Posts tagged: web comics
After a while, most serialized webcomics start to look the same. Just about every series seems to strike a similar balance of influences from anime and western animation. But not Light Years Away, which draws inspiration from European sci-fi comics by artists like Moebius and Tanino Liberatore.
LYA is set in a world where many — perhaps most — people have cybernetic implants. But there’s a growing, violent anti-implant movement called the Puritans. The first story arc, Escape from Prison Planet, tells the story of Milo, a repeat offender doing time on an off-planet penal colony, where he ends up in the middle of a prison gang war between the Puritans and the implantees. Soon, however, he finds out there’s something bigger going on.
I talked with writer Ethan Ede and artist Adam Roselund — the Boise, Idaho based duo behind the series — about webcomics, the future of the series and other projects they have in the hopper.
Left: Ethan Ede Right: Adam Roselund
Klint Finley: First, I’m curious why you guys self-published online. Did you shop it around to publishers first?
Ethan: We self-published this story because we wanted to do it our way. Having control over our product is very important to us, that’s one of the reasons there are no ads on the site, because that is content we can’t control. At the time when we started Light Years Away we were shopping several products around to publishers and we wanted to put something out in the meantime. We actually picked LYA because it is the least like the stories we normally tell.
Adam: As well as the story being built for the format. We were kind of frustrated at the pitch process when we decided on LYA. We just wanted to get some stories out there and read, and at the time, no one was buying science fiction. The market was in contraction, and publishers were reticent to take a chance on what we were selling.
Do you think you’ll ever go to a publisher or will you continue to self-publish?
Ethan: LYA will always be self published on the web, we wouldn’t turn away a publisher that wanted to collect the stories for print though.
Adam: We have a few projects that are built specifically for print as well. We have one that we are currently working on for Dark Horse, but it doesn’t change how we approach LYA.
Anything more you can tell us about the Dark Horse project?
Adam: The story we’re doing for Dark Horse will be in Dark Horse presents. It’s not on the schedule just yet since we’re still putting it together, but probably should be out sometime later this year.
Congrats, that’s a good foot in the door. Have you had any other professional work published?
Ethan: We did a story for an anthology called CTRL.ALT.SHIFT back in 2009 but mostly we have just been working on developing our own stories. We have been offered other gigs which we turned down because they weren’t ours. Creative control is very important to us, we don’t want to do a corporate owned story. We want to make our books our way, and that takes a little more work, than showing off sample pages and getting work on a license.
Adam: I’ve done my fair share of sample pages and inventory stories, but it’s hard to get excited about those, you know? The creation is the thing for us. Breathing life into the things that spring from our imaginations so that we can share them with other people. It’s a harder road than cutting your teeth on a large profile book, but it’s more fulfilling.
I also saw Adam’s name attached to, I think, the original announcement of MonkeyBrain Comics, but I haven’t seen a specific book…
Adam: Yeah, I was originally working on a Monkeybrain story with Brandon Seifert, but both of us got a bit underwater with our respective projects and commitments, so we haven’t created our book yet.
Stepping back a bit, how did Light Years Away come about? I know you guys have also collaborated on Fat Baby — was that before or after you started LYA?
Ethan: Adam and I have been collaborating since late 2004. When we first met it was pretty clear that we basically shared one brain, and we instantly wanted to work together. We started making pitches and approaching publishers blind. Adam’s art was always strong but we didn’t have a name for ourselves and we didn’t have a full book to show off what we could do. So we decided to self publish a story. LYA was one of many scripts I had written and the one we felt best lent itself to the format. We just wanted to make comics, and with the web a publisher wasn’t a gate we necessarily had to get through anymore.
Adam: Fat Baby came about right around the same time as LYA, if I remember correctly. The thing started as an elaborate joke to make ourselves laugh. If you have an hour, we can give you the full rundown of the creation of that project. It’s a real doozy. It’s one big metagag on the comics industry, from international printing rights to creator egoes to the 4-panel gag strip format itself.
In the intro to Escape from Prison Planet, you mention European sci-fi comics being an influence. I think I can see the Tanino Liberatore influence in there. What else influenced the two of you?
Ethan: Moebius Moebius Moebius.
Adam: As a kid, I was gung ho for Jim Lee X-Men. Then when I hit pimples and pubes phase of life, I discovered Jean Giraud and Bilal and fell in love. Intercut that with a healthy love of Katsuhiro Otomo.
The thing I love most about Moebius and Otomo is the sense of place they give their scenes. Everywhere feels lived in. There’s dirt. There’s graffiti. There’s flies and old water and plugged storm drains. Even in natural surroundings, the Earth feels weathered and the surface earned through years of erosion. These elements I really took hold of and try to apply to my work, as well as a sense of motion and momentum to character movement. That I think I learned from overdosing on animation and cartoons at a formative age.
Ethan: Mezieres and Christin’s Valerian series was also a huge inspiration for me in terms of how I want the story to move. Smaller albums that told a larger tale.
The back of the print book you sell at conventions says “Futurism.” Do you do a lot of research on the technology and theory behind implants, or is this mostly imaginative?
Ethan: Most of what Adam and I do together is Hard Science fiction. That is our passion. LYA happens to be one story where we decided to play fast and loose with science and physics. But nearly every other story we have in the workings is Hard SF. We spend a lot of time world building behind the panels, figuring out things work, looking at how technology can be used and misused. Doing a lot of research.
Adam: Yeah, LYA has warp gates and sentient alien life and all kinds of fantastical stuff in it, but even then, our hard science fiction background causes us to think waaaaaaaay too long about how even the most ridiculous piece of tech in Light Years Away functions on a basic level.
Do you have a background in science or are you self-taught?
Ethan: Neither of us have formal backgrounds in science. we are both autodidacts, we both read a lot and read a lot about emerging technology and science. we are both futurists.
It’s been a while since the site has updated — when can we expect new material?
Ethan: At the moment we are working very hard on this project for DHP but after that is wrapped we plan on a website redesign and the launch of book two of LYA. It makes us bad webcomicers, but Adam and I care less about an update schedule and more about the archives, we want the total book to be quality and that sometimes means we are slower and don’t keep as regular a schedule.
Adam: That’s the big bummer of where we’re at. It’s just the two of us. I only have one brain and two arms, and one of the arms is functionally useless in creating art. It’s basically there to hold the t-square steady. So updates are light when we have more pressing projects to work on unfortunately. But going forward, we really don’t want to sacrifice quality for the sake of a steady update. Book 2 is going to be GORGEOUS. Some of the pages in book one make me shake my head and wish I could re do it, so I promised myself that going forward, LYA will be as well drawn as any project we do for a publisher.
Outside of comics, what sort of creative projects are you two involved with? I know Ethan has a band, for example.
Ethan: Yeah we both play music, I’ve been playing in bands since I was 15. I also make auto-bio comics. We have made short films, and Adam does a lot of design work for bands. I’ve also designed T-shirts and things for a few local bands here in Boise. Basically we try to always keep our hands moving.
Adam: Yeah, I wear a lot of hats. I do Illustration work on the side in addition to my day job as a senior graphic designer for a large web company. I’ve done work for Playboy and various papers and magazines around the world.
A Web Comic About Steve Jobs And Steve Wozniak As Young Hippies
Patrick Farley, the artist behind the pioneering web comic E-Sheep, has a series that started today. Steve and Steve follows the adventures of Apple Computer founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak as young, acid tripping hippies in the 70s. The ending of the prologue makes me think this may be an alternate history comic. It also displays the fascination with early hominids found in Farley’s last comic the First Word.
The comic is being serialized at Study Group Comics every Wednesday. There’s a warning that this is not safe for work, but I haven’t noticed anything particular racy — but perhaps the comic will get more explicit as it progresses, so watch out for that.
My interview with Brubaker is here.
When I Am King, the online comic by Swiss artist Demian5, follows a sexually deviant camel and the recently de-pantsed king of Egypt on a quest to find love and trousers. The story is told entirely through pictures and symbols — without a word of text. It’s a wild ride through a desert that includes weird sex, hallucinogenic drugs and dangerous bees.
"About ninety-five percent of [When I am King] I made up as I went along," Demian5 says. "Some scenes, like the one where the ‘camel’ smokes the cigarette, were in my head before I even started drawing WIAK."
WIAK reads like a textbook example from Scott McCloud’s Reinventing Comics. The whole comic was created and published electronically — Demian didn’t take any notes or do any sketches on paper. He used mostly Adobe programs Photoshop, Illustrator and ImageReady to draw the comic and create animation. He freed himself of the restrictions imposed by printed page dimensions and used the web’s “infinite canvas” to convey a sense of space. The reader mostly scrolls left to right, following the characters activity along the landscape, but in a few scenes the reader scrolls down, following falling characters. Animation is used to highlight emotions and convey a sense of motion rather than as a storytelling tool. In fact, WIAK deals more with emotions and experimentation than plot. The story in WIAK is only background — what’s really important is what the characters are feeling and how it’s expressed to the audience.
Demian’s new project, Square Stories, is published weekly in the print version of Zurich Express and will also be published online in America. Demian says he finds Square Stories confining “mostly because of its small, weekly-one-gag form. I’m still trying to find the perfect way to do them. Contrary to WIAK it will also contain words sooner or later, and as it is published in a very widespread official newspaper it is aimed at a larger, more average audience. It is also forbidden for me to offend real people and to offend religious feelings.” He adds, “I wonder if I will ever have trouble with that.”
Although the strips look much like Demian’s other work, hiring Demian to work for a mainstream newspaper is like hiring David Lynch to take over Peanuts. WIAK features a camel performing sexual favors for humans. But Demian, a self-described “poorly disciplined vegetarian” defends his work saying “I don’t want anyone to do anything with animals, just be friends with them. There is also a symbolic aspect to the sodomy parts of WIAK. It is not sodomy because the creatures in WIAK are neither really human nor are they real animals — they all have about the same amount of intelligence, and they don’t really exist. They’re just symbols. Glyphs.” (“I wasn’t planning to do so much symbolism when I started WIAK,” he admits.) He adds, “It’s not about animal rights, though I think we should care about them.”
When Demian5 began serializing the comic on his site in 2000 it was an immediate hit, even without much advertising. “I submitted my link to some search engines and I contacted a few other comic creators like Scott McCloud to find out what they think about my work,” he says. By the time the series reached its conclusion Demian was being mentioned alongside comics legends like Jim Woodring and Chris Ware, and has since been favorably reviewed in Wired and Spin. According to Demian’s “complicated system of counters” nearly 50,000 people have read his comic so far.
Despite the popularity and critical success of his comic, Demian is still not able to live off it. PayPal donations and merchandise sales help him out, but they’re not paying his rent yet. Demian admits he would be content working a day job and continuing to post his comics online if he had a job he enjoyed. “Somehow I like the spirit of free online comics, because money is always a threat for artistic freedom and for diversity. But then, I want to earn a living with something I like to do. Like everyone. So I wouldn’t say no to a virtual dollar. Or to a virtual euro.”
In the meantime Demian continues to freelance in the advertising business and receives part of his income from Square Stories. He describes himself as a normal and boring person who spends his time thinking deep thoughts. Amongst other things he has been enjoying the online comics Pay Your Reality Tax and Nichtlustig. Demian’s influences for his surreal comics range from artists Woodring and Ware to the Great Gianna Sisters and Wipe Out 2097 videogames to the music of Radiohead (WIAK is named after a line in the Radiohead song “Paranoid Android”) to anime to his training as a graphic designer.
Demian is currently working on a new online comic, as time permits, which contains “no dialogue, nice creatures, big emotions.” He says “The style will be a bit more organic and the perspective a bit deeper than in WIAK, but it will be less colorful than Square Stories. It will also contain another form of storytelling, still without words, but… You’ll see.”
(Originally published at Shift Online September, 2002)