What We're About Page C-1

Many of the questions used in this interview were found at ComixTalk, home of many great interviews with webcomic creators.

About the Artist

What can you tell us about yourself?
Well, I have an Arts Associates degree from Seattle Central Community College, and I’m working on a BA in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing and Adaptation at Brigham Young University. I’m currently taking time off from school to address some health concerns of mine, and to try to apply for disability. I might finish my BA from a local school. I live in the Pacific Northwest in the meantime.
What's your favorite thing to do when you should be doing something else?
The Perfect World online MMORPG (my two main characters are Shadai and Shadac, on the Heavens Tear server), and sometimes drawing. I also enjoy listening to music and letting my mind wander on the billion stories I have floating in my head.
Did you read many comic books growing up? If so, which ones?
I didn’t read many comic books growing up, but I love them now. I could never afford them as a kid, so I mainly invested in books and stuff from bookstores and the library. I was also majorly into sports, back when I could play them. ^_^
If not, what turned you onto comics and when did it happen?
A friend of mine was into comics, anime and manga in high school. She introduced me to anime, and when I went to BYU, I made friends who got me into the manga and comics gig. I’d been drawing for some time and figured I’d like to take a crack at drawing manga myself.
What about now, what series are your favorites? Which format do you prefer?
I prefer manga, because of the depth of the stories, characterization and emotion portrayed in the writing, character development and art class. I also love humor, and manga is more often funny (at least the manga I read). But comic books still have their draw for me, for the sheer detail, coloring and interesting plots.
What kind of formal art training have you had, or are you self-taught? Or a bit of both?
I was mostly self-taught, but I have had some art classes. While those classes were more on realism and still life, it still taught me how to look at things, rather than simply identifying it. Now, when I see, say, a cool outfit someone’s wearing, I notice the shapes and form of them, as well as the overall look.
Do you enjoy reading the classic literature from which your characters originated, which are your favorites? If not, what do you enjoy reading?
Oh, I love the background reading. I try to incorporate how the character actually looks and acts in the books, along with a few oddities I create myself. For example, Frankenstein always seemed a bit of a nervous wreck. I just brought that more to the foreground of his character. He’s also a lot older than in the books, indicating that he’s been with Nowhere U for awhile. Dr. Jekyll became addicted to Prozac in my story, because he found that when he’s happy, Hyde is less likely to become a nuisance.
But while I love classics, Sci-Fi and Fantasy are still my favorite genres, with mystery coming in third.
Do you have another job besides working on comics?
I do, kind of off and on, depending on my health. Right now, I’m with a group called Content Divas, an online company that writes research papers for clients to boost traffic to the clients’ webpages.

About the Comic

Give me the thirty second “convention pitch” for your comic.
Nowhere University is a place where books come to life, students excel in the bizarre, and geek obsessions run amok. Alice and her friends find themselves, voluntarily or otherwise, at a school where they learn to expect the unexpected, learning a bit about themselves in the process. Can they figure out the secrets behind the “Where” schools? Can they stop the mysterious villains before they succeed in their plots, whatever they might be? Can they even figure out what they’re all doing there?
What led you to build Nowhere University around famous characters from the classics?
It just kinda . . . happened. I don’t really remember when I decided to put them in. I know they weren’t in the initial concept of the strip, which was a gag strip with characters that resembled me and people I knew. And yet, it seems like the famous characters were always meant to be there.
How has the strip evolved over time?
It got a plot! That’s the biggest evolution. It was really supposed to be yet another college gag strip. But I wanted to introduce the main character and how she met her roommates, and then it didn’t seem right NOT to have story development, so I sat down and banged one out. Over time, the plot kept growing bigger and bigger. . . .
The characters have also changed. Ben and John were not supposed to be main characters. They were supposed to be a running joke on the theme of Star Trek fans vs. Star Wars fans. When I was into online clubs, I was a member of a club on that theme and it was amusing to watch. Can a star destroyer take on the Enterprise? Which weapons or shields would be effective? And who would win, a Jedi or a Borg? But the characters grew past that when my friends said it looked like Ben was developing a crush on Alice. I realized with shock that it might actually be true. See, my characters sometimes don’t let me in on these things.
Later, Jane’s Real Life Counterpart (RLC) made a crack about Jane and John, and I couldn’t get the idea out of my head. When I gave her a weird look, she immediately insisted she was joking, but it was too late.
Finally, Theo was actually designed by Diedre’s RLC to be a romantic interest of hers, but he kind of changed in my head. Instead of showing that he could become more grounded, he flew even more into the clouds. He’s so in his own little world now that Diedre’s character wants absolutely nothing to do with him. Edward, on the other hand, started gravitating toward her around that time, as well as another character who will remain nameless for now. Who will she end up with?
The main villain has also changed a lot, but I can’t really talk much about that yet. :-P
What's your biggest challenge with the comic?
Drawing it. Mainly due to what’s happening in my life: everything’s kind of getting in the way. But I hate missing updates, just hate it, so I really try to get something up, even if it’s not the best drawn strip in the world.
Sometimes pacing can be difficult also. I’m currently having trouble pacing the Homecoming Dance in the rough drafts, but I know it’ll work out. It always does, somehow.
What's your ideal workspace?
In front of the TV, with a movie or show that I’m familiar with, or with music in my ear. I really can’t draw unless I’m partially distracted, lol. Not too distracted though, I prefer a show whose plot I already know. I need to have several senses busy, or I distract myself with my own thoughts.
What tools do you use to make your comic? (Can you give a brief walkthrough of your process?)
(1) Panel and draw the strip on a pad of art paper, (2) ink it, (3) scan it, (4) clean any ink errors in Photoshop and add a border (and resize or reposition if I mess up the art). (5) Use “live trace” in Photoshop to smooth and stylize lines. (6)Add layers and color in Photoshop, and backgrounds if needed. (7) Add text, (8) text bubbles, and (9) resize to fit the website layout. (10) Finally upload the strip to the website, and draw something else, lol.
Do you have a favorite strip or storyline from the comic?
Yes, but I haven’t drawn it yet. :-P

About the Characters

Which of the Nowhere University characters introduced so far are from literature?
So far . . . Dr. Frankenstein (from Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley) and Igor—although Igor is more a manifestation of the pop culture around Frankie)—Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson), Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson (Sherlock Holmes stories, A. Conan Doyle), Dr. Susan Calvin (Issac Assimov’s Robot series)—I’ve got a lot of doctors, I just realized—Saruman (The Lord of the Rings, J. R. R. Tolkien), The Librarian (Discworld novels, Terry Prachett), and I mentioned the Magic Mirror (Snow White fairy tale). There will be more.
There’s also the magic teacher, but (spoiler) he’s not supposed to be at this school. . . .
Which of the Nowhere characters are based on friends/family?
Alice is kind of a mix between me and my twin sister. Himeno/Elizabeth, Jane, and Diedre are based off roommates of mine that are close friends. Michael, the computer guy, is Himeno’s RLC’s little brother, a cool guy and a friend of mine. Brianne and Rachel are based on other cool roommates of mine. Dawn is a good friend of mine and also my sister’s roommate. Ben and John aren’t based off individual people, but are manifestations of my love of Star Trek and Star Wars, and are loosely based on the people in that Star Trek vs. Star Wars club I belonged to.
Which character is easiest for you to write? Which is hardest?
Alice is pretty easy, cause she’s partially me, but I also find her slightly boring because of that; characters like me always bore me for some reason. Jane is hardest, because what I and her RLC want from her is often different than what she wants. She’d be a lot more sarcastic and violent if I let her get away with everything she wanted, but then she wouldn’t be close enough to her RLC, and I want them to have something in common.
James is also easy. Once I figured out his motivation and where he was going in the plot, everything fell together for him. Ishmael is difficult because he’s an interesting character and I haven’t been able to show that yet.
Which character is easiest for you to draw? Hardest?
Easiest to draw? Um . . . no one? Well, I guess Ben is. I have too much trouble with everyone else’s hair to call them easy. My main challenge is making their hair look the same; if you go back to the beginning, everyone’s hair has undergone various evolutions, which, come to think of it, is actually pretty realistic. Never mind.
The characters that are the most fun to draw, however, are James and Ishmael, and maybe Edward. Heaven knows Eddie’s the most fun to write. He’s probably my favorite character, although I don’t really know why. Maybe because I have fun tormenting the arrogant know-it-all.
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