if you don’t have the discipline then you can’t do this. When they say that, however, they probably don’t realize many of them didn’t have it. Discipline and dedication are cultivated traits, not qualities you have from birth. They’re not innate. You can learn them. When you start, you don’t have the discipline, but you will learn it. This is a growth process.
Second: If you’re not organized, get organized! You want to be able to organize your pieces, whether you’re a digital artist or traditional, for storage, and having a clean workspace is absolutely integral to getting work done.
Lastly: A quote credited to many great performers of music; “If I don’t practice for one day, I know it. For two days, and the critics know it. For three days, and the audience knows it.” Just do it everyday, everywhere.
Have you ever presented your work at a convention? If not, do you plan too?
maximiliani: @writingdino and I started writing a paper analysis of Amy Pond and the 11th Doctor’s narratives in series 5 and 6 of Doctor Who as a Peter Pan adaptation and how said adaptation and use of archetypes resonated with viewers experiencing “Extended Adolescence” which helped boost the series popularity overseas. We presented our paper concept at a panel at ICFA convention in Florida in 2013. It was fun. I’d love to take an original creative piece to a convention one day!
toaradical: No, I definitely want to though! Boston’s got a bunch of great conventions and I’ve got friends who do booths and tables at Artist Alleys, so it’s something I’ll get into at some point. I’m looking into doing a table at the next Anime Boston with my roommate, so maybe soon!
inkfacefahs: I’ve not tabled at a major show but I always bring a portfolio. I use pages from my sketchbook or sketchcards in lieu of business cards at the moment, but those will eventually be produced. I’m planning to table at one or two small press shows next year. I’m also, for my sculptural work, looking into galleries that may be interested.
What was the first comic/prop/video that you ever created?
maximiliani: The first “book” I wrote actually was when I was just learning to write. I gave the setting, showed the antagonist’s lair then skipped to the end when a mermaid named Elyenka came out of her giant clam shell (presumably she was hiding/sealed inside!) and everybody was happy. I even drew pictures. Masterpiece.
toaradical: I think back when I was on Livejournal I tried doing some really bad journal comics, particularly one about me being angry that my brother beat and finished Portal before i did. Not really original, but I don’t consider myself much of a writer. The first animation I did though, I remember that. I was 14, I created this weird monster with an owl’s face, except I imagined the mouth basically splitting the whole cace open revealing a bunch of teeth. So I animated a portrait view of the head turning around and “eating” the camera. It was done in Pencil (the software, not like graphite) which was the world’s worst animation program, and it went way too fast and wasn’t well drawn, but I was so proud of it and it was the coolest thing ever to see something I had drawn move.
inkfacefahs: It was circa middle school. I did it out of frustration with middle school, which, as we all know, is just about the lowest circle of Hell. I had virtually no friends, spent only a couple marking periods doing a sport or extra curricular before falling into a pit. I was lonely, because the alternative to loneliness was, uh, getting punched and jeered at. So it was a bit escapist, but also a bit stream of conscious about middle school itself. I don’t know where it went – probably eventually got recycled. I don’t have a great deal of my really young art, I only started keeping proper sketchbooks in high school.
What projects are you currently working on? Where can people find them or other information about the things you create?
maximiliani: I’m the writer/creator and colorist of Batgirl Incorporated a fan au Batfamily series with @juliankellers on art. It’s an alternate take on the Batfamily and the DC universe focused on all the women of Gotham. We’ve recently been putting up pages again after taking an extended hiatus over the last year. You can find us on Tapastic http://tapastic.com/series/BatgirlInc) or on Tumblr (http://batgirlincorporated.tumblr.com). I’ll also be working with juliankellers on their Marvel based magical girl fan project too!
I’m working on quite a lot! I have a 60’s spy comedy script called A Twist of Citrus that’s developing well.I’m in the beginning stages of turning the script’s opening into a comic/graphic novel oneshot with @funwalker on art sometime soon! It’s really got me excited, it’s quite a fun concept that I think people will enjoy a lot.
I’m also working on a handful of other film scripts and general concepts; a 1940s screwball noir I’ve been calling Detective Story, a film script of a children’s fantasy book The Practical Princess and a 1920’s paranormal dark comedy called Princess Crocodile . I’m also reworking a musical I wrote, working on a text for a picture book called Comet Girl From Pluto, and playing with various versions of a concept called Filihinha & Ferdinand one of which will be my first children’s novel which I’ll be focusing on for NaNoWriMo next month!
I talk about my work quite a lot on my tumblr (maximiliani.tumblr.com) but you can also check my website maxjeber.com for any official announcements! Come say hi!
toaradical: Currently, most of my time and energy is going towards my job as an animated assistant for Storycorps. It’s a definitely a cool thing, but not a personal project, so I’m not that emotionally invested in it. I spend most of my time doing quick fanart, and the biggest projects I do involve rough lip-sync practice to pre-existing dialogue. I do have some plans for a personal animated short about feeling physically worn down (like achey joints and tense muscles, that sort of thing), but it’s been stuck in story board form until I get enough free time to actually make it. I post most of my art on my Tumblr, and most of my animation on my Vimeo [https://vimeo.com/user14306778].
inkfacefahs: ( inkfacefahs.tumblr.com ) Current comics include the transformative remix The New Washups, which is essentially, “What if Marvel Comics characters were unbearably indie??” I post it on tumblr at thenewwashups.tumblr.com and it’s getting some restructuring done, but is currently up to about page 60 I want to say? I’m also working on a comic about loneliness and artificial intelligence which will be between 15 and 20 pages and will be avaliable for sale on gumroad when it’s done. Here’s a preview of the main character:
Is there anything you look forward to making in the future?
maximiliani: A local dance collective wants to produce a pantomime/ballet concept that I pitched to them earlier this year. I’m looking forward to that coming together and working on that as it develops!
toaradical: The aforementioned animation. But I really enjoy character animation and lip sync; I’d really like to have some time to fully animate (including clean-up and color) some clips or dialogue of shows I like. Like, fan-art, but going just a little too far. I wanna take it there, Haha!
inkfacefahs: I’m always looking forward. That’s the real essence of comics – while you’re working on one panel, you’re thinking of the next. I anticipate great and, actually-properly published things in the future as I grow .
One last thing. If you could decribe your work in one word, how would you describe it?
So there you have it. Be sure to check out all of their projects and for more news and media, be sure to check out Acts Of Geek.