Rocketing from Avery Hill to a Retrograde Orbit in Kristyna Baczynski’s new graphic Novel

artist spotlight, comic, Comic spotlight, First Impressions, interview

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Over three years ago, and twice as many old fashioned’s, I found myself so completely  moved and drawn in by Kristyna Baczynski’s comic “Vessel” that I somehow ended up writing close to a thousand words about it. Diving deep and gently dissecting it.

A little excessive maybe for a comic comprising eight pages? Well, you can imagine the strange mix of excitement and trepidation I was feeling this week as the Leeds based creator announced her first full length graphic novel to be released by Avery Hill Publishing this September to nicely coincide with her home cities celebration of comics, Thought Bubble. You can expect a full review here around about this time 2019. Maybe.

“It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, for years really. Alongside my other freelance commitments and part-time jobs, making a longer comic book could never quite fit into that scenario” said Baczynski of her previous work on her shorter self published comics, including the poignant and touching “Hand Me Down”, nominated for best Graphic Short in the 2016 Eisners. Having quit her lecturing job to go into comics and illustrations full time, Retrograde Orbit will mark her first foray into full length graphic novels and the first to be picked up by a major publisher. “Avery Hill had always been interested in and supportive of my work so we decided to finally get the ball rolling together” Baczynski commented on the subject of her new home with the publisher, who also announced new books from B.Mure and Tillie Walden to be released this autumn, “Avery Hill wanted the ball to be science fiction, so that was a nudge that started things off”.

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While another of her stories, the quietly sweet and hauntingly introspective “A Measure of Space” featured sci-fi elements with it’s cosmic disaster, Retrograde Orbit already feels like it’s fully embracing the genre, set on a mining planet at the edge of the solar system and the experiences of Flint as she grapples with her own notions of home and the possibilities of leaving it. Her unique composition and panel layout is something I talked about endlessly before and Retrograde Orbits structure clearly sets out to firmly launch her latest works sci-fi premise beyond just the, admittedly gorgeous, looking futuristic set dressings  “The mechanics of the story are based on the cycle of planets in a solar system, so that took some time to get right. I’m also trying to avoid sci-fi exposition. As much as I love Geordie LaForge and his technobabble, I wanted the science fiction world to be an immersive setting, a narrative metaphor, instead of something that needs explaining all the time”

Coming out in September it should come as no shock that Retrograde Orbit’s launch will coincide with this years Thought Bubble which as well as being a genuinely welcoming and uplifting showcase of comics talent, has also snagged a fair few exclusive releases for their comics celebrations in past years. “Thought Bubble 2018 will be my tenth show. That’s wild. So, we decided to pitch the release date for then” shared Baczynski when asked about the seemingly cosmic connection of convention and release dates “I absolutely love Thought Bubble; it’s my hometown show, they have always been supporters of my work and raise the profile of my home city. Not to mention all my comics friends visiting for a weekend every year. It’s the best. I’m so excited to share the book with them in September.”

A big thank you goes out to Kristyna for taking time out of her busy schedule to talk to me. You can find more of her work here and learn more about Retrograde Orbit over at Avery Hill.

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“I’m still working on taking my own ideas seriously”- Talking comics and body horror with artist Tessa Black

artist spotlight, comic, Comic spotlight, First Impressions

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One of the biggest pleasures for me reading and collecting comics this year has been the sheer volume of exciting and interesting anthologies that have been released thus far. Between the ones from the major publishers and kickstarters, it’s been really easy to find something inventive and interesting from complete newcomers to more well known names. I’ve sung it’s praises on here before, a lot I know, but for me Image comics Island is still one of most consistently inventive in terms of content and creators as well as being readily available in comic stores. One of the clear standouts for me so far has to be Tessa Black’s “Seawitch” which was featured way back in Islands third issue.A trans Designer, Illustrator and long time artist from Vancouver, Seawitch is surprisingly Black’s first foray into the world of comics and it’s instantly striking in how confident, fully formed and realised the idea and execution is.

Created over the course of a single weekend, this deliciously unnerving and thoughtful comic depicts a woman stood alone on a beach, before entering the ocean as she begins drifting down to the depths and slowly undressing in a slow build of body horror. Clothing and jewellery and even body parts discarded as she descends to the ocean floor.A long dead pilot the only silent observer on this arresting and quietly unnerving, yet intimate scene. Slowly transforming her body to match the environment around her it culminates on the final page with the Seawitch at ease in her new surroundings, undressed and comfortable in the silent watery depths. For me it’s the collection of smaller moments leading up to this. A series of panels depicts a figure gently pulling a pair of socks, each pulled down with the other foot. It’s an every day act but here it is oddly intimate, sensual but uncomfortable.Black reframes this almost crushingly mundane act and make it feel voyeuristic, a far too personal and intimate an act for us to be witness to.

With it’s clean fluid lines and coloured only in minimal blues it captures the solitude and coldness of the sea, adding in alien, oceanic textures to the figures body. Although it works on a surface level as a slow build body horror, after being lucky enough to  talk to Black over e-mail she also expertly uses her first comics creation to communicate her personal experiences of being trans, addressing the idea of clothing as performance and how environment and peoples ideas of us shapes both our identity and form to certain extents.

Before Islands and Seawitch, had you ever considered producing comics before? If so what ideas did you have and what prevented you from making them?

I’ve been around comic artists for a few years, but always felt the burden of their expectations or opinions of certain genres and approaches in the medium. I still don’t consider myself a comic book artist or even an avid reader, but it’d definitely something I’d like to explore.

Did you find yourself changing your approach to drawing a comic rather than single illustrations? How did the idea for the minimalist color palette come about?

I think you can definitely see the change in approach when you compare my regular art with the comic. I was pretty pressed for time, so I would have coloured it with flats in a limited palette if I’d had more time. I still intend to do so when I get some time, so I can re-release it anywhere else. I’d probably add in illustrations on the side, similar to to the work of William Stout, which inspired me greatly as a kid.

On your tumblr, have a run of insect girls, or people with insect parts. What about insects appeals to you? Is it there bodies mostly or also behaviours?

I really like insects for a whole host of reasons. Their anatomy is so different from ours, more similar overall to the things we make than the way we see ourselves as humans. Despite drawing sexy bug ladies, I’m more interested in conforming the layers and segments of insects to conform to a more familiar silhouette.

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Also a series brightly colored goo-girls.  What attracted you to draw them, the malleability of them or some other aspect?

I like goo girls and shape shifting in general. I’d like to play around with the idea of being able to fluidly present your own body based on subconscious thought. Having a form decided by the subconscious, without being predisposed by genetic or environmental (physical) pressures.

You also mentioned you went through a phase of drawing yourself, what broke this series of drawings, or was it just a desire to move onto something else?

I think I started drawing who I wanted to be just after starting my transition. A lot of folks recommended that to work towards feeling comfortable with my body or thinking about clothing styles. I tried being pretty realistic with how I expected to look, and that shape formed the basis for a lot of my exploration of erotic art.It all started with a fairly simple and cartoony bodies but adapted to become softer and more varied as I experienced changes in my own body. I also get bored of things pretty easy and dislike seeing repetition in themes or processes in my art. I never really had much of a signature style and I’m always much more interested in trying new things than sticking to old ways. It feels like the best way to learn is to shake things up and tackle new directions in art, but that’s just me!

“A power pad is not a thermal blanket!”-Tim Weeks’ furry video game webcomic, Savestate!

anthro, anthropomorphic, artist spotlight, comic, Comic spotlight
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My relationship with games could be described as patchy, at best. As I kid I all but destroyed my much loved Megadrive from constant play, but beyond the warm nostalgic 16-bit fuzz I’ve rarely picked up a joypad since. I even had to ask my husband if ‘joypad’ was still a legitimate gaming term just now, deciding on it over ‘controller’. Having played only a handful of games since; Max Payne, Starfox Adventures, and Bit Trip Runner, a video game per generation give or take I’d defiantly not fit anyone’s idea of a gamer. Which is weird, considering that Tim Weeks’ Savestate is currently one of my favorite furry webcomics. In case the name didn’t give it away, the motley crew of Savestate really, really love their video games! Centering around siblings Nicole and Kade regularly joined by their friend Rick ,Elder god Harvey and the demonic entity, Ness on their gaming misadventures. Weeks’ artwork really shines when he draws his characters in the game worlds themselves, showing off well known favorites like Mario Kart in his own charming and polished style, even incorporating animation, such as his crossover with gaming webcomic, Gamercat.

Last year saw another major milestone for Savestate when it was nominated for the comic strip category of the Ursa Major Awards, which are voted upon yearly and intended to award and highlight “excellence in the furry arts”. Although Savestate ultimately came in second it was to Housepets, a comic that has itself been running four times as long and won the category for seven years, consecutively. Moving up from third place the previous year and vastly outstripping much more established furry webcomics, it’s a testament to how well the mix of humor, positivity and gaming culture has built up such a strong and loyal fan base in it’s first two years.

The very first strip found Kade porting over the now infamous glitch Pokemon, ‘MissingNo’ (the easiest glitch to catch, an integral part of Pokemon lore although still considered by Nintendo as simply “a programming quirk”) proving from day one how deeply passionate Weeks is about gaming culture and how central it is to his comic. This last months strips have seen Savestate returning to it’s roots somewhat with the rewed interest in the now 20 year old franchise that came the release of Pokemon GO has started, rekindling the franchise once more. As you’d expect Kade, the consummate gamer lives up to every online scare story by getting himself into places he shouldn’t in order to catch them all!

Again, the highest praise I can personally give Savestate is that even as someone who isn’t a gamer, at all, it still has me engrossed and eagerly awaiting a new strip every Wednesday. Playfully incorporating pop culture and gaming staples in new ways, the comic exudes Week’s passion for video games and why it has quickly become and furry favorite.

 
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Okay, so some basics first, what is your favorite game and console?

Game: Ocarina of Time. It was the smoothest transition from 2D to 3D ever and had a huge “wow” factor in terms of graphics and gameplay. Console: Either the Genesis or SNES, I love 16-bit games. If I had to pick one then SNES, with classics like Star Fox, Final Fantasy III (VI), Chrono Trigger it edges out the Genesis.

How did it feel to come 2nd place in the Ursa major awards, especially very close behind a comic that is now in it’s 8th year? Does it help knowing you’ve built a strong fanbase like this in such a short time, what do you think has captured furries and gamers about your comic?

That was crazy! I thought Savestate could avoid last place, but never to come in second on it’s second year. Now I’ve got to work extra hard to keep that second place. I don’t think anyone is going to dethrone Housepets until Rick chooses to decline his nomination. It’s amazing how quickly the Savestate fanbase grew. When I started the site I was getting something like 300 hits every time I posted a comic which seemed like a lot. What’s most impressive, to me, is that before Savestate I had never really posted any of my art online; so all the hype was generated purely by the comic itself.

I think gamers enjoy the comic because Kade embodies a more child-like sense of gaming. Back when it was more about showing your friends your Pokemon rather than trying to beat them in a battle.I think furries are drawn to the comic because of the art style. I tend to draw things in equal parts cute and cool. I also hope people are enjoying that the comic is PG (or maybe PG-13 when Harvey gets angry). There’s just so much adult material in the furry universe that it starts to drown everything else out. People seem to forget that the furry fandom really started with children’s characters like Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny.

Is there any direct analogue of yourself in the comic in terms of characters, if not who do you think you identify with more?

Kade and Nicole are a split of my personality. Nicole was based on our family dog, Mandy. Any personalities I shared with Mandy went to Nicole and what was left over went to Kade. If you combine the two you basically get my messed up brain

.What drew you to using anthropomorphic characters in Savestate?

I’ve loved anthro since Rescue Rangers! Games like Sonic and TV shows like Swat Kats further embedded that fandom. I actually wasn’t even aware “furry” was a thing until I randomly found Havok, Inc in my local comic shop. Even then I thought Chester was a girl for the longest time. :3

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A lot of comics like yours heavily reference video games to the point of the characters being shown in the game.Visually are there any game genres of games you wouldn’t include in Savestate or would be too difficult to accomplish?

I won’t do anything adult, so AO rated games are out.  If I ever used something violent like Gears of War 4 I’d just limit myself to blood and leave the gore out.  I suppose the only other thing I wouldn’t do is a game with extremely simple stylized graphics, like Limbo.

What are your favorite game elements or characters to draw?

Sonic.  I could never count how many times I’ve drawn Sonic.I also like drawing the Savestate characters in different game character outfits.  It’s fun to try and modify clothes to fit a furry build.

 How did including animated elements in certain strips come about? Was it something you were familiar with before or learning as you went?

Animation has always interested me.  Mostly traditional animation or the old hand drawn 2D sprites.  I love doing facial expressions and animation let’s you really play with that. I’ve dabbled with various forms of animation over the years, but the idea to put in a web comic came from GaMERCaT.  That’s why I had to make sure the guest appearance with Gamercat was animated.

What was your experience like working on the recent Starfox strips for Nintendo Force?

Nintendo Force is the spiritual successor of Nintendo Power and that comic was a lot of fun. Since the magazine is done by fans I could really do anything, like mention characters from the canceled SNES Star Fox 2 game. The original plan was to print the comic in the December issue which was going to be Star Fox themed to go along with the release of Star Fox Zero, but Nintendo pushed the game back a few months. Since the magazine is crowd funded we decided to print in the December issue anyway since there was no guarantee it would continue. Regardless, it was a lot of fun and I’m really excited that I got the chance to do it. My favorite part of EGM was reading Hsu and Chan. I really miss that comic.
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Savestate is updated every Wednesday. Tim also has a gallery of his other work over on his deviant art page and can also be found on twitter.

The Pull List 27/01/2016

anthro, anthropomorphic, artist spotlight, review, Uncategorized

Island #6 (Image Comics) – Even with the ever so slightly reduced page count, you can still count on Island to be the greatest anthology out there in terms of casting its net far and wide to bring attention to new and unheard of comics talent on a monthly basis. The highlight this month is the story “Badge of Pride” featuring a group of young anthropomorphic guys as they navigate the social minefield of their local Pride event. Having followed his work on and off for years now it’s thrilling to see Onta’s work shown to a more mainstream audience and I was fortunate enough that he had time to answer a few of my questions last week about his new, more personal and story driven outing for Island.

This month also presents work from Gael B as well as a recoloured, reprinted sci-fi classic in the form of Fil Barlow’s Zooniverse.

Saga #33 (Image Comics) – Thirty Three issues in and Vaughan and Staples sci-fi epic shows no signs of slowing down as it continues to shock, thrill and delight in equal measures. Staples beautiful cover shows that the adorable journalistic couple Upsher and Doff are back after being warned off reporting on the story of Marko and Alana way back in the books second arc. While only briefly touched upon I look forward to seeing how Vaughan develops the relationship between the pair as they become embroiled deeper in conflict and conspiracy. It’s been briefly hinted that the pairs society doesn’t look kindly on same sex couples and it will be fascinating to see what the writer has to say on the subject in a series that really pulls no punches with its social commentary.

“Chasing something hungrily”-Taking a look back On Buster Wilde with creator Scot Zellman

anthro, anthropomorphic, artist spotlight, comic, interview, Uncategorized

Whilst writing my recent post on the excellent Buster Wilde comics I found myself in the middle of a twitter conversation with writer and published Alex Vance and eventually asked him some more formal questions for the piece. Alex was responsible for the printed Buster Wilde collection a few years ago and I inquired if it might be possible for him to reach out to the man responsible for the strips Scot Zellman in the hope that he might answer a few lingering questions I had about his creation.

He graciously obliged but I honestly didn’t expect a reply, it has been over a decade after all. A few days later however Scot shot me back a message and took time out his schedule to indulge me with rather a long interview. I’d like to thank him again for taking the time to answer me and give a wonderful insight into what went into the making of a comics classic all those years ago.

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Marfedblog: The first boring, obvious question a lot of people must have asked. Why did the Buster Wilde strips stop, was it simply a desire to move onto other projects, lack of time and interest in it or something else?

Scot Zellman: I think I lost interest mostly due to frustration. I’d hoped the strip would reach a wider gay audience, especially through the gay-interest newsweeklies I was sending copies to in the hopes they would run it, but I quickly found the strip and Buster character made a much bigger impression on a gay furry community. That was an education because at the time I had no idea there was such a thing as “furries” gay or straight.

My education in furry fandom was hard and fast and while the specific trappings were never of personal interest I certainly appreciated the enthusiastic response even if I did have to turn down a large number of requests for commissioned pieces featuring a much less G-rated version of Buster.

I saw the strip as a slapsticky, funny animal, Warner Bros.-style cartoon antidote to the gay strips I was seeing at the time, most of which looked and sounded the same and featured no talking animals, something mainstream comic strips were full of. It was pretty easy, actually, to end the strip. I needed to focus on my “real” job and I wasn’t really interested in being a niche cartoonist with a small audience. After a couple years I thought “Okay, playtime’s over. Time to move on.”

 

Mb: It’s unusual you made the comic and it caught on with furs, an audience you didn’t even know was out there, did it lead you to look into what other anthro comics were popular with them or artists who considered themselves furs?

 SZ: I did look around a bit, especially when I’d get fan mail from other artists or from folks who’d recommend other artist/cartoonist sites.  The only anthro comic/character I really eventually found interesting and still follow these days is the Blacksad series. And that’s mostly because I love hard-boiled detective stories and film noir. Plus, the artwork is beautiful.
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Mb: Why do you think the gay weeklies and such were so reluctant to run the comics? The comic itself or partly the attitude towards LGBT at the time?
SZ: Most gay weeklies weren’t really reluctant to run the strip, they were reluctant to pay me to run the strip.  I think the ones that were reluctant to run it for non-financial reasons wanted something a little less slapsticky and a little more mature and thoughtful (Dykes To Watch Out For, Curbside, and The Mostly Unfabulous Life of Ethan Green were big back then.) Or whoever was in charge of picking the comics to run just didn’t think it was funny. That happens, too.

Mb: The comic debuted around 1997, was it difficult working with the limitations of the internet back then in terms of storage and bandwith?

I know nothing of computer tech and wouldn’t know where to begin in setting up my own website, especially in 1997. I had a tech-savvy friend do all that for me. I had been a cartoonist for my college daily newspaper, so I was well-versed in the process of keeping artwork looking good when it’s reproduced/reduced for the printed page.  As for the original website, I supplied my webmaster with good-sized, pristine copies and let him do his best with the internet limitations of the time. 

Mb: What attracted you to the idea of showcasing Buster Wilde online as a webcomic? What was the reaction of other artist or those around you to adopting such a new medium in terms of comics?

I never really heard from others about the novelty of being online. Mostly people sent me emails telling me how much they liked Buster and the strip. I actually forget sometimes that the strip is still online these days. I usually just think of it as a book.

Mb: What was the audience and there reaction like at the comics peak? Was it difficult to find an audience in a time when comics online were not as recognised

The reaction was uniformly positive. In fact, I can’t remember getting any negative email at all.  As for my expectations, I had none.  I assumed people were seeing it and the ones who really loved it were the folks sending me the fan mail.

JK: Buster Wilde now seems like a snapshot of, albeit a humorous exaggerated one, gay club culture at the time. Is that how you saw it and how do you think the strips might differ if they were coming out now? Would any characters differ or just settings and such?

I haven’t been out clubbing in ages, but I don’t imagine things have changed too much. Going out will always be about the same things:  fun, excitement, adventure, and the giddy hope you’ll meet someone thrilled to meet you no matter how sceptical or clumsy or overexcited or over it all you may be.

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Mb: The printed book shows a few iterations of Buster before the one you settled on. What was the original idea and how did that develop into what you eventually drew? What was the eureka moment when it all fit together?

SZ: I was trying to come up with a gay-themed “funny animal” comic strip for my local gay paper and at one point I thought that a straight man who turned into a gay werewolf would be funny and allow for a lot of opportunities to poke fun at both gay and straight people. The eureka moment came when, after some time trying to come up with a name for the character, the name “Buster Wilde” popped into my head after Oscar Wilde, of course. Once I had “Buster Wilde” the rest just poured out of me.

Mb: How do you feel about webcomics becoming a lot more established since Buster Wilde and do you ever follow any at the moment? Do you think you would have an easier time building an audience now?

It’s a logical technological progression, so I’m not surprised and it certainly makes it easier to get your work “out there.” I still worry that books will be marginalized to the point being hard to find or disappeared entirely. That said, I do have the book versions of my favourite online strips. I follow Bob the Angry Flower, Poorly Drawn Lines, Scenes from a Multiverse, and Doonesbury regularly. That’s about it.

I don’t know. Probably, but I’m still pretty disconnected from what’s going on online.

Mb: Are there comics that inspired the humour and structure in the Buster Wilde strips? Are any of the events (obviously not the lycanthropy) inspired by real events or people?

I’d say the primary inspiration were the old Warner Bros. cartoons, especially the Chuck Jones Bugs Bunny, Wile E. Coyote and Daffy Duck cartoons. Plus, I’ve always just loved slapstick and pratfalls.

The personal inspiration was just my years going out, my friends, and my love of good-natured, accepting straight people who are easily unnerved and exasperated by gay people.

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Mb: The Unfinished strips included in the print version have a more experimental panel layout than the other strips, would this have been something we would have seen more of if the strips had continued? Did you ever find the regular format limiting in any way?

SZ: That was an experiment in longer-form  storytelling told in a comic book page format that, because I’m a comic book reader, thought I’d try just for fun.  The regular format I’d already been working with didn’t feel limiting in any way since I felt like I could do whatever the gag called for.  That said, I do like the inherent restrictions of the “Sunday comics” format.
Mb: Did you have an overarching story or a direction the strips were going in?

 SZ: Sort of, but not really. The goal was to cram as much humor into each “episode” as I could without overloading it to the point of incomprehensibility. As for the overarching story, I just knew that the character’s stories would continue to unfold and more characters and adventures would be introduced as time went by.

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Mb: Are you surprised that people like myself, still talk about and hold it in such high regard after all this time and Do you have a favourite strip out of the bunch?

Not really. Once people find something they love it usually sticks with them. I’m the same way with older comic strips, TV shows, movies, comic books. The ear-piercing strip. The bare minimum amount of dialogue, the right amount of slapstick, and a funny the turnaround/topper.  The strip still makes me LOL as they say.

Mb: Overall what do you think the appeal of Buster is?

The exact same appeal of the friendliest, sweetest Golden Retriever you’ve ever met. He’s just happy all the time and you’re his best friend

 

Mb: Raspberry Flan. Are there any other suitable bathroom foods?

Baked Alaska Flambe.

Buster Wilde can be read in it’s entirety here. The printed version can also be purchased here or from amazon.

“This weirdo parade”-Furry artist makes it ‘Onta’ the cover of Island issue 6

anthro, anthropomorphic, artist spotlight, interview, Uncategorized

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New to readers of the Island anthology, but well known in the Furry subculture, is an artist usually featured in Hard Blush; a series releasing extensively gay furry comics, Onta. Whilst he’s associated more with pornographic and adult comics, his entry into Graham and Rios’ anthology series Badge of Pride will be a more slice of life offering, as the artist delves deeper into the lives of his cast of characters. Marty, Taylor, Jessie and Mu show their wildly different experiences and expressions of sexuality during a local gay pride parade. Showing that even now Pride is an important part of LGBT life, meaning different thing to each person, whether they love it or loathe it.

I found myself drawn to, and feeling sympathetic towards, the quiet and retiring lion, Jess portrayed as finding it particularly difficult to identify with the more flamboyant carnival atmosphere he finds himself caught up in. He bemoans “I can’t relate to any of this shit” and finds himself “sulking like an idiot” while others throw themselves into the party with more ease and gusto.

With Island issue 6 out next week I finally got a chance to ask Onta a few questions about his newest comic.

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Marfed: How did you first discover the furry subculture and were you already drawing by this point? What lead you to want to draw comics, especially furry ones?

Onta: I discovered it as many do, through erotica. Specifically Japanese gay kemono artist. There where many inspiration but Aoi Takayuki and Poju’s entry where a really big deal for my entry into furry.

I had slacked around for a while trying to commit to various projects but could never fully commit to something. I felt if I created a persona and boxed myself into a small limited area my mind would do better. I had been trying to make comics for years and had failed quite often. Miu asking me to do a page for the first edition of Cocktails was really my first major completed comic’s work which was pretty late in my career as an artist. I didn’t have fully formed characters and story, even if only porn prior so it gave me a big boost. I felt very weird after completing it as it was a new sensation.

M: How did working on Brandon and Emma’s Island anthology come about? Were you a fan of either of their work before hand and have you been following the issues of Island up to now?

Onta: Brandon approached me a year and some change ago. I believe he was introduce to my work through Fangdangler (Adriel Forsythe). I used to be pretty big into indie comics back in the day following Derek Kirk Kim and similar artists and I gradually fell out of that sort of thing as work in animation industry and later games industry took over. I have become a fan of both Brandon and Emma since my involvement.

M: Can you tell us a little bit behind the story you have in Island and what lead you to write it? What was the best part of working on this story for Island? How did you tackle including characters from your previous work that readers might be unfamiliar with?

The creation of this story was not simple and actually require a lot of outside help including reviews and feedback cycles. Understand that although I’ve made quite a few comics they all heavily rely on adult scenes to fill out the whole thing. Having to make a story that relies nearly 100% on interactions is new territory for me. , I’m having to introduce my characters to new readers meaning I couldn’t rely on previously established character elements. I wrote the story and somewhat over emphasized their characters as to catch everyone up with this entry hopefully it pays off and people get the archetypes. As for the story itself I wanted something that would both satisfy furry fans and attempt to mirror gay acceptance with furry acceptance. Hopefully the irony of hating furries but enjoying the message of gay tolerance isn’t lost on most readers. I also had to work on facial construction on Jessee as his face has always been a loose cannon as far as structures go.

The best part was honestly getting it done. It was very, very hard work. I think this is the most professional I’ve even been on a project because I feel these characters are on the end of their lifecycle with me so a lot of pushing was needed to get the story out.

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M: Not only are you in the issue, you drew the cover too. How did that come about and how does it feel that in January Marty and company will be rubbing shoulders with the likes Spider-man and Batman on comic shelves?

Once again that came out of the blue when I was asked. To be frank again, it was just a “do the work and make it nice” scenario. I think 21 year old me would be handling all of this a lot differently. As an older feller I feel It’s more of a “do a good job and don’t fuck up” feeling.

M: Are there any other furry artists’ work you could see fitting into Island in future issues?

Onta: I definitely think Miu (creator of duo Peaches and Cream), Seel and Rikose would do great in Island.

M: Were you at all worried about the perception of your work with a non furry audience with a lot of it being very adult in its art and themes?

I’m only worried about Brandon book doing well or not and I’ll be working hard to get furry fans to purchase and offset sales slump from those uninterested. I’m in too deep to worry if people will respect me or my art or the adult themes. I never anticipated any serious published work ever so it showing up out of the blue is a nice treat but it’s so far off from my mind I’m in it to do the work and hopefully make Brandon happy. If it does well and people like I’m excited but I have zero expectations from my work in Island beyond doing a good job for my employer.

M: Do you feel that furry is slowly becoming more mainstream and the public more accepting of works like yours that would at one time have been considered exclusively for a furry audience?

Onta: I think as time goes by and people deal with the fact that everything is up for grabs as far as sexualizing stuff, people will learn to deal with furry as two distinct things. The Disney movie coming out won’t hurt and will probably spawn a huge new group of furries.

M: I found myself identifying with Jess a lot and his feeling of not fitting in with the rest of the Pride attendees or the typical Gay identity. Is this something you that comes from direct experience yourself or from other people you have met? Which character, if any do you feel you identify with the most?

Onta: I think the majority of gay people are completely underrepresented. I also believe there is a strong “Full gay or get out” sort of mentality from both the gay scene and in general. No one wants anything but very clear sexual labels and it just doesn’t work that way. I think Jess’s position is the first baby steps for a lot of people. Someone who doesn’t aggressively hide their sexuality but also doesn’t reveal or revel in it.

Each character represents a part of me. Not equally or even in the same way. Some characters represent desire or wishful thinking others are more mirroring my personality or thoughts.

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M: The idea of Jess coming to terms with his own sexuality has been subtly hinted at in your adult work, what made you want to pick up on this thread again? What interests you about it?
Onta: I think the furry fandom has a unique appeal to people who are taking their first steps into exploring the sexuality as gay males. Furry’s and furry conventions are sort of a microcosm. A lot of niches, interest and kinks sort of converge under this one major theme and since Anthro fans are pretty much used to being social pariahs, grouping with similar folk sort of soften how much you stick out from normal everyday life.

Since my work is directed at the furry fandom to some extent I felt I should include a swathe of personality types with varying levels of sexual and emotional maturity. Jess, although my least popular character and more popular with woman was the best angle to allow new readers and furry fans in general entry into the story I wanted to present without alienating them.

M: Do you still think Pride is important even in 2016 and why?
Onta: I’m not sure. The internet is doing a lot of good (and some bad) where visibility is concerned. I think pride is more of an event for many people then a social cause at this point as it’s often presented with some level of showmanship over any real attempt to present or solve issues that non-hetero folks deal with. I wanted to present something a bit more realistic with the way I’ve noticed the crowds interact with the parade without getting too catty/snide about it.

M: Badge of Pride raises some interesting points as well as being fun, could you see yourself doing more works of this type for a mainstream audience that deal with topics like sexuality and identity as well as your adult work?
Onta: This comic took a lot out of me. I don’t know. I didn’t want to indulge in a dark, self-hatred, depressive style slice of life comic though was my first kneejerk response when asked to make a story. I felt I should focus on entertaining the people first and get my messages across somewhat subtly. I have people who have read the script and given feedback to thank for that. If the reception is good and people genuinely like it and Image doesn’t get mad and numbers are good on sales it would be a good serious consideration.

Island issue 6 featuring the ‘Badge of Pride” by Onta is released on January 27th while his adult works can be found in pages of Hard Blush available here.

“Why build one when you can build two for twice the price” First contact with fandom in Associated Student Bodies and Fur-Piled

anthro, anthropomorphic, artist spotlight, comic, Comic spotlight, Uncategorized

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It was at a convention, talking about comics that a friend of mine suddenly declared to some dismay, “Wow, there’s probably furries now who didn’t start out by reading Associated Student Bodies”. It was funny at the time but since then I’ve heard a few people echoing the sentiment. It made me wonder if with the constant influx of new and younger furs if the things we held dear are even still relevant? It’s the way it should be and new ideas, books and shows are the lifeblood of any community to keep it thriving. Everyone has their own story of how they discovered and engaged with the fandom. For myself after finally stumbling upon the fandom and discovering that this strange collection of interests had a name, Associated Student Bodies was one of my first experiences of anthropomorphic fiction that wasn’t connected to a TV show or a movie. The college based coming of age story told from the point of view of Daniel, a young lion away from home for the first time and discovering himself and reconciling his faith with his sexuality. In the early days and the rush of finding this new community it felt thrilling, exciting and deliciously naughty to read. I’d be the first to admit that it seems innocently and oddly quaint by today’s standards as well as indulging in a lot of tropes. It’s a little dated and my fondness for it stems from mostly nostalgic reasons and it doesn’t help that is once again out of print.

 

Leo Magna’s Furpilled and recently the more launched Perception feel like the natural, modern successors to Associated Student Bodies and definitely present a more updated take on the slice of life style it was famous for. Furpilled itself was completed and is a few years old by now but despite winning a few awards, I feel like it didn’t get the attention it deserved at the time and that Magna isn’t as well know as he should be. His comics almost always centre around LGB relationships with Furpilled following the escapades of a group of such friends, revolving around Arthur Husky and his burgeoning relationship with the mysterious Saetto. Through five volumes Magna charts the ups and downs of LGB life in California and while other works featuring a lot of the cliches that come with the genre would have put me off, it’s his strong grasp of characters and their motivations that takes them beyond this, slowly revealing the casts deep and rich inner lives.

His latest comic Perception is once again concerned with LGB relationships, but whereas Furpilled starred a group of out and proud character’s, Perception is the opposite. Joe is a frat boy, in deep turmoil over his sexuality and constantly on edge over being discovered by his homophobic, hyper masculine fraternity brothers. Both comics have LGB lives at their core, while approaching them from two completely different perspectives. While it’s not as instantly likable as Furpiled ,perhaps because of it’s uncomfortable subject matter and so far dislikable frat boy cast, it is showing itself to be a little more broad and complex. Dealing more overtly with the homophobia still experienced by many even now, it already feels like it’s the perfect companion piece and thematic sequel to his Furpilled run.

Since writing this Leo has restarted Furpilled and did a wonderful interview with me . It’s still free to read in it’s entirety online or available in five volumes from SofaWolf Press. The print versions to lose points for not reprinting a colour element on one page of the comic, taking away lot of it’s impact. Trust me you’ll know it when you see it. Perception is being funded exclusively through Magna’s Patreon site from as a little as $1 per month.

“I’m still working on taking my own ideas seriously”- Talking comics and body horror with artist Tessa Black

artist spotlight, comic, Comic spotlight, First Impressions, interview

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One of the biggest pleasures for me reading and collecting comics this year has been the sheer volume of exciting and interesting anthologies that have been released thus far. Between the ones from the major publishers and kickstarters, it’s been really easy to find something inventive and interesting from complete newcomers to more well known names. I’ve sung it’s praises on here before, a lot I know, but for me Image comics Island is still one of most consistently inventive in terms of content and creators as well as being readily available in comic stores. One of the clear standouts for me so far has to be Tessa Black’s “Seawitch” which was featured way back in Islands third issue.A trans Designer, Illustrator and long time artist from Vancouver, Seawitch is surprisingly Black’s first foray into the world of comics and it’s instantly striking in how confident, fully formed and realised the idea and execution is.

Created over the course of a single weekend, this deliciously unnerving and thoughtful comic depicts a woman stood alone on a beach, before entering the ocean as she begins drifting down to the depths and slowly undressing in a slow build of body horror. Clothing and jewellery and even body parts discarded as she descends to the ocean floor.A long dead pilot the only silent observer on this arresting and quietly unnerving, yet intimate scene. Slowly transforming her body to match the environment around her it culminates on the final page with the Seawitch at ease in her new surroundings, undressed and comfortable in the silent watery depths. For me it’s the collection of smaller moments leading up to this. A series of panels depicts a figure gently pulling a pair of socks, each pulled down with the other foot. It’s an every day act but here it is oddly intimate, sensual but uncomfortable.Black reframes this almost crushingly mundane act and make it feel voyeuristic, a far too personal and intimate an act for us to be witness to.

With it’s clean fluid lines and coloured only in minimal blues it captures the solitude and coldness of the sea, adding in alien, oceanic textures to the figures body. Although it works on a surface level as a slow build body horror, after being lucky enough to  talk to Black over e-mail she also expertly uses her first comics creation to communicate her personal experiences of being trans, addressing the idea of clothing as performance and how environment and peoples ideas of us shapes both our identity and form to certain extents.

Before Islands and Seawitch, had you ever considered producing comics before? If so what ideas did you have and what prevented you from making them?

I’ve been around comic artists for a few years, but always felt the burden of their expectations or opinions of certain genres and approaches in the medium. I still don’t consider myself a comic book artist or even an avid reader, but it’d definitely something I’d like to explore.

Did you find yourself changing your approach to drawing a comic rather than single illustrations? How did the idea for the minimalist color palette come about?

I think you can definitely see the change in approach when you compare my regular art with the comic. I was pretty pressed for time, so I would have coloured it with flats in a limited palette if I’d had more time. I still intend to do so when I get some time, so I can re-release it anywhere else. I’d probably add in illustrations on the side, similar to to the work of William Stout, which inspired me greatly as a kid.

On your tumblr, have a run of insect girls, or people with insect parts. What about insects appeals to you? Is it there bodies mostly or also behaviours?

I really like insects for a whole host of reasons. Their anatomy is so different from ours, more similar overall to the things we make than the way we see ourselves as humans. Despite drawing sexy bug ladies, I’m more interested in conforming the layers and segments of insects to conform to a more familiar silhouette.

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Also a series brightly colored goo-girls.  What attracted you to draw them, the malleability of them or some other aspect?

I like goo girls and shape shifting in general. I’d like to play around with the idea of being able to fluidly present your own body based on subconscious thought. Having a form decided by the subconscious, without being predisposed by genetic or environmental (physical) pressures.

You also mentioned you went through a phase of drawing yourself, what broke this series of drawings, or was it just a desire to move onto something else?

I think I started drawing who I wanted to be just after starting my transition. A lot of folks recommended that to work towards feeling comfortable with my body or thinking about clothing styles. I tried being pretty realistic with how I expected to look, and that shape formed the basis for a lot of my exploration of erotic art.It all started with a fairly simple and cartoony bodies but adapted to become softer and more varied as I experienced changes in my own body. I also get bored of things pretty easy and dislike seeing repetition in themes or processes in my art. I never really had much of a signature style and I’m always much more interested in trying new things than sticking to old ways. It feels like the best way to learn is to shake things up and tackle new directions in art, but that’s just me!

History, Horror & Sci-Fi Make For Dark Comedy In Jason’s If You Steal

artist spotlight, interview

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For well over a decade now Fantagraphics have published the deadpan comics of Norwegian cartoonist John Arne Sæterøy, familiar to many by his pen name, Jason. “I’ve been both surprised and grateful” explains Jason over e-mail at finding an audience outside of Europe “Originally, I expected foreign royalties to be sort of a pleasant bonus. Maybe enough to go on a vacation or something. I’m still waiting for the moment when I have to go back to having a real job”. September will see the release of If You Steal his first book since 2013’s sombre, Chandler inspired Lost Cat. Eleven new tales make up his new book featuring giant reptiles, assassins, ruminations on the JFK assassination and Irish singer songwriter, Van Morrison, his work here presented as a horror comic. This time around Jason is once again returning to the short story format with this book. “If in the middle of twenty page story you discover it doesn’t work that’s one thing” says the artist on the shorter French album books he is most well known for, “If it’s in the middle of a 200 page story, that’s something else. Luckily that hasn’t happened so far”

Historical figures, horror favourites and sci-fi classics are all fodder for Jason’s melancholic stories. This time around one of his short stories stars Mexican Painter Frida Kahlo, here recast as an assassin for hire. “Some I draw just because they are fun to draw as animal characters” he divulges on his inclusion of historical figures in his work, “Take Frida Kahlo, Her iconic quality”. Others he admits have more significance for him. His literary heist comic The Left Bank Gang has a group of the 20th century’s greatest writers, Fitzgerald, Joyce, Pound and Hemingway re-imagined as struggling cartoonists. Attempting to pull of a high stakes bank heist the book is equal parts biography, revisionist history and hysterical crime caper as well as being one of the few books Jason has expressed an interest in revisiting. “For Hemingway it was an interest in his life. I read a lot of biographies about him” says Jason on the writer “The idea for a comic about him came later. I want to draw another album with Hemingway. It would take place during World War II, it’s a totally different story so I wouldn’t call it a sequel”.

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Known for his solitary, often silent anthropomorphic protagonists his stories are often characterised by high concept ideas that combine the high brow with pop culture staples. First encountering his work through the silent, text free Sshhhh! I was immediately impressed with how deceptively simplistic Jason’s ligne claire style is on the surface, depicting the deep melancholy and dark humour within. Even in his other books his characters are often silent for a lot of the time, their dialogue clipped and to the point. Throughout his comics small gestures and silences speak volumes, portraying his characters more than masses of text ever could. Stories are expertly told through facial expressions, action and more often than not, inaction. If You Steal, as with his other books finds the absurd humour arising from the comics high concepts. Time travelling to kill Hitler, zombie apocalypses and musketeers in modern day are all hilarious in their pitch black delivery but often serve more as frameworks for him to hang deeper stories over. Jason’s work predominantly explores themes of isolation, loneliness and the difficulties of human interaction through his trademark dry wit and offbeat mastery of dark comedy. Some stories leave you smirking and laughing, others heartbroken and devastated. The majority of them, both.

If You Steal is available to order from Fantagraphics books.

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Interview: The Opportunity Zoo- Leo Magna discusses his return to the world of Furpilled

artist spotlight, interview

Lately life has been full of these weird little coincidences. Last week I started on what I’ve been jokingly calling a super-secret project for another website at the encouragement from one of it’s other contributors. Part of this was writing about the web comic Furpilled. Drawn by Leo Magna it’s a delightful anthropomorphic slice of life comic featuring a colourful cast of LGBT characters in Santa Monica, California. Focusing on the everyday exploits and romantic lives of this group of friends, it ran for eight years, won an Ursa Minor Award and ended in 2011. In the upcoming article I encourage people to check it out, making the claim that it still deserves some attention after all this time, and sang the praises of his new comic Perception.

The very next day, after a four year hiatus he sends out a message that Furpilled will be back, with both comics alternating and updating once a week. Surprised and delighted by it’s return I got in contact with Leo Magna to talk about the sudden announcement and his plans for the future.

What’s been happening in your own life that has prompted you to revisit the world of Furpilled and How much of this was fans asking for more?

Well, when I decided to end the comic it was because it was at a good point to end it, and my life was about to get hectic. I was about to move across country for school, so I figured that it was time. All of the stories for the characters were converging to a point where it seemed appropriate to stop. Now that I am done with school and I have more time on hand, I figured that it could be a good time to re-start it. I get at least one message a week regarding the comic, so the fans asking for it is definitely a big factor for it.

Did you ever expect there to be such a dedicated fan base for the comic even after all this time, considering that you originally intended it to be only a handful of pages?

Honestly, no, I never thought that there would be such a dedicated fan base. To this day it surprises me. And I am really thankful for them. They are why I’m still drawing.

The series came to an end four years ago and tied up a lot of the loose ends and story-lines. Did you want this to be a definitive ending at the time, or was it always your intention to write more stories with the characters? Will it be picking up where it left of or four years later?

Because Furpilled is a slice-of-life comic, there are always stories to tell. The stories really will never end until I decide to drive all the characters off the cliff.

Time has passed, yes. So there will be a time gap for Husky and the gang. This new series will pick up four years after we last saw the gang, and we get to see where they are now. The majority of the stories will take place four years after, but some of them will be from that gap.The previous ending was appropriate for the problems that the characters were facing then. Andy and Indigo starting up as a couple, Husky and Saetto getting over their exes and start trusting each other, Chris letting go of his past and ending a bad relationship.

Out of all the cast, is there a character you would like to develop more in the new run that you didn’t get a chance to originally? Is there any character you feel more confident in writing after this time away from them?

For this new series I want to focus more on Husky, Andy, and Indigo. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but I think their stories will be interesting because they will be so opposite. I’ve always liked contrast like that.

In Furpilled the characters, although they had difficulties and low points,always had a strong supportive social group. What led you to want to explore the other side of this with Perception? Which side have you experienced the most in your own life?

The strong social circle that all the characters in Furpilled have is based on my own circle of friends. After having moved away from them, and after so many years in the LGBT community, I started to realize just how lucky I was to have them all. I never felt out of place with them because they were all equally as eccentric as I am. Very few of them were “straight” in the strict sense of the term, so my sexuality was never really an issue. When I started Furpilled, they definitely were my inspiration, so while we touched on the subject of coming out, we never really had stories for that.

All the characters in the comic are openly gay (or bisexual) and older in age than the characters in Perception. Perception is meant to explore what it’s like to come out, and discover that you’re not the only one out there that’s different. There is also this added pressure that Joe feels to want to have his fraternity brothers perceive him as a regular guy, because he thinks that they are all just regular guys. But that’s the funny thing, there is no such thing as a “regular guy”. That’s where we start in the story, with Joe waking up from a drunken one night stand with another guy, and immediately regretting it.

The landscape in terms of LGBT in America has changed substantially in the last four years since Furpilled ended. Although still not fully accepted at large, there has been progress with marriage rights and such. Will any of this play into the comic and to what degree? Are there any particular changes you would like to explore?

Oh gods yeah! Can you believe it! four years ago I couldn’t get married, and how here I am thinking about dinner for my husband! It’s crazy! And it’s not just here, all over the world things are changing. It’s a great time to be alive. These new chapters will definitely touch on that. I don’t want to give too much away as far as ideas go, but count on marriage and transgender issues coming up.

The cast is made up mostly of LGB characters, with Ian being non gender binary. Have you ever considered including a trans character in the comic?

Well, I don’t think this was expanded much in the comic, but Ian’s ex (she shows up briefly) is transgender, so the thought was always there. As for these new stories, spoilers, Yes.

What else in terms of mainstream or furry comics are you enjoying right now?

Neil Gaiman picked up Sandman again, and I can’t tell you just how much I love that. As far as furry comics, Circles just ended last January, and it broke my heart. There are a couple of online comics that update on FurAffinity that I like to keep up with, Seattlefur by RainYatsu, and Deceit by Mad-Dog.

As with other story titles in Furpilled this one is derived from a song? Are there any clues we could glean from listening to the Goldfish track?

Yes, Goldfish – Choose your own Adventure. And no, there aren’t any clues, really. I love to listen to music when I draw, so I put on random songs. For every chapter, though, a song will come up that just resonates with the theme of the story. Then I proceed to listen to it on a loop until I’m done with the chapter.

Both Perception and Furpilled will be updating exclusively through Leo’s Patreon Page. The first four volumes of Furpilled can be read online or purchased from Sofawolf Press

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