Anyway, I’ve decided to do something a little different today. One thing I never never tire of is interviews with fellow webcomic creators. I find hearing about how and why they got into the field, as well as insights into how they produce and manage their strips, undeniable fascinating (not to mention inspiring). So I’ve been thinking about every now and again posting a blog segment where I interview some of the various creators I’ve grown to become friends with. Personally I think it’s a blast talking to creators about their work, and this also has the potential of introducing some of you to comics you may not be aware of. Word of mouth and cross promotion are what webcomics thrive on after all!
Currently Webcomic Planet is running it’s 2010 “Webcomic War,” with the theme of “Evil Genius.” This gave me the perfect excuse to try this out and interview one of my buddies David Shirley (a.k.a. T III) of the webcomic series “Fera.” I’ll gladly back him in the battle for the War’s top spot because us catgirl comics have to stick together!
So without further ado, let’s learn or thing or two about the world of “Fera.”
1. So how about a little info on you and your background in art?
I'm not really an artist- I'm pretending to be an artist in the vain hope that someone might pay me for it one day.
Seriously though, I don't really have much of a background in art professionally or in education. I did study graphic design in college, which was dreadful as being able to draw anything was seen as a bad thing by our lecturer who could barely manage stick men.
Being a programmer by trade, means that there's always the general claim of "programmer art" which tends to be quite poor on the whole so its not a great image.
My art style, for a long time was bound by the fact that I used to be able to draw most things from memory... no idea when I lost that ability but there you go. For years my art style was more focused on fantasy-styled artwork such as the illustrations of Dungeons and Dragons manuals etc. but during school I started experimenting with manga styles- mostly Shirow, Tezuka and a couple other artists combined that I particularly enjoyed reading.
Most of my artwork was spawned as illustrations for short stories- though there are a couple more *ahem* mature pieces that I was paid to produce in college.
Some early pictures of the cast of Fera will hopefully never see the light of day ever again, but then again you never know they may make an appearance in the future.
2. Where did the idea for Fera come from? What made you want to start a webcomic?
Fera is a very old idea. It has changed form over the years but its still fairly faithful to its origins. The world came first. Simply as a doodled question I put forward to a physics teacher about interactions of gravity fields and whether it were possible for two planets to orbit one another like so.
The whole concept of Mu, the lost planet on which Fera is mostly set, was based on my obsession with classical mythology- and I really wanted to try to create a new version of Atlantis. And I wanted to see what would happen if we took a world that had disappeared so long ago and spat it unchanged into a future where there was utter chaos.
The characters personalities came from roleplaying games- I spent a large portion of school life role playing characters in things such as Dungeons and Dragons with friends. Though the characters don't truly start there, the concept of them each being interconnected professions and each proving their worth as a good group is based on these first real fantasy hero characters.
There is an earlier version of Fera some where on the internet entitled Feles Fera... its terrible though, and there have been major revisions since then- for instance Dominique is no longer lesbian, Misty is no longer a Feran and most importantly I've (hopefully) improved as a writer. A large portion of the original was written to cater to friends who wanted more lesbians, more sex and a few other things that overtook the story a little. For the record, said friends were girls, and they wanted a raunchy romance that catered to their sexuality- back then we wouldn't see Tipping the Velvet, Sugar Rush or similar for quite some time, and other than the famous kiss on Brookside and the odd gay character appearing in comedies on tv there were few stories for teens that dealt with the subject.
As for why I remade the story as a webcomic? Well, I was always incredibly masochistic and figured stressing myself out over art deadlines every week would be good fun. I'm kidding of course. Originally I got into webcomics after someone linked me to The Devil's Panties, once I realized there were others my bookmarks exploded. I'd toyed with the idea of putting together my own, and the manuscript for Fera was calling to be re-written anyway- and I'd been drawing the characters for years.
The final thing that made me realize I could create the comic was seeing Slightly Damned and Last Res0rt- both great comics. And I realized that who cared if the characters would get tarred as furries? It was a story that I wanted to tell, and I could draw better than XKCD, and many other comics out there. So with that some initial rewrites, characters redesigned after a little bit of neglect, I finally created the webcomic and its been great fun ever since.
3. Why catgirls?
I'd say "Why not?" but that'd be mean. The catgirl thing was an accident. That sounds stupid but it genuinely was. Kato was originally created as a persona to play in a roleplaying game called Diablo II and Everquest. She was intended to be a rogue/assassin and very much a human. When trying to come up with a name, and being completely stumped- one of our cats, Thomas, came into the room and I greeted him with my usual "Hi Cat" and so the character became known as Kat. There were a couple of versions of her name over the years- her original surname being Melvyn after one of my English teachers at school.
Her name eventually became Kato whilst I was refining the story shortly before starting work on the comic version.
I had been doodling Kato in class one day and due to her name sketched cat ears onto her, and the rest is history. As of then, most of the major cast became Feran, and I've never looked back.
4. How about a little background on the Marucci and their role in the Fera world?
The Marucci are one of four founding families of the Feran capital Arcanus. They are essentially the most politically active outside of the city walls, and as such are also assigned the task of protecting the city inside and out- be that from crime, raids or war.
The Feran peoples come from far and wide to pledge their allegiance to what was once an incredibly powerful banner- as such the grounds of the Marucci homestead includes an academy that aims to train the various guards and militia for each of the smaller towns and cities of the Feran people.
Sadly in recent years, the Marucci name has fell into disrepute due to certain events. After Kato's father disappeared, it was claimed that he had deserted his post and turned traitor to his people. The current Mayor- sponsored by one of the other major households- managed to turn this into a way to remove Jakob Marucci from his position as overseer of the council. Before that event Jakob was one of four elders able to overrule any decision made by the council- and certainly the most active in protecting his people.
Due to political wrangling and a number of "unfortunate" events the Mayor has managed to destroy the Marucci name enough to effectively remove a large portion of their supporters.
Overall in the world of Mu, the Marucci are one of the better known of the major households of Arcanus- if only because they're some of the few who are prepared to negotiate trade with other races and are explorers by nature. Though even then, the Feran race often keep to themselves so its rare for any of them to be seen outside of the southern regions of Topeia.
5. Walk us through your process for creating a Fera strip.
Normally I have outlines of pages jotted down in various notebooks that take forever to find when I need them. In general though I normally take a brief overview of what is to happen on a given page.
I have a macro action set up on Photoshop to create all of my layers and groupings in order to create the layout for the final page. Once I know what's going into the page I quickly sketch out each panel as roughly and quickly as possible on a "doodle" layer- that way I can move and resize the rough positioning for the panels later.
Once I have my rough, I slowly build up the characters on top of that, this forms the final line art layer (unless of course I start adding and removing things). The lineart layer simply includes the characters and any items that they are interacting with- at this point there are no backgrounds to any of the scenes.
Once I have my characters, I begin boxing them up into panels- dividing them and trying my best to make the panel positions flow correctly. Usually by this point all positioning is already sorted so I normally don't have to worry too much about that. I then draw in the lines of the background on another layer, using a smaller brush.
The next step is to place all of my dialogue onto the page- I normally duplicate the text layer and rasterise it so that I can move it around and position individual parts of the speech. Next is the simplest part- using the circular selection tool I fill in white on a layer below the text- this acts as the word balloons. This layer then has a "stroke" effect added to it making the outline around the whites of the bubbles.
When I do colour the pages- I start off by using a filter called "Bpelt"- which fills each individual section with a random colour. After this I simply recolour and clean up all of the flat colours for the page. I still haven't managed to find a shading method that I'm particularly fond of- but perhaps in time I will.
6. How did Kato feel about her first nude scene?
I can imagine she was quite upset, though knowing her frame of mind at the time I suspect she was more angry than anything else... and she did go on to stabbing the guy in the heart so I guess that says something huh?
7. What are some of your goals for Fera in the future? How would you like to see it grow?
Firstly we have the first issue of Fera going into print shortly (once I get it all prepared)- so I'm really looking forward to that. My main goals revolve around getting to certain key plot points, and scenes I've been wanting to draw for ages. Certainly our first convention appearance is another big goal- coming up in July this year.
As for growth, I'm currently working on a text based journal which will introduce an upcoming character in the comic- in the form of her personal journal including her account of coming to Mu from Earth and her experiences. I'm hoping to have this as a twitter feed, though perhaps larger sections will appear on the Fera site some time in the future.
8. How long has Dee known Kato? (and has she always been so "fond" of her?)
Dee was introduced to the Marucci household by Kato's father, an orphan she was given to the Marucci family friends and blacksmith to raise as they had no children of their own. She attended the Marucci academy and trained with Kato at an early age- due to her race she wasn't supposed to.
On the other hand she has been fond of Kato for some time- its possible that this is the real reason she was removed from the academy.
9. If Kato and Dom were pitted against each other in a fight, who would win?
Dom would likely win with brute force as she's stronger than Kato, though in theory if she let her guard down at all Kato would win as she's a better strategist and trained to be a little sneakier.
10. Who would win in a pillow fight: AIAC's Sara or Fera's Dee?
This is a difficult one, perhaps we should find out? Sara is very competitive so I half expect her to stick a brick in her pillow, whilst Dee is quite inventive so no doubt she's end up creating some kind of pillow launcher lol.
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Yeah, we should totally set that pillow fight up sometime! Anyway, thanks David for joining here at “Inside the Webcomic Studio.”
Keep Hope alive and have Faith!